Over the past five months, twelve appointments have corresponded to this model. Here they are one by one: in Milan, Philadelphia, Manila, Fribourg... The cardinal who selects the candidates explains the reasons for the choice
In the interview, he revealed among other things that it often happens, "more than I could have expected," that the candidate chosen to be made a bishop does not accept the appointment.
He indicated the reasons for such refusals in the growing difficulty of fulfilling the role, in a society in which the bishops are under public attack, "in part as a result of the scandals and charges concerning sexual abuse."
As for career ambitions – the cardinal cautioned – if a priest or a bishop aspires and maneuvers to be promoted to a prominent diocese, "it is better for him to stay where he is."
And he concluded the interview by sketching the profile of the bishop the Church needs most today. A bishop who is at the same time a theologian and an apologist, a public defender of the faith:
"Today, especially in the context of our secularized societies, we need bishops who are the first evangelizers, and not mere administrators of dioceses. Who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel. Who are not only theologically faithful to the magisterium and the pope, but are also capable of expounding and, if need be, of defending the faith publicly."
This profile of the bishop as theologian and "defensor fidei" fits Cardinal Ouellet himself perfectly.
A Canadian from Québec, 67, a member of the Society of Saint-Sulpice, Ouellet was part of the circle of the international theology journal "Communio," founded by, among others, Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, who were his intellectual mentors.
For many years, he shuttled back and forth between Canada and Colombia, as a seminary professor and educator. Then he moved to Rome, as a professor of systematic theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, when its rector was the future cardinal Angelo Scola, also part of the "Communio" circle.
In 2001, he was appointed secretary of the pontifical council for Christian unity. And the following year, archbishop of Québec and primate of Canada. He has been a cardinal since 2003.
In his Québec, Cardinal Ouellet was a direct witness of one of the most dizzying collapses of Catholicism in the past century. This region, which had a strong Catholic character until the middle of the twentieth century, is today one of the most secularized in the world.
As an archbishop, Ouellet fought energetically to give a voice and a body back to Christianity in his land. And Benedict XVI appreciated this so much that he called him to Rome first as a speaker at the synod of bishops in 2008, and then permanently, since 2010, as prefect of the congregation for bishops.
Among the cardinals of the Roman curia, Ouellet is certainly the closest to pope Joseph Ratzinger, with whom he meets regularly, once a week. And he may be the only one in whom the pope confides without reservation.
The fact remains that since Ouellet has presided over the Vatican congregation that selects and proposes new bishops to the pope, the preference shown for theologians and defenders of the faith has been more and more evident.
Over the past five months alone, at least twelve appointments could be characterized this way.
The first, on June 28, was that of Cardinal Angelo Scola as archbishop of Milan.
As a theologian, his mentor was above all von Balthasar; but Ratzinger also had no small impact on his formation. With Scola as rector, between 1995 and 2002, the Pontifical Lateran University rose to new life. In Venice, of which he was patriarch for nine years, he founded a "Studium generale" named after Saint Mark, extending to all levels of learning, from childhood to university, with courses in multiple disciplines and with theology embracing them all.
His talent was and is that of making himself heard, more than in the halls of academia, in the public square. After Carla Maria Martini, Scola is the cardinal to whom the secular media pay the most attention. With the difference, with respect to his predecessor, that he speaks and writes in full harmony with the magisterium of Benedict XVI.
The second appointment in this series, on July 19, was that of Charles J. Chaput as archbishop of Philadelphia.
Chaput has never been a theologian in the specific sense of the word. But he is certainly a great apologist, capable of preaching the Gospel from the rooftops, without timidity and without compromise, in a society like that of the United States, in which the competition is particularly fierce, both within and against the religious sphere.
And this profile of his as an "affirmative" defender of the faith and of the Church was what tipped the scales his way in the procedure that led to his appointment to Philadelphia. The leading candidate of the three presented to the Vatican authorities by the Vatican nuncio in the United States was the current bishop of Louisville, Joseph E. Kurtz. Chaput was in second place. But when, after the examination of the candidate made in the congregation, Ouellet went into audience with Benedict XVI, Chaput had moved to the front of the three, and was promptly appointed by the pope.
The third appointment, on July 27, was that of Ivo Muser as bishop of Bolzano and Bressanone, the diocese of South Tyrol in which the maternal grandmother and great-grandmother of pope Ratzinger lived.
The new bishop studied theology in Innsbruck, and in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He taught at the Academic Theological Institute of Bressanone. He was also for several years the secretary of his predecessor as bishop, Wilhelm Egger, a theologian and renowned biblicist in his own right.
The fourth appointment, on September 26, was that of Stanislaw Budzik as archbishop of Lublin.
Budzik, who has been secretary general of the Polish episcopal conference, also studied theology in Innsbruck and acquired the title of professor at the Pontifical Theological Academy of Krakow.
The fifth appointment, on October 10: that of Nuno Brás da Silva Martins as auxiliary bishop of Lisbon.
The new bishop received his doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and taught fundamental theology at the Catholic University of Portugal, as well as at the Gregorian in Rome, where he was also rector of the Pontifical Portuguese College.
The sixth appointment, on October 13: that of Luis Antonio Tagle as archbishop of Manila.
Tagle received his doctorate in theology in the United States, at the Catholic University of America, with a thesis on episcopal collegiality, under the guidance of Professor Joseph Komonchak. With him, he collaborated on the drafting of the history of Vatican Council II most widely read in the world, promoted by the "school of Bologna" founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti: a history with a particular slant, which sees Vatican II as a rupture and new beginning with respect to the previous experience of the Church.
In this history, Tagle wrote among other things the chapter dedicated to the "black week" of November 1964: "black" for the progressives, hostile above all to the "Nota explicativa prævia" that Paul VI added at that point to the beginning of the dogmatic constitution "Lumen Gentium," in order to clear up its ambiguities.
When the volume with this chapter of his saw the light of day, in 1999, Tagle had been for two years a member of the international theological commission that flanked the Vatican congregation for the doctrine of the faith, at the time headed by Ratzinger.
In 2001, Tagle became bishop of Imus, where he distinguished himself by his nearness to the poor and his simple and charitable way of life.
At the episcopal conference of the Philippines, he is president of the commission for the doctrine of the faith.
As www.chiesa revealed in an article last November 14, in the biography of Tagle delivered to the cardinals and bishops of the Vatican congregation responsible for evaluating the candidates for archbishop of Manila, his collaboration with the "school of Bologna" was completely omitted. To the disappointment of some who learned of it only after the appointment was made.
Manila is a cardinal see. And there are some who have even added Tagle to the list of the "papabili."
Seventh of the series: the appointment, on November 3, of Charles Morerod as bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.
Morerod, a Dominican, 50, is a theologian of world renown. He began his studies at the University of Fribourg, the same one at which the journal "Communio" was launched. He then taught, before becoming a bishop, at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, referred to more briefly as the Angelicum. He directed the theological journal "Nova et Vetera," and in 2009 became the secretary general of the international theological commission, an adviser to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and finally rector of the Angelicum.
Especially noteworthy among his many publications is "Tradition et unité des chrétiens. Le dogme comme condition de possibilité de l’œcuménisme," Parole et Silence, Paris, 2005. In it, Morerod criticizes the liberal ecumenism of theologians like Rahner, Fries, Tillard, insisting on the indispensability of theologically and philosophically sound Catholic doctrine.
On relations among the religions, he has harshly criticized the relativistic ideas of the Catholic Paul Knitter and the Anglican John Hick.
Morerod is one of three theologians on the Roman side in the discussions underway between the Church of Rome and the schismatic Lefebvrist traditionalists of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X.
Eighth appointment, on November 14: that of Francesco Cavina as bishop of Carpi.
A doctor in canon law, Cavina had been an official of the Vatican secretariat of state since 1996, in the section for relations with states. At the same time, he taught sacramental theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
Ninth appointment, on November 21: that of Filippo Santoro as archbishop of Taranto.
As a young priest, Santoro began as director of the Higher Institute of Theology in Bari. After which he went on mission to Brazil, as the Commuion and Liberation director for that country and for the entire Latin American continent. In 1992, he participated as a theologian in the fourth conference of the Latin American episcopate in Santo Domingo.
Ordained a bishop in 1996, he was first an auxiliary of Rio de Janeiro with Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales, and then, since 2004, bishop of the diocese of Petrópolis and grand chancellor of Catholic university of that city.
At the Brazilian episcopal conference, he was a member of the commission for the doctrine of the faith.
Tenth appointment, on November 24: that of Franco Giulio Brambilla as bishop of Novara.
Brambilla, since 2007 an auxiliary bishop of Milan and the vicar for culture, is one of the most accomplished Italian theologians.
He taught Christology and theological anthropology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy, of which he became dean in 2007. He was the theologian of reference for the Italian episcopal conference at the major ecclesial conference in Verona in 2006, at which Benedict XVI participated. And he was under consideration to succeed the current archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori, as secretary of the episcopal conference.
A scholar and biographer of the Dutch theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, he was in 1983 among the Italian signers of a document calling for freedom of research endorsed by the most prominent progressive theologians of Europe.
On that occasion, another theologian and his colleague at the same Milanese faculty, Dionigi Tettamanzi, wrote a harsh criticism of the rebel theologians for "Avvenire." And this opened up a thriving career for him – which culminated with him as cardinal of Milan – while Brambilla's career stalled for a long time because of that signature.
Eleventh appointment: that of November 26, of Johannes Wilhelmus Maria Liesen as bishop of Breda, in Holland.
Liesen has been a member of the international theological commission since 2004. He was professor of biblical theology at the seminaries of Roermond, Haarlem-Amsterdam, and 's-Hertogenbosch.
That same day, November 26, the appointment was also made public – the twelfth in this series – of Charles John Brown as titular archbishop of Aquileia.
But Aquileia, which as a diocese lives only in historical memory, is not where the newly elect is going. His true destination is the apostolic nunciature in Ireland. Brown has never been part of the Vatican diplomatic corps, and is an American from New York, but Benedict XVI wanted him specifically as his ambassador in a nation rocked by scandals like Ireland, currently with seven vacant dioceses, awaiting a redesign and a new beginning with new men.
And the reason for choosing Brown is once again in his credentials as "defensor fidei" and "defensor ecclesiæ." Pope Ratzinger got to know him well beginning in 1994, when Brown became an official of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, as well as, for two years, adjunct secretary of the international theological commission.
The interview with Cardinal Ouellet in "Avvenire" on November 18, 2011, with an assessment of his first year as prefect of the congregation for bishops:
> Missione del vescovo: donarsi alla Chiesa
And one of his previous reflections as archbishop of one of the most dechristianized regions of the world:
> While Rome Talks, Québec Has Already Been Lost (8.10.2008)
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.