Leonard Blair, Hartford’s new archbishop, excites not

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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.
Addressing a ministry conference at the University of Dallas last Friday, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez, one of the pope’s group of eight advisors, laid down the Franciscan line on the role of the ecclesiastical power structure. “The Church is not the hierarchy, but the people of God,” he said. “The hierarchy has no purpose in itself and for itself, but only in reference and subordination to the community. The function of the hierarchy is redefined in reference to Jesus as Suffering Servant, not as “Pantocrator” (lord and emperor of this world); only from the perspective of someone crucified by the powers of this world it is possible to found, and to explain, the authority of the Church.”
It’s hard not to see what Rodríguez had to say as being closer to Schneiders’ point of view than to Blair’s. For his part, Pope Francis reaffirmed the canonical investigation of the LCWR in April, but in August seemed to minimize its significance. “Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing,” he told a delegation of Latin American priests and nuns. “But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward.”
In his self-introduction to Hartford yesterday, Blair emphasized the importance of helping to bring the estranged back into the church, of addressing the needs of the poor, and of reaching out those of other religious traditions. The thing about yes-men is that, whoever’s in power, they tend to say yes.
  • Judy Jones

    Statement by Gail Howard of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (203 644 0387, Pennyq99@aol.com)

    We are members of two organizations: a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and a reform group called Voice of the Faithful (VOTF)

    We are here to challenge Hartford’s new Catholic Archbishop Leonard Blair to

    1) explain his actions during the investigation of a priest who murdered a nun,

    2) use his influence to try and get the priest defrocked, and

    3) post on the archdiocesan website the names, photos and whereabouts of current and former Hartford area priests, nuns, seminarians and other child molesting clerics.

    First, let’s be clear: neither Blair nor his staff have been formally charged with wrongdoing in the case of Fr. Gerald Robinson, who was convicted of brutally murdering Sister Margaret Ann Pahl. But there remain a number of troubling unresolved questions about how Blair and his top aides behaved before and during that investigation.

    Initially Bishop Blair’s staff provided police with three pages of documents about Fr. Gerald Robinson, who had long been a suspect in the 1980 slaying of Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl. Believing church officials were withholding records, Toledo police twice executed “no knock” search warrants on Blair’s diocesan offices. They found scores and scores of more documents, some of which implicated Fr. Robinson.


    Blair’s lawyers (and the prosecutors) went to court to block the release of what was found. Church officials won. To date, those files have never been released.

    To honor the memory of Sr. Pahl and his pledges to be “open and transparent,” we believe Blair should explain his actions – and the actions of other Toledo Catholic officials in the case.

    Second, Fr. Robinson has never been defrocked. Despite being arrested in 2004 and convicted in 2006, he remains a priest today. We are disturbed by this. Here again, we believe Blair owes his flock – in Ohio and Connecticut – some explanations.

    Allegedly, Catholic officials have “streamlined” the defrocking process. But for some reason, Fr. Robinson’s case languishes. We believe “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And we’ve seen some (not many) predator priests defrocked in months. We can’t help but suspect that Blair hasn’t done all he can to push this process.

    We want Blair to work harder – and enlist his flock’s help – to pressure the Vatican to get Fr. Robinson defrocked.

    Third, roughly 30 US bishops have posted many of the proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics in their dioceses on their websites. In Toledo, Blair posted a partial list, largely in response to public pressure. For the safety of kids and the healing of victims, we want him to do so in Hartford too. Making the names of living predators known and accessible helps protect kids. Making the names of deceased predators known and accessible helps heal victims. Bishops have repeatedly pledged to be “open and transparent” about clergy sex crimes. This is the best place to start – by giving parents, parishioners and the public full access to the names, whereabouts and histories of child molesting clerics.

    Finally, we also urge Connecticut Catholics and citizens to report known and suspected clergy sex crimes and cover ups to police and prosecutors, not to church officials. This is sound advice no matter which man heads which diocese. Child sex abuse is a crime. It should be treated like a crime. It should be reported –whether known or suspected – to the independent, experienced and unbiased professionals in law enforcement, not to the often inexperienced and biased employees in Catholic offices.

    Contact – David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)

  • gloria sullivan

    ” He owes his flock” OMG. ! ? What on earth does that mean? He has been accused of murdering a nun. He is a religious, accused of killing a religious…This Roman Church is living in the ” dark ages” This is the way things were handled in the OT.
    I don’t understand how the ” Faithful “can put up
    with an antiquated thinking process (that is passed down to the priests, nuns & brothers)that is demonstrated with each passing day, for the ” dumb sheep” to believe, which they do, like the pathetic, gullible people they are! Find the REAL GOD , HE IS NOTHING LIKE THESE evil chasing demons!

  • gloria sullivan

    I was 60 years a faithful stupid Catholic. We, my husband & I disavowed this evil place in 2001. We had religious in our family that told us stories that we would never believe, W e were so completely generational brain washed. how could we believe..We were apologists for these evils. OMG NO MORE. JESUS IS LORD! , NOT the miserable, taken in by Satan ,rcc!

  • Maurice Hofer May

    Archbishop Blair comes from the same archdiocese (Detroit) as embattled Archbishop Nienstedt of St Paul-Minneapolis. And both are cut from the same cloth — all power to the clergy. Calling both of them “unfit leaders” is if anything an understatement. The people deserve better.

  • Kurt

    I’m giving Pope Francis the benefit of assuming these guys promotions were in the pipelines for a while (or maybe even in the pipeline for a bigger job). Give it some time to see the real impact of Francis.

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  • drwho13

    Correct, but it doesn’t make any difference to the people (pew sheep). They will still throw their money into the Sunday collection. Withholding money is the only vote we Catholics have, and we’re not getting out the vote, business as usual.

  • tim

    What evidence is there for any of you to accuse or insinuate that Blair had anything to do with the murder of a nun? I thought progressives were opposed to judging?

  • Tony de New York

    Gloria sulivan, you are an ANGRY and BITTER, you r going AGAISNT GOD’s church.

  • BJ Thibodeau

    Absolutely true. Blair is of Polish ancestry and was ordained a Bishop by JP 2 after working in Rome for17 years. He is a careerist. Never had a parish until he returned to states. He cares nothing about anything except returning the Church to pre Vatican ll domination. BJT

  • Amos

    The bishop appointment process is an outdated and corrupt system that seems to thrive on cronyism and nepotism. The system needs to change. The local Church – not the papal nuncio – should draw up the terna of candidates to send to the Roman Curia.

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