There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “May you live in interesting times.” On January 4th, when Jerome Listecki is installed as the 11th Archbishop of Milwaukee, he will certainly be living in interesting times, locally and nationally.
Currently the Bishop of LaCrosse, Archbishop-Designate Listecki boasts a long history of service to the Catholic Church. Ordained a priest in 1975, he earned a civil law degree from DePaul University and a graduate degree in Canon Law and Moral Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome; he’s also a retired lieutenant colonel with the United States Reserve and a producer for many television programs. Those credentials are certainly good things: Listecki has big shoes to fill.
Milwaukee’s beloved former Archbishop Timothy Dolan took over a diocese embroiled by sexual abuse scandals and other difficulties inherited from his predecessor, Rembert Weakland. Dolan revitalized the Catholic community through his affable demeanor and passion for the Catholic faith, reflected in increased vocations and the successful “Faith in Our Future” capital stewardship campaign.
Dolan’s departure left the Catholics of Southeastern Wisconsin waiting anxiously for a new appointment, wondering who he would be and in which direction that new appointment would take the Archdiocese, especially when the bishops in the United States have been particularly vocal on current political events.
With the election of Barack Obama, and the impending passage of a massive health care reform bill, Catholic bishops have been some of the harshest critics of the provisions that allow for federal funding of abortion and threaten the individual consciences of doctors and other medical personnel. This opposition has not come without harsh rebuke from several politicians, including Rep. Lynn Woolsey who called for an IRS investigation into the Catholic Church.
Listecki is no stranger to criticizing politicians and abortion. Listecki penned a statement rebuking the University of Notre Dame citing “President Obama’s continual offenses against the sanctity of human life through his executive actions and appointments since taking office” and for correcting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she misspoke on Catholic teaching regarding the beginning of life.
In a November 15 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, area Catholics expressed concerns about Listecki’s willingness to enter into the political fray, quoting one person who felt “put off” by Listecki’s political involvement. This trepidation does not seem to faze Listecki, however. Two weeks ago, he issued a statement regarding the group “Young Catholics for Choice”, who seek to “serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.” In addressing this group, Listecki said:
While people can call themselves whatever they want, it is my duty as a bishop to state clearly and unequivocally that by professing and disseminating views in grave contradiction to Catholic teaching, members of organizations like “Young Catholics for Choice” in fact disown their Catholic heritage, tragically distancing themselves from that communion with the Church to which they are called.
Whether this statement will be considered pastoral or political remains to be seen, but his past actions give Milwaukee Catholics some indication of what they can expect from their new Archbishop, at a time when relations between the Catholic Church and the government are especially heated.
Note: Listecki’s Installation Mass is scheduled for 2 pm on Monday, January 4th at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist; attendance is by ticket only but the Mass will be broadcast on WTMJ 4 and WISN 12, as well as streamed online through www.wisn.com.