08 January 2010

The Role of the Diocesan Delegate: Just another Layer of Bureaucracy?

[[Dear Sister, can you say more about the [role of a] "diocesan delegate"? Not only have I never heard of it, but it seems to me this adds another layer of bureaucracy to something that is really defined much more simply in terms of Canon 603 or the Catechism. The person I quoted before cautioned about allowing this kind of thing to happen. What is it? How does it work?]]

Now this is a great question because although the "requirement" of a "diocesan delegate" (if one's diocese goes this direction) does add another level of bureaucracy, it is bureaucracy at the service of the individual hermit, her freedom, individuality, and simplicity --- the characteristics of eremitical life mentioned in your other post.

In my situation the diocesan delegate serves both the diocese and myself to foster the living out of my vocation with integrity and with attentiveness to both individual and ecclesial needs/requirements. The delegate is a superior or quasi-superior who, at the behest of the diocese, assumes this role in a way which allows me regular contact, discussion, discernment, sharing, etc, and which frees the Bishop up for less frequent meetings, consultation in more significant matters only, and so forth. It should go without saying that while Canon 603 specifies the "supervision of the local Bishop" it is a rare Bishop who is able to meet formally more than once or twice a year with a hermit, much less spend regular time hearing how life is going on a day to day basis.

A delegate on the other hand can meet with the hermit regularly, (approximately every couple of months or so depending on schedules), deal with regular issues of discernment or problems which arise, communicate with the diocese in case of need for consultation (in either direction!), and just generally be a more immediate presence whom the hermit can turn to between meetings with the Bishop, et al.

Canon 603 has non-negotiable elements (silence of solitude, assiduous prayer and penance, stricter separation from the world, evangelical counsels, Rule of Life lived under the supervision of the Bishop) but how all these work in the life of an individual hermit (including the shape they assume in her Rule) must be discerned on an ongoing basis which is quite individual. Major changes in the Rule may require the Bishop's authorization (the Bp publishes a decree of approval for the Rule as such), but working all this out over time, dealing with issues of ongoing formation and education, determining what needs to go to the Bishop, and just sharing the joys and struggles of everyday life in solitude in a way which enhances one's accountability for all these is something (at least in my life) one needs and turns to a delegate for. (I suppose in some delegate-hermit relationships the hermit might turn to the delegate for more routine "permissions," for instance, but this particular way of approaching matters is probably very uncommon today and not particularly desirable except by way of exception). So, yes, from one perspective the diocesan delegate is another layer of bureaucracy, but it is a layer which allows for effective interplay between the non-negotiable and more individual elements of the hermit's life. It does not hamper this but encourages it.

By the way, cautions are well and good, but it helps to understand that Canons and Catechism provide the essentials (the legal nuts and bolts) in the Case of CL, or a kind of summary of a situation (or of a teaching, for instance) in the case of a Catechism definition or paragraph. Life is probably never so simple as law codifies, nor a catechism definition or description summarizes.