Wednesday, July 2, 2003

A shrinking pool of qualified candidates?

Pope John Paul II picked Bishop O'Malley as Boston's next archbishop on Tuesday. Looking at church leaders throughout the country, Catholic observers say there were few other choices. Editor Tom Roberts of National Catholic Reporter, a newsweekly that has unearthed sex-abuse scandals since 1985, believes the past year "has pointed out how lacking in leadership the bishops' conference is." The Rev. Richard McBrien, an outspoken University of Notre Dame theologian, agrees. "There is little or no leadership talent in the hierarchy today," he says. Mr. Roberts and Father McBrien are liberals who often goad the bishops, but conservatives are worried, too. "When I look around at the current bishops and the ones I'd like to see promoted, I don't come up with too many names," concedes Philip Lawler of the Catholic World News Internet service. Russell Shaw, a longtime spokesman for the U.S. bishops' conference, says he came up with "six, eight or, generously, 10" persons among the 279 active bishops qualified to handle Boston.