Hating the Church in Australia

When it comes to the selection of bishops, finding good candidates, it is the usual practice for the Nuncio, or another figure, to send questionnaires to some priests and, I suppose, lay people, asking for input.  This feedback, as well as other information, is used to create a terna, a list of three candidates sent for consideration to the Congregation for Bishops.

The Sydney Morning Herald has this story with my emphases and comments.

Vatican survey to select bishops ‘could be illegal’
Barney Zwartz
March 12, 2011

A SECRET Vatican document used to research possible bishops almost certainly breaches Australian anti-discrimination laws and seems designed to ensure only the most conformist candidates can be promoted. [Getting a sense yet of the tone of this piece?]

The questionnaire, sent to trusted clergy and a few laypeople by the Pope’s ambassador, asks about the candidate’s personal qualities, orthodoxy, loyalty to the Pope, commitment to celibacy and opposition to women priests, and his public image. It asks about predisposition to hereditary illness and the family’s “condition”. [Interesting how the writer chooses to emphasize an issue of class.  No?]

A workplace law expert, Andrew Stewart of Adelaide University, said most of the questions posed no problem – for example with privacy legislation – but there was “certainly a problem” in the questions on illness and family and, perhaps, appearance.

“It’s hard to see how that could be relevant to doing the job,” Professor Stewart said.  [It is?  Really?  Is that hard?  Everything matters when it comes to being a bishop in view of the hostile secular press and workplace lawyers.  Also, choosing a man all of whose close relations have died from cancer might not be a good idea.]

He said the matter depended on whether a bishop was regarded as an employee or under a contract of employment. [Not the case,   But they want it to be so, so that the assets of the Holy See can be attacked.]

A Greek Orthodox archbishop won a case in the High Court in 2002 that found a contract existed, but in previous cases priests have not been seen as employees.

Professor Stewart said all states had different discrimination laws and in Victoria it was illegal to discriminate on the basis of appearance. Federal law made it illegal to discriminate on the grounds that the person or an associate had a disability.

A copy of the document, marked “sub secreto pontifico” (a papal “top secret”), was given to a progressive activist group, Catholics for Ministry.  [Since this is under the “pontifical secret”, that would mean that the person who leaked it should be excommunicated.]

Its spokesman Paul Collins said the document’s deficiencies were more important than usual because several bishops will retire in Australia in the next two years, including the archbishops of Brisbane, Perth and Hobart.

He said the questionnaires were used to assess candidates before the Papal Nuncio (Pope’s ambassador) presented a shortlist to the Pope.

Dr Collins said among the objectionable requirements were fidelity to the “genuine tradition of the church’‘ and ”authentic renewal” promoted by the 1960s reforming Vatican Council, which meant support for the current papal line of reversing these reforms[Did the writer, putatively a journalist, challenge this presupposition?]

The most iniquitous requirement was adherence to the 1998 Statement of Conclusions imposed on Australian bishops.  [“iniquitous”?]

“The Australian bishops were said to be far too egalitarian and laissez-faire. The views of a tiny unrepresentative group were adopted by the Curia and forced on the bishops without consultation,” Dr Collins said. [This Collins is a real piece of work.]

The present system ensured appointed bishops were conformists whose primary gaze was upwards to the Pope rather than down towards the church. Pastoral aspects took a minor place in the questionnaire. [B as in B.  S as in S.  “Pastoral” is used in such a sloppy manner by liberals that it has come to mean the opposite of what a pastor should actually do.]

[And now this guy lowers himself to the reductio ad Hitlerum.] “The bishops are like Hitler’s generals in that their oath of loyalty to the Pope utterly cripples them. They are unable to take any action contrary to Rome, and seem not to be interested in the local church,” Dr Collins said.  [Sounds like a hysteric now.]

”There are a couple of bishops who are exceptionally courageous, but most of them follow Sir Humphrey Appleby’s advice that anything courageous is dangerous.” [The reference is to one of the funniest shows ever on TV, “Yes, Minister.”]

Father Frank Leo, the assistant to Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, first said the document was purely private so to respond would be inappropriate. In reply to the suggestion that if church was breaking the law it was not purely private, he agreed to accept questions by email, but then did not reply to emails or phone calls.

There’s journalism for you.

I don’t know if I have more contempt for

a) the writer
b) Collins
c) the nasty grass who violated the Pontifical Secret

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32 Responses to Hating the Church in Australia

  1. shane says:

    State control over church appointments is definitely coming back. Expect to see some European governments attempt this. The sex scandals will provide the state with a spurious pretext.

  2. Paul says:

    I think Shane is correct. It is only a matter of time–and not that long a time–until “democratic” governments attempt to assert control over internal, Church matters. The time may not be long off when the choice will be very clear, to bow down to Caesar and live or to obey God and the Holy Church and die.

  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    the questions about the potential bishops’ family’s condition are very necessary. The bishop has wide latitude in discretionary spending for a diocese. If a potential bishop comes from, say, a large family with great financial need, the Holy See could rightly be cautious about entrusting him with the financial management of a very wealthy diocese, without additional assurances of his honesty and rectitude. Similarly, if a potential bishop comes from an extremely wealthy family, and grew up used to a high lifestyle, the Holy See would need some confidence in his personal humility and attitude toward the poor.

    I have only seen one “sample” of these letters, but I have been led to believe that there are some minor changes in each letter, so that if one is “leaked,” the nuncio can tell where the leak is coming from. I do not know if this is true, but if not, it would seem to me to be a potentially good way of cross-checking things.

  4. Oneros says:

    “requirements were fidelity to the “genuine tradition of the church’‘ and ”authentic renewal” promoted by the 1960s reforming Vatican Council, which meant support for the current papal line of reversing these reforms.”

    I doubt that’s what it means at all. It sounds like requiring bishops to support “authentic renewal” ala Vatican II means that they can’t be trads…

  5. ttucker says:

    How weird, the idea that a bishop should NOT be a suporter of Catholic faith and dogma.
    Having said that, I think it is a great idea to also ask laymen for their opinions on particular candidates, but only if those laymen are solidly orthodox themselves.
    In fact, I think orthodox laymen should serve on seminary committees that help decide if candidates for the priesthood should be admitted and/or ordained.

  6. pforrester says:

    I doubt that’s what it means at all. It sounds like requiring bishops to support “authentic renewal” ala Vatican II means that they can’t be trads…

    …or progressive/modernists.

  7. skull kid says:

    What about separation of Church and State? The State has no business attempting to meddle in Church appointment of bishops. These are the same people telling the Church to get out of the public square, yet they want to meddle in our Church. The cheek!

  8. THREEHEARTS says:

    Get one thing straight, there was a vacancy in British Columbia and a real ding dong was made bishop. Many of his parishioners said good reason being they felt they could get just as good a sermon from the local baptists and evangelists. He was for me however a good confessor. He waited in the confessional Saturday afternoons and before mass every day. A priest of the deanery, a personal friend, wrote a scathing answer on the priest’s catholic abilities. He was asked to withdraw the letter he refused. Boy was he persecuted. Other priests watched, they knew, chancery gossip provided the information to all who wished to gossip .

  9. Titus says:

    I’m not licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Australia, but the premise of the piece strikes me as absolute horse feathers. Bishops are not employees of the Holy See, much less of the papal nuncio. Labor laws thus do not have any effect on the relationship between them. It’s like saying that my law firm has to comply with the laws governing nuclear power plants. Moreover, the nuncio enjoys diplomatic immunity. Even if he were breaking 600 laws, he’d be immune from suit, or even criminal prosecution for something non-violent like that (an Australian jurist please correct me if there’s no such thing as diplomatic immunity there).

    Pure balderdash.

  10. Brad says:

    Father Z’s emphasis: “‘Pastoral’ is used in such a sloppy manner by liberals that it has come to mean the opposite of what a pastor should actually do”.

    Too true, Father. St. Teresa of Avila wrote that her “venial sins were what destroyed [her]” until the age of 40, when she began to confess to non-lenient priests who did not allow her to stew in her own doom.

    Re Australia, I will pray for her while doing Stations this evening in church. She is on her knees.

  11. jbas says:

    “Yes, Minister” was my favorite until “Doc Martin” came along. At least this fellow’s cultural references are sound.

  12. Jacob says:

    Tim Ferguson, 11 March 2011 at 1:19 pm:

    I have only seen one “sample” of these letters, but I have been led to believe that there are some minor changes in each letter, so that if one is “leaked,” the nuncio can tell where the leak is coming from. I do not know if this is true, but if not, it would seem to me to be a potentially good way of cross-checking things.

    From Wiki:

    A canary trap is a method for exposing an information leak, which involves giving different versions of a sensitive document to each of several suspects and seeing which version gets leaked.

    The term was coined by Tom Clancy in his novel Patriot Games, though Clancy did not invent the technique. The actual method (usually referred to as a Barium meal test in espionage circles) has been used by intelligence agencies for many years.

    Much more at the article.

  13. Warren says:

    Is it too much to ask of ourselves that, when matters require confidentiality, we should keep our mouths shut?

    Routinely enhanced by a Dan Brown trained spin-doctor or two, such leaks confirm that the greatest threat to the Church comes from within Her own ranks.

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    ”There are a couple of [Australian] bishops who are exceptionally courageous, . . . . .”

    Well, at least he got one thing right. Certainly, Cardinal Pell and Bishop Peter Elliot and their devotion to sacred liturgy come even to the mind of one who knows little about the Church in Australia. Perhaps the author knows of still others with this kind of courage and devotion.

  15. JPManning says:

    It’s illegal to discriminate on appearance in Australia? That’s ridiculous. So if you come to work, without shaving or combing your hair, in stained clothes and scruffy shoes your employer can’t do anything about it? It shows how pompous liberal lawmakers are becoming that they are outlawing employers who require basic decency.

  16. Ttony says:

    I don’t know if I have more contempt for

    a) the writer
    b) Collins
    c) the nasty grass who violated the Pontifical Secret

    d) all of the above.

  17. templariidvm says:

    The fact that they are complaining about the process says 1) the just don’t get what the Catholic Church is, and 2) the want to be like the protestants.

    Nonetheless, once again, Godwin’s law prevails.

  18. KevinSymonds says:

    I have seen the “sub secreto pontificio” violated before at a parish in Maine and for similar reasons.

    Sad.

    -KJS

  19. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I had not heard before of pontifical secrets. Is violating it as grave as violating the seal of the confessional? It sounds like it, as both lead to excommunication.

  20. Denis says:

    “…which meant support for the current papal line of reversing these reforms”

    That would be wonderful, if it were true. Unfortunately, it is probably a phantom of Mr. Collins’s sweaty imagination.

  21. albizzi says:

    The attempts of temporal powers to get a control on bishops nominations are as old as christianity.
    See for example in China where are existing an official church and an underground one.
    Oddly enough that was almost always an exclusive RCC’s concern.
    Does this Barney Zwartz care more about the way the muslims are selecting their imams or the jews their rabbis?
    The Pope would be well inspired in ordering to investigate about the moles in his immediate circles who are betraying him. These men must be publicly pulled in the light and immediately defrocked and fired. I am afraid they are many and they are at work since decades.

  22. JARay says:

    I’m not one bit surprised to see the name of Paul Collins there. The man is an ex-priest and if ever there is an article or interview on Catholicism you can bet that man’s views are sought because he always attacks the Church. As for The Sydney Morning Herald, well it is a left wing newspaper and hardly supportive of the Church. Indeed it is as supportive of the Church as your New York Times is.

  23. Skull Kid: What about separation of Church and State? The State has no business attempting to meddle in Church appointment of bishops.

    To keep the state’s hands off the Church is PRECISELY the point of, say the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the phrase “separation of Church and State” appears nowhere in that document). Too often the “separation of Church and State” concept is used to expunge religion (and especially Catholicism) from society.

  24. JARay says:

    In one respect Paul Collins is right and that is that the Archdiocese of Perth will be needing a replacement for Archbishop Hickey. If past history is any guide then either the Bishop of Geraldton or the Bishop of Bunbury will move in and somehow I don’t see either of those as the best choice for the position. The Friday before Lent saw Archbishop Hickey ordain his 95th priest for the Archdiocese and it was pointed out in our local Catholic newspaper that he has ordained more men to the priesthood than any other bishop in Australia. He it was who re-opened our local Seminary and with the advent of the NeoCatechumenate we now have two Seminaries in Perth.

  25. Tony Layne says:

    “A workplace law expert, Andrew Stewart of Adelaide University, said most of the questions posed no problem – for example with privacy legislation – but there was ‘certainly a problem’ in the questions on illness and family and, perhaps, appearance.”

    In other words, the candidate’s orthodoxy and loyalty to the Pope aren’t actionable issues? Is there anything to Mr. Zwartz’s column besides a prolonged fuss about “progressives need not apply”—oh, wait, does the nuncio take applications for the job of Australian bishop?

    Just wondering.

  26. Nan says:

    Interesting that they bring up a Greek Orthodox Bishop who was deemed an employee; the Orthodox are different. While I don’t know who employs the Bishop, the church council employs the priest so he doesn’t have the final say on what happens in the parish by which he is employed. I’ll have to ask an Orthodox friend.

  27. vivaldi says:

    As an Australian Seminarian I can make the following assurances:

    1. The number of Seminarians is growing rapidly across Australia.
    2. The young men called to the Priesthood, are on the whole conservative, faithful to the teachings of the Church and many prefer The Traditional Latin Mass. The vast majority at least would prefer a traditional “flavour” in the Novus Ordo.
    3. We have to be silent about our traditional preferences until we are ordained or we risk being turfed out of the Seminary.
    4. There is significant positive change already afoot within the Seminaries – Espescially Liturgically.

    The future of the Australian Church is hope-filled it will be one of orthodox fidelity to the true faith and one that will no longer tolerate dissenting, heretical nut cases that claim to be the voice of the Church.

  28. teajay74 says:

    Yeah, Barney Zwartz is, in my opinion, an absolutely terrible ‘journalist’. He’s a post-grad religious studies student and appears to me to uncritically accept and repeat anything negative about the Catholic church. Just do an article search on his name and you’ll find (again in my view) some of the most amateur, poorly reasoned trash on the internet.

  29. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    I’m confused. So what is exactly covered under the rubric of “sub secreto pontificio” as it pertains to the nomination of a bishop?

    – Is it the content of the questionnaire itself?
    – The responses from individuals?
    – The “terna” or list of three individuals recommended for possible consecration as a bishop?
    – All of the above?

    And is excommunication the penalty for the violation of any of these? Is such a thing in Canon Law?

    I recall that Damian Thompson published the questionnaire a few years ago, and a Google search reveals it easily enough. I find it difficult to imagine that revealing the questions themselves (not the answers of the respondents, of course) should cause one to incur the penalty of excommunication.

  30. James Joseph says:

    Long have I wondered at the falsehood that states that something is more salutory the more ardious the task. Is Immanuel Kant responsible for that one?

  31. The following is taken from the questionnaire as posted online at Collins’ website:

    “Fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church and commitment to the authentic renewal promoted by Vatican 11…”

    Vatican 11? Crikey! Now there’s a well kept secret.