21 April 2009
One Priest's Reflections on Archbishop Carlson
I know a very solid priest of a Diocese formerly served by our new Archbishop. He was kind enough to send along this reflection, which may be of interest to readers who are trying to get a read on His Grace and the type of Archbishop he may be. This is printed with his permission, though of course his name is not attached.
"His Excellency, Robert Carlson, will be a good archbishop. He will be decisive, engaging, and prayerful... He will be as generous as the Church with regard to the TLM. You note that there isn't one in Saginaw- that would have taken a miracle. He did lay the roots for the reconciliation of a SSPX parish in [this previous Diocese], ...using one of our priests to celebrate the Usus Antiquior.
There are a ton of stories I could tell you about Bishop Carlson. I give you a couple to paint the picture of who he is. For one, he openly admits that as an Irishman (Norwegian name though) he never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. His Excellency is extremely quick witted and is rarely gotten the better of in public exchange. While in seminary he had visited and taken us out for dinner. He rode in my car and on the way back another seminarian drove as a precaution since I had enjoyed a glass of wine. As I got into the back seat, I simply observed that this was my first time in the back seat of my own car to which a grinning Bishop Carlson immediately responded- "I'm very glad to hear that!"
There is a depth beyond the humor. The most recent and vivid impression comes from his time in Saginaw. A dear friend of mine followed him there as a seminarian and so I have a pretty good take on how rotten it was. Bishop Utenner, God have mercy on him, had destroyed that diocese in many ways. He didn't accept vocations unless they passed his "litmus" of women's ordination, and even a total deconstruction of the Eucharist and the priesthood. So when the articles speak about "no" vocations out of Saginaw- they were there, they just weren't being fostered and cultivated. Which is true anywhere. When Bishop Carlson first visited the Cathedral, he found the Tabernacle in a tiny room that no one paid any reverence. Many priests of the diocese told him that their concelebration [with him] was a favor for the "prophet Ken" [Bishop Utenner] and they wouldn't do it again- not for Fr. Z's reasons but because "too many men around the altar is uninviting to women."
Bishop Carlson is also heavily involved in priestly formation and I guess he relishes the opportunity to have a seminary under his responsibility. He is instrumental in the foundation of an Omaha based group- the Institute for Priestly Formation. I have been formed by this group to my credit and the spiritual foundations of my priesthood. They have some warts- again their liturgy is not refined- but it is a good work to ensure that priestly life is founded upon an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ.
I do believe that he will be fully supportive of St. Francis de Sales and other TLM efforts in the Archdiocese. Most importantly because he is open and docile to being formed by the Church and His Holiness, Pope Benedict. I do not know if he will be able to celebrate the Extraordinary Form and cannot speculate if he will learn it if he does not know it.
I want to leave you with this instance that impressed me. I was in Saginaw in June 2007 for their Eucharistic Congress (my friend was ordained a deacon then). This is my most poignant memory. As a young priest I'm watching this Bishop go from station to station in the Eucharistic Procession. I know he has knee problems-- and here he is kneeling on the asphalt and concrete street in front of our Lord. This procession took over an hour in the hot June sun and several stational altars (I don't recall how many). As I began to grumble in my own heart, I looked him at one station and saw the intensity of his prayer. Though His Excellency has a taste for the moment, this was prayer, this was piety, not publicity. He was offering up his suffering in reparation for sins against the Eucharist and in petition for greater Eucharistic devotion throughout his diocese. I consider myself privileged to have been there as he sweated, suffered, and prayed for His Lord and the Church.
I hope this is insightful to you.
St. Louis, king of France. St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!"
Thank you, Father, for this very nice insight and analysis.