When pastoral needs of a diocese recommend it, one or more auxiliary bishops may be appointed at the request of the diocesan bishop. The general role of the auxiliary is clear: he assumes such duties and functions within a diocese that the diocesan bishop, because of the size of the diocese or ill health cannot adequately fulfill, especially functions that require the sacramental power of a bishop.
Auxiliary bishops, given their episcopal status in the particular church, are dealt with in a separate section in article 3 of Chapter II of the Code of Canon Law. The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches deals specifically with auxiliary bishops in canons 212–218.
Auxiliary bishops may be appointed by the Holy See with or without special faculties. They are dependent upon the authority of the diocesan bishop. Because they should share in a special way with the diocesan bishop the general pastoral governance of the diocese, an auxiliary bishop who is appointed by the Holy See with special faculties is given special consideration in the law and is to be made a vicar general by the diocesan bishop. Auxiliary bishops without special faculties also should be made vicar generals or episcopal vicars. Vicar generals and episcopal vicars exercise vicariously the ordinary power of executive governance as defined by law.
Auxiliary bishops are titular bishops in that they hold title to some ancient Christian center in the Near or Middle East where a particular church once flourished but has long since disappeared. An auxiliary bishop has no power in this titular diocese.
Diocesan bishops are to consult in collaborative fashion with their auxiliary bishops in matters of major importance. Auxiliaries, on the other hand, are called to perform their duties with solicitude and in a spirit of harmony and unity with the diocesan bishop.
Auxiliary bishops have the right and duty to participate in ecumenical councils with a deliberative vote. They must be called to particular councils where they also have a deliberative vote. Auxiliaries belong to the conference of bishops and have a consultative vote or deliberative vote depending upon the statutes of the conference. Auxiliaries, however, may not serve as presidents of a conference of bishops.
Like diocesan bishops, auxiliary bishops are obliged to reside in the diocese to which they are appointed. They are not to be absent from the diocese except for brief periods of time and an annual vacation not exceeding a month.
An auxiliary bishop does not enjoy the right of succession, and they are asked to submit to the supreme pontiff their resignation at age 75 or sooner when they are unable to attend to their duties due to illness or some other grave cause. Their retirement does not become effective until it is accepted by the supreme pontiff. After retirement, the diocese they serve has the primary obligation for their support.
Bibliography: j. beal, j. coriden, t. green, eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York 2000). e. caparros, m. theriault, j. thorn, eds., Code of Canon Law Annotated (English) (Montreal 1993). v. j. pospishil, Eastern Catholic Church Law (2d rev. ed. Staten Island, N.Y. 1996).
[a. j. quinn]