Green Bay Goes UP – Packerland VG Doerfler to Marquette
Fresh off yesterday's sweeping reboot of the Congregation for Bishops, at Roman Noon the Pope named Fr John Doerfler, 49 – vicar-general of Green Bay and a former administrator of its Cathedral – as bishop of Marquette, the 50,000-member church encompassing Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
In the post, the Rome-trained moral theologian and canonist succeeds Archbishop Alexander Sample, the UP native who was sent to the Pacific Northwest as archbishop of Portland in Oregon last January. Having become B16's last major US appointee, at 53, Sample is the youngest of the nation's 33 metropolitans. (In a tweet this morning, the archbishop called his new successor "a good friend" and exclaimed "praise God!")
Notably, today's appointment came more a touch more quickly than usual – just over recent weeks, the nod to Fort Worth took 14 months to fill, and the other Portland (Maine's statewide diocese) remains the nation's longest Latin church vacancy nearly 19 months after Bishop Richard Malone's transfer to Buffalo. In any event, the short wait here could be chalked up to any number of factors; whether it'll likewise be the case for Michigan's other opening – Gaylord, in the wake of the Newark ascent – remains to be seen.
Of course, the UP nod comes amid Pope Francis' reconstitution of the Hat Shop, which takes immediate effect on yesterday's installation of a new membership by half.
Any final moves advised upon by the Thursday table's former makeup should be announced before the end of the month. However, it is conspicuous that, already, the Marquette nominee has a pedigree linking him to the new guard at Bishops – Doerfler served as #2 to Northeast Wisconsin's former shepherd, Bishop David Zubik, before his 2007 return home to Pittsburgh as successor to Donald Wuerl, a move widely thought to have been the wish of the DC prelate. (Zubik had been Wuerl's top deputy before his appointment to Green Bay in 2003.)
In his introduction to Marquette today, Doerfler spoke of his familiarity with the turf he inherits – he's gone cross-country skiing there in the past.
Back to the policy side, however, given the enduring public impression that Francis has effected some sort of "change" to church teaching on homosexuality – most recently seen yesterday in the Pope's selection as "Person of the Year" by the flagship LGBT magazine The Advocate – it's worth noting that Doerfler's bio lists the bishop-elect's involvement with Courage, the church-sanctioned support group for Catholics who seek to live chastely with same-sex attraction. Likewise a much-favored apostolate of Cardinal Raymond Burke, Courage was recently at the center of a bitter public scrum in New York as a Catholic high school postponed a scheduled talk by one of the group's chaplains after a high-profile outcry. (Beyond Courage, Doerfler has likewise served as a chaplain to Legatus, the international fellowship for Catholic executives seeking to live the faith in the workplace. Given the ministry's founding by Tom Monaghan – the visionary CEO of Domino's Pizza/Ave Maria fame – it's not exactly Call to Action.)
One hundred and sixty years after the Slovenian missionary Frederic Baraga became the UP's founding shepherd, Doerfler's ordination as Marquette's 13th bishop has been slated for 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
With today's move, eight Stateside Latin-church sees remain vacant, with another four led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age of 75.