Resignation of Bishops
By +Oscar V. Cruz, JCD
JUST for the record and in order to avoid unnecessary questions as well as irrelevant speculations, it is good and proper to address the matter of the resignation of Bishops – be they Prelates, Archbishops or Cardinals all of whom are considered by the law of the Church as “Bishops”. There are indications to the effect that when a Bishop resigns from his Episcopal office, inquiries are made, doubts are formed. It is right to assume that many Catholics do not know – as they do not really need to know – the many, detailed as well as complicated laws of the Church contained in her rather voluminous and intricate “Code of Canon Law.”
It is good to know and to note that of the Seven Sacraments in the Church, there is but one Sacrament that is plural in its constituent contents and pursuant expression, viz., the “Sacrament of Holy Orders.” Reason: There are three (3) Sacred Orders in the Church, i.e., the Order of Deacons, the Order of Priests, and the Order of Bishops – with the last (Bishops) drawn the former (Priests) who in turn are drawn from the last (Deacons). And it is from the rank of Bishops that not only the Cardinals but also the Pope – or Supreme Pontiff who comes from the rank of the Cardinals.
“A diocesan Bishop who has completed his seventy-fifth year of age is requested to offer his resignation from the Office, to the Supreme Pontiff, who, after taking all circumstances into account, will make the pursuant provision. A diocesan Bishop, who, because of illness or some other grave reasons, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his Office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from Office.” (Code of Canon Law: 401, par. 1 and par. 2)
From the letter and spirit of the above-cited canonical provision, the following are the more significant and relevant observations: 1. That the resignation applies to a Bishop when this completes his seventy-five years of age. 2. That the resignation of a Bishop may also be for any serious reasons that make him already incapacitated or unsuited for the Office. 3. That the resignation is requested, neither really imposed nor mandated. 4. That it belongs to the Pope to accept or deny the submitted resignation. The law further provides that once the resignation of a Bishop is accepted, he then acquires the title of “Emeritus”.
From the above law and observations made thereon, it is rather clear that the Church has not only supernatural but also natural anchorage, works premised on both divine and human elements, draws her strength from faith and reason. All these say that the Church is neither merely super naturalistic nor naturalistic, neither simply divine nor humanistic, neither only credulous nor rationalistic. Thus wherefore stands a Church that is now more than two thousand years old!