great moments in Church history (Detroit section)

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 02, 2006

  • January 26, 2005 (that's last year, not last week): Bishop Thomas Gumbleton celebrates his 75th birthday. He is required by canon law to submit his resignation. He doesn't.
  • January 25, 2006: Bishop Gumbleton announces that the Pope has accepted his resignation. He hasn't.
  • January 25, 2006 (same day): Bishop Gumbleton issues an open letter explaining to the world why he didn't resign on time.
    In the revised Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, there is a canon directing every bishop to request permission of the Pope to resign from the Episcopal office at the age of 75. For a variety of reasons* when I turned 75 last year, I wrote a letter requesting that I not resign at that time.
  • February 2, 2006: Pope Benedict accepts Bishop Gumbleton's resignation. The Holy Father does not issue an open letter to the press explaining his move, but the official announcement notes that the resignation had been submitted "upon having reached the limit." And then some.

*- Oh, now we understand: "for a variety of reasons."

On April 15, Americans are required by law to submit income-tax returns. Let's suppose that this year, "for a variety of reasons," I decide not to do so. Instead, I write a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, requesting that I not submit a return this year. How do you think that would go over?

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2006 8:34 AM ET USA

    I agree Pete and the Pope is now 78.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2006 8:33 PM ET USA

    Well, golly-gee, "Leo13", why wouldn't the "I forgot" defense work? We know that the dear befuddled bishop is very forgetful. He's forgotten basic moral theology, rubrics, the Magisterium, etc. So we definitely do have a well-established "forgetfulness" pattern here! (just being facetious!)

  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2006 6:33 PM ET USA

    PLEASE! Let's stick with the "mandatory" interpretation of Canon Law for matters of resignation at age 75. Don't we have enough trouble with the dissenters, heretics, and troublemakers without providing excuses for NOT resigning? The sooner many of them are gone, the better off the "faithful" will be! How about retirement at 65, or 60, or even 55?

  • Posted by: Remigius - Feb. 02, 2006 12:14 PM ET USA

    Canon 401, 1, which applies to both the diocesan bishop and his auxiliaries, uses the following language regarding resignation: "rogatur ut renuntiationem ab offico exhibeat." He is asked, not required, to resign. Mandatory retirement is not present here, although in practice the Holy See treats it as mandatory. This innovation in law calls for reconsideration as the Bishop holds office not as a functionary, but rather as a successor of the Apostles, whose retirements were effected by death

  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2006 9:17 AM ET USA

    The "I forgot" defense would be more effective. But in Gumbleton's case, the normal rules don't apply.