Problems over Belleville’s bishop

Problems over Belleville’s bishop

A group of priests in Belleville, Illinois, are protesting the installation of Bishop Braxton to head the diocese. They claim that the standard consultation with the local metropolitan and nuncio didn’t take place and that the appointment happened very quickly after former USCCB president Wilton Gregory was promoted to archbishop of Atlanta.

I haven’t heard good things about Bishop Braxton and it’s fairly clear that Gregory’s move was reward for being USCCB president during the Scandal’s heyday and Braxton promoted as a protege. Still, the reports of these complaints is a bit fishy. Since when do local clergy get the right to approve their own new bishop? And who’s to say how long a vacancy must exist before a new bishop is appointed?

With the amount of animosity before Braxton’s even been installed, it should be an interesting tenure.

  • Bishop Braxton has the unique talent of offending both liberals and conservatives.  Apparently the group currently protesting is of a liberal bent.  However it should be remembered that Braxton was (according to him) the A-number-one protege of Bernardin, to the extent of receiving the dying Cardinal’s ring.  I live in St. Louis and heard it with my own ears at the Cathedral Basilica several years ago when Braxton was here….I agree this should be interesting.  I have heard that not only did he want the bishop’s residence in Belleville renovated, he wanted a pool put in.  The diocese is hurting financially….that kinda stuff ticks off a wide variety of people.   

  • I saw this article too, and wondered what was up.  The arguments about “consultation” are a smoke screen, a legal argument to cover the actual concerns, what ever they may be.

    My first thought was that it was a group of AmChurch malcontents, but the Bishop’s history, in so far as I can tell, hasn’t been outstandingly orthodox.  Is it possible that this is the actual concern?  Does anyone know anything about this Bishop or the priests involved?

    As far as rewarding Wilton Gregory, his promotion to Archbishop is just more evidence that Rome either doesn’t know how bad things are in the US or doesn’t care. 

    Frankly, given the recent appointment of Levada to the CDF, I have little confidence that things are going to change any time soon.  I hope I’m wrong.

  • Yes; since when do Priests get to choose their own Bishops. and as to how long a See might be vacant: here the Diocese of Northampton (England) was vacant until only last week. Some 30 months since Kevin MacDonald was translated to the Archbishopric of Southwark.

    The faithful, of course, don’t get consulted at all.

  • Since when do local clergy get the right to approve their own new bishop?

    Cathedral chapters outside mission territories (which the US was until the 20th century) had the right to approve appointments.

  • Bp. Braxton formerly served as the Vicar for Deacons in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.  I met him on a couple of occasions. 

    He is, number 1, a brilliant man.  Frankly, I’m surprised that he would be given what amounts to a lateral move, to the Belleville Diocese unless he requested it. 

    He is as fine a homilist as I have ever heard. 

    The Bishop was scheduled to preside at a mass for the Diaconate class ahead of mine on a Saturday after he was scheduled to leave for Lake Charles.  He postponed his move so that he could keep his commitment. 

    The homily he gave that morning was one of the best I have ever heard.  He spoke at length, with no notes, on the anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie.  Obviously, this was not a stock homily.  It could only have been used on that day.  His former secretary has been quoted as saying that he often works late into the night on his homilies.

    [I was acolyte at that mass, and he made me extremely nervous.  I had to carry the cups to the altar on a silver tray and they made quite a racket, thanks to my shaky hands.]

    On another occasion, he was scheduled to speak to my formation class.  We all knew his reputation for arrogance and really didn’t know what to expect.  Prior to coming to speak to our class, he had been visiting a friend who had just been diagnosed with cancer. 

    He gave a very heart-felt, humble presentation on his friend’s health and the lessons we could learn from it.  It was a very spiritual evening and I’m grateful that I was there.

    Bishop Braxton is a very large, imposing man.  The only way to describe his appearance is “impressive.”  There’s no doubt who he is when he enters the room.  I suppose a poor black kid who grows up to be a Prince of the Church may appear arrogant to some. 

    I don’t know what the condition of the Belleville rectory is, but since his predecessor spent so much time travelling around the country, maybe it needs some work.  What the “St. Liberal Post Disgrace” doesn’t mention is that the Bishop’s friends offered to pay for any remodeling.

    The last time I checked, the Holy Father has the authority to assign a Bishop anywhere he pleases and isn’t required to consult with anyone. 

    Looking at it from a political point of view, Bp. Braxton is a bright, articulate black man who came from a poor background, certainly someone that the Church would like to advance as far as possible.  He has a lot of friends in the St. Louis area.  If he threw his hat into the ring for the Belleville job, I’m not surprised he got it.

    If I didn’t have to work Wednesday, I would go to the installation.  It will be interesting.