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