Selection Bias and the Process of Picking Better Bishops


Aug 10, 2018 9:12 AM - 1 week, 4 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes, 51 seconds ago


“He’ll be a bishop someday.”

That was the prediction in the parish I attended fifteen years ago. Our pastor was a nice man – likable and affable. No one had anything negative to say about him. The best word I can use to describe him is “safe.” He didn’t court controversy and did his job in a head-down kind of way. He was an able administrator and ran the parish efficiently. Because of these traits, Father was often involved in various diocesan responsibilities, helping the archbishop and chancery as needed. Almost everyone in the parish assumed that one day he would be made a bishop.

Everyone was right: this past year, he was made a bishop. And that’s the problem.

I want to be clear that I have nothing against my old pastor. At the same time, I don’t have anything really

for him, either. Even though he was pastor for my first five years in the parish, I can’t remember one homily he gave, or much else about him, other than the fact that I considered him a nice guy. In contrast, the pastor who succeeded him, I remember quite well – he dramatically increased confession times at our parish, preached against contraception, and encouraged us to go door to door to evangelize the neighborhood. Perhaps not surprisingly, the joke after he came was, “Well, he won’t ever be a bishop.”

Crickets from the Episcopacy

Why is it that during this time of the Cardinal McCarrick scandal, less than a handful of active bishops in the United States have made a statement that could even be called Catholic? Instead of lamenting sin and urging repentance, we’ve mostly seen lawyer-ese and calls for more policies. And even though a couple of bishops have made decent statements, not one bishop has actually yet

done something. Statistically speaking, selecting 250 random practicing Catholics in the United States should result in at least a dozen who “get it.” But with more than 250 active U.S. bishops, you still can’t find one who is willing to expose the filth that infects the episcopacy. Why is that?

I would say a big reason is the selection process. The process as it’s currently set up results in choosing priests like my old pastor. Although ideology is one factor in bishop picks, I think pragmatism is a much bigger factor. The Church wants “safe” bishops – bishops who won’t rock the boat, who maintain the status quo. The Church wants bishops whose first priority is protecting not the Faith or souls, but the institutional Church.

It’s this very process that has gotten us into this mess. Right now we have two main types of bishops: those who are morally compromised and those that are too weak (or too “safe”) to speak up and act. Yes, there’s likely a significant number of ...

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