Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the Fort, the Clock Ticks Down

We interrupt this Pre-Plenary Breather for, er, some movements of interest....

Twenty-seven months since he reached the retirement age of 75, the nation's oldest active bishop had a notably busy day yesterday: in the space of 12 hours, Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend announced both the awarding of papal honors to seven priests of the Indiana church (his entire top Curia included), and a push to build a $35 million diocesan high school on 38 acres in its second-largest city.

While the Purple Rain is traditionally part and parcel of a tenure's twilight, the latter move is the kind of thing not usually undertaken at this stage unless it's run by one's....

Suffice it to say, complete the sentence.

Head of the 160,000-member Fort see since 1985, the succession to the highly-regarded Boston native took a wild turn earlier this year after the diocese's most prominent Catholic entity sparked a sizable firestorm in church circles by tapping President Obama as its commencement speaker, joining eight of his predecessors in receiving an honorary doctorate.

Following the move's announcement, D'Arcy announced his boycott of the May ceremony in light of the POTUS' pro-abortion rights stance, the bishop underscoring that he was not informed of the plans in advance. The prelate later took his response to the pages of America, penning an August defense of the role of the diocesan bishop to the Catholic universities in his charge for the Jesuit journal in a face-off with retired San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn, one of the few Stateside prelates who publicly supported the President's appearance in the graduation's run-up. (In an August interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe said that "a majority" of the bishops "would not be in agreement with" what he called the "big scene" made over the Notre Dame commencement.)

While some 75 bishops backed D'Arcy up in critiquing the invite -- and the body of high-hats later moved to "affirm" the Indianan's "pastoral concern" for Notre Dame -- the university's president, Holy Cross Fr John Jenkins, will keep to custom and host its annual reception for the bench on the eve of Monday's Opening Day of the USCCB November Meeting in Baltimore.

Given the backdrop, this year's Domefest should make for fascinating watching... and luckily, it just so happens to be the first event of your pages' Plenary Week coverage.

Lest anyone needed reminding, nothing is "official" until Rome speaks... for all the rest, as always, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: Alongside the seven new monsignori, D'Arcy likewise announced that Pope Benedict had made Professor John Cavadini -- Notre Dame's chair of theology -- a knight of St Gregory the Great.

The lay honoree "has always seen Theology as linked to the church and to the life of faith," the bishop said. "He sees himself as under the Word of God and in communion with the church."

"Conferral of this papal honor brings honor to our Diocese, to Notre Dame, and to theologians," D'Arcy said.

A product of Wesleyan, Marquette and Yale, the freshly-knighted chair is a patristic scholar who's taken up an added specialization in the papacy.