Nov 19, 2020
The Vatican document tracing the rise of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick through the hierarchy’s ranks has been praised for its unprecedented transparency in shedding light on a dark episode in the life of the Church. But the practice of transparency shouldn’t stop there.
The McCarrick report, coming after the fact, gives us an eye-opening picture of misjudgment and bungling at the upper levels of Church officialdom that enabled a man to ascend far up the ecclesiastical ladder despite continuing rumors of sexual misconduct on his part.
So far, so good. But more is needed – specifically, a meaningful degree of proactive transparency regarding the process by which bishops continue to be appointed and promoted. This a necessary step to prevent mistakes like the McCarrick disaster from happening again, or at least make them less likely.
It hardly needs saying, of course, that even to suggest such a thing touches a sensitive nerve among Church officials accustomed to keeping the selection and promotion of bishops strictly to themselves. In the Church as elsewhere, this is the typical mistake of imagining secrecy bolsters authority rather than – as is often the case – leading in time to its diminishment and rejection.
And is what I suggest really all that crazy? Consider that the Holy See lately renewed its controversial agreement with the communist government of China under which the government nominates candidates for the episcopacy. If the Vatican has no problem allowing Chinese communists to have a central role in choosing bishops, what rational objection could it possibly have to letting faithful Catholics merely observe the process?