Dioceses, archdiocese, and size

Seeing as how it was brought up in another thread, I was just wondering if anyone knew. When a diocese increases in terms of population, does it separate into smaller dioceses or does it remain one diocese. If it remains one diocese, are there any rules in place to deal with a situation where a bishop is unable to fulfill all the duties of his office regardless of good health and/or the assistance of auxiliaries? Does he get more auxiliaries, or what? If this belongs somewhere else, well, I figured this seemed the best place for it considering the forum’s description.

I think the best answer is “it depends.” For example, a diocese that is rather dispersed geographically is probably more likely to be divided into two dioceses than a diocese that is already quite compact. For example, it makes less sense to have a diocese of “North Chicago” “South Chicago” and “West Chicago Suburbs” than it does to keep one diocese, even though that diocese has grown quite large.

It probably also depends on whether there is a second relatively large city within the diocese that would be a logical place to base a new see.

Many larger dioceses are divided into several deaneries or groupings of parishes that have similar geographic locations and characteristics. The bishop or archbishop probably relies on the dean or head of that deanery for assistnace in matters relating to those parishes. In addition to the auxiliary bishops, there are usually several other priests who help administer various functions of the diocese. I’m not sure how much of this is governed by canon law or other formal rules, but that is how it seems to work in practice.

The link belows gives a good overview of the leadership structure for the Archdiocese of St. Louis (my home diocese) which is probably pretty typical of a mid-to-large sized diocese in the USA:


Thanks. I suppose my next question would be, do you know if the Most Reverend Robert J. Hermann attends all regularly scheduled parish confirmations of young people, not Easter Vigil, or does he require assistance to ensure everyone is confirmed within a certain time frame. Hmm, I suppose that would depend on whether or not he puts a time frame on when they can be confirmed. This thread is somewhat linked with the other one regarding confirmations and abbots, which is why I ask. Seeing as how your diocese is much larger than mine, the practice is going to be different, so I’m curious.

I don’t know. Back when I was confirmed (over 15 years ago) I think we had 2 auxilary bishops (plus our archbishop), one of whom confirmed my class. I guess in a smaller diocese the bishop is much more likely to take on a variety of tasks himself, while in a larger diocese more tasks (including confirmations) will have to be delegated. I hadn’t looked at the other thread before replying.

Thre is no set rule. The Archdiocese of Atlanta, while not as densely populated with Catholics as some of its northern counterparts, is huge in area, covering two-thirds of the state. Archbishop Wilton Gregory has no auxilary bishops, and neither did his predecessor, John Francis Donoghue. Yet these archbishops, the latter of whom is now retired, handle most of the confirmations. Occasionally the vicar general, a monsignor, is also deputized to confirm, when needed. Yet other dioceses smaller in size have several auxilary bishops who handle confirmations, or a visiting bishop or abbot may also assist when authorized to do so.

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