More priests refusing to become bishops in Catholic Church

Over the course of a decade the percentage of priests turning down offers to become bishops has tripled, according to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, as reported in La Croix International (December 13). Xavier Le Normand writes that three out of 10 priests asked to become bishops have recently declined the offer. Even some priests called to high positions in Rome have preferred not to become bishops. The article mentions the case of Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, appointed prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in November, who won’t be ordained as a bishop in order “to return more easily to the Society of Jesus at the end of his Vatican mission.”

The number of bishops increases slightly each year in the Roman Catholic Church, and there are now 5,400 of them. But being a bishop today means being much more visible and exposed than in the past, as the crisis surrounding clerical sexual abuse has made clear. Obviously, a priest who has led a double life (not only in matters of sexual abuse) would  prefer to escape the added scrutiny, notes Father Raymond de Souza in The Catholic Herald (Sept. 26). But he adds that there are also a number of other reasons for reluctance to become a bishop, such as the feeling that it will change a priest’s relationship with other priests because of the authority a bishop needs to exercise and the firmness he needs to show when making decisions that may affect priests, even if they are taken for the assumed greater good of the diocese. De Souza also mentions as another factor bishops’ current challenge of managing parish decline and shutting down parishes in areas where attendance has decreased. For instance, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia had to close 70 parishes in eight years, “and said recently that only about 100 of the more than 200 remaining are needed.”