From bishops’ synods to bishops’ appointments, how much does Catholic lay input count?

As the extraordinary synod on the family plays out in Rome, and even before the synod through the Vatican questionnaire distributed worldwide at Pope Francis’ urging, lay input into Catholic Church issues has become increasingly visible.

Pope Francis has said that he expects bishops to pay increasing attention to lay voices and “real life experiences” to become effective pastors. But bishops typically are accustomed to speaking to other clerics and to specially selected lay voices. The “ordinary person” has few opportunities for direct input into Church matters.

Voice of the Faithful®, long an advocate for greater lay input into the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church, provides opportunities to generate direct access, especially in the realm of bishop selection itself. VOTF’s bishop selection project has made it possible for the ordinary Catholic to communicate directly with the U.S. apostolic nuncio, who forwards bishop candidates to the Vatican.

Voice of the Faithful® developed an Internet portal at www.votf.org/bishop to allow Catholics to provide input to the apostolic nuncio. Their input goes directly to the nuncio’s email box when they click Submit on the questionnaire. Current U.S. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo M. Viganò has assured VOTF that all input reaching him from individual Catholics will be reviewed and that “serious observations may well be incorporated in the developed confidential process.”

The VOTF web portal allows Catholics to record their concerns and recommendations in three key areas: 1.) outstanding needs and opportunities in the diocese; 2.) candidates’ ideal qualities and qualifications; and 3.) priests who would be excellent candidates for their bishop.

Over the past two years, nearly 500 Catholics in nearly a dozen dioceses from New England to Alaska have submitted their comments through this portal or, in the case of Chicago, a related second survey. This process is one way to restore widespread lay input into the central question of who serves the faithful in a diocese as their bishop and to restore in the twenty-first century a lay-consultative process nearly as old as the Church itself.

Click here for additional information on the bishop selection process and its history.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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