Bishop Paul S. Coakley of Salina, Kansas will become the new Archbishop of Oklahoma City, the Vatican announced today.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed the new archbishop on Dec. 16, after accepting Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran's retirement at the age of 76.
Bishop Coakley, 55, has lived in the Midwest for much of his life, although he briefly considered a vocation to traditional Benedictine monasticism in France before becoming a priest for the Diocese of Wichita in 1983. After 21 years as a diocesan priest, he received his episcopal consecration and became the Bishop of Salina in 2004.
As head of the Diocese of Salina, Bishop Coakley has strongly criticized Catholic politicians who support the legality of abortion –which he has publicly compared to genocide– as well as voters who support such candidates without a “proportionately grave moral reason” for doing so.
In November 2010, Bishop Coakley addressed a significant pastoral letter to the lay faithful, clergy, and consecrated men and women of his diocese, entitled “Put Out into the Deep: Living Our Call to Holiness.” In that letter, he offered a vision for helping the diocese meet its practical needs through effective stewardship, without losing sight of the Church's supernatural mission of salvation.
It will fall to Bishop Coakley's successor in Salina to implement these plans, however, as he takes on a larger commitment as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Oklahoma City.
Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran will step down as head of the archdiocese after 18 years in his current position, and 32 total years as a bishop.
The retiring archbishop received criticism for a case in which he allowed a priest to remain in ministry after he was accused of sexually abusing boys in the 1990s. The priest was arrested in 1999 after committing further abuse.
However, many in the archdiocese will remember the retiring bishop for what his official biography described as “his positive outlook, his devotion to the Eucharist and his prayerful life,” all of which were said to have “set the tone and example for the flock” in Oklahoma City.