Last month a retired Roman Catholic bishop named O’Connor was laid to rest in Huntingdon, Quebec. A number of years ago Bishop O’Connor was charged with the sexual abuse of young people. That, however, is not he main story. The main story is that Bishop O’Connor, albeit under pressure, resigned from his diocese.

That was unusual because almost all the bishops who were implicated in or abetted the sexual abuse of children are still in office. Not only that but Cardinal Bernard Law with whom the whole mess started in Boston was given a papal promotion and now occupies a Vatican sinecure in Rome.

All of which begs the larger question. To whom are Catholic bishops accountable? The simple answer is Nobody. The fact is bishops tend to be absolute monarchs in their own dioceses, answerable neither upwards nor downwards – nor sideways, to fellow bishops. This is not necessarily a power grab. It has more to do with the system itself.

Sadly, Vatican 11’s theological image of the Church as the new “People of God” has so far not been translated into church structures. Even the Second Vatican Council’s call for diocesan pastoral councils has not been properly heeded.

There is something seriously wrong when the only effective accountability experienced by a bishop occurs when there is an unwelcome call from the press, exposing a matter the diocese has tried to bury. That is what happened over clerical child abuse.

Should the laity have a direct say in the way local bishops are chosen?

Should each diocese have a synod on which laity are represented and to which the bishop is accountable?



  1. 1
    jim Says:

    Neil: Forget it.Whatever you or I want won’t happen.Cardinal Mahoney has paid out over half a billion dollars to paedophile priests’ victims.B16 I’m sure has heard from the dicastery who in turn has heard from the Papal Nuncio that the cardinal has appointed hundreds of paedophiles including bishops.As a matter of fact the cardinal himself was aquitted of sexy stuff. Do you think cardinal Law will suggest to B16 that cardinal Mahoney also needs a permanent holiday at a palace in Rome. Will the pope allow Mahoney to make more appointments. jim

  2. 2

    I agree, Jim, that one of the reasons for paying out the 6660 million was to keep the lid on any trial so that Cardinal Mahoney and his inner circle would not be forced to testify in open court. It’s also true that Mahoney’s team of lawyers is still fighting hard to keep the personnel files of abusing priests secret. However whatever B16 thinks or wants Idon’t see any other American bishops running the risk of brining the criminal law down on their heads.

  3. 3
    bernie12 Says:

    Ijust have no expectation that the Vatican will make any change in the process of choosing bishops in this era .

  4. 4

    Sadly, Tim, I’m afraid you’re righ. It’s such a shame that Vatican Two’s vision of a collaborative church has been squashed.

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