25Apr Bishops were ‘mediocre’, cardinals had ‘modest talents’ – in 1931

“Most of the bishops, instead of being the strong characters presently needed, dynamic and active personalities, even if indeed pious and religious men, are in effect at the same time mediocre, or even below mediocrity. Some are apathetic, timid, indolent or vain; others are conformists, bureaucrats or introverts; many are ignorant and clumsy administrators. […]. Sometimes the whole episcopate of a country looks like a bunch of cripples”.
How does that sound today? But this was written in 1931!

Nothing is held back in a comment in Latin:
“Aliquando autem totus episcopatus alicuius nationis ita est compositus, veluti si coecorum, claudorum et infirmorum omne genus esset refugium.”

“The problem is aggravated by the Holy See’s tendency to appoint only obedient and complacent prelates.”

“As for the cardinals, the senate of the Church and the electors of the pope, here the situation is even worse, particularly in the case of those attached to the Roman curia. The sacred college contains too many non-entities who have reached their rank by never asking awkward questions. The merit of many eminences is not their excellent pastoral experience or learning, but that of having staffed a Vatican desk for a very long time. Without any real knowledge of the world or the life of the universal Church, they are nevertheless automatically promoted and placed in executive jobs far above their modest talents.”

“Almost half of the cardinals and the great majority of the curial ones are Italians, as if the Holy Ghost had a distinct preference for the Italian nation (“veluti si solos Italos Spiritus Sanctus dignos invenerit ut eos tamquam S. Pontificis et proximos consultores et electores illustraret”). This only aggravates the matter, for even if Italians may have many talents, they are certainly not noted for their organizational skills. For the universal Church, this is at the same time both an insult and an injustice. The few excellent foreign prelates present in the curia are examples of what the alternative might look like.”

What about proposals for reform?

“Radical changes are needed in the system of recruitment or election [of the bishops and cardinals]. The appointment of bishops should not be left exclusively to the Holy See, where generally the candidates are little known, while the information provided is often biased or unreliable.”

And for the cardinals:

“To emphasize the universal character of the Church, the sacred college should be internationalized by spreading its membership more evenly, while the number of Italian cardinals needs to be reduced drastically. The international character of the Roman curia as a whole should be promoted. Next, the so-called ‘loca cardinalitia’ must be abolished. Only real princes of the Church, known for their outstanding qualities, should be raised to the scarlet: that is, learned, pious and zealous men, who know the world, are experienced, well-informed and therefore able to act as real counsel to the pope.”

You can read more here

Pádraig McCarthy

8 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    Tanti ringraziamenti, Patrizio.
    Now who said Latin was a dead language? If they’d set that piece as a Gregorian Responsorial Psalm and handed it to John McCormack instead of the Panis Angelicus in 1932, the world would have been so enlightened these past eighty years that only Irish or Canadian women might apply for episcopal, cardinalatial or papal vacancies.
    And as for those ‘loca cardinalitia’ that they didn’t manage to abolish, the phrase should really mean ‘crazy cardinals’ in dynamic equivalence. Unfortunately, it probably just means that if a red biretta doesn’t wing its way to Drumcondra in the next wee while, then the latest Marti(a)n primate will probably pick one up by 2015 – just to ease that barometric pressure over Armagh’s hills and green vallelys. 🙂

  2. Mary O Vallely

    “The problem is aggravated by the Holy See’s tendency to appoint only obedient and complacent prelates.”
    We can smile at this because it is so sadly true, in the main. Obedience to the Gospels is often punished; obedience to the Magisterium is rewarded. Has anything changed much in the 82 years since that report was written? (That’s the average life span of a cardinal.) Ah but we’re slow learners, aren’t we? How does anyone learn though without allowing oneself to be challenged? I see they’re canonising JP II in October, the man who was a great advocate of the ‘No Discussion, never, never, never,’ policy. He had some very fine qualities but I would rather see the likes of Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero canonised first. I also do not understand why we need “miracles” to tell us whether a person lived a saintly life but that’s for another thread some day.

  3. Bob Schwiderski

    Here’s a shocking list of 228 accused clerics, nuns and staff

  4. Pól Ó Duibhir

    @2 Mary
    The miracles are to prove they are in heaven and have sufficient pull with the boss to make them worth praying to.

  5. mjt

    The comparative lack of interest in this one suggests nobody is very surprised. We have all had experience of bishops. It reminds me, however, of a comment about Cardinal Tomas O’Fiaich, that he was “a good example of a man who had all the qualities to be a bishop- but they made him one anyway!”

  6. Nuala O'Driscoll

    I wonder would I qualify for sainthood having produced nine miracles (two of whom are in heaven)? And I wonder how many of our priests, bishops, cardinals and popes have even been in a labour ward to witness the countless miracles produced by women? Women dont need anyone to tell us we are saints, we know.

  7. Padraig McCarthy

    Perhaps I should clarify! I did not give a translation of the lines in Latin:
    “Aliquando autem totus episcopatus alicuius nationis ita est compositus, veluti si coecorum, claudorum et infirmorum omne genus esset refugium.”
    This reads:
    “Sometimes however, the whole episcopate of a particular nation is made up as it were the refuge of the blind, the deaf, and the infirm of every kind”!
    Re Nuala (Comment 6):
    You already qualify as a saint!
    This comes not from your nine miracles, but much earlier. The day you were baptised, you were made a saint: this is a gift, not something earned. True, we do not always live as saints. But our lifelong calling is to live as what we already have become; not to try to become something we can never achieve or deserve by our own efforts.
    The miracle bit comes in only for formal declaration of heroic sanctity. But I think you already have this, under the heading of martyrdom! I trust the measure of your miracles is also the measure of your joy and love.

  8. Nuala O'Driscoll

    My comment @6 is tongue-in-cheek – ish! I’m not quite sure if the article is also but these are the men who hold power over our innermost thoughts and minds and try to manipulate the very sanctity of our freedom of conscience. John Henry Newman once said ‘Sublime, unlooked-for-doctrine, yet most true! To every one of us there are but two beings in the whole world, myself and God’. Being a priest in an all male hierarchy is like a fish swimming in the ocean, happy out! The priests who produced this web-site are the ones swimming against the tide, the ones who value and use their own minds and consciences.