From a reader…
If Francis were to (God forbid) die tomorrow, how would that affect the rules concerning episcopal consecrations?
I saw a comment on this blog saying the SSPX could likely use sede vacante periods to slip by the issue. I personally question that. I do believe in states of necessity, but that still doesn’t jive with what the statement seemed to imply. Canon Law can be changed, you can find loopholes, but it doesn’t die.
If I am not mistaken… and I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong… in the case of the death of the Roman Pontiff, episcopal appointments are suspended until they are reconfirmed on the election of a new Roman Pontiff. [UPDATE: It seems I was wrong about this. It does now happen that in the sede vacante period bishops are consecrated. It happened in the time between JP2 and B16 for example. However, i used the Catholic Hierarchy site to if between the death of Paul VI and election of JP2 there were consecrations and… found a gap for the period in the data entered. The same thing happened when I checked between the death of J23 and P6… and P12 and J23….]
I know of one case in which a priest was to be consecrated bishop and then Pope Paul VI died, which canceled the consecration. He was not, subsequently, reconfirmed and he was never consecrated as a bishop.
It could be that this involves the fact that, during sede vacante periods, all the offices of the Roman Curia are suspended (with a couple exceptions, such as the Penitenzieria Apostolica which deals with internal forum issues). That would mean that, sede vacante, there technically is no Congregation for Bishops. [That doesn’t mean that the doors are locked and people don’t go to work.]
As for the SSPX, sede vacante would not be a “loop hole” permitting the consecration of a bishop. If anything, it would be the opposite. If I am right, it would absolutely be the wrong time to do it. [Moreover, I am assured by a priest friend in the SSPX that, were there to be considered another consecration – which would likely only be for the sake of the survival of the SSPX – they would exhaust every avenue with Rome to obtain a mandate before hand.]