Program #0414 for Friday, November 9, 2012: Appointment of Bishop-elect Robert Deeley and how bishops are appointed

November 9, 2012

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Appointment of Bishop-elect Robert Deeley and how bishops are appointed

Appointment of Bishop-elect Robert Deeley and how bishops are appointed

Summary of today’s show: A big day in the Archdiocese of Boston began with the appointment by Pope Benedict XVI of Msgr. Robert Deeley, vicar general and moderator of the curia, as an auxiliary bishop. Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell discuss this morning’s press conference and the remarks from Cardinal Seán and Bishop-elect Deeley and then they went into detail about the process of the appointment of bishops, from the gathering of names to the Pope’s final approval and all the steps in between.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell

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Today’s topics: Appointment of Bishop-elect Robert Deeley and how bishops are appointed

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and wished everyone a good holiday weekend. He welcomed Fr. Mark O’Connell to the show. They discussed the amazing week, including the events of Tuesday including the re-election of President Obama and the defeat of Question 2. Fr. Mark said he was so pleased to see the results with Question 2, especially since a few months ago the Yes side was polling so high. Scot said it’s a credit to the 10,000 people who all contributed to the effort to stop assisted suicide.

Scot noted how Cardinal Seán preached on assisted suicide at the Red Mass in 2011 and the next day in the Globe the coverage wasn’t favorable, yet 14 months later, the Globe editorialized Question 2. It’s a credit to the many people who passed on the facts to others. Fr. Mark said the Globe printed a letter angry at the newspaper for getting behind the No on 2 effort. In the end it came down to two percentage points.

Then Scot heard about a press conference that could come up this morning. The details became public this morning. Msgr. Robert Deeley, vicar general and moderator of the curia, was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Boston. Scot asked Fr. Mark how it felt for his predecessor to get this honor. Fr. Mark said it’s great news. Deeley has had a lot of jobs: priest, pastor, judicial vicar, vicar general, curial official in Rome, president of Canon Law Society in America. He’s well qualified for his new role.

Scot said Deeley is a straight shooter and you know where you stand with him. For him to keep a secret, a big secret, while continuing his work, particularly on the assisted suicide issue, while preparing his own remarks. Fr. Mark said no one really understands how wide the scope of the job of vicar general and moderator of the curia is, and he did that while writing a speech and coming up with a motto.

Scot said the episcopal motto is “Living the Truth in Love” from Ephesians 4:15, which also happens to be part of the official prayer for the New Evangelization in the Archdiocese.

Fr. Mark noted that we have three retired auxiliary bishops and five active ones, and now Bishop-elect Deeley joins a distinguished group. He has become the 36th auxiliary bishop of Boston. The three retired bishops are Frances Irwin, Emilio Allue, and John Boles. The active bishops are John Dooher, Walter Edyvean, Robert Hennessey, Arthur Kennedy, and Peter Uglietto. Scot recommended the website as a good source for this kind of information.

They are listing the auxiliaries of Boston who became cardinals: Cushing, Spellman, O’Connell, Wright.

Fr. Mark noted that Deeley’s remarks were not elaborate, but right to the point. He showed his great affection for Pope Benedict XVI. Scot said he shared the story of how he was informed by the apostolic nuncio last week.

When the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Viganó called me last week I was thinking it was a routine call from Washington seeking information of some kind. Instead the Nuncio informed me that His Holiness, Benedict XVI, wished to appoint me an Auxiliary Bishop of Boston to assist Cardinal Seán in the work of this great Church in Boston. Archbishop Viganó wanted to know if I would accept. It seems to me that when the Holy Father makes a request a priest is going to answer “yes”.


Since that phone call on November 1st, the Feast of all the Saints, there has been much to do. One of the things I needed to determine was what my Episcopal motto would be. I have chosen a passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Veritatem facere in caritate”, “Living the truth in love”. In these words of Paul I find the heart of our challenge in the Church today.

Scot said the last time we had auxiliary bishops appointed, in 2010, both Bishops Kennedy and Uglietto said they were thinking about their episcopal mottos. On the other hand, Deeley had his ready and Scot thinks he’s probably been living with this motto for much of his priesthood. He said it’s not just for bishops to have mottos, and even if we don’t put it on a coat of arms, we can have it as something we follow in life. He asked Fr. Mark if he had a Scriptural passage as a motto. Fr. Mark said he didn’t have one at hand, but he could come up with one quickly just by looking at his breviary and seeing what’s highlighted there.

2nd segment: Scot as we rejoice in one of our priests being named an auxiliary bishop of Boston, we will look at the process of appointing of bishops, to bring some clarity to it. A key item to remember is that bishops are successors to the apostles and right now there are about 3,000 bishops in the world and in the US about 300 bishops, active and retired. Most bishops lead diocese directly, others assist archbishops as auxiliaries, and others assist Pope Benedict in Rome. The bishop leading a diocese is called an ordinary. Auxiliaries are appointed to assist the ordinary. Another kind is a coadjutor bishop who has the right of succession, meaning that he automatically becomes the new bishop when the diocesan bishop retires or dies. Fr. Mark said there are apostolic administrators, for when there isn’t an ordinary in place, appointed by the Holy Father in the interim. In other cases, the diocesan administrator is elected by a group of priests, the College of Consultors, to lead the diocese during a period waiting for a new bishop. Fr. Mark said an apostolic administrator has the same powers as the bishop on paper, but isn’t to make major changes. Scot used the example of Bishop Chris Coyne, who was auxiliary bishop of Indianapolis and became apostolic administrator when the archbishop retired.

Scot said the Congregation of Bishops in Rome have the task of presenting a name to the Holy Father for him to appoint as a bishop in a particular place. He can accept the suggestion or choose someone else. The Congregation gets the names from the apostolic nuncio, who in the US is in Washington, DC, part of whose job is to gather names of potential bishops. The bishops of a province meet occasionally to gather names to submit names to the nuncio who will send a list of three names, a terna, to the Congregation of Bishops when a vacancy needs to be filled. The nuncio does some research on the names before submitting.

Fr. Mark said the terna is also how we pick pastors, with a terna. He added that the names are only surfaced for submission to the nuncio by the bishops of the province. At least twice in Fr. Mark’s priesthood, the priests of the archdiocese were surveyed for names of priests who would be good bishops. Twice a year the bishops of the province get together, discuss the names, and send a group—many names or even one—to the nuncio. They include the qualifications for them to be bishop. For auxiliary bishop, they have to justify to the nuncio the need for the auxiliary bishop.

A diocesan bishop must justify to the apostolic nuncio his need for an auxiliary bishop. This is easier if he is requesting a replacement for a retired or deceased auxiliary. The diocesan bishop prepares the terna, or list of three candidates, for his requested auxiliary and forwards it to the apostolic nuncio. The nuncio then conducts his own investigation of the priests on the diocesan bishop’s terna, sending the names to Rome with a report and his own recommendations. On average, this part of the process may take two to six months.

At the Congregation for Bishops:

Once all the documentation from the nuncio is complete and in order, and the prefect approves, the process moves forward. If the appointment involves a bishop who is being promoted or transferred, the matter may be handled by the prefect and the staff. If, however, the appointment is of a priest to the episcopacy, the full congregation is ordinarily involved.

Scot said the full congregation is all the cardinals who are members of the congregation.

A cardinal relator is chosen to summarize the documentation and make a report to the full congregation, which generally meets twice a month on Thursdays. After hearing the cardinal relator’s report, the congregation discusses the appointment and then votes. The Congregation may follow the recommendation of the nuncio, chose another of the candidates on the terna, or even ask that another terna be prepared.

Fr. Mark said once it goes to the nuncio, he does his investigation. He sends letters to a bunch of people, that are confidential. Fr. Mark gets the letter as judicial vicar and it has a whole series of questions about the candidate. It doesn’t say what they’re being considered for and many of those investigated never become bishops. Fr. Mark said the subject of the investigation normally doesn’t know about the investigation. He emphasized the secrecy that surrounds the process. The judicial vicar is bound to inform the nuncio about anything that should be known that suggest whether he would be a good or bad appointment. It also asks about their appearance, their friends, and more. The Church is looking for anything that would be negative. The last question is “Who else should we ask?” and Fr. Mark always puts the name of layperson. Fr. Mark said this is an important place where laypeople are involved in the appointment of bishops.

At a private audience with the pope, usually on a Saturday, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops presents the recommendations of the Congregation to the Holy Father. A few days later, the pope informs the Congregation of his decision. The Congregation then notifies the nuncio, who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he will accept. If the answer is “yes,” the Vatican is notified and a date is set for the announcement. It often takes six to eight months—and sometimes longer—from the time a diocese becomes vacant until a new bishop is appointed.

Scot said depending on the circumstances, the time is usually shorter if it’s an auxiliary replacing another who’s retired. He added that it’s his understanding that the archdiocese normally has 6 auxiliaries, one for each of the five regions plus the moderator of the curia. Scot said when an auxiliary gets well known for his leadership qualities, it’s more common than not for those auxiliaries get named to other dioceses. Like Bishop Malone who went from Boston to Portland, Maine, and now to Buffalo. Fr. Mark named a number of Boston bishops who’ve gone on to other dioceses.

Scot speculated that Cardinal Seán suggested Bishop-elect Deeley himself, especially because he was well known for his experience and skill, and since he is so well known in the Church that the process went quickly. Fr. Mark suggested that when Deeley came back from Rome last year, the chances were good he was going to become an auxiliary bishop.

Scot asked Fr. Mark what people often misunderstand about this process. Fr. Mark said people often asked why there isn’t an election by the laypeople or the priests. He said we aren’t a democracy. Scot said it wasn’t always this way, but evolved that way. He said he thinks that this is because it is part of the unity of the Church, connecting the local Churches and the local bishops with the Holy Father.

Fr. Mark said Deeley talked this morning about how he worked with then-Cardinal Ratzinger for just eight months before the cardinal was elected Pope. He noted that he arrived just as the 2004 election was underway and he was very interested in what was happening and quizzed him about it. The Pope is very interested in the Church around the world. Fr. Mark said the Holy Father’s familiarity with Msgr. Deeley, at least over those eight months, didn’t hurt in having him becoming a bishop.

Fr. Mark said Deeley went to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the first place because the CDF was drowning in sex-abuse cases and Msgr. Deeley was willing to go and help.

Scot said a typical misunderstanding is that this is a political process with priests campaigning for bishop. Fr. Mark said his father would have been one who campaigned on his behalf, although Fr. Mark said he’s happy where he is. Scot said in his experience working in the Church is that the guys who would campaign or jockey for position would be the ones who don’t get elevated. Scot remembered in 2006 when Bishop Hennessey and Bishop Dooher were appointed, they were stunned at their appointment. Scot said he wasn’t shocked that Bishops Kennedy or Uglietto were not surprises because they were doing such great jobs as seminary rectors and Bishop-elect Deeley isn’t a surprise because of his position as vicar general.

3rd segment: Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.

  • First Reading for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 11, 2012 (1 Kings 17:10-16)

In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath.
As he arrived at the entrance of the city,
a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her,
“Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.”
She left to get it, and he called out after her,
“Please bring along a bit of bread.”
She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives,
I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar
and a little oil in my jug.
Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks,
to go in and prepare something for myself and my son;
when we have eaten it, we shall die.”
Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid.
Go and do as you propose.
But first make me a little cake and bring it to me.
Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.
For the LORD, the God of Israel, says,
‘The jar of flour shall not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’”
She left and did as Elijah had said.
She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well;
the jar of flour did not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
as the LORD had foretold through Elijah

  • Gospel for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 11, 2012 (Mark 12:38-44)

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds,
“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.”

Scot said his episcopal motto would be “But first make me a little cake”. But seriously, he considered how the message here is how we are called to give all we have, even when we think we have very little. God doesn’t just want what we have extra, but to give all because we will never outdo his generosity. Fr. Mark said both of these women exhibited enormous acts of trust.

Fr. Mark said it’s interesting the widow gives two coins, while some might have given just one. She gave all she had with trust. Scot said Jesus contrasted her faith and generosity with the scribes. They will receive condemnation for keeping up appearances and not being generous in their heart. She’s immortalized throughout history for her generosity. Fr. Mark said God asks us to give a little more and then says, Thank you very much, now can you give me a little more?

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