Support This Website! Shop Here!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bishop Ochoa's Honesty

When Bishop Ochoa was named Bishop of Fresno on Dec 1, 2011, the clock started ticking.
He had 60 days to canonically take possession of his new see.
Can. 418 §1. Upon certain notice of transfer, a bishop must claim the diocese to which he has been transferred (ad quam) and take canonical possession of it within two months. On the day that he takes possession of the new diocese, however, the diocese from which he has been transferred (a qua) is vacant.
On January 11, 2012, Bishop Ochoa decided to use the few remaining days he has, and use the powers of the diocesan administrator (notice: he does not appear to have the powers of the Bishop of El Paso any longer), to lay a civil lawsuit against Father Michael Rodriguez for misappropriation of funds.

In point 6 of his lawsuit, Bishop Ochoa claims standing by claiming that he is the Bishop of El Paso.
Can. 418 §2. Upon certain notice of transfer until the canonical possession of the new diocese, a transferred bishop in the diocese from which he has been transferred:
1/ obtains the power of a diocesan administrator and is bound by the obligations of the same;
 all power of the vicar general and episcopal vicar ceases, without prejudice to  can. 409, §2;
In Father Michael Rodriguez' January 12, 2012 reply, Fr. Rodriguez states:
It is unfortunate that Bishop Armando Ochoa, Administrator of the Diocese of El Paso and no longer our bishop, (emphasis added) has decided to pursue legal action against me.
Now, since Bishop Ochoa has not yet formally taken possession of Fresno, the see of El Paso is not considered a vacant see. But, Father Rodriguez seems to have a point in saying that technically, Ochoa is no longer Bishop of El Paso.

And, if Father Rodriguez is correct, Bishop Ochoa may have mis-represented himself in a public lawsuit.

Worse, Ochoa may well lose standing as a claimant in the lawsuit within the next two weeks, since he will no longer be part of the diocese.

Once Ochoa has formally left, the only power in the diocese will be that of the diocesan administrator, as El Paso waits for a new bishop. What power does a diocesan administrator have?
Can. 428 §1. When a see is vacant, nothing is to be altered.
§2. Those who temporarily care for the governance of the diocese are forbidden to do anything which can be prejudicial in some way to the diocese or episcopal rights. They, and consequently all others, are specifically prohibited, whether personally or through another, from removing or destroying any documents of the diocesan curia or from changing anything in them.
Clearly, Ochoa wanted to pursue Father Rodriguez in the few days left to him. But is beginning a civil legal action prejudicial to the episcopal rights of the as-yet-unnamed incoming bishop? Does Ochoa have the canonical power to lay this lawsuit?

A fascinating problem in El Paso, no question of it. 


Bruce said...

But what about the merits of the case?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

All we have is Ochoa's side of the story.

We don't have Father Michael's side.

It's hard to judge the merits of the case when you don't have public statements from both sides.

Father Michael has publicly stated that the charges misrepresent the situation. He claims multiple attempts to work with the Bishop and constant refusal of the Bishop to even listen.

Bishop says he was constantly open to dialogue, but his priest wouldn't talk to him.

Someone either isn't telling the truth, or is only telling part of the truth and is leaving out relevant portions.