Monday, April 6, 2009

The Coming Wave in New Bishops

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One-Half of the 265 (180 or so Ordinaries) American Bishops will be submitting their mandatory retirement requests in the next ten years!

Want a new bishop in your diocese? Be patient.

As the Los Angeles Times points out, several leading figures are nearing retirement age, and change is in the wind:
With Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony prominently among them, many of the nation's senior Roman Catholic bishops are nearing mandatory retirement, offering the Vatican a significant opportunity to reshape the American church.

In Los Angeles, home to the country's largest Catholic archdiocese, the shift could open the way for a bishop to become the first Latino cardinal in the United States. Three Latinos, two from California, already are rumored to be possible successors to Mahony, 73.

Nationwide, the retirements will provide Pope Benedict XVI a chance to put his stamp on a church that is struggling to serve growing ranks of immigrants and recover from clergy sexual abuse scandals.

Nearly one-third of 265 active U.S. bishops must submit letters of resignation to the pope within five years because they will have reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. More than half the bishops will reach the milestone within 10 years.

The roster of upcoming resignations includes several of the country's most influential prelates, including Chicago Cardinal Francis George, 72, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, 73, who sits on a powerful Vatican panel that recommends bishop candidates to the pope.

Also on the list is Cardinal William J. Levada, 72, the former archbishop of San Francisco who is now the Vatican's chief theologian and point man on cases of sexual abuse forwarded by bishops worldwide.

Most of the retiring bishops will probably remain on the job for a year or more after their 75th birthdays while successors are found. The pope ultimately decides when to accept the resignations.

Church scholars say the departures of so many high-level prelates -- a coincidence as well as a rarity -- will open the door to a new generation of leaders unencumbered by the U.S. Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis, which has led to more than $2 billion in legal settlements.

"So much of that fresh start depends on how the successor handles the problems" in each diocese, said the Rev. Anthony Pogorelc, a sociologist of religion at the Catholic University of America. "It will depend on transparency." Continue at the LA Times link for the rest.
The Deacon's Bench

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