Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Palmo on New Orleans Church Closures

After the NOPD was called in to break vigils at two uptown parishes, I spoke to Rocco Palmo, founder of Whispers in the Loggia, the world's foremost blog (NPR says) on the politics of the Catholic Church.

(Full disclosure: Rocco and I know each other from high school in Philly. Rocco attended to the deciding game 5 of the Phillies' World Series victory and told me that it was better than meeting the Pope.)

He offered his thoughts on Archbishop Hughes' decision to shut down parishioner vigils at two uptown churches using police force.

His analysis corroborates some of Peter Borre's speculation about the coming end of Hughes' term. Borre, a leader of ongoing vigils in Boston, spoke to Chris Tidmore after the police raid in New Orleans. Oyster writes about that piece in more detail.

Palmo provided the following context on the how transitions are usually handled:

The reason behind this is that Hughes is going to be leaving office in, probably, the next couple weeks... Bishops are required to hand in their resignations when they turn 75. Hughes turned 75 in December, 2007. Normally, it takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months for a new bishop to be named. That appointment comes from the Vatican. Hughes would be consulted on who should come next but the decision is made by the Pope. Until that point, the successor wouldn't know he's a candidate.
Once a new archbishop had accepted the post - it takes place under a pretty thick veil of secrecy - Hughes would then be called and would be given around two weeks notice until the appointment was made public. So in that time, everything either goes into a holding pattern or if there is anything that needs to be cleared off the table quickly - I'm not saying that has happened but the indication I get is that there has been pretty quick movement on [shutting down the vigils]. Remember that the parish closures were supposed to take place around the New Year but got moved up to November 1st. So that was another warning shot.

After the new archbishop is appointed, it would be a maximum of two months before he actually takes office. Hughes would not have full power in the Archdiocese from the time of the appointment until the time his successor arrives. After the appointment is made, he wouldn't have the authority, or it would be dubious for him to shut down the vigils the way he can now as archbishop.

The etiquette is such that whatever tough decisions have to be made, like closing parishes - you try to clear the desk of as much as possible so your successor doesn't have to make that many tough decision in his first days. The customary practice is that every incoming bishop or archbishop gets a honeymoon when he arrives in his post. Especially in New Orleans that's going to be important because the storm has been so difficult for everybody down there, as you can see from all the tough calls that had to be made by Archbishop Hughes. Usually outgoing bishops, especially when time is running short, tend to play bad cop to give their successors an easier time, so their successors don't have to make the tough call coming in.

Very interesting. Keep an eye out for more big news from the New Orleans Archdiocese in the next few weeks.


Clay said...

Rumor has it that our next archbishop will be from Mobile.

E said...

the guy from mobile is from new orleans originally, right?