I have to say that I am a dissenter from the clamour for a religious as the next Archbishop of Westminster. Dom Hugh of Pluscarden has had his name much mentioned — except by those who know him well, which is significant. For a job of such varied responsibilities and national (if not international) importance, mere orthodoxy and holiness are not enough. There are other gifts such as eloquence, prudence, the ability to govern and inspire others. A knowledge of how a diocese works is very important—Cardinal Hume, for all his virtues, largely left the running of the diocese to the area bishops, and was not popular with his priests.
Whoever is appointed is going to have to be a very hard worker who can really get among his priests to revivify parish life. He will need to tackle the seminaries both at Rome and in London, and he will need to do battle with the schools to make them Catholic again.
For instance, on the last topic, I would estimate that I have in my parish about six or seven admirable practising Catholics who teach in non-Catholic secondary schools. They have tried and failed to get jobs in Catholic schools, and so have given up. Meanwhile, our local Catholic secondary schools are packed with lapsed and non-Catholic teachers. I have been told bluntly by a school, when I asked, that selection is simply made on the teacher's teaching ability; their faith is, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant. I do not believe that my parish is the only one in this position. It will take a bishop, and preferably the next Archbishop of Westminster, to take a lead on this. Thank God that the Bishop of Lancaster has made a start!
Some seminaries are almost a joke. In Rome, the student body is almost to a man orthodox to traditional. And the staff are still running the place like a seventies base community, despairing to each other and to whoever will listen about how impossible the modern student is. Allen Hall, I am told, is somewhat better. At Wonersh, the staff are largely doctrinally orthodox, but the practice and life at both places still remains firmly in the seventies, which is to say, Theological College style rather than Seminary.
And then there is the morale of the clergy; hit from every side. The Bishops have shrugged off onto their priests the entire blame and responsibility for the appalling child abuse debacle, and salved their own consciences and reputations by making the priests jump through hoops that make pastoral ministry very difficult (just try talking to a child now without its mother being present). They refuse to bring priests in from Poland to ease our workload, in case they also bring Catholicism with their luggage. In my diocese, two young and active priests are employed full-time doing, it seems, very little, while I and others have to run around like headless chickens trying to administer multiple parishes. The only thing to get the bishops really worked up is preventing priests celebrating according to the Extraordinary form.
I'd better stop here, or I'm going to go on for hours………
Anyway, that's why I think that what Westminster needs is somebody entirely new, and promoted from the diocesan clergy, not a religious who has no experience of these matters. I have some good ideas about one or two who might be just ideal for the job, but I'll spare their blushes.