Dear Mr Paul (St),
It has come to our attention that your “requirements for a bishop” may violate this country’s anti-discrimination laws.
We refer to your letter to Timothy (St) of March 11, 62AD. We understand that your “questionnaire” has been designed to be used to assess candidates for the position of bishop in your denomination.
In your letter you tell ecclesiastical employers that:
“A bishop must be:
- above reproach,
- married only once,
- an apt teacher,
- not given to strong drink,
- not violent but gentle,
- not quarrelsome, and
- not a lover of money.
- He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
- He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
- Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.”
We are concerned about the questions to do with marital status, family life, “respectability” and the implied “religious test”. It’s hard to see how that could be relevant to doing the job. Discrimination on these levels could be breaking the law in Australia.
The private family life of a potential candidate should be irrelevant when considering employment. It is also inappropriate to ask about a potential candidate’s alcohol usage, if the only usage is in private and does not directly affect his work. It is certainly illegal to discriminate on the basis of marital status.
As for the requirement that the prospective candidate not be “quarrelsome”, is this intended to ensure that only conformists are chosen for the job?
Australian States have different laws regarding discrimination, but if the reference to “respectability” is to be interpreted as including such matters as personal appearance and grooming, you should know that in Victoria it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of appearance.
We are also concerned that the requirement regarding that the candidate “not be a recent convert”. This could be construed as a religious test, which the majority of Australians believe to be discriminatory in every instance. Some “exceptions” to allow religious tests are granted by the States to religious organisations, but you should be aware that such privileges are not to be taken for granted.
In the same vein, we further note that your “questionnaire” implies that female candidates will not be considered for appointment. Discrimination on the basis of sex is also against Australian law. Again, Australian States do provide for “exceptions” for particular religious positions, but as above, we warn you that you should not take such privileges for granted.
With this letter, we are placing you on notice. We expect to receive a copy of your revised “questionnaire”, in full harmony with modern social expectations and Australian anti-discrimination laws, within 21 days if you wish to avoid further action.
(name and address withheld, sub secreto bloggero)
On “Catholics for Ministry” website: “Vatican Secrets – Selection of Bishops” by Dr Paul Collins (link not provided because to do so would break the requirement for Pontifical Secrecy of the document published there)
Vatican survey to select bishops ‘could be illegal’
Hating the Church in Australia
Further information: In his commentary on the Catholics for Ministry website “Vatican Secrets” (link not provided because to do so would be to break the Pontifical Secrecy of the document published there), Dr Paul Collins writes (with my emphasis):
Under the heading it [the ‘Questionnaire for Episcopal Candidates’] is marked in block letters ‘SUB SECRETO PONTIFICIO’ which means ‘subject to pontifical secrecy’. This attempts to suggest [it does not “attempt to suggest” – it actually DOES mean] that the recipient is bound to maintain an extremely high level of confidentiality about the contents of the document and their comments about the proposed candidate. According to one canonist [actually, according to Canon Law] it binds recipients to maintain the secrecy ‘under pain of mortal sin’. However, in fact the threat is meaningless and no one takes a great deal of notice of it [does Dr Collins suggest that the “threat” is meaningless because HE and Catholics for Ministry don’t take “a great deal of notice of it”?]. The questionnaire itself says that it ‘must be returned to the Apostolic Nunciature with your answer.’
Instead, someone sent it to Catholics for Ministry and they/Dr Collins decided to publish it on the internet…