When a bishop leaves office, as Bishop Malooly has done in the Diocese of Wilmington, the Vatican acts so there is no leadership void before the new bishop is installed. In this case, Bishop Malooly has been appointed the apostolic administrator, a position he will hold until July 13, when Bishop-elect William E. Koenig is ordained a bishop and installed as the 10th ordinary of the diocese at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington.
Pope Francis appointed Bishop-elect Koenig on April 20, according to Bishop Malooly, and he was introduced to the diocese 10 days later. Shortly after that, Bishop Malooly said he received an email from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, notifying him that he would remain as administrator in the interim.
“They decided to give me a new job,” Bishop Malooly said during his homily May 2 at St. Peter Cathedral. “I am no longer the bishop of the diocese. I am always a bishop, but now without a place. Now, I am the apostolic administrator. My job is to see us through the next two and a half months and be the caretaker, in a sense.”
According to Canon Law, Bishop Malooly can appoint parish administrators, but not pastors, and the new bishop can confirm those appointments if he chooses. Bishop Malooly also will preside at the ordination of Deacon Michael Preston to the priesthood and Brennan Ferris to the transitional diaconate, and he will decide on their assignments.
In an interview, Bishop Malooly said new bishops often know very little about the workings of their new dioceses, so it makes sense to follow the lead of the previous ordinary.
He said the same thing happened in the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., when Bishop John Barres was appointed there from Wilmington. Bishop Barres – who now leads Bishop-elect Koenig’s Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y. – arrived in the Pennsylvania diocese after that year’s ordinations.
Father Joseph McQuaide, the chancellor of the diocese, said the diocese’s vicar positions cease to exist during the time between bishops, but Bishop Malooly has delegated the responsibilities of those offices to the people that held them during his ordinariate. For example, Msgr. Steven Hurley, technically the former vicar general, continues to fulfill the responsibilities he had when the position existed. Under Canon Law, the positions that remain during the interim are judicial vicar, who is Oblate Father Mark Mealey; the chancellor; and the chief financial officer, who is Joseph Corsini. Having a judicial vicar allows the healing work of the church to continue, and the CFO makes sure the bills get paid, Father McQuaide said.
“To the average Catholic, things will look the same,” he said. “There’s not going to be any drastic changes for the people in the pews and even for the priests.”
The Diocese of Wilmington last had an apostolic administrator in 2008, when the late Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli filled the same role before Bishop Malooly was installed. Bishop Malooly had experienced the same thing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore between the tenures of Archbishop William D. Borders and Cardinal William H. Keeler, and again after the retirement of Cardinal Keeler and the installation of Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien.
The last time the college of consultors in the Diocese of Wilmington selected an administrator was in 1995 following the transfer of Bishop Robert E. Mulvee. Msgr. Joseph R. Rebman was elected administrator. In 1984, following the death of Bishop Thomas J. Mardaga. Msgr. Paul J. Taggart was elected administrator.
Bishop Malooly said in his homily on Sunday that the Acts of the Apostles is a book about the spread of Christianity, and the new leaders introduced in it are similar to Bishop-elect Koenig.
“All these new leaders who appear and are called by God, as is our new bishop,” he said. “It’s a time of excitement from my point of view. A new witness, a new disciple, a new apostle.”