What do the Communist Chinese have to do with this event? I’ll get to that later. But first the news is not that Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation as Archbishop of Washington. The news is:
- Pope Francis dithered over accepting it since Wuerl had submitted his resignation as a matter of course three years ago when he turned 75 and again, according to the Pope’s letter of October 12, 21 days earlier on September 21.
- Pope Francis’ letter praised Wuerl’s “heart of the shepherd” and his“nobility,” in that he had the grounds to defend himself but chose not to put himself ahead of the Church.
- Pope Francis named Wuerl, rather than someone else, “apostolic administrator” of the Archdiocese until the appointment of his successor; and
- Pope Francis did not require Wuerl to resign as Cardinal. (Did he offer to resign?)
So, let’s see. The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was made public on Tuesday, August 14. With a public petition in his former diocese of Pittsburgh to have his name removed from a high school, Wuerl submitted a letter on August 16, asking that his name be removed. He did this, he wrote, so there would be no distraction from students getting a good Catholic education. No grass grew under the feet of the local educators and parents. On the two ensuing consecutive business days, Friday, August 17, and Monday, August 20, two different boards met and resolved to have his name removed.
A man unfit to have his name on a high school remains fit enough to serve as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese and to vote in the next papal conclave.
A word here about the role of an “apostolic administrator.” In 2011, an apostolic administrator was appointed for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the local canon law tribunal published a document to describe, for the public, the role:
These limits often require the administrator to seek the consent of the College of Consultors before taking certain actions, including issuing letters authorizing the ordination of deacons or priests for the archdiocese.
The administrator is also prohibited by canon law from naming pastors of parishes. However, he is given authority to appoint pastors if no archbishop is named within a year of [the retirement/resignation].
Canon law also prohibits the administrator from closing parishes or relegating churches to secular uses.
“In general…the diocesan administrator…maintains the necessary day-to-day functioning of a diocese, but does not make any structural changes that would truly be innovations in the particular diocese.”
* * *
“It’s an assurance that there is a leader still…Even though there’s not an archbishop on the scene, it’s not that we’re without a shepherd. We do have a shepherd… He doesn’t have the title ‘archbishop,’ but he is apostolic administrator.”
This means that Cardinal Wuerl’s caretaker duties for the Archdiocese, include:
- ordaining men to the priesthood (whether from this Archdiocese or elsewhere);
- participating in and voting in meetings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its committees; the next meeting is November 2018;
- administering the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception;
- continuing in his roles with the Roman Curial congregations, including Congregation of the Bishops (recommending candidates for bishop) and Congregation for the Defense of the Faith;
- continuing his roles as a director/trustee to various institutions, seminaries, foundations, including Chancellor/Chair of the Catholic University of America, Vice Chancellor the Pontifical John Paul II Institute; and
- celebrating Mass in the cathedral and sitting in its chair (the cathedra the Latin word from which we derive cathedral).
Read more at American Spectator