Conniving your way to episcopal ordination

Conniving your way to episcopal ordination

Terrence Berres examines a Milwaukee Magazine story on “Catholics in Crisis” and more specifically an anecdote from Bishop Richard Sklba, auxiliary of Milwaukee, who claims he was punished for supporting women’s ordination.

Sklba tells the magazine that he chaired a task force of the Catholic Biblical Association in 1979 that produced a report calling for women’s ordination. Another priest interviewed for the piece, Fr. Javier Bustos, tells the magazine that when John Paul II became pope, Sklba, then still a priest, came under pressure to tone it down and he refused. Then the brave Sklba, standing up against the forces of oppression,  “almost” wasn’t appointed bishop in retaliation. Excuse me, but almost not getting a plum assignment doesn’t seem like much of a punishment. Did someone twist the Pope’s arm? Was Sklba forced on him? No, they just deceived the Pope. Of course, the brave Sklba doesn’t hold a grudge.

In his office, as a bittersweet reminder, Sklba keeps a statue of the prophet St. Jeremiah shown in stocks and “punished for saying the truth.

As Berres says, Sklba thus exemplifies the twin liberal episcopal virtues of self-pity and disingenuousness. I might add false humility to the list. I mean, come on.

Berres then quotes from Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s book the story of how he and Sklba gamed the Vatican and John Paul, making it seem like Sklba backed down. After the announcement of the appointment and before the consecration, the Vatican told Weakland it was going to cancel the appointment (so Weakland says), unless Sklba issued a retraction. Instead, the two conspirators crafted a non-reaction retraction. The Vatican said it needed to appear in the Milwaukee newspapers the day before the ceremony. When the statement was printed, but was played as the non-retraction it was, it was too late for the Vatican to stop the ceremony. Sklba and Weakland laughed all the way to the episcopal ordination over how they so effectively duped the Vatican.

“Catholics in Crisis,” indeed.

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