Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Anna Arco

9/2/2010 (4 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

Anna Arco meets an American priest who has agreed, with some reluctance, to take a senior role in the Roman Curia

When the 58-year-old Redemptorist voiced his reluctance to take up the appointment Pope Benedict XVI's Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone reminded him of words spoken in Pope Benedict's inaugural homily. The Holy Father said that in becoming Pope he must assume "an enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity". If Benedict could assume the papacy, then Fr Tobin could become the secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal Bertone said.

American Redemptorist Fr. Joseph Tobin assumes the leadership of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, joins the Roman Curia and becomes an Archbishop.

American Redemptorist Fr. Joseph Tobin assumes the leadership of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, joins the Roman Curia and becomes an Archbishop.

Highlights

By Anna Arco

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

9/2/2010 (4 years ago)

Published in Europe


LONDON, UK (UK Catholic Herald) - Fr Joseph Tobin has just sold his bicycle, a sign that the relative calm of his Oxford sabbatical is coming to an end. Next week he will be in Rome helping to run the Vatican dicastery that looks after the nearly a million souls in religious and consecrated life.

When the 58-year-old Redemptorist voiced his reluctance to take up the appointment Pope Benedict XVI's Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone reminded him of words spoken in Pope Benedict's inaugural homily. The Holy Father said that in becoming Pope he must assume "an enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity". If Benedict could assume the papacy, then Fr Tobin could become the secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal Bertone said.

The tall and broad-shouldered Michigan native fills the little sitting room with his surprisingly gentle presence. He jokes that he's not quite sure why he has been appointed except that someone opened a book and put a finger on his name. He comes across as a person who will listen and deliberate before he acts. Over a cup of tea, with the rain pouring outside, he talks about living in Britain's secular culture, the Roman Curia he is about to join and the challenges of his new job.

Born in Detroit to an Irish-Catholic family, Fr Tobin is the oldest of 13 children. The family are close: when Cardinal Bertone's momentous phone call came a few weeks ago, Fr Tobin was painting his mother's house in Ontario.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1978, Fr Tobin became the consultor for his order, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, in Rome in 1991, before being elected superior general in 1997 and re-elected in 2003.

Fr Tobin, who becomes archbishop by virtue of the new job, expects the challenges to be similar to those he faced when leading the Redemptorists: primarily to listen, learn and understand. Laughing a bit ruefully, he sounds a more practical note. Being secretary of the Congregation for Religious will most likely entail a great deal of administrative work. This is something he's had to do all his life, but it doesn't get him out of bed in the morning.

The Church can be compared to a lush spiritual ecosystem, he says, which needs variety to survive and flourish."My hope is that somehow I can serve the whole ecosystem but in a special way the people whose lives express that particular gift. And there's a variety even within the consecrated life. You have everything from traditional monks to modern urban communities of religious to hermits to consecrated women and men of all stripes and varieties."

Cardinal Bertone wanted him to start at the Congregation for Religious right away, he says, as position has been empty for eight months, and the entire department has been run by the other undersecretary, a Salesian nun. Fr Tobin says he has tied up things, but that there were a few engagements in Ireland he needs to keep before heading to Rome this week. The date for his ordination as archbishop will be set upon his arrival.

Back in May Fr Tobin was also appointed as one of the four visitors to Ireland's religious houses in the wake of the abuse crisis that has rocked the country. It is unclear whether he will continue in this role given his new appointment.

Running the Congregation will be no easy task, as veteran Vatican reporter John Allen points out, what with the large-scale and unpopular visitation of American women religious underway and the need to oversee the clean-up of the Legion of Christ. But Fr Tobin also speaks of other areas that need his department's attention.

"For example, the women's congregations in Africa which are sometimes bullied and, I think, more frequently, abandoned and left to their own devices. There are a lot of diocesan orders of Sisters who were founded by a bishop and if the bishop dies the new bishop may not have the same sort of care and concern for the order.

"Even members of well-established congregations of men and women in Africa face untold difficulties because they share the lot of the people they're living with. The question of how to reform religious women and men today for a modern world and a modern Church is a world-wide challenge.

"And then there are new orders springing up, to help them discern their way and to help them to see what's the best way for them to follow Christ.

"That's a few challenges there," he adds, by way of understatement.

Despite 12 years of service in Rome, the burly ice hockey-playing Redemptorist comes across as a man who has kept himself away from the machinations and plotting for which the Curia is famous. He is keen to stress he is not a Vatican insider.

"Yes, I've been in correspondence with the Vatican over my service to the order," he says. "But I've had to remind people when I go home and talk with friends and they say, 'How are things at the Vatican?' and I say, 'I don't know. I don't work there'.

"Our general house is on the other side of the river so I'll have to learn some of the ins and outs and then the priorities."

Would he say the Vatican is sometimes disconnected from the Church or does it just seem like that sometimes? "I think it can seem very disconnected, especially from particular churches," Fr Tobin says carefully. "I think those who work in the Vatican have to be aware of that."

He describes spending half the year on the road during his time as superior-general of the Redemptorists, living with his brothers and the people they serve around the world and draws a parallel. There needs to be more communication between the Vatican and the local churches.

"But my hope is that the Vatican's relationship with the local churches can be a sort of creative tension. I think life without tension would be very boring and useless.We can't walk, we can't talk, we can't sing without tension. You need to have tension in your vocal chords and your back, let alone a guitar. However, tension can be destructive. The challenge is to recognise the diversity of gifts and the plurality of churches and the one spirit that unites us. And I think that is the adventure of a lifetime."

Does the Roman Curia need to change its culture and become more transparent and sensitive?

"On the one hand it is the oldest bureaucracy in the world," he says. "People love to say that. On the other hand, that bureaucracy, as one of our historians pointed out to me when I was ranting about the Curia: 'Don't forget, it guided the Church through a couple of world wars and great depressions and times when the Pope had died or was kidnapped by Napoleon.' In that sense it has provided a service, but I think it has to be humble and make sure it is service and not simply bureaucracy."

Fr Tobin has spent the last eight months taking a well-deserved break attached to Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, and staying with the De La Salle Brothers. He pursued his interest in the rise of secularisation and secular culture, attending seminars by the sociologist of religion and anthropologist Peter Clarke, studying at the Las Casas Institute and taking classes at Blackfriars.

He is sad to miss the Pope's visit to Britain. He was hoping for a seat on the Blackfriars/Oxford Oratory bus. He says it would have been interesting to observe the visit given the climate in Britain at the moment. Part of his reason for being in Oxford is his realisation that he had never experienced European expressions of secularised culture.

As he will be running the day-to-day business of religious oders and apostolic institutes, does he think that religious and consecrated life will play a more crucial role in the changing Church?

"I think that religious life does have a place to play," he says. "And interestingly enough, if you look at the official statements of the Church there has been a change or at least a development from the Vatican Council which saw religious life as essential for the holiness of the Church. I think it was Vita Consecrata, John Paul's statement on religious life. He said it's essential for the Church, so it wasn't simply a qualified 'for the holiness of the Church'.

"Having said that, I really believe, if you want a caricature, that the future of the Church is lay: in terms of sheer numbers, appreciation of the gift of baptism and the common priesthood of the faithful. These make that a real possibility.

"However, I think that the Church would be poorer without this form of life as an alternative way to follow Christ."


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Europe

Polish priest performs mass exorcism on unknowing school kids Watch

Image of Polish Schoolchildren, attending what they thought was a religious camp honoring Lent were screaming and in tears when 37-year-old priest Tomas Wieczorek carried out a mass exorcism.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Polish Schoolchildren, attending what they thought was a religious camp honoring Lent were screaming and in tears when 37-year-old priest Tomas Wieczorek carried out a mass exorcism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The 1,000 young people, from schools in the ... continue reading


Defiant Catholic bishops openly diverge from Pope Francis and the Vatican Watch

Image of Bishop Bernard Fellay was a part of the rebellious SSPX.  (Switzerland, 29 June 2009/Denis Balibouse)

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rejecting Pope Francis and consecrating bishops without the approval of the Vatican, the ultra-traditionalist movement "The Resistance" is planning to expand by consecrating again a new generation of bishops. According to one of the French bishops, Jean-Michel Faure, ... continue reading


Putting best face forward, Krakow, Poland busies itself to host World Youth Day in 2016 Watch

Image of Excitement is in the air in Krakow, Poland. The metropolis is readying itself to host World Youth Day in 2016.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Excitement is in the air in Krakow, Poland. The metropolis is readying itself to host World Youth Day in 2016. As part of the renovations to host the over two million people who are expected to attend, the city has a new airport, improved road and rail links, a ... continue reading


Did a broken heart lead to mass slaughter? Germanwings co-pilot said to be 'depressed' and 'stressed' Watch

Image of Remembered as a friendly and funny personality, Andreas Lubitz had a life-long obsession to become a pilot. There is speculation that he feared his flying license - due to expire in just three months time would not have been renewed on medical grounds.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The willful destruction of himself - along with 149 other, innocent human beings, has the world scrambling for answers. Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who slammed his plane into mountainside earlier this week. Killing everyone onboard, remains a ... continue reading


DEADLY SECRET: Co-pilot of doomed Germanwings flight hid medical condition, authorities say Watch

Image of A terrible tragedy that left 150 people dead may have been the result of a frightened, insecure man hiding a medical condition. Investigators say that Germanwings copilot Andreas Lubitz was keeping an unspecified medical condition secret from others.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A terrible tragedy that left 150 people dead may have been the result of a frightened, insecure man hiding a medical condition. Investigators say that Germanwings copilot Andreas Lubitz was keeping an unspecified medical condition secret from others and had a ... continue reading


CO-PILOT LOCKED CAPTAIN OUT OF COCKPIT: Chilling last minutes of Germanwings Airbus crash revealed Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Investigators have recovered key information from the French Alps wrecked Germanwings Airbus A320's black box and voice recorder. The co-pilot, 28-year-old German, Andreas Lubitz, intentionally locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed into a ... continue reading


STANDING FIRM: Nearly 500 British priests urge synod to stand firm on Communion for the remarried Watch

Image of An extraordinary synod last year provoked heated debate on the question of whether remarried Catholics should be permitted to receive Holy Communion, which was a proposal presented by retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Nearly 500 British priests have signed a letter urging those attending this year's family synod to issue a "clear and firm proclamation" upholding Church teaching on marriage. An extraordinary synod last year provoked heated debate on the question of whether ... continue reading


Pope Francis sends message to families of victims in Germanwings' French Alps crash, as black box and cockpit recorder recovered Watch

Image of Families are hit with grief as the search for bodies continues.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

150 people were killed in the tragic Germanwings A320 Airbus crash in the snowy French Alps earlier this week. Pope Francis has come forward with some words of comfort for all those involved in the horrific accident. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis ... continue reading


GAS ATTACK FEARED: Islamist State may launch attack on London's Underground subway system Watch

Image of The 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway killed 13 people. Experts now fear that Islamist State agents returning to the United Kingdom will launch similar offenses.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Islamic State militants returning to the United Kingdom could attack London Underground trains or football matches with chlorine gas. That is the frightening estimation from chemical weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a retired head of chemical and ... continue reading


Plane crash in French Alps: All 150 feared dead Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An airplane carrying 150 people crashed Tuesday in the French Alps. All 144 passengers and six crew members are presumed dead. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) A Germanwings Airbus A320 was traveling from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf  Germany. During mid ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 49:1-6
1 Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, John 13:21-33, 36-38
21 Having said this, Jesus was deeply disturbed and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 31st, 2015 Image

St. Benjamin
March 31: St. Benjamin, Martyr (Feast Day - March 31) The Christians in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter