10 August 2023


 Everybody knows that Catholic bishops hve to offer their resignations when they reach the age of 75.

But they don't.

Canon 401 para 1 says simply "rogatur".

I am waiting for a bishop who has balls enough to announce that, after much prayer and consultation, he has decided not yet to do this.

In the Church of England, Bishop Eric Kemp was appointed before retirement ages were brought in, and so, under the English legal doctrine concerning Vested Interests, he was able to ignore the new arrangements. He simply put his area bishops formally 'under obedience' to tell him when they felt he could no longer effectively discharge his ministry. Of course, age brought its constraints. I remember a day Eric arrived at Lancing to sing Pontifical High Mass ... and his chaplain whispered "Like the Holy Father, we now preach sitting down ...".

We exist in a Church where the assumption seems to be normative that, when a bishop of a diocese hits 75, he might very well be past 'it', but that the Bishop of Rome can go on for as long as it suits him.

You might have thought that the burdens and responsibilities of the latter were greater than those of the former ...

This pontificate has revealed just how corrupt this system is or can be. Manifestly, the current Roman Pontiff is clinging on to his status so that he can make changes and appointments which may constrain or direct his succession.

Most indecorously, the present system encourages journalists to speculate on how much the Pontiff disliked a particular bishop, as indicated by the speed with which his resignation was accepted.

And the system of papal nunciatures aids the corrupt system. I can understand that it has value in facilitating consultation; in hurrying up curial responses when necessary ...

... but it is essentially a system of control and might very well be a system of spying and of enforcing a party line.

There was something very proper in expecting a bishop, 'wedded' to his Particular Church, to carry on until death. The system was humanely operated: when necessary, a bishop could ask for, and receive, a coadjutor.

It is my view that all the high-falutin' Conciliar and postConciliar rhetoric about the Bishops as Successors of the Apostles mumble mumble, mumble mumble, is de facto nullified so that each diocesan has a status analogous with that of a District Manager of Waitrose.


Father K said...

Cardinal Siri of Genoa did. The Bishop of Rome still does!

The Moderate Jacobite said...

I'm reminded of the episode in Yes Prime Minister in which the P.M. is preparing to make a broadcast. He is informed that if he plans to outline radical new plans the theme music should be Bach, with dark leather-bound volumes in the background; whereas if he plans simply to continue as before it should be Stravinsky and 'high energy yellow wallpaper'.

Acres of paper stating that a man is a successor to the Apostles, when he is not permitted even to establish a house of nuns without the permission of the monsignor in Rome certainly seems like high energy yellow wallpaper.

Expeditus said...

Waitrose? More like Aldi or Lidl!

vetusta ecclesia said...

A bishop may present his resignation at 75 but, in this country at least, he will be nearer 80 before he hands over his crozier. Definitely don’t book that Saga cruise!

E sapelion said...

Yes a bishop could have a coadjutor, but a coadjutor has no power to act except on matters delegated by his principal. If/when a bishop was confused in mind and paranoid the government of his diocese would just drift and the coadjutor was powerless.
Alexander Goss spent two years as coadjutor of Liverpool but his letters to Dr G H Brown explaining/protesting that he is only acting in accord with Brown's instructions occupy a disproportionate part of his collected correspondence. Perhaps that is why he provided a post for Archbishop Errington after the pope deprived Errington of the coadjutorship of Westminster (without canonical justification).

PM said...

Dear Father

Your last paragraph has captured the present pontificate perfectly. There is much talk of decentralization and accompaniment, but much rule by motu proprio. The present Synod on Synodality (what could be more 'self-referential' than that?) is, as the canonist Ed Condon pointed out, a perfect case in point. The instructions to bishops in the so-called listening phase (listening to the less than one per cent who bothered to respond) were effectively to abdicate their teaching office and reduce themselves to mere stenographers forwarding the results to head office. (there was, needless to say, much censorship on the quiet of unacceptably conservative views.) The hand-picked synod will then cogitate, but in the end one man will do with it as he wills.

As Condon points out, whatever else this is, it is not the ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium.

TuNeCedeMalisPJS said...

Maybe Bishops should offer to only resign their ministirium, while still holding to the ministry of the office. If accepted, they can be called Bishop-Emeritus, keep wearing a zuchetto and when conducting Mass a mitre, and not leave the residence.
Would that confuse the laity? Even so, no one should question it and just accept a new normal and accompany him blindly

coradcorloquitur said...

The mandatory resignation at age 75, in the opinion of many observers, was a measure by Paul VI designed to weed out the old conservative guard associated with the Ottaviani Holy Office and, hence, advance the Modernist project. It has worked to perfection, as we have seen in the case of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as archbishop of Buenos Aires: he duly complied and sent in his resignation at age 75, but Benedict XVI---inexplicably---did not accept it, prolonged his tenure, and consequently put him on the road to the papacy. The 75 rule seems to apply to prelates of a Catholic (not just "conservative") cast of mind and action---a neat way to get rid of them. But what does that tell us about our beloved Benedict, who had a controversy-free opportunity of ridding Holy Church of a proven, unrepentant mischief lover and subverter of Catholic Truth?

Prayerful said...

A bishop deciding not to resign, just saying no, as seems to be his right, would be the perfect way to shrink that bullying bulk.