What happens next: consultors elect Msgr. James Bartylla as diocesan administrator Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Dec. 06, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

Msgr. James Bartylla

MADISON -- As Catholics of the Diocese of Madison mourn the loss of Bishop Robert C. Morlino, many are asking what happens next.

“In the coming days, weeks, and years, those questions will be answered in due course,” said a statement issued by the Diocese of Madison.

Most immediately, the diocese needs a diocesan administrator to serve prior to the appointment of the fifth bishop of Madison by Pope Francis.

A group of priests of the Diocese of Madison known as the College of Consultors met on November 26 to elect a diocesan administrator. The nine priests unanimously elected Msgr. James Bartylla,

most recently the Vicar General for Bishop Morlino, and previously the Vocations Director, and Master of Ceremonies to the bishop.

In an email to priests of the diocese, Monsignor Bartylla said, “I am humbled to say that I was elected the diocesan administrator and accepted the position, effective immediately.”

Under Church law, the diocesan administrator is a priest elected by the College of Consultors and who is at least 35 years-old, known to be a man of sound doctrine and prudence such that he can oversee the administrative functions of a Diocese until a new bishop is appointed and installed.

The nine priests who make up the College of Consultors include Fr. Paul Arinze, VF; Msgr. James Bartylla; Msgr. Michael Burke; Msgr. Daniel Ganshert; Fr. Richard Heilman, VF; Msgr. Kevin Holmes; Fr. Gregory Ihm; Fr. John Meinholz, VF; and Fr. Bart Timmerman. VF stands for vicar forane.

Upon the death of a bishop who is the ordinary -- or head of a diocese -- the vicar general no longer holds that position. The Presbyteral Council (council of priests) and the Diocesan Pastoral Council also cease to exist.

According to Monsignor Bartylla, the four key principles of sede vacante administration in the absence of a bishop are:

1) Succor – Continue the work of the bishop while he is absent.

2) Restraint – Restrain your action since you are not the absent bishop.

3) Defense – Defend the diocese from violations until the bishop is present.

4) Continuity – Follow the course left by the last bishop.

According to information he received from the Diocesan Tribunal, Monsignor Bartylla said a diocesan administrator is bound by the obligations and possesses the power of a diocesan bishop.

His power excludes some matters which are excepted, include ordinations or anything requiring episcopal consecration (although the diocesan administrator has the faculty to administer Confirmation).

When a see is vacant, there are to be no innovations, which in general means that the diocese is to be in “maintenance mode” until the new bishop is elected by the pope.

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