The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) upcoming fall assembly starts next week, and the bishops will elect a new president and vice-president. It’s always important to watch who they will elect, but this year there is more curiosity than usual for it’s the first time they’ll be making such a choice under Pope Francis. The Conference released the ten candidates’ names recently, leading to speculation about who will be elected and what this will mean for the American Church. Bondings 2.0 offers brief commentaries on several candidates below, along with provided links for you to read more.
Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans made headlines in October for new initiatives aimed at welcoming those on the margins in his diocese. These include greater outreach to LGBT Catholics, as well as blessing a new center to assist transient populations. According to The Advocate, (archdiocesan newspaper), when he blessed the new facility he said: “ ‘This is an opportunity for us as a church to open wide our arms and our hearts and say all are welcome…Part of respecting people is respecting their freedom.’ ” In June, Aymond apologized to the LGBT community for the Church’s silence in 1973 after 32 people were killed and dozens wounded in an arson fire at a New Orleans gay bar.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia has a less positive record on LGBT issues. He is noted for ejecting children with same-gender parents access
from Catholic school and voicing the antipathy of right-wing Catholics towards Pope Francis’ more welcoming style, even as a Villanova University study (in his own archdiocese) identified LGBT issues as a leading cause of declining Church attendance. Chaput is known to deny Communion.
Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington led in more open ways around the often controversial issues of commencements speakers and marriage
equality. When other bishops cancelled and censored speakers at Catholic colleges, Cupich supported Gonzaga University’s decision to honor Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his anti-apartheid work, even while he endorses marriage equality. When Washington State was debating a referendum on marriage equality in 2012, the bishop called for a more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality. While not perfect, he was praised for advocating a compassionate and civil tone in what can otherwise be harmful debates.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles is a leading Hispanic Catholic figure and presides over one of the US’ largest archdioceses. Gomez opposed the teaching of LGBT history in California state education and signed onto a letter by several bishops opposing the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it now includes ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as protected classes.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky has sometimes said the right things, but is hindered by a lack of action backing up his words. Earlier this year, he called for a greater respect in how the Church speaks about LGBT people, even as he reaffirmed the bishops’ anti-marriage equality stance as a former chairman of their Ad Hoc
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore has been a leading opponent of equal rights for LGBT among the Catholic hierarchy. Lori led the USCCB’s “Fortnight for Freedom” in 2012, which claimed the Catholic Church’s freedom was being attacked in part because of expanding LGBT equality, and he continues to chair the Conference’s committee on religious liberty. After moving to Baltimore, he opposed marriage equality in Maryland. After the state’s voters confirmed the new law through a referendum (in part due to
Catholics), he called for a doubling down in opposing this new reality. On Pope Francis, he initially tried to downplay gay-friendly comments, but in a hopeful sign said he will now rethink statements on LGBT and other controversial matters to see if they truly bring people to the Gospel.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was mentioned in the Detroit Free Press earlier this year for his comments about pro-LGBT Catholics refraining from Communion. In
April, the archbishop stirred up controversy when he said Catholics who support marriage equality should refrain from presenting themselves for Communion, though he did not ban them outright. His comments prompted outcry from Catholic parents in Michigan, and from Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (links here and here) and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami authored a letter to Catholics in which he opposed marriage equality by saying that it would open up the path to polygamy. Prior to being made archbishop of Miami, he was bishop of Orlando, Florida, where he closed down a well-established diocesan ministry to lesbian and gay people.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston offered non-committal words about gay people this past summer after Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” interview. The Associated Press reported:
“The cardinal says all persons are children of God and must be afforded respect, dignity and love as a person created in the image and likeness of god. This applies equally to persons of same sex orientation.”
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati was the USCCB General Secretary in 1997 when the U.S. bishops published Always Our Children, their landmark document on ministry to families with lesbian and gay daughters and sons. This past summer, he wrote an op-ed for Cincinnati.com, opposing the Supreme Court decisions upholding marriage equality. In that essay, he put quotation marks around “marriage” whenever it referred to same-sex marriage.