I thought it would be fun to just start to share some information about some potential people who might become our next archbishop. Certainly everything on here is complete speculation, and mainly an exercise in excitement as we wait for our new shepherd.
There are a couple of principles in play that will help whittle down the list of potential candidates considerably.
1) What we can say 99% for sure is that the next archbishop will be a guy who is currently serving as a bishop of his own diocese. Because we are an archdiocese, we wouldn’t get a guy who is currently serving as an auxiliary somewhere. In order to become an archbishop, you almost always have to establish that you can run a smaller diocese on your own first.
2) We likely will not get a guy who is already an archbishop somewhere else. The only time archbishops get moved to become archbishops elsewhere is if the new destination would be one of the top-tier archdioceses – usually denoted by the fact that the archbishop of those archdioceses typically becomes a cardinal (New York, LA, DC) Indianapolis is, in all likelihood, not to become an archdiocese with that type of “prestige” in the foreseeable future, so we should be very surprised if we get a man who is already an archbishop elsewhere.
3) The third principle is related to the first. While we can be sure we’ll get a guy who has been tested a bit, we can also be pretty sure we won’t get a guy who is getting closer to the retirement age of 75.
4) While the first three principles are pretty much rock-solid, the last is less solid. It is LIKELY but not guaranteed that our next archbishop will be from somewhere in the Midwest. Of the current archbishops in the U.S. 14 of the 30 are not from the region they are currently serving in; obviously, then 16 of the archbishops are serving in the region they came from. Let’s take a look around the region.
Indiana – It doesn’t seem likely that our new Archbishop would come from Indiana. Bishop Chuck Thompson is brand new in Evansville, and Bishops Kevin Rhoades (Fort Wayne – South Bend) and Bishop Timothy Dogherty are in their second years. Bishop Joseph Melczek from Gary in set to retire in two years. Some people have been asking about Bishop Coyne’s chances. I read somewhere that I have a better chance than Bishop Coyne – because Canon Law requires that the apostolic administrator of a diocese can not be made the next bishop - however, when I went to look for that source again, I was unable to track it down - so that may in fact not be the case. Nonetheless, due to the fact that Bishop Coyne has not yet served as a bishop on his own, I think his chances are, unfortunately, small.
Illinois has a couple of possibilities. Likely out of the running are Bishop Doran of Rockford who is 75, and Bishop Conlon of Joliet and Bishop Paprocki of Springfield have only been bishops on their own for one year. Bishop Jenky from Peoria is an interesting candidate in that he is a member of the Holy Cross Brothers from Notre Dame, giving him an Indiana flavor. Bishop Jenky has also been a bishop on his own for 9 years, but at the age of 64 would have plenty good years of service ahead of him. Bishop Braxton of Belleville is similar in age (67) and time spent at the helm (6) to Bishop Jenky, but financially there has been some rumblings and contentions in the diocese the past several years.
Ohio has some possibilities as well. Bishop Lennon of Cleveland looks good age wise (64) and experience wise (5 as bishop) but has recently asked Rome to review his leadership. Bishop Lennon closed approximately 50 parishes, and many people were upset by that, and the rumblings continue. Bishop Campbell of Columbus is a little old (68) which would give him 7 years – but then again, that’s what they said about Cardinal Ratzinger before the conclave! Two strong candidates from Ohio would be Bishop Blair from Toledo and Bishop George Murry SJ from Youngstown. Both are in their early 60’s, and Bishop Blair has been leading Toledo for 8 years, while Bishop Murry has been at the helm of Youngstown for 4 years. I have met Bishop Blair on several occasions because he sends his seminarians to St. Meinrad, and I was able to hear him preach many Masses where he dropped into St. Meinrad for a visit. He seems like a really good guy, pretty laid back, excellent, relatable homilies.
Finally, Kentucky and Tennessee. I put it last not because I dislike the state (which is the case with most Hoosiers) but it simply fell there randomly – I promise! Bishop Steib in Memphis is Archbishop Buechlein’s successor there, but is likely too old now at 71. Bishop Foys of Covington is 66 and has been at the helm for 9 years, giving him some considerable seasoning. Bishop Stika of Knoxville is only 54 years old and has been a bishop for 2 years, but I’ve heard he’s on the rise, could Indy be his next stop? Bishop Gainer of Lexington is also a candidate at the age of 64 with 9 years as bishop. Bishop Choby of Nashville is 64 and has been a bishop there for 6 years.
Last but not least – our own Bishop Paul Etienne. On the illustrious Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia, maintained by Rocco Palmo, who, unlike myself, is actually connected and in the know on such things, Bishop Etienne was profiled last Spring as one of the 5 young bishops who are “on the rise.” There’s nothing I can add that would speak to Bishop Etienne’s suitability any more than that nod.
With all that being said, here, then, are my top 5 candidates for people in the region (or from around here) who could succeed Archbishop Daniel Buechlein.
Bishop Paul Etienne of Wyoming
here to read up on Bishop Etienne's blog. 5 of the 30 current archbishops are serving in their home diocese - will Pope Benedict make it 6?
Bishop Blair of Toledo
here to visit Bishop Blair's homepage. Bishop Blair and his diocese of Toledo have also been in the news recently because they have taken the lead on banning all support for the Susan G. Komen Foundation until they stop donating to Planned Parenthood. Click here to read the story on this current issue.
Bishop Stika of Knoxville
here to visit his blog.
Bishop Jenky, CSC, of Peoria
here about Bishop Jenky's new puppies, his visit with Pope Benedict, and the recent news-making decision to cease adoption services through Peopria's Catholic Charities. For a story on that decision, you can also click here.
Bishop Foys of Covington
Bishop Gainer of Lexington
here to visit Bishop Gainer's homepage
The size of the pictures is not meant to convey any personal preference - Google Images gave me these photos. Also, it should be noted that we could very easily get someone from the east or west coast (or Kamchatka for that matter) - this is just a preliminary look around the region to see who might be eligible. I hope this has been helpful, and if nothing else, at least it might help raise a greater awareness of some of the people working in the Church throughout the Midwest. Let's continue to pray for our new archbishop, whomever he may be.