Monday, January 18, 2010

Hierarchy Update with a twist of commentary

The Holy See announced today that the Holy Father has accepted the resignation of His Excellency, Bishop Edmond Carmody, of Corpus Christi, Texas. Bishop Carmody resigned having reached the canonical age limit last January. Monsignor Michael Mulvey, who is currently serving as the adminstrator of the Diocese of Austin, Texas, which has been awaiting the appointment of a new bishop since now-Archbishop Aymond was transferred to New Orleans last year, will be the new bishop of Corpus Christi, making him the Holy Father's first episcopal appointment of 2010 in the U.S.

Bishop-elect Mulvey has been very instrumental in the development of the Focolare movement in the United States. Like Communion & Liberation, Focolare, also known as Work of Mary, is a lay ecclesial movement. In Italian Focolare means hearth, family fireside. The founder of this movement, which is very committed to ecumenism, was Chiara Lubvich. Like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Chiara Lubvich, and, come to think of it, her namesake, Chiara Offreduccio, known more popularly as St. Clare of Assisi, give lie to the political posturing and ideological assertions of the kind expressed by Nicholas Kristof in a recent article for The New York Times, which reads like something re-published from the early 1970s, which culminates in a logically invalid inference: "Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior." The last thing the church needs, especially in this day and age, is to be driven by secular ideologies. With that off my chest, I readily acknowledge that there are much better arguments out there for what Kristof is proposing; arguments that make sense and avoid sloganeering and political posturing. Whether these are ultimately convincing arguments in their own right is a different question. This is relevant to Bishop-elect Mulvey's elevation within the hierarchy because Chiara Lubvich is for him, as her name would indicate, a light, someone in whose charism he shares. She leads him.

Chiara passed in 2008. There is no doubt that Mulvey collaborated closely with her. He served as co-director of Focolare's school of formation for diocesan priests in Florence from 1997-99, then he directed their Spirituality Center in New York from 1999-2001. Chiara Lubvich is to Focolare what Luigi Giussani is to CL. Maybe nobody ever told Chiara that you have to be ordained to follow Christ and to lead the faithful. The church, as the Holy Father has pointed on several occasions, is inherently institutional and charismatic at the same time. Chiara, like Giussani and others to whom the Spirit gives charisms of the kind we heard about at Mass yesterday when we read 1 Cor. 12:4-11, was concerned to recover the church's charismatic dimension, which cannot be played off against the institutional. All of this makes Bishop-elect Mulvey's appointment very significant.

With the retirement of Bishop Carmody, the number of Latin Rite bishops serving past the canonical age limit of 75 is reduced to four. The appointment of Bishop-elect Mulvey does not create a new vacancy. So, the number of vacant Latin Rite dioceses in this country remains at six. This stable state-of-affairs for the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. was made possible by the good work of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Holy Father's representative to this country. Last year was a banner year for episcopal appointments in this country.

In ecclesiastical news of international interest, Pope Benedict XVI also announced today that he has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Godfried Daneels as archbishop of Malines-Brussels. His Eminence will be succeeded by Bishop Andre Mutien Leonard.

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