July 12, 2020
By Rev. Alexander Santora
In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin said, “New Jersey is like a beer barrel, tapped at both ends, with all the live beer running into Philadelphia and New York.”
Those twin pulls still persist today. The Giants and Jets may play in the Meadowlands, but they are still considered New York teams. And Manhattan and Philadelphia television stations cover northern and southern New Jersey, but there is no statewide television station.
And for the Catholic church, the five New Jersey Roman Catholic dioceses are headed by bishops not native to the dioceses they lead. In fact, four of five aren’t even from New Jersey. (Bishop James Checchio is from Camden but heads Metuchen.)
And for the most diverse state in the union, four are of Irish ancestry.
If there’s any doubt that Franklin was right, consider what happened last month in the Diocese of Paterson. Bishop Arthur Serratelli’s retirement was accepted by Pope Francis, who appointed a Brooklyn priest, Bishop Kevin Sweeney, to succeed him.
At first, New Jersey was considered, well, what else, part of the New York diocese. Then in 1853, the entire state became its own diocese, Newark.
The first bishops and archbishops alternated between New York priests and native Newark priests with the last being Thomas Boland. But since 1974, they have all be outsiders: Peter Gerety, a native of Connecticut; Theodore McCarrick, New York; John Myers, Illinois; and now Joseph Cardinal Tobin, Michigan.
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