By Colleen Rowan

WEST VIRGINIA—Bishop Mark Brennan is suggesting a modification to the process of the appointment of a bishop to give papal nuncios more opportunity to gain information about the priests being considered for episcopal ordination. Bishop Brennan makes the suggestion in the wake of the Vatican’s McCarrick report, which details Theodore McCarrick’s rise in the church’s hierarchy despite rumors of sexual impropriety. According to the report, McCarrick’s rise was based on personal contacts, protestations of his innocence and a lack of church officials reporting and investigating accusations. Bishop Brennan spoke to The Catholic Spirit the day after he and his fellow U.S. Bishops met virtually for their fall assembly. His suggested modification deals with the announcement of a bishop to the public. He suggests that instead of announcing that a priest has been selected to be a bishop by the pope, that an announcement be made (following the investigation of the individual) that this priest is proposed to be a bishop and allowing a 60-day waiting period during which the Catholic lay faithful and anyone else are invited to offer their comments or concerns to the papal nuncio. “A proposal rather than an announcement that this will be done,” Bishop Brennan said, “that this is the priest the pope is proposing to be a bishop, but we would like to hear from the lay faithful.” This, he said, would expand the range of possibilities in learning more about priests being considered to be ordained bishops. “Some people might bring forward really good things that confirm the appointment,” Bishop Brennan said, emphasizing that people could also bring forward vital information as to why this priest should not be a bishop, things the nuncio would not know. Bishop Brennan pointed to the McCarrick report which described a mother’s account of writing to every U.S. cardinal and the papal representative in the mid-1980s detailing McCarrick’s “dangerous” behavior toward her underage sons. Having left no address or legible name, her red-flag warnings went unheeded, as reported by Catholic News Service. Had there been an invitation to make a comment on McCarrick before his appointment as archbishop of Newark in 1986 for example, Bishop Brennan said, maybe she would have been able to come forward and tell the nuncio what she had seen. “Maybe that would have made a difference,” Bishop Brennan said. In the current process for the selection of a bishop, there is an investigation in which the clergy and laity are consulted unbeknownst to the priest being considered. There is then a public announcement that the individual will be ordained a bishop and there is a certain amount of time between then and the ordination. However, Bishop Brennan believes the modification to propose the man as bishop rather than announcing that he will be bishop would be a great help in ensuring that the right priest is chosen. “This would widen the scope of the information available to the nuncio,” he said. “There is nothing that is full proof, but this would be a stronger effort to get the appropriate information needed to make a sound decision.”