Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fewer Dioceses?

The Irish summit in Rome has ended today.
There is a press release here.
I think it is interesting that the Pope points to a more general crisis.
...of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors. He stressed the need for a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed.

I think what is happening in Ireland is significant for the whole Church, it is not just about Ireland, it is not just about child abuse. It is the gross failure of episcopal leadership. Ireland with the sharp decline in both  practice and vocations is litmus of problem's elsewhere.

One serious suggestion is that the Irish hierarchy is simply too big.
Ireland, with four million Catholics, has 26 dioceses – just one less than Germany, which has a church that is 35 million-strong. More bishops means that the average calibre of each tends to be lower, and co-ordination between them is proportionately more difficult. It has been suggested that the number of dioceses should be cut back to eight – a proposal the Irish bishops have been resisting with a unanimity that was noticeably lacking in their response to the scandal that brought them to Rome.

What goes for Ireland's 26 dioceses also goes for England's 22: we need to watch this space.

16 comments:

Delia said...

Larger dioceses?

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

You mean 'larger dioceses?' then, surely? Fewer, but larger?

For what it's worth, Vincent Twomey, who studied under the Pope back in the day, argued back in 2003 in 'The End of Irish Catholicism?' that a reduction in the number of dioceses would be a crucial step if the Church in Ireland was to renew itself.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yipes! Just changed the headline, thanks for pointing out my blunder.

Roberto said...

Its time this incompetent bishop should resign pronto. they have committed a grivous mistake. They should build the trust of the people by showing humility and forgiveness. Time to go.

Michael Clifton said...

With all those diocesan Bishops floating around in Ireland it reminds one of a line in the G and S operat Mikado; "When everyone is somebody, then no one is anybody at all." Yes reduce the number of dioceses and clearly the new dioceses will be larger in size. In England only less than one million attend Mass regularly. However the total number of nominal Catholics is much larger.
We used to have far fewer dioceses over here. Hallam and East Anglia are quite recent and Southwark and A and B were as one until 1966. Time to re unite ??

Benjamin said...

I would be in favour of fewer dioceses in England, and certainly Wales only needs two dioceses. However, the main problem in Ireland seem to have been caused by the auxilary bishops who were not up to the job. If we do have fewer dioceses is there not a danger of more auxilaries!

shadowlands said...

Do Bishops say their Rosary? Serious question.

Ttony said...

Father: fine, but can we decide what Bishops are for first?

nickbris said...

I thought we were heading for fewer Parishes,churches are closing all over the place and some Parishes are having to share a Priest with their neighbours.

Unless of course the spare Bishops will be able to stand in.

Richard said...

Ttony,
The bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and their role is spelled out in Lumen Gentium. It's a beautiful document and well worth reading (especially by dissidents - not you obviously).

Patricius said...

Perhaps return to the status quo ante 1850! Recognize England and Wales as mission territory and rule by apostolic administrators!

Peter said...

Perhaps the answer to Benjamin's point would be to have ordinaries, as envisaged for former Anglicans, act in place of auxiliary bishops. The good ones might become bishops and those not suited could revert to their previous role.
I think however that whatever structure is devised it may fail if the leaders fail to carry out their responsibilities. So I would like to see a proper inspectorate system reporting to Rome established.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I don't think we in England can lecture the Irish about having too many diocese and bishops!

Certainly Hallam should be absorbed into Leeds and Nottingham. Middlesbrough similarly divided between Leeds and H & N. One bishop and one auxilary in Leeds would be suffcient to cover the changes. It would, in theory, cut down on admin costs.

Richard said...

Are we perhaps assuming there can be a perfect world of perfect bishops (or perfect Christians) this side of Heaven? Though, no doubt, granted the grace of office, bishops are weak and sinful men like the rest of us. The Apostles were weak and sinful men (cf St Peter's frailties and gaffes as displayed in the Gospels). There is no perfect system, just people trying (and failing) to do their best. Not a counsel of despair, just a suggestion that there is no simple "fix" but rather a constant struggle for all of us. There seems to be a slight suggestion here that more or less abolishing bishops would be one such fix but that just isn't consonant with the hierarchical nature of the Church (cf Lumen Gentium), which is divinely willed.

GOR said...

There is something to be said for less, and larger, dioceses. Wisconsin in area, is roughly the size of Ireland with a population of 5.6 million, of which 1.6 million are Catholic. We have five dioceses to cover the entire state. Only the Milwaukee archdiocese has auxiliaries (two). Like other areas we have fewer priests than formerly and have gone through a spate of parish consolidations. The consolidations have become necessary not just due to the number of priests, but from new demographics. People have moved from the urban centers to suburban or rural areas, leaving many parishes unsustainable on their own.

But where dioceses and bishops are concerned I don’t think size is the issue. Rather, it is function. What does a bishop do? Yes, we know what he is supposed to do - but where, in fact, does he spend his time? Is he merely an administrator, or is he truly a pastor? It seems that for some time many bishops have been chosen rather for their administrative skills than their pastoral abilities. “He is a builder”. “He’s good at raising money”. “He knows how to run things”. “He’s got an advanced degree”.

Granted, managing a diocese brings many administrative duties which must be filled. But is that the main consideration in evaluating episcopal candidates? We can all point to good and holy parish priests whom we think would be great ‘Fathers of a diocese’. But how often does that happen?

So where dioceses and bishops are concerned – yes, less of them. But the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity - and spiritual quality, not secular ability.

Augustine said...

I think we should apply the one polis - one bishop principle.

Every city or large town should have its own bishop. More bishops and smaller dioceses would mean a closer, more pastoral relationship between the bishop and his clergy adn faithful.