Wednesday, May 12, 2010

For Lafayette, the Ethicist Is In

As expected, Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of the nation's senior active prelate, notably naming an expert in health-care issues as his successor.

This morning, the pontiff tapped Msgr Timothy Doherty, 59 -- a moral theologian and pastor of two parishes in Illinois' diocese of Rockford -- as bishop of Lafayette in Indiana. An alum of the Gregorian and the North American, the bishop-elect earned a doctorate in Christian ethics at Chicago's Loyola University in 1995.

Doherty succeeds Bishop William Higi, head of the 100,000-member suburban Indy church since 1984. A native son, Higi reached the retirement age of 75 in August 2008.

Ordained in 1976, Doherty's priesthood has been spent primarily in five parish assignments, but with a significant component in education, on both sides of the desk, as a high-school religion chair and vice-principal on top of further studies in Rome and the aforementioned doctorate. Since 1995, the bishop-elect has served as the Rockford church's lead hand on health-care ethics.

While its latest edition included a link to the CDF's 2008 instruction on bioethics Dignitas personae, in another recent column for his parish bulletin, Doherty quoted the following passage from a mid-April editorial in Commonweal: “This community of believers is capable of extraordinary things, among them a clear-eyed understanding that every Catholic – not just the clergy or the pope – is responsible for the church. When our neighbors or our leaders fail, we must not – and we need them to return the favor when we falter. The gospel promises that the strength we so often lack will be given to us when we most need it, and no one would deny the need is great now.”

Perhaps he already got the call before including the lines... either way, may all the strength and grace he needs for the road ahead be his.

The customary Appointment Day presser has already been called for 1.30pm, and in accord with the norms of the canons, the bishop-elect must be ordained and installed within four months. That said, the ordination date has already been foreseen for July.