Monday, January 06, 2014

Ecclesiastical Baubles

"Well, the Bishop hates those tedious ecumenical services, as much as he hates tedious technical meetings, so he asked me to go in his place, then he thought sending an ordinary priest was a bit insulting and seemed to suggest too openly that he couldn't be bothered, so he thought a faux bishop with a bit of purple and an exotic title might help"
This was the rather disarming response to a question to a friend when I asked him why he was made a Monsignor. The same priest said it is a bit of litmus test, "When priests write to me, if they use the full title they are normally angry with me, whereas if they use my Christian name they are normally being friendly.

I must say titles and the right to wear a purple doesn't get me excited one way or the other, lay people like these things, priests tend to regard it as bit meaningless, even silly. As a friend of mine said after being given a title, "Ah sure, it'll impress the postman!" In one diocese when four or five clergy who had been given such titles left the priesthood or 'retired' early, such promotions became a sign of the Bishops poor judgement.

There is certainly a different attitude in different parts of the world to such things as titles, in the Spanish speaking world they are a bit like the family jewels or medals that come out on a particular occassions and then are ignored, in Italy they seem to be a class thing, in Britain like life peerages or more likely  OBEs and MBEs they are a bit silly but harmless, I suspect in other parts of the world they are taken a little more seriously.

Sometimes these things can be useful, for example where a Bishop is needed but can't be had. The most obvious example is with the Ordinariates, or to head various Vicariates or even diocesan Curiae . I can't help thinking that the abolition of such honours in these situations hasn't been thought through, it is a bit of a papal tinkering, another example of 'micromanagement' from a limited perspective. Monsignors, 'faux bishops' can be useful, if we don't have them we are likely to appoint real bishops in their place, indeed I expect every priest upon reaching 65 will be given the title Monsignor. The obvious question is what will happen to the Ordinariates when their present Ordinaries retire, will they -they are supposed to be the equivalent of a diocese- be replaced by simple priests or will their Ordinaries be ordained Bishop. Rather than sending a simple priest to represent them will bishops have to attend unproductive meetings and events, will this not mean an increase in the Bishop's workload in administration and therefore end up by increasing the necessity for yet more Auxiliary Bishops?
at one time a high ranking Monsignor would carry the Papal close-stool in procession

I don't think ecclesiastical baubles on this level are the real problem, the real problem is the theological nonsense of real bishops, who are not bishops. I mean what is an 'Auxiliary Bishop', a sort of Bishop's curate in Episcopal orders? A Bishop is supposed be the head of a local Church with people and clergy, the Episcopate is above all a pastoral office, he is the bridegroom, married to his own Church. What sense is there in a Bishop 'for the Forces' who has borrowed clergy who will never ordain a priest for his own 'diocese'. Why should Vatican apparatchiks who have little connection with ordinary people be Bishops or Archbishops, they have no clergy and no people. Why should the Pope's Secretary of State, or for that matter the Prefect of the Papal Household or the Prefect of the CDF or the other dicasteries, or Papal Nuncios be made Archbishops? In what sense do they fulfil their sacramental office?  

There was a time when the holders of such high offices were deacons or even sub-deacons.


Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

so a bishop makes a monsignor? my parish priest's brother was made a monsignor last year, and his brother, the priest is director of liturgy for the diocese, while the bishop says, 'this is Jesus', at the elevation, meanwhile the dearth of priests in the diocese increases while the list of Fr.s mentioned at the prayers for the departed comprise most of the names each week. what does all this mean? some dioceses are like icebergs that have broken off from the Catholic continent and will drift until a little ice-cube is all that's left to be popped in a monsignor's gin to toast his new title on some other breaking berg..

the futures so dim we'll need night vision goggles soon to search out the Church that was visible before the holy spirit apparently decided to do a 180. Hyberbole...who can say anymore?

Anonymous said...

I once heard the following descriptions of "Auxiliary Bishops":
" A doctrine of the Church in search of a theology"
and "like spare beds in search of blankets".

George said...

Interesting points, Father.

By extension... What do you think of priests who work as professors, scientists/researchers, and the like. Shouldn't these roles be filled by lay religious rather than ordained priests?

Arun said...

You raise some interesting points here Father. Possibly the most challeging concerns the plethora (and it is) of bishops in the Vatican. Loads of them, mostly or almost all with titular dioceses, somewhere in the Mediterranean or sahara desert somewhere. Each time I watch a papal mass, as today, the Feast of the Epiphany, I see more than 40 or so attending alongside the Pope. But none has a diocese as such. How many dioceses are in need of priests across the world? And why the massive concentration in Rome? I agree, why do heads of some depts in the Curia have to be archbishops. Only recently I discovered that the much feared/hated/loved Cardinal Ottaviani was a cardinal years before becoming a bishop. That used be normal practice, but it was John XXIII who made him one after being a cardinal. Yet he was head of the Holy Office and not a bishop. Strange.
Of course it raises the question, will Papa Francesco create a new batch of cardinals this month where some are not bishops? And maybe far more non-Italians who actually have a diocese and a flock to lead? Semper fidelis.

Deacon Augustine said...

Is it just tinkering and micro-management, or is it the PR machine making it appear that great reforms are going on when in reality the filth is just being brushed under the carpet?

It is always easier to change structures and externals than it is to produce interior conversion - actually implement the universal call to holiness which Vatican II wisely taught.

nickbris said...

You should be promoted Father Ray

Athelstane said...

The obvious question is what will happen to the Ordinariates when their present Ordinaries retire, will they -they are supposed to be the equivalent of a diocese- be replaced by simple priests or will their Ordinaries be ordained Bishop.

An ordinary of one of the three Ordinariates - I won't say who - has been known to remark to members of his deaneries that the next ordinary of his jurisdiction really should be a celibate priest, so that he can, in fact, actually be consecrated a bishop. The implication was made that a bishop would have a little more leverage and respect from other, diocesan bishops than a mere monsignor does.

Of course, since most Ordinariate priests are married, this would necessarily limit the pool of candidates. But given the apparent preference in both Rome and Ordinariate chanceries for trying to limit married priests as much as possible beyond the first wave of ordinations, I do think that we will see celibate ordinaries who will, in fact, be bishops, one day.

All that said, I think it's almost certain that married ordinaries of the Ordinariates will be obvious exceptions to this new rule on restricting creation of monsignors, assuming the rule survives into the next pontificate.

Genty said...

If the abolition of Monsignor is a prelude to culling all the meaningless honorific titles awash in the Vatican bureaucracy I can see some sense in it. But my gut feeling is that the ditching of the intermediate level of Monsignor may be due to a personal dislike of the fancy-pantsy title.
However, the role of a Monsignor is a useful one to my mind. He deputises for the bishop, he hears what's going on above and below the salt and it does prepare him for an episcopal role should he be chosen. Not all are.
I am getting rather weary of the canard "ambitious and careerist priests" from one who has accepted incrementally the titles Archbishop, Cardinal, Pope. Why shouldn't a man who has zeal and energy not be considered for a leading role in the Church? It doesn't follow that these qualities are inimical to personal holiness. The last thing we need is a bunch of episcopal shrinking violets.
By the way, can anyone help with when auxiliary bishops came into being. I don't remember them in my childhood, but perhaps I wasn't paying attention.

Matthew Roth said...

Auxiliary bishops have been around since at least the 1940s. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen was an auxiliary bishop in New York and also titular archbishop of Newport, Wales. He then served as bishop of the diocese of Rochester NY.
Dioceses will have to be split up, I think. Chicago doesn't have enough auxiliary bishops for its territory and population, and it's high time +Perry have his own diocese. Just as in Southwark, the LA and Chicago bishops do have local governance, albeit a rather artificial one.
Very good article Father Blake.
As to cardinals who are not bishops, the Holy Father needs to change canon law expressly.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

I too wonder at nuncios, etc, being 'raised to the dignity of archbishop'. I wonder if there isn't a serious abuse of the sacrament of holy orders here, not intentionally, but a very bad practice we have become used to.

Here in the Philippines people often think that Monsignors are bishops.

Hughie said...

“Cardinal Ottaviani was a cardinal years before becoming a bishop…”
Mgr Alfredo Ottaviani, Assessor of the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office since December 19, 1935, was created Cardinal Deacon (of Santa Maria in Dommnica) at Pope Pius XII’s second and last consistory in January 1953 and was at that time appointed Pro-Secretary of La Suprema. He was named Secretary on November 7, 1959.

On April 5, 1962, a surprise announcement was made from Rome. Good Pope John had decided that at the Chrism Mass to be held on Thursday, April 19, in the Lateran Basilica he would consecrate as bishop all twelve of the members of the third order of the Sacred College of Cardinals, the Cardinals Deacon, who had not already received episcopal consecration. The Principal Co-Consecrators were to be Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo and Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella. Apart from Cardinal Ottaviani, the other episcopal ordinands were Cardinals Joaquín Anselmo María Albareda, O.S.B. (Prefect of the Vatican Library), Antonio Bacci (formerly Secretary of Briefs to Princes), Augustin Bea, S.J. (President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), Francesco Bracci (Secretary of the Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments), Michael Browne, O.P. (Irish, Master General of the Dominicans, formerly Master of the Sacred Palace, i.e. the papal theologian) William Theodore Heard (Scottish, Dean Emeritus of the Sacred Roman Rota), Alberto di Jorio (Pro-President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and who had been Secretary of the Conclave which elect Pope John XXIII), André Jullien, P.S.S. (Dean Emeritus of the Sacred Roman Rota), Arcadio María Larraona, C.M.F. (Prefect of the Congregation for Rites), Francesco Morano (Secretary of the Apostolic Signatura), and Francesco Roberti (Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura).

Why did Good Pope John do this? As cardinals, the Cardinals Deacon had many rights and privileges. For example, though not bishops they could preside at the Sacrament of Confirmation. But they could NOT ordain priests. Only a bishop may do that. Nor could they participate in the consecration of bishops. Again, only bishops may do that.

But it was another very, very important right that Cardinals Deacon though not bishops had enjoyed (at least in theory) which came to cause Good Pope John to make that Holy Thursday, April 19, 1962, such a special day for his Cardinals Deacon. Under the Code of Canon Law of the Latin Rite Church promulgated on May 27, 1917, by Pope Benedict XV, Canon 223 provided that the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church “even though they are not bishops, that is the Cardinals Deacon” were “TO BE CALLED TO AN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL AS OF RIGHT” (my emphasis).

In the period between Good Pope John announcing his decision to summon an Ecumenical Council on January 25, 1959, and the announcement on April 5, 1962, that he was to consecrate as bishops those “Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church (who were) not bishops, that is the Cardinals Deacon” this provision of the Canon Law had caused some serious trouble with the then most important and influential of the Eastern Churches in full communion with Rome, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church led by the redoubtable Maximos IV Sayegh of Antioch. Indeed, a Schism was a very real possibility until Good Pope John acted, and acted so decisively. (The Greek Catholic Church of the Ukraine was then as now by far the largest of the Eastern Rite Churches in full communion with Rome [21 then, 22 now] but it was severely repressed at home and had no chance of taking part in the Council.)

vetusta ecclesia said...

"The redoubtable Maximos IV Sayegh of Antioch" used Vatican II to raise awareness of the Uniate Churches. At the opening of the Council he asserted that as Patriarch of an ancient see he should have precedence in the procession over the cardinals, the parish clergy of Rome!He refused to address the Council in Latin but said he would do so in French or Aramaic, the language of Our Lord!

Hidden One said...

In Canada we have an auxiliary bishop who wrote his doctoral thesis on why we shouldn't have auxiliary bishops. No one is safe!

gemoftheocean said...

As regards the United States, sometimes our diocese (even some parishes!) might cover geographic areas that would cover several European dioceses. And in a relatively "small" area, say like greater Los Angeles, there could be a couple million Catholics. At one point the diocese of LA covered most of southern California. Now imagine being bishop and having to do the rounds at least once every other year to confirm everyone. Nuts, they'd never get their other work done. A lot of times these auxiliaries are "bishops in training." The much admired new Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvadore Cordileone, was a mere "auxiliary bishop" in San Diego not that many years ago. Rome had been grooming him.

Anonymous said...

This is take on things that needs to be more widely disseminated. The focus on monsignori is rather to miss the elephant in the room. In so many ways bishops have been the winners (crude term, but you know what I mean) and priests the losers in the wake of Vatican II.

The Holy Father could abolish monsignori tomorrow and the Church would soldier on, and perhaps better in some senses. But as you intimate, Father, the title at least allows a normal priest to occupy a senior administrative office (or even pastoral) with some easily-apprehended mark of his role. That a sacramental order can be conferred for purely administrative office is incongruous at best, an abuse at worst.

So why not introduce a new rank of monsignor for important non-pastoral roles like that of nuncio? Let the new guys be Right Reverends (for example) and allow them whatever is needed to fulfill their office effectively in the diplomatic context. Likewise, a rank can surely be given to senior administrators, both Vatican and local, which does not involve sacramental character and its attendant, and rightful duties and mission.

And let's face it, monisgnori are probably cheaper than bishops!


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