Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hierarchy update

UPDATED AND CORRECTED MONDAY, 23 JULY

For all you Church geeks, like myself, it is time for another wholly unnecessary hierarchy update. The backlog is still there and getting longer, especially with the Holy Father's penchant for moving bishops from smaller dioceses to larger dioceses. There have been four appointments since the last update. The first appointment, made on 12 June, moved Bishop Joseph Kurtz from Knoxville, Tennessee to Louisville, Kentucky, thus also making him an archbishop. The second appointment, made on 28 June, was of Peter Christensen, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, as bishop of the Diocese of Superior, WI. The past few weeks have seen Archbishop Edwin O'Brien being taken from the Military Archdiocese and transferred to Baltimore to replace the now retired Cardinal Keeler and, in a move made earlier this week, Bishop David Allen Zubik, formerly the bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is going back to his native Diocese of Pittsburgh, replacing Archbishop Donald Wuerl, who was installed last year in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Zubik

Including the Dioceses of Knoxville and Green Bay, along with the Military Archdiocese, the number of vacant dioceses has jumped from seven to ten since the last update. The remaining seven are the vacant dioceses: Des Moines, IA; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Shreveport, LA; Great Falls/Billings, MT; Little Rock, AR; New Ulm, MN; Birmingham, AL. With the retirements of Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop Kelly of Louisville, and Bishop Raphael Fliss of Surperior, WI, the number of ordinaries serving beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75 remained the same at ten. 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 now serving beyond 75 are two cardinal archbishops: Cardinals Maida and Egan of Detroit and New York respectively. The others are Bishops Balke of Crookston, MN; Leibrecht of Springfield/Cape Girardeau, MO; Mengeling of Lansing, MI; Yanta of Amarillo, TX, Murray of Kalamazoo, MI, Moynihan of Syracuse, NY, as well as Archbishops Lipscombe of Mobile, AL and Curtiss of Omaha, NE.

There are five 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; Saltarelli of Wilimington, DE; Tafoya of Pueblo, CO. Additionally, Archbishop Hughes of New Orleans will turn 75 within the year. Archbishop Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis will also turn 75, but with the installation of John Nienstedt as his co-adjutor, there will be no vacancy in that archdiocese, but that accounts for the vacancy in the Diocese of New Ulm. So, that makes 25 dioceses, roughly 14% of all Roman Rite dioceses in the country that are vacant, overseen by a bishop 75 or older, or will have a bishop past retirement age within the year. The Diocese of Birmingham, AL, with EWTN operating within its boundaries, remains the longest vacancy in the history of the Catholic Church in the U.S. at 26 months. The retired bishop, His Excellency David Foley, remains as the administrator. It makes one wonder why his resignation was accepted more than two years ago!

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 now stands at 183, with the passing of Angelo Cardinal Felici on 17 June 2007. However, there are now 78 members over age 80 who are superannuated and, therefore, unable to vote in any future conclave. This is an increase of two since the last update, with Cardinals Macharski, Pope John Paul II's hand-picked successor in Krakow, and Vithayathil reaching age eighty in recent months. This leaves five 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 five who are 79, stands at 105. Hence, it is likely that there will be a consistory sometime in the near future, perhaps later this year, during which new cardinals, among whom will likely be Archbishops Wuerl and O'Brien, will be created. Another U.S. citizen, Archbishop John Foley, since leaving the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and becoming the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, also stands to receive his long overdue red hat from the Pope. So, 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 Saturday in July.

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