Card. Egan transfers 10% of priests: settling scores or clearing the deck

This is in from the NYT:

A Sudden Transfer of 40 Priests Brings Egan Unrest From Within

By DAVID GONZALEZ
Published: May 21, 2008

Cardinal Edward M. Egan has reassigned almost 10 percent of the active priests in the Archdiocese of New York without adequately consulting the personnel board that has traditionally advised him and his predecessors, according to members of the board and other clergy familiar with the developments.

While canon lawyers said the cardinal was not bound to consult with the six-member board, two of its members said that the number of transfers in the last three to six weeks was so unusual and damaging to morale that the board sent him a letter on Monday requesting a meeting to discuss how priests are being reassigned. Forty priests are involved, out of about 470 active Diocesan priests.

“This is 10 percent of the diocese, and that is monumental,” said one priest familiar with the transfers. “There is nothing like this before. I am a priest in one of the major dioceses of this country, and they cannot put together a fact sheet to tell us what is going on right now. I’m getting news of this through phone calls, rumors and e-mails. It is unprofessional.”

News of the moves — which started circulating among local priests over the weekend — was seen by various priests as either a much-needed shift, a settling of scores or last-minute changes before the cardinal leaves his current post. Although he is 76, one year past the mandatory age to submit for retirement, the Vatican has yet to name his successor.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said in a statement that of the 40 transfers, 10 were decided directly by the cardinal in response to “particular pastoral needs,” as provided for under personnel guidelines. He also contested the assertions of critics, saying that the 30 other transfers were “based on the recommendations of the board.” The moves go into effect July 1.

He said that six more appointments would soon be decided.

“In the coming weeks, the personnel board will be making recommendations to the cardinal about six pastors; and, as usual, their recommendations will be carefully considered,” Mr. Zwilling said in a statement.

Almost no one interviewed for this story would speak without anonymity. Many of them said they were reluctant to risk running afoul of the cardinal.

Interviews with nine priests — including several who have served in significant administrative roles under previous archbishops — revealed continued dissatisfaction with the cardinal’s management style. They said Cardinal Egan had not only disregarded the personnel board in recent years, but had also failed to provide any guidance on how to handle the transition for those priests and congregations affected by the transfers.

Many priests said that had ultimately affected morale — a precious commodity among an increasingly aging and overworked clergy.

“There are some priests who are hurting right now and are devastated,” said one priest who has been fielding calls from colleagues. “And no one is officially reaching out to them. That I emphatically know. There is no outreach right now.”

Calls to three pastors known to have been reassigned were not returned. Another declined to comment, saying he hoped to appeal the decision. Some of the pastors — who under church rules are assigned to six-year terms — were reassigned before their term was up. It is unclear how many of them have informed their congregations of the moves.

Some of the priests interviewed said several of the moves were overdue in the case of long-serving pastors or necessary to make room for newly ordained priests. Still, many priests noted that in recent years, Cardinal Egan had ended the practice of sending notices of parish openings to all clergy who might either be interested or know of someone who would be good for the job.

In previous years, the board would review applicants for each job and send to the archbishop a list of three names with reasons favoring each one, said Msgr. Thomas P. Leonard, the pastor of Holy Trinity Church on the Upper West Side, who was involved in personnel decisions under Cardinal Terence Cooke. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, he chose one of the three.”

Two canon lawyers, in New York and Washington, said church law did not oblige the cardinal to consult with the personnel board, which was advisory in nature. And the cardinal, they said, is also free to reassign pastors before their terms ended if there is a pressing need elsewhere or if the priest in question agrees to the move.

One priest who is active in regional pastoral matters said the current moves would do little to ease the challenge faced by the dwindling number of local clergy. In addition to the active Diocesan priests, there are also priests belonging to other religious orders who run Roman Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese.

“They have not faced the strategic issue of priests in parishes,” said this priest, who spoke on the condition of anonymity since he was not authorized by the Archdiocese to speak on the transfers. “This is putting out fires. I guess they’re waiting for the next guy to go in to develop a strategic plan.”

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40 Responses to Card. Egan transfers 10% of priests: settling scores or clearing the deck

  1. Padre Steve says:

    While the visit of the Holy Father was a blessing to the Archdiocese for sure, it is clear that they need a lot more than that to reunify the clergy and their superiors. New York is important to the Catholic life all around the country. Let’s pray that healing will come about soon so that they can move forward. God bless! Padre Steve

  2. Prof. Basto says:

    I’m not from the US, and don’t know the people concerned, but: if the NYT is putting a bad spin on the Cardinal’s move, he must have done something good!

    Now, seriously, what’s wrong with the local Ordinary exercising his authority of Government in accordance with Canon Law over the priests and faithful commited to his care?

    Is the Church a democracy? No. And it shouldn’t be. That’s the constitution willed by the Lord. The Diocesan Bishop is the one with the gifts of episcopal consacration – and the one appointed by the Holy See – to lead his flock.

    Now, there is a crisis in the Church. A crisis of obedience, of effective pastoral action, observance of the Laws and liturgical rubrics, of proper catechesis, etc. If the Bishop cannot move his priests arround, how then can he be expected to command obedience? Imagine if the Pope could not move the Bishops from their offices. His authority would be greatly impaired in the practical level. . Probably, those who oppose this move want to “neutralize” the Cardinal, and so maintain the present “status quo” in the Archdiocese of New York. How, then, can we expect things to improve. If the clergy needs reformation, how can this can be done if representatives from the clergy that needs to be reformed sit on a board that ties the Bishop’s hand?

    So, I tend to see structures such as “personnel boards” as an attempt to “steal”/”hijack” the canonical power of Governance that belongs to the Diocesan bishop. An advisory body is an advisory body and should’t attempt to claim power that is not proper to it. Otherwise, the structure of government intended by the sacred canons is lost in favour of something else not recognized by the Law of the Church.

    Christ instituted an Apostolic Succession, but created no personnel boards. Who are the people that make up the personnel board, anyway? I bet they are not appointed either by the See of Rome or by the Bishop, but are instead “representatives” of the lower clergy, as if the Church was a democracy. They want to advise, that is fine. But they cannot complain when the Bishop monocratically exercises a power that is proper to him and decides on his own.

    Except when canon law otherwise directs, the Bishop, Successor to the Apostles, is the governor of his diocese, and is not bound to consult anyone, much less his subjects. He is to be obeyed and respected. That’s the promise made on Ordination, right? So, I see this as an usurpation of the episcopal power of governance by those who want to maintain some sort of status quo .

  3. credo says:

    Could you comment on this, Fr.? i don’t know what to think about it… this is a new happening in my short life as a Catholic.

  4. Fr. Kowalski says:

    Kudos to Prof. Basto! I concur wholeheartedly. I’m sorry some priests are upset at being moved without their input, but these things happen. I’ve had it happen to me in my life as priest, and one gets over it. I know it sounds harsh and I apologize, but that’s just the way it is. I’ll pray for them all and especially for Cardinal Egan.

  5. Garrett says:

    It’s funny how this review board acts as if it has a right to make or influence the decisions made about transferring priests. It is a [i]privilege[/i] granted unto it, and it can be taken away, I imagine, or the board can simply be ignored.

    Unless these six board members are unknown auxiliary bishops of the diocese, then what they say really shouldn’t matter that much.

    I know that necessity probably demands these sorts of review boards’ existence in Church today, but I still can’t help but see it as a blurring of the rights belonging to the episcopal dignity.

  6. pdt says:

    Permitting folks to find out about the moves through rumor, if true, is certainly not the best way to go about things, but sometimes can’t be helped. I doubt that it’s the cardinal starting the rumors, but the apparatchiks around him who leave him only the blame.

    On the other hand, if pastoral assignments are 6 years in length, it seems that about 16% of the priests should be moving each year. And that’s not a bad way to avoid the ‘cult of personality’ that seems to be the cause of many problems in the Church these days.

  7. Chironomo says:

    This is strange coming at this time… there have been rumblings in my Diocese that a similar event is on the verge of being announced by the end of May, re-assigning a large number of Pastors and Priests. Although they are just rumors at this time, I have heard it said by three different sources, all of them well enough placed in the Diocese to know about such things. Unlike New York, there is no “time-limit” on Pastors, and a signifiant number in this Diocese have served as Pastor at their parish for 20+ years. This would be unprecedented here as well. We have a new Bishop here, having only served for not yet two complete years at this point.

  8. Cerimoniere says:

    Canon law does not allow ordinaries an unfettered power to remove pastors from office, nor has it ever.

    I gathered from one article I read about this that pastors in New York are appointed for six-year terms. Is that really true, and how does that cohere with the Code’s provisions, which seem to presuppose that a pastor’s appointment is stable, and that he can be removed only for cause? Or does New York simply not have pastors at all, in the sense in which that term is used in the Code?

    If these pastors really are pastors in the canonical sense, it’s unclear where the process of removal now stands. Are these letters from the Cardinal the “propose and persuade” ones mentioned by Canon 1748? Or has he actually decreed the parishes vacant from a date certain, as in Canon 1751 (1), but without going through the process prescribed by the Code?

  9. TNCath says:

    I have found this not be an unusual occurrence. Just before Bishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Memphis was transferred to Indianapolis as Archbishop in 1992, he transferred many longtime pastors of parishes and their associates. He personally visited the pastors and had the associates line up outside his office to get their new assignments. For Memphis, given its small size, it was closer to 40% of its priests that were moved. Settling the scores or clearing the deck? Probably a combination of both. However, one longtime pastor of a parish flat out refused to be moved. He remained as pastor of his parish until HE decided to retire, long after Buechlein was gone.

  10. Brian Day says:

    In the Diocese of Orange in California, the norm is that pastors are given a six year term with the option by the Bishop for an additional six years. Parochial Vicars get a three year term and are almost always re-assigned after three years. The transfer date is always 1-July unless for just cause (death, illness, etc.). So a 10% move rate would be very low in my diocese.

    I think that the NYT is spinning this as a lot worse than it really is.

  11. Michael says:

    I still vividly remember the shock I felt as a young boy when I found out that the Priest I was visiting was in the shower. Priests, I thought, didn\’t do such mundane things! Maybe I still have an unrealistic (?) image of Priests, but I do not understand how this affects morale, especially of those Priests that are not being transferred. Unless the transfers were vindictive or punitive (and there is no evidence that this is the case), why would a Priest be worried at all if another Priest were transferred to meet particular pastoral needs?

  12. Farther V. says:

    I’ve been serving for four years in my first parish assignment (after ordination) as parochial vicar or asst. pastor and I haven’t heard that I will be transferred this coming May or June.

  13. Larry says:

    The mixing of the corporate model with the Church model is bound to cause some upset. Doubtless events like this took place long before personnel boards and doubtless there was sorrow on the part of those affected both the priests and the laity. But going out and bellowing about it is the wrong attitude for the clergy. It is good that the people directly involved (the priests themeselves) have not spoken out in a public fashion. Hopefully they will remain silent and pray to the Lord for the grace of humility to accept this burden. More often than not they will grow in their new position. We should always pray for our priests in every diocese. I know that this type of move is very hard to take even in the corporate world so my symapthy and prayers; but do as you are told and God will reward you>

  14. Father G says:

    I always thought it was the bishop who runs the diocese…I think that’s the way it works anyway and since when is the Church a democracy? And whatever happened to that thing about promising obedience the ordinary(or religious superior) and his successors? Oh yeah…that only applies when I’m consulted or if I get the richest parish and most palatial rectory in the diocese, along with a new car and a pay raise,etc…
    Ah yes…the wonderful springtime of Vatican II…NOT!

  15. RBrown says:

    The mixing of the corporate model with the Church model is bound to cause some upset.

    I don’t see the point.

    Doubtless events like this took place long before personnel boards and doubtless there was sorrow on the part of those affected both the priests and the laity.

    You sound naive about personnel boards. More than one priest has told me that if a priest has buddies on the board, the assignment will be good. If not, it’s pot luck.

    But going out and bellowing about it is the wrong attitude for the clergy. It is good that the people directly involved (the priests themeselves) have not spoken out in a public fashion. Hopefully they will remain silent and pray to the Lord for the grace of humility to accept this burden. More often than not they will grow in their new position. We should always pray for our priests in every diocese. I know that this type of move is very hard to take even in the corporate world so my symapthy and prayers; but do as you are told and God will reward you>
    Comment by Larry

    Why is sympathy needed? A pastor doesn’t have squatter’s rights.

  16. Tim Ferguson says:

    Ceremoniere, in accord with the complementary norms promulgated by the US Bishops Conference, and approved by the Holy See, “Individual ordinaries may appoint pastors to a six-year term of office. The possibility of renewing this term is left to the discretion of the diocesan bishop. the primary provision of c. 522 that pastors may be appointed for an indefinite period of time remains in force” (cf. http://www.usccb.org/norms)

    While I wish more bishops would appoint pastors with the permanence and stability that the Code envisions, they do have the right, in law, to appoint pastors for a six-year term. In addition, many bishops utilize their legitimate ability to appoint a priest not as a pastor, but ass a parish administrator. This they can do at will, and there’s not necessarily a set term of office for a parish administrator.

    There are certainly goods that need to be kept in balance here – the good of a diocesan bishop to moderate and organize the ministerial needs of his diocese as best as he sees fit; the right of ordained priests to a certain amount of stability in their lives; the good of healthy communication – including consultation – between bishops and their priests; the good of the faithful to stable pastoral care; the good of obedience to our hierarchical superiors.

    I don’t think a secular news source is going to do a solid job of keeping all these goods in balance – they’re just going for the scandal angle. Hopefully, the situation is not as dire as the press implies it is. Hopefully – if the situation is indeed dire – priests who feel themselves aggrieved by the actions of their archbishop will manfully take a stand and appeal to the Holy See in accord with the law, rather than merely grumble and gossip behind the scenes.

  17. Daniel Latinus says:

    I think part of the background of this is that Cardinal Egan is due to retire soon, and there are rumors that his successor will be announced in the not-too-distant-future.

  18. Cerimoniere says:

    Mr. Ferguson, many thanks for that. I wasn’t aware of these norms, and I certainly agree with your comments.

    Looking at the relevant norm, however, it doesn’t seem that there is a special process for transferring a pastor appointed for a fixed term. So, insofar as some of these priests are pastors whose six-year terms were not up, it would seem that the same process for transferring them applies, as for any other pastor. Clearly, as you say, those whose terms are up, and those who are not pastors (whether associates or administrators), should not be especially surprised to be moving.

  19. Jason says:

    Something is really wrong with this report… or at least missing. Going by what Atlanta has done for at least 15 years…

    In April the various priests/pastors are informed of their new jobs, with the option to appeal/request something else. They’re instructed to keep the information secret. Later, in May, the priests are allowed to mention where they are going privatly, the end of may/early june they can mention from the pulpit/ambo, and on/around June 14th, they move to their new assignment. Happens every year.

    This does throw people for a loop, because they usually get short notice (no bulletin announcements, etc). There is a board to help most bishops, but I would hope that their roll is advisory… As everyone has said, Cardinal Egan is perfectly within his rights to do this (but maybe not his practice, which may cause more people confusion).

    Methinks either the reporter for the NYT is missing a few key pieces of perspective.

  20. Tzard says:

    I don’t know about Church law in this regard – I wonder if the anonymity is a sign of who has the higher ground here.

    I do object to the corporatification of the Church – we’ve had far too much time of Bishops being chosen for their “management” skills, rather than their pastoring skills. I might be tempted to think it’s the reporter’s words about “management style”, but I know better. Such a viewpoint is common among priests and laity alike.

    In my view, if the pastor needs to move a sheep (even a lead sheep) to another part of the meadow, It’s not unexpected that he use his crozier to move that sheep along, even when the Sheep is not doing anything wrong, just being a sheep.

  21. JPG says:

    Living in the BPT diocese, my impression was that his Eminence was well liked by the clergy. I was not enthralled with his handling of the sex abuse scandal when here but this mess he may have inherited from Bp Curtis.
    He never struck me as being liturgically conservative. Far too often in this diocese one has the tabernacle off to the side or in a side chapel.
    Bp Lori is a very fine and well liked Bp by both clergy and laity alike. Although the clergy in New York may be accustomed to such collegiality It would seem that they serve at the bidding of the ordinary if not in his stead. This ancient dictum of I believe of Ignatius of Antioch recognizing the Eucharist offered by the bishop or his designate embodies this teaching. Also the priests pledge loyalty and obedience to the bishop and his successors at their ordinations thus such carping would seem out of place and inappropriate like the left wing looney toon group in Minnesota that could not deal with the bishop in Minnesota thus moved their “worship” ie abominations down the street. In the New York situation on the one hand I do not trust Egan on the other hand he is the Ordinary your duty as priest is to obey. The irksome thing was that attornies at the time argued that individual priests were individual contractorsat that the diocese bore no responsibilty for the individual’s behavior. In the light of Tradition this seemed at the time a bogus and false argument.
    JPG

  22. PubliusIII says:

    Why are you applauding, Professor Basto and Fr. Kowalski?
    Well the church isn’t a democracy, but neither should it be a tyranny.
    The norms for the US wherein a pastor is appointed for six years was,
    from my observation, put in to further increase the tyrannical power of
    the Ordinary. Heretofore, a pastor had real procedural and substantive
    rights. But these norms, destroyed these rights. Thus, the church was
    free to be run as the bishop\’s fief, and too often his lavender fief.
    The new norms have destroyed any sense of parochial stability and
    deprived priests of ever having a prospect where they could have the
    stability and independence to be a father to their flock. Egan has been
    pompous, uncharitable, and almost psychopathically egotistical since
    arriving here. He has run for cover so that the bully pulpit of the NY
    Archdiocese has gone silent. (There is significant circumstantial
    evidence that the press is giving him a free ride on various
    allegations- the least of which being hat he facilitated sexual abuse when bishop of Hartford- in return for him and the Church dropping out of sight. It
    seems that Egan felt he could take a higher public profile since he
    when the Holy Father was here because he knows he is about to go, and then he will probably retire to Rome to some palatial suite. Egan has been particularly
    known for railroading holy priests based on false accusations of
    sexual impropriety. The Dallas norms were yet another stage in the increasing the unfettered power of bishops. Egan’s other great legacy to the Church
    in New York will be that he closed more Churches during his tenure
    than all other his predecessors combined, and he did so by doing things like
    having little old ladies saying the rosary arrested, summonsing pastors
    to see him on Madison Avenue, while the police and diocesan flunkies
    change the locks on the rectory pending demolition. Dostoyevsky’s
    Inquisitor would appear to be a paragon of Christ-like virtue compared to Egan.

  23. I no longer see the point of getting involved in Catholic politics such as this. Discussing such politics seems below the dignity of being a lay person. We should be concerned with attending Mass, prayer, particularly the Rosary, and performing Acts of Charity. As Catholic laymen, these should be our concerns. The movement of priests from parish to parish should have little impact on attending Mass, prayer and performing Acts of Charity.

  24. Matt Q says:

    Publius wrote:

    “Well the church isn’t a democracy, but neither should it be a tyranny. The norms for the US wherein a pastor is appointed for six years was, from my observation, put in to further increase the tyrannical power of the Ordinary. Heretofore, a pastor had real procedural and substantive rights, but these norms, destroyed these rights. Thus, the church was free to be run as the bishop’s fief, and too often his lavender fief.

    The new norms have destroyed any sense of parochial stability and deprived priests of ever having a prospect where they could have the stability and independence to be a father to their flock. Egan has been pompous, uncharitable, and almost psychopathically egotistical since arriving here. He has run for cover so that the bully pulpit of the NY Archdiocese has gone silent. (There is significant circumstantial evidence that the press is giving him a free ride on various allegations–the least of which being hat he facilitated sexual abuse when bishop of Hartford–in return for him and the Church dropping out of sight.

    It seems that Egan felt he could take a higher public profile since he when the Holy Father was here because he knows he is about to go, and then he will probably retire to Rome to some palatial suite. Egan has been particularly known for railroading holy priests based on false accusations of sexual impropriety. The Dallas norms were yet another stage in the increasing the unfettered power of bishops. Egan’s other great legacy to the Church in New York will be that he closed more Churches during his tenure than all other his predecessors combined, and he did so by doing things like having little old ladies saying the rosary arrested, summonsing pastors to see him on Madison Avenue, while the police and diocesan flunkies change the locks on the rectory pending demolition. Dostoyevsky’s Inquisitor would appear to be a paragon of Christ-like virtue compared to Egan. ”

    )(

    First of all, it’s within in the bishops’ prerogative to move priests around. Advisory boards exist at the bishop’s pleasure but he is not obligated to answer to them.

    Secondly, we can’t even get these bishops to allow the Tridentine Masses to be said, so what do you think can be done about moving priests around?

    ==========

    Christopher Mandzok wrote:

    “I no longer see the point of getting involved in Catholic politics such as this. Discussing such politics seems below the dignity of being a lay person. We should be concerned with attending Mass, prayer, particularly the Rosary, and performing Acts of Charity. As Catholic laymen, these should be our concerns. The movement of priests from parish to parish should have little impact on attending Mass, prayer and performing Acts of Charity.”

    )(

    You have a very limited understanding of what it means to be the Laity in today’s Roman Catholic Church. The very topic of this discussion affects the lay Faithful in a very immediate way. Priests nowadays are so inconsistent in their theology, religiosity and love of Tradition and the Tridentine Mass, so that their moving about affects the laity in a very great manner.

  25. Joseph says:

    To the “interesting” responses.

    First off, no one address the “play the video at your next mixed party, then we can talk,” aspect. Cause you know you won’t. So the ad hominem’s begin. Weak.

    P hilarius, I’ve not heard as besmirched a comment on the internet, re: why prelates avoid the TLM. Just a wild association, and you have got to be joking here, right?

    Black statues are nice, wow, we have one whole black saint (St.M d P – [let’s not bring up obscure ones, please give me a break,] and he’s half white anyway)to represent 2000 years of Christendom.

    Angels are white, 99% of saints are white, Jesus is Scandinavian white as is His Mother, etc., (except when she’s Mexican) that is what an archeologist will certainly ascertain 1000 years from now as the ruins of our churches from the 2020 nuclear holocaust are dug up.

    Great message to black children.

    Lastly, the video, in itself, in no way heaps scorn on Hitler, just has “fun” with his image. The imaginitive leap to seeing in this anything approaching ridicule is truly unbelievable. Show it to a child, and see if that is their impression. Just completely reading what one wants to see, not ab honest take at all.

    We talk about people in this society who are desensitized by over exposure to something, like sex or violence or disrespect. This approaches that for me. I mean, Jeremaih Wright to me is a nut case, but his is that of a philosopher king compared to some of the rationalizing I detect here. Before you, again, accuse me of being irrational, or irascible, or “over the top” or some other character or mental deficiency, just answer the “party” question above. Then (based on an honest response) we’ll talk.

  26. Father Kowalski says:

    PubliusIII,
    First of all, dear child of God, it’s CARDINAL Egan, not just “Egan”, regardless of what you may think of him or his administration as the Ordinary of the Archdiocese of New York. All too often it seems that civility and manners go flying out the window the second we disagree with the individual. That’s just plain wrong.

    As to this “policy” of term limits [i.e., 6 years, etc.] I was surprised to still see this stuff around since I was under the impression back in the early 90’s that the Holy See specifically warned against dioceses employing this policy, something about it being contrary to Canon Law. I may very well be mistaken in this, but I do seem to remember that the Archdiocese of Newark, then under the direction of ARCHBISHOP McCarrick ceased this policy. In my diocese, this policy is not in use. So……. let’s all now just light a candle and take a breath and relax. Pax.

  27. Joseph says:

    Sorry about the misplace post here, happened when the site was reacting strangely to uploads.

  28. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    This whole situation reminds me of Otto Priminger’s glorious 1963 movie, “The Cardinal.” The story basically chronicles everything and anything that could happen to a priest throughout his life. For those who haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

    Nonetheless, there is a very moving scene towards the beginning of the movie when a certain newly-ordained Fr. Fermoyle has returned from Rome to Boston to begin working as a curate in a very afluent inner-city parish. While he was in Rome he worked closely with his seminary professor, Cardinal Quarenghi, who began forming Fr. Fermoyle into a bishop-to-be. Needless to say, the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Glennon, was not immediately impressed with all of Fr. Fermoyle’s talents.

    When Fr. Fermoyle wants to publish a book he has been writing (with Cardinal Quarenghi’s help) he approaches his Archbishop to get an imprimatur. The wise old Cardinal recognized the ambition in Fr. Fermoyle’s heart and decided on a whim to reassign Fr. Fermoyle to a very small and poor parish out in the middle of nowhere. Interestingly enough, though Fr. Fermoyle certainly felt such a decision was unjust, he instantly obeyed his Archbishop and took up his assignment – no questions asked.

    This reassignment for Fr. Fermoyle played a crucial part in the rest of his priesthood. He learned how to live without ambition or vanity from the saintly pastor he was ressasigned to. This resulted only because the Archbishop, in his wisdom as s successor to the Apostles, saw this particular and did what he had to do. He didn’t consult an advisory board or give Fr. Fermoyle the chance to appeal his decision. He was simply doing his duty as an Archbishop: to care for the souls of the priests and people in his Archdiocese – a task that belongs to none other than the Archbishop himself.

    My point in all of this is this: the priests in the Archdiocese of New York promised obedience to the Archbishop and his successors. They placed their hands in the hands of an Apostle and gave their lives and their wills away. Now of course this doesn’t mean that a priest should have to jump off a bridge just because their bishop told them to, but it does mean that he has to respect the legitimate authority given to his bishop from Almighty God through His Church. There is a real and beautiful relationship between a priest and his bishop. I really do think that the laity, other priests, or even other bishops are very much out of line to protest a bishop exercising his legitimate and canonical authority over his priests, even if he goes outside of the advisory board room walls to do.

    This all may sound naive coming from a 21 year old seminarian, but if I ever do (God-willing) make it to ordination, my solace in life will be that as I am watching over the people of God, my bishop will be watching over me – and I would be thoroughly upset if people outside our unique relationship would be questioning what he decides to do with me as a priest.

  29. Father Nicholas Schumm says:

    Often, obedience is more difficult than chaste celibacy! But, His Eminence must have heis reasons.

  30. Patrick Rothwell says:

    Everything you say is true, Anonymous Seminarian, but it is also the case, and I have known it to happen, that a bishop or his chancery places intolerable burdens on priests when it comes to the kind and number of assignments, and then (usually unintentionally) pulls the rug out from under the priests or otherwise sets them up for failure of one sort or another. (I’m being necessarily vague for a reason). The effect on morale is never good, and some priests pay dearly, sometimes for no good reason. It is very easy to say that the priests should obey without question. But it must be remembered that priests are human beings and, as human beings, can be easily crushed by bad assignments, bad reassignments, or even too many assignments. The ecclesiastical shaft, too, exists: priests do get hosed.

    Incidentally, I’ve heard rumors that something similar is afoot in Washington, though perhaps not to the extent of New York. I’ll wait and see before I pass judgment, but I sincerely hope that my pastor is not one of the transferees (I suspect not, but one never knows…)

  31. Comment by Matt Q:

    You have a very limited understanding of what it means to be the Laity in today’s Roman Catholic Church.

    Matthew, you should try to frame your statements without demeaning, baseless statements.

    I don’t agree with, “Priests nowadays are so inconsistent in their theology, religiosity and love of Tradition and the Tridentine Mass…” The statement means that even TLM loving priests are fickle to the TLM. This seems contradictory.

    From my experience, liberal priests stay liberal and traditionalist priest stay traditional. I do agree that movement of priests does have an impact on the laity. Movement of priests affected me directly, luckily in the positive. I had a traditionalist priest, but my Bishop brought in a liberal. I sought out a more traditional parish. However, I still believe that the main focus of the laity is Mass, prayer and Acts of Charity. A liberal or traditional priest has no direct effect upon your ability to accomplish the three tasks. In reference to my original thesis, I fail to see how involving oneself in Catholic politics has an positive impact on the laity attaining purgatory or heaven. Mass, prayer and Acts of Charity do.

  32. RBrown says:

    Publius,

    My understanding that the earlier practice often allowed pastors to stay in the same parish for years.

    I have mixed feelings about pastoral transfers. On the one hand, it undermines stability, which is much needed in unstable contemporary society.

    On the other hand, in the current situation pastors can make a parish their own fiefdom, ignoring the rights of the laity and associate pastors.

    My impression is that parishes with good pastors would rather they weren’t moved, and those with clunkers look forward to the possibility of a better priest as replacement.
    BTW, Cardinal Egan was in Bridgeport, not Hartford, before NY.

  33. Dominic says:

    What’s the big deal? A Bishop is supposed to appoint priests to the position he chooses. A priest is to obey. One hopes that the bishop has made his decisions wisely and prayerfully. A decision that may appear unwise or even unfair can may be entirely according to the will of God. Priests should not be careerists. Whatever field they are given to sow or reap they can never exhaust their potential to do good.

  34. Dominic: Because, of course, diocesan priests are just robotic drones with no needs or rights.

  35. PubliusIII says:

    Spaeculum Justitiae

    Sorry if I offend by my breezy references to our local prince. Do I need, for example to refer to Richelieu or Wolsey as His Eminences? Yes, normally these honorifics are appropriate to the office, but at times when talking plainly and when on this medium, it seems to me that formalities are dispensable.
    This is a real problem when the most devoted members of the Church exhibit such a narrow view of episcopal power. Don’t make the fundamental mistake of thinking that respect for rights and due process is some sort of virus of contemporary society that people are back-interpreting onto the Church. No! These concepts are derived from Natural Law and are firmly established in Roman law. It was the Church who bequeathed them to the northern barbarians. It is one of the saddest things and most destructive of contemporary church life how canon law has become moribund and how rights of the faithful and clerics have become illusory.
    Beware uber episcopals; just like Thomas More says words to the effect toward the end of the movie a Man for All Seasons, “If you violate all the laws of the realm, where will you hide when Satan comes after you?” Remember, the Holy Ghost is only promised to prevent the Church from falling into error- not that a rapacious wolf not find his way St Peter’s chair or in the See of New York (it has happened before and likely will happen again).
    I just wonder about the anthropology of you folks hailing high handed bishops. What we need are humble praying bishops. I also wonder how you could think in this manner when the crisis today was almost entirely driven by Popes and bishops. I think that part of the problem may be that the concept of the “Libertas Ecclesiae” needs to be revisited. This is still a problem obviously. China, the EU, political correctness in the States, can all impinge on the freedom of the Church and its members. However, in some ways, today, bishops are unchecked by anything. Ruling secular elites have no input like say the royal houses of Europe had. In the states, the libertas ecclessiae is such that the bishop is named and operates without any check. Traditionalists know that the episcopacy. with some notable exceptions, has on the whole been engaged in a program of destroying the faith while maintaining viability for episcopal advancement for in the post conciliar era. No it might have helped these last 40 years if there had been a Holy Roman Emperor around to ask if this was really what the Church is about. Of course, Caesaropapism, is an even greater problem, but this idea of the bishop as drill sergeant is bunk.

  36. Father Z,

    Great point. The bishop is not a monarch or lord, last time I checked. He is a father, and priests are his first-born sons.

    The whole notion of priestly transfers from one place to the next seems so antithetical to the Christian notion of a priest’s organic connection as the image of the bishop’s fatherhood to a parish family. I think back to Msgr. Schuler’s longstanding assignment, and I believe that the success of St. Agnes was directly related to its consistent leadership.

    I for one believe in ordaining men to serve in their own home parish. We do it with deacons, why not with priests?

    In ICXC,

    Gordo

  37. CS Gibson says:

    In fact few people in the 21st Century realize just how limited the powers of Popes, monarchs and bishops once were. Prior to the French Revolution there was a vast amount of customary and local laws in place which prohibited rash actions. Only the superiors of some religious orders, Jesuits, Mendicants etc, had the powers which the local ordinary now possesses.

    The concept of absolute monarchy did not encompass the idea of arbitrary rule, which all classic jurists consider to be a characteristic of tyranny. In saying this I mean no reflection upon Cardianl Egan who has obviously acted within his rights according to the 1983 code and the laws of the US episcopal conference; it is worth mentioning, though, that for most of its history the Church was governed in a very different way.

    Prior to the 1917 code it was assumed that a secular priest was ordained to a benefice, from which a necessary income would be provided for him (and this is retained to some extent in the ’17 code too). Thus priests were once ordained with a specific parish in mind, and usually remained there for life. Priests who possessed a sufficient private income could be ordained ad patrimonium which allowed them freedom to take up scholarly posts or chaplaincies which otherwise lacked sufficient endowments. Mons R H Benson and Mons Ronald Knox are examples of this.

    As a consequence of the radical expropriation of Church property from 1789 onwards by secular governments, as well as the expansion of missionary territories, dioceses gradually came to form corporations under law which vested all ownership in the bishops with right to dispose of finances accordingly. In many countries the governments paid a salary to priests from the expropriated properties, but this was mediated by the bishops who controlled the disbursement of incomes.

    Those familiar with the Church of England will recognize something of the older system which survived in parts of Britain down to the 1980’s. In many parishes the income was provided by a wealthy layman who had the right to appoint a priest; hence the different levels of ‘churchmanship’ in English parishes.

    At a much higher level, the Popes themselves could rarely appoint a bishop without the agreement of the national government concerned. It has only been since about 1920 that Popes have had the power to appoint almost all the world’s bishops directly. Of course the older system presupposed the ideal of the confessional or Catholic state. With the rise of totally secular states such a system became unworkable.

    All systems have pluses and minuses–but the present order of things has certainly created a degree of legal positivism in some respects that has led to an attitude which puts authority above tradition, perhaps rather unhealthily so.

  38. Not being from NY and able to observe him personally, the everlasting images I have of Cdl Egan is from television. Specifically, right after the 9-11 attacks. He was a player in more than one televised ecumenical prayer group-hug in NYC. Without fail, the good cardinal would leave out any and all mention of Jesus in his prayers (obviously as so not to insult the Jews or Moslems to his left and right). Not even so much as a “…through Our Lord Jesus Christ, amen”. And he was painfully consistant in such. This didn’t happen once or twice, but always. Or at least the dozen random shots I saw that Cdl Egan was filmed as a participant of such. You could always count on him forgetting to mention Christ.

    I find it the ultimate irony that his purposeful and very public abandonment of Christ has fostered a purposeful and very public abondonment of HIM by many of his “loyal” priests.

    Why should the workers in the vinyard be loyal to him? He conveniently forgot about The Master. At least when it was politically expedient.

  39. RBrown says:

    I also wonder how you could think in this manner when the crisis today was almost entirely driven by Popes and bishops. I think that part of the problem may be that the concept of the “Libertas Ecclesiae” needs to be revisited. This is still a problem obviously. China, the EU, political correctness in the States, can all impinge on the freedom of the Church and its members. However, in some ways, today, bishops are unchecked by anything. Ruling secular elites have no input like say the royal houses of Europe had. In the states, the libertas ecclessiae is such that the bishop is named and operates without any check. Traditionalists know that the episcopacy. with some notable exceptions, has on the whole been engaged in a program of destroying the faith while maintaining viability for episcopal advancement for in the post conciliar era. No it might have helped these last 40 years if there had been a Holy Roman Emperor around to ask if this was really what the Church is about. Of course, Caesaropapism, is an even greater problem, but this idea of the bishop as drill sergeant is bunk.
    Comment by PubliusIII

    The present problems were certainly created by popes and bishops, but the ideas came from the likes of Rahner and Schillebeeckx.

    I have little idea what went on in NY with these transfers–it sounds heavy handed. But I do know–and heard often–that Cardinal O’Connor was not well liked by many of his clergy.

    I think that in the papacy of JPII there was too much emphasis on protecting the power of the bishop and not enough on trying to re-establish the organic reality of Catholic worship (Latin liturgy. The result led to the I’m Bishop–I can do whatever I want attitude.

  40. “Dominic: Because, of course, diocesan priests are just robotic drones with no needs or rights.
    Comment by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf”

    No Father, priest are servants of God and should go where their leaders determine they need to be.
    When I was in the military I was under the orders of the people appointed over me by the President. When the military needed me to go somewhere they sent me. Sometimes they asked my preference and gave me a chance to affect that move, other times they just sent me because there was a need for my skills at a particular place, whether I wanted to go or not.
    I was a mere member of military, who had sworn an oath to defend the Constitution. Surely a priest who has taken a vow to a higher authority than a national constitution is even more bound to obey without complaint the directions of his Ordinary?
    In my own diocese the outgoing bishop did not move priest before he left, resulting in many priests staying in parishes for much longer than 12 years. When Bishop DiLorenzo came in he waited about a year, to get the lay of the land in my opinion, and then transfered every priest who had been at an assignment for longer than twelve years as well as many who were at their six and twelve year points. There was indeed a row made by some. And some parishes were ecstatic that they were finally rid of certain priests and others begrudged the loss of a good priest.
    Priest do indeed have rights, but like members of the military their rights do not always extend to being able to be where they want or to do what they might like. From what I’ve read I suspect that the Holy Father would very much have liked to have been able to retire quietly to a university somewhere to write and perhaps teach from time to time. The Lord had other ideas.