AN ORDINARY’S NOT SO ORDINARY LIFE, CHAPTER SIXTEEN

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Ordination of Bishop Rice by Archbishop Carlson in Saint Louis Cathedral
In 1971 Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick, who had served for three years as the first and only Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami was transferred by Pope Paul VI to the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.  I chartered an airplane and filled it with friends of Bishop Fitzpatrick and we flew to Brownsville for his installation on May 28, 1971.  Now Archbishop Carroll needed to recommend a priest to the Holy See for ordination as the next Auxiliary Bishop because the Archbishop had developed a heart condition and at times was so incapacitated that he could not perform all of the Liturgical functions the Archdiocese required of its Ordinary.
Shortly after the departure of Bishop Fitzpatrick Archbishop Carroll named me the Vicar General and Treasurer of the Archdiocese and I gave up my role as Chancellor.  Naturally such an appointment coming so soon after the Archbishop had lost his Auxiliary Bishop set off wild speculation among the priests and laity as to who would be the next Auxiliary Bishop.  I soon became the one most frequently named.  To anyone who suggested to me that that was going to happen I would protest, “That is impossible!  I acquired an impediment to promotion to the episcopacy or even to be a monsignor when I was dispensed from my solemn vows.”  To which some would reply, “That won’t stop Coleman Francis Carroll!”   To which I would reply, “No, but it will stop Pope Paul because Canon 642 (which imposed the impediment) is the obstacle.”
June and July went by in the summer of 1971 and there was no announcement of the appointment of the new auxiliary bishop by Pope Paul VI.  Then in August Archbishop Carroll, without any word to anyone, flew to Rome.  He hated Rome in the summer.  The heat made him suffer.  When I learned that he had gone to Rome I remembered the old saying, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun in Rome.”  Naturally the rumors started flying around that he had gone to Rome to expedite the appointment of his next Auxiliary.  He returned to Miami and there was no news.  September passed, and then October and then November and still no announcement.
Then, in the first week of December, 1971, the Archbishop invited me to lunch at his residence on Sunset Island No. 1 on Miami Beach.  There was nothing unusual about that, I had gone to lunches and dinners many times at his residence.  They were always enjoyable because if there were other guests he engage in his usual habit of needling one of them unmercifully.  I even sat through a dinner where he needled John Cardinal Deardon unmercifully even though he had been Auxiliary Bishop to Bishop John Deardon when he was Bishop of Pittsburgh.  I have lived with a mystery all these years since I went to the Diocese of Miami in 1961; Coleman Francis Carroll NEVER needled me.  I do not know why he did not needle me since I was fair game for him.   As the years passed I kept thinking, ok now its my turn.  But my turn never came.  Why? Only God knows!
At the end of the lunch in the first week of December he casually said to me, “Pope Paul wishes to appoint you my Auxiliary Bishop.”  That is all he said, and then he sat there waiting for my reaction.  My reaction was not what he expected.  I blurted out, “But that is impossible, I have an impediment imposed on me under Canon 642 when I was dispensed from solemn vows.”  He rapped his ring on the table and said in an angry voice, “Who are you to question the supreme legislator of the Church?”
I apologized and said that I meant no disrespect to the Pope, but that I was confused.
The Archbishop then went on to tell me that the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Raimondi was in South America and that after consulting with my confessor/spiritual director I should send a telegram to the Nunciature in Washington.  He said, “Of course you will say yes to the appointment.  The telegram should read “Goods arrived in good condition.”  and if, God forbid, you should decline the appointment, send a telegram saying “Goods damaged in shipment.”  I know that this must read like something the C.I.A. would be doing, but the Church in those days placed great importance on secrecy.  It still does, but not as much as then.
I met with my confessor/spiritual director and decided to accept the appointment, I went to the Western Union office and sent the required telegram.  A few days later I got a call from the Nunciature telling me that Archbishop Raimondi would be passing through Miami International Airport on his way back to Washington and that I should meet him at the airport.  I did and he accepted the date I chose for my ordination, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, January 25, 1972.  On December 6, 1971 in both Washington and Rome the public announcement of my appointment was made.
For months I could not understand how Pope Paul got around the prohibitions contained in the Code of Canon Law,  Canon 642.  Then, I received the May 31, 1972 edition of Acta Apostolicae Sedis which is for the Vatican what the Congressional Record is for the United States Congress.  In that issue I read the Decree of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes dated February 2, 1972.  The Decree stated (among other things) that the Congregation met in plenary session on September 24-25 and considered whether or not in these modern times Canon 642 which imposed penalties on religious dispensed from solemn vows should be abrogated.  The Congregation decided that it should be suspended/abrogated and in an audience of the Secretary of the Congregation with Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1971  Pope Paul had approved the suspension/abrogation  of Canon 642.  Thirteen days later Archbishop Carroll invited me to lunch to tell me that I had been appointed his Auxiliary.
I assume that the Archbishop had submitted my name to Rome shortly after Bishop Fitzpatrick moved to Brownsville and that he got turned down in August because of my impediment under Canon 642.  He then decided to go to Rome and speak with the Pope himself.  You must remember the close ties the Pope had with the Carroll family because Walter Carroll was his associate in the Secretariat of  State.  Pope Paul probably told the Archbishop that he could not approve my appointment since it was forbidden by Canon 642.  The Archbishop, who held a Doctorate in Canon Law, probably said something like, “That Canon was put in the Code in the Middle Ages to keep monks in their monasteries, this is 1971 and that Canon should be abrogated.”  The Pope probably said, “Well, I will refer the matter to the Sacred Congregation for Religious, and we will see what they say.”  He did, they recommended the abolition of the Canon, the Pope accepted their recommendation and the rest is history, as they say.
I was busy for the rest of December getting ready for my ordination.  I had to have a coat of arms designed and I turned to the best heraldry expert in the Country who lived in Boston and he drew my coat of arms which, instead of showing my family lineage, at my choice showed my ecclesiastical lineage:  Saint Vincent Archabbey and the Archdiocese of Miami.  I had to choose a motto and I chose Abyssus abyssum invocat.

 My episcopal motto and is taken from the 41/42/43 rd Psalm. It is translated “Deep is calling to Deep.” It expresses the thought contained in Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “The Lord has said ‘My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness’, so I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boasts so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. FOR IT IS WHEN I AM WEAK THAT I AM STRONG.” (2 Cor. 12/9-10) The motto can be understood as follows: I call out from the depths of my need as a frail human being faced with great responsibilities in the Church of Jesus Christ asking Christ to perfect in me from the depths of his love and grace whatever I may lack in order to successfully accomplish the ministry Christ himself has entrusted to me.

I got the addresses of my father’s family in Mexico and sent invitations to the ordination to them even though I had never met them.  My father’s sister and one of his brothers came, to my great surprise and delight.  Of course my mother’s family was there.  I was especially happy that a delegation of monks came from Saint Vincent Archabbey for the ordination.  They were led by the new Archabbot, most were my classmates but also others like the Chant Master and several of my Seminary professors were there; I was able to celebrate a Mass with them the next day.
Because Archbishop Carroll had heart problems he thought it wise to ask John Cardinal Deardon to be the principal consecrator at the ordination.  He accepted and came to Miami and he came to Miami for the ordination; Archbishop Carroll and Bishop Paul Tanner of Saint Augustine were the co-consecrators.  After the Ordination Mass we were to leave and go the DuPont Plaza Hotel for the Ordination banquet.  The Archbishop said to me, “There is not enough room in my car for the Cardinal, me and you, so you follow us in the police escort to the hotel in your car.”
Now in 1969 my Oldsmobile Cutlass had lost its transmision and I was forced to buy a new car.  I bought a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach-1.

The 1969 Ford Mustang Mach-1.  Mine was just like this one except mine did not have the bronze stripe but was all black.  Oh, how I loved that car!
When I was not driving the car I kept it out of sight in the Cathedral garage.  The Archbishop’s order to follow his car to the DuPont Plaza Hotel meant that  he would now see it for the first time.  Sure enough as we were driving south on Brickell Avenue I could see the Archbishop turn and look through the rear window to see if I was following him.  Then I saw him talking to the Cardinal.  Then I saw them both turned around looking at me in my Mustang; my heart sank for knew what was coming.
During the banquet the Cardinal, who was seated to my left,  turned to me and said, “Bishop, I require all my Auxiliary Bishops to drive standard-size cars for safety reasons.”
Archbishop Carroll, who was sitting to the right of me growled, “Get rid of it!”

 

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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