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Auxiliary Bishop

Bishop appointed by the Holy See to assist the diocesan bishop in the performance of pontifical functions

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Auxiliary Bishop, a bishop deputed to a diocesan who, capable of governing and administering his diocese, is unable to perform the pontifical functions; or whose diocese is so extensive that it requires the labors of more than one; or whose episcopal see has attached to it a royal or imperial office requiring protracted presence at court. According to the present ecclesiastical discipline no bishop can be consecrated without title to a certain and distinct diocese which he governs either actually or potentially. Actual government requires residence, potential does not. Hence, there are two principal classes of bishops, the residential, or diocesan or, local, or ordinary; and the non-residential, or titular. Diocesan bishops have and exercise (de jure) full power of order and jurisdiction, in and over the diocese committed to their exclusive care by the pope. Titulars, as such, have not, and do not exercise, power of order and jurisdiction, in and over their titular sees. All actual jurisdiction in titular sees the pope reserves to himself, and exercises through the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda. The jurisdiction of a diocesan is ordinary. Should a titular perform a jurisdictional function, he uses delegated jurisdiction.

Titular bishops are those who have been appointed by the Holy See to a see or diocese which, in former times, had been canonically established and possessed cathedral church, clergy, and laity, but at present, on account of pagan occupation and government, has neither clergy nor people. It is essential that the titular diocese did once exist, and did cease to exist through death or defection of clergy and faithful, or pagan settlement and government. No vestige of titulars, as defined, appears until the close of the thirteenth century. Evidently the host of wandering bishops without title or see—missionary, regionary, or exiled bishops—of whom historians make mention, cannot be classed with our titulars, who did not come into existence until the greater part of the East had passed under pagan rule, and the destruction or defection of the Christian flock and the death of their shepherds ensued. The episcopal succession in those dioceses was maintained as long as a hope remained of their rehabilitation, and their bishops were hospitably received, and frequently used by the diocesans as auxiliaries or vicars, in pontificals in their respective dioceses. Ecclesiastical authority placed some of them in temporary charge of vacant Western dioceses, on condition of their immediate return to their own sees when possible. Others were given the spiritual care of dioceses by civil princes who, avaricious of the episcopal revenues, prevented the appointment of a diocesan bishop. In the fourteenth century, the great number of bishops without occupation, and their invasion of the rights and privileges of the diocesans brought about necessary legislation. Clement V (I, iii de elect. V, Clem.) prohibited the election and consecration of any cleric, without papal license, to any of those vacant sees (sine clero populoque).

The first mention of titular bishops occurs in the Lateran decree (sess. 9 de Cardinalibus), wherein Leo X permits the creation of titulars whom the cardinal-bishops may use as suffragans, or auxiliaries, in their respective dioceses. Afterwards, the privilege was extended for various reasons, principal among which were (a) to preserve from oblivion the memory of those once venerable and important, but now desolate, sees; (b) that the pope might have at hand efficient and capable assistants (without care of dioceses) in the discharge of the numerous and important ecclesiastical duties of the Apostolic ministry in and outside of the Roman Curia; (c) that suffragans might be given to bishops impeded by reason of infirmity, partial or entire, or of the great extent of their dioceses, or legitimate and protracted absence from performing their episcopal duties. Pius V, after the Council of Trent, decreed that suffragans were not to be given unless to cardinals, and to those bishops to whom it was customary to grant them, and who guaranteed a fixed salary to support the dignity of the auxiliary. He also decreed that such auxiliary should not, without papal permission, exercise the pontifical functions in any other diocese, save in that of the diocesan to whom he had been given. Gradually it was extended to other bishops who had solid reasons for assistance. The appointment of all titulars belongs exclusively to the Holy See (Clement, ut supra). Present usage requires an auxiliary, suffragan, and temporary coadjutor (used indiscriminately to mean almost the same office) to be also a titular bishop, yet the former antedate the latter by many centuries. They come down to us from Apostolic times; thus Linus and Cletus were vicars, or auxiliaries, to St. Peter at Rome; Ammianus, to St. Mark of Alexandria; Alexander, to Narcissus (aged 116 years) of Jerusalem; St. Gregory, the theologian, auxiliary in pontificals to St. Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus; St. Augustine, coadjutor of Valerius of Hippo; so likewise those of the rural bishops (chorepiscopi), who had received episcopal consecration (there were many in the Orient from the third to the seventh, and, in the West, from the eighth to the tenth, centuries), and many exiled bishops, then in the West were auxiliaries to diocesan bishops even up to the Clementine law.

Though the terms auxiliary, suffragan, and coadjutor are used indiscriminately, yet there is a difference. Auxiliary bishop is as defined at the beginning of this article. Suffragan bishop is the name given to the auxiliaries of the CardinalBishop of Ostia and Velletri and the CardinalBishop of Sabina. Coadjutors are given to diocesans impeded from performance of their episcopal duties by old age, or bodily infirmity, or sickness, protracted and incurable, such as loss of speech, blindness, paralysis, and insanity. A coadjutor to an insane bishop has full jurisdiction and can exercise all episcopal duties, with the sole exception of disposing of ecclesiastical properties. There are coadjutors in temporals, or in spirituals, or in both temporals and spirituals. The first kind need not be a bishop; a cleric suffices. Coadjutors are also temporary and perpetual; the first has no succession, the latter has, and is called coadjutor with right of succession. Coadjutors with right of succession rarely are granted, and only when urgent necessity and an evident utility are superadded to the above reasons; and then they must be made known to, and approved as such, by the pope. It is not the practice to force a perpetual coadjutor upon an unwilling diocesan, although the pope can do so. Such perpetual coadjutor cannot mix in the ecclesiastical administration, nor do aught but as he is told or permitted by the diocesan. Some of the Fathers of the Vatican Council proposed that, in the future, auxiliary bishops should be appointed instead of perpetual coadjutors. A coadjutor is granted to aid a diocesan in order and jurisdiction as far as is needed; the auxiliary is deputed to aid only iii function of order. He may be made vicar-general, and then, by virtue of that office, he has power of jurisdiction. Since auxiliarship, or temporary coadjutorship, is neither a title nor prelature, but an office, it is temporary, and ceases at the death, or suspension, or resignation, of the diocesan. The Holy See, for valid reasons, in the fifteenth century established permanent auxiliarships in Prussia, Poland, Spain, and Portugal. Pius VII (July 16, 1821, Constit. De salute animar.) confirmed such offices in Germany, etc. In these countries the office of auxiliary does not die with the diocesan, but continues under his successors. The auxiliary, sede vacante, however, cannot perform functions strictly episcopal. Successors to such auxiliaries are not given the same, but an entirely different, titular see. Perpetual coadjutorship is irrevocable, and its holder succeeds immediately to the vacant see; no further collation or election is necessary. Office of auxiliary, etc. is revocable at will of pope and diocesan; that of the perpetual coadjutor cannot be taken away unless for canonical causes. Auxiliaries and temporary coadjutors are appointed by the Holy Father at the request of the bishop in need of assistance. The pope (on petition of the Sacred Congregation of the Council, or of Propaganda) as a rule appoints the clergyman named by orator. The election or nomination for perpetual coadjutors is governed by the law for election or nomination (sede vacante) of a new diocesan. The same disposition of mind and body is required for auxiliary, etc. as for diocesan bishops. They must be thirty years complete, and have spent six months in Sacred orders prior to elevation to the episcopate, yet in the case of the auxiliaries, the most worthy has no rights over the merely worthy. For perpetual coadjutorship most worthy is demanded.

Rights and duties of auxiliaries must be considered from a twofold standpoint: i.e. titulars of a diocese, and auxiliaries of diocesan bishops. By right of consecration a titular auxiliary can validly, but not licitly, without permission of the residential, perform all the functions annexed to the episcopal order by Divine and ecclesiastical law. The Church could, but does not, require the diocesan’s permission, for the validity of the latter functions. Having no actual jurisdiction, he cannot without express consent and permission of the ordinary perform pontifical functions in the city or diocese, nor can he do so, sale vacante, even with the permission of the chapter. Possessing only potential jurisdiction in his titular see, he cannot (a) hear, or grant faculties to hear, confession of a visiting subject from his titular see; (b) confirm or ordain him; (c) send a priest to preach, or to perform any priestly functions, in his titular see; (d) absolve, or grant faculty to a diocesan priest to absolve, a member of his own household; (e) assist at the marriage of a titular subject, a visitor where the Tridentine holds; (f) ordain his familiar of three years’ standing, nor grant indulgences. Should at any time clergy or laity sufficiently numerous be found in his titular diocese, and no representative of the Holy See have supervision over it, he can immediately, without any other collation of the benefice, take possession of his titular church. He then ceases to be titular and becomes diocesan. He may, and according to some must, be invited to General Councils, and once there he has decisive vote. A few were present at the Council of Trent and quite a number at the Vatican Council. Although he has not the right to take part in Provincial Councils, he may be invited to do so, but has no decisive vote, unless by unanimous consent and permission of the Provincial Fathers. He can wear everywhere the prelatial dress and ring (the sign of his spiritual union with his titular see), and use the pontifical vestments, ornaments, and insignia, when, by permission of the ordinary, he performs pontifical functions. In general councils and every meeting of bishops where the local prelate is not present, in Rome, and outside of Rome, the titular auxiliary, etc., takes precedence of all bishops (except assistant bishops at pontifical throne) of later consecration. In provincial councils, however, all suffragans outrank all titulars without regard to date of consecration. Titular auxiliaries, as well as diocesans, are obliged to receive episcopal consecration within three months from confirmation, unless this is morally impossible; to make profession of faith and take oath of loyalty and fidelity to the Roman Pontiff, and to go to his titular diocese, if ever it is rehabilitated. By reason of the spiritual union with his see, he cannot be elected, but only postulated, for another diocese. Only the Holy Father can dissolve the spiritual union with the titular see. An auxiliary never has the title of a titular archiepiscopal see; but a perpetual coadjutor often has. The titular archbishop-coadjutor is not bound to petition for the pallium or the use of it. Titular auxiliary is not bound (a) to make visit ad limina Apostolorum (some say he is); (b) to residence in his titular see, or in the cathedral city of the diocese in which he holds the office of auxiliary (the place of his residence is regulated by the diocesan); (c) to say Mass for the people.

The criminal and important causes relating to auxiliary bishops are reserved to the Holy See, those of lesser moment to the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. By virtue of the office of auxiliary he has a perpetual right to a pension suitable to maintain the episcopal dignity. This is to be paid by the diocesan from the diocesan revenues. The amount of pension and source from which it is to be obtained is generally specified in the Apostolic Letters of appointment. He can hold any benefice he had before and acquire a new one after his consecration, as the office of auxiliary is not a benefice. He enjoys the same honorific privileges (with a few exceptions, viz. throne, cappa magna, mozzetta, and rochet worn without mantelletta, and crosier), pontifical ornaments, and titles, as does the diocesan. He can and must use the prelatial dress, as in the Roman Curia, to wit: rochet over the purple soutane with purple mantelletta, in his attendance in the cathedral, where he has precedence over all other canons and dignitaries, as to choir stall and functions. When he is celebrant in pontifical functions, the canons must assist, but in the usual canonical dress, except ministers in sacred vestments. Not all the canons are bound to meet him at the church door, as he enters to celebrate pontifical Mass. During the ceremony he is assisted by a canon as assistant priest, and deacon, and subdeacon in sacred vestments. He has no right to the usual two canon-assistant deacons, nor to the seventh candlestick, nor to the usual reverences of the canons at Kyrie, etc., nor the use of the throne or crosier unless by special permission. He uses the faldistorium. He can use the crosier with the special permission of the diocesan, and when he officiates at ordinations, consecrations, and other pontifical functions, during which the rules of the Pontifical demand its use (Cwremon. Epis., I, xvii; Decret. Bracharen. September 1607). It is proper, however, that he impart the episcopal last blessing. He cannot bless publicly the people as he wends his way through the city. It is forbidden him to make visitation of the cloister of nuns without express permission and command of the local prelate. Canons are bound to kiss the auxiliary’s hand when he gives them Holy Communion on Holy Thursday, and assist him in consecrating Holy Oils, conferring Holy orders, and in all sacred functions strictly episcopal, which he performs for his diocesan. If he be a canon, he is subject, as the other cathedral canons, to diocesan law and the penalties attached to its violation. If the diocesan and the auxiliary assist simultaneously at Mass, the subdeacon must not give the latter the pax before the canon-assistants at the throne have received it from the bishop ordinary. When the diocesan assists at Mass, or Vespers, the auxiliary must leave his stall and join the other canons in making the prescribed reverences before the Kyrie, Gloria, etc. Should the celebrant be the diocesan, assisted by the chapter in sacred vestments, the auxiliary can wear a cope and a linen mitre (with consent of the local), which latter he must take off and put on by himself. It is expedient that he substitute another in his turn for the Missa Cantata, as he cannot use a faldistorium and pontifical vestments without consent of his diocesan.


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