Archbishop Coyne proposes relocating the Vatican, ordaining women deacons in candid interview

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Archbishop Coyne
Coadjutor Archbishop Christopher J. Coyne delivers the homily during a Mass of welcome at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn., Oct. 9, 2023. Archbishop Coyne, the former bishop of Burlington, Vt., will serve alongside Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford and will succeed him automatically when he retires. (OSV News photo/Aaron Joseph, courtesy Archdiocese of Hartford)

In a revealing conversation, Coadjutor Archbishop Christopher J. Coyne of Hartford spoke about working as a bartender, his hopes for the Catholic Church in Hartford, women’s ordination to the diaconate and moving the Vatican.

The interview conducted by WTNH News 8 correspondent Dennis House was released Nov. 20.

On Oct. 9 at a Mass of welcome, Archbishop Coyne officially assumed his role as coadjutor of the Connecticut archdiocese alongside Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, 74, who has been Hartford’s shepherd since 2013.

Pope Francis named then-Bishop Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, as coadjutor for Hartford June 26. He had headed the statewide Burlington Diocese since his installation Jan. 29, 2015. Before that, he was an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis from 2011 to 2015.

As coadjutor, Archbishop Coyne will immediately succeed Archbishop Blair when he retires; canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75.

In the interview, Archbishop Coyne expressed gratitude for the warm welcome to Connecticut, acknowledging the challenges of transition. Having experienced several moves as a bishop, he reflected on his journey, growing up in a vibrant Irish Catholic family and being deeply involved in parish activities, fostering a strong connection to the Church from an early age.

Evangelization and church closures

The interview took an unexpected turn as Archbishop Coyne spoke openly about his unconventional path to priesthood, recounting his time as a bartender. He highlighted the invaluable lessons learned from working alongside diverse individuals. “There’s some rough and tumble people, but they also have a good heart,” the archbishop said, recalling his coworkers in the restaurant business. He emphasized the importance of those experiences in shaping his perspective and helping him to foster relationships across different communities and cultures.

When asked about his goals for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Archbishop Coyne emphasized the need for evangelization. “People don’t come to our church,” the archbishop said, “they just don’t walk through the doors.” Acknowledging the shift in the Church’s role in society, he said, “In fact, most people are walking out of [our] doors.” Concerned by the reality of dwindling church attendance, Archbishop Coyne highlighted the departure of many Catholics to other church communities, particularly mega-churches.

Addressing the sensitive issue of church closures, Archbishop Coyne acknowledged the necessity for future closures. Complacency, said the archbishop, and diminishing numbers in congregations have made such closures necessary. Likening the churches to empty homes no longer inhabited by families, he asks, “Do we really need this family home?” He emphasized the need for realistic decisions regarding maintaining church buildings, rectories, schools and parish halls.

Reflecting on the decline in excitement for institutionalized religions, Archbishop Coyne acknowledged the broader societal shift away from institutional churches and the increasing trend of “spiritual but not religious” affiliations among people.

Women’s ordination and the Church in Rome

Regarding the role of women in the Church, Archbishop Coyne expressed hope for potential changes in the future. While acknowledging that the matter of women’s ordination to the priesthood is “case closed,” he said, “Hopefully there will be some opportunity down the road for us [to have] … some deaconesses.”

When asked what he would tell Pope Francis about the Church if given the opportunity, Archbishop Coyne proposed the idea of relocating the Vatican out of Rome to break away from entrenched Roman traditions. Describing the culture of Rome as “inbred,” the archbishop expressed his desire to “start over with a different bureaucracy.” According to the archbishop, a move would offer a fresh start for the Church’s administrative functions.

As Archbishop Coyne embarks on his tenure in Hartford, his candid approach signals an intention to confront challenges and adapt to a changing religious landscape. At the end of the interview, the archbishop addressed fallen-away Catholics saying, “We have a place for you … you’re always welcome.”

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