Thursday, April 22, 2010

From the "Glad You Did Your Research" Department

Once again, the Associated Press demonstrates its nonpareil grasp of detail with its reportage on Msgr. Luiz Marques Barbosa, a Brazilian priest caught on video molesting young men and now facing criminal charges.

(By the way, Bp. Valerio Breda of Penedo has suspended Barbosa and two other priests of the diocese; the diocese is cooperating with the police as well as conducting its own investigation. Doubtless the New York Times will still wonder why Cardinal Ratzinger didn't defrock Barbosa in 1985. (If you don't get why that remark is sarcastic, let me know and I'll tell you.))

Anyway, apparently feeling the need to add to the item's column length, reporter Tales Azzoni went for the non sequitur and produced this gem: "Church members have not responded to calls requesting information on where Barbosa and the other priests had worked in the past. While he holds the rank of monsignor, he apparently has never been a bishop."

Ummmmmmm ... yeah.

While there are some places where you would call a bishop "my lord"—which is what monsignore translates to from the Italian, although it's now functionally used as equivalent to "mister"—"monsignor" as an ecclesial title is generally reserved for priests who either 1) hold the position of diocesan vicar general, diocesan administrator, or a few key Vatican roles (judge of the Rota, Promoter General of Justice, etc.) during the term of their office, or 2) have been awarded the honorary positions of Protonotary Apostolic, Honorary Prelate or Chaplain of His Holiness. Bishops by definition outrank any of these positions.

While there is a vey old rite for stripping a bishop of his ecclesial function, it hasn't happened in living memory. And a sin gross enough to merit being deprived the exercise of one's episcopal charism is also likely to lose all one's honorary titles as well. So it is very safe to assume that a monsignor has never been a bishop.