Archbishop Edwin O'Brien continues to draw comment following his address to the U.S. Strategic Command last month calling for steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The latest example is a glowing profile in the National Catholic Reporter.
"Bishops can be classified lots of ways, from the canonical (coadjutor, auxiliary, etc.) to the political (liberal, moderate or conservative)," the piece by John L. Allen Jr. begins. "For those inclined to creativity, however, here’s a novel bit of taxonomy: The “Only Nixon could go to China” bishop, meaning a prelate able to say or do paradigm-changing things because nobody can question his credentials as a loyal man of the church."
The story, entitled "Baltimore's O'Brien draws respect across party lines," continues:
Increasingly, America’s premier example is Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, a no-nonsense champion of Catholic doctrine and discipline, and someone who, in the words of Baltimore native and Catholic writer George Weigel, “would happily take a bullet for the church.” Consider how O’Brien has spent that capital:
Veteran leader in seminary formation and a rock-solid theological conservative, O’Brien has demanded greater transparency and accountability from the Legionaries of Christ despite the order’s image as a favorite of the late Pope John Paul II.
A former West Point chaplain and military archbishop with a hawkish reputation, O’Brien recently strode into the heart of the military establishment at the United States Strategic Command in Omaha, insisting upon the elimination of nuclear weapons.
A one-time proponent of the death penalty, O’Brien now champions abolition -- talking about his conversion in a way that has prompted “soul-searching” among even the most conservative legislators, according to Mary Ellen Russell of the Maryland Catholic Conference. He’s also spoken passionately in defense of immigrants.
Delivered by someone else, these messages might be dismissed as liberal rants. Coming from O’Brien, they pack more punch -- in part because, as Fr. Tom Hurst, rector of the Sulpician-run St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and a longtime friend, says, “the words ‘O’Brien’ and ‘liberal’ don’t go in the same sentence.”