Wednesday, May 17, 2006

From the Archbishop's Hometown

For all the press accounts of yesterday's appointment to Washington, the definitive take belongs to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (And not because your humble servant is quoted in it, either.)

Just as Donald Wuerl was installed as bishop of Pittsburgh in March, 1988, Ann Rodgers arrived on the PG's religion beat. The working relationship between the two which has evolved since then is a model of constructive church-press relations at their best and most open, and is in many ways the envy of religion-writers everywhere who cover the Catholic beat.

(Coming from a town where the term "guerrila warfare" characterizes the church-press dynamic on a good day, I particularly know this to be true.)

Bishop Wuerl, 65, said he would be sad to leave his hometown of Pittsburgh on June 22, but that he gave up his desire to chart his own path when he was ordained in 1966.

"You really have to put yourself aside," he said. "There is a certain joy, though, in coming to this archdiocese because it has been cared for and shepherded so well. ... I hope through my ministry to establish the same bond [with parishioners] that I felt in Pittsburgh."

At a news conference yesterday morning in suburban Washington, reporters bombarded him with questions on where he stands on immigration, administering communion to abortion-rights advocates and whether he would be as outspoken as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been in his 5 1/2 years there. Cardinal McCarrick had reached mandatory retirement age.

Bishop Wuerl was careful to avoid specifics in his answers, saying the church's focus should be on moral and spiritual issues.

"We do have something to bring to the [political process], but it is not necessarily determining a specific course of action," he said. "Sometimes a course of action would be so blatantly contrary to human dignity or to justice that you have to speak out on it, but normally the role of the church -- the voice of the church -- is to call us to be the best we can be."

There's a lot more there. The piece is the best of daily journalism.

Andy Starnes/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette