How New Cardinals Appointed by Pope Francis Might Impact LGBT Catholics

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 10, 2016

Pope Francis named seventeen new cardinals yesterday, and his selections will impact LGBT issues both by who was named — and who was not.

Vatican Mother Teresa

Pope Francis speaking with cardinals

The three prelates named from the United States are Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, and Bishop Kevin Farrell, formerly of Dallas and now Prefect of the newly created Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Francis also named ten bishops from ten other countries, reported the National Catholic Reporter:

  • Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria
  • Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, CSSp. of Bangui (Central African Republic)
  • Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid (Spain0
  • Archbishop Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia (Brazil)
  • Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, CSC of Dhaka (Bangladesh)
  • Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Mérida (Venezuela)
  • Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels (Belgium)
  • Archbishop Maurice Piat of Port-Louis (Mauritius)
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla (Mexico)
  • Archbishop John Ribat, M.S.C. of Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea)

Four clerics were also named as honorary cardinals, as they are over the age of 80 and are therefore ineligible to vote in conclaves. All those named will be elevated at a conclave on November 19, just before the Year of Mercy concludes on the Feast of Christ the King.

How might these new cardinals impact LGBT issues in the church, especially in the United States? I offer five thoughts.

First, the three U.S. bishops named each have very pastoral reputations. Archbishop Cupich has previously called for the church to respect lesbian and gay people’s consciences and said every family deserves legal protections.  A participant at the 2015 Synod on the Family, Cupich told Bondings 2.0 that hearing from same-gender couples would have benefited the assembly. Admittedly, Cupich’s record on LGBT issues is not perfect.  He has not overturned the firings of two music ministers in his archdiocese, Colin Collette and Sandor Demkovich.

Archbishop Tobin (not to be confused with the highly LGBT-negative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island) joined Cupich and other bishops last year in criticizing priorities set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which focused on marriage and religious liberty, because they were inconsistent with Pope Francis’ vision. When a referendum banning same-gender marriage was proposed in Indiana, Tobin’s response avoided the hyperbolic and pastorally harmful language of so many bishops; indeed, the archdiocesan spokesperson said Catholics “have the right to make their own decisions on these issues.” He also defended U.S. women religious when the Vatican launched its investigations against them, in part for their support of LGBT equality.

Bishop Farrell, originally from Ireland, developed a pastoral reputation while in Dallas. He is now charged with merging and managing the many offices now formed into the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, a central focus of which will be the reception of Amoris Laetitia. He could greatly impact how the church responds to and pastorally cares for LGBT Catholics and their families in the many global contexts in which the church exists.

Worth noting, too, are the affirming words from Belgian Archbishop Jozef De Kesel, who last year said he had “much respect for gays. . . [and] their way of living their sexuality.”

Second, bishops from the United States whom the pope omitted are significant. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles would normally be named because their sees traditionally receive the red hat. But these three bishops have spearheaded the U.S. bishops’ campaign against marriage equality and LGBT rights, neglecting issues valued far more by this pope. And because Chaput has so narrowly interpreted Amoris Laetitia, he has essentially rejected the document which is the pope’s apostolic exhortation on family life that emerged from the Synod on the Family.

Third, taken together these appointments may propel wider shifts in the direction of the U.S. church. Raising the profile of bishops who are more pastorally inclined and have avoided the culture wars, while omitting bishops comfortable with the current episcopal establishment, is a very strong statement from Pope Francis. This November, the USCCB will vote for new leadership. It will be interesting to see whether the bishops have finally accepted that we really are living in the age of Pope Francis.

Fourth, this further changes the math in the College of Cardinals which will impact the conclave when Pope Francis eventually dies or resigns. Many Catholic observers have said the pope’s reforms will only last if his successor pursues a similar path. With these new cardinals, Francis has now named 44 of 123 cardinals eligible to be electors.

Fifth, even if these appointments are positive step, the pope’s record on LGBT issues and church reform more generally remains mixed. He is certainly an improvement on his predecessors, but shifts in style must at some point be matched by more substantive changes. Hopefully, these new cardinals will return to their local churches and advance the concrete enactment of Francis’ merciful and pastoral vision.


12 replies
  1. Wilhelm Wonka
    Wilhelm Wonka says:

    Have any of these men challenged the substantive cause of homophobia in the Church? Its highly prejudiced catechetical teaching against LGBT Catholics? I doubt it.

    This so-called “teaching” indirectly approves discrimination against these Catholics, including their firing from employment. And it only half-heartedly condemns what it calls “unjust” discrimination against them by saying that it “should” be avoided, not that it must so.

    This is no quibble. The word “should” here was purposefully chosen. Semantically, the word “must” is stronger, an imperative, expressing no option in a matter; the weaker word “should” is less forceful.

    In such a context as LGBT discrimination, “must” expresses absolute obligation to act in a particular way and connotes the moral gravity of failing to do so; “should” expresses preference (more or less strong) and connotes that this failing, if sinful at all, is a less serious moral breach.

    The time for being nice to LGBT Catholics (the patronizing pastoral approach) on the one hand, while supporting such discriminatory and hypocritical “teaching” on the other, is over. People will not be content with crumbs anymore. Nor with prelates who cast them.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      I substantially agree with your comments, Wilhelm. And beyond the intellectual and moral critique is the truly bizarre spectacle of (mostly) celibate old men, clad in strange medieval garments, presuming to tell young people what they may or may not do to express their love for one another. These old guys have NO credible authority over the rising generation of millennials. And the sooner they understand this fact, the closer Catholicism may come to finding new ways of making Jesus Himself and His authentic teachings relevant to young people in the contemporary world. For openers: Jesus Himself never said a word about medical birth control — and yet these pretentiously-costumed old men condemn it as “grievously sinful”. Go figure.

      • Another friend
        Another friend says:

        I am always fascinated by this ‘argument’ as it has no basis in anything Jesus said or did. Nothing that the Magisterium of the Church teaches. It is not found anywhere . It is the usual ‘kill the messenger’ or at least marginalize the messenger approach. Although most of these arguments proceed this way.

      • Henry Bauer
        Henry Bauer says:

        Referring to these men as “old guys” only emphasizes narrow-mindedness and ageist bigotry.
        And you are wrong. They have credible authority with a large and growing number of people.

  2. Ryan Sattler
    Ryan Sattler says:

    Question: what role, if any, did Cardinal O’Malley play in the selection of these three new cardinals? With one third of the cardinals now selected by Francis, are we seeing positive pastoral words and actions from these 40+ cardinals around the world?

  3. Ryan Sattler
    Ryan Sattler says:

    Question: what role does Cardinal O’Malley play in the selection of these new Cardinals? Remind us of his pastoral support for LGBTQ Catholics!

    With Francis now selecting 1/3 of the Cardinals, how pastoral are these “Francis ” cardinals around the world.


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