Some very good analysis from Michelle Boorstein in The Washington Post:
When the pope names a new bishop for a diocese, it’s always buzzy Catholic news. But a leaked report this past week about the next archbishop of Washington was big news for unexpected reasons.
The Catholic News Agency, citing anonymous sources, reported Thursday that Pope Francis is going to appoint Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory to replace embattled D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl — which would make Gregory the first black Catholic archbishop of the capital, one of the most high-profile posts in the nation. The news was quickly eclipsed by questions, doubts and conspiracy theories about the sources behind it.
Had Gregory really been offered the job — or was someone allied with the pope floating a trial balloon to gauge sentiment in the District, an epicenter of the current clergy sexual abuse crisis?
Or could the report, in a conservative-leaning publication, have been leaked purposely by Francis critics in the Vatican or elsewhere to hurt and possibly scuttle the pick of Gregory, loathed by some orthodox Catholics as too liberal?
Another theory is the leaks came as a push to make Gregory, who is seen as happy and mostly popular in Atlanta, feel more obligated to accept the pope’s offer if it were made public.
It’s also possible there’s no manipulation behind the leaks, and Gregory’s appointment will be announced soon.
The Catholic News Agency hedged, saying the “likely appointment could still be subject to change.”
The Vatican and church officials in Washington and Atlanta declined to verify the report, leading some to speculate that it was untrue, Gregory could be considering turning it down or the pope could change his mind. As of Saturday, no other Catholic media or mainstream outlet, including The Washington Post, had confirmed the CNA’s reporting, although the far-right website Church Militant was quick to cite the CNA report.
CNA’s editor in chief, J.D. Flynn, who is also one of the authors of the piece, said, “I don’t have any doubt about the veracity of what we reported.”