The Congregation for Bishops oversees the selection of new bishops and their picks usually are confirmed by the Pope. Whoever is named to this committee has a large say in who should be a new bishop, especially from his home region/country.
During a recent round of appointments, Francis decided to not appoint Cardinals Raymond Burke and Justin Rigali to the committee.
The fact that Burke was not on the list may raise eyebrows, in part because some observers see him as representing a more aggressive line than the pope on the Western culture wars.
Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter is not a fan of either
Burke is the consummate culture warrior and he has encouraged the appointment of men to prominent sees who, like himself, look out at the world and see nothing but dread, who have bought into a narrative in which all the Church’s problems and challenges are someone else’s fault, and that the Gospel is best preached from a defensive crouch, with finger wagging at any and all who do not see the world as they do. I cannot think of a single churchmen who is less like Pope Francis...
Cardinal Rigali’s problem is of a different sort. He has ruined everything he ever touched, as one archbishop reportedly said to a friend of mine. He left Philadelphia a mess, a string of Grand Jury reports detailing malfeasance in dealing with clergy sex abuse that rivaled the pro-Dallas Charter days. Rigali left St. Louis a mess...
Burke has also gone on to kinda refute what the Pope has been saying in regards of abortion, sexuality and capitalism
. Pope Benedict XVI appointed Burke to the Congregation of Bishops in 2009, but with today's announcement, Burke is off the committee. Don't be too sad, it seems Burke may have a great career in designing fashion
So what about the people Pope Francis did appoint? Cardinal William Levada is still on the committee and Winters had overall nice things to say about him:
Levada is razor sharp smart, and in his pastoral assignments, demonstrated a preference for non-culture warrior approaches to the challenges facing the Church. As early as 1996, he famously worked out a solution to the conundrum of same-sex partner benefits for Catholic Church agencies that contract with the city government.
But the big praise was saved for the new appointee, Cardinal Donald Wuerl
, of Washington D.C.
In addition to the enthusiasm, though, Wuerl has the competence to see that Pope Francis is getting the kinds of names for new bishops that reflect the priorities the Holy Father has identified, men with the “smell of the sheep,” upon them, men who have worked in the trenches, not just the chanceries. I would look for more directors of diocesan Catholic Charities, more parish priests, and fewer seminary rectors or former curial officials on ternas going to the pope in the months and years ahead.
While not a flaming liberal, Cardinal Wuerl has said it is wrong to deny communion due to political beliefs.
The Archdiocese of Washington, DC, has issued an apology to a woman who was denied Communion by a priest who had just learned of her lesbian relationship.
A spokesman for the Washington archdiocese said that Father Guarnizo’s action showed “a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” and was not in accordance with archdiocesan policy.
Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl has indicated that he is not prepared to deny Communion even to prominent politicians who continue to support legal abortion despite repeated warnings from the hierarchy.
And Wuerl says that married gay Catholics are "not a great problem"
“We do that same thing with people who are married, divorced and remarried,” Wuerl said on the church’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. “We say, you know, you’re still part of the family, but we can’t recognize that second marriage… and it’s never been a great problem.
I know he is comparing a gay marriage like mine to that of a person who remarried after a divorce which is a no-no in Roman Catholic theology. But A) small steps here and B) in most parishes, divorce is usually ignored. Neither Rome or The Vatican were built in a day. But these changes point to a new day, especially for leaders in the US branch of the church.