Posted by Joseph H. Saunders
November 29, 2016
In a somewhat surprising announcement, Pope Francis announced yesterday that Bishop Gregory Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee will be the new bishop of St. Petersburg. Parkes will be installed as the fifth bishop of the local diocese since its founding in 1968 on January 4, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
In any transition of power, many questions arise in terms of how will the new authority figure govern? What changes will be made? What will be his priorities? As a child abuse advocate and a priest abuse lawyer, I wonder how he will handle abuse allegations. Will he be transparent and deal with sexual abuse survivors in a compassionate and just manner? At this point, I don’t have the answers to any of these questions and his short tenure in Pensacola-Tallahassee provides few indicators as to how he will govern in the much larger Diocese of St. Petersburg. However, we may glean a few thoughts about the bishop from a review of his past. In this post, I’ll attempt to go beyond the local news headlines to reveal what we might expect from this bishop in terms of leadership style, temperament, and communication style. While I am not Catholic, my years as a trial lawyer and taking the depositions of bishops and priests has given me insight into their beliefs, attitudes, and leadership styles.
First of all, anyone who is named a bishop today is skilled in the art of church politics. Priests who become bishops today are not mavericks. They are company men who are taught to tow the company line in terms of doctrine and operational procedures. They climbed the ecclesiastical ladder by forging the right friendships and allegiances with powerful men. They know the system and how it works. Typically, they will hold an advanced degree from a pontifical university in Rome and have spent just enough time in a parish setting to be able to say they have engaged in pastoral work.
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