Sunday, June 07, 2009

Comings and... Comings

This week's big event on the church circuit begins Tuesday night in the "Rome of the West" as, his white GMC Yukon (and three Labs) in tow, Archbishop-elect Robert Carlson arrives in St Louis.

Best known as the US bench's rainmaker-in-chief when it comes to priestly vocations, the Gateway City's Post-Dispatch has turned the spotlight in earnest onto Archbishop Raymond Burke's successor, turning in both a Q&A...
Q. Do you believe Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, and who persist in doing so even after consultation with their bishop, should be denied the Eucharist if they approach to receive it?

A. If I were to enter into dialogue with somebody, and after they reflect on the discussion and that person persisted, it could come to that point. Again, (former St. Louis) Archbishop (Raymond) Burke, who is on the Supreme Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican's highest court), has combined in an interesting way (the church laws that govern the issue), and I think he does it correctly.

And he's not just speaking anymore as the archbishop of St. Louis, he is the prefect of the Signatura. It appears that's the direction the church consensus is moving towards. ... Could we get into that situation? Yes. But at least in my own time in St. Louis, I'd like to have a crack at the dialogue first.

Q. In the 1990s, you were diagnosed with bladder cancer. Did that time in your life change you?

A. Yeah, I'm a different person. Once you almost die, you try to live life the best you can. Not because you're afraid of death, but because you got a second chance. ... People ask, "Are you nervous going to St. Louis?" No — St. Louis is what St. Louis is, and hopefully I can bring some gifts there, and I can share something. And no matter whether I get nervous or not, I still can only bring myself.

Some people will like me, some people won't like me. I'll hopefully accomplish some things and hopefully do some good. Some people in the church will think I'm conservative and some will think I'm doing just the right thing. I try to be open to the various sides, that's why I try to read a wide variety of articles and magazines, so I can get a sense of what's going on. You make decisions, hopefully they're the right decisions, but sometimes you have to back up. You have to listen first.

I've gotten some letters already from St. Louis saying, "You really need to do this" or "You really need to do that," and I have to say, "I really can't do anything until I get there, but I look forward to meeting you so you can explain this to me."

That's what cancer did.

Q. You have a reputation as a sports lover.

A. I'm a lousy golfer, even though I have a reputation of being good. I sunk a 30-foot putt last year and got a trophy, so that helps my reputation. Was a hockey chaplain once, but I skate like a 747 taxiing. The Irish would say about my sports ability — when they gave out the ability, I was hiding behind the door. But I am competitive.

Q. Are you a big reader?

A. I read a lot. I like novels — just about any kind. I read a lot about animals, because I love animals. I watch Animal Planet. I love dogs, I've had them at home since I was 5.

Q. You're also a pheasant hunter.

A. What I like best about it, isn't so much shooting the pheasant, but the camaraderie of being out in the field with 10 other guys — just walking along and joking and kidding and teasing. Watching the dog work is beautiful.
...and a wider look.

Of course, Carlson's successor in Saginaw was named with rapid speed -- an auxiliary of Philadelphia before his late May appointment, Bishop Joseph Cistone will be installed in Mid-Michigan on July 28th.

* * *
Meanwhile, last week's lone move -- the transfer of St Louis native George Lucas to Omaha -- gets the Sunday treatment in the Nebraska mecca's World-Herald:
Lucas attracted some national attention with a pastoral letter on reconciliation that he published in February 2008.

It addressed the pain and alienation among Catholics in several groups. Victims of clergy sex abuse. People who lost trust in church leaders because of the scandal. Women who feel the church doesn't value their gifts because they can't be priests. Gays and lesbians. People who were divorced and remarried outside the church. Women who have had abortions and feel excluded from church life.

In the letter, Lucas apologized for clergy sex abuse and other misconduct by priests. A sex abuse scandal involving his predecessor, Bishop Daniel Ryan, was brewing when Lucas became bishop of Springfield in 1999.

Lucas hired a former federal prosecutor to lead an inquiry into allegations of priest misconduct after a 2004 incident. Two young men beat a former chancellor of the archdiocese, the Rev. Eugene Costa, after he allegedly solicited them for sex in a park.

Lucas wrote that he had met with a number of persons who had been abused as children. He said their stories broke his heart.

He recognized, he wrote, that "trust has been damaged within the Church and in society by the accusations that those who abused their responsibility were shielded from accountability by Church authorities." Lucas enumerated steps he was taking to make himself accountable and "face and correct any abuse of responsibility."

The letter made no apologies in the letter for church positions on abortion, homosexual sex, women's ordination and other issues. But he told people affected by those positions that they are welcome and valued in the church.

Two priests familiar with Lucas said he has a reputation as someone who stands clearly for church teachings, but in pastoral and teaching modes, and not a confrontational way.

"No one who's a traditionalist should worry, but no one who has experienced the faith differently should think they're going to have someone with anything other than a kind ear," said the Rev. Peter Harman, pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

"He (Lucas) teaches the truth of the faith faithfully, but he's not in any way going to put the hammer down. He's not going to teach in a way that's going to exclude any particular group."

The Rev. Richard Peddicord, president of Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, has known Lucas since the bishop's years (1995-99) as rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. Lucas was born, raised, educated and ordained in St. Louis.

"He's faithful to the church through and through," said Peddicord, a Dominican priest who teaches theology. "He's someone who brings people together. That's a quality of him as a person, and that's a quality of him as a bishop."