As Archbishop John Myers prepares to retire from his position as leader of the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal-elect Joseph Tobin is preparing to step into his shoes in January 2017. Tobin may offer a different style of leadership in the Archdiocese as well as at Seton Hall, where he automatically becomes president of the Board of Regents.
In the past, Myers has upset Seton Hall students who identify as members of the LGBTQ community with his strong stance against homosexuality, as previously covered in The Setonian. Myers made the decision to suspend Rev. Warren Hall, former director of the Office of Campus Ministry at SHU, from the Archdiocese after Hall was fired from Seton Hall in 2015 for his support of NoH8, a pro-LGBTQ organization.
Myers made headlines before that when he was the bishop of the Peoria diocese. He allegedly allowed priests that had been accused of sexual abuse towards minors to continue working.
Pope Francis, on the other hand, once asked, “Who am I to judge?” in response to criticisms about gay priests, according to NJ.com. The article said that Tobin is known for his more forgiving tone in his ministry, often choosing to engage in a dialogue on right and wrong as opposed to pointing fingers and placing blame.
Archbishop Tobin comes to New Jersey from Indiana, where he served at the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
When Vice President-elect and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence banned Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana, Tobin continued to welcome them against Pence’s orders, and said that helping those fleeing violence was an “essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians,” Tobin said in a statement in December.
Before Tobin was assigned to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, he served as secretary of a Vatican congregation dedicated to the overseeing of religious orders, according to NJ.com. Tobin defended nuns who other theologians had criticized for being too secularized.
Tobin has been known to take a more “liberal” stance on the Catholic faith, as Pope Francis has also been known to do.
Hardik Patel, a junior physical therapy major, said that although he is not Catholic himself, he has noticed that Pope Francis has taken a more “liberal” approach to the Catholic faith, placing more focus on the environment and “bringing religion into contemporary issues,” he said.
However, Rev. Brian Needles, an adjunct professor of moral theology and spiritual director at the Immaculate Conception Seminary, said in an email interview that “liberal” or “conservative” labels fail to describe the faith properly, as there is only one Catholic teaching in the eyes of the Church, which can only be referred to as Catholic.
“There are plenty of people who mistakenly and inappropriately use those labels to describe how they or others approach their life of faith,” Needles said. “Those politically-loaded labels are not useful or helpful, in that they see the Church as just another political institution.”
Needles said that while the two archbishops have different personalities and may implement the Church’s teachings differently, it is incorrect to claim that Myers and Tobin differ widely.
“To suggest that they do would probably be a big surprise to both of them,” Needles said. “Archbishop Myers and Archbishop Tobin are strongly united to each and to their brother bishops and priests by their shared belief in and adherence to what the universal Catholic Church teaches in the areas of faith and morals.”
Needles added that archbishops and cardinals are not at liberty to disagree with Catholic teachings when it comes to morals, so Myers and Tobin have that in common and cannot differ that widely.
In addition to Tobin taking over the leadership of the archdiocese, James Goodness, director of communications of the Archdiocese of Newark, said that when Tobin is installed as Archbishop of Newark in January 2017, he will begin to serve as President of the Board of Regents and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University.
Goodness said that it is too early at this point to speculate how the new archbishop will affect Seton Hall students.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect a correction in attribution. The article originally quoted Archbishop Tobin asking, “Who am I to judge?” Pope Francis is the correct attribution. Additionally, a quote from Rev. Brian Needles was updated to clarify that while “liberal” and “conservative takes on religion may exist, Needles believes these “labels fail to describe the faith properly.” He was originally quoted as saying no such takes exist.
Brianna Bernath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.