Pope Francis surprise: Newark, N.J., gets cardinal, Philly doesn't
When Pope Francis creates 17 new cardinals Saturday in Rome, there will be some American surprises among them. One will be the presence of Indianapolis' Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, a little-known moderate soon to be the Archdiocese of Newark's first cardinal.
When Pope Francis creates 17 new cardinals Saturday in Rome, there will be some American surprises among them.
One will be the presence of Indianapolis' Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, a little-known moderate soon to be the Archdiocese of Newark's first cardinal.
Another will be the absence of Philadelphia's prominent archbishop, Charles J. Chaput.
Although Chaput is widely regarded as one of the American hierarchy's most capable leaders, Francis appears to have bypassed the 72-year-old conservative who hosted him at last year's World Meeting of Families.
Since 1921, popes have presented the five previous archbishops of Philadelphia with the scarlet hat of a cardinal, lending the archdiocese a reputation as a "red seat" or "cardinalatial see."
It's not clear if Francis is "packing" liberal and moderate prelates onto the College of Cardinals that will one day name his successor, said William Madges, professor of theology and religious studies at St. Joseph's University.
"But it seems pretty clear," said Madges, "that Francis is intentionally breaking the tradition that certain dioceses automatically get a red hat."
Francis has also made clear he does not like clerics aspiring to honors, and has virtually discontinued the practice of naming diocesan priests "monsignors."
Archbishop Chaput and his spokesman, Ken Gavin, declined to comment for this story.
"If you love Chaput and want to see him a cardinal, then you'll resent" that Francis appears to have bypassed him, said David Gibson, a former reporter for Vatican Radio and biographer of Pope Benedict XVI.
"But it's nothing personal. Francis wants to elevate like-minded people to the College of Cardinals," said Gibson, who writes for Religion News Service.
Cardinals serve as advisers to popes, head the Vatican's most important bureaus, and may elect a new pope until they turn 80. After Saturday's consistory, or gathering of cardinals, in St. Peter's Basilica, there will be 120 cardinal-electors. Of these, Francis will have named 36 percent of them.
"It's completely wrong to see the elevation of Tobin as diminishing Archbishop Chaput," said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America.
"Chaput has done amazing things in Denver and Philadelphia and has a terrific reputation in the church," he said. The pope's choice for Newark "I think reflects something that Pope Francis wants to promote in the pastoral work of Tobin."
Tobin, 64, will be installed as archbishop in Newark's Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Jan. 6. He succeeds the unpopular Archbishop John Myers, who reached retirement age of 75 in February.
Myers controversially used $500,000 of archdiocesan moneys to expand his $750,000 retirement home in Hunterdon County and was sharply criticized for failing to report sexually abusive priests to civil authorities. Gibson, a former resident within the archdiocese, said there was "low morale" among the clergy and laity.
"I think that Pope Francis sees a lot more in me than I see in myself," Tobin, a priest of the missionary Redemptorist order, joked at a news conference on Monday.
But some observers say they see much of Francis in Tobin, who this year publicly rebuked Indianapolis Gov. (now Vice President-elect) Mike Pence's refusal to allow Syrian refugees into the state, saying his archdiocese would continue to resettle them.
And while serving as second-in-command of the Vatican's office for clergy and religious, Tobin in 2012 questioned the need for a controversial Vatican investigation into perceived liberalism among some women's religious orders in the United States.
Pope Benedict sent Tobin to Indianapolis that same year.
Three years later, however, Francis called off the nun inquiry. The two prelates have been friends since 2005, and Tobin once visited him when the future pontiff was still Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.
Tobin served 12 years in Rome as the Redemptorists' superior general, and speaks Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish in addition to English.
While popes rarely explain their reasons for assigning bishops or making them cardinals, Madges said it seems the pontiff is trying to broaden the representation of parts of the Catholic world in the College of Cardinals.
He noted that three years into Francis' pontificate, the archbishoprics of Venice and Turin, Italy, are still without their traditional red hats.
And yet Francis has named a cardinal to the remote Polynesian island nation of Tonga and another to Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island where tens of thousands of refugees from Africa and the Middle East have landed in hopes of entering Europe, many at great peril.
The conclave that elected Francis in March 2013 had cardinals from 48 countries. As of Saturday's consistory, it will contain cardinals from 79 countries, including Mauritius and Papua New Guinea.
Five cardinals will be from Europe, three from Latin America, two from Asia, two from Africa, and three from the United States.
The last group will include Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, who will head a new Vatican office on family and laity, and Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago. Both are viewed as doctrinally moderate.
Another striking absence in the consistory will be Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, an archdiocese headed by cardinals since 1948. Detroit, St. Louis, and Baltimore - other longtime "red seats" - also have been bypassed in recent years.
Chaput - who has said he was completely unprepared for the clergy sex-abuse issues and massive fiscal deficits he encountered on his arrival to Philadelphia - is sometimes described as a conservative "culture warrior" for his fierce opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
In July he made headlines when he posted notice that Catholics living in "irregular" sexual relationships - heterosexual cohabitations, same-sex partnerships, and those divorced and remarried outside the Catholic Church - still could not receive Holy Communion or serve as lectors, eucharistic ministers, or on parish councils.
Coming just four months after Francis had issued a major church document, Amoris Laetitia, that appeared to give bishops more latitude in such matters, Chaput's traditionalist position struck some in the archdiocese as unduly rigid.
Philadelphia Mayor Kenney even denounced it as "not Christian," but Madges said Chaput evidently views clear articulation of the church's traditional moral teachings to be a "gift to the faithful."
While Chaput "has made remarks that hint at a focus on a smaller and purer church," Schneck noted, he said he believes it has been "Tobin's outreach to the marginalized and outsiders" that has won him a red hat.