Friday, August 11, 2006

The Louisville Line

Just because it's August doesn't mean that conversations haven't taken place the last couple days on the ensuing succession to Archbishop Thomas Kelly OP of Louisville, who turned 75 last month.

Because I love you -- and in the hope of soothing the bigger-than-usual panic attacks the Louisville faithful have been undergoing anytime the question is joined -- I'll share my impressions.

First off, I have the distinct feeling that we won't be seeing anyone getting a new Kentucky home before, at the earliest, sometime in March. Archbishop Kelly marks his Silver Jubilee in Louisville in February, he's in good health, not particularly running for the door and, most importantly of all, he's willing to absorb the anger of the November announcement of a fairly significant parish reconfiguration (read: closings) to spare his successor the pain. There's an outside shot, but still a chance, that the archbishop could even remain to preside over the commemoration of the bicentennial of the archdiocese's erection (albeit at Bardstown) in April 2008. Given the number of vacancies there are and the exigencies of these days, the players have a couple more pressing things on their hands -- e.g. relieving dear Bishop Aquila, who's been doing double-duty for 17 months in the Dakotas, not to mention all the auxiliary requests which have been piling up for two years and more.

So who's on deck, you ask? Well, that's where it gets tricky -- it all depends on who you ask, and what their answer is as to the needs of the 196,000-member archdiocese. Kelly's been a "power-sharer," someone widely respected who's built a good many bridges and established a lot of goodwill both in the church and the wider community, so it can be said that his successor will be able to reap the benefits of that sizable legacy.

At the same time, the concerns seem to be more temporal than anything else; the archdiocesan resources were depleted by abuse settlements, and in some quarters, a bad taste remains over the scandals and their effect in the Louisville church. As with many Southern dioceses, the cohesion of the presbyterate is something to note, and a vocations push on the part of the next archbishop would seem to be in order. The more conservative types are looking for a "border patrol" guy who'll tighen the bolts a bit. Etc. etc. etc.

Given Kelly's monumental tenure, you'll likely see his successor be a bit older, a bit more (but not too much) to the right, and probably from outside the province -- the names of two of his suffragan bishops, Ronald Gainer of Lexington and Joseph Kurtz of Knoxville, have been bandied about frequently. Both just happen to be from "Philly JV" (the diocese of Allentown) and given that Kelly's predecessor, Thomas McDonough, was also a Philadelphian (ordained a bishop at the tender age of 35), I think they've had their fill of our kind.

A Southerner or Midwesterner, however, might be where you'd want to look....

Add to it all that these are quiet days at the Nunciature. Archbishop Sambi (peace be upon him) is on vacation ministry -- his usual practice is to spend his August subbing for the pastor of his childhood parish in Italy so the hometown cleric can get a vacation -- and the freshly-arrived consigliere, Msgr Martin Krebs, is just getting a sense of the lay of the land here. (With the nuncio away, Krebs represented the Holy See at the Venice ordination and the Raleigh installation. He's possessed of a very precise serenity.)

So that's where it stands. I have some names, but nothing pressing enough to share around. (Sorry, Louisvilleans.) Suffice it to say, it'll be interesting, and you all know to keep an eye here on the latest.