Changes in Roman Curia: Dallas bishop named prefect of new dicastery

Changes in Roman Curia: Dallas bishop named prefect of new dicastery

Catholic World News – August 17, 2016

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas as prefect of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for Laity, the Family, and Life.

The Pope has also issued a motu proprio, Sedula Mater, formally establishing the new dicastery, which he had announced in June. [See today’s separate CWN headline story in comment below.]

Born in Dublin in 1947, Kevin Farrell was ordained a priest of the Legionaries of Christ in 1978. Six years later he left the Legionaries to become a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. St. John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Washington in 2001, and Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Dallas in 2007.

Pope Francis has also named Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, as the new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, whose activities fall under the purview of the new dicastery [a “Kasperite Bishop” and “troubling news” according to Maike Hickson in a report on OnePeterFive and Angelqueen]. Archbishop Paglia, 71, succeeds Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, 73, the Opus Dei prelate who has led the academy since 2010.

Pope Francis also named Archbishop Paglia the grand chancellor of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, succeeding Cardinal Agostino Vallini, 76.

Finally, Pope Francis has named the Milanese theologian Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, 71, as the new president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He succeeds Msgr. Livio Melina, 63.

The August 17 announcement from the Vatican did not mention a new post for Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the Polish prelate who has been president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity since 2003. Cardinal Rylko– who at 71 is well short of normal retirement age– will probably receive a new assignment soon.

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7 comments on “Changes in Roman Curia: Dallas bishop named prefect of new dicastery

  1. Pope establishes new Vatican office for Laity, Family, and Life

    Catholic World News – August 17, 2016

    Pope Francis has formally established a new Vatican dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

    Beginning on September 1, the new office will take over the functions of the existing Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

    Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas as prefect of the new dicastery. [See today’s separate CWN headline story in above post.]

    With a motu proprio entitled Sedula Mater (“conscientious mother”), the Pontiff formally set up the new office. He had established the dicastery in June, announcing that it would open on September 1. The new document, issued on August 17, clarifies that announcement.

    In his motu proprio the Pope explains that the new Vatican office is designed to help the universal Church respond to the particular needs of our time. “In particular, our thoughts turn to the laity, the family, and life, to whom we wish to offer support and help, because they are active witness to the Gospel in our time and an expression of the goodness of the Redeemer,” the Pope writes.

    Oddly, the August 17 announcement from the Vatican described the new office only as a “dicastery”– the term used for offices of the Roman Curia– without answering the question of whether it would be classified as a Congregation. There are currently nine congregations, representing the highest level of the Vatican’s organizational chart. There has been speculation that the new office would be placed on the same level, underlining its importance.

    The three offices being merged into the new dicastery– the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Pontifical Council for the Family, and Pontifical Academy for Life– will cease to exist when the new office opens on September 1.

  2. [More on Bishop Farrell – as head of a Vatican dicastery, soon to be an archbishop and then a cardinal?]

    Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell Given Huge Promotion, Transferred to Rome
    August 17, 2016
    Posted by Tantumblogo

    Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell’s increasingly controversial tenure as Bishop of Dallas has come to an end. He was appointed by Francis to head the important new Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life just created. His transfer is effective in 2 weeks, which is really short notice, so we can expect that his effective tenure as Bishop of Dallas is over as of today, or perhaps, weeks ago. Dallas Morning News coverage next [with some interspersed comments in brackets], some commentary from me at the bottom:

    Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell has been tapped for a position at the Vatican, where he will oversee a new department focused on the lives and families of ordinary Catholics around the world.

    The promotion, effective Sept. 1, will make Farrell the highest-ranking American clergyman serving in the Vatican, the Diocese of Dallas announced Wednesday.

    The move leaves an opening in Dallas, where Farrell has been bishop since 2007……..

    …….Farrell said Wednesday morning that he was “extremely humbled” by the appointment and “grateful for the Holy Father’s confidence in me.” But, he said, “I meet this news with mixed emotions.”

    “Dallas has been my home for 10 years and, from the beginning, I quickly grew to love the beautiful people and culture here,” he said in a statement. “The strong faith, kindness and generosity of the people in the Diocese of Dallas surpassed all of my expectations.”

    A diocese spokeswoman said a new bishop could be appointed as soon as October. Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly will lead the diocese in the interim.

    Pope Francis chose Farrell to lead the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, a newly-created department that combines the responsibilities of two existing pontifical councils. It will be part of the Roman Curia, an administrative body that advises and helps the pope carry out the church’s affairs worldwide.

    In his new role, Farrell, 68, will focus on the needs of lay people, regular Catholics who are not part of the clergy.

    The reorganization comes as Pope Francis strives to make the Catholic Church more inclusive and efficient. [“Inclusive.” That’s what Christ stressed all the time, wasn’t it? He never said anything about bringing the sword of division, separating the wheat from the chaff, or anything like that. The redefinition of Jesus Christ along sexular pagan lines continues apace.]

    The pope wrote that he created the new department so that the Roman Curia can effectively “respond to the situation of our times and adapt to the needs of the universal Church.”…….

    …….The Diocese of Dallas saw an increase in vocations to the priesthood and raised $130 million during a landmark fundraising campaign under his leadership, said diocesan spokeswoman Annette Gonzales Taylor. [Well, just about any vocations would have been an increase from the total collapse of the seminary system and ordinations under the last decade or so of his predecessor. Ordinations have averaged 3 or 4 a year under Farrell, much more than before, but not nearly enough to make up for the number of priests set to retire soon]

    “We’re exceptionally proud, but we’re also exceptionally sad to be losing him,” Gonzales Taylor said Wednesday. “He’s just be an outstanding leader and, from my point of view, a wonderful boss. He’s going to be sorely missed.”……

    …….Farrell’s new assignment will reunite him with his brother, Brian, who is also a bishop and the secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

    Farrell asked for prayers as he begins “this next unexpected chapter of my priesthood.”

    “My God continue to bless the Diocese of Dallas,” he said.

    In the end, Bishop Farrell’s tenure played out almost exactly as expected by many local observers when he was first named Bishop of Dallas in 2007. It was widely expected then that he would not retire here, that he would be something of an interim or “caretaker” bishop. Certain well-informed local priests expected him to spend 7 or 8 years (in reality, it was 9) addressing the myriad problems left by his predecessor Charles Grahmann and then be promoted to some dicastery in Rome, to finish out his career near his much-beloved brother. This is exactly what happened.

    In many material respects, Bishop Farrell’s tenure was a successful one – he got the Diocese out of debt after massive payouts to the survivors of priest sex abuse cases, and did somewhat improve the seminary and the number of priests being ordained, which latter had all but died under his predecessor.

    I have already observed, I believe, how hard Bishop Farrell has changed direction under the current pontificate. He has really tacked into the wind. Under Benedict Bishop Farrell was fairly conservativish, a bit “right” of center in the American episcopate. Since, 2013, however, he seems to have drifted quite a bit in the other direction.

    As a man, like so many bishops – though he was, it seems, an extreme case – he was very hard to get in front of. He seemed to be constantly gone, or had others run very effective interference for him. Even in public events, getting much more than a handshake and a smile from Farrell was all but impossible. Obtaining a meeting was apparently reserved for a select few (if any). Even though he supposedly obtained a mansion for fund-raising, there are no reports of fundraisers actually being held there, to my knowledge. Farrell tended to “rule” from behind the scenes and was certainly not above hiding behind bureaucratic subterfuge, as the Joyce Rupp/Dr. Rick Gaillardetz imbroglios, the twin issues that launched this blog in late 2009, showed.

    Farrell was always assessed as a very political creature who would not be long in Dallas. Benedict’s abdication probably kept him here a year or two longer than planned. But now he has gotten his reward, a plum assignment, in Rome, near his brother, in which to ride out his career. Many have speculated Bishop Farrell’s socially liberal policies of late (banning guns in all diocesan facilities – since repealed – strident support for unlimited Hispanic immigration, constant paeans on his blog to the new wisdom of Francis, taking up a crusade on domestic violence, etc) were perhaps related to a desire to seem in step with the new mood in Rome. It is likely these later stands may have been more reflective of Farrell’s true beliefs, given his status as protege of the very troubling Cardinal McCarrick, and may well serve as indicators of why Farrell was chosen for this very important new office.

    Of course we are all very happy for Bishop Farrell and wish him very well in his new and important role, which could have a huge impact on the life of the Church. As to how Bishop Farrell will conduct himself in this new role, he has always been a very good soldier, knowing who he needs to please and how to do it. I was not the only one to notice what seemed a fairly substantial change in Bishop Farrell’s rhetoric and pastoral emphasis after March 2013. Remember his joint statement with former Ft. Worth Bishop Vann on the USCCB’s 2008 “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” staking out a very welcome and clear guidance with respect to the life issues trumping all others in determining who Catholics can support, electorally (pretty much wiping out legitimate support for democrats)? Could you imagine him releasing such a document, today?

    We also eagerly await the naming of his replacement, which comes at such a critical juncture for this diocese. If Bishop Farrell was something of an interim crisis recovery expert, it was similarly expected that his replacement would likely be much younger and here for a very long time. It is thus vital to pray for this new bishop, conducting Rosary crusades and other prayer efforts, even outside the chancery itself, to show our filial obedience and spiritual communion with out present and future ordinaries, while imploring God that they be men worthy of the name, Catholic bishop. Please also pray for Bishop Farrell, that the Grace of Jesus Christ may guide and direct all he does according to the Truth revealed and practiced by the Church for over 1900 years in his very important new role.

    Amazingly, with the sacking of Cardinal Burke, this new appointment makes Bishop Farrell the highest ranking “American” (he’s Irish, but served most of his apostolate in the US) in the Curia. That’s something that sort of makes one go “gulp.”

    A few other interesting notes from Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia website:

    ……the Vatican statement announcing the move conspicuously did not include Farrell’s elevation to the rank of archbishop, which has always been customary practice for appointments of this kind……

    …….Third, he enjoys close ties and clear goodwill among four prominent figures in Francis’ orbit: having served as vicar-general and auxiliary of Washington under Cardinals Theodore McCarrick and Donald Wuerl until his southern transfer, the sister of the ever-influential head of Francis’ “Gang of 9,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, lives in Dallas, [Yikes] while the work that brought him to DC to begin with saw him succeed then-Bishop Sean O’Malley as director of the capital’s Centro Catolico Hispano, which the Capuchin founded a decade earlier as Latinos began to arrive in the city en masse, only leaving the role on his appointment to the Virgin Islands……..

    …….Lastly for now, as some fireworks are bound to ensue in the top rank with the appointment for a now-vacant Dallas church – where Farrell was already laying the groundwork to receive another auxiliary – it bears recalling that, with the new Prefect to be aided by three Secretaries for each of the new office’s areas of competence, the legislation establishing the Dicastery provides that (in a first for a top Curial organ) the lead deputies need not be clergy, but may likewise be named from among religious or the laity.

    Yes, I’m certain that for this new Dicastery for the Laity, Francis has found his man.

  3. Pope Francis Names Staunchly Pro-Life Bishop to Lead New Vatican Office on Pro-Life Issues


    A strong pro-life Catholic Bishop from America is headed to the Vatican to oversee its new office for families and life.

    On Wednesday, Pope Francis appointed the Dallas, Texas Catholic Bishop Kevin Farrell to the position, which will include work on pro-life issues, KDWN News reports. The newly created Vatican office is named the Dicastery for the Laity, Families and Life, a merger of several previous Vatican offices.

    The pope also appointed Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, another strong pro-life religious leader, to head the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which also includes pro-life and bioethics issues.

    Both Farrell and Paglia have been strong advocates for unborn babies in the United States and abroad. Several years ago, in a message about Catholic voters, Bishop Farrell insisted that there are no “’truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.”

    In January, he spoke during a rally in downtown Dallas where pro-lifers mourned Roe v. Wade and the deaths of millions of unborn babies in abortions.

    “This is where Roe v. Wade began,” Farrell told the crowd. “We cannot walk away and not commit ourselves to at least changing the mind and the heart of at least two or three individuals in the coming year.”

    Here is more from the report:

    Farrell’s new office is expected to include many lay Catholics in top positions, part of the pope’s aim to reinvigorate the participation of ordinary Catholics in the church and get away from what he has long criticized as an overly “clericalized” hierarchy.

    The statutes of the office, released in June, say it will have three sections: laity, family and life. The life section is designed to coordinate initiatives promoting “responsible procreation” and supporting initiatives to help women choose alternatives to abortion.

    In a statement on the Dallas diocesan website – written in both English and Spanish in a reflection of Farrell’s predominantly Latino flock – the bishop said he was humbled by the unexpected appointment and would leave his home of 10 years with mixed emotions.

    Farrell, a tweeting and blogging 68-year-old, said he looked forward to defending life and promoting the laity and family in accordance with Francis’ recent teaching document on family life, “The Joy of Love.”

    Active on Twitter, Farrell tweeted a message asking for prayers as he prepares for his new international role.

    In a blog post, he added, “I look forward to being part of the important work of the universal Church in the promotion of the laity and the apostolate of the laity and for the pastoral care of the family in accordance with the Pope’s recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, the Joy of Love, and the support of human life.”

    Priests for Life describes Paglia as a strong leader and supporter of pro-life issues.


    Bp. Kevin Farrell is known for praising liberal prelates

    by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th. • ChurchMilitant • August 17, 2016

    ROME – A bishop known for his emphasis on social justice and his praise of prelates favoring Holy Communion to civilly remarried divorcees was picked by Pope Francis to head the new super-dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

    In a communiqué released Wednesday, the Vatican named Bp. Kevin Farrell of Dallas to run his newly formed dicastery, which will begin operations September 1. Accompanying the announcement was motu proprio “Sedula Mater” formally establishing the dicastery.

    In his letter, the Pope decreed that the new Dicastery will be governed by special statutes, and all the responsibilities and functions of the current Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family will be transferred to the new dicastery as of September 1, after which the two councils will cease to exist.

    Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, called the choice of Farrell “welcome news” in his statement:

    How appropriate that so soon after the publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (AL), with its widespread and wholehearted reception in the Church, we would now have a new Vatican office to further that important ministry. We rejoice to know that this challenge has been entrusted to the very competent Bishop Farrell.

    In relation to the controversial exhortation, Farrell has praised comments on the document made by Cdl. Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria. Schönborn has shown himself a proponent of opening Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried at the past two Synods on the Family, a position at odds with longstanding Church discipline.

    Prior to being appointed ordinary of Dallas in 2007, the Irish-born Farrell was General Administrator of the Legion of Christ with responsibilities for seminaries and schools in Italy, Spain and Ireland.

    In 1984, Farrell left the Legion and incardinated into the archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Farrell’s long pedigree of social justice begins there, where he succeeded in 1986 then-Fr. Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, now Cdl. O’Malley of Boston, as director of the Spanish Catholic Center. Farrell became acting director of Catholic Charities in 1988, and made auxiliary bishop of Washington in 2002 under Cdl. Theodore McCarrick. He was named ordinary of Dallas in 2007. Bishop Farrell, fluent in Spanish, continued his emphasis of social justice issues in Dallas, going so far as to call immigration a natural right.

  5. Bishop Farrell Heads to Rome: What It Means

    Michael Sean Winters | Aug. 17, 2016 | National un-Catholic Reporter

    The news from Rome this morning is exhilarating: Pope Francis’ decision to name Bishop Kevin Farrell to head the new dicastery on family, marriage and the laity is not just good news per se because Bishop Farrell is one of the ablest administrators in the Church who also happens to possess the “smell of the sheep,” it shows again that Pope Francis has a very clear idea of what is going on in the Church in the United States, and who among the hierarchs are supportive of his vision. Like the choice two years ago of Archbishop Blase Cupich to lead the Archdiocese of Chicago, Pope Francis has selected the person whom I would have put at the top of my terna if I were permitted a terna. And, it should be noted, Bishop Farrell is one of the funniest bishops on the planet.
    The appointment came simultaneously with the motu proprio erecting the new dicastery. The motu proprio opens with the words “La Chiesa, madre premurosa,” or “the Church, like a diligent mother.” You could also translate “premurosa” as “hard working,” a nice, if subtle, rebuke to those who complain about Pope Francis not taking a vacation. “On two occasions this summer Pope Francis has issued a motu proprio — ‘As a Loving Mother’ in June on protecting children and now today ‘A Diligent Mother,’ which created this important new office. By referring to the Church as a Mother who is both loving and diligent, he reminds us of those qualities in our own mothers, he inspires us all to renew the Church, unafraid of the hard work it involves–work we see women doing every day–and always doing it with love,” said Archbishop Cupich in an email to me this morning. “I welcome the news that Pope Francis has established a new department for Laity, Family and Life and has appointed Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas as the Prefect. Bishop Farrell is uniquely qualified for this task and has my enthusiastic support.”

    The new dicastery will be charged with helping the universal Church inculturate the deliberations of the two recent synods and Amoris Laetitia which issued from those deliberations. “At a time when our Holy Father is calling the attention of the whole Church to the role of the laity and the importance of a robust, pastoral activity and support of family and married life through the establishment of this new dicastery to focus and coordinate this work, the leadership that Bishop Farrell brings will be a blessing for all of us,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl in a statement issued this morning. “How appropriate that so soon after the publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia with its widespread and wholehearted reception in the Church, we would now have a new Vatican office to further that important ministry. We rejoice to know that this challenge has been entrusted to the very competent Bishop Farrell.” I would note the cardinal’s words about the “widespread and wholehearted reception” of Amoris Laetitia. Here is his response (and the Holy Father’s response, as +Wuerl is one of the Holy Father’s principal advisors) to those who have been complaining that Amoris Laetitia is confusing or even heretical. Anyone who thinks they can casually speak ill of the text, or of anything from the pope, should know that +Farrell does not suffer fools gladly and is not the kind of person to take guff.

    In addition to running the new dicastery, Bishop Farrell have two other jobs in Rome that are worth noting. First, he will be appointed to serve on other dicasteries where his influence will be felt. I would anticipate that his experience dealing with clergy sex abuse in Dallas will be especially important, as he can ably assist Cardinal Sean O’Malley in the implementation of universal norms of episcopal accountability. Second, +Farrell will serve as a point person for U.S. bishops in their dealings with the hierarchy and for the pope in getting good information about the Church in the U.S. I can scarcely think of anyone better suited to be a filter for such information. +Farrell enjoys the respect of his colleagues, as demonstrated by his repeated election to leadership posts in the bishops’ conference, but he is also in no ways a “culture warrior.” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was his mentor in the episcopacy, and +McCarrick was no bomb thrower. And, despite what the fevered conservatives think, +McCarrick and +Farrell are not liberal in the sense that NCR readers would use the term. They do not throw leftie bombs either.

    Team Francis, those bishops who have greeted this pontificate with enthusiasm, could scarcely contain their excitement at the news of the appointment. “Bishop Kevin Farrell is an excellent choice to be the prefect of the new dicastery,” said Cardinal O’Malley in an email to me this morning. “He has the administrative talent, the linguistic ability, and most important, the pastoral vision of Pope Francis. It also puts an American in the Roman curia which is very important for communication between our bishops’ conference and the members of the Holy Father’s curia. We all pledge our prayers and support for Bishop Farrell as he begins this crucial ministry at the service of the Holy Father and universal church.”

    As I noted in my short, early morning post when I first got the news, +Farrell took over the Centro Hispanico here in Washington after its founder, +Sean O’Malley, was made a bishop. The center was, and is, a one-stop, all-purpose social services center for the Latino community here in the nation’s capital. They make no distinction between documented and undocumented. They help people who are vulnerable and poor. They represent the Catholic Church at its best. This is how +Farrell acquired the smell of the sheep. He is, like Cardinal O’Malley, an honorary Latino, and if you have never heard Spanish spoken with a heavy Irish brogue before, you are in for a treat. +Farrell moved as easily among the poor migrants there as he did among the affluent and influential diplomats who peopled his parish in Northwest.

    The other day, I noted that we would soon seen the differences of opinion about Amoris Laetitia come to a head on account of the expectation the relevant USCCB committee would have some kind of report in September, and that the chairman of that committee, Archbishop Charles Chaput, had issued guidelines for his own archdiocese that, in my estimation, fell short of the mark and stood in clear contradiction to what we have heard from Cardinal Christoph Schonborn and read in the pages of Civilta Cattolica. Now, this appointment adds an additional sign that the Holy Father wants to move in a clear direction, and it is not the direction that naysayers would propose.

    So, congratulations to Bishop Farrell and, even more, to Pope Francis who gains an extraordinary assistant who will also make him laugh! Sad day for Dallas but now another large diocese is open for Pope Francis to appoint a bishop who will carry out his vision stateside. It is a great day.

  6. Pope Francis Taps Pelosi for Climate Change Position
    National Catholic Distorter
    August 18, 2016

    ROME – In a move which surprised Vatican observers, Pope Francis has named Nancy Pelosi as the new head of the Pontifical Council for the Reduction of Air Conditioning. “This is a most important position for global warming and social justice,” the pope said in another spontaneous airplane interview. The appointment was made based on Ms. Pelosi’s outstanding record of departing from logic and reason throughout her political career. “We need to get away from excessive rigidity and neo-Pelagian triumphalism, ” the pope continued, as he handed reporters brochures on thermostat settings.

    Pope Francis also appointed Vice President Joe Biden to his new role as Professor of Marriage and Relationships at the Gregorian University in Rome. The decision was made in the middle of the interview when the Holy Father was asked a question about Biden’s desire to preside over civil marriages which might not meet the requirements of Catholic canon law. When pressed further, the pope spoke of the gradualism approach of Divine Mercy and quipped that Biden might receive the cardinal’s hat before the November elections, then turned to reporters and asked if any of them knew Ms. Pelosi’s hat size.

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