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Why ever more priests are declining to become bishops

This Friday, September 27, William Joensen will be ordained the new Bishop of Des Moines, Iowa. Fr Bill and I have taught together for more than 10 years at the annual Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society in Kraków, so I know the good people of Des Moines have been blessed with their new bishop. As for the new bishop himself though, my feelings were mixed.

“Congratulations on the appointment, and I admire your generosity in accepting the nomination,” I emailed him on the day of the announcement, news of which he had kept confidential with admirable discretion, even though we had been teaching together that week. “A great many priests turn it down these days, and with an abundance of good reasons. Being a bishop is a blessed burden, and today often more burden than blessing. May the Lord reward you for your generosity!”

When I was in the seminary 20 years ago you would still hear the joke that while there might be a crisis in priestly vocations, vocations to the episcopate were abundant. The implication was that many more priests desired to be bishops than would actually be consecrated as such.

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