….Sunday’s announcement of new red hats sent up cheers from many quarters, as well as groans and shrugs from Rome to the peripheries – geographical and existential – for names on the list and names omitted (some of them rather conspicuously so).
The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, did not get a red hat, for example. Catholics in war-ravaged Ukraine and Ukrainians in general may well have appreciated such a gesture of solidarity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked invasion undertaken without any plausible case for war (and with a little nuclear terrorism thrown in for measure). Pope Francis, however, is playing his own game with Russia these days and will be neither distracted nor deterred.
Pope Francis has seen fit to elevate a Legionary curial official, Archbishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga, President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State.
The Legionaries of Christ are the religious congregation founded by the notorious sociopath and inveterate pervert, Marcial Maciel, who used the priestly society as a front for his criminal exploits. Maciel also used the lay arm of the Legion – a group called Regnum Christi – as a cash cow to fund his debaucheries.
It’s one thing to forbear suppressing the Legion entirely, as Pope Francis has (and Benedict before him, though at least they did not protect and promote Maciel, as did Pope St. John Paul II, no doubt influenced by the late Angelo Cardinal Sodano, his long-serving Secretary of State, who died this past week at 94). It’s quite another to elevate people attached to it, even if they are curial lifers like Archbishop Vergez….
If personnel is policy – and it is – then victims of the Legion and of clerical sexual abuse in general may be forgiven the impression that Pope Francis’s policy is somewhere between “Nothing to see here,” and “Get over it, already.” That’s an impression made even more easily forgivable by Francis’s decision to create Bishop Lucas Van Looy, SDB (emeritus of Ghent in Belgium). Van Looy hasn’t what one could precisely describe as an unproblematic track record when it comes to abuse and coverup.
The big one for Catholics in the United States – whose name raised both cheers and jeers – is Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, a “Francis Bishop” very much in the mold (and very much in the shadow) of Chicago’s Blase Cardinal Cupich. Smart money has it that Cupich had something to do with getting McElroy’s name on the list.
Church watchers and Vatican insiders already knew that Cardinal Cupich is powerful. If Cupich is intent on building and consolidating his power base, it appears that Pope Francis is willing to play with him and with McElroy. Neither Cupich nor McElroy is exactly popular among the brethren of the US episcopate, but popes do not give red hats on the basis of performance in popularity contests.
The announcement of the San Diego bishop’s imminent creation as Robert Walter Cardinal McElroy may well be a tough pill to swallow for the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, not least because San Diego is a suffragan see of LA, where Gomez has been without a red hat since he succeeded the notorious Roger Cardinal Mahony in 2011.
Gomez’s statement regarding the business was nonetheless cucumber-cool and pitch-perfect Church-speak.
“By naming Bishop Robert McElroy as a cardinal,” the official statement of the USCCB’s president read, “Pope Francis has shown his pastoral care for the Church in the United States.” It’s the sort of thing to which both supporters and critics may reply: “Indeed….”
The above comes from a May 29 posting in Catholic World Report.