Pope Benedict XVI has today accepted the resignation of Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark in accordance with Canon 401 §2. The Archbishop submitted his resignation to the Holy Father having taken account of medical advice. The Archbishop has had a triple heart bypass and also suffers from severe osteo arthritis. This has already necessitated surgery and the Archbishop envisages further surgery in 2010.
Archbishop McDonald said:
“I feel great sadness at having to relinquish my post as Archbishop of Southwark. Although I have had to contend with illness over the last three years, this appointment has been a great grace. It has been a privilege to lead this great Diocese and I have received a wonderful response to everything I have tried to do. I have also been very appreciative of the prayers of so many people while I have been ill. The Diocese will continue to be very much in my thoughts and prayers in the time ahead.”
A Diocesan Administrator will be appointed soon and he will be in charge of the Diocese, until a new Archbishop takes possession of the Diocese.
Canon 401 §2: A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.
The Process of electing a Diocesan Administrator
When the Pope formally accepts Archbishop McDonald’s resignation (11am 4th Dec), the Diocese of Southwark is classed as being vacant. Southwark has three auxiliary Bishops, Bishop John Hine being senior (ordained bishop 27th Feb 2001; Bishops Patrick Lynch and Paul Hendricks were both ordained bishop on 14th Feb 2006). In accordance with Canon 419, Bishop Hine immediately takes up governance of the Diocese, until a diocesan Administrator is elected. It is the duty of the College of Consultors to elect a diocesan Administrator. Bishop Hine is required by Canon 419 to arrange for the College of Consultors to be convened.
The College of Consultors is to elect a diocesan Administrator within eight days of being notified of the formal acceptance of Archbishop McDonald’s resignation (Canon 421 §1). The College of Consultors is made up of Bishops and priests of the Diocese appointed by Archbishop McDonald. The present College of Consultors is made up of the following:
Bishop John Hine, Bishop Patrick Lynch, Bishop Paul Hendricks, Fr Matthew Dickens, Monsignor Canon Nicholas Rothon, Fr John Lavery, Fr Anthony Plummer, Canon John Madden, Canon Michael Bunce, Fr John O’Toole, Fr Geoffrey Pointer, and Fr John Clark.
On acceptance of the election, the diocesan Administrator assumes responsibility for governing the diocese (Canon 427 §2) until a new Archbishop is appointed and takes possession of the diocese (Canon 430 §1).
Canon 419: While the see is vacant and until the appointment of a diocesan Administrator, the governance of the diocese devolves upon the auxiliary Bishop. If there are a number of auxiliary Bishops, it devolves upon the senior by promotion. If there is no auxiliary Bishop, it devolves upon the college of consultors, unless the Holy See has provided otherwise. The one who thus assumes the governance of the diocese must without delay convene the college which is competent to appoint a diocesan Administrator.
Canon 421 §1: Within eight days of receiving notification of the vacancy of an episcopal see, a diocesan Administrator is to be elected by the college of consultors, to govern the diocese for the time being, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 502 §3.
Canon 427 §2: The diocesan Administrator obtains his power on his acceptance of the election, without the need of confirmation from anyone, but without prejudice to the provision of can. 833, n. 4.
Canon 430 §1: The office of the diocesan Administrator ceases when the new Bishop takes possession of the diocese.