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Diocesan consultors are a certain number of priests in each diocese of the United States who act as official advisers of the bishop in certain matters pertaining to the administration of the diocese. As a body they take the place of the cathedral chapter as established elsewhere by the general law of the Church. Their appointment was recommended (1866) by the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore . The Third Plenary Council (1884) decreed that they should be constituted a diocesan council, and defined their particular rights and duties.
MANNER OF APPOINTMENT
The diocesan consultors, it was decreed (n. 18), should be six, or at least four, in number. Where neither number is possible, there should be at least two. They hold office for three years; but they may be reappointed or selected at the expiration of each term. The manner of their election consists in the appointment by the bishop alone of half of their number, and of the other half by the bishop also, after having taken the vote of the clergy. All the clergy exercising the sacred ministry in the diocese send, in writing, to the bishop three names for every consultor to be elected. From the names thus proposed the bishop selects those whom he judges most fit for the office. At stated periods they are convened and presided over by the bishop, four times, or at least twice, a year, and, as occasion requires, monthly. In case of the death resignation, or removal of a consultor, the bishop appoints his successor with the advice of the other consultors.
RIGHTS AND DUTIES
The diocesan council has certain rights and duties : (A) when the see is filled, and (B) when it is vacant.(A)
When the see is filled, the bishop is bound to ask the advice of the diocesan consultors:
- (1) For convoking and promulgating a diocesan synod ;
- (2) for dividing missions or parishes ;
- (3) for giving over a mission or parish to a religious community;
- (4) for appointing deputies for the diocesan seminary ;
- (5) for appointing a new diocesan consultor and synodal examiners to conduct the examination for vacant parishes ;
- (6) for alienating church property , when the sum exceeds five thousand dollars;
- (7) for determining what missions are to be made parishes with irremovable rectors and appointing the first irremovable rectors in the diocese ;
- (8) for fixing the pension of an irremovable rector who has resigned or who has been removed for cause;
- (9) for determining, out of synod, the salary of rectors.
In all these cases the consultors give their opinion collectively, i.e. in a body, and by secret ballot if they deem proper. The bishop, however, although bound to seek their advice in these matters, is not obliged to follow it.(B)
When the see is vacant :
- (1) the administrator must follow the same procedure, i.e. he must ask the opinion of the diocesan consultors in the above-stated cases.
- (2) The expiration of the three-year term of the consultors within the period of the vacancy does not affect their tenure of office. They remain in office until the accession of the new bishop who, within six months from his consecration, should hold a new election of diocesan consultors.
- (3) In the election of a new bishop the council of 1884 conceded a voice to the consultors, as representatives of the clergy of the diocese. Together with the irremovable rectors they meet within thirty days after the vacancy occurs under the presidency of the archbishop of the province, or, if he be hindered, of a suffragan deputed by him. If the vacancy be that of the archbishopric the senior suffragan presides, or one deputed by him. The voting is by secret ballot. Three candidates are selected whose names are sent to the S. Cong. de Propagandâ Fide, and to the other bishops of the province, who meet, within ten days, to approve or disapprove of the candidates presented by the consultors and irremovable rectors. The bishops send their own list to Rome. The pope may reject both lists and appoint as bishop some one who is on neither.
- (4) When there is a question of selecting a coadjutor with the right of succession the consultors with the irremovable rectors have a voice just as in the election of a new bishop.
- (5) This is also the case where a new diocese is formed out of one or more existing dioceses. In that case, only the irremovable rectors within the limits of the new diocese join with the consultors of the older diocese or dioceses. (See BALTIMORE, PLENARY COUNCILS OF.)
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