Dec 21, 2013

Bishop McDonnell, nearly 76, still awaiting word on retirement



By Peggy Weber
(Iobserve file photo)

SPRINGFIELD -- When Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell turns 76 Dec. 23 he will celebrate more than his birthday. It also will be the one year anniversary of when he submitted his formal resignation to Rome.

Bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation at age 75. However, there is no formal requirement on the part of the Vatican as to how quickly they name a replacement. Bishop McDonnell sent in his papers and has waited. Today, he finds himself the third oldest, active bishop in the United States and probably very close to the next in line to receive a replacement.

Diocese of Springfield spokesperson Mark E. Dupont told iobserve, “A decision generally comes within 18 months -- depending on many circumstances. During this time, Bishop McDonnell has been cognizant that he was in the final months of his tenure and has approached decisions with that in mind.”

Currently, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Bishop Ibrahim Nabo Ibrahim of the Chaldean rite in Detroit are older. Often, cardinals are permitted to stay in their position until age 80 when they lose their voting rights in a papal conclave.

“It was believed that it might take somewhere around a year for Bishop McDonnell's retirement to be accepted and that the naming of a new bishop of Springfield would take place only after the vacancies in the dioceses of Bridgeport, Conn., and Portland, Maine were filled,” Dupont said. “With this past week's announcements, that is all completed. There are increased expectations that a Vatican announcement (regarding Springfield) may now be fast approaching.”

It was announced Dec. 18 that Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Boston would be the next bishop in Maine.

Other dioceses are vacant, but those vacancies occurred after Bishop McDonnell submitted his resignation, except for one in a Ukranian rite diocese. Still awaiting bishops are Burlington, Vt., (November 2013), Fairbanks, Alaska (September 2013), Gaylord, Mich., (September 2013), Harrisburg, Pa. (May 2013), Pueblo, Colo. (June 2013), St. Josaphat in Parma, Ukrainian (July 2009), Toldeo, Ohio (October 2013) and Wichita, Kan. (April 2013).

Much of the data about each diocese is kept meticulously by David Cheney, a blogger from Overland Park, Kan. His statistics can be found at His website is not officially sanctioned or approved by any Catholic Church authority.

Speculation is growing as to whom will be sent to the Diocese of Springfield and when.

Dupont said, “Tradition was always that the announcement was made on Tuesdays, but we have seen that not strictly adhered to just this past week with the naming of the new Portland, Maine bishop. (More about that can also be found on iobserve.) What we do know is there will be very little advance notice to even Bishop McDonnell and that the official announcement will occur at 6 a.m. our time, 12 noon at the Vatican.”

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter newspaper recently reported on the shake-up of the Congregation for Bishops. He wrote, “The kind of man Francis picks for the Congregation for Bishops is, in effect, a proxy for the kind of bishops he wants this panel to identify. If those postulates are correct, we can draw some early conclusions about what a ‘Francis bishop’ looks like -- ideological moderates with the broad support of their fellow bishops and a real commitment to the social Gospel.”

In addition to Bishop McDonnell being near the top of the “bishop-in-waiting” list, it also should be noted that Bishop Emeritus Joseph F. Maguire is the fifth oldest bishop in the U.S. Archbishop Emeritus Peter Leo Gerety of Newark, N.J. is the oldest at 101.