Some years ago, a much-travelled lecturer from the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, Father Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, was lecturing groups of diocesan priests throughout Australia. One of his many subjects was an interest in the quality of priests, elected by their peers, as bishops.
The question Father Jerome put up was, 'Given the choice, whom do you elect as bishop - a fine administrator, or a saint?'. His overwhelming experience, both here and throughout the world, invariably came down in favour of the able administrator.
'Saints are just fine!', so it was said, but in the multi-million dollar farrago of corporate diocesan affairs, a good administrator seemed the preferred and safer choice. However, for most of the apostolic era of the Church's history, the reverse was the general rule.
Fr John O'Neill's reflection (March AD2000, p. 20), attributes the Church's troubles to a lack of optimism, and he then goes on to describe people in the Church whom I, suspiciously, would regard as saints, rather than optimists.
I am not here suggesting that bishops cannot be saints as well. What I do mean is recurrent problems during the Church's history often occurred when we had no saints to lead us.
Our times are no less urgent. Again we seem to have no saints to lead us.
ARTHUR N. BALLINGALL
Safety Beach, Vic