Who in the Church appoints bishops and decides if a
diocese gets an auxiliary bishop with right of succession? Our diocese has twice had
to wait six months to hear who will be our new bishop.
Canon Law #377 states it clearly: "The Supreme Pontiff
freely appoints bishops or confirms those lawfully elected."
Over the centuries there were different methods of election.
Almost everyone, for instance, has heard how St. Ambrose was made bishop of Milan by
acclamation of the people. And in some instances treaties between the Vatican and different
countries gave their governments the right of nomination or presentation of candidates
The Second Vatican Council determined that such rights
should not be granted in the future. It also asked that, where rights of nomination or
presentation had been granted in the past, the civil authorities would waive them.
The Code of Canon Law (Canon #377, 2) legislates that at
least every three years the bishops of an ecclesiastical province or a bishops' conference
are to draw up a list of priests suitable for the episcopate and send the list to Rome.
And each bishop individually has the right to make known worthy candidates.
Also, according to the Code, in the case of appointing
diocesan bishops the papal legate, after consultation with different people, suggests
candidates (Canon #377, 3). Canon #377 further specifies that, in the case of an auxiliary
bishop, the diocesan bishop proposes a list of at least three candidates.
The law further declares (Canon #403) that, when pastoral
needs require it, a diocesan bishop may request one or more auxiliary bishops. It also
states that, in serious circumstances, the Holy See may give a diocesan bishop an auxiliary
with special faculties or a coadjutor with the right of succession. There is nothing
to preclude the diocesan bishop's requesting such an appointment.
To sort through these lists and assist the pope in his
decisionmaking, there is the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. But in the end, it is
the pope who decides the appointment of bishops and the terms of their appointments.
I'm sure many factors affect the decision whether or not
there is true pastoral necessity for an auxiliary bishop. But I doubt that there is a
magic number of people that determines such appointments. The age and health of the ordinary,
the geographical size and ethnic composition of a diocese may be among considerations.
It may be noted that a February 28, 1992, Catholic News
Service item reported that requests of Cleveland, Ohio, and Joliet, Illinois, for auxiliary
bishops had been refused. In the case of Joliet there was still one active auxiliary
and in Cleveland's case there were three. In informing the Joliet diocesan bishop of
the congregation's decision, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan reminded him that the Vatican
was concerned to avoid a proliferation of auxiliary bishops in the United States.
Finally, the length of time it takes to appoint a diocesan
bishop probably depends on the situation. Is the see open because of a sudden or unexpected
death? Because of the previous bishop's retirement? Are special skills and talents necessary?
Particular language abilities? Familiarity with the culture? Pastoral and administrative
Considering the fact that a person appointed may be in
office many years, the Holy See may well want to take its time in finding the right bishop.
About Anointing the Sick
The catechumens in my RCIA group asked me these questions:
Can permanent deacons administer the Sacrament of the Sick? Can a non-baptized person
received the Sacrament of the Sick? Can a baptized person who is not a Catholic receive
the Sacrament of the Sick? If not, why not?
One commentary, The Canon Law Letter and Spirit: A Practical
Guide to the Code of Canon Law (prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain
and Ireland in association with the Canadian Canon Law Society), notes that the doctrinal
question, whether someone not validly ordained a priest could validly confer the Sacrament
of the Anointing of the Sick, has not been settled.
Canon #1003 states, "Every priest, but only a priest,
can validly administer the Anointing of the Sick."
Those who argue that priesthood must be necessary cite
the text of James 5:14, "Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters [italics
mine] of the Church and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name
of the Lord."
So, at least in the present discipline of the Church, deacons
cannot confer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
People, including priests, can certainly pray for someone
who is sick and not baptized. A person who has not been baptized, however, cannot receive
the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick or any other sacrament. It is Baptism that
initiates a person into the life of grace and the liturgical life of the Church. It is
through Baptism that a person acquires the capacity to grow in grace.
Canon #842, therefore, states the constant teaching of
the Church, "A person who has not received Baptism cannot validly be admitted to
the other sacraments."
In order for a non-baptized person to receive the last
rites (including Anointing of the Sick), the following conditions must be met: be seriously
ill and in danger of death, be convinced of the teaching of the Church, wish to be incorporated
into the Church and desire the last rites. That person would first be baptized and confirmed,
then anointed and lastly given the Eucharist as viaticum.
Ordinarily only Catholics may lawfully receive the sacraments
from Catholic ministers. Canon #844 states, "Catholic ministers may lawfully administer
the sacraments only to Catholic members of Christ's faithful, who equally may lawfully
receive them only from Catholic members, except as provided in numbers 2, 3 and 4 of
this Canon and in Canon #861, 2."
These numbers in Canon #844 regulate the exceptional circumstances
in which the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick may be
received by Catholics from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments
are valid. They also regulate Catholic ministers administering these sacraments in exceptional
circumstances to members of the Eastern Churches or other Churches in the same position
so far as the sacraments are concerned.
Canon #844, 4, specifically legislates, "If there
is danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or of the bishops' conference,
there is some other grave and pressing need, Catholic ministers may lawfully administer
these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church
who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them,
provided that they demonstrate the Catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and
are properly disposed."
For more details, you can consult the various commentaries
on Canon Law and the Vatican's Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms
on Ecumenism (1993).
Fish on Friday?
Why do Catholics eat fish on Friday? How did this tradition
start? I have been told that at one time the Italian fishing industry was in a depression,
so the pope made a law mandating eating fish once a week. Also, that it was a practical
concern as meat that had been preserved was beginning to spoil and animals should not
be slaughtered during the spring birthing season.
There is no law, nor do I know of any law in the
past, that Catholics must eat fish on Friday or anytime. Over the centuries custom has
dictated that Catholics abstain from meat (the flesh of warm-blooded animals)
on certain days (chiefly Friday).
Many eat fish in the place of meat, but that is a matter
of choice. They might just as well eat eggs, cheese or beans if they want protein in
the diet on days of abstinence.
I've come across the suggestion that some pope wanted to
give the fishermen a boost, but I've never found any historical proof for that. And,
de facto, abstinence of one kind or another has its roots in the Old Testament and the
forbidden foods in the Mosaic law.
The entry on fast and abstinence in the New Catholic
Encyclopedia will tell you that abstinence among Christians is mentioned in the
Didache, written in or around 90 A.D. So it is hardly an invention of a pope in the
The reason for observing Friday as a day of penance (abstinence)
should be fairly obvious. It was the day of Christ's death.
The days of fasting and abstaining, however, have changed
from place to place and from one set of times and days to another.
Besides penance and mortification, I can't tell you what
motivations for some laws may have been. But I would think fish would spoil even more
quickly than meat. Wise hunters and stock breeders have long known enough to protect
animals in the breeding season.
Church and the Bible
I'm sending along a clipping that says the Church has
defined the meaning of few Bible texts. Is that correct?
The clipping you sent is correct in that the meaning of
few texts of the Bible has been infallibly defined by the Church.
The essay by Father Raymond E. Brown, S.S., and Sandra
Schneiders, H.M., on hermeneutics (interpretation) in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary speaks
at some length on this topic.
The authors make at least six points in speaking of the
Church's role as keeper of the Scriptures:
1) In some instances the Church simply gives directives
or guidelines how to interpret or understand the Scriptures. Later findings and research
in biblical criticism may lead to revised or new directives for better understanding.
2) The magisterium sometimes uses particular texts to support
or illustrate its teaching without intending to define their literal meaning. One example
of this would be Genesis 3:15, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and
between your offspring and hers," in Ineffabilis Dei on the Immaculate Conception.
3) The Church doesn't claim the power to determine infallibly
details of geography, chronology, etc. The scope of its authority is matters pertaining
to faith and morals.
4) The Church has officially commented on the meaning of
very few passages.
5) When the Church has commented on the meaning of certain
passages, it has most often done so in negative fashion--to reject as false an interpretation
because of its implications for faith and/or morals. The Council of Trent, for instance,
rejected the Calvinist interpretation of John 3:5, "No one can enter the kingdom
of God without being born of water and Spirit," that would make it only a metaphor.
So, too, did the Church condemn those who disassociated
John 20:23, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain
are retained," from the power to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
6) Using some texts to support Church teaching doesn't
mean the Church intends to define their meaning.
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