NZ canon lawyer wants laity and transparency in bishop appointments

New Zealand canon lawyer Msgr Brendan Daly (pictured) says the Church needs more lay people in governance roles.

Its episcopal appointment process could also be altered so it is more open – it could save a lot of unnecessary distress, he says.

The clerical sexual abuse scandal shows the necessity for these changes, he wrote in a paper published in Studia Canonica.

Daly wrote the paper after analysing the 213 recommendations from the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made in 2017 about the Catholic Church.

His research also included analysing the Holy See’s responses to the recommendations.

The Royal Commission’s final report commented on the “lack of responsibility, transparency and accountability within the Catholic Church’s practices and law”, Daly wrote.

These findings show “the catastrophic failure of bishops and religious superiors to deal with the perpetrators, to protect victims and potential victims and to prevent abuse.”

One Royal Commission recommendation was that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference ask Rome to establish a transparent process for appointing bishops. The process would include lay people’s direct participation.

Another recommendation was that the criteria for appointing bishops be published.

The Holy See noted the documents and canonical provisions describing these criteria.

It also noted the current laity’s involvement in the episcopal appointment process, stating child safety must be part of this.

The “massive failures in episcopal leadership” throughout the world raises the question of whether a different selection process would be a preventative measure, Daly said.

The job description of a bishop has changed and needs to be reflected in the qualities required of episcopal candidates.

The Royal Commission blamed “clericalism as a key cause of failures to deal with the sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church. This is part of the systemic failure that led to neglecting the input of laity,” he wrote.

He suggested a true separation of powers and more allowance for laity in Church governance are needed.

Pope Francis believes Church renewal cannot be deferred [as] “the path of synodality is the path that God expects from the Church of the third millennium”.

It will result in better decisions in all areas of the Church’s life, Daly said. Many painful crimes could have been prevented if canon law had been better appreciated and implemented.

A governance review of the Catholic Church in Australia recommended wider consultation with laity during the episcopal appointment process.

This includes “ensuring that candidates for the episcopacy have proven competence in dealing with sexual abuse cases”.

Its recommendations also included:

  • a national protocol on seminarian selection, training and ongoing formation
  • each diocesan bishop (or dioceses in combination if appropriate) establishing a panel involving women and lay men for the selection process for entry of candidates into the seminary and discernment prior to ordination
  • lay people take a critical role in the formation of seminarians and evaluations of suitability for ordination
  • a requirement for each diocesan bishop to consult the panel before accepting a foreign priest.


Additional reading

News category: Great reads, Palmerston, Top Story, World.

Tags: , , , ,