At this morning's news conference announcing Bishop Joseph Martino's resignation from the Diocese of Scranton, a reporter asked how long it might take the pope to appoint another bishop to the diocese. Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali said he would hope a new bishop would come within 6 months. As a member of the Congregation for Bishops (the Vatican office that oversees bishop appointments), Cardinal Rigali knew what he was doing when he refused to say definitively how long such a process would take.
After all, Scranton is the latest of several appointments-in-waiting in the U.S. Church, which come about either due to vacancy or a bishop's serving past the retirement age of 75. In all, Scranton brings the total of waiting U.S. dioceses to 17. In chronological order by how long they've been waiting for a new bishop, the vacant sees are:
Cheyenne -- vacant since July 9, 2008, when Bishop David Ricken was appointed Bishop of Green Bay.
Duluth -- vacant since October 17, 2008, when then-Bishop Dennis Schnurr was appointed coadjutor Archbishop of Cincinnati.
Owensboro -- vacant since January 5, 2009, when Bishop John McRaith retired.
Milwaukee -- vacant since February 23, 2009, when Archbishop Timothy Dolan was named Archbishop of New York.
Ogdensburg -- vacant since April 21, 2009, when Bishop Robert Cunningham was appointed Bishop of Syracuse.
Springfield, Ill. -- vacant since June 3, 2009, when then-Bishop George Lucas was named Archbishop of Omaha.
Austin -- vacant since June 12, 2009, when then-Bishop Gregory Aymond was named Archbishop of New Orleans.
Scranton -- vacant since August 31, 2009, when Bishop Joseph Martino resigned.
Along with vacant dioceses, dioceses whose bishops are serving past the age of retirement are also currently awaiting bishop appointments. By age of bishop, they are:
For Wayne-South Bend -- Bishop John D'Arcy is 77.
Pueblo -- Bishop Arthur Tafoya is over 76.
Lafayette, Ind. -- Bishop William Higi is 76.
Corpus Christi -- Bishop Edmond Carmody is 75.
Seattle -- Archbishop Alexander Brunett is 75.
Brownsville -- Bishop Raymundo Pena is 75.
Spokane -- Bishop William Skylstad is 75.
Gaylord -- Bishop Patrick Cooney is 75.
Oklahoma City -- Archbishop Eusebius Beltran is 75.
It's worth mentioning that the Archbishop of Cincinnati, Daniel Pilarczyk, is also serving past 75, but his successor has already been named, the aforementioned coadjutor Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.
With this sort of list, we'll see if Cardinal Rigali's hope comes to pass. Ultimately, each vacancy will be filled as the Congregation for Bishops is able to identify an appointee who meets the needs of each diocese. It's hard to assign a timetable to that. Meticulous research and vetting goes into a typical appointment, and as the above list suggests, a diocese can wait as long as a year or two.
Hat tip to David Cheney.