Fr. John Dolan, a priest with an LGBT-positive record, has been appointed by the Vatican to be an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of San Diego.
Announcements about Dolan’s appointment repeatedly noted his pastoral work with marginalized people. In the past few years, this work has included ministry with LGBT Catholics and their families.
Dolan has been the diocesan vicar for clergy and pastored two churches, including the welcoming St. John the Evangelist parish in the Hillcrest neighborhood where many of San Diego’s LGBT residents live. Bishop Robert McElroy last year acknowledged the parish as a place where LGBT people have said they “feel particularly welcome” and, according to McElroy, “that’s a very good thing.”
Dolan has described his experiences with LGBT communities at St. John the Evangelist as “an eye-opening experience. . .but also a joyful experience.” These experiences led him to suggest LGBT issues were the “elephant in the room” at San Diego’s 2016 diocesan synod. Highlighting problems in how the church approaches younger Catholics, Dolan commented:
” ‘There are two different forms of doing church. . .One is very dialogical, from a dialogical sense, and the other is from a monological sense. And we have dealt with that monological world: Things come from on high, they get shelved in some pastor’s corner, then there’s some thought that comes down, but ultimately it’s all ‘We’re going to tell you what to think.’ . . .
” ‘Young adults have an acceptance of the LGBT experience. It is simply a part of their world, and they look at us, and say, “What is the problem?” ‘ “
Notably, Bishop McElroy also affirmed the need to address such issues, saying he was surprised at “where the LGBT question would come up” in the discussion section on the spirituality of marriage.” McElroy is himself a Francis appointee.
The pope’s influence on the U.S. episcopate is continuing to grow. Among the “Francis Bishops,” Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky offered scriptural reflections at New Ways Ministry’s national Symposium, and Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich has made repeated positive comments about LGBT people. There are presently eight vacant dioceses, and several dozen bishops approaching the age of mandatory retirement.
The Times of San Diego reported that in addition to his episcopal duties, Dolan will remain at the two parishes he now oversees. He will likely continue to learn from and be moved by the many faithful LGBT Catholics and their families whom he encounters. Hopefully, his new position will enable him to help open wider doors of welcome to LGBT people in San Diego.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 27, 2017