Christus Dominus 20-21: Steering into Specifics

Nearly halfway through Christus Dominus, and I’ll tell you there are occasional good bits ahead, but the heavy theological work is behind us already. Sections 20 and 21 deal with the alpha and omega events of a bishop’s career: appointment and retirement.

First, note that naming bishops is not a righ tof Rome per se, but of “competent ecclesiastical authority.” Neil and other historians might give us a more in-depth overview, but there has been a longer church tradition for secular rulers naming bishops than Rome. Vatican II says, “Secular rulers, out!”

The civil authorities, on the other hand, whose favorable attitude toward the Church the sacred synod gratefully acknowledges and highly appreciates, are most kindly requested voluntarily to renounce the above-mentioned rights and privileges which they presently enjoy by reason of a treaty or custom, after discussing the matter with the Apostolic See.

I wonder if everybody is on board with this now.

And CD 21 speaks of resignations, and the care of retired bishops:

Since the pastoral office of bishops is so important and weighty, diocesan bishops and others regarded in law as their equals, who have become less capable of fulfilling their duties properly because of the increasing burden of age or some other serious reason, are earnestly requested to offer their resignation from office either at their own initiative or upon the invitation of the competent authority. If the competent authority should accept the resignation, it will make provision both for the suitable support of those who have resigned and for special rights to be accorded them.

Again, “competent authority,” not Rome. Is Rome automatically the only competent authority for Western bishops? Note also, retirement is not just for age, but for any “serious” reason by which a bishop is less capable (not incapable) of fulfilling his duty.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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