New Leadership in the Diocese - What's Next?

A further look at the role of apostolic administrator

Brendan Keany
December 04, 2019 - 7:30 pm
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger

AP Photo

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - Although everyone knew it was coming, the Catholic Church has officially announced that Pope Francis is honoring Bishop Richard Malone's resignation request.

In his place, the Holy Father appointed Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger as the Apostolic Administrator of the Buffalo Diocese, and that became effective on Wednesday morning.

RELATED: Pastor: Scharfenberger made good first impression

Scharfenberger held an hour-long introductory press conference to establish his mission of helping a diocese in crisis begin to heal.

"There's no question that trust has been broken or compromised..." he said. "I am here for you; I'm here to walk with you; I'm here to help you heal."

But what exactly is Scharfenberger's role going to be, and what's the extent of his power?

According to the heavy-duty press packet that was handed out at the press conference, an apostolic administrator is "a bishop who is appointed by the Pope to see to the good order and administration of a diocese that is awaiting the appointment of a permanent bishop."

This means that Scharfenberger possess the authority to make "necessary" decisions for the daily operations of the diocese; however, any decisions deemed major are generally passed on to the new bishop except in the case of an urgent matter.

There are also several changes in effect during this period of flux:

  • Offices that exercise general or specific authority granted directly by the diocesan bishop cease because their authority derives from the diocesan bishop, such as the Vicars General and Vicars Forane
  • Some offices remain during the vacant see, such as the chancellor, judicial vicar and financial officer

As Scharfenberger will still keep his full responsibilities as Bishop of the Albany Diocese, he spoke to the need for balance.

"My commitment is to be physically present at least one day a week," he said while noting that he had already planned to meet with local priests via teleconference on Wednesday. "That's something that can be done even remotely because of our communications capacity between Albany, so there will be ways in which I can be present in a personal way.

"When I got the appointment of Bishop of Albany...the first thing that happened is I said, 'Oh my God, if I'm going to be a bishop, I'll never be able to be a parish priest again,' because in my heart is a desire to be a parish priest, so anything I can do to get out to the parishes...whatever is possible, I'll do."

When asked if he knows how long this appointment may last until a replacement is found, Scharfenberger said he had no clue, and he wasn't even positive on why he was selected to be the apostolic administrator in the first place. However, he said that his time served as the priest representative on the Diocesan Review Board in Brooklyn in 2002 will help him better serve in this role.

"I have to be honest with you; at that time, I thought this was a press-generated sort of thing, like a lot of people had something against the church and so forth because I had no personal experience of the plight of so many people that were abused - my experience on the board just opened my heart...

"Hearing the stories, probably about 40 to 50 that we listened to - first of all, the one thing that was clear from the start is that none of them had to do with money in the sense that it wasn't the motivation," he continued.

Scharfenberger delivered a very future-centered message, and regardless of the amount of time he actually spends as apostolic administrator, he made it clear that he's intent on making a difference as the Buffalo Diocese attempts to adjust and transition into new leadership."

"I am honored to serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo during these challenging times, and I am humbled by the task put before me," he said. "I ask for your prayers as we begin this journey together, and I look forward to getting to know the people of this great diocese."

Listen to the full press conference below:

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