The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a new archbishop for the City by the Bay will be appointed soon. The source for the rumor is none other than Archbishop William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former archbishop of that diocese. I’m a little surprised that Levada would let the cat out of the bag. Yes, he’s the top-ranking American in the Vatican and would have some effect on who gets chosen, but selections are usually top secret.
No, he doesn’t say who will get the nod, only that it will happen soon and that the installation will be in January. That second part is surprising and suspect. You don’t usually have installations that quickly, unless the appointee is someone who is already bishop of a diocese. Otherwise, he is usually given time to wrap up things in the old diocese and to plan the big shindig for his installation in the new one.
Names in contention
I wouldn’t give much credence to the listing of three finalists. That’s just the “terna.” The way appointments of bishops work is the bishops’ conference forwards a list of suitable bishop candidates to the apostolic nuncio in Washington. The nuncio sends the list of names to Rome and the three names are considered. One of those three can be picked or the list can be sent back with a request for three more names or they can just pick someone not on the list.
The names they say are circulating within clerical circles are not unlikely candidates: “Bishop Stephen Blaire of the Diocese of Stockton; Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Diocese of Santa Rosa; and Bishop George Niederauer of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.” But that reflects either the desires of those doing the speculating as well as the usual pattern of choosing a bishop for a major see from among bishops of smaller sees nearby. However, keep in mind that this will be Pope Benedict’s first major appointment for an American archdiocese. If he’s as intent on keeping a watchful eye on new US bishops, with the intent of reforming the American bishopric, then he may make an “unorthodox” choice, if you’ll excuse the pun.