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Georg Ganswein

Ordination as reward

Georg GansweinI wrote recently about the danger of using ordination to devalue lay ministry.

There has just been an extremely high-profile example of ordination-as-reward.

Georg Gänswein is the well-known, photogenic Principal Private Secretary to the Pope.

In January the pope episcopally ordained (consecrated) him and made him an archbishop. Often the Vatican makes such people the bishop of some now-vacant (as in nobody-lives-there-anymore) diocese in the Sahara or some such. The Vatican, then, can conveniently ignore the issue of non-residency of the bishop in the region he has responsibility for. [Residency being a requirement in Canon Law and a significant issue at the Reformation].

Urbs Salvia
One of the more salubrious parts of the Archdiocese

In this case, however, Archbishop Georg Gänswein is only a three-hour drive away from his Archdiocese. He is the Archbishop of Urbs Salvia.

It is an archeological park!

The irony is that it is the Vatican that accuses others that they are not using ordination in the way intended by Christ.

image source

For further reading Canons 395 & 396:

Even if a diocesan bishop has a coadjutor or auxiliary, he is bound by the law of personal residence in the diocese.

He is not to be absent from the diocese on Christmas, during Holy Week, and on Easter, Pentecost, and the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, except for a grave and urgent cause.

A bishop is obliged to visit the diocese annually either in whole or in part, so that he visits the entire diocese at least every Five years either personally or, if he has been legitimately impeded, through the coadjutor bishop, an auxiliary, vicar general, episcopal vicar, or another presbyter.

For those of you with Episcopi vagantes tendencies, here are the three bishops who consecrated/episcopally ordained Archbishop Georg Gänswein, and their orders validly traced back to the 16th Century (why not back to Jesus, I cannot imagine!) This lists the other bishops that preceded Archbishop Georg Gänswein to at least 1968. Why the archeological park was created a diocese at that time I cannot ascertain, in spite of rigorous researching.

I understand there is, as yet, no cathedral (an unusual tragedy, occasionally known in the case of a bishop, but doubly tragic in the case of an Archbishop). You can send me funds for a cathedral and I will forward them to Archbishop Georg Gänswein. I promise…

No, Really!

[The possibility of a plenary indulgence being received in response to a significant gift is still being investigated…]

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34 thoughts on “Ordination as reward”

  1. I read this with interest as Catholics are showing themselves as being one denomination, where the Anglican Church of Canada is also a Catholic expression. However one of the key concerns of all of our expressions of doctrines are the lack of diocese laity able to work along side clergy because Bishops are not willing to let the two sides of the rail make decisions on how to foster growth, not who serves in which location. If all priest were made to live in the community they serve in far too many parishes would be forced to cease function. I hope that will generate further discussions.

  2. Gillian Trewinnard

    This certainly looks like ordination used as a means of rewarding a favoured servant, in this case the man who discovered the treachery of the Pope’s butler. Sounds like a good plot for a novel – one set in pre-Reformation times, that is.

  3. I am happy for Msgr(Bishop) Georg. The enormous responsibility and work he does, and has done in the past speaks for it’s self. This elevation to bishop is less reward and more necessity, but I believe he is worthy of this title.He has been a faith filled priest and worked with Pope Benedict at one of the most difficult times of our church.He is very intelligent, devout and hard working.He looks to his popularity as a means to attract people to the faith. He is humble.Sounds like a bishop to me.

    I enjoy your posts but this one left me sad.



    1. I am sorry, Cindy, that this post leaves you sad.

      You would need to explain your point to me why his “elevation” to bishop is a “necessity“?

      You list qualities in him that, I agree, are wonderful qualities in a bishop. To say bishops should have these qualities, he has these qualities, therefore he should be a bishop is, I’m sure you realise, back-to-front logic. [A cat should have four legs, this has four legs, therefore this is a cat].

      A (arch)bishop oversees a (arch)diocese – do you really think overseeing an archaeological park is sufficient reason to ordain him an (arch)bishop?!


    2. The point is that “bishop” is not a “title,” a la aristocracy or meritocracy. Being a bishop is a ministry, in which one serves at the head of a local church as its father in God, teacher, pastor and primary eucharistic presider among its laypeople, deacons and presbyters, as well as a “lynchpin” of unity in communion with the bishops heading other local churches. When one is made a bishop when and where no local church, laypeople, deacons and presbyters exist, one robs the ministry of bishop of its meaning and function, turning it into something it is not and was never meant to be. And that is the real sadness in this case.

    3. Gillian Trewinnard

      Your comment Cindy would seem to confirm that you see this ‘elevation’ as a reward, which was the main point of Bosco’s original thread. There was no suggestion that new archbishop is not a good man doing a good job, just that being made a bishop or archbishop is not meant to like receiving a knighthood; rather it is an important role; not so if your area of responsibility is an uninhabited park. God bless.

    4. “Bishop” means “overseer.” For one to be a bishop, one must oversee something.

      In Orthodoxy, a bishop with no Congregation is simply not a bishop. They HAVE no episcopi vagantes. I think that because they speak Greek, they instinctively recognize the absurdity of having an overseer who oversees nothing.

      That said, ordination is a CALLING, not a reward, and not something given on the basis of being a “good person.” Has the Pope forgotten the idea that one is CALLED to the ministry?

  4. Alas, Bosco, your generous offer to raise funds notwithstanding, I fear there will be no cathedral in the Archdiocese of Urbs Salvia archeological park. An archaeological park is for ancient stuff, not a shiny new cathedral.


    1. I’m sure, June, if we raise enough funds, we can use the extra to make it look ancient! [cf the Vatican assigning this jurisdiction makes it look as if he has a real archdiocese]. Do join me in this fun-draising, June. If we do not raise enough to complete the cathedral, you can I could use the money raised to organise an ecumenical pilgrimage to the foundation stone. Blessings.

      1. As I see it, a humorous response to the news of the archbishopric as a reward for faithful service, which it demonstrably is, is possibly the kindest way to take note. Anyway, before long, Archbishop Ganswein may be awarded a red hat.


    1. Thanks, Michael. Fascinating. But do they not have the lineage from Rebiba back? [And do you know if the Archdiocese of Urbs Salvia existed before 1968? Or was there a rapid population growth at that time requiring archiepiscopal oversight?] Blessings

      1. They have a guess who consecrated Rebiba bishop, but they don’t have any written records. They’re sure he was a bishop, but they don’t have the paperwork. It’s sort of a problem for Roman Catholicism to have more than 90% of its bishops tracing their lineage back to a guy without any paperwork. With regard to Urbs Salvia, I dunno, but how about you and I go there one day, and you can celebrate Eucharist for me.

        1. Fascinating, Michael. I don’t recall having come upon this story previously. Is the “sort of a problem” written up somewhere? As for our trip, maybe it can be charged against the Urbs Salvia Archdiocesan budget on the understanding that we report back to the Archbishop on the state of his Archdiocese. Blessings.

          1. It is very curious, but then does that put a lot of other churches into the same lifeboat with the RCs? How far back can the bishops in Anglican churches trace their linkages? Lutherans? Would the Old Catholics be part of the Rebiba issue?

          2. There are some who question the validity of Matthew Parker’s 16th Century consecration – one of the four consecrating bishops had lost his papers. Old Catholic consecrations would certainly go back through the Reformation, and they and Anglicans have been consecrating together since the early twentieth century. Blessings.

  5. I think many of the comments here are interesting yet one real point being missed is the real need of the diocese in discussion should be an actual location where parish duties are filled and managed. The concerns of a open ended vacant seat is not what the focus should be placed upon.

    If that were the case the I would be offering my services as a potential bishop to the ACC which would be a false sense of the intention on Apostlic rules and governing. Lets discuss how to move the process from vacant to active parish responsible duties, not to question the person involved. Martin Luther fought this action long ago and yet it continues today where it should be avoided or prevented, with so many Catholics needing true guidance and service.

    Celtic Centurion
    Laity Mission Ministry
    Victoria, BC Canada.

  6. While having no interest in the appointment i have to say that your conceptn of the Bishop’s role is not the same as that originating at Trent and held in Vatican. see following from RC source.
    From Catholic Encyclpedia
    Two classes of bishops must be distinguished, not with regard to the power of order, for all bishops receive the fullness of the priesthood but with regard to the power of jurisdiction: the diocesan bishop and the titular bishop or, as he was called before 1882 the episcopus in partibus infedelium. The former is here considered. Those belonging to the second class cannot perform any episcopal function without the authorization of the diocesan bishop; for as titular bishops there have no ordinary jurisdiction. They can; however, act as auxiliary bishops, i.e. they may be appointed by the pope to assist a diocesan bishop in the exercise of duties arising from the episcopal order but entailing no power of jurisdiction. (See AUXILIARY BISHOP.) Such a bishop is also called vicarius in pontificalibus, i.e. a representative in certain ceremonial acts proper to the diocesan bishop, sometimes suffragan bishop, episcopus suffraganeus. In the proper sense of the term, however, the suffragan bishop is the diocesan bishop in his relations with the metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province to which he

    1. Thanks, Brian. Your quote dates from 1907 under the then heading “Present Legislation”. Do you have something in which “present” doesn’t mean “more than a century ago”? My quotes are from the current Canon Law. Blessings.

    2. Brian, I think that you misconstrue the titular bishop in this case. It is not unlike the situation in the Church of England where large dioceses have bishops of areas to assist the ordinary. For example the Diocese of London currently constituted;
      Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
      Peter Wheatley, Bishop of Edmonton
      Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden
      Paul Williams, Bishop of Kensington
      Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney
      (Bishop-designate: Jonathan Baker) Bishop of Fulham

      The last five are suffragan bishops. +Adrian is a titular bishop because there is no diocese of Stepney.

  7. I knew it was 1907 but is that “OLD” by Vatican standards,? The following is from an American publication of which I do not have exact date but Benedict (Current one) adorns it. Now as I read what you have written I do not see where George’s diocese fits the requirements. I should say i agree with the matter of your post. But church bureaucracies ???

    Because all Bishops must have a diocese under their care, those Bishops who are not in charge of a “real” diocese of their own are given “Titular Episcopal Sees”, that is, dioceses of which they are the titular head. These Dioceses are dioceses which once existed in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean but are now defunct.

    The media tried to make a big thing about Bishop Jacques Gaillot’s being removed from his diocese in France a few years ago, because in the process he was made Titular Bishop of Partenia, a defunct diocese in the Sub-Sahara. This was supposed somehow to be especially bad treatment of him by the Vatican. What they didn’t make clear was that every bishop in an administrative, diplomatic or auxiliary post around the world has a titular diocese somewhere in North Africa, the Holy Land or Mediterranean Europe!

    1. I think, Brian, moving a bishop from a diocese to a post in which he has no oversight of a “real diocese” is one thing (retirement also happens). Such a situation IMO does not remove the ordination. The person remains a bishop. To give him a fantasy diocese is unnecessary and unhelpful. I am not even sure that Urbs Salvia even “once existed” as a diocese. Blessings.

  8. I have,found the appropriate roman canons.


    Can. 375 §1. Bishops, who by divine institution succeed to the place of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, are constituted pastors in the Church, so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance.

    §2. Through episcopal consecration itself, bishops receive with the function of sanctifying also the functions of teaching and governing; by their nature, however, these can only be exercised in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college.

    Can. 376 Bishops to whom the care of some diocese is entrusted are called diocesan; others are called titular.

  9. A more telling blow could be struck in an eastward ecumenical direction. Think of the irony that the giant of modern ecclesiological thought — the author of “Eucharist, Bishop, Church” — is His Eminence John (Zizioulas), Metropolitan of *cough* Pergamon *cough*.

    I suppose the modern (i.e. last 500 years) structure of the Curia is a bit like the military: it’s all very well to be an eminence grise, but sometimes someone in charge of a congregation (or whatever) just needs to be able to “pull rank” (Canon Law or no Canon Law)! It is in any case perhaps a good thing if existing church structures don’t respond with undue alacrity to the latest academic orthodoxies.

    The creation of John Henry Newman as a Cardinal Priest is an example of other available options for reward or acknowledgement (very necessary in his case: it vindicated his broadminded views from Ultramontane attack). Near the end of his life, he knelt and asked the local diocesan bishop to give him a blessing, which was against all protocol and ecclesiastical law. The bishop was shocked, but managed to improvise a form of words for this unique circumstance.

    1. Thanks, Jesse. Yes, the Zizioulas irony is astonishing. I wonder what he thinks of this himself (does he write about it?) Do you (or anyone) know how he comes to this “position”? And, Jesse, does this Roman & Eastern practice of ordaining to essentially non-existent positions go back to before 1054 – or did one come up with the idea and the other copy it, or what?

      That Christ’s ministry of ἐπίσκοπος comes to be about pulling rank is telling.


  10. I have been intrigued by the way they weave around it. I really have no argument with the contention that an ordained/consecrated off ice has been diminished by being used as a reward, particularly when the title is archbishop when there is self evidently nothing to exercise governance over. is governance of the pope’s office sufficient.
    Historically bishops had sees and they are trying to retain this by in effect inventing non-existent sees out of ancient history. And George’s “See” seems to even lie outside that.

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