Church shakeup: Wuerl is in, conservative cardinal is out


The little boy who grew up in Mt. Washington will become possibly the most powerful American in the Catholic Church.

On Monday, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the former Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh, was tapped by Pope Francis for an influential post: the Congregation for Bishops. “Under the Vatican’s process for picking bishops,” John L. Allen Jr. explains in the National Catholic Reporter, “the papal ambassador, or nuncio, in each country is responsible for compiling a list of names of candidates … for openings as they arise.” Typically, Allen says, a recommendation by the panel is accepted by the pontiff.

So it looks like Wuerl, one of a dozen new appointees from around the world, will be playing a key role in selecting the next bishops and therefore shaping the American church.

But Wuerl isn’t the one generating all the buzz. It’s Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American who leads the Vatican’s highest court. Burke was among 14 not confirmed by the pope for the Congregation of Bishops.

An outspoken conservative on issues such as gay marriage and abortion, Burke seemed to tut-tut in a recent interview with EWTN. “One gets the impression, or it’s interpreted this way in the media, that [Pope Francis] thinks we’re talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Burke said. “But we can never talk enough about that.”

On the other hand, the shake-up may have more to do with style than with substance. Burke displays a fondness for regalia — he likes to wear “the long train of billowing red silk known as cappa magna, and other such vestments,” according to the New York Times — that seems to clash with the simplicity on the new pontificate.

In any case, Francis is in charge and making his presence felt.