I am not too sure I believe the rumour about Dom Hugh Gilbert, Abbot of Pluscarden being offered then turning down or delaying taking the diocese of Westminster, because of problems in the monastery.
If the story has a basis in truth then the implications are pretty radical. I do not know much about Abbot Hugh, except he is known for his holiness and Pluscarden has a reputation even amongst monastics as being ascetic and contemplative and conservative. It has no school, no parish, the community is small, less than thirty. There is really no comparison here with the appointment of Basil Hume. Ampleforth with its school and dependant parishes is comparable to a small diocese, Pluscarden is more like a small isolated country parish.
If this story has a basis in truth, then the Pope has passed over our present bishops, therefore he is not looking to administrative ability, or to those who have "proved" themselves in the present narrow and narrowing system.
He is looking to a radical commitment to Christ and holiness, and a rootedness in Tradition, and from what I have heard of Dom Hugh an ability to draw people to Christ.
Like many priests I have become increasingly concerned by the way in which bishops have been appointed in England and Wales. This is apparently the questionnaire that is sent by the nuncio to gather information on candidates. Amongst other things it asks about Orthodoxy:
Doctrinal orientation. Loyalty to the Doctrine and Magisterium of the Church. In particular: the attitude of the candidate to the Documents of the Holy See on the Ministerial Priesthood, on the Priestly Ordination of Women, on marriage, on sexual Ethics and on Social Justice. Fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church and commitment to the authentic renewal promoted by Vatican 11, and adherence to the "Statement of Conclusions, 1998".
but nowhere does it ask if the candidate actually believes in God or can communicate that belief. Some readers might be scandalised by this suggestion that a bishop might not believe but today the Church needs bishops whose belief in God transforms them and their priests and is immediately evident.
It is not unusual to sit through a sermon preached by a few of our bishops, which never mention God or refer to the scriptures, which not only fail to inspire, but leave one wondering if the preacher believes anything at all. Nor is it unusual to attend a confirmation that seems more like a rather shoddy graduation ceremony rather than the completion of Christian Initiation and bestowing of the Seal of the Holy Spirit.
England and Wales desperately needs evangelisation, evangelisation isn't about clever techniques or sociology, it is certainly not about cunning schemes, small groups or large groups, it is about holiness which comes from living faith and a deep personal desire for Christ, and a firm hope in Divine Providence. I pray that I am wrong about the Abbot, and he really will be the next Archbishop of Westminster. If it is true, then his appointment will be criticised for his lack worldliness and of administrative experience, but quite frankly I suspect holiness trumps administrative ability, and we all know about worldly bank managers nowadays.