The Holy Father has given permission to Bishop John Crowley to step down from his duties as Bishop of Middlesbrough on health grounds.
The Rt Rev John Crowley will step down immediately and the College of Consultors will assume responsibility for the governance of the Diocese until a Diocesan Administrator is elected later this week (see below for process and responsibilities).
The Diocesan Administrator will run the Diocese until a new Bishop is appointed by the Holy Father.
The Rt Rev John Crowley, who will now assume the title of Emeritus Bishop of Middlesbrough, informed the Diocese in a letter that was read out at all parishes on Sunday 6 May.
“My responsibilities as a bishop have been taking a big toll upon my health,” said Bishop Crowley.
“Much more than any physical wear and tear, it was the growing strain of those responsibilities upon my nervous resources which had begun to reach a point when I could no longer adequately cope. With that realisation came also the clear awareness that the diocese now needed someone else with new energy and vision to take on its spiritual leadership. To reach that conclusion was, as you might imagine, far from easy, but now that my request to stand down has been accepted by the Holy See, I do feel at peace with the rightness of that decision.
“There is of course a deep sadness within me at the thought of leaving a diocese and its people in unexpected circumstances, a diocese where I have felt so much at home, and one which it has been my greatest joy and privilege to serve as bishop. But I feel too – and even more strongly – a profound gratitude to God for all the blessings of these past 14 years, years which in the main have been greatly rewarding and happy ones. This is a lovely diocese to be part of, and one where there is so much happening to inspire well grounded hope for the future.
“A lot of new life and energy is beginning to break through at various levels, and some very exciting initiatives, for example, in Adult Formation and youth ministry. Above all there is such an abundance of good human and spiritual resources throughout the diocese which should inspire real confidence for the years ahead.”
Once his health is restored, Bishop Crowley will look to continue his priestly ministry.
Rt Rev John Crowley was ordained 12 June 1965 by Cardinal Heenan at Westminster Cathedral, following studies at St Edmund’s College, Ware. After periods as assistant priest and seven years with the Catholic Missionary Society, he became private secretary for Cardinal Hume in 1976.
In 1982 he was made Vicar General of the Diocese and was ordained titular Bishop of Tala in Westminster Cathedral on 8 December 1986. He was installed as sixth Bishop of Middlesbrough, 18 January 1993 by Archbishop Worlock in St Mary’s Cathedral Middlesbrough.
A Bishop Resigns – What Follows?
The resignation takes effect only when the resignation has been accepted by the Pope, the Bishop concerned informed in writing, and the resignation published by the Holy See. (Canon 416). The former Bishop should immediately inform the College of Consultors who will assume responsibility for the governance of the Diocese until a Diocesan Administrator is elected (Canon 419). Until that election, they must take any decision collegially – by vote.
The following cease immediately to hold office (Canon 409 §2):
The following remain in office whilst the See is vacant:
The Council of Priests lapses (Canon 501§2). A new Bishop must reconstitute the Council within a year of taking possession of the See.
Election of Diocesan Administrator
Within eight days of receiving notice that the See is vacant, the College of Consultors must elect a Diocesan Administrator. The College must be summoned by the priest consultor who is most senior by ordination, and he presides until a Diocesan Administrator is elected. The procedure is specified in Canons 165-178, and this must be followed. It is necessary to have an absolute majority for the person elected.
The person elected makes a profession of faith in the presence of a College of Consultors and assumes governance of the Diocese (Canon 427). He is bound by all the obligations of a Diocesan Bishop: He must observe the law of residence in the diocese, and he must apply Mass for the people every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation (Canon 429).
The one who is elected must notify the Holy See (via the Papal Nuncio) of his election by a letter that is notarised. (Canon 422). The Metropolitan, Archbishop Kelly, must receive a copy
Faculties of the Diocesan Administrator
As soon as he is elected he assumes ordinary power over the diocese. He must ensure that no innovation is made – the diocese is on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis until a new Bishop is appointed.
He can administer the sacrament of confirmation or or may delegate this to another priest. For the duration of his office, he is a member of the Episcopal Conference with a vote other than on doctrinal declarations.
He cannot appoint parish priests until the See has been vacant for one year, but he may appoint assistant pastors. If there is pastoral need, he can appoint after consultation with the College of Consultors a pastor who will be designated ‘priest in charge’. The Administrator should keep a formal record of all such appointments including the reasons for making the decision. These files should be given to the new Bishop who may confirm the appointment or take alternative action.
Cessation of Office
The office of Diocesan Administrator ceases when the new Bishop takes possession of the Diocese.
In England and Wales, the Chapter has the right and duty to propose a terna.
Prayers for the election of the New Bishop
During the vacancy of the See, the Diocesan Administrator should invite priests, parish communities and religious to offer prayers for the appointment of the new Bishop, and the needs of the Diocese.
In the cathedral and all other churches of the diocese, Holy Mass for the election of a Bishop is to be celebrated.
Diocesan Trustee Board
Only the Bishop can appoint or dismiss Trustee Board Directors. The Bishop is the Chair of the Board (Memorandum of Articles of Association).
The Board continues to function during the vacancy. However it should follow the canonical principle that it operates on a ‘care and maintenance basis’ – no innovation. It continues its role as Diocesan Finance Committee (Canon 492).
If the Diocesan Administrator is already a Director of the Trust then he becomes the Chair until the new Bishop takes up his appointment. If he is not a Director then the Secretary must discuss the matter with the Charity Commission.