The Church must stop promoting people just to get them out of the way


Catholic Herald, 10 January 2019

The case of Gustavo Zanchetta shows the danger in dumping bishops in convenient places to save face

Last week, I argued that the specifics of the accusations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò were less important than the reform of clerical culture which his “testimony” revealed is necessary.

Both Viganò himself and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, inadvertently revealed a culture where – even at the highest levels and involving the most prominent people – uncomfortable or awkward matters are simply not brought up. Cardinal Ouellet never raised the McCarrick matter with either Benedict or Francis, and Viganò did not challenge McCarrick himself when he observed the former Archbishop of Washington violating the instructions given to him.

Now another case has pointed to another reform of clerical culture urgently needed – the use of appointments not for the good of the office, but to solve problems. It’s called promoveatur ut amoveatur: appointing or promoting someone in order to clear him out of the way for someone else, or to provide a soft landing after his current position has become untenable.

In his 2016 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis described the practise as a “cancer” and said that its “definitive abolition” was “essential”.

Nevertheless, a classic example followed the next year. Back in 2013, in one of his first episcopal appointments in his native Argentina, the Holy Father appointed Gustavo Zanchetta as bishop of Orán, a rural diocese. Four years later, Bishop Zanchetta resigned, only 53 years old, on the official grounds of “poor health” – a routine dodge employed when the facts are a bit embarrassing.

It was confirmed by the Holy See Press Office last week that the real reason Zanchetta resigned was because of an “inability to govern the clergy”, “very tense relationships with the priests” and “accusations of authoritarianism”. In short, Zanchetta manifestly lacked the capacity to lead effectively.

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