Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Two Bishops for Occidental Mindoro

“Apostolic Administrator lang,” without further elaboration, a diocesan priest reportedly told his parishioners about Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop David William V. Antonio of Nueva Segovia as Apostolic Administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose sometime November last year. The appointment was reported over the Vatican Radio.

Since I am only backed up by my little understanding about this position or title in the Roman Catholic Church, I have to admit that I am not an authority on the subject and was merely supplied by the lessons I’ve learned from conversations with some of my priests mentor during my more than 20 years of being a Church lay worker, reinforced by reading my copy of Code of Canon Law that had a special place in our shelf and through browsing some Catholic webpages. Also, I am in no way pretending to be an expert on this but someone who merely loves to read and to share anything about my religious conviction. True enough, little learning is a dangerous thing but as a lay man holding on to my faith and learning about my religion, I am taking this dangerous act of saying something about this subject without pre-empting the reactions coming from the authorities from our local Church on the matter. Having mentioned that, comments coming from concerned authorities are very much welcome, especially as I have said, from those who are knowledgeable on my Church’s governing law. But if one has to reason that this subject or anything about the Canon Law shouldn’t be discussed by a layman, I am guilty as charged!  

An apostolic administrator is a bishop appointed by the Pope to serve as the ordinary for an apostolic administration. The apostolic administration per se can either be an area that is not yet a diocese (a stable apostolic administration) or for a diocese that either has no bishop (an apostolic administrator sede vacante) or, in very rare cases, has an incapacitated bishop (apostolic administrator sede plena). From the looks of it, Bishop David William V. Antonio’s appointment is through sede plena since Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD, DD is still around and the seat is not vacant. In general, the apostolic administrator maintains the necessary daily functioning of a diocese but he is not allowed to make any structural changes or important innovations in the particular diocese where he is assigned. With this truth in mind, the priest I have mentioned is right when he quipped, “Apostolic administrator lang.”

But according to Canon 371.2, “[A]postolic administration is a portion of the people of God erected on a stable basis but not as a diocese due to special and grave reasons. The pastoral administrator is legally equivalent to the diocesan bishop.” When the term “apostolic administrator” is used today, it means that a prelate is appointed by the Pope, in our case, to a diocese with a filled or sitting vicar apostolic or bishop either temporarily or permanently. Usually, a bishop is appointed sede plena when the resident bishop is incapacitated by illness or advanced age. If that is the case, the jurisdiction of the resident bishop would be suspended. In this sense, the priest erroneously placed the position as inferior in saying, “Apostolic administrator lang.

Apostolic administrators of stable administrations are equivalent in canon law with diocesan bishops, meaning they have essentially and fundamentally with the same authority as a diocesan bishop. This type of apostolic administrator is usually the bishop of a titular see. Thus the remark, “Apostolic administrator lang,” somewhat goes to emphasize that the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose is administered by the present bishop with stability. No serious administrative or pastoral program been neglected or usurped. No violation of the Canon Law been made whatsoever. Is this generally true? Without answering at point-blank this important question, the head-shaven priest’s remark “Apostolic administrator lang,” is an understatement!

Bishop David William V. Antonio, I was told will officially be installed this Friday, February 12, 2016 and a Eucharistic Celebration or his first Mass here is expected. Aside from the clergy, religious organizations and the Basic Ecclesial Communities from all over Occidental Mindoro, for sure, will be coming to greet and welcome him, regardless if he’s the apostolic administrator lang or not.

What will happen apparently is this: Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD, DD would still be the Apostolic Vicar and the in-coming Apostolic Administrator Bishop David William V. Antonio will work together until such time that the former, in a not so distant future, retires due to age or health reason or both.

Nevertheless, the coming of Bishop William David V. Antonio is a time of celebration for certainly Jesus is with us all in this especial occasion and beyond. Just like the point emphasized in Matthew 9:14-15, which is coincidentally the gospel this Friday:  Jesus' presence conditions the time; it changes everything; it determines our joy.

In a moment, I am returning the book to its place in the shelf and leave it there. I am leaving, again, everything to its proper handlers with their anointed hands and prayerfully wait for the shadow’s final fading in God’s time.

But what was left in me is this equally dangerous conviction: The more I am firm about my religion, the more I am doubtful of my priests…

(Photo: AVSJ File)

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