Recent papal appointments of American bishops show a pattern of center-right Catholic leadership emerging, writes John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter (March 6).
The appointment of Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the New York see in late February is part of a pattern of Pope Benedict’s choosing prelates who are “basically conservative in their politics and theology but also upbeat, pastoral figures seemingly open to dialogue,” writes Allen. He divides the U.S. bishops into four broad categories—right, center-right, center-left and left— and notes that in Pope Benedict’s choice of 10 leaders for U.S. archdioceses since his election in 2005, in four or five cases the appointments seemed to signify a transition from a center-left prelate to one from the center-right.
In other instances, the appointments have replaced one center-right candidate with another one (such Dolan replacing New York’s Cardinal Egan). Only in the case of Archbishop George Neiderauer replacing Cardinal Levada in San Francisco was the new appointee slightly center-left (meanwhile, no right bishops have been appointed to key spots, with the possible exception of Archbishop Vigneron in Detroit). How are center-right bishops different from “right” or conservative ones?
Allen writes that a center-right bishop will hold the papal line on most issues, but would “prefer to set a tone rather than impose penalties,” such as against pro-choice politicians. They are more likely to work with other more liberal bishops. The distinction may be important, since trying to work in the more liberal political environment under President Barack Obama may necessitate compromise and a less ideological approach, writes Allen.
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