Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Friday, June 27, 2008

First thoughts on Abp. Burke's promotion to the Signatura

The Roman Rota is the Church's highest judicial court, but because so much law in the Church is administrative, the Apostolic Signatura, which sits atop that administrative system, is effectively the Church's highest adjudicatory body. Throw in that the Signatura resolves disputes that arise over Rota cases, and the preeminence of the Signatura is clear. Pastor Bonus 121-125; 1983 CIC 1445.

Abp. Burke, as the new head of the Signatura, will undoubtedly be made a cardinal (my guess, at the very next consistory) and so will be eligible to vote for the next pope. He already serves on Clergy and Legislative Texts, and is sure to be named to other key Roman dicasteries (likely Bishops, probably CDF and Education, among others), and making him, with William Cdl. Levada at CDF, the most influential American in Rome.
James Cdl. Stafford (formerly of Denver) also serves on several dicasteries, but his main work on the Apostolic Penitentiary is by its nature not high-profile.

I am frankly a little sad at this one. Abp. Burke is a vital presence in the Church in America; but if the pope says that his abilities are needed at the universal level, then who can complain? Let's just pray that a worthy successor in St. Louis is named. Quickly.

See also: Whispers in the Loggia, John Allen (though Allen still thinks that Burke's "second place" finish in the election of the USCCB's head of Canonical Affairs was a rebuke to Burke!)

Abp. Burke's announcement text:

Today, at noon in Rome (5 a.m. CDT), it was announced that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has named me prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, effective immediately. With the announcement, I ceased to be the Archbishop of St. Louis.

I am deeply humbled by the trust which His Holiness has placed in me, and, in priestly obedience, I have pledged to serve our Holy Father to the best of my abilities. Although you will no longer pray for me as your archbishop, especially during the celebration of the Holy Mass, I ask your prayers for me, that I may faithfully and generously cooperate with God's grace in fulfilling my new responsibilities.

Leaving the service of the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis is most sad for me. It has been an honor and gift for me to serve the archdiocese over the past four years and five months. It had been my hope to serve here for a long time, but, as the bishop who called me to priestly ordination often remarked, "Man proposes, but God disposes." I trust that doing what our Holy Father has asked me to do will bring blessings to the Archdiocese of St. Louis and to me. St. Louis is a great archdiocese which will always have a treasured place in my heart.

In a particular way, I am saddened to leave my fellow priests, whom I have so much grown to esteem and love. Often, I have spoken about the remarkable unity and loyalty of our presbyterate. For me, it has been a special grace to work with them in the service of God's flock in the archdiocese. I thank them for the priestly fraternity which they have always shown me, and for the generous obedience with which they have responded to my pastoral care and governance of our beloved archdiocese.

With regard to the governance of the archdiocese, the College of Consultors will meet to elect an archdiocesan administrator who, with the help of the consultors, will govern the archdiocese, until the new archbishop is appointed and installed. Please pray for the College of Consultors and for the archdiocesan administrator whom they will elect.

Again, I ask your prayers. You can count upon my daily prayers for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, always.