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Monsignor Quixote is dead

A well-intentioned reform by Pope Francis, perhaps. But I am deeply saddened that the plot point of one of my favorite novels has been swept aside. From Vatican Insider:

Pope abolishes honorary title of monsignor for diocesan priests under the age of 65

In a new move aimed at reforming the clergy and eliminating careerism in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has abolished the conferral of the Pontifical Honor of ‘Monsignor’ on secular priests under the age of 65.

Henceforth, the only Pontifical Honor that will be conferred on ‘secular priests’ will be that of ‘Chaplain to His Holiness’ and this will be conferred only on ‘worthy priests’ who are over 65 years of age.

Quick, let's buy up the last remaining purple socks from Gammarelli's.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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My (very local) impression is that a lot of bishops have moved away from creating "Monsignors" -- I know Egan made very few in NY, and I don't remember hearing of any under Dolan either. Are there other dioceses that have stepped up the practice in recent years? Or maybe it's more popular outside the U.S.? I knew a number of Monsignors growing up that I am fond of, but I'm not sorry to see the title go. Or go for the younger guys, anyway. I also knew a young priest who had been made a Monsignor -- maybe in his early forties? -- and was embarrassed to be elevated over older and more experienced colleagues.

Holy smokes!  I think a lot of aspirations just got quashed.  (One nice thing about being a deacon is that, pretty much by definition, there is no possibility of careerism.  It's very freeing to have nowhere to go.)

There is this curious sentence in the article: "He confirmed that “the privileges in this regard” that have already been granted by the Roman Pontiff to “physical or juridical persons” remain in force."  Physical or juridical persons?  I assume all of us persons are physical, at least until we die.  What would be a juridical person?  Is that like a corporation, a person in the eyes of the law?  Were Monsanto and Exxon Mobil in the running for the title of monsignor? :-)



Mollie - sorry to say, yes, they have made a comeback.  The Rockford, IL diocese, ruled until fairly recently by a sort of despotic conservative sort, resuscitated the practice a number of years ago, and it seemed to me that quite a few pastors there were made monsignors.  Here in Chicago, they restarted the conferral of the title just a few years ago.  I know our pastor emeritus, who truly was a saintly man, was disappointed to be passed by.  I think it generated bad feelings among some priests who weren't part of the inner circle.  Sounds like Francis isn't killing the entire program, but keeping it for guys on the verge of (or past) retirement age.



Mollie - it is and has been alive and flourishing in the Diocese of Dallas.  Would suggest it is linked to how much the local bishop is himself a careerist - we have one of the best at it - Kevin Farrell who gave up ministry in Mexico years ago to climb the career ladder from Washington, DC to Dallas (even if he is Irish born and bred with a brother who is a bishop in the Rome Curia).

Let's see:

- first move, purchase a more than $1 million dollar home justified as part of helping to entertain big donors  (suggest that Francis' approach works better than this approach - people really do want authenticity)

- second move, push to have two auxiliaries in a diocese that never had one before - accomplished (this is also part of the career ladder process)

- third, name a bunch of monsignors (most well under the age of 65 and either pastors of the richest parishes or administrators with the bishop)

- fourth, have one of these auxiliaries named a bishop quickly (Seitz to El Paso)

- fifth, have seminary rector named a bishop (yep, moved to Fort Worth)

Begin first ever diocesan fund raiser for the future and centralize all giving under the bishop

You get the gist.

Two words:  Good riddance!!!

Jim P.

The terms physical and juridcal are canonical.  A physical person is defined as someone who has reached the age of majority, i. e. is not  minor or an infant.  A juridical person is a canonical subject with obligations and rights in accordance with their nature.  They are either aggregates of persons or of things.  

But monsignorship has not been abolished;you need only wait till you're 65. I can still dream of those purple socks! 

In New York, Cardinal O'Connor, after a long absence of such creations ("out of nothing," it was commonly said), one year announced that seventy priests had been named Monsignors. Inevitably, they came to be known as "the Septuagint."  A year or two later, he named another thirty.  Those who had not been named in either of the two batches began to refer to themselves as "Priests for Life."

What a rip. Is Cardinal next to go? Nothing is more honarary and unnecessary than that. Bishops can elect the pope. Mollie Monsignor is alive and well in New York . St. John the Baptist in Yonkers and St. Barnabas in Bronx/Yonkers have Monsignor pastors. 

Francis is so on target. A simple thing like this is so powerful. I believe he is just getting started. 


Alan, thanks for that explanation.  I have to say, though, that I'm still confused how an aggregate could have a title like monsignor conferred upon it.  What would be an example?

Jim P.

The monsignor is a physical person because he is 18 or over and a juridical person because he hs a canonical subject with obligations and rights proper to him.  Does Chicago not let deacons study canon law? How could you ever become a chancellor? 

I have a friend who is a monsignor; he refers to himself as a "monjunior".  Maybe the Pope could make that a new title. "monjunior"


Alan - I just checked the list for chancellor candidates and was not surprised not to find my name listed there.  If our local curia ever needs someone who can wax enthusiastic about show tunes, though, I'm their man.


Irene - I have a friend who insists that, unlike bishops and cardinals who comprise the hierarchy, deacons are part of the church "lowerarchy".

This is an excellent beginning. Next in need of review are His Excellency, His Eminence, and—dare I say it?—His Holiness. Possibly also Father, but certainly Reverend. Brother and Sister may appropriately be retained, I think.

Jim P., Monsignor Monsanto sounds like a shoulda-been character in The Castle of Otranto.

Does this mean the Monsignor Martinez soap opera will be cancelled? Vaya con Dios, indeed.


I had assumed that Monsignors were a thing of the past anyway and to the extent the title was granted it was more by way of an honorary title anyway. Sort of the the Church equivelant of when our Mayor declaresa Friday as "Some Local Celebrity" Day.    I have to say that I know at least two priests who go by Father rather than the Monsignor to which they are apparently entitled.  I discovered this quite by accident trying to find a phone number on the diocesian website.  Both were listed as Monsignor.  I have never seen either in purple socks and to my knowlege neither owns a pair. 

RE:  purple and other colors of office: When I see Cardinals and bishops all together on tv, it looks like they're wearing two different kinds of red:one seems a true red, the other has more purple or some other shade in it.  Are they different ranks, or do they just happen to be wearing different shades of red? 


I'm not certain, Irene, but it could reflect the various offices present.  If I recall correctly, Bishops wear purple, Archbishops wear a lighter sort of lavender or almost pink version and cadinals wear red.  though in practice I'm not so sure that there is a precise distinction between Bishops and Archbishops.  But those might account for at least some of the differneces.  I also think that Cardinals often have their own versions of the red, probably as a result of local differences in available fabrics as well as taste.  Can you imagine Cardinals Burke and O'Malley selecting the same fabrics for their cassocks?

My diocese of Syracuse named two batches of monsignors in recent years - one about eight years ago under the former bishop and one a year or two ago under the current bishop. Knowing all these guys, most were embarrassed although one - as expected was thrilled. Nevertheless, it is intersting to see how often they use their titles and how their secretaries, bulletins, etc. refer to them. Clericalism is not dead.

The story goes that when a certain monsignor was named in 1971 that his associate immediately bought and installed a crimson/red/purple rug and toilet cover for his bathroom and that  this pastor roared and loved telling the story about his "special monsignorial chamber." He was a very good man and priest...

Bill: I didn't say there aren't any currently active monsignors in NY; I know a few. But how many of them were created by Egan or Dolan?

Irene, there are different ranks of cardinals, but I'm not sure that the color of their clothing is what distinguishes the ranks.  I'm not very tuned in to this Church Visible stuff.  Someone around here wlll know.


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