When John Paul II came to the See of Peter in 1978 the Church was in the verge of splintering. One of the late Pope’s greatest accomplishments was to drag us back from the edge of schism.
Over many years, John Paul shifted the balance of the world’s episcopate. He slowly began to approve the nominations of men who were more men of the Church than men of the world. He could not simply do his own thing in the case of nominations, in my opinion, because there was for a long while a real danger of revolt from the left, the liberal camp in the episcopate, not just in the academy or rank and file of clergy. This explains in part why the late Pope seemingly inexplicably was willing to promote men he had to have known were something like enemies to his views about the direction of the Church and her teaching, especially about human sexuality. Thus, he had to work slowly, over the decades he seemed he knew from the very beginning of his pontificate would be granted to him.
John Paul II slowly shifted the episcopate, focusing especially on regions such as the central part of the USA (in the vitally important anglophone world), and spreading outward from there. He made incremental changes and, over time, they worked.
The episcopate and college of cardinals as of April 2005 was quite different from that of 1978.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger was a close adviser to John Paul II. I cannot help but think that his influence figured in some of what I suggest above.
And so we turn to that increasingly mawkish dissident Richard McBrien, inexplicably still on the faculty of Notre Dame.
Last week McBrien, perennial property of the National Catholic Fishwrap, whines that his sort of Catholic hasn’t been appointed as bishop in the USA for far too long.
McBrien says that the bishops appointed by Pope Benedict, and John Paul before him are "ciphers at best, hopeless reactionaries at worst".
After an encomium of the late Archbishop Jadot, erstwhile Apostolic Delegate in the USA from 1973-1980, and in great part responsible for disaster in these parts, McBrien lists his favorite bishops, whom he "fondly and gratefully" remembers:
Let’s have a look. You won’t be surprised at either his choice or his mawkish nostalgia. He adds a caveat: perhaps from his "innocence or ignorance" he might have included a bishop who didn’t belong… in other words a bishop who was perhaps not liberal enough:
- Leroy Matthieson, Amarillo, Texas, 1980-97;
- Francis Hurley, archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska, 1976-2001;
- John McCarthy, Austin, Texas, 1986-2001
- Richard Cushing, cardinal-archbishop of Boston, 1944-70
- Lawrence Shehan, cardinal-archbishop of Baltimore, 1961-74
- William Borders, archbishop of Baltimore, 1974-89
- Francis Mugavero, Brooklyn, 1968-90
- Albert Meyer, cardinal-archbishop of Chicago, 1958-65
- Joseph Bernardin, cardinal-archbishop of Chicago, 1982-96
- William Hughes, Covington, Ky, 1979-95
- Victor Balke, Crookston Minn., 1976-2007
- Maurice Dingman, Des Moines, Iowa, 1968-86
- John Dearden, cardinal-archbishop of Detroit, 1958-80
- William McManus, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., 1976-85
- Donald Pelotte, S.S.S., Gallup, N.M., 1990-2008
- Lawrence McNamara, Grand Island, Nebr., 1978-2004
- Joseph Breitenbeck, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1969-89
- Joseph Imesh, Joliet, Ill., 1979-2006
- Michael Kenny, Juneau, Alaska, 1979-95
- Thomas Kelly, O.P., archbishop of Louisville, 1982-2007
- Cletus O’Donnell, Madison, Wis., 1967-92
- Rembert Weakland, archbishop of Milwaukee, 1977-2002
- Peter Gerety, archbishop of Newark, 1974-86
- Raymond Lucker, New Ulm, Minn., 1975-2000
- Terence Cooke, cardinal-archbishop of New York, 1968-83
- John Cummins, Oakland, Calif., 1977-2003
- Victor Reed, Oklahoma City, Okla., 1958-71
- John McRaith, Owensboro, Ky., 1982-2009
- Charles Buswell, Pueblo, Colo., 1959-79
- F. Joseph Gossman, Raleigh, N.C., 1975-2006
- Walter Sullivan, Richmond, Va., 1974-2003
- Francis Quinn, Sacramento, Calif., 1979-93
- Kenneth Untener, Saginaw, Mich., 1980-2004
- John May, archbishop of St. Louis, 1980-92
- John Roach, archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 1975-95
- Patrick Flores, archbishop of San Antonio, Texas, 1979-2004
- John R. Quinn, archbishop of San Francisco, 1977-95
- Raymond Hunthausen, archbishop of Seattle Wash., 1975-91
- Bernard Topel, Spokane, Wash., 1955-78
- John Leibrecht, Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., 1984-2008
- Frank Harrison, Syracuse, NY, 1976-87
- Bernard Flanagan, Worcester, Mass., 1959-83
- James Malone, Youngstown, Ohio, 1968-95
- Robert Joyce, Burlington, Vt., 1957-71
- Paul Leibold, archbishop of Cincinnati, 1969-72
- James Casey, archbishop of Denver, 1967-86
- John Whealon, Hartford, Conn., 1969-91.
- Ernest Primeau, Manchester, N.H., 1960-74
- Carroll Dozier, Memphis, Tenn., 1971-82
- Thomas Grady, Orlando, Fla., 1974-89
- John Snyder, St. Augustine, Fla., 1979-2000
- Thomas Murphy, archbishop of Seattle, 1991-97
- William Friend, Shreveport, La., 1986-2006
- Joseph Maguire, Springfield, Mass., 1977-91
- John Nevins, Venice, Fla., 1984-2007.
And I love this direct shot at Bp. Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph:
Then there were the three bishops of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., whose good work the incumbent has done so much to undo: Charles Helmsing, 1962-77, John J. Sullivan, 1977-93, and Raymond Boland, 1993-2005.
If this is what McBrien, perennial property of the National Catholic Fishwrap, thinks of Bp. Finn, then you know Finn must be one of the best appointments in recent decades.
In which Missouri city is the National Catholic Reporter’s HQ?
If anyone wants to know why there has been so much hemorrhaging from the Catholic church in recent years (the Pew Study of U.S. religions has put the number at 3 in 10) and why there is so much demoralization among those who have thus far remained, we need look no further than the general pattern of appointments to, and promotions within, the U.S. hierarchy over the past three decades.
It will immediately occur to the reader to wonder if perhaps the very list McBrien praises might not be the reason for the hemorrhaging and the demoralization.
Just for McBrien, I include here a snap of His Excellency Most Rev. Robert Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph in his cappa magna:
This week in NCR McBrien describes Charles E. Curran as "the leading Catholic moral theologian in the United States and one of the Catholic church’s most distinguished moral theologians worldwide".
You just have to smile.
[Send comments to my email…. think about it…. Put "McBrien’s Bishops" in the subject line without the " "]