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The Appointment Process


By James Hitchcock | November 1983

In the Roman Catholic Church, all bishops are appointed by the pope, although of necessity this often means merely his approving recommenda­tions made by others.

Recently it appears that John Paul II has be­gun to get a firm grip on the process of episcopal appointment. The most dramatic example was the recent naming of Bishop Adrian Simonis to be the next Archbishop of Utrecht, and hence the head of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. Simonis is one of two recognized theological “conserva­tives” in the Dutch hierarchy, and his appointment was predictably greeted by groans of disappoint­ment from “liberal” elements in Holland.

The Roman Catholic Church avoids schism wherever possible. However, it is willing, finally, to accept schism rather than tolerate institutionalized heresy. The appointment of Bishop Simonis (pre­viously of Rotterdam) does carry the risk that ele­ments in Dutch Catholicism will formally reject Vatican authority.

However, it is a necessary risk. Conditions in the Netherlands have been such that what is involv­ed is not merely this or that “reform,” or the rejec­tion of a few Catholic doctrines and practices, but a systematic and seemingly insatiable assault on vir­tually every aspect of historic Catholicism. (For example, some groups dispense with priests entire­ly.) The Pope no doubt hopes that there will be no schism but, if there is, that it will leave an internal­ly stronger and more fervent Dutch Church.

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