Monday, July 07, 2003

New Auxiliary Bishops For Detroit

Today the Holy See announced the appointments of three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Detroit. The three are Msgr. Walter A. Hurley, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington, MI, Msgr. John M. Quinn, director of the Department of Education of the archdiocese, and Fr. Francis R. Reiss, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park, MI.

Of the three, I know only Msgr. Quinn in any personal sense: He was the professor for my Trinity class at Sacred Heart Seminary. He was a good teacher: he obviously enjoyed teaching and had a deep grasp of theology and the Tradition. He also was highly regarded by many seminarians as a spiritual director.

Msgr. Hurley has been the Archdiocese of Detroit's "point man" in dealing with the priestly sexual abuse crisis. In that capacity he has come under some criticism for not being sufficiently pro-active or aggressive in rooting out pedophiles and other sexual predators from the ranks of the Detroit clergy.

UPDATE [7/07/03 10:20 PM] A well-placed source in the Archdiocese of Detroit has informed me that those aforementioned "criticisms" of Bishop-elect Hurley's handling of the sex-abuse cases in Detroit have been, at best, ill-informed. My source is irreproachable in orthodoxy and integrity, and is in a position to know whereof he speaks. According to my source, Hurley has acted with due prudence and justice in dealing with these cases, and always with respect for Church teaching and Canon law. I for one am glad to hear it.

I simply know nothing of Fr. Reiss.

Detroit has lost 4 auxiliary bishops in as many years to other sees: Bp. John Nienstedt to New Ulm, Minnesota, Bp. Bernard Harrington to Winona, Minnesota, Bp. Kevin Britt to Grand Rapids, and most recently, Bp. Allen Vigneron to Oakland, California. In the meantime it has only ordained two auxiliaries: Leonard Blair and Earl Boyea. Furthermore, Bp. Moses Anderson will be retiring shortly, and Bishop Gumbleton does not take an active part in the administration of the Archdiocese. So that would have left Detroit with only two active auxiliaries.

Whatever the backgrounds or "qualifications" of the bishops-elect may be, I think it is instructive to note their ages: Hurley is 66, Reiss is 63. Given that the mandatory retirement age of bishops is 75, it is unlikely that Hurley's or Reiss' appointments will be "stepping stones" to eventually becoming ordinaries of their own dioceses. In all likelihood, they will stay in Detroit. In my opinion, based stricly on their ages, the only one likely to eventually get his own see is Quinn, who is 58.

There has been some criticism, from quarters as exalted as Cardinal Ratzinger, of an incipient careerism in the hierarchy: part of the "bishop as CEO" mentality afflicting our bishops is the tendency to view the hierarchy as a sort of career stepladder: Msgr. Jones is appointed auxiliary bishop of Greater Podunk; if he does well, or at least doesn't screw up, in about 5 years he is made bishop of Littletown, and if he does well there or makes a name for himself in the USCCB, he gets made archbishop of Bigcity, and maybe even gets a red hat as well. This kind of "career path" encourages bishops to treat their sees as means to advance their own careers, and to make decisions with a view to how it will play, rather than what is best for the diocese. It does not encourage bishops to view their see as their sacred trust, or as the bride to whom they are joined, like Christ, in a nuptial relationship. It may be the case that one way to get around this temptation is to appoint priests as auxiliary bishops who are unlikely, by reason of age, to be "moved up."

Another way to combat careerism (and solve some other problems as well) would be to break up the big mega-archdioceses in this country into smaller dioceses. But that will have to be a subject for another post...