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So, While I Was Away, Dallas Got a New Bishop January 4, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, General Catholic, history, huh?, priests, secularism, Society.

Edward Burns from, of all places, Juneau, AK, was named to replace departed <giggle> Cardinal <snort> Farrell about three weeks ago, while I was in beautiful but cold North Carolina.  This is a real under-the-radar kind of appointment.  Burns is not as young as I feared (59, meaning Dallas won’t be saddled with one man, great or disastrous, for thirty years, like Albany and Rochester have been), and he’s led a fairly low profile heretofore.  I’m not entirely certain, but there’s a good possibility that his former Diocese, Juneau, is the smallest in the nation.  Heck, it’s 6000 Catholics are smaller than probably 2/3 of the parishes in this diocese.

I’ll admit this appointment happened a great deal sooner than I thought.  Bishop Cardinal Farrell had said, before departing, that a replacement would be named within 2-3 months.  I scoffed at that, since other dioceses have waited 18-24 months to get replacements, but he was obviously better informed than I: the replacement was named just over 3 months after Farrell departed for his new sinecure in Rome.

New Bishop Burns hails originally from Pittsburgh, and got some love from Pope JPII (via Ratzinger) in being appointed one of the co-chairman of the apostolic investigation into the (deliberately engineered) vocations crisis in the US, and later was appointed to the Vatican review of US seminaries.  After that, however, he was sent back to Pittsburgh to the post he had held before he had been elevated to the USCCB in 1999, as rector of the diocesan seminary in Pittsburgh.  After an additional year in that role was apparently sufficient purgatory and he was then consecrated Bishop of Juneau by Benedict XVI in early 2009.  I don’t know if these moves signify a rising or falling star or are simply the vagaries of Church assignments for a man being groomed for the episcopate.  Beats me.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh under Bishop David Zubik is generally seen to be somewhat on the conservative side, I think, at least relatively speaking by 201X American standards.  What that means for our new Bishop Burns in Dallas is uncertain.  This guy does not have much of a paper trail, though he has been fairly reliably pro-life, at least in a few public pronouncements.  He doesn’t seem to be a screaming liberal, but I could be fooled.

I’m also uncertain what Burn’s appointment means for the Diocese.  It does seem something of a step down, from receiving the consummate insider (and clearly a man on the rise) in Farrell, who had been a protege of the notorious but highly influential Cardinal McCarrick, a big player in the politically important Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and a deeply committed USCCB apparatchik, to this guy, wonderful though he may be (or may not be) from the Diocese of North Pole.  Does that say something about how Dallas is perceived within the Church? Under Farrell, Dallas went from being something of a backwater with a scandalous recent past (the boy-rape scandals and decadent seminary situation being Farrell’s two biggest repair priorities in office) to being a destination, from being a place that received bishops from elsewhere to one that exported many into leadership positions in nearby dioceses.  Or is it a situation where a diocese in crisis merited an admittedly sharp administrator (if hardly an inspiring, doctrinally strong shepherd), and now that the crisis is supposedly past (though things continue to be buried), someone of a lower profile could be named as replacement?  I do not say any of this as a criticism of Burns, it’s simply comparing the very disparate past histories of two different men.

Some local pro-life folks have apparently met with Bishop-elect Burns and came away heartened.  So maybe he’ll be awesome.  My guess is that very little will change, practically speaking.  There isn’t anything in his background, that I have found, that indicates he might have a innate hostility towards Tradition, over and above what most men formed in his time and place have.  Of course, it’s difficult to say, most of this is just speculation off of a few thread of evidence.  If you have found documentation that indicates reasons for concern or elation, please share them.  My research has been limited to an afternoon and an evening during the break.  I admit I am mostly just spitballing in this post.

One thing that has changed, and I imagine this was planned under Farrell, is that the local pro-life Mass and march will be split into two days, and the march will be little more than a short stroll from the convention center to an empty parking lot on deserted, weekend downtown streets (the last bit being per usual, unfortunately).  This isn’t a major change, formerly held on one day with a Mass and a mile or so long march through downtown Dallas, the local pro-life March has, over the years, degenerated into a self-congratulatory spectacle garnering precious little media coverage and accomplishing mostly mutual back-patting. I don’t criticize those who participate, it’s certainly fine to get some reinforcement for one’s pro-life beliefs, but the March reaches basically no one who is not already converted and I don’t think it accomplishes a great deal in the defense of life in any concrete sense. As such, we’re going to just pray/counsel outside a mill, instead of participating in the March.  Unfortunately, in the wake of the court’s overturning of Texas HB2, mills that had closed down due to the bill are re-opening, like the notorious Northpark mill which is nearly complete.



1. aquinas54 - January 5, 2017

I did some research on Burns when he was announced. While I also heard Fr. John Trigilio on EWTN compliment him and claim long-time friendship dating back to seminary days, I found these two stories somewhat concerning. Granted, his comments in the Crux story are actually pretty non-committal and could have come from any USCCB mouthpiece. But the book list in the Patheos piece is a real concern. Bokenkotter’s Church history is unabashedly left/liberal, and the commentary on the Gospel of St. John is written by a priest who taught at a protestant seminary for 30 years and is notorious for being a “pioneer” of the “historical-critical” method of exegesis of Sacred Scripture. In fairness, I have not read either book, but I wouldn’t waste my time based on what I’ve seen about these two authors.

All this said, if he strongly supports the pro-life cause things probably won’t be any worse than under Farrell, but I was really hoping for someone who would encourage the FSSP to proliferate in the Diocese. Maybe Burns will still do that, but I’m not seeing much to encourage me yet.



Glad you’re back in the saddle and hope you had a great Christmas.


2. Baseballmomof8 - January 5, 2017

Welcome back TB… and happy New Year. We just drove home (through a near blizzard) from a nice break celebrating 40 years of wedded bliss…. ok, 40 years of wedded 😉

3. area pro-lifer - January 5, 2017

The National March for Life in DC gets little to no mainstream media coverage either. Would you say it’s worth the time, effort and expensditures of the hundreds of thousands who attend each year ? I’ve never attended either march but I’m not ready to say they don’t accomplish much. I know people who have attended each. I think they do reinforce pro-life beliefs and provide a social / networking opportunity as well as community prayer time. In bad weather they could be seen as penitential. In any weather, the march might be experienced as a pilgrimage — in DC to the Supreme Court building where abortion was legalized, and in Dallas to the downtown federal building where Roe was filed. I do hope the new bishop will make pro-life a priority. That being said, now-Bishop Seitz of El Paso was quite pro-life while in this diocese. However, in El Paso his priority seems to have switched to “migration” and that is what he has become known for on a national basis — for example he was on C-Span awhile back testifying before Congress on that issue.

On a different but related note – I might also add, that not being a Latin Mass attendee myself, I could be tempted to say the same thing about this blog that is said here about the pro-life march — doesn’t get much media attention, doesn’t reach many outside the Latin Mass communities much less persuade others to attend such liturgies, provides opportunities for mutual encouragement and back-slapping, doesn’t seem to accomplish much in a concrete sense… Yet I’m sure the blogger and those who read it regularly might deem it essential.

4. DM - January 5, 2017

Welcome back Tantum. Keep us updated on your new bishop as things unfold.

5. Gc5341 - January 5, 2017

If you want more insight into the new Bishop read his columns and pastoral letters. Here is a link to his diocesan website in Juneau Alaska:


6. David - January 5, 2017


Glad you are back. Yes, I was surprised this appointment came this fast, and you know I follow vacant sees (I am pleased Rockville Center got Barres, and I was pleased that Tampa St. Petersburg got Parkes), but Burns wasn’t on my radar screen. I suspected Burbidge might have been in the running for Dallas, but he got Arlington (Virginia) and I hope Caggiano and Rhoades are short listed for Cleveland (Lennon is pretty good, but the Pope accepted his resignation last week due to declining health).

Anyway, I have some mixed feelings about Burns, primarily “is he ready for a large See like Dallas?” but he does seem to have a history of being visible and accessible through past assignments, which I hope and pray continues. I was also pleased that he was formed at the Mount, which like Borromeo stuck to its guns on Church teaching during the turbulence of the 70s and 80s.

Tantumblogo, I am willing to give this guy a chance. I don’t think he’s a McElroy or a Lynch (Lynch’s retirement was accepted last month by the Pope), and I don’t think Dallas is getting someone like Clark (who didn’t support Respect Life in his diocese), Hubbard, Sullivan (who supported women’s ordination), Pilla, Pilarzyk, or even a Gossman. I have also heard that the Vatican is planning to appoint a second auxiliary bishop for Dallas, but that may be many more months.

Tantumblogo - January 5, 2017

I think you summed up my feelings very well. While he has made some sketchy statements in the past, I don’t know how significant they are, and I tend to think they are outweighed by the approval he seemed to get from Ratzinger in two important appointments. My main concern is the one you have, is a guy who just left a diocese smaller than most parishes here really ready to handle a diocese vastly larger and growing at an impressive rate (though not half as large as the official statistics portray, practically speaking)? I guess we shall see. I am also giving him the benefit of the doubt, which is why I basically ignored the book recommendations and Crux article. I think we have to know that virtually any prelate formed in that timeframe of 70s-90s is going to have a very twisted knowledge of sources of Dogma/catechesis. For now, I’ll just wait and see.

Frank - January 5, 2017

That makes sense to me as well. I also appreciate David’s research and comment. Thanks.

7. Camper - January 5, 2017

Cdl. Farrell is swine for giving the Holy Eucharist to public adulterers! Long live Bishop Fellay!

8. Richard Malcolm - January 5, 2017

1. I think this appointment demonstrates the vitality of Cardinal Wuerl’s power in the church. If Burns is not quite so clearly a Wuerl disciple as Farrell was, he still came up in Pittsburgh during his time there.

2. As for Pittsburgh’s present ordinary, Bp Zubik, I direct your attention to a recent post by Liturgy Guy detailing his struggles in identifying not only good liturgy but much else about why his diocese has seen its Mass attendance drop 40% since 2001. https://liturgyguy.com/2016/08/20/we-need-sacred-liturgy-not-better-worship/

3. It is hard to make out Burns clearly. I would be surprised if he is worse than Farrell, and he might well be a little better. The fact is that the diocese is growing, thanks to immigration (from in country and and out), and there’s a decent pool of seminarians, so he could leave things mostly on auto-pilot, and not get himself into trouble. And odds are, that’s what will happen.

Tim - January 7, 2017

Bishop Zubick is no “conservative”. He is an ecumaniac and has a zealous hatred of the SSPX.

Richard Malcolm - January 7, 2017

Oh, I’m aware of all that. Note that I did not characterize him as such.

He’s not a flaming liberal like Hubbard, Lynch or Clark were. That is about the best I can say of him. He really has no clue why his diocese is dying, let alone how he might turn it around.

We can only hope Burns is better.

Tantumblogo - January 9, 2017

My bad. He sure wears an awful rug, that much I do know.

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