Cleansing Fire

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On Bishop Clark, Bishop Perry, and Coadjutors

January 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Hello faithful readers, as well as well-wishers from Google, American Papist, Ten Reasons, and other Catholic sites on the web. It’s been four days since Perry Watch 2011 officially got underway in and outside of the Diocese of Rochester. There was a lot of hope and excitement when the news was first broken, as it all felt very real and imminent. I think it is worth stepping back for a brief moment, taking a deep breath, and examining where we are right now with regard to this rumor, and how we got here.

We began hearing talk about Bishop Clark taking a sabbatical and retiring early about two weeks ago. Also part of this talk was that Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was being groomed and preparing to take over the reigns of the diocese. This talk was not anonymous Internet e-mails sent in by someone trying to play a joke on the site, but real conversations that staff members had with real knowledgeable laypeople and priests in the area. We discussed these rumors for a few days, and I decided to include it in our 2010 year in review post to give us a little hope going into the final year and a half of Bishop Clark’s tenure. At this point, I hardly felt like it was a sure thing.

One of our staff members discovered what we believed to be Bishop Perry’s Facebook profile, and attempted to contact him. The response we received, though not admitting that the rumor was true, suggested that it was real and that there was a “process in the works.”

Shortly after this, Thomas Peters received a tip that Bishop Clark was going to retire soon and that an announcement could be made that Bishop Perry would succeed him as soon as this past Friday. This corresponded with what we had heard in the local rumor mill. Obviously, Friday has come and passed with no local news conference. However, a reader of Cleansing Fire astutely pointed out that the Vatican was on holiday, and it was highly unlikely that any announcement would be made on the weekend of the Epiphany.

We soon learned that the contact information we received via the Perry Facebook page was false, since the page was created by Nigerian scam artists trying to extract money by posing as the bishop. This problem has been going on since last May. See the national news story here. I have since contacted the bishop (the real one) and confirmed that the profile was indeed fraudulent. So while this particular piece of supporting evidence is not true, it doesn’t really affect the fact that we had been hearing rumors about Perry becoming our bishop prior to attempting the contact via Facebook, as well as the fact that Thomas Peters received a tip unrelated to our attempted contact.

So where are we now? Well, we’re waiting anxiously to see if an announcement will be made some time this week or in the near future that Bishop Clark will be retiring early or that he has requested a coadjutor bishop. Either option is possible, and so is the possibility that neither will happen. A loyal reader of the blog did find something very interesting as it pertains to Bishop Clark possibly retiring before he is due to submit his resignation in July of 2012 (upon his 75th birthday). The following is an excerpt from a November 2010 article in the Corning Leader, available online here. The second to last sentence is worth a close inspection (emphasis added).

The leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester said Friday he’s willing to make “tough decisions” before leaving his post to ensure the next generation of local Catholics is not overly burdened.

Bishop Matthew Clark, who was in Corning on Friday to preside over a Mass for local Catholic school students at St. Mary’s, said he doesn’t want to leave the diocese with problems “because I didn’t make tough decisions.”

Clark, 73, has indicated he may soon retire, although he has not yet set a date. He has served as bishop since 1979.

Read that last part carefully: “he may soon retire, although he has not yet set a date.” It certainly sounds from the article that Bishop Clark may not be serving until July 15, 2012. Also, bishops do not “set a date” for their retirement unless they voluntarily retire before the Holy See makes them. If Bishop Clark were to serve until July 2012, it would be the Holy Father setting the date for Clark’s retirement, not the bishop. So these words are very interesting, and seem to support the rumor that Bishop Clark will be retiring before next summer. The above passage does not indicate one way or the other if Bishop Perry will be our next leader.

However, before we get too excited about the Corning Leader article, a reader contacted the diocese late last week, and was told that the bishop planned on serving out the rest of his tenure. This may or may not be true, since Canon Law requires that these sort of things be kept confidential. Remember that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles adamantly denied rumors about Mahony’s successor when that event was taking place.  However, this does give us some pause.

It’s still very possible that Bishop Clark will step aside early, or that Bishop Perry will somehow be named Bishop Clark’s successor prior to 2012. One possibility which hasn’t been discussed too much is that Bishop Clark may have requested a coadjutor bishop, and that Perry (or someone else) has already been chosen for this role and may begin serving as Clark’s bishop-in-waiting by July of this year.

A coadjutor bishop, for those unfamiliar with the position, is a bishop who has right of succession for a particular diocese. Basically, the bishop provides assistance for the normal diocesan bishop while he becomes acclimated with the diocese. He then assumes leadership of the diocese when the regular bishop retires or in some other way can no longer continue. This process has taken place in at least two United States dioceses within the past few years in Cincinnati and Los Angeles. There is a growing precedent for this form of succession — and it makes sense.

There are a number of clear benefits to Bishop Clark requesting a coadjutor. First, the bishop could have at least some influence over who will be his successor. In the case of Cardinal Roger Mahony, he was allowed to review the list of potential successors prior to one being selected by the Holy Father. If the bishop were to not request a coadjutor, he would be completely at the mercy of the Holy Father to choose and reveal the  candidate in late 2012. Personally, I would prefer the latter so that we get the best possible candidate. However, if Perry is indeed our next bishop, then I’m more than fine with that.

A second benefit is that the transition to our next bishop would go smoother. If Bishop Clark serves out his term with no successor named, then when the Holy Father accepts the bishop’s resignation (and you better believe he’ll do it quickly), an administrator would be appointed to run the diocese until the successor is chosen. This could be very tumultuous, and may not be a good idea for this diocese. It would be far more pastoral and responsible if the bishop were to request a coadjutor who could meet the people of Rochester, get used to things around here, and be prepared to begin his job immediately when the bishop retires. It is my opinion that if Bishop Clark truly cares about the spiritual welfare of his flock, then he should request a coadjutor appointment by this summer so that the transition will go smoothly.

A third benefit to having a coadjutor, at least from the bishop’s view, would be that he could “groom” this bishop until Bishop Clark decides to hang up the miter. The bishop would be able to present his vision for the diocese in hopes that he could convince the coadjutor to embrace at least some parts of it, rather than having a bishop come in without any exposure to Rochester when Clark is gone and implementing his changes immediately.

Then again, there are also some reasons why Bishop Clark may not want a coadjutor. For one, he may not be comfortable with his successor looking over his shoulder. The bishop might fear people will ignore his authority and appeal to the coadjutor on controversial decisions. Second, Bishop Clark may roll the dice that the Pope resigns and that a progressive Pope is appointed all within a year’s time (don’t hold your breath on that one). Third, the Bishop Clark I know is proud and loves his power. I think the only way he’s going to leave Rochester is kicking and screaming, but that’s just my personal opinion.

There is one other item which supports the idea that Bishop Clark will retire before July 2012, and that is the upcoming ad limina visits for the bishops of the United States. If Bishop Clark stays on as bishop of Rochester through the end of this year, then he will be required to visit the Holy Father in Rome, possibly this Fall. For those unaware, Bishop Clark and Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) have had a very interesting relationship over the years, with the Holy Father reproving the bishop on more than one occasion. Some examples include the Charles Curran situation, the bishop’s imprimatur for a book that condoned masturbation, and the entire Corpus Christ/Jim Callan/Mary Ramerman situation, among others. If Bishop Clark meets with the Holy Father this Fall, one can imagine that Clark will hear an earful about problems in the Diocese of Rochester. People have been writing to Rome for years, and the Holy Father has had the power to take serious action for only five years. The bishop has not yet had an ad limina with Pope Benedict, and this could be something he would want to avoid at all costs. It would not be shocking to see Bishop Clark retire before the ad limina visits. From what I hear, the Pope is very firm during the private ad limina visits.

Alright, to summarize a very long and detailed post, we’re still waiting to see if Bishop Clark is going to retire early, if Bishop Perry will be named his successor, and if there will be a coadjutor appointed some time this year, whether it be Perry or someone else. There is evidence to support several different possibilities, so it is still too soon to predict what will happen. I encourage everyone to keep an eye on this blog, watch for rumors at Whispers in the Loggia and Catholic Vote Action, and pray that God’s will be done.

The next few years are going to be very interesting. If the bishop doesn’t retire this year, then he will have to submit his resignation next year upon his birthday as required by the Code of Canon Law. Hope and change.

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16 Responses to “On Bishop Clark, Bishop Perry, and Coadjutors”

  1. avatar Matt says:

    +Favalora in Miami was supposed to have +Wenski as a coadjutor, but upon hearing his successor named, he just decided to retire early. That said, those are all much larger dioceses than Rochester (though other large dioceses that were in good shape haven’t been given coadjutors), but all three were in awful shape. +Favalora, +Mahoney, and +Pilarczyk were all pretty horrible ordinaries (though not as bad as +Clark, +Hubbard, or *shudder* +Weakland)

  2. avatar Choirloft says:

    Can the Pope name a coadjutor without Bishop Clark requesting one specifically?

  3. avatar Mary says:

    There are a number of clear benefits to Bishop Clark requesting a coadjutor. First, the bishop could have at least some influence over who will be his successor.

    One problem here. If Bishop Clark requests his own coadjutor, he’ll probably request someone who thinks along his own lines. I doubt he’ll request Bishop Perry.

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    Pray for a conversion of Hart (and Clark)!

  5. avatar Brick says:

    Tough decisions.

  6. avatar Dr. K says:

    Choir, I have no idea. That’s a good question.

  7. avatar Louis E. says:

    As I’ve noted before,it is very unusual,but Rome does have the right to impose a coadjutor,or for that matter an apostolic administrator sede plena,who takes the incumbent’s powers without actually replacing the incumbent (this recently happened to Bishop Magee in ireland).In 1978 there was talk of imposing a coadjutor on Cardinal Cody.A request for a coadjutor does not carry veto power on who the coadjutor is,there may be negotiation but Rome has the final say.

    I note that not long ago Bishop Harrington of Winona requested a coadjutor,but the coadjutor was appointed after his 75th birthday,and then did not succeed as ordinary for another six months.Also,it is possible for a bishop to “set a date” to some extent if he is resigning in disability or disgrace…when it came out that Archbishop Weakland had spent over $400,000 in church funds in hush money for his male lover,he asked that his alreasdy-submitted Canon 401 para 1 resignation be converted to a Canon 401 para 2 resignation,and as of the next day’s noon Vatican bulletin(5 AM the next morning Wisconsin time) he was the former Archbishop of Milwaukee.

    Recently retired bishops emeritus are brought along for ad limina visits,as the Vatican “Le Udienze” bulletins show,so Clark has no way out of it in office or not.But I wouldn’t hope too strongly for an “on the dot” retirement,again,look at the anti-traditional Adamec.An on-the-birthfay acceptance is very rare.

  8. avatar Mike says:

    The pope can always remove a bishop by reassigning him to a titular diocese but, as a recent example demonstrates, this course of action comes with a potential downside.

    In 1995 Pope John Paul II reassigned Bishop Jacques Gaillot, formerly the ordinary of the Diocese of Evreux in France, to the Diocese of Partenia in Algeria. It seems that at one time Partenia was a typical diocese complete with churches, priests and laity, but then something like the mother of all demographic shifts occurred at the hands of Vandal invaders and Partina soon became a Catholic diocese in name only.

    One source tells the story this way …

    Bishop Jacques Gaillot, a progressive and activist bishop in an increasingly conservative Catholic hierarchy, was stripped of his bishopric (at Evreux, in France) in 1995. Summoned to Rome, he was reassigned to a patch of central Algerian desert, once a thriving community in the first millennium but now a sandy wasteland. In response, Bishop Gaillot created the first virtual diocese and has pursued his clerical duties from this base ever since. The website/diocese has become the diocese without borders, the diocese which excludes no one, worldwide, in seven languages.

    Other sources tell us the Bishop Gaillot, once he found himself unencumbered by the myriad duties typical of a local ordinary, found that he had a lot of free time on his hands. This led to his authoring of several books setting forth his heterodox views on various Church teachings and also made him available to be a guest speaker at just about any event anywhere in the world where an audience was interested in hearing from a dissident Catholic prelate.

  9. avatar Louis E. says:

    Perhaps Bishop Clark could become coadjutor of Partenia.

  10. avatar Anonymous says:

    With all due respect-I have two comments,which I will be very surprised if they are posted.
    I have never been a fan of Bishop Clarks, but who are you all going to target next as the bad guy ?

    Also, I have been reading Cleansing Fire from the beginning. I am so sad at the decline of St. Anne parish.Most of the people who contribute really should find something useful to do. Perhaps visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the dying, etc. might be more useful.

  11. avatar Dr. K says:

    but who are you all going to target next as the bad guy ?

    Why must there be a bad guy?

  12. avatar Nerina says:

    Most of the people who contribute really should find something useful to do. Perhaps visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the dying, etc. might be more useful.

    And you know that they don’t already, Anon? What a presumptive and condescending statement.

  13. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    something to gossip about

    are you considering facts and actual happenings as gossip just because they might put someone in a bad light?

    Nothing better to do.

    actually most of us have pretty busy and fulfilling lives. CF isn’t our lives.

    and because you’re proposing an attitude of indifference – I ask how many indifferent Saints do we have in the Church? Were they people who were passionate or people who looked the other way and didn’t rock the boat?

  14. avatar Dr. K says:

    Ricky, why are you wasting precious bits and bandwidth on our server?

  15. avatar B says:

    Just a point of correction. There is nothing like “hanging up” the mitre for a bishop in the Catholic Church. A bishop takes his mitre to his grave. So, do not expect that Bishop Clark will surrender his mitre to anyone or put it away upon retirement. Besides, he also gets to keep his Crosier, even if he has to use it with someone else’s permission at his retirement.

    Thanks.

  16. avatar Dr. K says:

    B,

    I don’t see him staying in Rochester. As I’ve said before, he’ll travel the country promoting his book and his vision for the Church alongside Bishop Hubbard. Sympathetic bishops will welcome them to speak with open arms.


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