The Appointment Process
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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