Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vatican Bishops Czar: Prelates and Politics Don't Mix

As if the appointment backlogs weren't enough to keep tabs on, Re & Co. have another retired bishop problem on their hands -- this time, it's a seemingly deposed Paraguayan prelate aiming to run as a leftist candidate for president:
The Vatican on Tuesday called on a retired Roman Catholic bishop to give up his plans to run for Paraguay's presidency or face canonical sanctions.
But retired Bishop Fernando Lugo [shown above at a March rally] said he had already resigned from the priesthood to lead a planned opposition alliance and challenge conservative President Nicanor Duarte of the Colorado Party in elections scheduled for May 2008.

The communique from the Vatican, signed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, threatened to suspend Lugo's authority as a priest as a "first sanction." It was not clear whether the text was written before or after the resignation.

"In the name of Jesus Christ, I ask him to seriously reflect about his behavior," the Vatican warning read.

It added that a run for the presidency "would be clearly against the serious responsibility of a bishop ... Canonic [sic] Law prohibits priests from participating in political parties or labor unions."

Lugo, 55, was appointed bishop of the impoverished northern San Pedro diocese by Pope John Paul II in 1994, but 10 years later he was ordered to retire. No reasons were announced.
Elsewhere in the American South, B16 this morning appointed Auxiliary Bishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago de Chile as archbishop of Concepcion, the nation's second largest metropolitan church. Key to decoding why Ezzati got the nod -- the three magic letters of the pontificate.... No, not B16, but SDB (scroll down).

Home to the departing CELAM president Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the Schoenstatt cardinal-archbishop of Santiago, Chile lost half its "If the conclave were held today" delegation last Saturday with the 80th birthday of Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez.

A deity of the Tridentine circuit, the superannuation of the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments excludes him not just from future papal elections, but also from his remaining curial memberships, including his coveted seat on the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei -- known to many simply as "The Indult People."

If another conclave were to take place before February 2008, however, though he won't be able to vote, the prelate who took obvious glee in proclaiming the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the Chair of Peter would still get to do the "Habemus Papam!" honors. Though past the voting age, Medina remains the Protodeacon, the senior cardinal-deacon who announces the new pontiff to the world.

As cardinal-deacons -- the junior rank of the college, reserved for curial officials and red-hats who lack the episcopal dignity -- traditionally "opt-up" to the order of cardinal-priest ten years after their elevations, currently next in line for the Protodeacon slot is Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, the former head of the APSA (the Holy See's investment office) who served as pro-nuncio to Washington from 1990-1999 and is the senior surviving deacon from the Wojtyla mega-consistory of 2001.

Should the Big Announcement fall to Cacciavillan, however, he'll also have to be informed of the specifics secondhand -- the veteran diplomat marked his 80th birthday last August.

PHOTO: AP/Jorge Saenz