ELECTION OF A DIOCESAN ADMINISTRATOR
ELECTION OF A DIOCESAN ADMINISTRATOR
Before the proceeding with the election of the Diocesan Administrator, the following must be put into consideration:
- When the episcopal see is vacant and there is a coadjutor Bishop, there is no need to elect the Diocesan Administrator. In Law, the coadjutor bishop immediately becomes the bishop of the diocese for which he had been appointed provided that he has legitimately taken possession of it, (cf. 409, §1).
- When the episcopal see is vacant (in the case of the death of a diocesan bishop) and there is no coadjutor Bishop, an auxiliary bishop or, if there is none, the college of consultors is to inform the Apostolic See of the death of a bishop as soon as possible. Concerning the college of consultors, the one who temporarily takes the place of the bishop or the priest who is senior in ordination in the college of consultors is to preside over the college of consultors. Upon the notification of the death of the bishop to the Apostolic See through the Apostolic Nuncio, the Apostolic See may make provision for someone who temporarily will govern the diocesan (cf. Can. 419), and if there is no provision, then the priest who is senior in ordination in the college of consultors will summon the college of Consultors and preside over it for the election of the Diocesan Administrator. Note that if the Apostolic See makes provision for someone who temporarily will govern the diocesan, for instance, the Apostolic Administrator, then the College of Consultors will no longer meet to elect the Diocesan Administrator. That is why it is advisable to wait for some times to know the response of the Apostolic See.
- When the episcopal see is vacant and unless competent authority has established otherwise, an auxiliary bishop preserves all and only those powers and faculties which he possessed as vicar general or episcopal vicar while the see was filled until a new bishop has taken possession of the see. If he has not been designated to the function of diocesan administrator, he is to exercise this same power, conferred by law, under the authority of the diocesan administrator who presides offer the governance of the diocese.
- An episcopal see is vacant upon the death of a diocesan bishop, resignation accepted by the Roman Pontiff, transfer, or privation made known to the bishop.
- When a see is vacant and until the designation of a diocesan administrator, the governance of a diocese devolves upon the auxiliary bishop if there is one or, if there are several, upon the one who is senior in promotion. It devolves upon the college of consultors if there is no Auxiliary Bishop, unless the Holy See has provided otherwise.
- Everything that a vicar general or episcopal vicar does has force until they have received certain notice of the death of the diocesan bishop and once they have received certain notice of the death of the diocesan bishop, their actions cease to have force. Can. 481 §1 states that «the power of a vicar general and an episcopal vicar ceases at the expiration of the time of the mandate, by resignation, by removal made known to them by the diocesan bishop, without prejudice to cann. 406 and 409, and at the vacancy of the episcopal see».
Having put the above into consideration, the following are the steps of electing the diocesan Administrator:
According to Canon Law, after the notification of the Apostolic See of the death of the Diocesan Bishop, and no provision is made by the same Apostolic See as per who temporarily will govern the diocesan, the College of Consultor is to elect a diocesan administrator, within eight days from receiving notice of the vacancy of an episcopal see. When the priest elected as a diocesan administrator has accepted the election, he obtains power and no other confirmation is required. From the moment of acceptance of the election, the diocesan administrator is bound by the obligations and possesses the power of a diocesan bishop, excluding those matters which are excepted by their nature or by the law itself, (cf. Can. 427 §1). For example, he cannot grant a dimissorial letter to one who was denied admission to Holy Orders by the diocesan bishop while he was alive (can 1018 #2); he cannot remove the judicial vicar (can 1420 #5); he cannot convoke a diocesan synod (can 462 #1); he cannot grant incardination and excardination unless the See has been vacant for 1 year and with the consent of the college of consultors; and very importantly, he cannot appoint parish priests unless the See has been vacant for a year (can 525, 2) etc. He is bound to make a profession of faith personally in the presence of the college of consultors, (cf. Can. 833, 4°).
According to Can. 421§2: If a diocesan administrator has not been elected legitimately within the prescribed time for whatever cause, his designation devolves upon the metropolitan, and if the metropolitan church itself is vacant or both the metropolitan and the suffragan churches are vacant, it devolves upon the suffragan bishop senior in promotion. According to the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, the diocesan administrator may not be legitimately elected for a number of reasons:
- because the eight available days have passed without the college of consultators taking action (can. 421, §1);
- because more than one diocesan administrator was elected (can. 423, §1).
- because the election was invalid inasmuch as it was not conducted according to the norms of Cann. 165-178, which are required for validity (Can. 424);
- because the one elected lacks the necessary qualifications for office (Can. 425, §1). An explanation on Can. 425 §1 which says, «Only a priest who has completed thirty-Five years of age and has not already been elected, appointed, or presented for the same vacant see can be designated validly to the function of diocesan administrator». Some commentators said that this canon concerns who has been elected, appointed, or presented for the vacant episcopal see, in those places where the right in question is maintained (cf. also Can. 179). In a related version, other commentators stated that the specific issues in this canon pertain only in places where the cathedral chapter elects a candidate for the episcopacy. See Can. 377, §§1,5: Can. 377 §1. The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or confirms those legitimately elected. Can. 377, §5. In the future, no rights and privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation of bishops are granted to civil authorities. (New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, 554). The transgression of this rule renders the election null and the right of provision must be returned to the metropolitan (cf. Can. 421, §2). The acts of the one who was elected contrary to the prescripts of can. 425 §1, however, are null by the law itself. The reference to election, nomination, and presentation do not apply to the local Churches in Nigeria.
Finally, the Diocesan Administrator is to inform the Apostolic See concerning his own election.