Vatican – episcopal resignations

A summary of recent episcopal resignations in the Roman Catholic Church and the underlying canon law


Canon 416 (CIC) provides that “an episcopal see is vacant upon the death of a diocesan bishop, resignation accepted by the Roman Pontiff, transfer, or privation made known to the bishop”, and the measures relevant to resignation are within Canon 401:

§1. A diocesan bishop who has completed the seventy-fifth year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provision after he has examined all the circumstances.

§2. A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfil his office because of ill-health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.

Canon 411 extends these provisions to coadjutor and auxiliary bishops. It has been suggested here, here and elsewhere that a separation should be made between the two causes for early resignation in Canon 401 §2 (and further classifying “other grave reason” as personal or doctrinal reasons), “as a matter of justice, so that those who do resign for health reasons are not tainted by association with those who resign for other reasons.” Likewise, care must be taken in interpreting resignations under Canon 401 §1, below, and recent events have demonstrated the need for greater clarity and transparency in this area.

Legislative changes

Early in Pope Francis’ pontificate, the Vatican announced:

Francis: Act Decisively against sexual abuse

This morning the Holy Father received in audience Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A communique released by that dicastery reads that, during the course of the audience, various issues pertaining to the Congregation were discussed.

In particular, the Holy Father recommended that the Congregation, continuing along the lines set by Benedict XVI, act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse, first of all by promoting measures for the protection of minors, as well as in offering assistance to those who have suffered abuse, carrying out due proceedings against the guilty, and in the commitment of bishops’ conferences to formulate and implement the necessary directives in this area that is so important for the Church’s witness and credibility. Continue reading