Friday, May 24, 2013

Cutting down dioceses



Pope Francis met with all the Italian bishops, 250 of them and gave them project of reducing their numbers, an interesting insight into the future of his Papacy.

I am sure many will find good historical reasons why they and their dioceses should continue but the Church is not a museum. In the Church whatever shortages there might be there is never a shortage of bishops. But there are diocese in the world where the faith has almost died out, or diocese where there are hardly any priests, or vocations to the priesthood, or diocese where the faith has become so aberrant that it is hardly recognisable as Catholic, should these not be abolished or merged?

The same thing could be said for Metropolitan Sees, especially in Europe, where the incumbent is by custom raised the Cardinaliate. In the UK we have three Cardinals (I include Northern Ireland) which seems excessive, when there are vast swathes of the Church with no Papal elector but much more vibrant Churches.

13 comments:

GOR said...

Good for Pope Francis…and about time! There are too many dioceses in assorted countries of the developed world.

That there are 225 dioceses in Italy alone is ridiculous. Only Brazil has more - around 400 - but it has more than twice the Catholic population, not to mention a much larger area and more remote locations.

Italy, with a Catholic population of 57 million - of which only about a third practice - is episcopally top-heavy. Reduce the number drastically and free up a bunch of bishops to actually do pastoral work!

I also like the fact that the Holy Father essentially told them to deal with the political and cultural life of the country and not leave it to the Pope. For too long the Secretary of State has been too involved in Italian domestic affairs - most recently Sodano and Bertone. The Secretariat of State should be concerned with the Universal Church - not mired in the local scene.

Et Expecto said...

I have little knowledge of Italian dioceses, so would find it hard to comment on the merits of reducing their number.

In England and Wales, there are several dioceses that have so few priests that they are struggling to function properly as a diocese. I would include Swansea, Menevia and Hallam amongst these.

At the very least, there should be at least one priest in every parish, and there are a few other jobs that should be undertaken by a full time priest, such as chancellor and the bishop's master of ceremonies. Perhaps one should add school and university chaplains.

In dioceses where there are insufficient priests to cover these jobs, some thought should be given to merging with a neighbouring diocese. It is entirely possible that this is being done, which might explain the delay in appointing bishops. However, this seems unlikely as one of the most recent appointments was to Wrexham, which definitely is a struggling diocese.

IanW said...

Is the problem the numbers of Bishops or their diocesan bureaucracies? In Southwark (a large diocese) we have three assistant bishops with pastoral responsibility for particular areas. This gives clergy and parishioners valuable direct, personal contact with the episcopate without the overhead of three curias. I'm not suggesting the Diocesan / Assistant model is perfect, but it does raise interesting questions about the present diocesan model and its accretions.

Colin said...

There is only one Cardinal in Ireland and he is in Armagh and is Cardinal of all Ireland. As far as I know the UK has only Cardinal O'Brien in Scotland.

Cosmos said...

IanW,

I agree. If you consolidate a diocese you will end up with one Bishop with a million ceremonial responsibilities who has no time for anything else.

The functionaries below him will inevitably control all aspects of the diocese, including access to the bishop.

However, it may be good when the numbers are very, very small.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Auxiliaries might be the way forward following merger of dioceses. Leeds, Hallam and Middlesbrough could be subsumed into Newcastle and Nottingham. Basically the Faith has collapsed in the North of England. I would shut down the seminaries and send students abroad. Chaplaincies need to be revisited as must also priests who disappear overseas. England must be become a mission once again.

Don Henri said...

I don't agree. Italian dioceses are not top heavy with many people working in offices, usually it's only the Bishop and 1 or 2 secretaries. In these small dioceses, there are about 50 to 100 priests, and the Bishop is able to know personally each of them. There is only one main city, and villages, and the Bishop is able to visit each community at least once a year, and to administer Confirmation himself. People get to know their Bishop, and he has enough time to "feel the smell" of his flock. What we need is not less Bishops, but less administration. After all in the Antiquity, there were a Bishop in each city of any importance. A Bishop is not a monarch, it is the chief priest of a local Church, and with too large local Churches, we loose this closeness of the Bishop to the people and his priests, and he just becomes the CEO of a big firm. In facts big affluent dioceses might be an enticement to a Bishop to adopt a more mundane and less servant way of life.
+ pax et bonum

Physiocrat said...

Sounds like an example of Parkinson's Law. It is probably urban legend but it is said that the British Navy has more admirals than ships. But in this case it is quality that counts, surely?

nickbris said...

No chance of promotion then Father

E. G. Lewis said...

I see this as a wonderful opportunity to get rid of the deadwood. Eliminate the Bishop, not just the diocese. We've gotten so top heavy with inefficient leadership that very few dioceses function well. I say clean house from the top down and give the Bishops and Cardinals a choice: be a priest again or retire. As they say, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!"

Anita Moore said...

E. G. Lewis said...I see this as a wonderful opportunity to get rid of the deadwood. Eliminate the Bishop, not just the diocese. We've gotten so top heavy with inefficient leadership that very few dioceses function well. I say clean house from the top down and give the Bishops and Cardinals a choice: be a priest again or retire.

We're talking here, not about mere jobs, but about divinely instituted offices.

Pastor in Valle said...

I'm tempted to agree with Don Henri
Our problem is precisely that bishops have tended to lost pastoral contact with their flock and become simple (and remote) administrators.
Cardinals are another matter. Certainly Italy has too many.

Anil Wang said...

Cosmos said..."If you consolidate...one Bishop with a million ceremonial responsibilities who has no time for anything else...functionaries...will...control all."

This is a valid concern, but the problem is that Bishops tend to focus on the million ceremonial responsibilities and not what they should be focusing on, namely running a diocese, ensuring that priests do their sacramental duties by random inspections, and during their sacramental duties. All other support functions might be outsourced to priests and religious orders and selected lay people, but those must not hinder the primary role of the Bishop. If the Pope can send papal legates to Ecumenical Councils, why can't bishops have legates to deal with all the non-sacramental ceremonial responsibilities of a bishop? And if bishops have the time to go to gala dinners, make random political statements that are not based on dogma (e.g. opposing to death penalty, the green "movement", etc) it's a clue that the problem isn't one of resources but worldliness.