Speedy Retirement

It is fairly well known that bishops send a retirement request to Rome at a set time in their lives. Many pundits comment on the speed with which that request is granted. That would seem to be a bellwether on papal approval or lack thereof. But maybe not.

Seventy-five-year-old persons still in the workforce are not the same as they were fifty, thirty, or even ten years prior. Illnesses and injuries add up. Old age brings its own opportunities, few of which involve added vigor.

Let’s be honest: we don’t usually get to read letters sent to the pope. Some of them may detail significant medical or psychological challenges. Such things would be none of our business. A pope may be more or less moved to compassion for a private battle with a serious malady. We’ve seen a few recent bishops take early retirement. Is illness now a sign of disapproval from God and Peter? That would seem an innocent and unfair judgment.

Another factor might be the availability of a successor. People seem pleased in Pennsylvania, and disappointed in Ohio over this recent appointment.* That seems to be a good sign: someone was ready to take leadership in a church that has seen much trouble under its previous two or three leaders.

Another point for commentators is whether or not a red hat is bestowed. Many of Archbishop Chaput’s fangirls and boys are dismayed their hero never got this award. The truth is that Pope Francis has been clear on his priority for the peripheries. When the rules changed on something in 1978-2013, and people fussed, they were often told to get over it, and get with the program.

As for the red hat, if it truly is a sign of favor for an extraordinary person, why has it always been assigned to a big city bishop? Suppose a bishop in a periphery like Rapid City, South Dakota is favored with important charisms? Why not just appoint to the College and leave the prelate in place to continue to serve?

If it’s about the city, maybe cardinal belong in churches of proven holiness, unscarred by scandals. If I were advising Pope Francis, I’d think twice about honoring a diocese with a troubled past. Those communities need healers and reformers, not airport bishops.

The judgment of faithfulCatholics™ was thumbs up for this quick acceptance. (Though I notice they couldn’t be bothered to interrupt their August Roman siesta or find an immediate successor.) So there is sadness in some quarters for Archbishop Chaput. I think we have better things to worry about.

Retirement can be a blessed thing. Let’s just be grateful and move along.

* I’m still a skeptic on careerism, but one small point in Archbishop Perez’s favor is that he was ordained a priest in his new diocese.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Speedy Retirement

  1. John Donaghy says:

    One of the more interesting appointments to the College of Cardinals was Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez, an auxiliary bishop. El Salvador never had a cardinal before (as far as I know), but Rosa Chávez was a great supporter of the canonization of Romero. Another was the cardinal of Guatemala Álvaro Ramazzini – not from the capital but from a place of poverty. He had been in a previous diocese and spoke strongly against mining interests. At least here in Central America the pope has appointed bishops from the peripheries (though maybe not as far away as Rapid City, ND.

  2. nassauny says:

    Philadelphia still has a cardinal, Justin Rigali, age 84. Might there be a common practice not to appoint a second cardinal while a retired cardinal is alive?

    • Liam says:

      He’s past the voting age. It’s rare, but not unprecedented in recent decades, to have two voting cardinals associated with the same see, but much less unusual to have one voting and one non-voting.

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