Whenever one of the major seven Archdioceses in the United States becomes vacant or their ordinary reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75 when they must submit their resignation, all eyes look to Rome to wait for the announcement of their successor. Now, we do so as we look to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where His Excellency the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. has reached his 75th birthday. Chaput has been a staunch defender of orthodoxy, morality, and liturgy and is the first Archbishop of Philadelphia to not have been made a Cardinal in over 100 years. So now, there is the all important question: who will come next? As with any of the “Big 7” (Washington, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Chicago), the rumor mill for these Metropolitan (and usually Cardinalite) Sees is usually running on overtime. Everyone from local publications to Church insiders and news sites to Catholic bloggers like me, are all speculating on who will follow Chaput in the city of brotherly love.
At the time of this writing, there have been 6 rumored names to succeed Chaput:
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, 67, of the Archdiocese of the Military Services
Bishop Joseph Bambera, 63, of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania
Bishop James F. Checchio, 53, of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey
Bishop Robert W. McElroy, 65, of the Diocese of San Diego, California
Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, 59, of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, 60, of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut
Archbishop Broglio was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland in 1977 after studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning his S.T.B. After serving two years as an Associate Pastor in Cleveland, he returned to Rome to attend the Pontifical Eclesiastical Academy going on to earn his doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian. He entered the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See soon after where he served first as Secretary to the Nunciature of the Republic of the Ivory Coast in West Africa and then as Secretary to the Nunciature in Paraguay until 1990. After this he worked at the Vatican Secretary of State and then served for a time as the personal secretary for the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano. In 2001 he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to he Dominican Republic and Apostolic Delegate to Puerto Rico and consecrated Archbishop by Saint John Paul II in March. In 2007 he was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Military Services. He is the outgoing Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. The Archbishop is fluent in four languages, sits on several boards, and has received many honors and awards.
Bishop Bambera was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Scranton in 1985. He served for 4 years as an Associate Pastor and was then transferred to St. Peter’s Cathedral where he served in multiple positions including the auditor of the Diocesan Tribunal. In 1991 he received his Licentiate of Canon Law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Onterio. Upon his return he was made judge of the Tribunal, later becoming Diocesan Director of Ecuminism and Interfaith Affairs and Vicar for Clergy. He served as Pastor of multiple parishes over the next 16 years. He was named a Monsignor with the title Prelate of Honor in 1997, Episcopal Vicar for the Central Region of the Diocese of Scranton in 2005, and was chosen as the delegate of Apostolic Administrator Cardinal Justin Rigali to run the day to day operations of the Diocese following the resignation of Bishop Joseph Martino due to poor health. He was appointed Bishop of Scranton by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. In 2016 he was elected for a 3 year term as Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and has been a member of multiple other committees.
Bishop James F. Checchico was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey in 1992 after studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He earned his Licentiate of Canon Law in 1993. After returning to the Diocese from Rome he was made secretary to Bishop James T. McHugh, and also served as Vice Chancellor of the Diocese, Director of Communications, Moderator of the Curia, and Episcopal Vicar. He was also a member of the Diocesan tribunal and served as an assistant priest at multiple parishes. In 1998 he got his doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was named a Monsignor with the title Chaplain of His Holiness by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2000. Shortly after he returned to Rome to serve a three year term as Vice Rector of the Pontifical North American College. Soon after he became Rector of the College in 2006. In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI raised him to the status of Prelate of Honor. Checchico served as Rector of the Pontifical College until February 1st 2016. A little over a month later on March 8th, he was named fifth Bishop of Metuchen and consecrated on May 3rd.
Bishop Robert W. McElroy was ordained to the priesthood in 1980 for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. From 1982-1985 he served as secretary for the Archbishop and received his S.T.L. in 1985 from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkley. The following year he obtained his S.T.D. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In 1995 he was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and remained until 1997 under Cardinal William Levada who assigned him as a Pastor of a parish for the next 13 years until 2010, teaching for a time at St. Patrick’s Seminary. In 2010 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco by Pope Benedict XVI. After his episcopal ordination he was made Archdiocesan Vicar for Parish Life and Development. In 2015 he was appointed Bishop of San Diego by Pope Francis. He currently serves on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops committees of administration, ecumenism, domestic justice, and interreligious affairs.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1987, serving as an Associate Pastor at two different parishes until 1991. In 1996 he earned his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Upon returning from Rome he became an Associate Pastor again and became Dean of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate Program and Censor Liborum for the Diocese. He became Pastor of a parish in 1998 and taught theology at both St. John’s University and St. Joseph’s College. In 2002 he was named Director of the Permanent Diaconate Program, in 2003 was raised to the rank of Papal Chaplain and given the title Monsignor, and in 2004 was made Vicar for Evangelization and Pastoral Life. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn. In 2013 Pope Francis appointed him as the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Bishop Caggiano serves on the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, Subcommittee on the Catechism, Orthodox Union Catholic Dialogue, and the Committee on the Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. He was elected by the USCCB in 2018 to take part in the Synod on the Youth in Rome.
Archbishop Alexander K. Sample was ordained for the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan in June of 1990. For the next few years he served as Parochial Vicar and then Pastor of several parishes. In 1994 he was sent to study at the Anglicum and earned his Licentiate in Canon Law in 1996. Upon his return he was named Chancellor of the Diocese. He served in many additional positions including being a member of the College of Consultors and Director of Ministry Personnel Services and Ongoing Formation of Priests. He also served on the Diocesan Tribunal in multiple positions He was appointed by Pope Benedict as the twelfth Bishop of Marquette in 2005. In 2013 he was named Archbishop of Portland. He has served on multiple USCCB committees as well as other committees throughout the United States.
Even though there are six names that have been rumored, only three can make it on the terna (the list given to the Pope).
Bishop Bambera has been called on by many to resign as Bishop following his admission that, while Vicar for Clergy of Scranton, he assisted in the transfer of an abuser priest. In today’s climate (or in any climate) that would not be good for Philadelphia or Rome.
Archbishop Broglio, while being the most senior Bishop mentioned, has worked in the Diplomatic Corps his whole life. A move from diplomacy to more pastoral work would not be a good fit either for the Archbishop or for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Bishop Checchio, while having a very impressive record, is the “Baby Bishop” out of the 6. He was only just ordained in 2016, plus he’s the youngest at 53, meaning he would be Archbishop of Philadelphia for 22 years most likely, which seems to work against his appointment.
This leaves three names left for the terna with one to be chosen.
Archbishop Sample has been sort-of a social media dark horse candidate. While he would be a great choice, has done his best to keep a low profile. He has done well in the areas of liturgical reform, but I think he still has more work to do in Portland and I don’t see him having any desire to move just yet.
Bishop McElroy has been one of the top 3 leading progressive voices in the American Church for years and has continuously been rumored for one of the Big 7. Allegedly put into his See by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Perolin, it was made known shortly after the McCarrick news broke of a letter he received in 2016 naming McCarrick as a sexual abuser, but decided not to investigate, not trusting some of the information contained or the person, Dr. Richard Sipe, who presented it to hm. With all of this, it wouldn’t be prudent to place him higher.
This leaves one name left who I think may be chosen.
Bishop Caggiano has been a rising star among the U.S. Bishops as someone who is orthodox, a Pastor, and who connects with the youth. He initiated radical reform in his Diocese on sexual abuse, been transparent with the Diocese’s finances, and has founded organizations to help and support abuse victims. Deacon Greg Kandra, Multimedia Editor at CNEWA and popular Catholic blogger has said in an article that Caggiano, “..would be a very good fit”. He was named by Crux as a potential for Washington before and Philadelphia now. Out of his 4 predecessors, 3 have risen to a Big 7 See (two to Baltimore, one to New York). With over 13 years of experience as a Bishop, Caggiano may be the perfect choice, in my opinion, to succeed Chaput.
The end of the reign of Archbishop Chaput, the champion of orthodoxy, pro-life, and youth, is something that truly saddens me, but I wait with hope at the announcement of his sucessor that will hopefuly continue his legacy.