Christus Dominus 22-24: Bishops and Geography

Three sections of Christus Dominus speak of some practical matters.

CD 22 speaks of practical matters for the good of the faithful: “a fitting revision of diocesan boundaries be undertaken prudently and as soon as possible. This can be done by dividing dismembering or uniting them, or by changing their boundaries, or by determining a better place for the episcopal see or, finally, especially in the case of dioceses having larger cities, by providing them with a new internal organization.”

My home diocese contains two former see cities, Kansas City and St Joseph. The latter city was once responsible for northern Missouri and Kansas City for the central and western parts of the state. Now the two cities are “united,” with a redrawing of diocesan boundaries to accomodate the newest Missouri diocese, headed by the bishop of our state capital (a smaller city than St Joseph, by the way). All this took place decades ago, before the Council, I think.

CD 23 just tells you when you tinker with dioceses, be really careful and consider diocesan personnel, diversity (CD calls it “variety in composition of the people of God”), civil jurisdictions, natural populations of the laity, and no overlapping territories among dioceses. On that last point, I do recall that a cluster of a parish or two from Dubuque and a parish or two from Davenport shared a priest. I presume the bishops and bureaucrats had it all worked out.

The extent of the diocese and the number of its inhabitants should generally be such that, on the one hand, the bishop himself- even though assisted by others-can officiate at pontifical functions, make pastoral visitations, faithfully direct and coordinate all the works of the apostolate in the diocese and know well especially his priests, and also the religious and lay people who are engaged in diocesan projects.

Others disagree with me, but I still think dioceses in the US are too large. In Dubuque we had about 200 parishes. In Kansas City, I think it’s about 110. A bishop could be visiting each of his parishes once a year, and one might think that 50 parishes would be about right. Rather than close down self-sustaining communities, why not reduce the bishop’s load? A group of dioceses, especially in large metro areas, might merge appropriate offices to more competently serve regional needs.

Finally, in order that the ministry of salvation be more effectively carried out in each diocese, it should be considered a general rule that each diocese have clergy, in number and qualifications at least sufficient, for the proper care of the people of God; also, there should be no lack of the offices, institutions and organizations which are proper to the particular church and which experience has shown necessary for its efficient government and apostolate; finally, resources for the support of personnel and institutions should be at hand or at least prudently foreseen in prospect.

For this same purpose, where there are faithful of a different rite, the diocesan bishop should provide for their spiritual needs either through priests or parishes of that rite or through an episcopal vicar endowed with the necessary faculties. Wherever it is fitting, the last named should also have episcopal rank. Otherwise the Ordinary himself may perform the office of an Ordinary of different rites. If for certain reasons, these prescriptions are not applicable in the judgment of the Apostolic See, then a proper hierarchy for the different rites is to be established.

This is extended to consider lay people of a different language group.

CD 24 merely suggests that episcopal conferences look at these matters. Eastern Rite operations are to be left untouched.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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