Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gratuitous Hierarchy Update

Much has been made about Pope Benedict's appointment of bishops here in the United States. Of course, his two biggest appointments thus far have been Archbishop Niederauer to San Francisco and Archbishop Wuerl to Washington, D.C. I cannot neglect to mention the appointment of Bishop Wester here in Salt Lake City. For my money, that's a great track record! Looming is an even larger transformation of the U.S. hierarchy over the next year or so.

Currently there are seven vacant dioceses: Des Moines, IA; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Shreveport, LA; Great Falls/Billings, MT; Pittsburgh, PA; Little Rock, AR; and Birmingham, AL. Additionally, there are presently ten ordinaries serving beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75. It must be noted that while it is mandatory for a bishop to submit his resignation at age 75, it is not mandatory for the Holy Father to accept it. Those serving beyond 75 are three cardinal archbishops: Cardinals Maida, Keeler, and Egan of Detroit, Baltimore, and New York respectively. The others are Bishops Balke of Crookston, MN; Fliss of Superior, WI; Leibrecht of Springfield/Cape Girardeau, MO; Mengeling of Lansing, MI; Yanta of Amarillo, TX, as well as Archbishops Kelly of Louisville, KY, and Lipscombe of Mobile, AL.

There are eight bishops and archbishops who will turn 75 within a year. These ordinaries are: Bishops Cullen of Allentown, PA; D'Arcy of Ft. Wayne/South Bend, IN; Moynihan of Syracuse, N.Y.; Murray of Kalamazoo, MI; Saltarelli of Wilimington, DE; Tafoya of Pueblo, CO. Additionally Archbishops Curtiss of Omaha, NE, and Hughes of New Orleans will turn 75 within the year. So, that makes 25 dioceses, slightly over 14% of all Roman Rite dioceses in the country that will have an ordinary past the mandatory age of retirement. Conversely, two of sixteen Catholic Eastern Rite bishops in the U.S. are over the mandatory retirement age. Ruthenian Rite prelate, Bishop Andrew Pataki, of the Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey, is 79, and Armenian Rite Bishop Manuel Batakianwho is 77. These two prelates make up 12.5% of Eastern Rite bishops. Nonetheless, that statistic shows us that more than one in eight Roman Rite bishops will be past the mandatory retirement age within the next twelve months.

One of the concerns expressed by the Holy Father both at the consistory he called in anticipation of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Eucharist and at the synod itself was the increasing number of retired bishops who are still in good health and able to serve. Cardinals do not become superannuated members of the Sacred College until they reach the age of 80. Putting these two issues together, it seems logical to assume that Pope Benedict XVI is not overly eager to accept resignations as soon as they are proffered by bishops turning 75, especially if they are cardinal archbishops of major metropolitan sees. If a bishop is capable and willing to continue his service beyond 75, it seems the Holy Father is disposed to allow such a prelate to continue.

As to the Sacred College of Cardinals, membership stands at 184. However, there are 76 members over age 80 who are superannuated and, therefore, unable to vote in any future conclave. There are six members of the Sacred College who are already 79 years old. Voting members of the college are limited to 120 (which the Pope can exceed anytime and for any reason, which Benedict is unlikely to do). Right now, the number of voting members, including the six who are 79, stands at 108. Hence, it is likely that there will be a consistory this summer, during which new cardinals, one of whom is likely to be Archbishop Wuerl, will be created. If the consistory is held, as is customary, on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is 29 June, an additional three cardinals, including Pope John Paul II's hand-picked successor as archbishop of Kracow, now that metropolitan see's emeritus, Franciszek Cardinal Macharski, will be superannuated. The Holy Father can create 15 new cardinals this year without exceeding 120. However, just as Pope Benedict is unlikely to exceed 120 voting cardinals, he is just as unlikely to create cardinals just to get the number of voting members up to 120. So, there is your Church hierarchy update for a Tuesday as we celebrate two years of the Benedictine papacy.

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