Episcopal Reluctance

One Irish bishop out, but the others of the “Dublin Five” appear to be heading toward a showdown with a brother bishop, Diarmuid Martin. According to the news link, Archbishop Martin will petition Rome for the removal of these bishops if they don’t resign. However, I didn’t read any specifics on the “emergence,” only this paragraph worded in passive voice:

Yesterday it emerged that if the four bishops — who say they did no wrong — do not stand down voluntarily on the principle of collective responsibility, Archbishop Martin will petition the Congregation of Bishops in Rome to remove them early in 2010.

Anybody from the religion watch hear anything more of this? Rock has nothing public since reporting on Donal Murray’s accepted abdication from Limerick last Wednesday.

It’s a cliche that the Church works slowly, sometimes like a glacier. Yet ordinary human beings live in a world less icy, especially when feeling run hot for the injustice of certain crimes and the slow reactions which can just as easily be interpreted as a boy’s club loyalty. Archbishop Martin is positioning himself, at the very least, as something of the avenging angel for Irish sensibility on these bishops. If the bishops in question stick, and petition to  Rome is denied, I can imagine a certain chilliness in Irish bishops’ meeting in the years to come.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to Episcopal Reluctance

  1. tom Kohler says:

    Does the Bishop of Rome have the Authority to remove another bishop? Would it not be better for the collegium of Ireland to suggest their resignations, and put pressure on the bishops to resign. I think it sets a bad precedent to ask the Bishop of Rome to get involved in asking for resignations when we are not dealing with Doctrines of Faith or Personal Morality. We complain when Rome interferes, but when we want some dirty job done – we expect them to do it. That is why there is a collegium of National Bishop’s Conferences.

  2. Liam says:


    Popes have removed bishops. Episcopal conferences have no such authority.

    Were the church to revive more traditional synodal structures, metropolitan or primatial synods/councils should be given the power to prosecute such removals and also to recommend the appointment of coadjutors.

  3. tom Kolar says:

    Hi Liam,

    I know Episcopal conferences can not canonically remove a Bishop under present canon law, but don’t you think they could use moral persuasion pro ecclesiae bono for the resignations, and approach the offending Bishop in such a manner. I would think the resignation is enough punishment – and being a Catholic Church – we are not retributive.
    The important matter is the care of the abused. And there must be a cura peccatorum.
    One must also realize that not all accused are guilty – as happened to one of my friends – who sued his diocese for a great amount of money and won the case. Now he is a millionaire, and sadly is separated from the church.

  4. Liam says:

    The episcopal conferences are useless for inter-episcopal discipline because they never were intended or structured for that; they sort of represent the United Nations approach to multi-lateral alliance among equal sovereigns. I think revival of synodal governance with teeth is in order (among many other things).

  5. Jimmy Mac says:

    I suspect that, for this papacy and direction in which church organization is retrenching, synodal government is a wee bit too close to conciliarism and, as such, has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever happening.

    According to the Fount of All Wisdom and Knowledge (Wikipedia), “The word [synod]comes from the Greek σύνοδος meaning “assembly” or “meeting”, and it is synonymous with the Latin word concilium — ‘council’. Originally synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.”

  6. Liam says:


    I agree…for now. But here’s the thing that I do thing will eventually be learned (maybe 2-3 generations from now – what can I say, I’m an optimist!) – the claim to absolute authority in all degrees is a claim to a commensurately absolute responsibility. Rome does not need that as a matter of practical governance, and it will eventually find ways to more transparently insulate itself from responsibility. Synodal governance is traditional and need not bespeak conciliarism. That’s why I suspect it will eventually make a comeback in some form.

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