US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Gomez in LA: Has there been a shift?

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

It's official: Roger Mahony is no longer the archbishop of Los Angeles. Actually, it was official nine months ago, when Jose Gomez arrived from San Antonio to be Mahony's coadjutor (in effect, co-bishop). The appointment of coadjutors, once considered to be an incredible vote of no-confidence in the sitting bishop, has become so commonplace that no one notices anymore.

The appointment of Gomez, a member of Opus Dei, was indeed a signal of a shift, or more properly a cementing of a shift begun long ago. But the shift began much earlier, at least 15 years ago, with the appointment of Francis George as archbishop of Chicago to replace Joseph Bernardin. Since then, bishops in Bernardin's pastoral, seeking-the-middle-ground style have progressively been replaced by bishops with a narrower doctrinal approach. A post at GetReligion criticizes much of the coverage of Mahony's departure as a classic liberal-to-conservative shift, though I think on the broad strokes, the secular media has it right, though Gomez has given signs that he has a more pastoral approach than some feared. The annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress will, I think, be a fair barometer of the direction things will go. Keep you eyes on the speakers and on the liturgies.

Gomez' installation is truly the end of the Bernardin era, but it also signals another shift, toward non-U.S.-born bishops. Gomez is from Mexico, as is his replacement in San Antonio, Gustavo Siller (a former auxiliary bishop of Chicago). There are U.S.-born Latino bishops, including Jaime Soto in Sacramento, a Mahony protege and perhaps Mahony's own preferred choice as a replacement. But he was passed over.

And finally, there is this: The largest archdiocese in the United States is now shepherded by a member of Opus Dei, something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. There has been a shift indeed.