Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Father Barron's departure: bad news for Chicago

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 23, 2015

The headline on a Crux story says it all: “With the Rev. Robert Barron headed to LA, Archbishop Cupich can further reshape Chicago.”

Many Catholics who know his work are rejoicing at the news that Father Barron, an outstanding evangelist, will become a bishop. Unfortunately there’s another side to the story. Father Barron will be leaving Chicago-- where, since 2012, he has been also been doing outstanding work as rector of Mundelein Seminary.

This is a very unusual sort of appointment. There have been times when a prominent priest of one diocese was appointed the bishop of another diocese. The recent history of the Chicago archdiocese yields two examples, in fact: In 1983, shortly after then-Archbishop Bernardin took the helm, Father John Keating, who had been the interim administrator of the archdiocese, was named Bishop of Arlington, Virginia. A decade later Father Edward Slattery, the president of the Catholic Extension Society, was appointed Bishop of Tulsa. But if there is another case in which a prominent priest of one diocese was named auxiliary bishop of another, I can’t think of it.*

Father Barron makes no bones about the fact that the late Cardinal George was his mentor. But now there’s a new broom sweeping through the Chicago archdiocese. With Father Barron in LA, Archbishop Cupich can appoint a new seminary rector, to train priests the way he wants them trained. It’s not likely to be an improvement.

Father Barron has said that his writing, speaking, and podcasting will continue; that’s all to the good. For the rest, the gain for Los Angeles is a loss for Chicago.

*- Update: Alert readers have called my attention to several examples of prominet priests who became auxiliaries in other metropolitan archdioceses: Egan (from Chicago) as auxiliary of New York; Braxton (also Chicago) to St. Louis; Coyne (Boston) to Indianapolis; Conley (Wichita) to Denver; Cepeda (San Antonio) to Detroit. It's noteworthy that the first four all soon were given their own (arch)dioceses, while Bishop Cepeda is still young and has only been an auxiliary for a few years. So the "good news" portion of this story should not be overlooked. 



Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Jul. 24, 2015 8:30 PM ET USA

    I can tell you from conversations with Chicagoans, they are deeply concerned for who takes Barron's place. As soon as Cupich was named, I knew Barron would not last long at the sem. Promoting him up and out is a clever way of doing it. Whether the administrative burden will prove his undoing, as it did with Sheen, is another matter.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 24, 2015 7:35 PM ET USA

    Fr. Barron is infectiously enthusiastic about the Faith and knowledgeable. These qualities will come handy on the Left Coast; he will be able to do much good for Christ and His Church. New Chicago appointments by Abp. Cupich are a mixed bag, the good, the bad and the ugly. Hopefully a new seminary rector will come from the first category.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jul. 23, 2015 7:35 PM ET USA

    I suspect this has something to do with Abp Gomez asking Rome to help him restore orthodoxy to LA. Bishop-elect Barron can certainly do something in that direction.