On the Duties of Bishops

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It is helpful for us to remember and understand the nature, function, and duties of a Bishop:

Rights and powers of a Bishop
  • The power of order comes to him through episcopal consecration.
  • The power of order is:
    • Performing sacerdotal ordinations, minor and major orders.
    • The bishop is the only ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
    • The Bishop has reserved certain benedictions and consecrations to him, viz., those which are performed with holy oil: the dedication of a church, the consecration of an altar, of chalices and patens, and generally of the articles serving for the celebration of Holy Mass, the reconciliation of a desecrated church, the benediction of bells, the benediction of an abbot, the benediction of the holy oils, etc.
  • But the exercise of this right depends on his power of jurisdiction or supplied jurisdiction.
    • Besides the power of order, bishops possess that of jurisdiction; they have the right to prescribe for the faithful the rules which the latter must follow in order to obtain eternal salvation.
    • The power of jurisdiction is of Divine origin, in the sense that the pope is held to establish in the Church bishops whose mission it is to direct the faithful in the way of salvation.
    • The bishops have then in their dioceses an ordinary jurisdiction, limited, however, by the rights that the pope can reserve to himself in virtue of his primacy.

Teaching authority
  • By Divine law bishops have the right to teach Christian doctrine. (Matthew 28:19; Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, De ref., ch. iv; Encyclical of Leo XIII, "Sapientiae christianae", 10 January, 1890; "Acta Sanctae Sedis": 1890, XXXII, 385).
  • The obligation of instructing the faithful either personally or, if hindered, through other ecclesiastics is incumbent upon them.
  • They are bound also to see that in the parish churches the parish priests fulfil the requirements of preaching and teaching which the Council of Trent imposes on them (Sess. V, De ref., ch. ii; Sess. XXIV, De ref. ch.iv).
  • The bishop must also supervise the teaching of Christian doctrine in the seminaries, as well as in secondary and primary schools (Conc. Balt. III, nos. 194 sqq.; Const. "Romanos pontifices", 8 May, 1881; op. cit., Appendix, 212).
  • In virtue of this right of superintendence, and because of the intimate relations which exist between instruction and education, the bishop is empowered to forbid attendance at undenominational schools, at least in those districts where Catholic schools exist, and where attendance at the former schools is dangerous. In virtue of the same right he will very often be bound to erect Catholic schools or favour their establishment (Third Council of Baltimore, nos. 194-213).
  • No one is allowed to preach Christian doctrine without the consent of the bishop, or at least without his knowledge if it is a question of exempt religious preaching in their own churches (Council of Trent, Sess. V, De ref., ch., ii; Sess. XVIV, De ref., ch. iv).
  • The Bishop has power to supervise writings published or read in his diocese; works regarding the sacred sciences are subject to his approbation; he may forbid the reading of dangerous books and newspapers. He exercises a special control over the publications of the secular clergy, who are bound to consult him before undertaking the direction of newspapers or of publishing works even upon profane matters (Const. of Leo XIII, "Officiorum et munerum", 25 January, 1897; Vermeersch, "De probitione et censura liborum", 4th ed., Rome, 1906).
  • He has the right of special supervision over the manuals used in educational establishments, and as far as possible he will encourage the publication of good books and good newspapers (Third Council of Baltimore, nos. 210,220, 221, 225, 226).
  • The bishop is the Inquisitor natus or protector of the faith for his diocese. He has not, it is true, the right to define, outside an ecumenical council, controverted questions with regard to faith and morals, but when a heated discussion arises in his diocese, he can impose silence upon the parties concerned while awaiting a decision from the Holy See. If anyone, however, denies a point of doctrine defined by the Church, even though it be all exempt religious, the bishop will have the power to punish him (Council of Trent, Sess. V, De ref., ch. ii; Sess. XXIV, De ref., ch, iii).
  • He must likewise guard the faithful of his diocese against dangerous societies condemned by the Holy See (Third Council of Baltimore, nos. 244-255).

Governing authority
  • (1) Legislative Power...
  • (2) Judicial Power...
  • (3) Coercive Power...
  • (4) Administrative Power...

Obligations of the bishop
  • All their efforts must aim at preserving the true faith and a high moral tone among the people; they attain this end by good example, by preaching, by daily solicitude for the good administration of the diocese, and by prayer.
  • Bishops, in effect, are bound by the Divine law to implore the help of God for the faithful committed to their care.
  • Canon law has determined more fully this obligation, and imposes upon the bishops the obligation of celebrating Mass for the faithful of their dioceses (missa pro grege) every Sunday, on the feast days of obligation and on the abrogated feast days (Const. Leo XIII "In supremâ", 10 June, 1882; "Collectanea, S.C.P.", no. 112).
  • The bishop is bound to take special care of the education of youth and of the training of his clergy; he must exercise continual vigilance over the latter and assist them with his counsels.
  • The Church has imposed as special obligations upon bishops the canonical visitation of the diocese and the holding of an annual diocesan synod.
  • The bishop is bound to visit each year the greater part of his diocese either personally or, if prevented, through his delegates. This visit will permit him to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation (Council of Trent, Sess. XXXIV, De ref., ch. iii).
  • It is evident, finally, that the bishop cannot fulfill the duties of his office unless he observes the law of residence. The bishop is obliged to reside in his diocese and it is proper that he should be in the episcopal city on the principal feast days of the year. He cannot be absent from his diocese for more than three months, except for grave reason approved of by the Holy See (Council of Trent. Sess. VI, De ref., ch. i; Sess. XXXIII, De ref., ch. i; Benedict XIV, "Ad universae christianae", 3 September, 1746; Letters of Propaganda, 24 April and 24 August 1861; "Collectanea, S.C.P.", nos. 103, 105).
  • etc...

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R

Rose

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As Dom Guéranger declared:

When the shepherd turns into a wolf, the first duty of the flock is to defend itself .... The true children of Holy Church (in times of crisis...) are not the cowardly souls who, under the specious pretext of submission to the powers that be [i.e., those in charge], delay their opposition to the enemy in the hope of receiving instructions.....

The Liturgical Year, Vol. IV, Dom Guéranger; see the entry for the Feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, February 9th.
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