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As Rises Wichita, so Rises the Catholic Church

by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 7, 2017

Phil Lawler has written a couple of articles that deserve wider attention. The gist of the pieces is that by a remarkable “coincidence” no fewer than five seminarians ordained for the diocese of Wichita, Kansas (three of whom attended seminary there) have been made bishops of various American sees since 1998: Archbishop-elect Paul Coakley; Bishop James Conley; Bishop Ronald Gilmore, who retired, to be replaced by the fourth, Bishop John Brungardt; and, most recently, Bishop Shawn McKnight. Gilmore is a native of the diocese and the others are natives of nearby Midwestern dioceses.

Lawler notes that Wichita is a relatively small city of less than 1 million, “where Catholics form a distinct minority (a bit over 100,000), and the local diocese has only one bishop with no auxiliaries.” Thus retired Bishop Gilmore once asked jokingly: “Is there something in the soil, in the water, in the air?”

Clearly, something mysterious is at work here, and Lawler thinks he knows what it is: four of the five (Coakely, Conley, Gilmore and Brunghart) participated in, and were arrested during, the “Summer of Mercy” campaign conducted by Operation Recuse in Wichita in 1991. As Lawler describes the event:

“Hundreds of activists drove or flew to Kansas; thousands of local pro-lifers joined in the effort. Day after day, scores of pro-lifers blocked the entry to the abortion clinic run by the late George Tiller, risking arrest in an effort to save unborn babies from destruction. Over the course of an intensive 6-week campaign, before a stern federal injunction brought an end to the daily clinic blockades, more than 2,700 people were arrested — including all four of the future bishops! Then-Bishop Eugene Gerber said that he was ‘completely in solidarity’ with those risking arrest.”

Four of the five bishops (all but McKnight) were appointed by John Paul II or Benedict XVI (who appointed Conley). Those appointments are reflective of what the ultra-progressive ecclesial commentator Massimo Faggioli lamented as “thirty years of episcopal appointments under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, which recast the US episcopate in the image of the ‘cultural warrior’,” which these four certainly were back in 1991. These appointments have produced what Faggioli views as an unfortunate “climate” in America which has fostered opposition by Catholics he characterizes as “cyber-bullies” to the campaign by Francis to retreat from the culture war in favor of “social justice” issues that mesh rather well with the platform of the Democrat Party.

But what about the fifth bishop, Shawn McKnight, appointed by Pope Francis? Lawler notes that he was a seminarian back in 1991, and he suggests that McKnight may well have participated in the “Summer of Mercy.” This much, however, is certain: the little Diocese of Wichita is, by today’s standards, a veritable engine of vocations, producing not only five bishops but more ordinations per capita than any other diocese in the country, including ten ordinations just this week.

There can be only one explanation for this, in my view, and a priest quoted by Lawler provides it: “[S]eminarian candidates flock to dioceses that are good. Wichita has been one of these dioceses.” But let us say: relatively good in comparison with the widely decadent liberal wreck of the Catholic ecclesial establishment in America. Hence, for example, it is no surprise that the unlawfully suppressed traditional Latin Mass was reintroduced in that Diocese twenty-five years ago.

The lesson to be learned here is this: that the Church will be restored in God’s good time, no matter what the plans of mere men with their insane visions of “remaking” her according to their way of thinking. As rises Wichita, so rises the Catholic Church. All that is needed for the restoration in full is obedience to the requests of Our Lady of Fatima — above all, the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart.