The Reluctant Archbishop

The aloof style of Justin Rigali served him well at the Vatican but distances him from the faithful of St. Louis

Some wonder whether the pope is "saving" Rigali for another important diocese, such as Philadelphia. But such thinking is increasingly frowned upon. In 1999, Rigali's old boss at the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, gave a blazing critique of careerist bishops who approach him saying, "Eminence, I have been in this diocese already two or three years, and I have done everything that was asked of me...."

Gantin suggested that the rank of cardinal not be associated with particular archdioceses but awarded only for individual merit, thwarting bishops who jockey for certain placements in the hope of a red hat. He also said that, except in rare cases, bishops should remain in their dioceses for life.

Rigali is here. And since the crisis, he seems to be opening up a little, struggling to find a more collegial way to communicate. Among the other U.S. bishops, though, he remains a translator for Romanita.

Rick Sealock
Archbishop Justin Rigali: "He has a horror of disorder."
Jennifer Silverberg
Archbishop Justin Rigali: "He has a horror of disorder."

"When he says how he thinks Rome will react, they listen closely," says an observer. "They know he has good contacts in the Vatican. He is very Roman in his thinking."

But he's not in Rome.

"If St. Louis was a punishment, he would accept it with grace," notes a local priest. "He is very selfless; he does not count the cost. He just has a very limited vision. The church will never be the same, and that's OK. But he's not there yet.

"If I could change one thing about him?

"I'd want him not to be afraid."

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