As usual: Whispers in the Loggia and American Papist have the scoop. Bishop Jose Gomez, currently Archbishop of San Antonio, is going to stand out as LA’s archbishop for a number of reasons. The media will certainly note that as a Mexican immigrant to the United States, Gomez represents the demographic trends of the country generally, and Los Angeles specifically. But there are issues far beyond identity politics at play here. Bishop Gomez was an auxiliary bishop to Denver’s Archbishop Chaput, one of the finest American bishops alive. Gomez is also the only bishop numerary in Opus Dei in the US: I’d thought Bp. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph was as well, but it turns out, he’s not a full numerary.
If you’re not familiar, Opus Dei (“The Work”) is a young religious group (less than a hundred years old), which is orthodox, on fire for the Gospel, and evangelizing in new and interesting ways. St. Josemaria Escriva had a real commitment to the notion that Catholics should live out their faith in daily lives: that Catholicism wasn’t something left for Sundays and priests or nuns, but was for everybody and everyday. The documents of the Second Vatican Council would vindicate this approach a few decades later, and Opus Dei’s contributions to global (and particularly Spanish-speaking) Catholicism have been profound. To get a feel for the organization, one of Damian Thompson’s ugly hit pieces in the Telegraph recounted this:
A priest I know once heard the confessions of primary school children whose spiritual director was a member of Opus Dei. “I was horrified by what these little boys and girls regarded as serious sins, such as doubting the validity of this or that complex doctrine,” he told me.
So Opus Dei actually trains Catholic youths to believe that doubting Catholic doctrine is sinful… even doubting “this or that complex doctrine.” That is, of course, exactly what the Catholic Church believes. But a priest who see no problem doubting “this or that” doctrine may not be particularly in that. But Opus Dei does care what the Church teaches, and have been very much in favor with both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI (prior to that, I have no idea).
Bishop Gomez has also been seemingly in favor with those two gentlemen. A Time article in 2005 notes that “in December, Pope John Paul II leapfrogged the low-key 53-year-old over hundreds of diocesan bishops into the San Antonio, Texas, seat—and the center of American Catholicism’s future. ” Five and a half years later, Gomez is being moved to an even more prominent southern American archdiocese. A final positive from the Time article: “despite his orthodoxy, Gomez is a natural conciliator admired for uniting rich and poor and Anglo and Hispanic Catholics behind Denver’s Centro Juan Diego, a hybrid Latino religious-instruction and social-services center hailed as a national model.” I’m certain I’m not sure why caring for the poor or working for Christian unity is something done despite one’s orthodoxy, but what the author is trying to express seems quite positive.
Ah yes. One more thing. Gomez is apparently pretty keen to new media evangelization, and he’s not yet 60. He seems to hold a lot of promise for re-energizing a pretty damaged part of the Church. The prospect of a young(ish), bilingual Archbishop (and hopefully soon, Cardinal) presenting ancient Catholic truths by cutting edge media, rousing our Charity for the poor without forgetting our love of Truth … well, it’s almost too much to handle. And that this ideal bishop is replacing Cardinal Mahony only sweetens the deal for me. Let’s hope that his first act is ending the LA Religious Education Conference (or better yet, cleaning it up). This is embarrassing to our Faith (and good taste, generally):
I dare you to watch the full 9:21.
Edit: Mark Shea pointed out the remoteness of the possibility that a new bishop will be shutting the LA Religious Education Conference down; bishops (especially good ones) don’t like to throw their weight around, meaning he’ll probably try and work calmly and not drive the crazylenders out of the Temple right off.