Bishops, Done at Age 75

Adjusting to a decadent milieu

The de facto split in the Church’s hierarchy — between orthodox and heterodox bishops, or traditional and liberal bishops — manifests itself even in administrative details such as the bishops’ retirement. The current Church-wide system of bishops automatically tendering their resignations at age 75 but not actually retiring until the Pope agrees is seen by many as subject to ideological manipulation. For example, orthodox bishops out of favor with the Pope are sent packing within days of their 75th birthday, whereas liberal bishops remain in place, pressing on with progressive reforms. Considering the state of the Church (in the Western world, at least), it is worth questioning whether keeping bishops and cardinals around too long is at all desirable.

Reasons for keeping elderly bishops and cardinals in place past age 75 probably presume a level of attained wisdom and experience on their part. But in corrupt, decadent times like ours, is that a sound presumption? Given that today’s prelates have risen in a Church more wealthy than in Renaissance times, it is not surprising that great wealth and power has corrupted so many, as it did in the past. The vicious cycle of power and lust is well known to anyone who has observed Washington DC politics or Hollywood scandal.

Just for comparison’s sake we wonder when others are retiring. The average retirement age for U.S. physicians is 63, and the average retirement age for a Fortune 500 CEO is 58. Apples and oranges, you may say, because profits and innovation make for completely different priorities. Maybe so.

But considering the Church’s corrupt dioceses and institutions (if you need evidence, sign up for NOR’s Daily News Feed), the sooner the bishops’ retirement age resembles that of the business and medical world — and not that of the U.S. Congress! —  the better. Call it term limits. Everyone would benefit, especially the prelate who is caught in the webs of his own corruption.

We would miss the good guys, like the current Archbishop of Philadelphia. But for every Chaput there’d be dozens of 75-year-old men in need of much prayer time and repentance — before it’s too late.

Barbara E. Rose is Web Editor of the NOR.

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