Pope Francis Names Joseph Tobin to Lead Archdiocese of Newark

In his latest move to reshape the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, Pope Francis on Monday named a moderate known for standing up for refugees and nuns to be the next leader of the Archdiocese of Newark, a large and troubled diocese.

Francis’ pick is Joseph W. Tobin, currently the archbishop of Indianapolis. He made national headlines last year when he rebuffed Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, now the Republican vice-presidential nominee, by refusing to stop Catholic Charities from resettling a family of Syrian refugees.

Archbishop Tobin is so clearly in the pope’s favor that he is among 17 churchmen being made cardinals in Rome later this month. The Archdiocese of Newark has never before been led by a cardinal, the rank of those entrusted to select new popes.

His transfer to New Jersey places a second cardinal in bridge-and-tunnel proximity of the nation’s media capital, where Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York is now the undisputed spokesman on Catholic matters.

At a news conference at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark on Monday, Archbishop Tobin said he was surprised at both of his new appointments and could not explain why the pope had tapped him for two high-visibility roles.

“Sometimes I think that Pope Francis sees a lot more in me than I see in myself,” he said.

Archbishop Tobin, whose formal title is now cardinal-designate, is replacing Archbishop John J. Myers, a conservative who is among a small minority of American prelates who announced long ago that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Holy Communion.

Archbishop Myers’s tenure was hobbled in recent years after he failed to ensure that a priest convicted of child sexual abuse no longer had access to children. He was also widely criticized for using more than half a million dollars of church money to build an addition onto his weekend home that included three fireplaces, a whirlpool and elevator, even while he was closing schools.

In September, Archbishop Myers suspended from ministry the Rev. Warren Hall, accusing the priest of “confusing the faithful” by publicly supporting some gay rights groups and a Catholic high school counselor who had been fired for marrying her partner.

Archbishop Myers exemplified the church’s “culture warrior model of leadership” while Archbishop Tobin is in sync with Francis’ emphasis on dialogue, said Michael Sean Winters, a columnist at the National Catholic Reporter, an independent liberal-leaning publication, and a visiting fellow at Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

At the news conference, Archbishop Tobin said he was concerned that the “red-state, blue-state mentality” that had polarized the country had also infected the church. He said that the church could play a role in helping the country heal the divide after the election.

He said that Cardinal Dolan had called him on Monday morning to welcome him. Asked if he anticipated that they would have a competitive relationship, Archbishop Tobin said, “If there’s any competition I hope it’s who can serve the people of God best.”

Bishops are required to submit retirement letters to the Vatican when they turn 75, but are often kept in their posts far longer. Archbishop Myers turned 75 in July. Francis has quickly accepted his retirement, while allowing one of his most prominent American allies, the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, to continue to serve for a year now beyond his 75th birthday, in November 2015.

Newark is one of the 10 largest dioceses in the country and one of the most ethnically diverse, with about 1.5 million Catholics in 214 parishes that offer Mass in 20 different languages, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese. The Newark archdiocese includes the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union. The news that Archbishop Tobin had been chosen to lead it was first reported by NJ Advance Media.

Archbishop Tobin is to be formally installed in Newark on Jan. 6.

Archbishop Tobin, who is 64, a native of Detroit and the oldest of 13 children, is a former superior general of the Redemptorist religious order. He was serving as the second-highest official in the Vatican office that deals with priests, brothers and nuns in religious orders as the Vatican was conducting two separate investigations of American nuns over accusations they had strayed from doctrine.

While some American bishops encouraged the investigations, Archbishop Tobin was supportive of the nuns and questioned the need for the Vatican’s intervention.

Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, transferred Archbishop Tobin to Indianapolis in 2012 before he had served his usual five-year term at the Vatican, a move widely seen as a consequence of his advocacy for the nuns. Francis ended the investigations and expressed appreciation for the women in a surprise meeting at the Vatican last year.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment