To Whom Do Bishops Report?
whom do bishops and dioceses report their activities? To archbishops? To cardinals?
To the pope?
A: Residential bishops (heads of dioceses) ultimately report
to the pope. One way of doing this is through the reports they submit every
five years, about six months in advance of their ad limina ["to the thresholds"]
visits to the pope. On these visits to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul,
residential bishops and their auxiliary bishops meet with the Holy Father, plus
officials from offices of the Holy See.
In a much more limited way, bishops who head dioceses sometimes
indirectly report to one another through national or regional conferences of
bishops. For example, after adopting the Charter for the Protection of Children
and Young People (June 2002), the U.S. bishops wrote Essential Norms
to implement it. The bishops obliged themselves to follow these norms once the
Holy See confirmed them, as it did in December 2002.
In this instance, the bishops and the Holy See collectively made
"particular law" (legislation supplementary to the 1983 Code of Canon Law) for
the Catholic Church in this country. The bishops publicly pledged to report
to one another and to the general public that they would follow these Essential
Norms to implement the Charter.
The pope conducts most of his business with local bishops through
the Congregation of Bishops and his official representative in each country,
a nuncio (ambassador to that country) or an apostolic delegate (representative
to the Catholic Church in that country).
Each diocese is in an ecclesiastical province, which includes an
archdiocese headed by an archbishop. The United States has 22 Latin-rite archdioceses.
Bishops in Eastern Catholic Churches are responsible to their patriarch or major
archbishop and ultimately to the pope.
For the Latin-rite Church, canons #435 and #436 of the Code of Canon
Law specify the very limited responsibilities that a residential archbishop
has regarding the bishops in his ecclesiastical province. A cardinal enters
into the reporting relationship only if he heads the province to which a particular
Auxiliary bishops report to the head of the diocese to which they
Not all bishops are heads of dioceses, auxiliary bishops or retired
bishops. Bishops and archbishops who work directly for the Holy See are known
as "titular" bishops or archbishops. They have their own supervisors, depending
on the office for which they work.
Bishops are collectively the successors of the apostles, working
always in union with the pope, the successor of St. Peter and head of the "college"
What Happens When a Bishop Resigns?
happens to a Catholic bishop when he resigns? Where does he go? Does he still
have a rank within the Church? What financial assistance does he receive?
A: He remains a bishop and could receive some other assignment
from the pope. Or the bishop could retire completely because of age, illness
or some other serious reason.
A retired bishop chooses where to live. If he resides in the diocese
of which he was bishop, his residence is worked out with the diocesan administrator
and eventually the new bishop.
A retired bishop could move back to the area of the country where
he grew up or where many of his relatives live. A retired bishop who belongs
to a religious order could move to one of his community’s houses.
Although a retired bishop is still a member of the national conference
of bishops and is welcome to attend its meetings, there are some matters on
which he no longer has a vote.
Every diocese is responsible for contributing to the living expenses
of its retired bishops, including auxiliary bishops.
How Old Is the Earth?
the Catholic Church agree with geologists about the age of the earth? Why would
God create dinosaurs, have them roam the earth for millions of years and then
create human beings?
Why doesn’t the Book of Genesis explain this? What does
the Catholic Church teach about this?
A: I leave the issue of how old the earth is to scientists,
who have frequently revised their estimates within my lifetime. The people whom
God inspired to write the books of the Bible may not have known about dinosaurs.
Did the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in 180 A.D., know about them? All
the books of the Bible were written by that date, with the Book of Genesis finalized
almost 700 years earlier.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word dinosaur
entered the English language only in 1841. You ask why God would create dinosaurs
before creating human beings. Who are we to dictate to God about such things?
It is important that we accept the Bible for what it is (the self-revelation
of God) and not complain that it is not something else (an encyclopedia of all
knowledge). Even encyclopedias need to be updated as our knowledge grows!
The opposition between religion and science is really a false opposition
because a single God stands behind both of them. At times, some religious people
have claimed too much (the sun moves around the earth because the Bible presumes
that). At other times, a few scientists have claimed too much (scientific research
is not subject to moral limits).
In heaven, you can ask God about the decision to create dinosaurs
before human beings.
Problem With the Stigmata
became a Catholic in 1991 and am very happy to be one. The phenomenon of the
stigmata, however, troubles me.
After researching this, I cannot understand why God would
inflict this on anyone. Do the stigmata come from God?
Because I have found no reference to the stigmata in the Catechism of
the Catholic Church, I doubt that this is part of the
official teaching of the Catholic Church.
But why do Catholics venerate stigmatics? Why have they
been canonized? I can accept that Francis of Assisi was a stigmatic because
his spirituality so closely resembles that of Jesus. Other stigmatics, however,
give me the creeps. Am I "out of step"?
A: The stigmata are not part of essential Catholic teaching.
You could deny that any person other than Christ ever received the marks of
his passion—and be a good Catholic.
The Church has canonized several people who apparently had these
wounds, but the Church does not commit itself on their authenticity.
I do not deny that some people (like Francis of Assisi) have had
the stigmata. In the best situation, the stigmata remind us that Christ’s passion
and resurrection are very real and that we need to be open to God’s grace. The
stigmata cannot be the object of faith but could, if properly understood,
be a support to faith.
Someone could use claims regarding the stigmata for a
very unspiritual motive. In the case of Padre
Pio, who died in 1968, and was canonized in 2002, some
unscrupulous people tried to use his stigmata to their advantage—commercial
Why Are These Symbols Connected With Saints?
Q: I have noticed that many paintings of St. Jerome include
a lion lying at his feet. In other paintings there is a skull. I have noticed
similar images in paintings of other saints. I am intrigued by these symbols.
What do they mean?
A: Yes, the lion is a very common symbol for St. Jerome, whose
feast we celebrate on September 30. Picturing a wild animal with a saint is
a way of saying that holiness restores people to the kind of innocence that
Adam and Eve enjoyed at creation. God's grace leads them full circle.
The conflicts that we take for granted were not part of God's plan
for creation from the very beginning.
In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we read: "Then the wolf shall
be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf
and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the
lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and
the child lay his hand on the adder's lair" (11:6-8).
A skull reminds us how quickly life passes and the importance of
our choices today.
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