Those who act unconventionally might be best candidates to be bishops — Karl Rahner

Rahner’s 1972 book, translated as “The Shape of the Church to Come” (SPCK 1974), offers his perspective at the time on the future of the Church. His reflections still have relevance today, far removed from the perception of a “safe pair of hands” as the prime qualification. Acting “unconventionally” or “scandalously” would not necessarily disqualify! Can you identify some suitable candidates for bishop or pope who would qualify under Rahner’s way of approaching it?
Don’t be distracted by the fact that he speaks only in terms of men as candidates – the question of ordination of women was not as prominent at that time. Just think inclusively as you focus on the substance of his thinking.
Part One, Chapter 2 – Church of the Little Flock – has the following thoughts:
If bold faith, living proclamation, and the example of a genuine Christian life can produce Christians, … the possibility therefore of winning new Christians from a milieu that has become unchristian is the sole living and convincing evidence that even today Christianity still has a real chance for the future …
If in the immediate future we want to choose a capable parish priest or bishop from a number of men, we ought not to ask so much whether the candidate has adapted himself very smoothly to the traditional machinery of the Church or whether he has done well what people expected of him in the light of the traditional behaviour-patterns of office-holders in the Church; we ought to ask rather if he has ever succeeded in getting a hearing from the ‘neo-pagans’ and made at least one or two of these into Christians, but not merely by bringing them back to old familiar ways – which is often the result of merely psychological influences. The best missionary in a non-Catholic diaspora situation would be the best candidate for an office in the Church, even though he has hitherto acted perhaps very unconventionally and – for some merely traditional Christians – ‘scandalously’.

Similar Posts


  1. Soline Humbert says:

    If we are led by the Spirit who was in Jesus,we will find ourselves living unconventionally,and perhaps even “scandalously”in the eyes of many religious people:It is the glorious freedom of the children of God, the freedom of Love which shines through in the Gospels and which is so attractive. Of course it cost Jesus his life!…It cost Roy Bourgeois his official priesthood and his membership of the Maryknolls…But then, “What does it profit a man(or woman) etc…?

  2. The second greatest proverty of the our church is the inability to truly discern the spirit!

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.