10 July 2015

VIVA Kasper!

This piece first appeared on March 16 last year. I reproduce it (slightly altered) here ... together with its original thread ... because I consider this a matter of some importance: an abuse calling for reform, but still unreformed even in a reforming pontificate.

It is nice to know that Important People in Rome read my blog so carefully and take it so seriously. Cardinal Walter Kasper, I gather, agrees with my observation of February 28 2014: it is an abuse to thrust episcopacy upon curial bureaucrats as a sort of 'honour'. He points out that even the great and admirable Cardinal Ottaviani, that hugely wonderful apotheosis of doctrinal rigour combined with Traditional peasant Catholicism [that bit's my description, not Kasper's], was not a bishop until S John XXIII, in accordance with his deplorable new policy, forced him to become one. Indeed, back even in the days of the 'Renaissance Prince' papacy, this was not thought necessary. (Blessed John Henry Newman was never a bishop.) Why can't the present Holy Father see the logic of my and Kasper's point? To thrust the charism of a Successor of the Apostles upon someone who is not going to be using that sacramental status in et cum Ecclesia, as the Shepherd of a Particular Church with its presbyterium, diakonia, and laos, but is merely going to have a 'titular' see in some long-forgotten place, is an abuse of the Sacraments. It is to use the Sacraments themselves merely to augment a bureaucrat's dignity and vanity ... as well as Signor Gammarelli's profits! Of course, there are bishops whose ministry of episkope is unusual but is pastorally episcopal (one thinks of Archbishop Pozzo, of the Ecclesia Dei  Commission, or Archbishop Gaenswein, Prefect of the Familia papalis) but I do not think that these are typical of curial roles.

Neither Walter Kasper nor I are attacking the present Pope in saying this. Pope Benedict XVI and S John Paul II used episcopal Consecration in precisely the way we are criticising. In my view, it would show Pope Francis in a very good light if he took the opportunity of his reform of the structures of the Curia to introduce this reform as part of the package. He's removed all the stuff about prebyters getting automatically to call themselves Monsignore ... good ... but the abuse of the Apostolic Ministry carries on.

Let Cardinal Presbyters be and remain Cardinal Presbyters! (And wear, daily, a galero, if they want to!) But what is worst is that secretaries of dicasteries are made archbishops. Is the Holy Father not aware that, in the local churches throughout the world, 'Archbishop' is a title of some distinction? Sometimes it is suggested that such 'rank' is necessary so that the curial chappy concerned can 'outrank' Bishops from dioceses (rather as the Officer commanding a naval base used to be made the Harbour Admiral so that he could outrank pushy visiting ships' Captains). But does the Body of Christ need this preoccupation with rank?


14 comments:

Stephen said...

It'd be interesting to know any historical correlations to an increase in bishops who are not ordinaries. Was it connected in any way with the development of ultramontanism? Or, did it come about as a means to gloss over a diminution of power?

Pastor in Valle said...

Dear Father, this has been my opinion for a long time. If one wants abuses to reform, let us start here.

David Murphy said...

Perhaps it is worth noting, Father John, that the Pope has already abandoned the practice of promoting clerics to Monsignori and called on the new Cardinals to celebrate their elevation less profusely than was the wont.

mainbain said...

Curial bishops are bureaucrats yes, but of a very special kind, so it is not helpful to view their ecclesial service in purely functional terms. They participate in an intimate way in the exercise of the Pope's triple munera. In order to assist him in teaching, sanctifying and ruling the Church they surely need the graces that flow from episcopal ordination, do they not? And curial bishops certainly do exercise their episcopal powers in the matter of ordaining bishops. Card. Ottaviani did not, but - to take one example - his co-consecrator (Card. Masella) participated in the episcopal ordination of numerous bishops while serving as Prefect of one or other dicasteries.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

That is precisely how B John XXIII explained his innovation. It is strange that something so obvious ... if it is ... never occurred to any previous Pontiff.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

... and, David, I rather thought that Francis had explicitly left in place the provision that curial monsignori got the tuft automatically at 35. Are you sure you've got your facts straight? Or is there a more recent enactment which I have missed?

GOR said...

Father I don’t think it is automatic that curial staff become monsignori upon reaching age 35. If memory serves the statement was that they could receive the honor at age 35, whereas other clergy could only receive it after age 60 or 65.

But I could be wrong. As I recall from my few dealings with low-level curial officials many years ago, you would be hard put to find one who did not sport a little color over basic black…

David Murphy said...

My information is that no Monsignor title will be given to "secular priests" under 65, and that the only rank of Monsignor which will be conferred above 65 is that of "Chaplain to His Holiness", the lowest of the three.

I do not know whether curial secular priests are included, and wonder what would happen if a new Ordinary were to be appointed for one of the Ordinariates. Would he not be made "Protonotary Apostolic"?

Whatever, the thrust is clear, I think.

Anagnostis said...

I remember Fr Stephen Freeman mentioning in passing the manner in which his bishop conferred some presbyteral dignity or other on him: "Here. Have a hat. It's completely worthless".

B flat said...

I have an indelible impression, whose source I have forgotten, that the thrust for change in mandatory episcopal consecrations for curial officials of a certain rank, came from among the Council Fathers themselves during VatII. The impression which endures, is that the diocesan bishops visiting the Curia on business, felt it inappropriate (does that mean beneath their dignity?) to be reporting to, or worse - receiving instructions or a reprimand from, a simple priest regarding their pastoral care of the diocese entrusted to them.... Quite possibly, my impression was always mistaken as to the facts of the matter. However, is there no merit in the diocesan bishops' dislike of that situation? The system obtaining until Pius XII, evolved before a widespread development of diplomatic representation of the Holy See grew up. Why should those nuncios and delegates have any ecclesiastical orders at all, if rank and status within the hierarchy depend on their relationship to diocesan oversight? I would point to the provisions of canon 18 of Nicea I to show how similar sensitivities were a problem in the presbyterate, and were settled by the First Ecumenical Council. The CofE avoided similar difficulties by having archdeacons in priestly orders, didn't it?

As for cardinals needing to be bishops under the new regulations.... On the one hand, the question of precedence or status between cardinal or bishop in the Latin church is defined, and so what bishop could object to the precedence of a cardinal not of episcopal rank? (The Melikte Patriarch of Antioch certainly did, at the opening of VatII business.) On the other, there seemed no problem for Benedict XVI in the case of Cardinal Bartolucci, in excusing him from episcopal orders.

Lastly, I am completely at a loss to see what the episcopal function is of the Prefect of the Papal household. I thought the Pope himself is the head of that particular family or "house church," or is this incorrect? I would welcome instruction on this.

Aaron Sanders said...

Secular presbyters assist the diocesan bishop in his triple munera in a far more concrete/direct way than curial officials assist the pope in teaching, ruling, and sanctifying, yet no one would claim this cooperation makes it necessary for those secular priests to possess the graces of episcopal orders.

Ben of the Bayou said...

Dear Father,

Further to the point of the idea of needing "rank." Perhaps in some Utopia we could do without it, but the Council of Trent teaches that the Church is an divinely founded society that is organized hierarchically by divine will. I do not intend by pointing that out to lend support to an attitude of "lording it over" anyone. I only mean that we need to be organized and the organization chosen by our Blessed Savior is Orders.

Okay, all that to say in preparation that since, I believe, a structure of authority is necessary and since, sometimes, a curial cleric representing the Holy Father will need to exercise authority on his behalf for the good order of the Church, one way to avoid the (ab)use of the episcopal charism is to revive the papal legate! A simple Priest (or Deacon) for that matter could serve as a papal legate (a latere, even), exercising all the authority the Holy Father commissions to him, but only until such a time as his mission is accomplished and only in the area upon which that mission touches.

Perhaps this is a common sense solution to the real problem you identify. Common sense like the use of the sedia gestatoria. Viva!

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

It is worth remembering that Cardinal Pole was a layman for most of his career of service to the church. Even when serving as Legate presiding at Trent, even when restoring the English Church. He wasn't ordained until the end of his life when they decided he ought to be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Jovan-Marya Weismiller, T.O.Carm. said...

Father Matkin, Reginald, Cardinal Pole was ordained to the Diaconate in 1536, thus, I would say that 'most of his career' was spent in Holy Orders. It is true he wasn't ordained to the Priesthood until 1556, two years before his death and two days before receiving Consecration to the Episcopate.