Prefect of Cong. for Bishops says more priests now decline becoming bishop

I have a priest friend who has 30+ reasons on his list for why he doesn’t want to be a bishop.

[UPDATE: I was informed that the list is presently at 42 reasons for why he doesn’t want to be a bishop.  It’s inclusive and brutally honest.]

My list isn’t quite as long as his, but it is pretty long and pretty similar.

From CNS via CathNews:

Although the number is not high, it is no longer “exceptional” to have priests turn down an appointment as bishop, according to Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Speaking yesterday about the annual course his office sponsors for new bishops, the Cardinal was asked about rumours that more and more priests are saying they do not want to be a bishop and declining an appointment even when the Pope, on the recommendation of Cardinal Ouellet’s office, has chosen them.

Yes, that’s true. Nowadays you have people who do not accept the appointment,” he said, adding that he would not provide statistics on how often it happens, although he insisted the number was not huge. [So… it is “big”?  “substantial”? “hefty”?]

Priests decline for a variety of reasons, Cardinal Ouellet said, pointing to the example of a priest who was chosen, but then informed the congregation that he had cancer and had not told others of his illness. “It was a sign of responsibility not to accept the appointment,” he said.

Others decline because of something in their past or because they think they cannot handle the responsibility, he said. In the latter case, he said, “normally we insist” because often people are not the best judges of their own abilities. But when a person makes “a decision in conscience,” the Vatican respects that.

As for the type of priests Pope Francis and the congregation are looking for as candidates, Cardinal Ouellet said the Pope “has insisted on the pastoral quality of the bishops. That’s very clear. It does not mean that they do not have to be masters of the faith because a bishop is, first and foremost, the first teacher of the faith in his diocese.”



Read the whole thing there.

Happily, I will never be a bishop.

But about that Monsignor thing….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TNCath says:

    I am not surprised, especially these days by good men who are either weary of this evil, faithless age and do not have the strength to combat it or simply do not wish to have an indiscretion from their past lives become headlines on the Five O’Clock News.. Quite frankly, I think it rather odd for priests who do whatever they can to “run for bishop,” although I realize it’s done all the time. I suspect it is being done now with great zeal by those priests who were frustrated under the John Paul II and Benedict XVI regimes who see this Francis pontificate as their “last chance” to get a mitre before they are too old to do so.

  2. Bthompson says:

    I have heard vocation/appointment stories from the mouths of a few bishops. They all seem to have in common the pattern of it coming totally out of the blue, initial fear, rationalization of why and objections that one is not the best choice, then acceptance after an opportunity for sober prayer.

    Of course, back in the day as a seminarian I maybe fantasized at this or that moment (how awesome to consecrate an altar or church? or pass on Holy Orders to the next generation!?), but having heard some personal accounts of what the vocation entails… I am happy just being Father, thank you very much.

    May God save every priest from the episcopacy, and–more importantly–may God save priests 100 times over from their brethren who desire the episcopacy!

  3. CharlesG says:

    Given the sickening number of prelates at the last two synods who apparently do not seem to support Catholic moral teachings, I don’t in general have a very positive view the office of bishop these days. So many seem a bunch of spineless ninnies running away from the Crucifixion to please the world. Perhaps it was ever thus.

  4. kekeak2008 says:

    Fr. Z, I personally think you’d make a fine bishop! But I can understand your potential reasons and know that you’re doing fine work in your current state.

  5. Will D. says:

    I had a discussion about this with a priest friend of mine last week. We compared it to the line about how anyone who really wanted to be President should be barred from the office. Anyone who is really sure he wants to be a bishop probably has no business being bishop.

  6. catholictrad says:

    This phrase bothers me:
    “It does not mean that they do not have to be masters of the faith because a bishop is, first and foremost, the first teacher of the faith in his diocese.”
    I hope this means “Master” as in “Master’s Degree”. I’d prefer that those answering the call to leadership are to some degree pursuing mastery of themselves through the Faith. Certainly they shouldn’t be the primary teacher of something they don’t know and worse yet, don’t do.

  7. CradleRevert says:

    Priests who don’t want to become bishops are the very priests that should be appointed bishops. Sadly, many of our problems are due to bishops who lobbied to become a prelate for the power and prestige, rather than to be a shepherd of souls.

  8. JesusFreak84 says:

    Given that Bishops are the first ones sued for any misconduct by priests… =-

  9. Augustine says:

    I wonder if the loss of the close care of the flock for the remote care, mostly from behind a desk, is what puts priests off.

  10. Spade says:

    I live under Bishop Loverde, and think that if a Diocesan Bishop is mostly behind a desk it’s because he wants to be.

  11. david s says:

    Prayers for vocations are so often phrased as “vocations to the priesthood and religious life.” Maybe we could include prayers for vocations to the episcopacy.
    My bishop recently passed his 75th birthday, on which he duly submitted his resignation. So I’ve been adding prayers for his successor while continuing my prayers for him.

  12. Simon_GNR says:

    A bishop is first and foremost a *pastor*, so I would expect all bishops to have had several years as a parish priest as well as other practical pastoral experience. It seems to me there may be too much emphasis on bishops and archbishops being highly qualified academically with masters degrees and doctorates in theology, canon law etc. Sure, the Church needs experts in theology etc but the sort of men who make good pastors are not always great intellectuals. (Peter the Fisherman?) Theologians should be on tap, but not necessarily on top!!

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    If the priest with the 42 reasons is the priest I am thinking, I have prayed for him for years to be a good bishop some day (while being very, very sure he doesn’t want to be) and hope he would be Bishop Morlino’s successor. (great, now he will hate me)

    [Without even knowing the 42 reasons!]

  14. The Cobbler says:


    Actually, I think the statement is in agreement with you; the first part is a double-negative. “It does not mean that they do not have to be masters of the faith …”

  15. frjim4321 says:

    It’s a thankless job.

    That’s why I turned it down.

    [If so, thank you very much.]

  16. lmgilbert says:

    “A faithful saying: if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. ” 1 Tim 3:1 (Douay-Rhiems). But if a man desires good things, he is a good man – with the qualification, of course, that he desires them for the right reasons.

  17. While the sentiment is understandable, those who decline kind of forfeit their privilege of complaining about those who accept.

    I hope that more heterodox candidates decline than orthodox candidates.

  18. robtbrown says:

    Simon GNR,

    Your comments seem to indicate that you consider the study of Theology to be little else than an academic exercise. If so, we have two different understandings of the nature of theology. Following St Thomas, I consider the purpose of the study of theology to be the promotion of Wisdom.

    I doubt that you consider Wisdom irrelevant to the duties of a pastor.

  19. frjim4321 says:

    [If so, thank you very much.] …

    LOL you caught my little joke!

    I wasn’t specifically “asked” but I was offered the “track” and turned that down.

    From what I’ve seen, it really does seem very lonely at the “top.”

  20. LarryW2LJ says:

    Here in the Diocese of Metuchen, we will soon be appointed a new Bishop. I will continue to pray that our new Shepherd is more of the lineage of Morlino or Cordileone and less the lineage of Cupich.

    Fr. Z, would you consider moving to New Jersey? ;-)

  21. Alice says:

    Years ago we had a pastor who just couldn’t keep anything exciting to himself. One day at Mass he told us that a priest he knew and respected had just been appointed a bishop. The priest had never expected to be a bishop and tried to get out of it by reminding the nuncio that he was 65. The nuncio shot back, “The pope’s eighty!” Needless to say, he became bishop.

  22. Thomas Sweeney says:

    We should never have to live in a Diocese with a Bishop, who has a modern mindset. They have created more chaos, ruined more churches and have lost more souls than one would care to count. Sadly many of us are in such a situation, with no earthly outlet for our frustrations. The last 50 years I have heard this refrain from friend and relatives, “I didn’t leave the church, the church left me”.

  23. frjim4321 says:

    [If so, thank you very much.] …

    You assume that I would not be a good ordinary?

    Actually, I would work hard to build cohesiveness among the presbyterate.

    I would consider it my highest obligation.

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