Friday, December 21, 2007

Beaming Up?

Michigan... the final frontier?

Sure, the above lines are a nod to Oakland's rising Cathedral of Christ the Light (left). But they owe themselves even more to the growing rumblings that Bishop Allen Vigneron, who's shepherded the $190 million enterprise into reality, is headed home as the next archbishop of Detroit.

First noted here ten days back, the buzz has quickly taken on the air of inevitability along the East Bay -- a question of "not if, but when," as one put it -- with contingency plans being eyed in the event of a vacancy at the 540,000-member diocese's helm.

A former Detroit auxiliary and favorite of retiring Cardinal Adam Maida, Vigneron reportedly raised eyebrows at his presbyterate's last convocation by mentioning his homesickness for the Motor City. But even so, Oaklanders have come to embrace the 58 year-old prelate, whose conservative reputation initially aroused anxiety following his 2003 appointment there.

While he might be "very rigid when it comes to ecclesiology, theology and liturgy," one local mused that Vigneron "wasn't/isn't the disciplinarian we thought he'd be."

The presumptive Detroit appointee "is actually very pastoral and thoughtful," he said, a believer in broad consultation -- but one who "isn't afraid to make a decision." Adding that the bishop's had "some tough [calls] to make in" his tenure there, the cleric said that, "all in all, he's not a bad guy."

Provided the foreseen comes to pass, his current charge's wait might not be all that long. Already, ops spanning the map have tipped Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark as holding the pole position for the Oakland post.

A veteran educator and onetime rector of the LA seminary, St John's in Camarillo, Clark, 61, was named an auxiliary of the nation's largest diocese in 2001. Given his background, that Oakland is home to three seminaries and three Catholic colleges would be a considerable factor in his corner... that his two principal co-consecrators have since become cardinal-members of the Congregation for Bishops doesn't really hurt, either.

The level of Bay Area buzz has gotten to the point that, over recent days, one cleric with close ties to the CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada sought to lobby the former San Francisco archbishop to keep Vigneron from leaving Oakland until after the cathedral's late September dedication. A member of the dicastery that recommends episcopal nominees to the Pope, Levada's longstanding closeness to Benedict has given him unparalleled clout on US appointments since his transfer to Rome within months of the pontiff's election.

Its native Angelenos both in attendance, the Congregation's final meeting of 2007 took place yesterday in Rome.

PHOTO: John Blaustein