It is not easy to know what to make of the precipitous removal by PF of an American bishop called Holley.
For nearly two millennia, Roman pontiffs have intervened to remove dysfunctional bishops. This was happening even before the Catholic Church had such a thing as Canon Law. And one can understand why, given the present atmosphere, it might be necessary for a Universal Primacy to act quickly in an emergency. And readers will remember the many depositions by Pope Hildebrand of simoniacal bishops. So, on balance, I think I feel that the presumption must tilt in favour of the Holy See. But ...
But the situation is profoundly unsatisfactory. In CATHOLIC ECCLESIOLOGY, the main ministerial realities are, firstly, the Petrine See, the universal source and instrument of Unity, which presides over the agape of the Universal Church. And, secondly, the local Bishop, Successor of the Apostles, is the minister who presides over the unity and orthodoxy of his local Church which is, let us never forget, the Catholic Church in that place. As Leo XIII taught, and Vatican II repeated, diocesan bishops are not mere Vicars of the Pope, like the regional managers of a supermarket chain. The deposition of bishops ought to be a matter of enormous rarity, as being a very unusual (if occasionally unavoidable) disruption of the natural order and sacramental structure of Christ's Church Militant.
We do now have Canon Law; and it is difficult to understand why such removals should not be done with a due process, rather than by means of 'phone calls to and from Nuncios. It is reported that Bishop Holley was asked to resign so that, in accordance with Canon 185, he could be granted the title emeritus. This suggests that he was not suspected of an ecclesiastical offence.
And our world is one in which NATURAL JUSTICE is deemed proper. I must declare an interest here. I became even more convinced of this when I was told, the day before being received into Full Communion, that two English Catholic bishops had refused to give me a positive votum and that my scheduled admission to the presbyterate of the Ordinariate had therefore been put on hold. Verbally, it was made clear to me that this related to my preference for the Vetus Ordo; but I was never given any formal explanations in writing or a meeting with those concerned so that they could tell me face to face what the problem was and hear my own account of myself.
It was a very unpleasant business and I do not wish to relive it. My point is that the Christ's Church should be a transparent place in which affairs are transacted in visibly just ways.
It should never be possible for somebody to feel, or other people to suspect, that personal prejudice, individual liturgical preferences, or the operation of old-boy networks, were operating to the disadvantage of any laic or cleric or bishop.
Otherwise, we have that 'Arbitrary Power' which we Anglo-Saxons have for centuries claimed to mistrust.
Finally: the habitual REFUSAL BY PF TO MEET PERSONALLY AND PHYSICALLY bishops whom he is deposing is arguably unChristian as well as unmanly; not to say, plain cowardly. He may be a dab hand at ladling repetitive abuse down public microphones, but he is very shy about seeing people ... even four of his Cardinals when they asked for an audience! This is not one of the least of the scandals of this pontificate. For me personally, it was his treatment of the late Bishop Livieres at the beginning of this pontificate which first made me seriously uneasy about what sort of person had obtained possession of the Roman See.
Readers will remember the adamant refusal in audientia by Archbishop Errington to resign when Pius IX asked for his resignation, couching this as a request for a personal favour. A century and a half later, we are, apparently, suffering a more tyrannical and arbitrary regime than ever has been attributed to Pio Nono.