Rorate Caeli

"Deposed" bishops

From Sandro Magister's June 15, 2012 article on bishops deposed according to Canon 401 §2  (Vatican Diary / The "who's who" of the deposed bishops):

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.

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.

But the "grave reasons" that can lead to the resignation of a bishop are not limited only to questions of sexual morality. There can also be leaving the scene of an accident (the bishop of Phoenix in the United States in 2003), drunkenness (the Polish bishop of Elblag in 2003), the adoption of a young girl (the Indian bishop of Cochin in 2009), managerial incompetence (the bishop of Koudougou in Burkina Faso in 2011).

For those who are wondering: no, the list is not complete. 


New Catholic said...

Some have been truly deposed, some have been asked to resign - and for some Magister has no evidence that that was the case.

Benedict Carter said...

Any chance Holy Father of adding the entire England & Wales Marxist Bishops' Collective to the list?

rodrigo said...

I wonder if incestuous pederast Bishop Vangheluwe will be degraded at some point. Then again, perhaps Rome is waiting until the Church in Belgium is entirely dead before acting. Wouldn't want to be too hasty!

Crouchback said...

Ben you are a wag . . Crouchback

P.K.T.P. said...

I was under the impression that deposition is no longer provided for in the 1983 Code, and these most serious cases are dismissals (rather than demanded resignations). Deposition includes the ceremony of stipping the prelate of his vestments and insignia, although I doubt that the subjects every showed up for that. My impression is that deposition means dismissal plus a formal condemnation and bars the prelate from future office and even from any payment or support for past service. It was also called degradation (often the ceremony of removing the vestments one by one). It would interesting to find when it was last applied, but the cases here are of dismissal, not deposition.

I think that deposition should be revived just for the removal of a past bishop of my diocese. It would certainly be appropriate in his case.


New Catholic said...

Yes, PP, the ones deposed were those "dismissed from the pastoral care".

New Catholic said...

PP stands for Personal Prelature, and for Peter Perkins as well. Meant to be...

Prof. Basto said...

Mr. Perkins,

I don't think that "deposition" and "degradation" were the same.

Deposition is removal from office, but is a term used only for high office, such as the Cardinalate or an Episcopal See. So, when a Bishop refuses to resign and the Pope is forced to "relieve him of his duties", that is in effect a deposition, that is, a removal from office, although the terminology presently used is that of relieving someone of his duties.

Degradation, on the other hand, was a penal act of solemn removal from the clerical state with a liturgical ritual to mark the occasion. Obviously, the liturgical action of deposition could only be performed in the good old days when the Church herself had guards or when it was heavily backed by the State. Then, the prelate being degraded was forced to appear. The deposition from the clerical state was marked by the prelate being disvested of his insignia rank by rank: first the insignia of the archiepiscopal dignity; then that of the episcopal order; then those symbolizing the priesthood, then those of a deacon, etc, etc, until the cancellation of his status as a clergyman. And then, if it were the case, the deposed prelate was delivered into the hands of the secular arm for further penal action, being now treated as a layperson, and there are words to that effect in the traditional Roman Pontifical. So, the removal from the clerical state (laicization or defrocking) is the current equivalent of degradation.

One doubt that I still have is this: was it possible to degrade someone only partially? That is, removing someone from the clerical state of a bishop, but allowing him to remain in the clerical state of a priest?

Athelstane said...

Hello Benedict,

All of them except for Bishop Davies of Shrewsbury, don't you mean?

Mike said...

I think, while Archbishop Gomez has not done much that I have heard in regard to the TLM, this bishop with kids is out barely a year into Gomez's tenure.

I mean, that's a step in the right direction, no?

Lily said...

While Archbishop Gomez was in San Antonio, he was a friend to tradition...more or less. My granddaughter was confirmed by him at her Catholic School and he performed the Mass and Confirmation in the Traditional Rite. Archbishop Gomez was a breath of fresh air compared to the years under Bishop Flores. I am glad Pope Benedict is developing a strong disciplinary arm. This rogue behavior is partly of his own making along with JPII.

Peter M said...

Should we add André Richard, Moncton (Canada), who was sent into retirement today, shortly before his 75th birthday?

Anonymous said...

Sandro Magister ends is article by mentioning:

"Finally, there are the special cases of the Lefebvrist and Chinese bishops.

The former have had their excommunication removed, but will be put back into the Annuario Pontificio only if and when they enter into full communion with Rome.

The latter are at the moment totally absent from the Annuario Pontificio, although they are recognized by the Holy See by roundabout means. It will be possible to insert their names only when the Holy See is able to deal with them according to the rules that are valid for the whole Church."

John Fisher said...

Bishop Pat Powers has retired but he still intends to go about spreading his dissent and gather a following. If Canon Law was applied he would be removed from the clerical state for formal heresy. Check out this interview given on national Tv a few days ago.

Johannes de Silentio said...

In light of all this, it's actually somewhat impressive (beyond, of course, being inexplicable) that Bishop Hubbard has been able to hang on these thirty-five years and counting.

P.K.T.P. said...

Prof. Basto:

According to my 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, the two terms were used interchangeably for many decades but were originally distinct. Degradation is properly the actually process of removing the vestments, I think.

The Encyclopedia does make all the needed distinctions but the differences are very technical. Should I quote them? I could do that but it might test people here. This, is after all, a blog and not a scholarly journal.


P.K.T.P. said...

In the case of Hubbard, I propose a degradation and deposition party of all the bloggers here. It would give us a chance to meet and have some fun removing Hubbard's vestments one by one. I have an old coat I could give him and Prof. Basto might offer him money for a taxi.

I believe that Apb. Richard of Moncton was expected to go early. I'm not sure if the problem is his health or something else. He was a real thorn in the side of traditionalists in his see. Let's depose him too, literally: let's displace him from his chair, from his cathedra. That would be fun. Make him sit on the floor.


Johannes de Silentio said...

A splendid idea PKTP. Failing that, then champaigne for all when Bishop Hubbard retires in one year, three months, and 15 days (but who's counting).