Pope Francis’ choice as the next archbishop of Hartford, Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair, is cut from the same episcopal cloth as most of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s American appointees.
Describing the appointment as a “countersign,” National Catholic Reporter blogger and Connecticut native Michael Sean Winters grumped, “This was a missed opportunity to send a signal to all the bishops in the United States that the Holy Father is calling for a different style of pastoral leadership in the Church.” Lauding Blair for his managerial skills, Whispers in the Loggia’s Rocco Palmo Blair called him “a figure none would mistake for being part of the USCCB’s centrist or progressive blocs.”
A longtime Vatican apparatchik, in Toledo Blair has been notable for standing with the forces of doctrinal control and hierarchical enforcement. In 2009, he was one of those bishops condemning Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to speak at commencement. The same year, he was tapped by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to head its “doctrinal assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the organization representing most American nuns. His two reports set the stage for the CDF’s current project of subordinating the LCWR more closely to “the teachings and discipline of the Church.”
In a video made last year, Blair looks and sounds like he’s been sucking on a lemon as he defends the effort “to remedy significant and longstanding doctrinal problems connected with the activities and programs of the LCWR.” In his bill of particulars, he attacks the organization for giving its 2012 Outstanding Leadership Award to Sr. Sandra Schneiders, retired professor of New Testament studies and Christian spirituality at Santa Clara University. Schneiders, said Blair, “has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel.”
In her acceptance speech, Schneiders had this to say:
Given the project that is Religious Life it is not at all surprising that this lifeform has generated, and is still developing, a form of Gospel leadership which is increasingly emerging into public view as a genuine alternative to ecclesiastical or secular leadership defined as dominative power… This kind of servant leadership in this kind of Gospel community is as baffling to those in power today as was Jesus’ mode of leadership to the Temple hierarchy and the Roman Empire of his time.