Everyone by now has heard the news that Pope Francis, on the recommendation of the U.S. papal nuncio and the visitators, is expected imminently to request the resignation of Bishop Joseph Strickland. In an interview done two months ago with John-Henry Westen, I explained why I believe the good bishop should not only refuse that request, but also refuse to acknowledge his deposition if Rome should proceed to that dire step. Why do I argue this?
According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, “the apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent and is to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles” (Lumen Gentium 20). Moreover,
The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern. Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it, since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church. (LG 27)
Finally, even though a bishop governs only the portion of the flock of Christ entrusted to him, he nevertheless has a responsibility to and for the Catholic Church as such: “Each of [the bishops], as a member of the episcopal college and legitimate successor of the apostles, is obliged by Christ’s institution and command to be solicitous for the whole Church… For it is the duty of all bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole Church” (LG 23).
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