CONCERNS ABOUT ‘SHARING THE CONCERNS’: A CRITICAL RE-EXAMINATION OF THE OFFICE OF AUXILIARY BISHOP
Of the Second Vatican Council’s sixteen major documents, only one, Christus Dominus, speaks about the office of auxiliary bishop, and when it does, it argues that, primarily, these bishops “are called to share the concerns of the diocesan bishop.” Even at the council, though, objections that the proliferation of auxiliary bishops undermined the principle of the mono-episcopacy, caused cultural confusion, were sacramentally unnecessary, and did ecumenical damage, arose from multiple quarters. This article retrieves these interventions and undertakes a critical re-examination of the office of auxiliary bishop. What comes to light leads to three concrete proposals: first, the practice of ordaining priests to become auxiliary bishops ought to be suspended for at least a set period of time, and perhaps indefinitely; second, clear criteria for dividing large dioceses into smaller ones need to be established and utilized; and third, the function of “sharing the concerns” should be performed by a “kitchen cabinet” composed primarily of laity who must support and partner with the diocesan bishop in his ministry of episkopē.
CIC (1917), Can. 782, §2.
CIC (1983), Can. 1012.
Edward N. Peters, ed., The 1917 or Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law, San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius Press, 2001, Can. 782, §1 (henceforth, CIC (1917)).
John W. O’Malley, What Happened at Vatican II, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008, 163.
Klaus Mörsdorf, “Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church,” in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. H. Vorgrimler, New York: Herder and Herder, 1968, 2:176–77.
Neil Ormerod, “The Structure of a Systematic Ecclesiology,” Theological Studies 63 (2002) 3–30 at 22–27.
Pope Francis, “Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy,” 11 February 2020.
Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus), October 28, 1965, in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 2 vol., ed. Norman P. Tanner, SJ, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1990, §25.
Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), November 21 1964, in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, §20.