I took Fr. Z.'s cue today and read an exceptional article by Phil Lawler at CatholicCulture.org outlining his own advice for new bishops. Read the full article at this link. Seriously, do it. It's the best article you'll read all week. Except for the ones on my blog, right? No, better than that too. ^_^
Here are my favourite pieces of advice from the article:
-About 20-30% of the priests are leftist ideologues, outright heretics, historically encouraged by previous bishops who either feared them or sympathized with them. The most corrupt and liberal priests are the most likely to try to cozy up to the new bishop with flattery. The conservatives are either too busy in their parishes or find such flattery repugnant.
-There's a minority of activist orthodox priests: maybe less than 10%. Some orthodox priests are truly wild men. Also, the priest who insists that all of the world's problems will go away if he avoids speaking up and does more holy hours may be truly “orthodox” in a sane environment, but isn't much use on the field of battle if he gives in to evil programs in the name of “obedience.” Some ostensibly orthodox priests use the outward appearances of orthodoxy to mask sinful behavior.
-The liturgy is in shambles in most parishes, even some of the “orthodox” ones. (Many orthodox priests just don't know what constitutes good liturgy!)
-Ask for resignations from everyone on the chancery staff. (Ideally the apostolic administrator should have done this before the new bishop arrived.) All staff members should understand clearly that you determine whether or not they stay, and the presumption is negative.
-There are probably a large number of people you really have to dismiss quickly: rebellious pastors, effeminate chancery officials, etc. (The less urgent cases can wait; you can use the budget crisis to justify the blow.) Fire them all at once. Plan it carefully to minimize the uproar. Make the announcements late on a Friday afternoon. On Saturday, release that rip-snorting pastoral letter on family life, which you have been drafting since your appointment was announced. Schedule some event Sunday with a big, loyal Catholic group. Tell reporters you'll answer questions there.
Settling in: new ideas
-Your next pastoral [letter] should insist upon the proper celebration of the Mass. It should contain disciplinary teeth. Narcissistic priests hate constraint. It's easier to catch them in an act of liturgical abuse than an act of sexual abuse.
Building community in the new-look chancery
-You will find that you have two or three prosperous parishes that are traditional centers of opposition, led by dissident priests. If you had all your priests read that fire-breather pastoral on protecting family life, you'll probably have enough general lay support—even given the hostility of the media—to face down the bad pastors after they refuse to play ball. Replace them with Nigerians to mute the screams from liberals [Lol! -I.G.S.] and to force the worst parishioners to go to the Episcopalians or the Paulists.
Consultation and dialog
-Cultivate a reputation for enjoying candor. When people give you a “nice” answer to your questions, press them: “You don't really think that, do you?”
-Make a habit of calling priests at random, at odd times. Ask them what they're doing.
Networking and team ministry
-When laws that impinge upon the Christian conscience are discussed (e.g., laws that would guarantee access to abortion or sterilization, laws that require hiring of homosexuals) remind everyone who represents the diocese that it is not sufficient to obtain a “religious exclusion” so that Church-run institutions are exempt. If what's being proposed is morally objectionable, everyone should be able to invoke a conscience clause—at the bare minimum [Can we get a conscience clause for taxation? -I.G.S.]. Church lawyers and lobbyists should defend the rights of all Catholics, not only those employed by Church institutions.
-If a complaint comes in on liturgical abuse, phone the pastor and get his side of the story. Make it a policy to write him a letter summarizing the conversation (including his assurances of conformity) and if that complaint was warranted, insist that he post your letter in the vestibule of the church for a month. If the complainant reports no change, send someone to check it out on site.
-Skip a meeting of the USCCB and delay paying the annual assessment, just for the hell of it. [Maybe he'd start a trend. ^_^ -I.G.S.]
So yeah, I really l enjoyed this article. It would be a seriously exciting diocese that had a bishop who followed this advice. Maybe we'll see that in the newer generation of bishops. Archbishop Chaput, for instance, has already made some serious waves in Philadelphia. See also: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2011/07/philadelphia-archbishop-chaput-catholic-rigali/1