IN THE United Kingdom there are at present eight bishops waiting to be appointed. In April, 1974, Archbishop Scanlan retired, and Bishop Winning, his auxiliary, succeeded him in Glasgow. Shortly afterwards Bishop Ward, the other Glasgow auxiliary, died, leaving two vacancies.
In December, 1974, Bishop Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle died, and his auxiliary, Bishop Lindsay, succeeded to the See.
In the spring of last year, Bishop Foylan of Aberdeen died and no successor has yet been appointed. In the summer of the same year the newly-created Cardinal Hume announced that he intended to divide his diocese into five parts, and he is still looking for two auxiliary bishops.
Bishop Butler is due to retire in May this year, leaving another vacancy. However he remains highly active and Cardinal Hume will almost certainly encourage him to continue a little longer at this critical time.
Then, last October, Archbishop Cowderoy died, and finally Bishop Emery, an Auxiliary of the Archbishop of Birmingham, was translated to Portsmouth and has not been replaced.
There was much talk of .betting as to who would he the new Archbishop of Westminster, so perhaps it is appropriate to examine the record of the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Heim. Two appointments made by him have been universally acclaimed. Why, then, the delay now?
In a pastoral letter on the First Sunday of Advent, 1974, Cardinal Heenan took the un usual step of suggesting that his people submitted names to the Apostolic Delegate for his successor. It resulted in 90 nominations.
This action itself changed the procedure. An Apostolic Delegate now has to consider a much larger number of candidates whose names have been submitted individually by clergy and laity. This has made the process lake longer.
The Chapter of the Cathedral submits three names for con sideration, now as before. The bishops of the province, too, are consulted, as well as other archbishops and bishops of the country. Furthermore, it is likely that not all the suggestions received are pOsitive ones: some are probably negative, perhaps from pressure groups, but unless they are really outrageous, their substance has to be examined.
It seems, therefore, that in the first instance the Apostolic Delegate must whittle down the candidates to less than a dozen. Ihave heard it said that Archbishop Heim sees some two to three priests a week at his house. No doubt the more he sees, the better informed he is and the more confusion it causes!
Archbishop Heim has established a considerable reputation, not only because of his appointments but because of the amount of consultation he has also had with the laity — a new departure.
Let us assume that the nominations for the appointment of a bishop are finally reduced to 10 candidates. The Apostolic Delegate must then make very thorough enquiries about the 10, as it was obvious he had done in the case of Westminster.
He is obliged to propose three candidates to the Congregation for the Appointment of Bishops at the Holy Sec.
The Congregation is presided over by Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio. Other members include Archbishop Dwyer of Birmingham, Cardinal William Conway of Armagh, and Cardinal Konig of Vienna.
Delving into some canonical reference books will show that Canons 329, 330 and 331 prescribed the conditions which candidates must fulfil. In some handbooks of Canon Law these are listed, and they amount to between 20 and 30 questions.
Where such a questionnaire is requested, the Apostolic Delegate must take up 10 to 15 personal references for each candidate. Since there arc eight vacancies, and three candidates. will have to be proposed for each, and assuming that in each case the archbishop writes for a reference and acknowledges it, he has had personally 360 letters to write and the same number to receive on this score alone. If one of the candidates says "No" or is found unsuitable he has to start again.
The Apostolic Delegate must be very thorough to avoid such obvious indiscretions (to put it mildly) as occurred recently in Ireland, when the appointment of the Bishop of Kerry was announced before the closing date given to priests in the diocese
for submitting their nominations.
The Congregation for Bishops, who in turn submit their choice to the Pope from the three names given to them by the Nuncio or Delegate, do not sit in July, August and September. Their members today come from far and wide, so obviously their meetings are in turn restricted.
Finally, the Pope can overrule the candidate proposed by the Congregation, but such an act would be very exceptional. Investigations showed That the reason for the delay seems certainly to be partly due to the changes in the process and the amount of consultation undertaken today.
Now a look at some of the particular cases and a little speculation. Although Glasgow has vacancies existing longer than the others, Archbishop Winning, following Cardinal Heenan's example of asking for nominations, did not do so until last year.
Names heard mentioned are Mgr Hugh McEwan, Mgr John Gillespie, Mgr Charles Renfrew and Fr John Broderick, though it would not be surprising if one of the auxiliaries were without the diocese of Glasgow, if for no other reason than to show that the accusation of Glasgow being bigoted is quite unjust!
The delay in Westminster has been more surprising because the Apostolic Delegation is nearby and contact is easier. However, March 25 has now been set as the provisional date for the consecration of the new bishops. Several names have been discussed.
One thing is almost certain: both auxiliaries should be Westminster priests, for Car dinal Hume came from Ampleforth, Bishop Butler from Downside (A Benedictine takeover'), and Bishop Mahon was Superior-General of the Mill Hill Missionaries.
Er Michael Hollings's name was prominent when the
vacancy was that of Arch
bishop of Westminster, so he is still a strong contender, but sup port is strongly divided both for and against — not a had thing, either, for the man who does not command strong feelings is liable to be mediocre, Fr Hollings's deep concern for the poor and destitute is well known; even Sikhs consult him.
Less well known are the facts that he is a member of the Press Council and Catholic Adviser to Thames Television. It is thought that there are strong pressure-groups working against his appointment.
Mgr Bruce Kent was a runner previously, and he is still talked about. Other names mentioned
are Mgr David Norris, Mgr James O'Brien, Canon Peter Bourne and Fr David Konstant.
The most interesting speculation concerns Southwark, but not because of the candidates, although it is rumoured that more than 100 names have been submitted.
Judging by what has happened elsewhere, it is unlikely to be the present Vicar Capitular, Bishop Henderson.
Coadjutors with rights of succession appear no longer to be favoured by Rome, and the present trend is to break with past traditions, such as bishops' secretaries, the English College or the natural succession of auxiliaries.
Southwark has had a particular "tradition", for Archbishop Cowderoy was the nominee of his predecessor, Archbishop Amigo, and Bishop Henderson is believed to be the choice of Archbishop Cowderoy. However, the interest in Southwark is because London is unique, being the only city divided not only into two dioceses, but two provinces.
Southwark was made an archdiocese when Archbishop Cowderoy surrendered part of his diocese to create Arundel and Brighton. It is now said that Kent might be made into another diocese, but apparently there are financial difficulties.
Furthermore, many argue that the proposed "ground plan" is already old and out of date, and will be talked about at the Bishops' Conference. A complete rearrangement of the London dioceses would, therefore, not be surprising, and the appointment of a shepherd in this case may be a long time ahead.