The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting this week ended with the announcement of the names of bishops elected to represent the United States at the synod on marriage and family to be held at the Vatican in October 2015. What will this election mean for LGBT issues?
The four main delegates elected were Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston (who are, respecitvely, president and vice president of the USCCB), Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.
Selected as alternates were Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Archbishop-elect Blase Cupich of Chicago. Both Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC may also be attending the meeting because they are part of the synod planning committee.
David Gibson of Religion News Service described the choices as a “mixed slate,” noting that it included some “outspoken culture warriors who are sometimes viewed as out of step with Pope Francis’ priorities.”
For LGBT issues, perhaps the most worrisome of these choices are Chaput, Gomez, and Cordileone. Chaput has been a vocal opponent of this past month’s preparatory synod, saying that it caused confusion and that confusion is “of the devil.”
Gomez opposed the teaching of LGBT history in California public schools. He also opposed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it now includes ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected classes.
Cordileone is the USCCB’s chairman of the Defense of Marriage Committee, and a vocal opponent of marriage equality.
Gibson quoted Fr. Thomas Reese’s comments about the election:
“ ‘If they wanted to send the people closest to the pope they would have elected Sean O’Malley and Blase Cupich. But they didn’t,’ said the Rev. Thomas Reese, an analyst for National Catholic Reporter who first reported the slate of names.
“ ‘It is just where they are right now,’ Reese said. ‘The majority of the conference doesn’t know what to do with the pope. The bishops are like deer in the headlights, and they don’t know which way to jump.’ ”
(You can read Fr. Reese’s full evaluation of the bishops’ meeting by clicking here.)
Archbishop-elect Blase Cupich is perhaps the best choice they made in terms of LGBT issues. He is widely viewed as a moderate, and when he was appointed as head of the Chicago archdiocese, this blog welcomed the decision as a fresh change from Cardinal Francis George who was, at times, openly antagonistic to the LGBT community.
So, should we give up hope for any positive changes at next year’s synod? No. Certainly, not yet. First of all, this slate must first be approved by the Vatican. And even if it does get approved, we need to remember that the Americans will only be a tiny percentage of the other bishops there, and we don’t know yet who they will be.
This news, however, should be a wake-up call to Catholics in the U.S. who support LGBT equality. We need to make our voices heard to our local bishops who can let these representatives know what American Catholics believe. The church is not a democracy, but its leaders do have a responsibility to consider the opinions of the laity on matters where the laity have expertise. Marriage, family, and sexuality are certainly within that purview.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry