Monday, March 03, 2008

Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: what happens now?

On the death of a bishop the governance of a diocese falls on the auxiliary bishop until the college of consultors ( a body of priests which is chosen to advise the bishop) can meet and they can elect a diocesan administrator. As we don`t have an auxiliary bishop then the college of consultors had governance until they elected an administrator.

Our college of consultors met yesterday afternoon and the former Vicar General, Canon Cunningham was elected as diocesan administrator. On the death of a bishop the Vicar General and all episcopal vicars lose authority. Canon Cunningham, as diocesan administrator enjoys the power of diocesan bishop `excluding those things whch are excepted by their very nature or by the law itself`. However canon 428 says: sede vacante nihil innovetur ( `when the see is vacant nothing new is to be done`).

The judicial vicar (and associate judicial vicar) remain in office and cannot be removed by the diocesan administrator but need to be confirmed in office by the new bishop. The diocesan chancellor remains in office and can only be removed from office by the diocesan administrator with the consent of the college of consultors.

Looking back at the history of this diocese there has always been an auxiliary bishop in the diocese on the death of the bishop since 1958 when bishop McCormack died (his auxiliary was bishop Cunningham who became bishop of the diocese on July 1st 1958) until the retirement of bishop Griffiths although he retired on 25th May 2004, the day bishop Dunn was consecrated.

Most of our bishops have been buried at Ushaw.


Anonymous said...

Father, was it not Bishop McCormack who died in 1958? I remember as a small school child, the whole school stood in prayer as his coffin past through our town en route to Ushaw for burial.

I recall that Bishop Cunningham, who was Bishop MacCormack's auxiliary (and therefore became Vicar Capitular until his appointment as Ordinary) died in 1974, when Bishop Lindsay became Administrator till his own appointment later that year.

On the subject of the bishop's burial, I found it interesting that Bishop Dunn is to be buried in the cathedral crypt, rather than join his predecessors at Ushaw. I hadn't realised that there was a usable crypt at St Mary's, although I gather some work was done in recent years which might have made this possible. Burial at the cathedral will make it more practical for people to visit his grave and pray for him.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

This is a most interesting post.

Even at a time like this, when the diocese mourns its bishop , I suppose the care of souls must go on.

I know no canon law, but I think I had always assumed the Vicar General or someone "runs things" until normal diocesan government is resumed under a new bishop.

I feel sure Bishop Dunn would want the good of souls to be foremost.

May he rest now, free from the cares of this world.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Augustinus, of course you are right. I`ve made a correction.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the new bishop will be more than happy with our Vicar General, Episcopal vicars, etc and along with them carry on this diocese in the same wonderful way as Bishop Kevin.
May he rest in peace.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Anonymous, I agree that if the new bishop is an outsider then it is most likely that he will want to keep the same team for his episcopal team until he feels he knows people and the place well enough to make any changes. However the law allows the new bishop freedom to make any changes from the start as he must be given the opportunity to do things as he sees fit.
I`ll be at the Mass of reception tonight. It is still hard to believe.