Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is ending his term as USCCB president amid calls that he also resign as Archbishop of Galveston-Houston over his handling of abuse cases. His likely successor is Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles, who currently serves as DiNardo’s vice-president. Although LA is the largest diocese in the United States, and though it was one of the dioceses hit worst by the first sex-abuse crisis in the early 2000s, it has remained relatively scandal-free of late.
In a country ravaged by partisan squabbles, Gómez is a strikingly diplomatic figure. Though staunchly orthodox in his theology and boasting a solid pro-life track record, Gómez is the strongest voice in the USCCB opposing President Donald Trump’s border wall. As a conservative on moral issues and a progressive on social-justice ones, Gómez has wide appeal to Catholics regardless of which aisle they seat themselves on. His capital has also risen as he has taken a strong stance against legislation in the California senate that would require priests to break the Seal of the Confessional if they acquire information about clerical sex abuse in the course of hearing Confessions.
One would assume that Gómez, who was born in Mexico and ordained a priest of Opus Dei, is a natural ally of Pope Francis: a fellow Latin American with close ties to the Prelature. Curiously, however, Gómez has been repeatedly passed over for a cardinal’s hat. Why he remains apparently unpopular with the current Vatican leadership isn’t entirely clear. Any gains in the US bishops’ war against corruption may come at the expense of the USCCB’s already shaky relationship with the Holy See.
Not surprisingly for a priest of Opus Dei, Gómez returns again and again to the theme of personal holiness in his writings and homilies. “The mission of the Church is to bring the message of Christ to the people of God,’ he told the media before the plenary session. “So I think that’s a priority for us too, and everything it has to do with the call to holiness is important for the Church.”
That seems a particularly fitting message at a time when bishops are seen as rather too careless about matters of personal holiness.
– from a June 20 story in the Catholic Herald (U.K.)