Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Our Irreplaceable Ted

At yesterday's (lovefest) press conference in Washington, Archbishop-elect Donald Wuerl told the gathered media that, while he was available to answer their queries, "if they're hard questions, maybe you might want to direct them to the cardinal."

"There was no mistake in my mind," Wuerl said later, "that when we drove onto the [pastoral center] property, and I saw all of those media vehicles parked out there, I said to myself, 'They're not here for the new archbishop, they're here because of Cardinal McCarrick,' because of the service he's done, because of what he's done not just for the church, but for the wider community."

His retirement accepted and the announcement completed, McCarrick -- the Apostolic Administrator of Washington until his successor's 22 June installation -- chats with the flock (and continues lavishing Wuerl with his highest praise) in tomorrow's issue of the Catholic Standard, already posted:

Way back in December, when I spoke to our priests at our annual Christmas gathering, I told these great brothers and sons of mine that I felt I was slowing down and starting to feel the weight of the years a bit more than before. I told them that, although I was in decent health, I was getting more tired, a little more forgetful and once in a while not so sure of my steps as I used to be. The latter apparently was due to what now seems to be the start of scoliosis. No big deal, as the kids would say, but something to watch as time goes by.

This is what I said to the priests:

"I don't want the Church of Washington to have anything but the best. For more than 15 years, your bishops have been septuagenarians. No matter how young or alert or vigorous I may feel sometimes, this Church of ours really needs someone who can plan with you for five or 10 or 15 years ahead. I really can't do that because I do not know my future, except that I know I am going to be 76 this year...

"Some of you have said to me, very thoughtfully, that I only know one way to serve as archbishop of Washington and that is working 24/7 and trying to do all these things that come across my life. That is probably true. There would be no way that I could take a lot of time off and still feel that I was serving you. Some may say that there is no way I could even take two or three hours off a day and still feel that I was doing everything I should be. Maybe that's true, and if I don't do that well anymore, it may be time."...

I will still be in the Washington area for most of the time, although I will spend a couple of months a year up in the New York/New Jersey area where most of my family lives. One of the things I have missed is not seeing the little ones in my family grow up. They get very annoyed at me when I don't know all their names and I miss their birthdays.

In retirement, Cardinal McCarrick will be taking up residence in the Neocatechumenal Way's Redemptoris Mater seminary in Washington. A suite has been kept there for his use. (McCarrick, it should be noted, also brought the Neocats to his previous assignment, the archdiocese of Newark.)

The paper noted that "The cardinal intends to learn to speak Arabic in his retirement to 'keep me thinking,' he said and noted that he hates it when he is in a Middle Eastern country and he can't read the street signs."

AP/J. Scott Applewhite