Friday, June 12, 2009

What Happens To A Diocese Without A Bishop?

Q - What happens to the diocese between now and the appointment of a new Bishop? I have no idea how such things work.

A - Thanks for asking. We really won't see much change in how things work at all, because immediately after a bishop given a new assignment to a new diocese (or retires), he becomes the administrator of his former diocese (in this case, Bishop Aymond is currently the administrator of the Diocese of Austin) until he is installed in the new diocese.
The "episcopal see" of Austin will not be without someone over it through this process. Canon 416 reads:
An episcopal see is vacant upon the death of a diocesan bishop, resignation accepted by the Roman Pontiff, transfer, or privation made known to the bishop.
The canons that follow 416 then explain that the bishop is named administrator of the diocese he has just left until he takes possesion of his new see. If there is no new bishop named by the time he leaves, a priest (or another bishop if there are other bishops in the diocese) administrator will be named to replace him in the interim within eight days by the college of consultors within the diocese (the presbyteral council). If they fail to elect someone administrator within eight days, then the metropolitan (archbishop of the area) will name one.

The administrator has limited duties and cannot take on financial responsibilities. Their role is to keep things going until the new bishop takes over. They also are forbidden to have any "innovations" during the vacancy of the bishop.

This process is an ordinary part of the life of the Church. Pray hard during it.

One of the interesting things is that immediately upon having a bishop notified of a new assignment to a new diocese, the office of vicar general (and other administrative offices) ceases. We just had Fr. Mike Sis (our former pastor) named co-Vicar General a few weeks ago. He is no longer vicar general.


John said...

So what remains in place within the administrative structure of a diocese. What appointments are kept in place? Also, what "other administrative offices" cease?

Generally speaking, how long (on average) does it take for a new bishop to be designated?

Marcel said...

Most of the administration stays in place. But, the administrative offices that share authority with the bishop (e.g., the vicar general, the episcopal vicar) are no longer in place.

It could be a few weeks to several months (on average) for a new bishop to be named. There are exceptional cases that might take many months or over a year, but these are rare. In the case of an important and large diocese such as Austin, it should be done by the end of the summer.

John said...

That's good to know!

Stacie said...

I hope it is soon. The diocese of Cheyenne, WY has been without a bishop since last fall.

LM said...

what is the criteria for selecting a bishop? It seems like all of them come a seminary...
I vote for Fr Corapi or Fr Zuhlsdorf

Exsultet said...

Do you have any thoughts on who might be named the new bishop, or alternatively, who might be the interim administrator? For example, is it likely that Fr. Sis, since he was almost Vicar General anyway, might be the interim administrator?

Marcel said...

LM - the process of how a Bishop is selected can be found here -

Exsultet - right now the administrator is Archbishop Aymond. If he leaves without having another bishop named, then the presbyteral council will elect and administrator from the priests of the diocese - one that is well respected and has the skills to run the diocese. Fr. Mike probably fits the bill, but nobody knows what will happen.