'Secret' criteria set bishops' appointments.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law prescribes: To be a suitable candidate for the episcopate a person must:
* Be outstanding in strong faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues and possess those other gifts that enable him to fulfill the office in question.
* Be held in good esteem.
* Be at least 35 years old.
* Be a priest ordained for at least five years.
* Hold a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred scripture, theology or canon law from an institute of studies recognized by the Apostolic See or at least well-versed in these disciplines (Canon 378).
However, the truth is that this canon is deemed inadequate and that at least since 1983 a set of "hidden criteria" has been in operation.
Long suspected, the document, which is actually sent out to those who are consulted, can now be revealed. It is given here for the first time in English. It was first obtained by Golias, a French Catholic satirical magazine published in Lyons.
The document is not only top secret: It is covered by the "pontifical secret" -- a very deep secret. To break it is, as the covering letter from the nuncio says, "a punishable act."
However, since this applies only to whoever it was who first released it, you can relax.
The document is a questionnaire to be filled in (by those invited) when a diocese is vacant. It reads as follows:
Describe your relationship to
the candidate and how long you
have known him.
1. Personal details -- appearance;
health; ability to withstand
stress; family relationships,
especially in view of possible
symptoms of cancer.
2. Human qualities -- speculative
and practical intellectual
abilities; temperament and
character; inner balance; good
judgment; sense of responsibility.
3. Human, Christian and
priestly information -- possession of and
witness to human, Christian and
priestly virtues (intelligence,
justice, honesty, integrity,
objectivity, faith, hope, charity, obedience,
humility, piety, daily celebration
of Mass and recitation of the divine
office, Marian piety).
4. Attitudes -- moral attitudes;
relationships to other people and
exercise of priestly ministry;
capacity for establishing friendly
relationships; relationships to state
or civic authorities (esteem and
5. Education and intellectual
capacities -- knowledge and
ongoing formation in ecclesiastical
sciences; general education;
knowledge and feel for contemporary
problems; knowledge of other
languages; books or important
6. Orthodoxy -- convinced and
faithful adherence to the
teaching and magisterium of the church.
In particular the attitude of the
candidate to the documents of the
Holy See on the priestly office, the
priestly ordination of women,
marriage and the family, sexual ethics
(especially the transmission of life
according to the teaching of
Humanae Vitae and of the
apostolic instruction Familiaris
Consortio and the social teaching of
the church. Faithfulness to true
church tradition and commitment
to Vatican II and the renewal that
followed it, according to papal
7. Discipline -- fidelity and
obedience to the Holy Father, the
Apostolic See, the hierarchy, esteem
and acceptance of priestly
celibacy, as it is presented by the church's
magisterium; respect for and
faithfulness to the norms concerning
divine worship and ecclesiastical
8. Apostolic bent and
experience -- capacity, experience and
proven success in pastoral
ministry; proclamation of the gospel
and catechisms; preaching and
teaching (preparation, skill in
public speaking); pastoral approach
to liturgical and sacramental work
(especially in the administration
of the sacrament of Penance and
in the Eucharist celebration);
pastoral activity to encourage
priestly vocations; commitment to the
missions; an ecumenical attitude;
formation of the laity in the
apostolate (family, youth, assertion
and defense of human rights, the
world of work, culture and the
media); human promotion and
social activity with special
reference to the poor and those
suffering any need.
9. Leadership qualities -- paternal
attitude, capacity for service
and decision-taking ability;
ability to inspire others and
cooperate with them; capacity to
analyze and plan, to take decisions
and see them through; ability to
give directives and follow up on
common works; a feel for the role
of a collaboration with religious
and laypeople (men and women)
and a just distribution of
responsibilities; interest in the problems
of the local churches and the
skills -- esteem for and good use of church
properties; ability and competence
in administration; sense of justice
and detachment from earthly goods;
readiness to bring in experts on
11. How public opinion judges
him -- from the point of view of
his fellow priests, the people, the
12. Overall judgment on the
personality of the candidate and
his fitness for the episcopal office
-- in case of a positive evaluation,
state whether the candidate would
be better as an auxiliary or a
diocesan bishop and for what sort of
diocese he is more suited -- to an
important, middle-range or small
diocese in an urban, industrial or
Any further information.
13. Finally, you are asked to
provide further names and
addresses of others (priests,
religious -- men or women -- or laypersons)
who know the candidate well and
because of their sound judgment,
impartiality and discretion seem
That's it. The covering letter from the nuncio or pro-nuncio concludes: "In order to preserve secrecy, I beg you to return the accompanying questionnaire together with your written evaluation and not to make a copy of it."
Somebody may have blundered. Or squealed.
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|Publication:||National Catholic Reporter|
|Date:||Feb 4, 1994|
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