Bishop Banks retired in 2003 in accord with church law which requires bishops to present their resignations at age 75. This rule does not apply to popes.
“I had to retire because I was 75,” Bishop Banks noted. “I wasn’t interested in retiring and stopping working. He, on the other hand, chose to retire. That’s a big difference.”
Bishop Banks noted that he also prefers to be called “emeritus” to “retired.”
“The pope doesn’t want bishops to be known as ‘retired,'” he said. “I did the same thing here when I said that priests aren’t going to ‘be retired.’ They’re ‘senior priests.'”
Bishop Banks said this is because so many senior priests “are just as busy as ever,” saying Masses at various parishes when needed, visiting the sick, teaching and otherwise ministering. Bishop Banks himself spent 2½ years at Holy Rosary Parish in Kewaunee and also helped at St. Mary, Algoma.
“(Benedict) is truly retired, whereas I tried to get a job out in Kewaunee,” Bishop Banks said. “I wanted to go to a place where I could be active. At least say Mass. Then it turned out there was no other priests there for six months, at either parish. So that was fine with me.”
Today, at age 85, when he travels across the diocese saying Masses, performing confirmations or celebrating parish anniversaries, people remember those first years of retirement.
“I think it’s so funny,” he said. “I go around the diocese — I was in Kewaunee 2½ years. That was six to eight years ago — I’m around the diocese, filling in at different places and someone comes up whom I haven’t met before and says, ‘Are you still in Kewaunee?’ Everyone seems to know that I was in Kewaunee. I can meet someone in Plainfield, 150 miles away, and they ask, ‘Are you still in Kewaunee?'” he laughed.
That isn’t going to happen with Pope Benedict, Bishop Banks added.
“He can’t retire. He’s going to be under a (lens); people are going to be watching him carefully to see what’s going on. Whereas (with bishops), no one cares, really.”
Bishop Banks added that there are no rules about a bishop’s retirement years. For example, some bishops write books — as did retired Bishop Aloysius Wycislo — others teach, as Bishop Banks’ friend Archbishop James Keleher of Kansas City, Mo., does at a seminary. Other bishops don’t plan to fill any particular role when they retire, Bishop Banks explained. “I would say that’s what the average bishop does. He steps down and he’s not looking for any other place.”
He expects Pope emeritus Benedict to continue to write books, as he has in the past.
“He’s going to write something. I don’t plan to write anything. He’s writing books that sell millions of copies. … Even if mine was better, it wouldn’t (sell millions),” Bishop Banks added with a chuckle.
He also expressed concern for the retired pope’s health, especially after seeing footage of him meeting with Pope Francis March 24.
“I was shocked at the film,” Bishop Banks said. “I saw him just a year ago (when the Midwest bishops met with the pope for their ad limina visit) and he didn’t look that way.”
Finally, asked if he had advice for any bishop when he retires, Bishop Banks said, “My advice is: You mind your own business; there’s a new bishop.”