|After Dolan, Who Will Lead the Flock?
Vatican May Defy Expectations in Naming New Archbishop
By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 7, 2009
As Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan prepares to succeed Cardinal Edward M. Egan in New York, speculation has shifted to potential successors here.
If local history is any indication, the next archbishop of Milwaukee is likely to be a man in his 50s, who was educated or worked in Rome and has had at least some tie to the Midwest.
But trying to predict who will, or will not, wear the bishop's miter in Milwaukee is a little like shooting a star out of the sky, observers say. The selection process is highly secretive. And the factors that come into play - experience, education, personality, availability and more - are myriad.
"I've given up being Jimmy the Greek," said Father Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and author of the book "Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church."
"The people who know don't talk," said Reese, who long ago ceased to float names in such cases. "And the people who don't know speculate."
Dolan, 59, will be installed as archbishop of New York at St. Patrick's Cathedral on April 15, just days after celebrating a final Easter in the archdiocese he's led since 2002.
Pope Benedict XVI will name his successor with input from Dolan and the Vatican's ambassador to the United States, among others. But a decision is not expected before summer, observers say.
Dolan has declined to publicly suggest any names. But whoever succeeds him will face a number of challenges:
The Milwaukee Archdiocese is just halfway through a $105 million capital campaign, at a time when the economy could make collecting pledges more difficult. It faces possible bankruptcy if it loses a series of fraud cases related to clergy sex abuse that are expected to go to trial this year. And the number of Catholics locally has slipped, despite the growing Latino population, which has helped keep national Catholic numbers flat.
That, coupled with continued population shifts, could mean more parish and school closings or mergers.
A number of names have surfaced in recent weeks. Some stand out for their attractive credentials, some fit the right profile, and some appear on various people's wish lists. They include:
• Wisconsin Bishops Jerome E. Listecki of La?Crosse, Robert C. Morlino of Madison, David L. Ricken of Green Bay and Peter F. Christensen of Superior.
• Two others with ties to the state: Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, who was ordained in Milwaukee and spent 20 years here; and Bishop Paul J. Swain of Sioux Falls, S.D., a former Madison priest who worked as legal counsel and policy director for then-Gov. Lee Dreyfus.
• A handful from around the country, all with Midwestern ties: Bishops Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.; Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D.; Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa; and Thomas Paprocki, an auxiliary bishop in Chicago.
That said, Milwaukee's next archbishop might not appear on anyone's list.
Dolan's predecessor, Rembert G. Weakland, wasn't on the local radar when he was appointed in 1977, said Father Steven Avella, a Marquette University history professor. "Nobody would have thought that he'd be somebody who would come here," he said.
The would-be candidates to date are just a fraction of the more than 200 bishops now serving in the American Catholic church, according to databases maintained by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the independent online site www.catholic-hierarchy.org.
Reese says at least 40 in the databases fit the general profile of those appointed archbishop nationally: about 65 years old, already a bishop or auxiliary bishop, and in their current post at least five years.
Historically, Milwaukee archbishops have their own profile. They tend to skew younger: Of the seven who've served since 1900, five were appointed in their 50s, and one was just 43.
Most worked or were educated in Rome, and most have had some connection to the Midwest.
Avella expects the Midwest connection to hold true for Dolan's successor.
"My feeling is that the Holy See wants to make sure bishops are at least somewhat regionally adjusted, that they understand the literal lay of the land, the geography, the demography, the idiom of the Midwest," he said.
Fewer than half the names mentioned fit the profile on every point. But for every rule of thumb, exceptions abound. Dolan, for example, spent less than a year as an auxiliary in St. Louis before coming to Milwaukee, and had no ties to the East Coast church before his appointment to New York.
Each would-be candidate brings his own set of skills and strengths to the job, observers said. Several on the list, for example, are canon or civil attorneys.
The Wisconsin bishops, as well as Perry and Swain, observers said, would likely bring a greater understanding of local Catholics, their culture and history.
Perry, the only African-American on the list, might help bring black Catholics back to the church. That group has left the church in large numbers over the last decade, said Father Carl Diederichs, pastor at All Saints parish on Milwaukee's north side. Perry, who's been described as quiet and refined, was so popular when he served there, a caravan of buses and cars traveled to Chicago for his installation as auxiliary bishop.
Morlino has been more controversial. Although he's considered by some a strong voice of traditional Catholic teaching, others have been put off by his approach. He's made the news repeatedly, allegedly seeking the names of priests who criticized him in an anonymous survey; using the pulpit to chastise Democratic politicians on issues of abortion and stem cell research; and at one point blaming the clergy sex abuse scandal on the birth control pill.
Reese never says never, but said such controversial bishops have not been promoted in the United States under the current pope.
"Again, I never dare to predict, but Benedict tends to look for people who are strongly orthodox, who can defend the church, but not in an antagonistic and confrontational way," he said.
Several of those mentioned, observers said, share some traits with Dolan, including pastoral and theological leadership (Cupich from Rapid City); an interest in ecumenical dialogue (Swain from Sioux Falls); and an engaging mix of intellect, humor and understanding of "where people live" (Listecki from La?Crosse).
More than one person flagged Cupich, including Father John Yockey of St. Jerome parish in Oconomowoc, who described him as a respected pastor and liturgical scholar.
"I think he could easily fit in with the vibrant spirit of the church in Milwaukee," Yockey said.
What local Catholics shouldn't expect, though, is a carbon copy of Dolan, because there isn't one.
Any successor is likely to share the same theological positions as Dolan, observers said, but not the personality.
"You're probably not going to get such an extrovert, somebody as outgoing as he is," said Reese, "because he's off the scale in that realm."
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