23 March 2017

Why do bishops resign?

It is commonly assumed that Catholic Bishops are bound to offer their resignations when they are seventy five years old. Many people find it odd that there should be an apparent fall-back assumption that a bishop will be past 'it' at an age at which, according to the current narrative of so many, the 'Holy Spirit' appoints so many popes to begin their Petrine Ministry. You'd have thought that a pope's job might be even more taxing than that of a Diocesan Bishop. Vincent Nicholls has spoken movingly about the heavy work-schedule to which our Holy Father subjects himself ... but, apparently, this is not really so. 'Poping', so the actualite of Church life appears to say, is really just a doddle, a light retirement hobby for someone who is well past his prime!

However (and I add this with trepidation since I am not a canonist) is the common assumption correct anyway? Canon 401 says that the Bishop rogatur [is asked] to offer his resignation. If a Bishop is ill, the same canon says that he enixe [strenuously] rogatur to offer his resignation. Apparently, then, the seventy five year old bishop is 'asked' less 'strenuously' than the ill bishop to offer resignation. There are degrees in the moral force of canonical 'asking'.

I am, as I said, most certainly not a canonist; but surely rogatur cannot mean that there is an obligation upon the Bishop to do this. The CIC seems generally quite lucid about things it regards as obligatory.

Vatican II, about which some people, when it suits them, claim to be very enthusiastic, makes clear that a Diocesan Bishop is not merely a Vicar of the Roman Pontiff, but a successor of the Apostles. The current praxis suggests, rather, that the Bishop is like the manager of a supermarket, removable at the judgement of Head Office in accordance with its published corporate guidelines. This represents a disordered understanding of Episcopacy.

Why don't some orthodox bishops just decline to accept this invitation (rogatur) of Canon Law, and see how much respect Head Office accords to their Apostolic Status?

It might prove quite a reality check.

23 comments:

Popebeliever said...

Defend your pope. Start today!

Ferociter Romanus said...

Father, I must disagree with your supermarket analogy. Managers of the local market are expected to possess a comprehensive knowledge about a wide variety of items essential to the bodily nourishment of the people who depend on them for their nourishment.

Bishops today are treated more like the manager of a McDonalds franchise, which they have been awarded for their unquestioning service to the corporation which offers a menu that is subject to the whims of the head office, and which content is determined not by local culinary traditions or dietary and nutritional needs, but by the lowest common denominator of the market forces.

Building on this analogy parish priests are the drive-through workers who are expected to serve up to the impatient and distracted "customer" whatever they ask for whenever they ask for it, lest they be reassigned to clean out the grease traps with their own toothbrush.

Ben of the Bayou said...

Interesting proposal. I will be stunned if any take you up.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Dear Father:

This is brilliant, thank you for posting these thoughts.

As you surely know, there is a particular publication, in a large city in the center of the U.S. plains, that bills itself as the defender and advocate for the "Spirit of Vatican II," and this publication (N...C...R...) is adamant about opposing all retrograde movements to undo what Vatican II gave us. Its editors and writers are insistent that they are theologically sophisticated to boot.

So the point you raise would be a natural one for them to pursue, would it not? Let me pause here, and do a search of their site, to find articles vindicating this Vatican II point you have highlighted...

(Pause of indeterminate length)

Hmm. I'm not finding anything! How can this be?

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

When Fr. Raymond Dulac was asked his opinion of Paul VI's decision to take away the right of voting in papal elections from cardinals 80 years and older, he made these statements:

This decision taking away the right of voting in the papal election from a whole category of cardinals, is an enormous decision. Until now, the most important part of their function was this right. It commands and effects their beheading in the most accurate sense of this word; they keep their hats, but their heads are chopped off. This is what the ancient Romans called diminutio capitis, a lessening or amputation of their civil rights and, of course, of their personality.

Let us not forget that the statute creating the cardinals' right to elect the Pope dates back to the year 1059; that during the arduous course of this thousand-year period of history this rule was never questioned; that the "impediment" of advanced age has never prevented the creation of a cardinal or the continuing of a Pope once he became 80 years old, that it is contrary to the Catholic spirit and the Roman Tradition to suspend a law supported by such a time-honored custom without most grave reasons; and that this type of change,
affected by the Pope in 1970 in such a sudden, personal, and suspicious way, will increase most people's feelings of insecurity, instability, and the alienation which has contributed to de-sacralizing the Church and loosening its customs.

Let us forget the inhuman, vain, vile aspects of this decision concerning the age of men whose sacerdotal ordination had separated them from mortal mankind as far as powers and dignities are concerned.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

After this blow and all the others of the past five years designed to naturalize and laicize the clergy, how could one have the heart to keep on telling the ordained young priests: "Tu es sacerdos in aetemum secundum ordinem
Meichisedech?" Priest for aU eternity? Of what order? Not of the carnal Levitical tribe, but of the order of that astonishing, unique , ageless personage, Melchisedech, whose mystery is revealed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, verse 3 of Chapter 7: "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but likened unto the Son of God, continueth a priest forever.”

This all being over, today's priest is just like an official who, in due course, is "retired," with a life pension, like a Swiss guard.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Since Paul VI, without much of a preamble, has nullified a millenary legislation, it is important to know whether his Motu Proprio was not in fact, a Motu alieno.

This most unusual act is an act of personal might on the part of a Pontiff who, so far as others are concerned, keeps on covering himself with the curtain of collegiality. We are sure this act has not been free. Should it be proven that it was
free, there will be no need to nullify this act; as a matter of right, it will be null and void . ...

"For behold . .. the Lord of hosts shall take away from Jerusalem, and from luda . .. the strong man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the cunning ... and the ancient. The captain over fifty, and the
honourable . .. and the counsellor . .. And I will give children to be their princes, and . .. the child shall make a tumult against the ancient, and the base against thehonourable." (Is. 3: 1-5). He who is able to understand, let him understand




This is Paul VI, living contradiction. On the one hand, he affirms; on the other, he denies. Many times, without even preserving appearances, he destroys with facts what he has built with words. Let the reader remember what the Pontiff wrote in his brief to Cardinal Lercaro when the Cardinal was almost eighty years old, wishing him a long life in the service of the Church . Then let him read the Motu Proprio, whereby he deprives octogenarian cardinals of their legitimate rights on grounds of age, not because of incapacity. Paul's dialectics are incomprehensible and plainly destructive.

Applying these dialectics, regulating our criteria by the principles of this Motu Proprio, we must conclude that the octogenarian Pontiff, John XXIII, was an inept pope, and his council was no real council, because, according to
Pope Montini, one's reason quits functioning when one is eighty years old, and one is no longer able to receive the light of the Holy Ghost.

Titus said...

Bishops resign because they don't want to risk finding what will happen if they don't. It's like those situations referred to as "constitutional crises." Someone can solve those problems, but there's an air of uncertainty that makes people uncomfortable.

Belfry Bat said...

It has happened, often enough, that Bishops offer their resignation, and these are declined. There was a Bishop in the Koreas was the Bishop of his flock at one hundred years old.

Elisabeth F. said...

Hello -

Seems to me that the current modus operandi of The Current Head Office is to leave each local Branch Manager to make decisions suitable to the operations of the local office. In this case, we would be asking ourselves whether or not to rogatur ourselves, and if so with how much strenuosity, or we might let the matter slip our mind altogether. On the other hand, perhaps early retirement with full benefits might be offered !

A letter I received after inquiring if public sewage lines would be made available to additional customers stated: "The project is scheduled to be completed at an as yet unspecified date." Perhaps so, too, with retirement.

James in Perth said...

Not too long ago, a bishop in Australia was "asked" to resign and he fought like hell to keep his position. He even wrote a book documenting his public disagreement with the Holy See's decision.

What I found most appalling about his 20-year tenure was that he had ordained only one priest for the diocese while advocating the need for priestless Sunday gatherings. Quite a disappointment, really.

Another bishop I know made his first priority tripling the number of men in seminary. He hasn't succeeded and yet he's trying. Does a bishop have any greater duty than to bring Christ to His people in the sacraments?

vetusta ecclesia said...

Those who offer to resign at 75, if still in good(ish) health, receive, I am told, the "nunc et tunc" letter and so hang on another 18 months or two years while the slow grinding machine produces their successor.

GOR said...

To put it in Hollywood terms - pace Don Corleone - I suspect the implication of the rogatur is tantamount to “making him an offer he cannot refuse…”

One should never discount the Italian influence in documents emanating from Rome.

JBazChicago said...

Why?

JBazChicago said...

Silly analogy. Doesn't apply.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I have always thought the ending of the spousal relationship of bishops (and priests) to their people, either by retirement or translation is ultimately an attack on marriage.

The bishop/priest relationship embodies Christ's relationship with his spouse, the Church.

Retirement or translation is analogous to divorce.

Colin Spinks said...

Is there not a distinction between the "Office" of a Bishop, and indeed that of a Priest and a Deacon, whereby he is a Bishop in aeternum, even after death, and the particular temporal occupation he fulfils by overseeing a particular diocese? I don't see a particular problem with someone being asked to retire from the latter, any more than a Priest being asked to retire from a post as Vicar/Parish Priest (whilst of course remaining a priest in aeternum) It is realistic to state that neither the RC Church nor the CofE could function without the continuing ministries of retired clergy.

Ferociter Romanus said...

The details of my comment are mine, but the description of bishops and priests as McDonalds employees is not. It was related to me some time ago by a bishop who has worked both at the diocesan level and in the Roman Curia for many more years than I have. I would be careful about under underestimating the gravity of the situation the church finds itself in. We are not in this crisis by accident - it is the fruit of many years and generations of calculated and careful erosion.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

We have a test case which does not give us hope. In the 1990s, the founding bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy of Toronto, Isidore Borecky, appointed in 1948 by Pope Pius XII, made it clear he wanted to continue serving until at least his 50th anniversary of episcopal ordination in 1998, placing him well beyond the retirement age and well into his mid-80s. He was in good health, and widely loved (one priest I know said Bp. Isidore was "like God the Father: he blessed everything!"), and so he argued that the rule requiring bishops to resign at 75 was a novelty and that as he was appointed before the rule took effect, he was not bound by it. John Paul II stepped in, forcibly declared the see vacant, and appointed an apostolic administrator, Bp. Roman Danylak, who quickly came to be seen, even by his friends, as completely bonkers and utterly destructive. The effect of papal intervention was to divide the eparchy sharply and create enormous conflict. The situation proved to be so catastrophic that JPII again had to step in, using the time-honoured technique of promoveatur ut amoveatur, creating some useless sinecure in Rome for Danylak to be "translated" to after just a few months in the Toronto Eparchy.

Michael LaRue said...

Very well put, Fr!

Calvin Engime said...

I think Belfry Bat is under a misapprehension about the nature of the centenarian Korean bishop's service, if the reference is to Francis Hong Yong-ho (who, indeed, never offered his resignation). Bishop Hong (b. 1906) was the Bishop of Pyongyang, where he was imprisoned by the totalitarian regime in 1949, never to be seen again. He continued to be listed in the Annuario Pontificio as the ordinary of Pyongyang, though "missing," until 2013, when his death was formally acknowledged so the cause for his canonisation could be opened.

job said...

Father, Your ecclesiogical question makes me think of the letter sent by German Chancellor Bismark to the Holy See after Vatican I. In Denziger you can find the correspondence between Bismark, Pope Pius IX, and the German Bishops on this exact subject. (Bismark actually asked if now Bishops were to be seen and dealt with as 'postmen' for the Holy See.

job said...

Upon reflection Bismark was even stronger in his question. It was asking if Bishops were now to be viewed as 'only postmen' for the Pope. This was hotly denied by Pius IX and the German Bishops. But as you hint broadly, the 'facts on the ground' point to the correctness of Bismark's insight. [One interesting 'linguistic variant' which is now used when a Bishop is chosen: the Latin document still uses the verb "eligo" -- even if there is only one 'elector'-- whereas in English at least the common usage in the translation of the same document is "appoint". This is the standard form used in the Website "Church Hierarchy" also. The change of language here certainly emphases Bismark's point-of-view,]