On Removing Bishops

Just a quick thought. One of the main objectives of the current critics of the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis is that the Pope has not “sacked” bishops who are revealed to have “covered up” or “concealed” cases of abusive priests.

This contrasts with another call that was heard more regularly in the past, namely a call for decentralisation that would allow a greater autonomy to local bishops, often in areas of morality or liturgy. Then, any action by the Holy See in the matters of a local Church were called “interferance”.

I wonder if one of the reasons we have seen few bishops “removed” from office is the fact that the Vatican has a high respect for the place of a bishop in a local Church. Bishops are not “employees” of the Vatican. The Bishop of Rome is not their “boss”. They bear the responsibility for the mission and governance of the Church in their diocese. If you are looking for where the buck stops, the Vatican seems to be saying, it stops with the local Bishop.

I wonder if a comparison with that infamous event in Australian political history – the 1975 dismissal of the Government (and Prime Minister) of the day by the Governor General – is not perhaps illustrative. While constitutionally it is the Governor General who appoints the Prime Minister, and constitutionally he had the power to act to dismiss the Prime Minister, the nation was horrified that such power be used for the latter purpose.

Should the Pope have exercise his real – but rare – power to remove a bishop? What are the historical precedences? It seems to me that the Holy Father would prefer the bishops to take responsibility for thier own actions – and their own mistakes – and to act justly on their own initiative. What do you think of the reading of this situation?

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32 Responses to On Removing Bishops

  1. Tony says:

    Maybe the bishops would be more open to accountability if it was shown from the top down? This is from The Murphy Report
    “2.23. The Commission wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome in September 2006 asking for information on the promulgation of the document Crimen Sollicitationis … as well as information on reports of clerical child sexual abuse which had been conveyed to the Congregation by the Archdiocese of Dublin in the period covered by the Commission. The CDF did not reply. However, it did contact the Department of Foreign Affairs stating that the Commission had not gone through appropriate diplomatic channels. The Commission is a body independent of government and does not consider it appropriate for it to use diplomatic channels.

    “2.24. The Commission wrote to the Papal Nuncio in February 2007 requesting that he forward to the Commission all documents in his possession relevant to the Commission’s terms of reference, ‘which documents have not already been produced or will not be produced by Archbishop Martin’. The letter further requested the Papal Nuncio, if he had no such documentation, to confirm this. No reply was received. The Commission does not have the power to compel the production of documents by the Papal Nuncio or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Commission again wrote to the Papal Nuncio in 2009 enclosing extracts from the draft report which referred to him and his office as it was required to do. Again, no reply was received.”

  2. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Bullroar. We should all take responsibility for our actions, but we don’t always, and sometimes mess up even when we do. That’s why we have supervisors. When the supervisors don’t supervise, it just may be that those who urge action against those negligent supervisors are motivated by something other than having a thing against supervisors. And it just may be that those who call for their removal in this matter but not in other matters are motivated not by a duplicity to advance what of course you know they REALLY mean but a substantial difference about the nature of the role of supervisor.

  3. Terra says:

    The problem is that bishops have so much responsibility, and their only real accountabilities under the current system are to Rome. The reality is that the Pope does have the ability to ‘ hire and fire’.

    At normal times in the Church, the power to fire (or pressure to resign) should be a rarely used one. At abnormal times such as this (and the issue is much broader than abuse, as Gerald Warners excellent piece in the Telegraph spruiked by Fr Z articulates ), it really does need to be used, and widely.

    I think the hesitation stems from the concern that many bishops essentially acted in line with norms that were implicitly or explicitly widely accepted byRome and bishops conferences up until now (see the recent case of the priest shuffled from Bunbury to Perth).

    And of course in a sense the problem will eventually take care of itself by attrition.

    But the fact that outright heresy has long been tolerated or even encouraged, that devotional and sacramental practices necessary to support the spiritual life have been actively discouraged, and that inappropriate, sinful and unseemly behaviour on the part of priests has gone largely unpunished is an ongoing scandal that is costing souls and needs to be dealt with by tough measures.

    Time for Il papa to bite the bullet in my view, not withstanding the cost.

  4. Michael Root says:

    There was the case in the mid-1990s of Jacques Gaillot, bishop of Evreux in France. On various issues, he was out of step with both Rome and the French bishops’ conference. In 1995, he was transferred to the titular (i.e., not presently functioning) diocese of Parthenia (southern Algeria). Scuttlebut (for what it was worth) was that Rome did this at the urging of the French bishops. Gaillot responded by creating a “virtual diocese” online, still up and running at http://www.partenia.org.

  5. Terra says:

    A virtual diocese is a lot less dangerous than a real one where a bishop makes decisions that directly impact on priests and people! A website after all is just another competing set of claims in a dense competition of ideas.

    It is true that rogue bishops can be dangerous, for example by ordaining validly but illicitly and creating schismatic sects in the process. But better they do that as clearly outside of the Church than by subverting from within.

  6. matthias says:

    It would have been interesting if the Catholic church had kept to the fundamentals of the Concilliar movement ,which would see a General Church council making the decision to sack a Bishop.
    Yet Hillsong’s Brian houston sacked his dad from the position of being Senior Minister because of allegations of sexual abuse by the older Houston (“Houston we have a problem) without the benefit of that church’s Elders council
    The fallout was that the Hillsong Profit er Prophet ,asked for prayer for his family and no word about those who were abused. Read Tanya Levin;s book PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES ,and yes she did appear at the atheistic gasbag session,but she apparently wrote this book when she was a convert to Judaism ,,after having grown up in Hillsong. she made the point that it was the Salvation Army that detoxified her from Hillsong’s toxic christianity.

    • Schütz says:

      The Conciliar Movement is an interesting question to raise, because it is about who has the final responsibility in the Church. IF the Church were “more democratic” (as many wanted it to be in the 14th/15th Centuries and again in the 20th/21st Centuries) WOULD the response be better/different/worse than the response has been? With whom would “the buck stop” if we didn’t have a centralised hierarchy?

      • Peregrinus says:

        As a matter of canon law, I assume that the pope does have the authority to remove a bishop, though I wouldn’t assume that he has the right simply to fire at will. I’ve no doubt there’s a canonical process to be gone through, in which the bishop is told what the complaints against him are, is given an opportunity to respond, other outcomes can be explored, etc. Some sections of the media like to paint the Catholic church as a kind of fascist party at prayer, but it ain’t necessarily so.

        As the person who appoints most bishops nowadays, the pope may seem the obvious person to initiate the removal of a bishop, where warranted. But, actually, it doesn’t have to be so. The idea that the point normatively selects all bishops is a fairly modern one, and it’s not a necessary corollary of that idea that the pope should also be the one who removes them.

        Bear in mind that, ecclesiologically speaking, the bishop is not filling a middle-management job to which he has been appointed by the organisation’s chief executive. The bishop’s primary relationship is not with the pope, but with his local church. (This is illustrated by the fact that a hypothetical Archbishop of Melbourne who ceased to be in communion with Rome would still be the Archbishop of Melbourne.) And, if he errs, it is not primarily the pope that he offends, but the local church.

        Bear in mind also, ecclesiologically speaking again, that being a bishop is a job; it is a relationship. Removing a bishop is not analogous so much to firing a middle manager as it is to removing a parent from a family. (For the same reasons, bishops rarely resign their posts before time; it’s not a relationship you can simply walk away from.)

        Bearing all this in mind, it seems to me that the removal of a bishop ought to be more a matter for the local church than for the pope. It may be that Rome should be involved in the process, but I think it makes sense that the initiative, the driving force, should be local. It could involve the priests and people of the diocese; it could involve neighbouring bishops. I realise that devising structures to enable this to happen is not easy, but it seems to be that we are likely to get better decisions, more rooted in the real experience of the local church, if we let the local church drive this.

        To some extent this may already happen. The formal removal or deposition of a bishop is extremely rare. I suspect that for every such case there are 99 cases of bishops who resign under a cloud of dissatisfaction. The events which lead up to this are not always transparent, and the involvement of Rome may be more apparent than local involvement. But that’s not to say that there is no local involvement. A couple of examples:

        Last September Bishop Joseph Martino resigned after six years as the Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was only 63, and the resignation was definitely before time. The reason given was ill-health – insomnia and fatigue – but nobody was really convinced by this, and the bishop himself acknowledged that his ailments were stress-related, and stemmed from the inability of the diocese to accept “my pastoral initiatives or my method of governance”.

        There were a lot of complaints about the bishop – in his six years he had closed half of the schools and nearly 40% of the parishes in the diocese and, while drastic changes were generally accepted as needed, his management of this process was seen as remote, authoritative and uncommunicative. He declined to visit affected parishes, or to meet parishioners. In addition, he derecognised the union representing teachers in Catholic schools, instructed priest not to speak to journalists on any topic without advance clearance from his diocesan press office, and took a number of other measures that were seen as excessively controlling.

        He also fell out with his brother bishops, publicly criticising those who would not identify abortion as the paramount issue which should influence the votes of Catholics, and appearing unannounced at a parish forum which was held to discuss the USCCB “Faithful Citizenship” statement on the political responsibilities of Catholics, criticising the forum and declaring that “no [USCCB] document is relevant in this diocese”. And he fell out with the presidents of all four Catholic colleges and universities in his diocese.

        Rumour has it that it was the Vatican which asked him to offer his resignation. Suych a request is rare, and it’s nto the kind of request that a bishop can refuse. But, if the Vatican did ask him, it was certainly at the initiative of the local church, and of his brother US bishops. If Martino’s style and actions had been more acceptable locally, I think it’s very unlikely that the Vatican would have asked him to go. In other words, this was locally driven.

        And, for an example in the other direction, consider Martin Drennan, the current bishop of Galway. He was an auxiliary bishop of Dublin during the period covered by the Murphy Report on the Archdiocese’s response to child abuse allegations. Of the five serving bishops named in that report, he is the only one not to have offered his resignation, despite having come under considerable pressure to do so. This is a long and complex story, but a significant factor in his decision not to resign is that he feels that he enjoys the confidence and support of the priests and people of his diocese. If his relationship with them is undamaged, or at least functional, he doesn’t feel that he should resign.

        It may be that we need clearer procedures which reflect the reality that it is, first and foremost, the local church whose support and confidence a bishop needs, and that the issue of how to respond to a bishop’s perceived failings is primarily a matter for the local church.

        (‘Course, the flip side of that is that maybe the local church should be more transparently and explicitly involved in the selection of its bishop, which some in Rome might not think was such a good idea.)

  7. Terra says:

    In fact canonically the Pope can’t literally fire a bishop. But he can invite them to resign, or if they refuse, reassign them to a diocese with no people or functions (its happened). The only time canonical process generally comes into play is if the bishop is being formally disciplined in some way, or even laicized (as in two recent cases). Generally no real process is required, though presumably extensive discussion would normally take place first via the appropriate Vatican Congregations.

    As for conciliarism, the idea of a General Council as the only mechanism to fire a bishop, theological objections aside, it is clearly unworkable – there are obviously plenty of situations where action is needed fast, and where airing all of the problems publicly would be inappropriate and counter-productive.

    I’m personally in favour of locals having more say in the election of their bishop, and perhaps in the sacking of him. But I do think we have to be careful here – sometimes the local Church needs medicine or surgery, so losing the support of local institutions that have forgotten how to be catholic for example is not necessarily a good test of whether a bishop is doing a good job.

    And notwithstanding my support for some more local input, I totally reject the ecclesiology of the local Church that Peregrinus has articulated (a hypothetical Archbishop of Melbourne not in communion with Rome, for example, is an archbishop of a schismatic church or ecclesial community just like the anglican AB – but Rome would be free to appoint a new catholic archbishop to replace him if the situation ever arose).

    Peregrinus’ arguments are the view argued by Kasper in his famous debate with then Cardinal Ratzinger – and guess which side the Magisterium has come down on!

    • Peregrinus says:

      And notwithstanding my support for some more local input, I totally reject the ecclesiology of the local Church that Peregrinus has articulated (a hypothetical Archbishop of Melbourne not in communion with Rome, for example, is an archbishop of a schismatic church or ecclesial community just like the anglican AB – but Rome would be free to appoint a new catholic archbishop to replace him if the situation ever arose).

      Well, we have plenty of precedent in this area, in the European reformation.

      Various Catholic bishops formally broke with Rome, e.g. in England and Ireland by taking the Oath of Supremacy. In no case did Rome take the view that they had thereby ceased to be the Bishop of the local church. In no case did Rome appoint a rival bishop – that did not happen until the incumbent died or retired, at which point Rome and the King (or other body) might attempt to appoint rival bishops to the same diocese.

      In Ireland, for example, the Archbishop of Armagh conformed to Anglicanism in 1539. Rome took various disciplinary measures against him but did not depose him, and did not appoint another (Catholic) Archbishop until after his death in 1545.

      In an even more striking example, Hugh Curwen was appointed Archbishop of Dublin by Queen Mary, and of course was in communion with Rome. On Mary’s death in 1558 and Elizabeths’s succession, he cheerfully conformed to Anglicanism, but Rome did nothing about supplanting him until 9 years later, when was translated (by the crown) to the English see of Oxford, after which rival Anglican and Catholic bishops were appointed in Dublin.

      And the most entertaining example of all is Miler McGrath. An Irish Franciscan working in Rome, he was appointed the Bishop of Down and Connor in 1565 (after the death of Eugene McGennis, the Catholic appointment of 1539 who had conformed to Anglicanism in 1541 but continued in Roman eyes to be the bishop for more than twenty years). McGrath accepted Royal Supremacy in 1567, and the Queen appointed him Bishop of the neighbouring Diocese of Clogher, before translating him in 1572 to the (wealthier and more prestigious) Archdiocese of Cashel. Clearly a man with an appetite, if not for work, then for ecclesiastical revenues, as other dioceses fell vacant he secured his own (Anglican) appointments to administer Waterford and Lismore, Achonry and Killalla.

      In the meantime, however, as far as Rome was concerned he remained the Bishop of Down and Connor. Thus Rome appointed Catholic bishops to Clogher, Cashel, Waterford and Lismore, Achonry and Killala, all in competition to McGrath, but appointed no-one to Down and Connor until they had gone through the lengthy process of convicting McGrath of heresy and deposing him, which took until 1580, by which time McGrath has had not one, but two, successors in Down and Connor by Anglican appointments.

      In short, the story of the Irish reformation affords abundant examples of bishops who break communion, but continue to be treated by Rome as the legitimate bishop. But it affors not a single counter-example.

      The English story is similar. Where a Catholic bishop conformed to the Act of Supremacy, Rome invariably continued to treat him as the sole bishop of the diocese, and did not appoint a rival. Unlike in Ireland, on the death of the last legitimate bishop Rome [i]didn’t[/i] appoint a successor. Thus there were no “rival bishops” at any point.. But Roman records still date the vacancy/suppression of each English diocese from the death of the last canonically-appointed bishop, not from the time (often many years before) when he ceased to be in communion.

      I think a similar story is found in the Lutheran reformation.

      Indeed, the same is true of the Eastern schism. Rome never took the position that eastern bishops ceases to be bishops of their dioceses as a result of the dissolution of the bonds of communion, and never attempted to appoint rival bishops to Eastern dioceses. Where Rome does appoint an apparently “overlapping” bishop, the appointment is in fact limited so that it doesn’t actually overlap; Fouad Twal, for example, is the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins. Or else – we’re talking the period of the crusades here – Rome purports to depose the Orthodox patriarch before appointing its own. And that deposition would not be necessary if the Orthodox partriarch, despite not being in communion, were not in Roman eyes the true existing pastor of the church of Jerusalem.

      Breach of communion may be grounds for excommunication or deposition or other canonical action which would result in a bishop being removed from office. But it doesn’t of itself have that effect. If – heaven forbid – Rome needs to replace the Archbishop of Melbourne for heresy or schism, it must either wait for the schismatic archbishop to die, or else depose him.

  8. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Unfortunately, whatever fanciful doctrine may attach to it, the local bishop is middle management. He is appointed by, and submits his resignation to, his superior, the pope. The model is entirely hierarchical, not familial. A local church resolving an issue like the one under discussion is about as likely in the RCC or the EO as a bishop being chosen according to the criteria Paul gave Timothy, that one who cannot manage his own family cannot be trusted to manage the family of God.

  9. Terra says:

    Peregrinus – The reasons for Rome’s inaction in these cases lies in the history and politics of the period. There is certainly no canonical reason why the bishops in question couldn’t have been transferred to the nether nether and replaced, and there are precedents for rival bishops going back to the Arian crisis. And for Rome appointing catholic bishops in places where Orthodox ones are also in place.

    Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s 1992 note on this subject states that:

    “The Bishop is a visible source and foundation of the unity of the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral ministry(55). But for each particular Church to be fully Church, that is, the particular presence of the universal Church with all its essential elements, and hence constituted after the model of the universal Church, there must be present in it, as a proper element, the supreme authority of the Church: the Episcopal College “together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him”(56). ”

    The fundamental issue is how much autonomy the local church has – is there a hierarchical relationship to Rome, or does the local church as you argue come first? Personally I subscribe to the one, holy, catholic church. As the CDF note says:

    “From the Church, which in its origins and its first manifestation is universal, have arisen the different local Churches, as particular expressions of the one unique Church of Jesus Christ. Arising within and out of the universal Church, they have their ecclesiality in it and from it. Hence the formula of the Second Vatican Council: The Church in and formed out of the Churches (Ecclesia in et ex Ecclesiis)(44), is inseparable from this other formula: The Churches in and formed out of the Church (Ecclesia in et ex Ecclesiis)(45)…. Every member of the faithful, through faith and Baptism, is inserted into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. He or she does not belong to the universal Church in a mediate way, through belonging to a particular Church, but in an immediate way, even though entry into and life within the universal Church are necessarily brought about in a particular Church… In this sense, without impinging on the necessary regulations regarding juridical dependence(47), whoever belongs to one particular Church belongs to all the Churches; since belonging to the Communion, like belonging to the Church, is never simply particular, but by its very nature is always universal(48). “

    • Peregrinus says:

      The reasons for Rome’s inaction in these cases lies in the history and politics of the period. There is certainly no canonical reason why the bishops in question couldn’t have been transferred to the nether nether and replaced. . .

      Sure. Obviously this will always be highly political. My point is, though, that until they were transferred (or deposed, or whatever) they remained the bishops of their respective dioceses. They did not cease to be such purely because they were no longer in communion with Rome. And, while the “history and politics of the period” may account for Rome’s decision to proceed to deposition speedily, or slowly, or (very often) not at all, it doesn’t create the need for deposition. The need to depose a bishop of X (indeed, the possibility of deposing the bishop of X) only arises if he is, in fact, the bishop of X in the first place.

      I think the fundamental ecclesiological reality is neatly illustrated by this fact: Rome never denied the legitimacy of the bishops who accepted the supremacy of Elizabeth. And this was certainly not out of diplomatic or political caution, given that they denied the legitimacy of Elizabeth herself, with (foreseeable) terrible consequences for the Catholic remnant in England.

      (Interestingly, the picture that seems to emerge is that Rome only moves to deposition and replacement if it thinks that the local church, or at least a significant proportion of it, will accept this. After all, the communion of the universal church does not depend solely on the bishops being in communion with the bishop of Rome; it depends equally on the faithful being in communion with their bishop. Hence, I think, the different approaches in England and Ireland. In England the reality that Rome accepted was that the great bulk of the English church, if they had to choose, were going to adhere to bishops appointed by the crown over those appointed by Rome. There were recusants, but not enough of them, so England became in effect mission territory. Whereas in Ireland (after some initial hesitation) Rome systematically appointed “rival bishops” as dioceses (in its view) fell vacant. I think this also points to the primary relationship of the bishop being with his church; if there isn’t a local church of X whose members are constituted by their communion with the bishop, in what meaningful sense can someone be appointed to be the Bishop of X?)

      . . . and there are precedents for rival bishops going back to the Arian crisis. And for Rome appointing catholic bishops in places where Orthodox ones are also in place.

      I’d be interested to know more. My belief is that the appointment of a “rival bishop” always follows either the deposition of the schismatic bishop, or some argument that he isn’t truly the bishop which does not depend simply on his being in schism.

  10. Terra says:

    I think we may be arguing semantics here Peregrinus – the quote from the document from CDF makes it clear that to be in communion with Rome is a necessary condition for a local Church to be a full, undamaged local Church.

    That said it is not up to individuals to just decide that a bishop (or anyone else) is not in communion – it has to be formally declared. And even if the bishop himself announces that he is in schism (say the English case), he doesn’t cease to be a bishop (since by virtue of his ordination he is one regardless of what he is bishop of) – he may however automatically forfeit his office as bishop of a particular diocese (depending on canon law at the relevant time). Whether Rome decides to nominally or actually put someone in his place is a tactical decision, not a theological one.

    And there are plenty of bishops (for example in the Vatican) who have titular sees that are in effect virtual, with no actual people.

    The English and Irish case I think represents some interesting tactical decisions – bishops ordained under the old regime clearly had valid orders. So formally deposing them would have been ineffective given the politcal situation. But the new prayer books (and 39 articles etc) changed the ordination ritual so that Anglicans lost valid orders, perhaps the rationale for the Irish replacements.

  11. William Tighe says:

    On Peregrinus vs Terra:

    There are examples and counter-examples. In Sweden, for instance, when the pro-Danish Archbishop of Uppsala, Gustav Trolle (d. 1535), was driven out in 1521, the Uppsala cathedral chapter in 1523 selected Johannes Magnus (1488-1544) as archbishop, but he refused to be consecrated until the papacy had dealt with the case of Trolle (who had fled to Denmark and become a Lutheran, and who was to be killed at the climactic battle of the Danish civil war in 1535); and it was not until 1533 that the papacy declared Trolle deposed and the pope himself consecrated Magnus and recognized him as archbishop.

    By that time, however, King Gustav Vasa had rejected Magnus, and himself selected Laurentius Petri (1499-1573) as Archbishop of Uppsala, a position he retiened to his death. The pope, however, recognized Johannes Magnus as archbishop, and when the latter died in 1544 he appointed his brother, Olaus Magnus (1490-1557) as Archbishop of Uppsala.

    Anyone who cares to look through, and compare, the lists of “Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland from 1534” and “Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland from 1534” in *Handbook of British Chronology* ed. Sir Maurice Powicke and E. B. Fryde (1961 second edition) will see that the papacy in some instances began to provide bishops to some Irish sees in the 1560s, in some cases despite the existence of sitting bishops who had once been recognized by the papacy as Catholic bishops (but who had accepted the Royal Supremacy in or after 1560).

    Also, I think (but cannnot now find the references) that the Hebraist Richard Pates (d. 1565), who was Bishop of Worcester from 1555 to his deprivation for refusing the Royal Supremacy in 1559, and who, as English ambassador to Charles V from 1537, refused to return to England when ordered to do so in 1540, was made Bishop of Worcester by papal provision in 1541, succeeding therein Girolamo Cardinal Ghinucci, whom Henry VIII had appointed Bishop of Worcester in 1522, but who had been deprived of that see in 1535 for refusing to accept the Royal Supremacy.

  12. Terra says:

    Thanks for that info William – I think it suports my point that whatever the objective status of a bishop in the eyes of God (ie he may in effect no longer be in Office by virtue of heresy or schism), it is up to the Holy See how to declare this to be the case and tackle a particular situation in practice. But it clearly can and does on occasion put new bishops in to replace defectors from the faith if it chooses.

    And to bring this debate back to the original issue, the time for action seems to be now…

  13. Peregrinus says:

    I think we may be arguing semantics here Peregrinus – the quote from the document from CDF makes it clear that to be in communion with Rome is a necessary condition for a local Church to be a full, undamaged local Church.

    I think it’s more than semantics. Of course the local church is damaged and degraded by not being in communion with Rome. No disagreement there. But it remains, at least presumptively, still the local church, and its bishop is still its bishop. If we have a bishop, and an assembly of the baptised in communion under his pastorate, then we have a church.

    I think the dual role of the pope can lead to confusion here. Up above, PE makes the point that “. . . the local bishop is middle management. He is appointed by, and submits his resignation to, his superior, the pope. The model is entirely hierarchical, not familial.” But, as we know, the pope’s role in appointing bishops is neither essential in principle, nor invariably found in practice. What really constitutes the Catholic church is not the fact that bishops of particular churches are appointed by the pope, but that they are in communion with the pope.

    I think the pope’s (or Rome’s) power to depose a bishop is like his power to appoint; it’s an exercise of jurisdiction or governing power. It’s not essential (as in, the pope doesn’t have to have such a jurisdiction), and it may be defined and delimited by practical realities.

    Basically, if the local church has ceased to be in communion with the pope, the pope cannot depose the bishop. He can purport to, but if the faithful remain in communion with their bishop and accept his pastorate, then he is still their bishop. In this situation the attempted deposition may call attention to the existence of a schism, or it may even provoke or crystallise one. It may lead to a division of the particular church into two churches, or accelerate a division which was already occurring. But what it will not do is cause the bishop to cease to be the bishop of his church.

    There’s an important point here; I am not saying that the pope will be unwise to depose the bishop of a church which will not accept the deposition; I am saying that he cannot do so (though his attempt to do so may have real and effective secondary consequences). The canonical jurisdiction, in other words, rests on the Eucharistic communion. Communion precedes jurisdiction

    That said it is not up to individuals to just decide that a bishop (or anyone else) is not in communion – it has to be formally declared.

    Yes. I would add to that the declaration recognises the reality that communion has been broken, and may also bring that reality to light. But it is not normatively the thing which breaks communion.

    ”The English and Irish case I think represents some interesting tactical decisions – bishops ordained under the old regime clearly had valid orders. So formally deposing them would have been ineffective given the politcal situation. But the new prayer books (and 39 articles etc) changed the ordination ritual so that Anglicans lost valid orders, perhaps the rationale for the Irish replacements.”

    Yes and no. The situation was obviously highly political. Deposition wasn’t always judged to be ineffective; some bishops were deposed, and this usually provoked or crystallised a split in the particular church. Most often, the Anglican particular church which resulted had a fairly nominal existence (in terms of numbers of faithful (obviously it had all the properties and revenues, or at least whatever the King hadn’t already grabbed.) and I think this points to Rome only attempting deposition where it is confident that the faithful are still in communion, in keeping with what I say above.

    I don’t think that changes to the ordination were the rationale for the Irish replacements. First, that rationale didn’t have the force then that it has today. Remember it wasn’t until the 1890s that we had definitive magisterial teaching on this subject (and that teaching surprised not a few at the time); no doubt the validity of the Edwardian ordinal was debated, but it certainly wasn’t the open-and-shut case that it later became. Secondly, to the extent that the rationale had any force, applied equally in Ireland and England. Yet depositions were far more common in Ireland than in England. Why? Because, I susggest, Irish particular churches tended to remain in communion with Rome when English particular churches did not. And thirdly, and most importantly, if you take the view that the Edwardian ordinal is fundamentally defective and the “bishops” ordained in accordance with it are not bishops at all, then no depositions are necessary. Most of the depositions we are talking about were of bishops ordained under the Roman ritual, e.g. Miler McGrath.


    “. . . the papacy in some instances began to provide bishops to some Irish sees in the 1560s, in some cases despite the existence of sitting bishops who had once been recognized by the papacy as Catholic bishops (but who had accepted the Royal Supremacy in or after 1560).”

    My point, thugh, is that this followed disciplinary proceedings and depositions. Acceptance of the royal supremacy did not, of itself, cause a bishop to vacate his see. This matters.

    “And to bring this debate back to the original issue, the time for action seems to be now…”

    Mmm. In general, where bishops are deposed (or, more usually, pressured to resign) it is not because of what they have done but because of what they are doing (or failing to do). Bishops are generally allowd to make mistakes, even serious ones, so long as they learn from them.

    I suppose, in keeping with what I say above, if a bishop;s past mistakes (and/or the perception that he hasn’t learnt from them) are sufficiently grave to disrupt his present</I. ability to shepherd his diocese, he should go. But – and this is where I came in – that has to be a decision in which the diocese, not Rome, has the primary role. It is the relationship of the faithful with their bishop that is in issue here – particularly on a matter like the response toclerical child abuse – not the relationshiop of the bishop to Rome.

    Hence, to the exent that the jurisdiction rests with Rome, I think the question Rome should be asking is not “do we like this guy?” but “has he fatally damaged his relationship with his people?”. And to answer that question they need to to a lot of open and humble listening, and a minimum of top-down teaching.

    And it also raises, for me at any rate, the question of whether Rome should have this jurisdiction, or at least whether Rome alone should have it. Let’s face it, Rome is not actaully best positioned to judge the bishop’s relationship with his diocese. The diocese knows far more about that than Rome ever will.

  14. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Well, another one down. Saw on CNN at lunch that John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne, resigned. Yeah, family, right. Fathers don’t get to resign, they are removed by the competent authorities, when they are really fathers and not some theologised over “father”. The Irish Times says the resignation is not related to the recent reports. Right. All coincidence. Meanwhile, back to the spin on what’s what re The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church. I’m sure the victims can’t wait to hear the latest “what the Church REALLY teaches”.

    • Peregrinus says:

      The Irish Times is correct. Magee’s resignation was not related to the recent Murphy report, which dealt only with the situation in the Archdiocese of Dublin, a diocese with which Magee has never had any connection and in which he never served in any capacity.

      Magee was the subject of a previous investigation into his own handling of sexual abuse in his own diocese, and of reports by the National Board for Child Protection (a church body) and the Health Services Executive (a state body). Both report were highly critical of affairs in the diocese, and of Magee personally. As a result he stood aside from his diocese in March 2009, and an administrator was appointed, some months before the Murphy report into affairs in Dublin was published. It has always been understood in Ireland that he would not be returning to his diocese. (From memory, one of the administrator’s first actions was to ask him not to preside at confirmations which he was already scheduled to celebrate, which I think is an indication of his current standing.)

      I think the delay in processing his resignation (and so making the appointment of a successor necessary) arose because of some doubt over whether the diocese – which is very small – was to continue, or be suppressed. It has been suggested that part of the problem in Ireland was the small size of many Irish dioceses, which makes it difficult for them to find adequate humand and financial resources to providing proper professional management.) The fact that his resignation has now been accepted may signal that Rome is close to a decision on the future of Cloyne (and perhaps other small dioceses ).

      • Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

        Well that’s a relief, it’s all about The Catholic Church The Catholic Church The Catholic Church, and clerical sexual abuse was not the main thing.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Your monomania is beginning to cloud your perception of reality, Terry. In my report I explicitly say that Magee stood down as a result of strong criticism of his handling of clerical sexual abuse allegations. Only in the alternative universe of Terry Maher can that be understood as a claim that “clerical sexual abuse was not the main thing”.

          It’s only “all about The Catholic Church The Catholic Church The Catholic Church” becuase to you, Terry, [i]everything[/i] is all about the Catholic Church. You should try to get out more!

        • Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

          Read the black, not the white, dude. Clerical sexual abuse is not primarily about clerics, but about the victims of their sexual abuse.

          Not a word about them. Just who stepped down because of what, or whether one should or should nor step down because of this or anything, what it is to step down, who has stepped down and for what in the past, this report, that report — The Catholic Church The Catholic Church The Catholic Church, and then, classic projection, anyone who points that “monomania” out must be monomaniacal, therefore whatever they have to say is dismissed.

          Ad hominem is a classic on this blog. Even those on the same side see it. Mr Kellmeyer’s recent appearance being an example — he may not be my cup of tea either, but he saw that and withdrew himself, and he’s a postconciliar “Catholic” too. Brian, with whom I don’t agree either, gets the same all the time.

          • Peregrinus says:

            Terry, we’re in a thread on removing bishops, and David’s post makes it perfectly clear in the very first paragraph that we’re talking about removing bishops because of how they have handled sex abuse cases.

            In that thread you put in a post about John Magee resigning from the Diocese of Cloyne. Fair enough, given the topic of the thread. But in your post you said nothing at all about the reasons for his resignation apart from an arch hint that it was as a result of the Murphy Report. This was completely wrong. (I didn’t dismiss what you said because it was monomanic; I dismissed it because it was demonstrably factually wrong, and I gave considerable detail on that point. Don’t add victim complex to monomania!)

            You said nothing about the victims of Magee’s actions– probably wisely, given that you apparently had no idea what his actions were.

            In fact, in none of your contributions to this thread have you said anything about clerical sexual abuse or its victims. It doesn’t leave you well positioned to complain that others are focussing on the clerics, and saying nothing about the victims. does it?

            Look, this thread is about the removal of bishops for their woeful response to sex abuse; we wouldn’t be having the discussion if it wasn’t common ground among us that sex abuse is a dreadful crime which causes appalling suffering to innocent victims, that the church has a problem both with the occurrence of sex abuse and with the institutional response to sex abuse, and that its response on the whole has been woefully and sinfully inadequate. If we did not feel that the bishops had grievously erred, why would we be talking about removing them?

            You, however, seem to interpret the fact that we talk about removing bishops as evidence that we care about bishops, but not about children (though, I assume, you don’t think that stricture applies to you when you participate in the discussion).

            Once again, I can’t but feel that you are allowing your agenda to cloud your judgment. It’s precisely because we find the failure to address sex abuse adequately to be revolting that we talk about how we should deal with the bishops who failed.

          • Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

            Nice spin. Right up there with the old “he resigned to spend more time with his family” in the non-celibate non-clarical corporate world.

            What is said in the first paragraph is made clear in the second — which is to dismiss all objections to the pope not having removed errant “bishops” by an ad hominem, namely, not addressing that objection at all but saying those who so object can be dismissed because on other issues they allegedly object that the pope interferes too much so therefore this is really about hanging the pope out to dry since he has here not interfered too much in the affairs of the “local church”.

            No I do not find that expressive of a common ground of concern about a problem, this or any other, but a common ground I do not share that come what may the Catholic Church cannot ever have been fundamentally wrong therefore it was not ever fundamentally wrong, a common ground that the Catholic Church is first, last and always, and no further discussion or action is possible unless or until that is primary.

            That is the way the mentality espoused on this blog handles everything. That is what “sentire cum ecclesia” means in that mentality, which, as Mr Kellmeyer in his own way pointed out, is not particularly characteristic of the way one “thinks with the church” within Romanitas. His manner aside, the appearance and treatment here of one who promotes the same postconciliar agenda and not some alleged betrayal of it for an elusive “spirit” thereof, was quite an eye opener.

            What you apparently mistake as monomania is the fact that I have only one message here, which is, not Lutheranism, but Catholicism, which on any subject taken up here is decidedly not Catholicism as the Catholic Church first taught me, but a rather fawning adulation for what it later taught me, which, being a different message, I left because at the time I believed the first.

            Mr Kellmeyer believes the second, and while I would disagree with him as much as here as to whether the first and the second are the same, just as in a different arena I would disagree with Brian re what Vatican II was all about and expect they would disagree with each other, nonetheless all three points of view encounter exactly the same response from the mentality expoused here as “thinking with the church”.

            Put another way, it is not only my message that the church with which this blog proposes to think is not the Catholic Church, but also different messages that while yes it is the Catholic Church this is not what it is to think with it, that here attain no audience whatever against the drumbeat of The Catholic Church The Catholic Church The Catholic Church rather in the manner that a foreigner with a decided accent whose newfound allegiance solves problems in the old country tries to be more native than the natives, some of whom themselves reveal a similar adulation.

            Interference was also misspelled but hey.

  15. Terra says:

    Peregrinus – The Pope’s appointment of bishops is indeed an exercize of jurisdiction – one he can delegate (for example to a local group of electors), but one that nonetheless remains his.

    The key point is that one can’t be a member of a local church unless one is a member of the universal church, local churches do not exist in splendid isolation. Modern sensibilities in recent years have come up with fudge terms like ‘damaged’ communion, but the reality is that heresy and schism remain serious sins in the code of canon law (and objectively), and if you cut yourself off from the Church through them, you should not objectively be exercizing office (as the current code makes clear, you are automatically excommunicated, though acts of jurisdiction made before or even after a formal declaration of excom will still generally be valid if illicit – viz the ordinations of the sspx bishops).

    Of course the Church must protect herself by formal declarations of this (in the event the person concerned does not accept the objective facts) – presumptions in favour of its official acts are the only way an institituion can sensibly operate. But let’s not confuse that with the objective reality, such as leading a flock out of communion with the church, that a bishop must answer to God for.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Hi Terra

      Bishops were being selected and appointed before popes ever got in on the act. Far from the jurisdiction to appoint bishops being an inherently Roman one which popes have at various times and places delegated to local groups of electors, the traffic has been the other way – historically, the jurisdiction of appointing bishops has gradually shifted towards Rome, not away from it. And there are still existing many dioceses whose bishops have never been appointed by Rome – Coptic, Oriental and Orthohodox dioceses being the obvious examples.

      If, when you say that “one can’t be a member of a local church unless one is a member of the universal church”, you mean that, e.g., the Church of Constantinople is not a local church, then I have do disagree. It is a local church; just one which, tragically, is not in communion with Rome.

      Yes, heresy anch schism cut one off from the church and incur automatiic excommunication. But excommunication does not exclude one from the church. A Catholic who is excommunicated is not an ex-Catholic; he is a Catholic who is subject to the canonical penalty of excommunication (with the result that, as occasionally happens, the penalty of excommunciation can be applied to him again, for a second infringement, even while the first penalty remains in force – something that would be conceptually impossible if the first excommunication worked to exclude him from the church).

      What causes you to ceasse being a Catholic is not being excommunicated, but ceasing to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome (a communion normatively found through communion with one’s local bishop, who is in communcion with the bishop of Rome).

      Right. So the Bishp of Winchester (say) publicly accepts the Royal Supremacy, and so ceases to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome. The church of Winchester, by and large, accepts his action, continues to accept his ministry, oversight and jurisdiction and remains in communion with him. As a resuilt they, too, cease to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

      This is a serious, serious problem, bu tit does not mean that they thereby cease to be a bishop and a church respectively. The bishp remains a bishop and, furthmore, as the bishop who shepherds and oversees the church of Winchester, he remains the Bishop of Winchester.

      As events unfold, that could change. The bishop might be deposed, for example. Even if this doesn’t happen, his successors, we might argue, are not bishops, since they are not validly and apostolically ordained. (This is not because they have accepted the royal supremacy, though, but because they have used the Edwardian ordinal.) In those events, the church of Winchester ceases to be a church in the true sense, since it is no longer grouped around a bishop.

      But,. crucially, what causes the extinction of the episcopacy of Winchester and the disintegration of its church is not the want of communion with Rome, but the subsequent want of a sacramentally ordained bishop. And we can see other schisms – e.g. the Eastern Schism, the Polish National Catholic Schism – wherer that second factor never arose. There is no doubt that, from a Catholic perspective, those churches, though schismatic, are true churches, led by true bishops, the want of communion with Rome notwitstanding.

  16. Terra says:

    Peregrinus – The primacy of the jurisdiction of Peter (and his successors) is de fide (of the faith, something we must believe)! How it has been exercised (or not exercised) in practice at various times and places is a different issue. And that the individual bishop receives his pastoral power from the Pope is at least highly probably according to the good Dr Ott, citing Pius XII Mystici Corporis.

    Dr Ott also suggests that membership of the Church requires baptism and not beng separated from the unity of confession of the faith and lawful communion with the Church (see Mystici Corporis). The current Code of Canon Law provides a similar definition.

    I know there is a lot of fluffy language in Vatican II and later documents that fudges around this, but I think the interpretation in the light of a hermaneutic of continuity is clear.

    But as I’ve said before the real issue we are suposed to be debating here is criteria for which bishos should be asked to resign (or pushed out forcibly). Not an easy question at the moment, as we do need some bishops left!

    • Peregrinus says:

      “But as I’ve said before the real issue we are supposed to be debating here is criteria for which bishops should be asked to resign (or pushed out forcibly). Not an easy question at the moment, as we do need some bishops left!”

      Good point. You’ve been manfully struggling to to drag this conversation back to where it should be, which is the circumstances in which bishops should be turfed, rather than the question of who should do the turfing.

      The issue here is not clerical sex abuse – a bishop who has engaged in sex abuse should go; we don’t need to spend too much time on that – but the institutional response to clerical sex abuse.

      A great deal of time and effort has been devoted in some quarters to trying to prove conspiracies, plans, strategies, an explicit policy of protecting the institution instead of the people, and to searching for a smoking gun which will prove complicity and direction at the Very Top – or perhaps I should say at the +Very +Top.

      I think this is misconceived. I doubt that there is or was an explicit conscious plan, imposed from the top, of protecting the reputation and the funds and the organisation at the expense of victims. But what we do have, again and again and again, in a pattern far too consistent to be coincidence, is bishop after bishop, in different dioceses in different countries across the world, apparently autonomously taking decisions which reflect those priorities.

      This doesn’t require a formal plan or strategy to explain it; it can be explained by culture. I think what we are looking at is a culture of clericalism, in which “the church” is confused with the clergy and the dioceses and the religious orders and the parish churches and the convents and all the material resources, tangible and intangible, which are employed in the mission of the church. And if people live in such a culture and absorb it and are sustained by it, then they don’t need to be told to act so as to protect the reputation and assets of the institution to which they are already devoting their lives; it will be natural to them to do so.

      Right. So we come now to Bishop Martin Drennan, whom I mentioned in my earlier post. As I said, he is one of five bishops serving in the Irish church who was an auxiliary bishop of Dublin during the period covered by the Murphy Report, and the only one not to have offered his resignation so far. What I didn’t say, and what is relevant here, is that he isn’t criticised in the Murphy Report. In the Murphy Report, he features in only one of the cases examined, referring a priest for counselling after concerns had been expressed about the priest’s “inappropriate behaviour which gave rise to concern” – basically, too much interest in spending time with “fit young men” and transgressing emotional boundaries. In that instance the police and the social services authorities were both notified about the concerns expressed. The police investigated but found no evidence of any criminal activity. (Nor did any of the complaints allege criminal acts.) The outcome of the assessment process was that the priest was withdrawn from ministry, laicised and provided with financial assistance to retrain for a new career. The conclusion of the Murphy Report was that “the Archdiocese acted correctly in immediately addressing the concerns and suspicions in this case. It did everything possible to assist Fr [name disguised] to address the issues of concern and, when it was clear that a limited ministry was not possible, it helped him to get started on another career.”

      So what’s the problem? Why does anyone want Bishop Drennan to resign?

      The problem is this: The Murphy Report examined only a statistical sample of the reported abuse cases in the archdiocese. This particular one occurred in 2002/03, by which time the archdiocese had become a great deal better in its response to complaints and concerns. But this is not necessarily an exhaustive account of all Bishop Drennan’s involvement in sexual abuse matters; he could have been involved in many others which happen not to be among the selection examined in the Report; we don’t know.

      The object of the Murphy Report was not to “convict”, or to “acquit”, any particular bishop, but to look at the response of the institution as a whole. And on that front the report of the Commission was damning:

      “The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities over much of the period covered by the Commission’s remit. The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up . . . The welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages. Instead the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of the institution and of what the institution regarded as its most important members – the priests.”

      If we accept this, it points to a culture of clericalism which is basically rotten. And, it follows, those in positions of leadership responsible for the formation and maintenance of such a culture are all, to varying degrees, complicit. Maybe a particular bishop did not himself cover up a particular case of child abuse; perhaps we can’t even show that he studiously examined his shoelaces while other bishops did so. But we do know that he was at the summit of a culture of clericalism which facilitated and encouraged that.

      In short, the problem for Bishop Drennan is not that he personally is known to have covered up particular instances of sex abuse by priests , but that he personally occupied a senior position in an organisation which systematically covered up sex abuse by priests. And, if the challenge for us as a church is to break that culture down and build a new one, true to the gospel, we may feel that the men who can best lead us through that are not those who have a record of accommodation to the old, diseased culture.

    • Schütz says:

      I will get into trouble with the good Cardinal here, but we here at SCE do not have a high opinion of Dr Ott. I know some people love him dearly, but he has no magisterial authority, and sometimes he completely misinterprets the magisterial tradition. His works suffers – at the very least – from being out of date. Mystici Corporis is good and great and continues to be true and valid, but so is Lumen Gentium, which builds upon Pius XII’s encyclical, and to which the good Dr didn’t have access. If you want a compendium of the Catholic faith, I suggest that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more dependable than Ott. Furthermore, on this ‘ere blog, we regard the constitutions, decrees and declarations of the Second Vatican Council as authentic statements of Catholic magisterium: as meat and three veg for today’s Catholics, NOT “fudge”.

  17. Terra says:

    My point is that LG and other VII documents need to be interpreted in the light of the tradition, not in isolation.

    Personally I like Dr Ott, but even if one argues with some of his individual interpretations his work has the wonderful virtue of absolute clarity, something sadly lacking in most more recent tomes.

    The CCC is fine as far as it goes, but suffers from three problems. One is a tendancy to waffle, the second is avoidance of some key issues which leaves things open to interpretation when perhaps they shouldn’t be., and the third a bit of fudgin here and there.

    The Compendium of the CCC does go some way to addressing these problems (see for example on Church membership 162&163 which makes it clear that the Church ‘subsists in’ the Catholic Church, and other Churches and communities [merely] have elements of sanctification and truth rather than its fullness.

    The definition of the particular Church (167) is also the one I have been using and of which Peregrinus might take note.

    But here is the problem – what does 168’s (who belongs to the Church) description of ‘imperfect communion’ really mean? It’s this kind of fudging (and I do think that is the right word) that has led to multiple interpretations of what the purpose of ecumenism is for example, and finally led the Holy Father to his recent attempts to clarify this and state clearly that full membership of the Church must be the real goal (as it always has been traditionally).

    Of course, neither he nor the CCC have actually spelt out the consequences of not being in full communion with the Church, which must surely be a lesser chance of achieving salvation due to the absence of access to confession and the sacraments, or to the fullness of truth…

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