A Massachusetts-based Catholic lay group, Voice of the Faithful, is making efforts to sway the selection of Chicago's new archbishop by getting feedback from local church-goers.
Colleen Dolan, director of communications for the Chicago Archdiocese, says that it may be helpful for the group – which has no official affiliation with the archdiocese – to encourage participation, but that locals should “send their responses directly to the Apostolic Nuncio.”
Following Church procedure, Cardinal Francis George, who has served as Archbishop of Chicago since 1997 and is currently undergoing four months of chemotherapy, submitted his retirement Jan. 16, 2012 upon reaching his 75th birthday.
However, “Cardinal George understands that his retirement will not be accepted for two years,” Dolan told CNA Sept. 18.
According to Church custom, the new leader of a diocese or archdiocese is chosen by the Pope based on the recommendation from the Apostolic Nuncio after his consultation with current local bishops and diocese, including members of the laity.
In this case, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who has served as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States since 2011, will make his recommendation to the Pope in the near future.
But on their website, Voice of the Faithful assert that this custom “deprives the process of consultation with all the laity,” saying that they should have a greater input on the choice of bishop.
Quoting Canon Law 212, “Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church,” Voice of the Faithful says they have a “right” to provide greater say in the selection of the new archbishop.
Dolan noted that the “Apostolic Nuncio has said that, 'any initiative, however, to organize group responses constitutes a parallel procedure that would not be part of canonical selection process.'”
Voice of the Faithful's 15 question online survey asks the respondent to rate statements regarding the “ideal candidate for Archbishop” on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”
One statement asks the respondent to rate whether or not they think the new archbishop should have “an encouraging appreciation of laywomen's contributions and support increasing their pastoral opportunities.”
Formed in 2002 in the basement of a Wellesley, Mass. church in response to clergy sexual abuse scandals, Voice of the Faithful boasts the motto of “Keep the Faith, Change the Church” and has “more than 25,000 members in the United States and other countries.”
Dolan said this is not the first interaction the Archdiocese of Chicago has had with Voice of the Faithful.
In an Oct. 11, 2010 press release, the group made several claims against the archdiocese such as in “2009, one in five institutions in the archdiocese still had a credibly accused priest in residence.”
The Archdiocese of Chicago refuted these claims calling them “completely false” while pointing out that, there “are no priests in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago that have an affirmed claim of sexual abuse of a minor against them.”