You get the chance to vote for a bishop…

No, it’s not Geoffrey Robinson’s dream come true, rather it is Catholica Australia’s latest poll. They have two questions:

1) Who do you think might best lead & rejuvenate the Catholic Church in Australia after WYD?
2) Who do you think might be the best Archbishop of Sydney?

The odd thing is that while you get the chance to vote for any of Australia’s 44 bishops (and a few priests) for the first question, you only get a list of the current Archbishops and a smattering of other bishops to chose from for the second question (Bishop Pat Power – Aux Canberra-Goulburn, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson – Retired Sydney, Bishop Chris Toohey – Willcannia-Forbes, Bishop David Walker – Broken Bay, Bishop Michael Putney – Townsville, Bishop Kevin Manning – Parramatta). It seems odd that none of the current auxiliaries of Sydney are included here, nor even all the NSW bishops. How democratic is a survey like this that doesn’t even offer you a full ticket?

Mind you the first question is rather problematic too… Here is how it reads:

In the first question we are asking the question as to who you believe might provide the best “perceived leadership” of Catholicism in this nation if Cardinal Pell leaves Sydney? Who do you think has the best qualities as a leader to inspire Catholics in this nation and to generate some resurgence in the Church? So, we are leaving open whether that person occupies the position of Archbishop of Sydney, whether or not they become a Cardinal, or if they are President of the Bishops’ Conference. (Interestingly the appointment of Cardinals is made by Rome, as is the Appointment to the position of Archbishop or Bishop of a Diocese. The position of President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is decided not by Rome but by a democratic vote by all the active bishops in Australia.)

It seems to suggest that Cardinal Pell is the “perceived” leader of Catholicism in this nation. And seems surprised that the President of the Bishops Conference is elected by the Conference. What odd ideas they have over there at Catholica…

Of course, we do well to remember Cardinal Pell’s quip about the Holy Spirit sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong with respect to the appointment of popes and bishops (the Cooees crowd have a good take on this one). We shouldn’t imagine that by taking a “democratic” vote we would do any better!

Anyway, go and have a bit of fun by voting here.

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7 Responses to You get the chance to vote for a bishop…

  1. Joshua says:

    It reminds of something that Cardinal Clancy, I think, wrote while he was President of the ACBC as well as Abp of Sydney. He had received an invitation from an ecumenical group addressed to him as “Head of the Australian Catholic Church”, and he replied in this manner: “We Catholics believe that the Head of Our Church is Jesus Christ. I am not the head of the Catholic Church in Australia…” ROTFL!

  2. Joshua says:

    And another thing – these Catholica types seem to want to be Anglicans, not Catholics; they are lost in the ‘dreamtime’. Imagine what horrors would be thrust upon us if bishops were elected!

  3. Brian Coyne says:


    And which Bishop do you think might be capable of turning around the catastrophic decline in relevance of the Church in Australia? Or are you another who believes it is all “their” fault — those who have stopped listening? I’d be very interested in your take.


    Brian Coyne
    Catholica Australia

    PS: It was difficult knowing how to construct the survey and who to include and who to leave off, particularly for the second question. We tried to provide a full choice in the first question. The survey is a bit of fun really but I hope it might stimulate someone in the mainstream media with more resources than us to perhaps do a more scientific survey, or to at least raise the matter as an item for discussion.

  4. Schütz says:

    I completely agree, Brian, loads of fun this sort of stuff. But then, as some of my aquaintances tell me often, I love “playing Church”!

    I voted, and perhaps, in the great spirit of democracy, who I voted for should remain a secret. But I am not one to keep a secret if I don’t have to(!), so here goes:

    I voted for Anthony Fisher in the first question because he’s my favourite bishop after BXVI–I think the latter is ineligible?

    Actually, re-reading your first question, perhaps Papa Benny isn’t ineligible. After all, he is a bishop, and if he doesn’t have to be archbishop of Sydney, or President of the ACBC, then strictly speaking I guess he IS the one bishop in the world who has the best chance of turning the ship around–or at least resetting the navigation so that it is travelling more or less in the right direction!

    Probably more to the point, I would have voted for Bishop Anthony to be the next Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney (he is, after all, a native of that city and currently an auxiliary there). But seriously, I don’t know if I would wish it on him after all he has been through for WYD…

    So in your second question, I voted for Mark Coleridge. Mark is a true evangelist, an “extrovert for Christ”, a real preacher and teacher, and I think the Australian Church needs more bishops like him. That doesn’t mean I think Mark always makes the wisest judgements–the embarrassing debacle surrounding the plagiarised review of Dawkin’s book is an example. But whatever mistakes he makes, he more than makes up for it by his real hands-on, in your face, take it to the streets style of bishoping.

    My second choice would be Bishop Prowse here in Melbourne. He also is a real evangelist capable of inspiring the troops and reaching out to those outside the Church (eg. especially other religions).

    There are bishops who, like George, doing a good job. Our own Denis, of course. Hickey in Perth, Julian in Sydney, Peter and Tim and Chris here in Melbourne are all excellent. Joe in Sandhurst is full of the Spirit, I understand.

    Ultimately though, it will never be one person who will set the Church on course (unless that be our Chief Captain to whom Cardinal Clancy refered in Josh’s quote above). We have (counting your list) 44 bishops in Australia, and 26 of those are local ordinaries. So that means that we need 26 topnotch Pastors-in-Chief, with 18 topnotch assistants behind them, if the Catholic Churches of Australia are to be the community Christ called us to be.

  5. Brian Coyne says:


    I have to confess that I am both intrigued and frustrated when it comes to reading your blog. Yes I can see a lot of the things that you would have found attractive in Roman Catholicism to the point of making that big decision to actually change your birth label. I have never done that. A few years ago I went through a long process where I was seriously considering changing my name but, at the final hurdle, I balked because it was all too hard and there was simply too much invested in the name I was born with and all the lived experiences of my life. I do have deep admiration for anyone who converts — and more so if it is after long intellectual reflection and is not simply some emotional experience. (Dr Andrew Kania wrote some interesting stuff about Newman and his conversion on Catholica on Tuesday which touched on this.)

    I’ve tried to navigate my own frustrations. What is it about what David writes, or stands for that I object to. And, believe me, I do object. I do not believe in the version of Catholicism that you seem to believe in. I do think it is “part of the problem” — part of the reason why so many in the Western world have buggered off out the door — rather than part of the solution of making Catholicism relevant again as a force for profound good in society and as a vehicle for accessing “the Light of the World”. There’s not enough space to do that analysis here though and I’ve taken myself away from other urgent stuff to even write this so it will have to wait. This is some of the territory I was hoping to explore with you though in the challenge I put to you some months ago to do a commentary for us on Catholica.

    Re the bishops’ question: (i) I do hope the conservative elements do vote. I mean that sincerely. I don’t want this survey, even as flawed as it is, to simply be one-sided from any factional point of view. I’d genuinely like to see what sort of support there is “out there” for these various bishops that various people say are the answer. (ii) In general terms I think we are very lucky with the quality of bishops we have in Australia overall. I do think though the moving of Pell from Melbourne to Sydney was an enormous and absolutely stupid political mistake on the part of JPII and showed no understanding whatsoever of the politics and culture in Australian Catholicism that had literally slowly grown up over 200 years. It has seriously split the Church and caused damage that is horrific in scale. I think some at least in Rome have begun to make that evaluation for themselves and I suspect there is a lot of truth in the rumours that our Cardinal will be moved to fresh pastures once WYD is out of the way. The widespread feedback we are picking up is that secondary school teachers around the country are reporting a real uphill battle trying to enthuse their young charges for WYD. Church for the mainstream of young Aussie kids is right off the agenda these days. We already know from government sources that the visa applications have been well below what was expected and the dealine for the processing of visas closes in less than 10 days time. It’s only going to be all the harder for Cdl Pell if WYD has any further problems.

    Cheers, Brian

  6. Joshua says:

    It is quite true that teachers are finding it hard to enthuse students about WYD: and why? For the obvious reason that their parents by and large don’t practise, and so neither do their children, and the message which I got myself when at a Catholic school was, R.E. is a joke – and this is what the students say openly to each other, for they certainly did in the ’80’s and ’90’s and I imagine they still do now. Basically, at least two generations have been lost.

    So much for the facts. Why? Now that’s another question…

    For most people, if they go to church at all, even on Sundays, the level of preaching is very low and challenges no one. The stirring truths of Faith are largely unknown.

  7. Schütz says:

    I have not forgotten the invitation to write a commentary for Catholica on the phrase “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”, Brian. I just need to get my own thinking in focus a little more, and then find the leisure for it. I will have it done by the time the new missal translation is published. Let’s say in about “one and a half years”? :-)

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