Bishops “relieved” of their duties

At Chiesa Sandro Magister has a piece about bishops who have been deposed from their sees.

It is longish, but here is some of it.  You can read the rest there:

VATICAN CITY, June 15, 2012 – The old-timers of the curia remember a quip that one cardinal loved to repeat: “Among the apostles one out of twelve betrayed, and today among the successors of the apostles the average is certainly no better.”

Today, without counting the other Christian denominations, the Catholic bishops who are the heirs of the apostles number about 5200, and so by applying to them this “evangelical” proportion, there should be more than 400 emulators of Judas Iscariot in the Church of Rome. A figure that may be too optimistic in the eyes of the Lefebvrists, or from the opposite perspective, of the progressive ecclesial galaxy, but certainly much higher than the number of prelates who in various ways have been punished in recent years by the only person who has this power, the pope.

There are no complete statistics in this regard, in part because beyond the most spectacular cases, it normally happens that a bishop who is asked to leave the leadership of a diocese for doctrinal or moral reasons, or because of ecclesiastical or administrative mismanagement, is convinced to hand in his resignation to the pope before reaching the retirement age of 75, on the basis of paragraph 2 of canon 401 of the code of canon law, which states: “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.” And the pope accepts his resignation very quickly.

Normally, this paragraph 2 of canon 401 concerns churchmen afflicted by physical or psychological “ill health,” but there is no lack of cases of “other grave cause.”

So recently, on June 7 came the early resignation of the auxiliary bishop of Canberra in Australia, Patrick Percival Power, 70, known for his progressive positions.

While on January 4 came the announcement of the resignation of the auxiliary of Los Angeles, Gabino Zavala, 61, because he is the father of two children. It is not known whether next year his name will still be listed in the Annuario Pontificio.

In the past, in fact, the names of bishops who have left their posts in order to get married have been more or less promptly expunged from the thick red book that details each year the organizational structure of the Catholic Church.

Without digging back up the cases of the Argentine Jeronimo Podestà and the American James Patrick Shannon, which concern the pontificate of Paul VI, one can recall a few relatively more recent cases, like those of the Irish bishop of Galway, Eamon Casey, who resigned at the age of 65 in 1992 and disappeared from the Annuario in 1997; of the Swiss bishop of Basel, Hansjoerg Vogel, who resigned at the age of 44 in 1995 and disappeared from the Annuario in 1997; of the Scottish bishop of Argill, Roderick Wright, who resigned at the age of 56 in 1996 and was also removed in 1997; of the Canadian bishop of Gaspé, Raymond Dumais, who resigned at the age of 51 in 2001 and disappeared from the Annuario in 2003.

From the Annuario Pontificio of this year has also disappeared the name of the bishop of Pointe-Noire in Congo, Jean-Claude Makaya Loembe, whom the pope “relieved” of his duties on March 31, 2011.

In fact, in the case in which a bishop, in spite of being urged to do so, does not accept to present his resignation, it is the pope himself who “relieves” him of his duties. Which happens rather rarely. But it happens.

Last May 19, for example, the Italian bishop of Trapani, Francesco Micciché, 69, was “relieved” over administrative problems.

While on May 2, 2011, for doctrinal reasons, the Australian bishop of Toowoomba, William M. Morris, was “relieved.”

In 1995, however, the French bishop of Evreux, Jacques Gaillot, 60, also for doctrinal reasons, was not “relieved” but was transferred to the titular see of Partenia.

Morris and Gaillot were removed because they were extremely progressive. But there is no lack of examples on the other front.

In 2003, for example, the resignation of the Thai bishop of Ratchaburi, John Bosco Manat Chuabsamai, 67, was accepted after he had gotten too close, perhaps, to the world of the Lefebvrists.

While in March of 2009, the pope “exempted” Monsignor Gerhard Wagner from accepting the position of auxiliary bishop of Linz, to which he had been appointed at the end of January. In Austria, Wagner had been subjected to a formidable line of fire on the part of the progressives, because of his traditionalist positions.

Other bishops who have been removed from the Annuario Pontificio are those who have been reduced to the lay state. By authority, as in the famous case of Emmanuel Milingo in 2009, or at the request of the interested party, as happened in 2008 with the president-elect of Paraguay and former bishop of San Pedro, Fernando Lugo.

It is foreseeable that another name that will disappear from the Annuario is that of the Canadian bishop emeritus of Antigonish, Raymond Lahey, who was removed from the clerical state one month ago after a civil sentence for possession of child pornography.

Without a doubt, the majority of the “grave reasons” that lead to the early resignation of bishops concern moral questions.

The list is rather long. In addition to the cases already mentioned are those of the U.S. archbishops of Atlanta in 1990 and of Santa Fe in 1993; of the archbishop of La Serena, Chile in 1997; of two bishops of Palm Beach in the U.S. in 1998 and 2002; of the bishop of Santa Rosa in the U.S. in 1999; of the Polish bishop of Poznan in 2002; of the archbishop of Milwaukee in the U.S. in 2002; of Lexington, also in the U.S., in 2002; of the Argentine archbishop of Santa Fe in 2002; of the Filipino bishop of Novaliches in 2003; of the Argentine bishop of Santiago del Estero in 2005; of the bishop of Zamora, Mexico in 2006; of the Hungarian military ordinariate in 2007; of the central African bishops of Bangui and Bossangoa in 2009; of the Brazilian bishop of Minas in 2009; of the Dutch bishop of Ngong in Kenya in 2009; of the Irish bishop of Benin City in Nigeria in 2010.

Particular media attention went to the cases of the Belgian bishop of Bruges in 2010 and of the German bishop of Trondheim, Norway in 2009. The cardinal of Vienna, Hans Hermann Groer, accused of molestation, resigned his post after reaching the age of 75 and without ever having admitted guilt.

A different case is that of bishops who have had to resign early not because they committed gravely immoral acts, but under the accusation of having covered up the actions of their priests.

[...]

Awful, but interesting.

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10 Responses to Bishops “relieved” of their duties

  1. PostCatholic says:

    I wonder about the Papal gravitron. To me, the “sins” of Archbishop Marino of Atlanta were minor compared to those of the Archpriest of St Mary Major, who sat on eight (!) dicasteries after his resignation from Boston. But I guess I don’t understand the relative gravity of “immoral acts” when Law doesn’t rate a mention in such an article.

  2. Ezra says:

    Someone didn’t bother to read the article:

    A different case is that of bishops who have had to resign early not because they committed gravely immoral acts, but under the accusation of having covered up the actions of their priests.

    The most spectacular is the case of the cardinal of Boston, Bernard Francis Law, who resigned in December of 2002 at the age of 71. But there are also the case of the Irish bishop of Ferns in 2002, of Limerick in 2009, and of an auxiliary of Dublin in 2010, as well as of the ordinary of Maitland-Newcastle, Australia in 2011.

  3. Joe in Canada says:

    ps Mr Magister has corrected his story to say “former Bishop of Antigonish” instead of “Bishop emeritus of Antigonish”.

  4. This gives me a thought: how often do bishops, once removed, go on to create yet more mischief?

    Once someone is removed as a bishop, there’s not much more that can be done. He can be laicized, of course, and denied income–but it seems to me a bishop who is removed might go on to have a spectacular career as a media darling, who has “grown” in his understanding, etc. Such a bishop could, after all, ordain his own bishops, and set up shop as the “New and Improved Catholic Church.”

    Now that I think about it, I wonder that it doesn’t happen more often.

    But this might explain, for example, why bishops don’t get removed, or why they get “kicked upstairs,” or why parish priests (name rhymes with “Mleger”) don’t get the comeuppance they seem to deserve.

  5. chcrix says:

    Well, I did read the long post at “chiesa”.

    It’s hard for me to judge the cases because I know of almost none of them. The two I am reasonably familiar with are Morris of Toowomba and Cardinal Law of Boston.

    That said I didn’t care for some of Magister’s evaluation.

    “Morris (was) removed because (he was) extremely progressive.”

    Nonsense. He was removed for publicly adopting positions counter to church teaching. And it took a long time too. I use him as an example to prove that the Pope is not the ceo of an organization but the first among equals who acts only in extreme cases.

    In contrast consider:
    “In 2003, for example, the resignation of the Thai bishop of Ratchaburi, John Bosco Manat Chuabsamai, 67, was accepted after he had gotten too close, perhaps, to the world of the Lefebvrists.
    While in March of 2009, the pope “exempted” Monsignor Gerhard Wagner from accepting the position of auxiliary bishop of Linz, to which he had been appointed at the end of January. In Austria, Wagner had been subjected to a formidable line of fire on the part of the progressives, because of his traditionalist positions.”

    That does not make good reading. It sure looks like guilt by association, or for the grave impropriety of being too traditional. I wish Magister would give us more detail about this.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    I do not think the language was specific or strong enough. The laity need an explanation, not for the sake of scandal. but to clarify. Public offenses needed to be treated publicly.

  7. anna 6 says:

    chcrix:
    Monsignor Gerhard Wagner requested that the Pope exempt him due to the
    enormously negative reaction of the media (and some clerics) to his appointment. The Pope reluctantly submitted simply because Wagner felt that he would not be able to lead effectively in such a hostile environment. He probably figured, “I don’t need this aggravation”.

    As for Morris, it is true that the Pope removed him ” for publicly adopting positions counter to church teaching.” But according to the vatileaks, (I hesitate to quote stolen, private property) Pope Benedict wrote in a letter that the bishop’s “theological formation … is not adequate for his office,” and “there’s no doubt of his very good pastoral intentions,” but “the diocesan bishop must be, above all, a teacher of the faith, since the faith is the foundation of pastoral activity.”

  8. chcrix says:

    “…Wagner requested that the Pope exempt him…”

    Thanks Anna. That bit of information paints the actions of the Vatican in a better light.

    As far as the Benedictine reflection on Bishop Morris, yes – good intentions don’t trump theological incoherence. And the quote you offer confirms my impression of the Pope as not merely a diplomat at need, but also as a very kind man.

  9. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The late Carrie Tomko believed that the Thai bishop may have actually been allowed to resign because, at the same time he was trying to become more traditional, he gave canonical approval to a group claiming to spread Divine Adoration, but whose head later turned out to be involved with some kind of weird sexual-ritual heresy and abuse. He also visited a Filipino visionary and said approving things about that, and then the visionary guy ran off and had a sex change operation.

    So you can see where this would make you feel pretty bad about your bishop-ing skills.

    So anyway, the bad organization was suppressed but the whole thing wasn’t super-publicized outside Asia; so the head of this organization later went back to the US, and a bishop there in Texas had to suppress it.

    I have to say that this kind of snafu sounds more like the kind of mess that would make a bishop resign, and would lead the Vatican folks not to say too much about it. Obviously Tomko had her biases and so did her sources, but I’m minded to think this story may have been legit.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Well, that was kinda creepy. Apparently this skeevy organizer guy actually had a base in my town, for a while. His group has moved on, looks like, and good riddance. Anyway, link to some news clippings about the guy and the weird Seventies/Eighties group he was in. Looked good on the surface, then abruptly got very nasty and insane.