Diocese of Nashville Under Canonical Impediment, as Bishop Choby Remains Hospitalized

From his bed in the intensive care unit, Bishop Choby penned a letter to Catholics in the diocese, explaining his health history and announcing the handover of governance.

Bishop David Choby in 2011
Bishop David Choby in 2011 (photo: Credit: ‘Diezba’, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Leadership of the Diocese of Nashville has been turned over to the vicar general, Very Rev. David R. Perkin, due to the extended illness of Nashville's Bishop David Choby.

Effective Saturday, February 25, Father Perkin assumed responsibility for the pastoral care of more than 76,000 Catholics registered at 53 parishes and 3 missions in the diocese. In a letter released Saturday, Bishop Choby explained that he remains bishop during his hospitalization and recovery, and expressed confidence in Father Perkin's leadership during this period.

The appointment of Father Perkin is in accord with the 1983 Code of Canon Law. According to Canon 413 §1:

Unless the Holy See has provided otherwise, when a see is impeded, the governance of the diocese devolves on the coadjutor Bishop, if there is one. If there is no coadjutor, or if he is impeded, it devolves upon the auxiliary Bishop, or the Vicar general, or the Episcopal Vicar, or another priest: the order of persons to be followed is to be that determined in the list which the diocesan Bishop is to draw up as soon as possible after taking possession of his diocese. This list, which is to be communicated to the Metropolitan, is to be revised at least every three years, and kept under secrecy by the chancellor.

According to the diocese, Bishop Choby was injured in a fall at the back door of his home on February 7. He suffered a cut on the back of his head and was transported by ambulance to Skyline Medical Center, where the cut was closed with staples. He was later transferred to Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville, where his regular doctors practice, and there he underwent a series of tests to determine the extent of the injury to his back. During his two-week hospital stay, Bishop Choby developed a serious infection.

From his bed in the intensive care unit, Bishop Choby penned a letter to Catholics in the diocese, explaining his health history and announcing the handover of governance. Bishop Choby wrote:

“As many of you know, over the past four years I have sustained two falls. The first resulted in a broken arm from which I was able to recover while continuing my ministry and duties as your bishop. This second and most recent fall has caused damage to my spinal column including fractures of the vertebrae which are the supporting structures of the spinal cord. During the course of treatment, I developed an infection in my bloodstream. This complication has been the cause of my stay in the intensive care unit. The antibiotics have done their job in stabilizing my vital signs but recent tests have shown that bacteria has begun to grow in my heart. The next steps of my care are still being evaluated, and I continue to need your prayers and support.”

Rick Musacchio, communications director for the diocese, said on Monday, February 20,

“Everyone is encouraged with [Bishop Choby's] progress.... As concerns about the infection are subsiding, his doctors are turning their attention to plans to treat the back injury that resulted from the fall at his home on Feb. 7.”

Please pray for Bishop Choby, that God will grant him a full recovery and that he will once again be able to exercise his episcopal leadership in Nashville.

Cards or notes can be sent to Bishop Choby in care of the Catholic Pastoral Center, 2800 McGavock Pike, Nashville TN 37214. Any updates regarding his condition will be published on the Diocese of Nashville webpage, www.dioceseofnashville.com.