Pope Francis curtails the title “Monsignor”

Today Vatican Insider reported that the pope has dramatically curtailed the usage of the title monsignor while not doing away with it entirely. The 3 ranks of monsignor have now been further reduced to 1: “Chaplain to His Holiness.” But more importantly, only secular priests over 65 will be eligible for the title. This marks yet another attempt by Pope Francis to reduce the rampant careerism which exists among Catholic clergy today.

Monsignori non di più?” is a post from last September on the topic at Pray Tell.

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21 comments

    1. @John Drake – comment #1:
      Thanks. I see little careerism these days in my diocese.All priests are being judged because of those who have desired a move up. Truth is, those who want a move up usually work for it. Really, why are so many folks against a “papal pat on the back” for exceptional service? I find that priests most against papal honors are those who do little work and wouldn’t be selected anyway:)

  1. There’s more than one way to be a careerist: Vicar General, Canon, Vicar Forane, looking for the prestigious parish, seeking prominent positions in the diocesan curia…

    I’m sure the Pope’s decision will be wildly popular here, but I’m not sure it’s going to make much of a difference to those few clerics who are careerists.

    @Greg Merklin (#2) and Nathan Chase: I remember the Pope describing careerism as “leprosy”, but not as rampant. The two words communicate different things, IMO.

  2. It’s a good first step. Being ordained a priest should be enough. The next step is sainthood–something achieved by cooperating with God’s grace. Not earthly princes and higher-ups.

    I think Father L’s perspective is naive. I appreciate the honor titles and clothing bring to people as well as their good priest. But any man worth his salt isn’t going to live and die for it. And people will show their appreciation for a good and holy priest. I’ve seen it many times, and for every one of those guys, it meant more than the purple sash or purple tassels hanging from the galero.

  3. No one has yet mentioned the phenomenon by which monsignori are made in recognition of a sizable “gift to the church” by the family, i.e. a monetary gift. Is this no longer done? It was at one time.

    So funny to hear all this lamentation over the loss of these ranks, as though they are true marks of who has given the most valuable service. The making of monsignors does not mean the church is a meritocracy. People lamenting the loss of 2 higher grades of monsignori seem to think all of these titles are awarded solely in recognition of exemplary pastoral service.

    Ah, no.

    And I say that, despite the fact that I know some excellent priests and pastors who are monsignors.

  4. There have been many priests who were offered this honor by their bishops over the years. Some of them embraced it and enjoyed moving about with their new and more colorful robes. But many others declined it in deference to their peers who were just as worthy of a pat on the back as they were. There have always been two kinds of monsignors: Those who were on their way up the ladder; and those who were given the equivalent of lifetime achievement awards. The pope has in mind, of course, the clerics who would all but sell their souls for a shot at a bigger parish, a prestigious chancery job, or even one of those episcopal tall hats. I have known both kinds and I can assure you that the guys who got the lifetime achievement awards in the waning days of their service are the ones I admire most. Thank God I’m well over 65 and still eligible. Just joking.

  5. H/T: john francis (how prescient)

    “Monsignor Frederick McManus, a priest of Boston who served on the faculty of CUA for 40 years, was named at age 37 by the Holy See (Secretariat of State) a peritus to the liturgical commission of the Central Preparatory Commission for the coming Council. He was actually present in the room during the drafting of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which would be presented to the Fathers of the Council at the first session in 1962. When the work of the preparatory commission was finished, Fred McManus was appointed, again by the Holy See, as a peritus to the Council. He participated then both in the preparatory phase and the conciliar phase and actually had a role in drafting for the consideration of the bishops of the conciliair liturgical commission various articles of the constitution, especially those dealing with the sacraments and sacramentals. These remain in the text with some amendments made in the debate before passage of SC in December 1963. Another American, also appointed directly by the Holy See, Father Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, had a large role in the drafting of the important articles (37-41) that deal with inculturation. So in fact the periti nominated by Rome didn’t just have good seats in the basilica.

    An aside, during the Council, Fred’s bishop, Cardinal Cushing, named him a monsignor and sent the nomination along with a fuller list to the then Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, a determined opponent of the conciliar reforms, including the liturgical reforms. Abp. Vagnozzi crossed Fred McManus’s name off the list before sending it on to Rome. The Delegate informed Cardinal Cushing of this in a kind of by-the-way when he was visiting Boston. Fred was eventually named a monsignor in 1980. Delegate, Abp. Jadot, invited him to lunch and at that time gave him his official scroll from Rome. Fred never had an investiture and never wore a monsignor’s cassock in the twenty-five years before his death in 2005.

  6. I’m with Todd..Priest to Sainthood. I think the Pope should go further
    get rid of Cardinals along with Arch Bishops streamline the Organization. Pope > Bishop > Priest. Reduce the number of Officials at the Vatican leave Accountants, Lawyers (4) and Bankers (1)
    all lay persons and leave the rest of the accounting at local levels.

  7. There is a old joke about when Jesus created monsignors. It was in the Garden when Jesus found the apostles sleeping again and said, “Keep sleeping and take your rest” (Matthew 26:45).

  8. Practically speaking, not such a big issue in North America. Most of our priests are close to or over 65. In 2012, CARA reported the average age of priests in the U.S. was 63. I wouldn’t be surprised if the median age is now 65 or higher.

  9. I may be mistaken, but I believe it was Andrew Greeley who said “If they want to honor priests, give them something they can use, like cash or a new pair of Nikes.”

  10. Wow, only two more years to go for me!! (Just joking!!)

    Ambrose Bierce defined a monsignor as “a church hierarchy rank for which the original founder had no use whatsoever,” or words to that effect.

  11. Jan Larson : I may be mistaken, but I believe it was Andrew Greeley who said “If they want to honor priests, give them something they can use, like cash or a new pair of Nikes.”

    I’d settle for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, or a study sabbatical there.

  12. Jan Larson : I may be mistaken, but I believe it was Andrew Greeley who said “If they want to honor priests, give them something they can use, like cash or a new pair of Nikes.”

    I’d settle for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, or a study sabbatical there.

  13. There is the old joke that everything in the Church has to have a biblical basis: Baptism (Go and baptise all nations…); Eucharist (Do this in memory of me…); Monsignors (Amen, Amen, I say to you: not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.)

    A more troubling issue is the use of the episcopal office in power politics: nuncios, it is widely said, must be archbishops because otherwise the bishops and archbishops of a nation will pay them no attention; cardinals go over their heads anyway. Francis seems to be identifying multiple aspects of an unevangelical, even anti-evangelical, element of ecclesiastical politics. Can it be subjected to evangelical conversion?

  14. I hope that the Motu proprio that comes out with these changes will also change the chapter in the Ceremonial of Bishops on Vesture of Prelates.

    Here is what I am hoping happens:
    Cardinals and Bishops: They will only have two cassocks: choir cassock (no mozzetta) and simple black cassock. No biretta and keep the skull cap. Argyle socks instead of the red and purple (just kidding do away with the mandatory socks). No ferraiuolo.

    All other prelates, canons and monsignori do away with choir cassock, mozzetta, biretta and ferraiuolo.

    In the end it will save some money for some bishops, monsignors and dioceses, but it may hurt Barbiconi, Euroclero, Confexclero and Gammarelli. It will help to put the focus back on ministering to the People of God, rather than playing fancy dress up.

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