US-StLouisArchbishop 3rdLd-Writethru 04-21

Mich. bishop appointed as new St. Louis archbishop

Eds: Updates with more comments from Carlson, comment from Catholic scholar, background on comments about politicians.

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Associated Press Writer


ST. LOUIS (AP) — Bishop Robert J. Carlson of Saginaw, Mich., was named Tuesday as the new archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis.

He was welcomed with a standing ovation in a packed archdiocesan auditorium, where he pledged to build bridges, listen well and work with Catholics and others to solve societal problems.

The 64-year-old Carlson will be the city’s ninth archbishop, succeeding Archbishop Raymond Burke, who was named last June to head the Vatican Supreme Court. The city, considered a Catholic stronghold, had been without a bishop since then.

Carlson said he made a commitment after learning of his appointment. "I’m going to pray every day that I love the people of St. Louis," he said. "I hope that’s the kind of archbishop you want. That’s the kind of archbishop I am."

The appointment by Pope Benedict XVI was announced by the Vatican. Carlson said he and others were working on a date for his installation.

A native of Minneapolis, he served as bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D., from 1994 to 2005, when he was installed as the fifth bishop of the diocese of Saginaw.

University of Notre Dame theology professor and Catholic priest, Richard P. McBrien, said Carlson’s elevation from Saginaw with 119,000 Catholics to St. Louis with more than half a million is an "interesting rise."

In Saginaw, Carlson focused on vocations, Catholic schools, service to the poor, stewardship and evangelization. The number of seminarians there considering a vocation to the priesthood rose from two to more than 20.


Carlson, who once chaired U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committees on vocations and priestly life and ministry, said he plans to get acquainted with St. Louis’ seminarians.

"Long ago, I pledged never to ordain someone I didn’t know," he said, adding that the faithful deserve the very best possible priests.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said Carlson is well-respected by other bishops. He also was a protegee of the late Minnesota archbishop John Roach, former president of the Bishops Conference, who focused on social justice and fostered ecumenism.

"I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he gets elected president of the bishops conference," Reese said.

Carlson said he was not among the bishops who publicly spoke out against President Barack Obama’s election. Rather, he said, he asked Catholics to pray for the new president.

He said he doesn’t believe in singling out Catholic politicians publicly on moral questions and denying them communion, opting to speak with them privately.

During his time in South Dakota, Carlson criticized the state’s then-Sen. Tom Daschle, a Catholic who was Senate Democratic leader, over Daschle’s support of abortion rights. In 1997, Daschle said church leaders were using "harsh rhetoric and vitriolic characterizations" rather than "thoughtful religious leadership."

But in 2003, Carlson said that while he had urged the senator to change his position on abortion, he "would never break off dialogue or a pastoral relationship with anyone." Daschle said he remained a Catholic and would not discuss his private conversations with Carlson in the media.


Carlson said Tuesday that he and Daschle had not disclosed the contents of letters they exchanged. "If you’re pro-life, you treat each other with dignity," he said.


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