The current bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, Paul Loverde, is 74. As is customary for Catholic bishops, after he turns 75 in September he will be expected to submit his resignation for the pope’s consideration.
“A few faithful Catholic individuals who live in the Arlington Diocese” have created a letter of “requested considerations in selecting the next bishop,” to be sent to Pope Francis, and are asking for those who agree with them to sign on to the letter online via a dedicated website, novabishop.org.
(The site has been taken down since ARLnow.com declined the request of one of the organizers, Frederick Pugarelli, to discuss the contents of this article before its publication.)
Loverde has been outspoken in his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and pornography. The letter does not mention any of those sometimes-divisive issues. Instead, it references local issues like poverty, diversity, hunger, homelessness and affordable housing.
The letter supports the pope’s stated criteria for bishop selection and asks the Church to consider a bishop who will emphasize humility over politics.
“Being a satellite of Washington, there is a natural focus on power, influence, and bureaucracy,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, this can permeate clergy and laity attitudes resulting in clericalism on the one hand and politicalization of the laity on the other. The Gospel message of humility and servant ministry is needed as a counter-balance to both clericalism and politicalization.”
“We further urge… the new Bishop be someone who comes to the Diocese with a fresh view of the challenges and the potential of our Catholic community,” the letter concludes. “Thank you, and we pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you, with the assurance that we will welcome with love and respect whomever you appoint.”
Via email, Pugarelli said the following of the letter and its writers:
This was not done by a group; just by a few faithful Catholic individuals who live in the Arlington Diocese. Recognizing that Bishop Loverde will be taking a well-earned retirement at some point in the future, we wanted to specifically support Pope Francis’ criteria for selecting a new Bishop and to note some of the challenges that exist in the Northern Virginia community as a whole.
Hopefully as lay people we have crafted a request that is respectful and also supportive of the Church’s selection process for new diocesan bishops. We purposely avoided seeking any group label or even associating it with particular individuals’ names lest people try to discern whether this is “moderate,” “liberal,” conservative,” “traditional,” or any other label other than just “Catholic.” This is simply what it is, a respectful request we wanted to offer to other lay Catholics in the Arlington Diocese to show their support for Pope Francis’ criteria and the selection process. They can choose to sign it or not; to create their own letters/requests or not.