People love to try to predict the future and the Boston Globe is no different. Today they consult a lot of people to get an idea of who could be selected to head the Archdiocese of Boston. It’s interesting that the first online version of the article is very different from the later print version. It excises a lot of the discussion with experts, but it also downgrades the prediction of Wilton Gregory from being a top-contender to just one of the pack.
There is a bit of hyperbole:
- “This is such a unique situation, and so delicate—it’s probably the most significant and important appointment this pope will have made in his entire pontificate, because of the nature of the events,” said the Rev. Keith F. Pecklers, a professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and currently a visiting scholar at Boston College.
Yes, it’s a very important appointment that will have long-term repercussions in the US, but the most important? I don’t think so. American Catholics tend to have an overinflated sense of self-importance in comparison to the Church worldwide.
Here’s my take on the Globe’s predictions:
- Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minneapolis, at 69, is too old, giving him only five years or so on the job before mandatory retirement. The Pope has tended to ignore age as he got older himself, but he’s also realistic.
- Bishop Wilton Gregory, aside from his election to head the US bishops’ conference, doesn’t have much to recommend him. His statement on the Manchester Diocese’s settlement didn’t reflect well on him and the handling of the Dallas policy that required substantial revisions by the Vatican also looked bad.
- Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, 62, has dealt with very difficult problems in a diocese which is much like Boston in makeup and temperment. Difficult parish closings, mandating orthodoxy in catechetics, reigning in dissidents, and laicizing perverts are among the hallmarks of his time there.
- My favorite is Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. He is 58 and a minority, Native American. He walks in the spiritual footsteps of St. Francis, has a heart for social justice, is theologically orthodox, is outspoken, has cleaned up the Denver seminary and is attracting scads of seminarians, and—a key point—his people are terrified they’re going to lose him to Boston showing that in short time he has become a father-figure to his people.
- Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of the Military Archdiocese was floated as a possibility several months ago, but that idea was shot down. Doesn’t mean he won’t enter consideration, but the things that were said at the time make it seem unlikely to me.
- I don’t know much about Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Illinois, or William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, but my recollection is that Lori has been spattered by bits of the Scandal in Connecticut.
When it is all said and done, the only thing we know for sure is that Pope John Paul will pick the man he wants, and it is likely to be the person everyone least expects. Just don’t expect anything to happen quickly. The Vatican moves slowly in the easiest of matters, and they’re going to take their time on this one.