Here is a story form CWN about the Paraguayan bishop recently relieved of his mandate by Pope Francis.
Keep in mind that while the Supreme Pontiff exercises full jurisdiction in the Church and that his decisions have no appeal, should the Supreme Pontiff want there to be sound rule of law through the Church at every level, he, too, will observe the laws of which he is the Legislator. So, the removal of bishops by the Pope should have some canonical basis. It doesn’t have to, technically, but it really should.
Let’s have a look:
Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, [Argentinian, by the way, and Opus Dei] who was removed from his post in Paraguay, has issued a bitter complaint, charging that other bishops conspired against him [which is plausible] and saying that Pope Francis “must answer to God” for his removal. [Which is true. We all must answer to God for all that we do or fail to do that we ought.]
The deposed bishop, in a letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, said that he was being “persecuted” for his orthodoxy, [!] and complained that he had not been given an opportunity to defend himself.
The bishop’s letter, which was leaked to the media in Paraguay, [who knows by whom] said that the action against him was “unfounded and arbitrary.” He angrily charged that although Pope Francis has spoken often about “dialogue, mercy, openness, decentralization, and respect for authority of the local churches,” he did not give Bishop Livieres a chance to “clarify any doubts” about his ministry. [In my discussions with Argentinians recently, I have come to learned, from explanations made by the same Argentinians, that their dialogue tends to be blunt even to the point of rancorous.]
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, observed that the bishop’s letter was “a very violent reaction.” He remarked to reporters: “Maybe it is easier to understand why there was a problem.” [No. That actually doesn’t help at all. “Blunt speech” and “voicing an opinion” are not a canonical basis for removal from office unless the opinion is obviously heresy.]
Father Lombardi had earlier said that Bishop Livieres had been removed from office because of his discordant relations with the other bishops of Paraguay. [Again, how is “not getting along with others” a canonical basis for removal from office?] Most observers have agreed that the case pivoted on the bishop’s decision to promote a priest who had been characterized by an American diocese (Scranton, Pennsylvania) as a danger to children. [And yet Fr. Lombardi clarified the other day that the case of the Vicar General was not a major element in the decision! So, which is it? By the way, that choice for VG was really a bad move. No question. What was he thinking?]
I am left with some questions, but it is unlikely that we will get answers. I am not sure we need answers. However, since some answers that don’t add up are being offered, I am left scratching my head.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with the removal of bishops who are a disaster. It may be that removal of this bishop was surely founded on canonical grounds and for good reasons. But when the reasons given publicly don’t add up very well, I start to wonder what’s really going on. Removal of a bishop is a serious event. It should make everyone stop and think about their own conduct in their own state of life.
This is an “examine your conscience” moment for all of us.
Oh… and another thing. This Argentinian bishop serving in Paraguay will be criticized by liberals for fighting back. But those same liberals praised the Bishop of Toowoomba in Australia for getting all feisty. He, you see, was “prophetic”, but the Paraguayan must be an “ideologue”.
Moderation queue is ON.