An Ordinary Viewpoint

Welcome Bishop James Douglas Conley

Last Friday, September 14, 2012, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his role and duty as the Successor of Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and as, therefore, the Chief Bishop of the Catholic Church, appointed the present Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, His Excellency, the Most Reverend James Conley, to be the ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, succeeding your columnist, who has had the undeservedly wonderful privilege, for a bit more than the last 20 years, to be the eighth Bishop of this extremely fine Diocese. If all goes according to our new Bishop’s wishes and according to our diocesan planning, Bishop Conley will be formally installed as the Bishop of Lincoln in the course of a Sacred Liturgy in our Cathedral of the Risen Christ on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving this year, November 20th, preceded by an introductory Vesper Service the evening before. Over the coming years, I hope and pray that all in our Diocese of Lincoln will get to know Bishop Conley, as I have been privileged to know him. In knowing him, a person will be able to see and experience a warm, loving, hard-working, highly learned, modern (in the best sense of the word), and exceptionally able church administrator and pastor. I have always thought of him in terms of G.K. Chesterton’s definition of a "true conservative", one who sometimes has to take a fence down, but never does that until he first knows for sure the reason why it was put up.

I personally feel that God has answered our two years of ardent prayers for our new Bishop in the best possible way. I am certain that Bishop Conley will win the hearts of all, will be an enormous and constant blessing to us here in Southern Nebraska, and will spiritually enrich our Diocese of Lincoln with his goodness, efficiency, broad experience, and outstanding talents. We certainly now must spend some time thanking God, Who, through Christ’s Vicar on earth, has given us such a precious gift in the person of our new spiritual Shepherd.

Known to Us

One of the positive aspects of Bishop Conley’s appointment is that we already have had many contacts with him, and that he already knows something about our Diocese, having visited us at various times. In recent years, for example, he had visited, in his capacity as the Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, the seminarians at Saint Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward who are studying for the priesthood there for that Archdiocese. He also had celebrated ordinations in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (the "FSSP") at their Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Denton.

As a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, he served under two Bishops who previously had been priests of the Diocese of Lincoln before being named to the episcopacy, Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who later had been transferred from Wichita to the Diocese of Phoenix, and the present Bishop of Wichita, Bishop Michael Jackels. He is a seminary acquaintance and classmate of various priests of our Diocese, and has retained some close and cordial friendships with a good number of our Lincoln priests over the years.


There are a series of other interesting historical connections between the two Dioceses of Wichita and Denver to which Bishop Conley has belonged, and the Diocese of Lincoln, where he is about to become the ninth Bishop-Ordinary. The second Bishop of Lincoln, the Most Reverend J. (for John) Henry Tihen, started out as a priest of Saint Louis, but arranged to be incardinated into the Diocese of Wichita when his good friend and Saint Louis pastor, J.J. Hennessy, was named its first Bishop. Thus, Tihen was a priest of Wichita when named to be the second Bishop of Lincoln. Wichita, incidentally, was created a Diocese on the same day as Lincoln (August 2, 1887). Then, after serving as Lincoln’s Bishop for six years (from 1911 to 1917), Bishop Tihen was appointed to be the Bishop of Denver. (He never was an Archbishop, because Denver was still a Diocese. It only was elevated from being a Diocese to being an Archdiocese after his retirement and death in 1940.)

Another connection with Denver involved the sixth Bishop of Lincoln, the Most Reverend James V. Casey, who was originally a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. At first he was nominated to be the Auxiliary Bishop of Lincoln in 1957, to help Bishop Louis B. Kucera, who had suffered a heart attack the previous year and was somewhat incapacitated. However, before Bishop Casey could take up that role, Bishop Kucera died on May 9, 1957. Shortly afterward, Bishop Casey, whose appointment as Auxiliary Bishop was voided by the Kucera death, was named by Pope Pius XII to succeed him as the Bishop of Lincoln. He pontificated here for ten years. until he was appointed as the Archbishop of Denver on February 22, 1967, by Pope Paul VI.

Some Canon Law

As our Diocese of Lincoln prepares itself for its new Bishop, it might be useful, in addition to offering many extra prayers for Bishop Conley, who will become our "servant-leader", to note a few of the things that the Code of Canon Law says about Bishops: "By divine institution, Bishops succeed the Apostles through the Holy Spirit Who is given to them. They are constituted as the Pastors in the Church in order to be the Teachers of doctrine, the Priests of sacred worship, and the Ministers of Church governance. By their episcopal consecration Bishops receive, together with the office of sanctifying, the offices of teaching and of ruling, which, however, by their nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the Head (the Pope) of the College (of Bishops) and its members." (Canon 375).

"Bishops to whom the care of a Diocese is entrusted are called Diocesan Bishops. The others are called Titular Bishops." (Canon 376). "The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints Bishops or confirms those lawfully elected." (Canon 377). "In the Diocese entrusted to his care the Diocesan Bishop has all the ordinary, proper, and immediate authority required for the exercise of his pastoral office, except in those matters which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority or some other ecclesiastical authority." (Canon 381). "The Diocesan Bishop governs the Particular Church entrusted to him with legislative, executive, and judicial authority in accordance with the law. The Bishop exercises legislative power himself. He exercises executive power either personally or through Vicars General or Episcopal Vicars in accordance with the law. He exercises judicial power either personally or through a Judicial Vicar and Judges in accordance with the law." (Canon 391). "In all juridical transactions of the Diocese, the Diocesan Bishop acts in the person of the Diocese." (Canon 393).

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