Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bishop Paprocki's Promising Career

There's an article today in the State Journal-Register about the appointment of Bishop Thomas John Paprocki (diocese of Springfield in Illinois, my diocese) to the small group of bishops that is charged with "reforming" (translated: reigning in) the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the the largest national group of women religious in the United States.

Near the end of the article, there's a link to Rocco Palmer's Whispers in the Loggia (great source for the inside scoop on Catholic hierarchy).  Rocco has speculated about Bishop Paprocki's promising career in the Church.  Uh-huh.  No big surprise.  Bishop Paprocki's first year in Springfield -- with his bashing of the governor on multiple occasions and his use of a Christmas Eve homily to strike out at Muslims (including Americans who are Muslim) as a group who deserve to be profiled -- had "aiming for the big leagues" written all over it.  He will be an archbishop someday; place your bets early.  When that happens, Springfield's loss will be someone else's pain.

Makes me wonder about that chatter that Timothy Cardinal Dolan is supposedly papabile.  If he is, and if Paprocki is in good with Dolan--hey, isn't that a good lead on a red hat for Mrs. Paprocki's son?  But no, even chess can't be plotted out too many moves in advance.  And let's not count Cardinal Dolan as such a rich candidate for that special pad in Rome.  There was much speculation back in the eighties about Joseph Cardinal Bernardin's odds of becoming the first American pope, and sadly, Bernardin died in 1996, nine years before the next conclave.  (Joseph Bernardin as pope -- wouldn't that have been nice?  A holy man and a down to earth man and a man who knew how to listen -- as well as speak with a prophetic voice.)  Here's hoping Cardinal Dolan has a long, happy life of service to the Church -- especially to "the least of these" -- the poor, the uninsured, the ill:  those who sometimes get overlooked when bishops decide what they should say, what they should do as conservative justices on the Supreme Court and the ultra right-wing of the Republican party contemplate ways to take down the Affordable Care Act.  And the same for Bishop Paprocki (who, to his credit, used his expertise as a lawyer to help found a legal clinic for the poor in Chicago) may he have a good, long career of serving God's people, especially the poor and the marginalized.

Am I being too catty here, talking about "careers" rather than vocations when discussing the hierarchy?  Oh, I still believe a bishop -- or a pope, for that matter -- has a vocation.  But let's be honest.  It's not only the Holy Spirit at work when a bishop gets appointed or gets promoted; even in the election of a pope, there is plenty of politics at work.  Let's not be naive.


Of course, none of that means the Holy Spirit cannot also be at work in the Church -- though this means that political leanings in the hierarchy, as well as institutional prejudice against women in leadership roles, can unfortunately also thwart the will of the Holy Spirit if people in the hierarchy are willing to let that happen.  Human cooperation with God's will -- or resistance to God's willthat's a very old story indeed.

The long and short of it:  I find myself wishing conservative prelates well.  But, at least in the case of Bishop Paprocki and Cardinal Dolan, I do finding myself hoping (hoping hard) that neither of their career ladders go straight to the top.  Let's stop short of Rome.  Way short. 


Fr. Daren J. Zehnle said...

I don't know that you're being too "catty," as you put it, Steve, but your efforts to presume Bishop Paprocki's intentions behind his preaching are, frankly, sad and unwarranted.

Steve said...

I hope you're right, Father, and that I'm wrong. I hope that careerism is, in fact, NOT an issue with this bishop. Lord knows that we need good shepherds and not the ecclesiastical equivalent of a state senator angling for a chance at a U.S. House or Senate seat.