Rorate Caeli

"Mercy" for conservatives: Bishop Oliveri resignation "accepted", Bishop Lafitte out of the Curia, Cardinal Rylko and Bishop Clemens in "limbo" with the disappearance of their Pontifical Council.

1. Today (September 1, 2016) the statutes of the new "Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life" come into force. The new Dicastery is led by Bishop Kevin Farrell (formerly of Dallas) as Prefect; it has as yet no Secretary (a position that can be filled by a layman). The same statutes decree that as of today, the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family are deemed suppressed.

The former President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Kasperite-leaning Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (71), was appointed President of the Pontifical Academy for Life only two weeks ago -- for some initial analyses on the implications of this appointment, read this and this. The appointment ensured that Paglia remains within the Roman Curia. In contrast, the Secretary (since 2009) of the Pont. Council for the Family, Bishop Jean Lafitte (64) was appointed Prelate of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in July last year. Bishop Lafitte had openly opposed the Kasper proposal in the aftermath of the Synod of 2014, reiterating this opposition and his firm defense of traditional Catholic views on the family in a book of interviews published last year as "The Choice of the Family". With the disappearance of the body of which he was Secretary until yesterday, Bishop Lafitte is now effectively out of the Curia as well.

Unlike the top two officials of the Pontifical Council for the Family, it is not yet clear what positions (if any) will next be assigned to the last President and the last Secretary of the now-defunct Pontifical Council for the Laity. The former President of this Council was Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko (71), and the Secretary was Bishop Josef Clemens (69). Both were appointed to their positions by John Paul II in 2003, and since last year Rylko had been the longest-serving head of a Curial dicastery. Meanwhile, Clemens had been one of the longest-serving Bishop-Secretaries in the Curia.

Rylko had been a diocesan priest of Krakow and was ordained to the priesthood in March 1969 by then-Cardinal Wojtyla. Clemens, on the other hand, was then-Cardinal Ratzinger's personal secretary from 1984 to 2003. Neither is outspoken, but both are considered to be reliably "conservative" in their views on doctrine and morals.

The imminent appointment of  Rylko to the Archbishopric of Krakow in order to succeed Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz (77) had been widely expected last month, right after World Youth Day in Krakow and before the Pontifical Council for the Laity was to be dissolved. It has not yet happened, though, and in this Pontificate so full of "surprises" it remains to be seen if Rylko will still go to Krakow or another Polish diocese after a temporary "joblessness", or be moved to another position in Rome, or if he will remain prematurely retired. Bishop Clemens is in an analogous situation. Early retirement is not out of the question: when the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was merged earlier this year into the new Secretariat for Communications, its President since 2007, Archbishop Claudio Celli, found himself unceremoniously retired a few months before he was to turn 75.

Incidentally these latest developments corroborate what we posted about the "purge" of the Roman Curia two years ago:

Speaking of Papa Wojtyla, all reports ... and rumors also converge in one direction: the new stage of the current purge will not stop at the Ratzingerians (such as Burke or Müller), but would now reach the Wojtylians as well. All conservative Poles in the Curia, and their allies, will be removed when the Curial reform takes place. Their offices could be simply extinguished or merged, and the new leadership would certainly be of a new (actually old liberal) kind.

Müller remains in his post, but it remains to be seen for how long.


Bishop Oliveri - Confirmations according to the Traditional Rite, August 21, 2016.

2. The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis has "accepted" the resignation of Msgr. Mario Oliveri, 72 years old, Bishop of Albenga-Imperia. Once known as Italy's most "traditionalist-friendly" diocesan bishop when it came to liturgy and doctrine, he was stripped of all his authority in early 2015 and since then has remained bishop of the diocese in name only. For more on the background to his case see our posts: 

Oliveri's successor is his Coadjutor, Msgr. Guglielmo Borghetti, who already had all the authority of a diocesan bishop since March 2015. Since taking over as de facto bishop of Albenga-Imperia, Borghetti has dismissed (or accepted the withdrawal) of 7 out of the diocese's 12 seminarians (and told one to just be a permanent deacon) while vowing to accept only men from the territory of the diocese itself as seminarians. He has also reportedly hatched a plan to group together the diocese's smaller parishes into "pastoral units" served by small teams of priests led by a "moderator-pastor". 

The resignation was already anticipated as early as June of this year, when La Stampa-Savona reported that Francis himself had "invited" Oliveri to resign when they met in April. That report claimed that Oliveri was going to step down by late August; then another report (in August) predicted more accurately that the resignation was definitely going to take place in early September. 

It is worthy of note that among his final acts as Bishop of Albenga-Imperia, Msgr. Oliveri celebrated two Solemn Pontifical Masses according to the 1962 Missal. The first was on July 11 in the little monastery of the Benedictines of the Immaculate in Villatalla, and the second (accompanied by First Communion and Confirmation) was on August 21 in a small parish in Molini di Prelà (see above).