Vatican to Maryknoll: Pick a priest, please

Back in May, the Ossining-based Maryknoll religious order chose a religious brother, not a priest, Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick, to serve as regional superior for the U.S.

But John Allen reports that the Vatican has rejected the choice, asking Maryknoll to choose a priest instead.

Allen writes: “In general, church-watchers say that policy is intended to defend the theology of apostolic succession, in which decision-making power in the church is believed to flow through the sacrament of holy orders. Although religious brothers take vows and are generally seen as equals within their communities, under the church’s canon law they are considered laity.”

Father Ed Dougherty, the superior general of Maryknoll, tells Allen: “I wasn’t surprised, to tell you the truth. There’s still a hierarchical sense in which having a brother over a priest is a problem. There’s a fear of a slippery slope, of the camel getting its nose under the tent” toward an erosion of priestly authority.

“I had hoped maybe we’d moved beyond that,” Dougherty said.

A new regional superior will soon be chosen.