What advice would you give to a newly appointed bishop? Herewith the results of that conversation.
I’ve had this article from Catholic Culture open in a browser tab for a few days while I tried to figure out what I thought about it. (An aside: it’s always rubbed me a little the wrong way that their site only allows donors to comment. It seems like there are better ways to moderate comments than to restrict them to those who agree with you enough to give money. But it’s their site, so whatever.).
Working in a hypothetical situation of a good bishop appointed to an “average” Catholic diocese, Phil Lawler presents an extensive checklist of things that bishop should do immediately to clean things up. It’s well worth reading, as a thought exercise at least. I have to admit that many things on the list struck me as a little extreme (“Ask for resignations from everyone on the chancery staff”). At the same time, though, I will say that I’ve never lived in a really bad diocese (Deo gratias), so my experience of average is different from, well, the average one.
Upon arrival, get rid of all paper shredders at the chancery and insist that no work be taken home in briefcases. Make friends with the maintenance man and the wash lady.
Many of his suggestions seem to be focused on immediately starting to eliminate deep-seated problems. It would take someone with a big-picture view – willing to alienate or offend people in the short term – and willing to come in swinging and take no prisoners. It’s probably a strategy that would serve many future bishop-elects well. It’s an interesting list, and I encourage you to read the whole thing (it’s long, but makes quick reading.