Thursday, October 08, 2009

Of Hallowed Halls... and High-Hats

As noted in an update to yesterday's story, Bishop-elect Bernie Hebda will be ordained and installed in Gaylord on 1 December.

Hailed at home as an "immense talent" and "a great gain for the American church" as a bishop, fullvideo of the traditional Appointment Day presser is up and streaming for anyone who'd like a closer look.

What's more, though -- and speaking of the "cradles of bishops" -- yesterday's tap of the Vatican canonist indicates an emerging trend in American appointments... one that shouldn't be surprising in the reign of a "Professor Pope."

A graduate of Harvard (BA, political science) and Columbia Law, Hebda is the third Ivy Leaguer named a bishop in just the last five months; the other two -- John Barres (Princeton BA, English lit.) of Allentown and Twin Cities auxiliary Lee Piché (Columbia M.Phil.) -- were appointed together last 27 May. (For good measure, Benedict's even thrown in a nod to the "Western Ivy," choosing Stanford Law alum Cirilo Flores as an auxiliary bishop of Orange in January.)

While the presence of Ancient Eight alums in the top rank is (while never overpowering) nothing new, the recent influx (which, taken together, forms 30% of this year's US appointees to date) has yielded an uptick of the sort not seen in some three decades -- and as the oldest of the trio is 51, Benedict's ensured that his picks'll be around a good while yet. That said, the fresh crop of Ivy prelates are just added evidence of the hallowed halls' return to ecclesial prominence in this pontificate: the hierarchy's lone graduate of Columbia's vaunted School of Journalism was finally made a cardinal by Papa Ratzi in late 2007, and the early front-runner to next lead the nation's largest diocese -- the 4.5 million-member LA church, whose top post "opens" in 16 months -- has a Master's in Social Work from Morningside Heights.

Given the Columbian dominance of the group, sure, the Pope might just be a Merton fan... then again, there seems to be more to it than that.

PHOTO: Sheri McWhirter/Traverse City Record-Eagle