Opinion: Why L.A.'s archbishop might have been passed over for a cardinal's hat
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles was not one of a group of new cardinals named by Pope Francis. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
After it was announced on Sunday that Pope Francis Washington had added Archbishop of DC Wilton Gregory to a group of new cardinals, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles was one of the first to offer congratulations.
Gomez, who is also president of the US Bishops' Conference, said that when the Pope presented a red hat to Gregory, who will be the first African American cardinal, "a strong message of hope and inclusion for the Church in the United States , "
A similar message of inclusion could have been sent if the Pope had also made a cardinal of Gomez, an immigrant from Mexico who heads an archdiocese with a large Latino presence.
But Gomez has been passed over by Francis not only this year but in four earlier announcements of new cardinals since Gomez's immediate predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, turned 80 and was no longer eligible to vote in the papal elections.
Catholic Angelenos would rightly think this is a significant omission. Before Mahony, two other archbishops had been cardinals in Los Angeles: James McIntyre and Timothy Manning.
It is tempting to conclude that Gomez, who was part of the Opus Dei movement, does not have a cardinal hat because he is more conservative than Francis (like many US bishops). It is noteworthy that Charles Chaput, former Archbishop of Philadelphia and a favorite of Conservative Catholics, retired in January without a cardinal hat despite a long history of cardinals in this city.
However, Prof. Kathleen Sprows Cummings, the director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame University, questioned the idea that Francis was trying to insult Gomez or Chaput. More important than theological differences is the Pope's idea of a “global church”.
"The Church in the US is not his top priority," Cummings said of Francis. Indeed, the Pope elevated the prelates in the so-called periphery of the Church to the College of Cardinals, while sometimes ignoring archbishops who did so in previous papacy expecting to receive a cardinal hat because of the importance of their dioceses. (Among the cardinals named on Sunday were prelates from Brunei and Rwanda.)
Cummings said the appointment of Gregory, an African American who has criticized President Trump, was in recognition of the Pope's "paying attention to what is happening in the United States".
Gregory was last on national news in June when he refused Trump's visit to a shrine to Pope John Paul II's in Washington, DC, the day after the evacuation of protesters from a place to celebrate the President's visit to St. John's Episcopal Church to facilitate. Gregory said at the time that he found it “confusing and reprehensible that any Catholic institution would allow itself to be abused and manipulated so outrageously as to violate our religious principles which call us to defend the rights of all people, including those of us with whom we might disagree. "
Gregory will be 73 by December, just two years before the retirement age for bishops (although Francis is free to decline bishops' resignations when they turn 75). Gomez's birthday is also in December, but he will only be 69 years old. So a cardinal hat for him - and Los Angeles - could be in the future.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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