Published September 19, 2014
This is the full text of the Georgia Bulletin question-and-answer interview with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory about his appointment of a chief operating officer of the Atlanta Archdiocese and other administrative changes made in July 2014. A story based on the written interview was published Sept. 18, 2014.
Q. You and David Spotanski have a history of working together previously in the Diocese of Belleville (Illinois). Why did you feel he was the best person for the job of COO? What would you like people to know about him?
Archbishop Gregory: David and I worked together in the Diocese of Belleville for the entire 11 years that I was the bishop of that local Church. Prior to that he had worked in the Chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He also recently worked in the mission identity department of a large Catholic hospital in New York State. He knows and loves our Church and is completely dedicated to his Catholic faith. At the same time, like most Catholics of his generation, he has known many reasons to doubt or abandon his faith—often because of the failure of clerics, religious, and laity in positions of authority. Nonetheless, he has remained a source of great wisdom and hope for me and for countless others of his colleagues in Church ministry.
Q. How is it of value to have two laymen reporting directly to you?
Archbishop Gregory: What’s much more important to me are qualifications that these two particular laymen—Brad Wilson, our CFO, and David Spotanski, our COO—possess as the ones that report directly to me. These men have both proven to me that they are dedicated to the life of this local Church and they bring an extraordinary portfolio to their duties in their backgrounds and experiences. My staff currently includes many such wonderful folks who have served with distinction during my time as archbishop. I want to encourage the type of engagement that recognizes their talents, invites their candid dialogue, and encourages their collaboration in the mission of this local Church. Our auxiliary bishops and I depend upon the wisdom and competence of all of these people as we lead this local Church into a very bright future. The sense of your question suggests [while not intended] that if we had more priests, we could care for the faith of this local Church with a clerical enclave of workers. I would like to suggest that we need more laity in the service of the Church since they are also the greatest number of people who love, serve, participate in and support the life of any local diocese.
Q. Does the decision to appoint a layman as COO reflect a need to send all available priests to pastoral assignments due to the disparity between rapid growth in the Catholic population and less rapid growth in the number of available priests?
Archbishop Gregory: We priests are ordained to pastoral service and we must never forget that our highest calling is in pastoral care of our people. Many of our priests tell me candidly that as they approach retirement age, they look forward to setting aside the administrative tasks so that they can focus on the priestly ministry that brings them such personal satisfaction. When one of our premier parishes needs a pastor, I must always make the prudential judgment that perhaps one of my colleagues in the administration of the archdiocese would be the ideal priest to care for the people of that parish. This more than any other consideration prompted me to send Msgr. (Joseph) Corbett (formerly the vicar general of the archdiocese) to St. Jude (Church). As an aside, I have received many expressions of gratitude for the gifts that he brings to this new assignment and he himself seems to be basking in the joy of being a full-time parish priest once again.
Q. Does Bishop (Luis R.) Zarama continue as the vicar general of the archdiocese and is there a moderator of the curia?
Archbishop Gregory: I have appointed Bishop (David P.) Talley as a vicar general as well and divided the responsibilities that a single vicar general exercised between the two auxiliary bishops. David Spotanski will also handle some of the administrative functions that relate to the administration of the Chancery and its related agencies. So among the three of them, all responsibilities will be managed.
Q. Your public schedule reflects regular meetings with the auxiliary bishops. Are the COO and the CFO part of those meetings also?
Archbishop Gregory: The bishops meet with me and together constitute a unique consultative unit. The COO and the CFO are not an ordinary part of those meetings unless a specific topic requires their specific participation.
Q. Is there anything that you would like to add for the public to understand better the administrative work/challenges of the archdiocese?
Archbishop Gregory: Like any organization, the Archdiocese of Atlanta has a multileveled structure. I am delighted in the caliber of laity, religious, and clergy who share in the responsibilities that are mine as the archbishop. What is most important for me is to make sure that we have top quality personnel—both clerical and lay. And I fall asleep each night knowing that my colleagues are skilled, dedicated, and worthy of the tasks that are theirs.