Jewish Journal

The new archbishop in LA

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 12, 2010 | 3:03 pm


Today the Los Angeles Times ran the final piece of a two-part series (one and two) on Archbishop Jose Gomez, whom the Vatican selected last week as the replacement for Cardinal Roger Mahony.

The new head of the largest Catholic community in the nation is being couched by the LAT as one who “will not hesitate to use his pulpit as a platform for both social justice and raw politics—causing, on occasion, considerable strife.” Talk about framing.

Anyway ... here’s an excerpt from today’s story:

As a bishop in Colorado and Texas, two often-conservative states, Gomez was unapologetic about his support for immigrants’ rights. He wrote regular treatises, published online and in newspapers, criticizing in sometimes caustic tones lawmakers who sought to strip those rights.

In 2004, for example, Colorado legislators tried to deny in-state college tuition rates to the children of undocumented immigrants. Gomez noted that Latino immigrants were already poorly educated.

“That depresses their earning power, which prevents their upward mobility, which reduces their assimilation,” he wrote. “So what are Coloradans urged to do? We’re urged to make it more expensive—in other words, harder. . . . We need to at least avoid punishing the young.”

Gomez also was not shy about plunging into national politics. He signed a letter endorsing a federal constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, contending that “the danger [same-sex marriage] betokens for family life and a general condition of social justice and ordered liberty is hard to overestimate.” This spring, he assailed President Obama’s healthcare reform package, largely because he felt it would increase the number of abortions. And when an Indiana bishop refused to attend Obama’s commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, Gomez wrote a letter saying he was “in total support.”

Some of Gomez’s peers and admirers have been uncomfortable with the lengths he has gone to inject the church into national debates.

“For some bishops, it is important to make a statement. That’s all I can say,” said Father David Garcia, a collaborator with Gomez when Garcia was the rector of San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral.

I’d say the Times still doesn’t get religion or even Catholicism, which is practiced by more than 4 million members of the LAT’s community. But I’m on sabbatical from that gig until law school finals are over, so I’ll leave that issue to one of my colleagues there. More to come.

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