What will LA’s new Cardinal selection mean for CA’s fight for marriage equality?
April 7th, 2010
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony will retire in February, 2011, and the Catholic Church has just announced his replacement, Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio. Considering that California will likely be voting again in 2012 on whether the state will recognize same-sex marriages, and considering the importance which the Holy See places on this issue, I doubt this move is unrelated.
As a Mexican native, Gomez will have a natural appeal and a greater sense of authority than had Mahony. And he could be a far more committed opponent of equality.
Cardinal Mahony was active in seeking Latino and other Catholic vote in favor of Proposition 8. Yet his was not the image of the initiative and his activism seemed more cursory than heartfelt. He opposed equality but not with ferocity.
This may, in part, be due to Mahony’s less rigid ideologies and his affiliation with the more moderate wing of the Church, one focused on advancing social good rather than upholding the dictates of Rome. Jose Gomez is cut from a different cloth. (LA Times)
During his six-year tenure atop the San Antonio archdiocese, Gomez emerged as a leading advocate for doctrinal conformity, determined to stave off what he saw as creeping secularism in the church.
He denounced one Catholic university when it invited then-Sen. Hillary Clinton to campus, because she favored abortion rights, and another when it invited a Benedictine nun, because she had advocated the ordination of women. Under his reign, a local Catholic high school ended its relationship with an organization that raised money to fight breast cancer, because the same organization gave grants to Planned Parenthood. After a 17-year-old lay advisory commission created by his predecessor suggested that gay marriage might be a human rights issue under one reading of the church’s teachings, Gomez disbanded the commission.
“The doors were closed for collaborative communication,” Mary Moreno, one commission member, said in an interview Tuesday. “We just got a letter. And when things are done like that, it kind of leaves a sting.”
Such hardline authoritarianism is natural considering his affiliation within the church. Gomez comes out of the conservative Opus Dei movement, one which frequently seems present when the Church lodges attacks the civil freedoms of non-Catholics, especially gays and lesbians.
And Gomez does believe in advancing his church’s agenda by means of the ballot box. In 2008 he wrote an op-ed in the San Antonio Express-News in which he said
Recently, the Express-News published its voter’s guide. It was a comprehensive listing of races and candidates running for office in November. I’m sure it was a helpful tool for many. I recognize it is challenging to make any voter’s guide comprehensive. However, the inclusion of the fundamental life issues for pursuit of the common good would have made the publication a more complete, accurate and useful tool at this critical time.
People need to know the positions of the candidates on the key issues that protect the right to life such as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and capital punishment. Voters also would have been better served if they had been provided information about the candidates’ positions on the definition of marriage, the basic cell of society as a union between a man and a woman.
But Jose Gomez may find that being Cardinal in Los Angeles is quite different from being Archbishop in San Antonio. He’ll soon discover that California’s Latino Catholic politicians are socially liberal and will not fall in line to follow the Church’s anti-gay positions. It will be interesting to see to what extent the new Cardinal will seek to impose his will on the local political power structure. And it will be interesting to see whether Gomez’ support for immigrants (with which he shares ideology with local Catholic Latino politicians) will cause him to tread more lightly on those other issues with which he disagrees.
But in any case, I think that this move is likely to change the game in the next proposition battle. I suspect that Gomez will be much more aggressive in the Church’s campaign to impose its will on its neighbors.