The U.S. church needs Latino leaders from the growing West

On Sunday morning, Oct. 9, Pope Francis announced the appointment of 17 new cardinals. Once again his choices represent his dual concern for a deeply Christ-centered pastoral leadership and choices that spotlight the neediest and forgotten. Among his choices: Italian Archbishop Mario Zenari serves as papal envoy to Syria; Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, C.S.Sp., has been calling his people in the Central African Republic to peace in the midst of decades of Muslim vs. Christian violence; Archbishop John Ribat, M.S.C., in Papua New Guinea has likewise been a voice crying out to world leaders to remember the people of Oceania and elsewhere whose lives are already endangered by climate change.

But as exciting and inspiring as those choices are for those of us who live in the Western United States, it was disappointing and somewhat shocking to find that this year’s list did not include someone from out here. Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, for instance, is the leader of the largest see in the United States—indeed, it has 1.6 million Catholics more than the next largest U.S. diocese. A Mexican immigrant himself, he is a passionate and articulate advocate on immigration issues and the force behind the archdiocese’s moves to the forefront of digital evangelization in the international church.

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It is also puzzling that at a time when the greatest growth in the U.S. church is in the southwestern United States and among Latinos—who represent over 34 percent of the U.S. church’s population—the United States does not have a single cardinal running a diocese in almost the entire western half of the United States nor one who is Latino, despite our country having a number of excellent candidates. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is the farthest seat west where you’ll find a cardinal, Daniel DiNardo.

Some posit that Archbishop Gomez’s ecclesiology might run too traditional for Pope Francis, but that seems both inaccurate and a misreading of the pope’s selection process. His administration of the archdiocese has not been marked by ideology. And Francis, for his part, seems less interested in one’s leanings than one’s work. Are you first and foremost an image of Christ’s mercy, particularly to the lowest and the least? That’s what’s important.

What seems most likely is that the pope this year saw more immediate priorities. With Archbishop Blase Cupich in Chicago and Archbishop Kevin Farrell, formerly of Dallas, both moving into higher leadership elsewhere in the church, there was not going to be room for more than possibly one other American. Francis chose Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, an appointment that signals once again his commitment to development in the U.S. church. It is an exciting choice that will generate a lot of hope and possibility.

I’m all for that and for the insights Cardinal-elect Tobin will bring. I also applaud the pope for not choosing cardinals in terms of quotas or “this is how we’ve always done it.” In just a few years he has radically changed not only the makeup but the way we think about the College of Cardinals. Over the next generation the church will be transformed in ways we can’t even begin to predict by these choices.

But I’ve also listened to Western U.S. bishops (McGrathBarnesTysonKicanas and Blaire) express concern, sometimes frustration, that while being the U.S. church’s greatest source of growth, youth and innovation, the experiences and insights of the church in this region, because they’re so different and so far-flung from the older church in the Northeast, are often overlooked. It is a reality most of them seem to have made their peace with, but on a macro scale it is a problem.

And while quotas are rightly anathema, given the centrality of the Latino community not only to the future, but to the present–day vitality of the U.S. church, at some point soon it is important for their talents and insights to be tapped for leadership at the highest levels as well.

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William Rydberg
1 year 2 months ago
You are right. This is yet more evidence of symptoms of recent problems around priorities coming out of the Vatican... But I think that the Priority ought to be getting Pope Francis out of Santa Marta. His advisors (or maybe he has gone rogue-just don't know) have turned him in to a "TV Priest". Both he and the Church need more "Mary" and less "Martha". He seems to need to Retreat away from the Santa Marta. Unlike our other Popes of Post-WW2, he seems not to take seriously enough the potential for Thermonuclear War. These concerns are in the papers and other media almost daily. The latest news is not promising in that Russian State Officials are telling Overseas Personnel with children in school ought to bring them back to Russia immediately. There are many other reports not just around Russia. Here is the Russian language website: https://www.znak.com/2016-10-11/rossiyskim_chinovnikam_i_deputatam_rekomendovano_vernut_detey_i_roditeley_na_rodinu Pray for the Pope! For Peace talk should always be on his lips. For he is the Vicar of Christ Jesus-God come in the flesh. Move in to the Vatican! In my opinion... PAX in Christ, Blessed be the Holy Trinity P.S. The usage of the word Anathema is correct in this context, rarely does one read where it's used correctly and in context...
ed gleason
1 year 2 months ago
The obvious answer is that there is a living cardinal in Los Angeles.. next faux uproar. and Francis bashing, please
William Rydberg
1 year 2 months ago
Are you for a moment suggesting that the barred/disgraced guy is providing advice and counsel to Pope Francis. I think not...
Joshua DeCuir
1 year 2 months ago
Traditionally a successor to a Cardinal Archbishop was not made a cardinal if his predecessor were still eligible to vote in a conclave. But Mahony is over 80 & therefore no longer eligible to vote in a conclave, so that obstacle is no longer present. I don't agree with the Francis bashing either; but I think this deserves some mild criticism.
L J
1 year 2 months ago
"there is a living cardinal in Los Angeles" The author is a screenwriter for Hollywood. Perhaps he did not mention 80 year old Roger Cardinal Mahony on purpose so as to write his next TV pilot "The Forgotten Cardinal".
Crystal Watson
1 year 2 months ago
Gomez is very conservative. Opus Dei, consecrated by Chaput, he's worked against marriage equality and anti-discrimination legislation, etc.
L J
1 year 2 months ago
I find the article baffling. The Holy Father has a Church to fix. The Cardinals elected him as Pontiff precisely to fix the mess within the Curia. Pope B16 has already stated his was not the gift of administration while Francis, as former Jesuit Provincial of Argentina in the 70s during La Guerra Sucia / Dirty War, has the scars to prove of having gained the experience to fight against military dictatorship of the far right. He also showed his rejection for the Marxist interpretation of Liberation Theology while still advocating a preferential option of the poor as articulated in the preface of the book "Una apuesta por America Latina" (A Commitment to Latin America) written by Uruguayan attorney Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour in 2005. Cardinal Bergoglio wrote in the preface: "After the collapse of “real socialism” (that is, Marxism), these currents of thought (liberation theology) were plunged into confusion. Incapable of either radical reformulation or new creativity, they survived by inertia, even if there are still some today who, anachronistically, would like to propose it again.” http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2014/05/02/0315/00693.html Lecour was appointed by Pope Francis as Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in 2014. Pope Francis has never been about ideologies. He is about Christ. As we say in Spanish, "punto finale" (end of story). He didnt elevate Abp Gomez in LA to Cardinal. So what? Since when was Pope Francis anti-Latino? Is that allegation to hold any water because of his overlooking a small region in the USA as compared to the vastness of Latin America? Cardinal Bergoglio's CV prior to becoming Pope is impeccable. He edited the famous "Aparecida" document of CELAM while President of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina. Even George Weigel, who is conservative first, Catholic second, stated the following about Bergoglio in the not so Catholic periodical "First Things": "In a meeting with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., the archbishop of Buenos Aires and one of the world Church’s great leaders, I asked how the Aparecida Document” which seemed such a break from previous CELAM documents” had happened." Weigel has nothing but praise for then Cardinal Bergoglio, and coming from Weigel, you know that is as good as getting an Imprimatur for having the "bona fides" to be "conservative"....until Pope Francis demonstrates he is not bound by ideological labels like Weigel. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/06/light-from-the-south In passing over Abp Gomez as Cardinal, the Pope made no statement about Latinos. As some have observed in responses to my comments on these boards, Latinos are here, they are letting Americanos feel their presence, they are as Catholic as Pope Francis, dont care about the divisive camps of "conservative vs liberals", and are educated lay ministers of the Church. Thanks to Vatican II the laity have become as important body to the future of the Church. Pope Francis loves the Latinos who comprise the Catholic Faith. They just happen to live in places other than Los Angeles. Cardinal elect Tobin and Farrell are multilingual and also have a CV that reflects their love for Latinos. Abp Tobin rejects ideological divisions and is fluent in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. Abp Farrell was sent to Dallas to clean up the huge mess that was due to predatory Catholic priests. He studied in Universidad de Salamanca for his Bachelors degree and was Chaplain of Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico. Tobin and Farrell are embued with the "sangre y corazón" of Latinos. We Latinos in United Statrs of America are well represented in the Catholic Church. The See of Miami is proof positive how well represented Latinos are in USA in addition to the many other Sees in the USA. No Latino believes otherwise. We dont need a red hat from LA to feel like we have room at the table. Hay que tener pasión en la sangre para seguir el Señor. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
William Rydberg
1 year 2 months ago
Mr Reyes, To begin. The way you write is as though Hispanics/Latinos are a single Ethnic Group. They are not. My guess is that you might have absorbed a lot of secular American hype since your arrival from Cuba. Here are some things to think about. You are aware that people from Brazil (largest Catholic country in the World) are neither Hispanics or Latinos. That even the USA Census defines Hispanics/Latinos as persons from countries/possessions that were formerly Empire of Spain possessions. That the term is not an ethnicity, but rather what is termed an Ethnonym. Being a Cuban, you undoubtedly know this, yet your commentary doesn't support. Your comment suggests a false homogeneity. Cubans for example are quite different than Puerto Ricans, etc... (compare Pakistanis and Canadians-both former British possessions). In time, your progeny may find themselves to be "Melting Pot" Americans, because after a few generations and some intermarriage, how can one use the ethnonym Hispanic/Latino since it's not an ethnicity? You may find that your current self true identity in the long term meaningless to future generations. Especially if you consider your self first a Hispanic/Latino-Catholic. For you are first a Catholic. And what will be left is the same thing many persons of German, Irish, Polish descent are experiencing. Deracinated people of the American melting pot. The best way to go is the path we have chosen in Canada, true multiculturalism. And the true path to follow is in my opinion true Catholicism. Watch out for cheap facsimiles... in Christ,
Roberto Blum
1 year 2 months ago
Rydberg, Cubans and Puerto Ricans are as different as Pakistanis and Canadians, wow I had never heard such an idiosyncratic comparison.
William Rydberg
1 year 2 months ago
I am Canadian and we are pretty multi-ethnic here in Toronto, My Parish has many people from the sub-continent, and quite a few Catholics from Pakistan. We have shared understanding of Parliamentary democracy and many British inspired institutions. People are different worldwide, but the British Influence runs throughout. Concerning Catholicism, while not a fave of the British it did spread nevertheless. With multi-culturalism you could learn a lot more my American friend.... Without doubt, on other levels Pakistanis are different from French or English Canadians. But we celebrate our cultures...
Joshua DeCuir
1 year 2 months ago
The disappointment of over-looking Gomez is not only no recognition for the changing face of the US Catholic Church; it also seems to re-enforce a polarization of the Church as it looks like Gomez was overlooked because he is seen as somehow opposed to Pope Francis or "conservative." If someone like Gomez - who has been a prophetic voice on the issue of immigration - is insufficiently pastoral for these purposes, then it is indeed a sad moment. I've seen some defend over-looking Gomez because the Pope has a right to name his "allies" to the College. But one should also recognize the fact that both Popes John Paul II & Benedict XVI made cardinals of prelates largely seen as "liberal" or "moderate." This includes Cardinals Roger Mahony, Joseph Bernardin, Donald Wuerl, Christoph Schonborn, Reinhard Marx, and, of course, one Jorge Bergoglio. On this score, I think Pope Francis would have been better served by hewing to that example as well as to the tradition of giving the red hat to major sees.
Lisa Weber
1 year 2 months ago
If Archbishop Gomez leans toward conservatism, it is just as well that he not be made a cardinal. The church needs to move forward, not backward. The conservatives of the church do a considerable amount of damage to the church with their fixation on returning to the past. The only significant difference between an archbishop and a cardinal is the right to vote in papal elections, so the church will not suffer for lack of administrators if there is no western USA cardinal.

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