Vatican's point man on higher education moves to Vancouver

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
New York

Rome’s point man on Catholic higher education has been named the new coadjutor archbishop of Vancouver, positioning him eventually to lead one of North America’s most cosmopolitan dioceses and the third-largest in Canada, after Montreal and Toronto.

Archbishop Michael Miller, who has served as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education in the Vatican since 2003, was named to the Vancouver post by Pope Benedict XVI on June 1. A "coadjutor" bishop has the right of succession upon the death or retirement of the bishop he serves. Miller, who will be 61 on July 9, is a member of the Basilian order.

In his new role, Miller, who was born in Ottawa, Canada, will assist the current Archbishop of Vancouver, Raymond Roussin, 67, who has struggled with clinical depression over the last two years.

Despite staging a strong recovery following a five-month break in a New York treatment center in early 2006, Roussin told the Religion News Service in March 2007 that he continues to take medication for stress, and suffers from occasional difficulties with memory. He also has an undiagnosed, and probably unrelated, tremor in his fingers which makes it difficult to write or type on a computer keyboard.

Mental health experts have praised Roussin for publicly acknowledging his depression, thus encouraging others to seek treatment rather than to deny the condition. In August 2005, Roussin disclosed his depression in a letter to Vancouver Catholics, explaining that he decided to be “frank” in order to help remove some of the stigma “wrongly and unfortunately” associated with the disease.

Roussin discussed his battles with depression in an interview with Salt and Light Television, a Catholic network in Canada, which can be seen here: http://www.saltandlighttv.org/prog_slprog_focus061128_video.html.

In a June 1 statement, Roussin said he welcomed Miller’s appointment.

“I'm more than pleased to hear this news,” Roussin said. “I know Archbishop Miller will be a great help to the Archdiocese of Vancouver considering his background and the richness of his service to the Church.”

Earlier in 2007, Roussin won a highly publicized battle with Telus, a cellular telephone company in Canada, which was to become the first provider to allow customers to download pornography to their phones. After generating a slate of bad publicity, Roussin forced the company to back down.

Miller served as president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston prior to his appointment to the Congregation for Catholic Education. Before that, he worked for five years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, in the English language department then led by Archbishop James Harvey, today the head of the papal household. Miller has written 80 articles and seven books, including 1995’s The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development, and Mission of the Papacy. Besides English, he speaks Spanish, Italian, French and German.

In his Vatican role, Miller was a key figure in discussions surrounding implementation of Pope John Paul II’s 1990 document Ex Corde Ecclesiae on the Catholic identity of church-affiliated colleges and universities. Miller had been working to encourage colleges to devise quantifiable systems of assessment for Catholic identity, similar to the way the colleges assess other outcomes such as student achievement or faculty development.

Miller also was involved in the Vatican’s controversial November 2005 document barring the admission of homosexuals to Catholic seminaries, which was issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education.

At the time of Miller’s 2003 Vatican appointment, fellow Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who heads the Salt and Light Catholic network, said of him: “Some may consider him ‘conservative,’ but … he is open to dialogue and aware of the complexities of issues. He has actively encouraged vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and I know many people who have pursued a vocation because of him. Michael possesses a unique blend of intellectual gifts and the ability to translate ideas into very practical points. He is greatly respected by the Church in the United States...far beyond the Houston area. He is a great preacher.”

In Rome, Miller was a popular Vatican figure, with a reputation for both approachability and a command of issues.


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