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'Secret' criteria set bishops' appointments.

OXFORD, England -- During 1993 Pope John Paul II appointed 114 new bishops, ordaining 14 personally to establish a special bond with himself. In his 15-year pontificate he has appointed over 1,600 bishops.

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

articles published.

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

universal church.

10. Administrative

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

specialized questions.

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

rural setting.

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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Author:Hebblethwaite, Peter
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Feb 4, 1994
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