Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders

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9780742558205: Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders

How does one become a bishop in the Catholic Church? Electing our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders explains how history, politics, and religious tradition converge to produce the episcopacy. The book gives an historical overview from the earliest times when bishops were elected by the clergy and people of the diocese to the present day where they are normally appointed by the pope. In light of the current clergy sexual abuse scandal, many distinguished theologians, canonists, and church historians have called for greater popular participation in the selection of bishops, and Electing our Bishops discusses ideas for new forms of election that involve both clergy and laity. This book is an important tool for Catholics who want to understand the history and process of the election of bishops as well as how the process might change in the future.

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About the Author:

Joseph F. O'Callaghan is professor emeritus in the department of history at Fordham University. He is past president of the American Catholic Historical Association and is the author of several books, notably Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain and Alfonso X and the Cantigas de Santa Maria: A Poetic Biography.

Review:

The choice of bishops in the Catholic Church is controversial as a result of episcopal handling of the sexual abuse scandal. Joseph F. O'Callaghan proposes returning to a practice found in some locales in the early centuries of the church-the popular election of bishops. O'Callaghan shows the complexities of this process over the centuries and suggests ways in which the practice could be implemented. Even those who differ with his proposal-as I do-will find food for thought in this sweeping historical survey of a vital church matter. (Terrence Prendergast S.J., Archbishop of Halifax, Canada)

This story will startle those twenty-first-century Catholics who think the Church's current power pyramid has been in place from the beginning. O'Callaghan wakes us from that fairy tale with some well-documented history and, in some marvelously shocking chapters, how the people were cut out of the political process. To his credit, O'Callaghan, a man who loves his Church, doesn't leave us lamenting this sorry history. He tells us how we can turn the Church's pyramid on its pointy little head: by electing our bishops-a scripturally, historically, and theologically correct route that will lead us to an accountable Church. (Robert Blair Kaiser, author and journalist)

In the ongoing struggle for a more adult and more accountable church, O'Callaghan restores to us a mine of historical information about a tradition of governance and shared responsibility that today's church sorely needs. All those with a concern for the future of our church owe him an immense debt of gratitude. (Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University)

Electing Our Bishops is historically sound, very clearly written, and just the kind of popular writing we need about central issues in the church. This is a valuable work for everyone interested in the life of the U.S. church. (David O'Brien, professor emeritus, College of the Holy Cross; distinguished visiting professor, University of Dayton)

[O'Callaghan] has written a book that should be required reading for canonists, ecclesiologists, historians, and hierarchs themselves. (Adam A. J. DeVille Anglican Theological Review)

An excellent and thorough history of the way bishops were chosen – from the time Mattias was selected by the apostles to replace Judas to the present time. (St. Anthony Messenger)

Joseph O'Callaghan's Electing Our Bishops is part history and part argument. Its argument gives the book its title. . . . O'Callaghan develops Celestine's principle. . . . Until as recently as 1999, this was also Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's opinion...It seems clear, especially in the wake of the sex-abuse cover-up, that the present way of doing things [electing bishops] is dysfunctional...O'Callaghan's provocative study encourages us to think hard about ways to change the system. (Commonweal)

This is by far the most complete and thoughtful examination of the election of bishops over the 2000 years of the Church's existence. It is replete with footnotes to the original sources and most recent works and has a short bibliography. Novices to the topic will find this book clear and well-organized and more advanced researchers will find a critical apparatus that does not disappoint. All in all, this is a valuable addition to the literature and a useful resource for the reform movement. (Christine M. Roussel, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church Newsletter, May/June/July 2007)

Lucidly written and cogently argued. (Logos: Journal Of Eastern Christian Studies, October 2008)

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