October 16, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: The Vatican's view of the Egan letter

Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, is reeling today from the scathing letter being circulated among the priests of his archdiocese.

The anonymous authors of the letter requested a vote of No Confidence to "encourage the Papal Nuncio and the Holy Father to strongly consider accepting the Cardinal's resignation in April, 2007, when he reaches the age of retirement, rather than at a future and uncertain date before his 80th birthday, as can often be the case with retiring Cardinals."

Now, word comes from New Advent's source in the Congregation for Bishops that the Holy See is watching this case very closely -- and based on its long institutional memory of similar cases, the Vatican doesn't like what it's seeing.

Our source told us that "we want to leave no doubt in the minds of the faithful that the Holy Father is sovereign in the appointment and removal of bishops."

He suggested that the effort in New York would backfire on its proponents.  "They will not attain what they're trying to accomplish.  If they did, it would set a harmful precedent, and the door would be opened to all sorts of groups trying to pressure the removal of unpopular bishops."

The Congregation official cited two cases with parallels to New York:  Santiago in the late 1980s, and Dallas in the early 2000s.

In the first case, he said, a group of laymen and priests in Santiago, Chile, wrote an open letter to the Holy See, requesting the speedy resignation of Juan Francisco Cardinal Fresno.  In response, the Holy See actually held up acceptance of his resignation "for several months longer" than would have occurred otherwise.

In the second case, our source revealed that the Congregation for Bishops felt its hands tied by grassroots efforts seeking the removal of Bishop Charles Grahmann from Dallas.  The anti-Grahmann drive backfired, he told us, by removing the most plausible options for early retirement, and possibly delaying the acceptance of the canonical resignation that Grahmann offered in July 2006.

Our source said the response of the Roman curia will be simple:  "The letter will be treated like it doesn't exist."