Friday, January 29, 2010

Los Angeles Getting a New Archbishop (Part 1)

UPDATE: Be sure to read Part 2.

Catholic blogger Thomas Peters over at the American Papist has been posting (here, here, and here) that a coadjutor bishop has been appointed for Los Angeles. Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia has confirmed that something is imminent, reporting that the news will come around the cardinal's 74th birthday, February 27th. The coadjutor would of course become Cardinal Mahony's successor (for more on what Church law says about coadjutor bishops go here).

That an appointment has already been made was denied by the official diocesan spokesman, but either way everyone knows a new bishop is coming sooner or later. The cardinal reaches retirement age (=75) in 2011. In fact, Cardinal Mahony himself has announced on his own blog that this will be "my final full year as the Archbishop of Los Angeles". Thus whether or not an appointment has already been made, everyone knows a new bishop will be taking over in the next year or so. If, as the rumors suggest, a coadjutor bishop is going to be appointed, it would seem that it would happen soon.

Predictably, there is tremendous speculation about who the successor to Cardinal Mahony might be. A number of bloggers have picked up on the story, including Deacon Greg Kandra (Deacon's Bench) and Gene Maddaus at LA Weekly. Rumors are flying left and right.

To those outside the Catholic Church this might seem a little bizarre. But really, this kind of speculation is ancient. In fact, this kind of intrigue is just about as old as Christianity itself. He I wanted to explain the antiquity of apostolic succession and look at some of the names rumored to be on the shortlist of potential successors to Cardinal Mahony. This is the first post in a two-part series.

Clement and His Letter to the Corinthians

One of the earliest Christian writings outside of the New Testament is Clement's letter to the Corinthians. It is commonly dated to the 90s, however, it is my understanding that a recent dissertation argues persuasively that the book could easily be dated much earlier. Either way, all agree the letter was written in the first century.

Who wrote the letter? Again, all scholars seem to agree that it was written by a "Clement". The precise identity of this Clement though is disputed. Interestingly, the name Clement appears in the New Testament. In his Epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul writes:
"And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."
Scholars today are usually hesitant about identifying the Clement of the letter to the Corinthians with the one mentioned by Paul, but the earliest Christians were not and, frankly, it's hard to think that a connection is not there. Scholars unwilling to see a connection appear overly suspicious of early Christian tradition.

Indeed, the tradition linking the two figures makes sense. Consider this: if, after the death of Peter and Paul, a man named Clement became the head of the Church at Rome it is probable that such a figure had a connection with the holy apostles. That St. Paul specifically identifies one of his coworkers as "Clement" is too coherent with this to be written off as coincidence. In my mind, the connection is especially likely given that the letter is written to one of the Pauline churches.

Apostolic Succession, the Office of Bishop and Strife

I'll never forget sitting in on a graduate seminar in which a professor stated in a lecture that apostolic succession was a later second century development. He acknowledged that it is referred to in Irenaeus, but he seemed entirely ignorant of the fact that it is actually affirmed in Clement's epistle, a document that is clearly first century in origin and quite possibly written by an associate of Paul himself. (Of course, we might also mention Acts 1, where a successor is chosen for the apostle Judas!) Clement states:
"Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry" (42:4–5, 44:1–3).
Let there be little doubt: apostolic succession and the office of the bishop are tied together as early as Clement's letter--a fact often completely ignored by scholars.

The Danger of Uncharitable Speculation

The fact that there is intense speculation about the identity of the next Archbishop of Los Angeles in Catholic circles in California is not a Catholic oddity. Since the first century Christians have been speculating about, "Who will be the next bishop of x?" In and of itself, it's not impious for Christians to wonder who will be appointed their shepherd in the future--it's natural to think about such things.

I hasten to add though that such speculation can (and has) been carried out in ways that are sometimes harmful and uncharitable. I certainly do not want to be guilty of such a thing. The bottom line is this: any man who gives up the opportunity to have a family of his own but rather seeks to serve as a spiritual father to others has my undying gratitude. I may not understand everything they do, but I recognize that (1) they have knowledge and pastoral concerns I may not be aware of (i.e., consider those who might have accused Paul for keeping kosher while being among the Jews, while breaking those laws as he ministered to the Gentiles) and (2) I am not going to be held accountable for leading the bishops--others have been given that call (e.g., the Pope, their confessors, canonizable saints, etc.).

Who's It Going to Be?

That having been said, I can't help but wonder myself: who's it going to be?

The real answer is that it's anyone's guess. Indeed, such speculation is often wrong. Nonetheless, I thought I'd introduce the names most commonly mentioned. In his recent post on the subject, Rocco Palmo has identified this appointment as Pope Benedict's most important American placement. Because of this people will be scrambling for information about whoever gets the nod.

After the news is out people will immediately go to Wikipedia and the information posted about the appointment at his official Diocesan website. Yet there's a lot of good information, videos, personal stories, etc., that you have to really dig to find. Because I--like everyone else!--will be curious to know more about whoever the pope picks to succeed Cardinal Mahony, I thought I'd do a little poking around on-line and pull all of the most helpful things I find together into one place. If anything else, I saw this is a good opportunity to get to learn about some of the men who have devoted their life to the service of the Church.

It is also my hope that more Catholic readers will discover this blog, which is usually dedicated to biblical theology, academic research and the latest developments in Scripture scholarship. While this blog is widely known among the biblioblogs (=blogs devoted to academic Scripture study), it is less known in the Catholic blogosphere. Hopefully readers, finding this post interesting, will be encouraged to check out some of the other posts here and come back for more.

A Hispanic?

One important public source reporting on the rumors is the Los Angeles Times, which, in a story published back in April of 2009, suggested that insiders believe that the Pope is going to pick a Latino. Now, to be fair, such an "insider" would actually have to be able to get all the way "inside" Pope Benedict's mind to know who will get the appointment. It is, after all, the Holy Father who makes the final decision here. Given that he has gone against the conventional wisdom in making appointments in the past, it would seem difficult for even an important official to have certain knowledge about what he is going to do (unless the appointment has quietly already been made, of course).

Nonetheless, that a Hispanic will be appointed makes a certain amount of sense. The Hispanic Catholic community in the United States is extremely large. Yet, despite their large numbers, they do seem to be a bit underrepresented at the hierarchical level. Surprisingly, there are no Hispanic Cardinals in the U.S.

Since the Archbishop of Los Angeles is typically "given the red hat," appointing a Hispanic to LA would likely mean that the Hispanic community would finally see one of its own rise to the highest level of the Church's ecclesiastical hierachy. Such a pick would be especially well-received by the Hispanic community in Los Angeles, which makes up about 75% of the Catholic faithful there.

If this line of speculation is correct, the number of potential candidates for the post is narrowed down quite a bit. Moreover, the coadjutor-to-be is likely already a bishop somewhere--that is, he is probably someone who already has experience running a diocese. Furthermore, given the immense size of the Los Angelos archdiocese, it would seem likely that if a Hispanic Bishop is chosen he would likely come from a relatively large see.

Indeed, the article that ran in the Los Angeles Times identified three particular possible candidates, who each seem to have the experience needed:
1. Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto (age 54)
2. San Antonio Archbishop José Goméz (age 58)
3. Monterey Bishop Richard John Garcia (age 62)

So here's a little introduction to these three figures.

1. Bishop Jaime Soto (Sacramento)

Helpful sources:
--Bishop Soto's page at the Diocese of Sacramento's website
--Catholic-Hierarchy.org
--Wikepedia
--Rocco Palmo, "It's Official: It's Jamietime," Whispers in the Loggia (Blog), October 11, 2007 (Accessed: January 27, 2010) [among other things, this informative post reproduces excerpts from an article which ran in the Sacramento Bee which is no longer available on-line on the paper's website].

Technically speaking Bishop Soto was originally a native of the Diocese of Los Angeles, having been born in Inglewood. However, in 1976 he went over to the newly formed Diocese of Orange County as a seminarian. In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Soto said that he had wanted to be a priest since the second grade. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Orange in California in 1982. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Orange in 2000. In 2007 he was installed as the coadjutor of the Diocese of Sacramento and became the Bishop in 2008. He attended Columbia University where he received in Master's in Social Work. He became the Director of Immigration and Citizenship Services at Catholic Charities in 1986; he has been deeply involved with immigration issues. At the USCCB he serves as the head of the Board of Directors: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, INC.

In 2005 he was selected to give one of the Catechetical addresses at World Youth Day in Cologne, raising his profile. In 2006 his brother bishops voted to make him the chair of the Committee for Youth and Young Adults at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Notably, Bishop Soto beat out the highly popular bishop of Boston, Most Rev. Sean O'Malley, the other candidate for the post, which raised a few heads.

Yet, simply providing biographical data doesn't really help you get a feel for who Bishop Soto is. For a flavor of some of his style, read the following report from a talk he gave in December of last year at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Kansas, where he spoke to some 25,000 young people:

In his homily to all gathered at the conference, Sacramento, Calif., Bishop Jaime Soto spoke of the countless text messaging, facebooking, and twittering teens perform daily as a way to communicate with friends. As well, Jesus desires a relationship with every person, he said.

“He wants to text the truth of God’s mercy on your soul. Jesus is the Word, the ultimate Facebook of God…. Jesus does not twitter. Rather he humbled himself so that he could meet you, connect with you… He is the IP address of the way, the truth and the life.”

Bishop Soto also spoke of the misuse of the word “freedom” in today’s society, saying that “both truth and relationship are corrupted when the culture disconnects them to serve a distorted sense of freedom.

“Life has become a multiple choice question for which there are no wrong answers and the only criteria for choosing are one’s own impressions, preferences, desires, and fears… (which) become the self created avatars to which one clings while we are all adrift in a sea of mass information that threatens us, confuses us, and challenges us.”

Calling for the restoration of “a climate of freedom and an environment of hope,” Bishop Soto noted that we only need to look at the cross, to understand how much Jesus desires us. “The cross is both the medium and the message that Jesus sends us. When we respond to that call… we begin a dialogue that will connect you to the truth that will set you free.”

There is also a story about Bishop Soto that I should probably add here--though I am hesitant to do so. In 2008 Bishop Soto was invited to speak at the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries conference. As usual, Bishop Soto was loving and compassionate in his talk. Yet, he apparently made waves by affirming official Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are disordered in nature and are sinful. He also urged everyone to vote for Proposition 8 in California, the measure which eventually passed in California by a comfortable margin. As I said, I am hesitant to mention the story. After all, I don't see why it made headlines. The Bishop simply taught what the Church and the Bible teaches.

In fact, Bishop Soto has performed notable compassionate and generous service throughout his life in many areas, touching a countless number of people. Among other things he has served on Orange County HIV Advisory committee, the Orange County Legal Aid Society, the Orange County Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Girl Scout Council of Orange County, the Orange County Congregation of Community Organizations, and the Orange County Chapter of the American Red Cross. He was known for celebrating Mass monthly at Orange County's Prison and counseling AIDS patients.

His distinguished service to the community has been recognized over and over again, earningg him a number of awards. For example, in 2001 he was named Cypress College's Man of the Year. The school's website lists some of the honors he has received from other organizations, including, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Estrellas Award; the National Conference for Community and Justice’s Humanitarian Award; the Ohtli Recognition; the Orange County Community Congregation Organization Leadership in Action Award; and the Hispanic Development Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I'd love to see more news stories about the various ways.

I might also add that Bishop Soto has a strong record of supporting the rights of the unborn. In 1991, before he was appointed bishop, he resigned his position on an advisory committee to the Santa Ana Unified School District to publicly disassociate himself from a decision it made to provide contraception and abortion related services at an elementary school clinic. He has been known to lead rosary processions to abortion clinics, and has recently declared a day of reparation for abortion in a letter written to his diocese.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of video available on-line of Bishop Soto speaking in English. Here he is with a rather hostile interviewer. I think he was the victim of an ambush here so keep that in mind. In short, this is not the best place to understand Bishop Soto's views on immigration. For a lengthy podcast interview go here. Nonetheless, because this is really the only video in English I can find of him:





There's also this video available of him speaking to a group in Spanish:





2. Archbishop José Goméz (San Antonio)

Helpful sources:
--Archbishop Goméz's page at the Diocese of San Antonio's website.
--Catholic-Hierarchy.org
--Wikipedia

Archbishop Goméz was born in Mexico. He is one of five children--the only boy. He earned a degree in business and philosophy in 1975 at the National University in Mexico. He went on to the University of Navarre in Rome and graduated in 1978 with a degree in Theology. That same year he was ordained as a priest in the Prelature of Opus Dei. He eventually earned a doctorate in Theology in Spain at the University of Navarre.

For twelve years (1987-1999) he served as a priest at a parish in San Antonio. During these years Archbishop Goméz emerged as a highly regarded national leader among Hispanic priests in the US. He has served as regional representative, president and executive director of the Association of Hispanic Priests.

After serving as a priest in San Antonio, Archbishop Goméz worked in the Diocese of Denver. He was made an auxiliary bishop of Archbishop Chaput in 2001. There he helped to establish Denver’s Centro San Juan Diego for Family and Pastoral Care, which provides care to immigrants in the community as well as formation for lay leaders. While in Denver he also served as Rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception as well as Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Denver.

In 2004, the then Bishop Goméz was appointed head of the archdiocese of San Antonio. In fact, his ties to the archdiocese long pre-date his earlier ministry there. His mother was apparently raised there and his maternal grandparents were married in the city.

Like Bishop Soto, Archbishop Goméz's work has been widely celebrated and he is recognized as one of the rising stars of the Hispanic hierarchy. In 2003 he was awarded the prestigious "El Buen Pastor" award. In 2005 he appeared on Time Magazine’s list of the 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States. The article about him stated:
. . . 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.
In 2007 he was also featured on CNN’s list of “Notable Hispanics” in a web special celebrating “Hispanic Heritage Month”.

He has also served on the board of directors of the National Catholic Council of Hispanic Ministry as well as on the steering committee for Encuentro 2000, which commemorated the Jubilee Year of 2000. The event took place in Los Angeles and was sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Goméz has also been very much involved in priestly formation and in building community among priests. He has written a book on the spiritual formation of priests, entitled, Men of Brave Heart: The Virtue of Courage in the Priestly Life (Our Sunday Visitor, 2009). He was instrumental in the founding of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Mexico in 2000, a seminary which trains priests who serve in the United States. He has served on the United States Council of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) committees for priestly formation and priestly affairs. In fact, Archbishop Goméz serves on a number of distinguished committees. His own site lists the following:

• Chair: Ad Hoc Committee on the Spanish Language Bible for the Church in America (USCCB), 2003 ‐
• Chair: Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church (USCCB), 2008 ‐
• Member: Committee on Doctrine (USCCB), 2003‐
• Member: Committee on Catechesis (USCCB), 2005 ‐
• Member: Subcommittee on Hispanics and the Liturgy (USCCB), 2005 ‐
• Board Member: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
• Board Member: Mexican American Cultural Center
• Board Member: ENDOW – Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women
• Board of Trustees: The Catholic University of America
• Board of Trustees: San Fernando Cathedral Historical Centre Foundation
• Director: The John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation
• Episcopal Moderator: National Association of Hispanic Priests
• Episcopal Moderator: National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana
• Spiritual Advisor: Catholic Life Insurance
• Founding Member: Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (C.A.L.L.)

Note that at the top of the list is his role as Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Spanish Language Bible for the Church in America. This is an especially important post. Archbishop Goméz is deeply committed to helping Spanish speaking Catholics read the Bible. In fact, he reads the Spanish reflections on the Sunday Readings produced the St. Paul Center each week. For more, go here. These are excellent.

This sort of thing is not unusual for the good prelate. Last year he also headed up the effort to bring a teaching segment to the local population on AM radio.

The Bishop made national headlines last year when he expressed disappointment over the fact that a Catholic college in his diocese, St. Mary's University invited Hilary Clinton to speak. Bishop Gomez insisted, "“Our Catholic institutions must promote the clear understanding of our deep moral convictions on an issue like abortion, an act that the Church calls ‘an unspeakable crime’ and a non-negotiable issue" (source). In addition, go here to see a TV news report, with excerpts from an interview with the bishop.

I might also mention that I personally met Archbishop Goméz last year at a conference I was invited to speak at in San Antonio (I have never met the other bishops I write about here). I was especially struck by his warmth. I thoroughly enjoyed a homily he gave at the conference as well as his keynote address at the Saturday night dinner. He's a great bishop and his flock loves him.

Here is a link to a video of the Archbishop (which I cannot embed here) speaking about the Sacraments as something more than merely a cultural expression. In addition, take a look at this video in which he speaks about immigration--though once again I must add that the video does not fully explain the Archbishop's views (i.e., he believes that illegal immigrants should face penalties, though he urges that since deporation breaks up families, those who break immigration laws should be punished in some other way).





I also like this short little clip of the beginning of a talk he gave to a Catholic women's conference:





The talk apparently went well--it led this woman to want to do Bible study:





Finally, there is this video he did on the special offering for the Church in Latin America as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America:





Bishop Richard John Garcia (Monterey)

Helpful sources:
--"Bishop Garcia to Succeed Bishop Ryan in Monterey," The Tidings, December 22, 2006
--Wikipedia
--Catholic-Hierarchy.org

Bishop Garcia was born in San Francisco. His parents were born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States with their parents when they were children. He studied at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, CA, and was ordained a priest in 1973.

In 1981, San Jose, which had previously been part of the archdiocese of San Francisco, became its own diocese. At that time, Bishop Garcia--then, of course, a parish priest--became one of the priests of the newly formed diocese.

He earned a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (a.k.a.: "the Angelicum") in 1984. He went on to teach at St. Patrick Seminary, his alma mater, and at the now defunct St. Joseph's Minor Seminary. In 1992 he was made the director of vocations of the diocese of San Jose.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Sacramento in 1997. Actually, during his time as he wore a number of important hats. This is no pointy-headed academic; here is a pastor and an able administrator. He served as vicar general and moderator of the curia, vicar for clergy, episcopal vicar for the Hispanic community, and vicar for education. In 2007 he was named Bishop of Monterey.

Bishop Garcia has been a member of the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. He was also a member of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee on Agricultural Issues and serves on the board of directors of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. He is also on the California bishops' steering committee for prison ministry.

In 2000 he was among a number of bishops who traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to learn about migration problems facing thousands of Central Americans. The Tidings reported, "The delegation subsequently denounced the inhumane treatment of migrants who were apprehended in a U.S.-supported regional initiative targeting human smugglers."

In Monterey, the bishop has also made it his top priority to work to suppress gang violence. See the video here (I am unable to embed it in this post). See the fuller story here.

In addition, Bishop Garcia has made a point of ensuring that the Extraordinary form of the Mass is available in his diocese

He has also given his support to the prolife movement. The Walk for Life website has a quote from him:
"From very early on in my life, I have had profound respect for life and the quality of life. My grandparents and my parents treasured the value of life within the womb and in the total course of all human life.

They taught us what a gift we have in one another and how precious we should consider all life as created, nurtured and sustained by God. And during my priestly life, I have tried to be very attentive to and engaged in the Pro-Life Movement looking at it as the “Seamless Garment” of life as God has lent it to us."
Unfortunately, videos of Bishop Garcia are scarce on the internet. He appears to keep his hands busy with humble pastoral ministry. However, I found one story that speaks volumes about him. A kid reporter, Gabriella Castaneda, writing for Scholastic News Online apparently decided to devote an entire article to Bishop Garcia. In the story she writes about how the bishop has impacted her life and in glowing terms describes the leadership he provides in the community. She writes,
"The people who work in his office really look up to him.

He is always praying for others; he always keeps his promises; he is a joy to work for," said Kim from the Bishop's office."
The bishop has clearly touched this young reporter's life in a profound way.

A Non-Hispanic?
Of course, while some have suggested that Pope Benedict may likely choose a Hispanic, there's no reason to think that he must. In fact, other names have been mentioned of late as possible successors. Who would those be?

Stay tuned for my next post on this.

7 comments:

Nick said...

The good Cardinal lets us know where to find the best pizza in Rome:
http://cardinalrogermahonyblogsla.blogspot.com/2009/10/great-pizza-place-in-rome-you-cant.html

Anonymous said...

I am training for the deaconate in the region. What I have heard from preasts, deacons, and seminiary instructors is that there are about 5 potential candidates - all of them are Latino (4 Mexicanos and 1 Cuban). These sources were confident that the replacement would indeed be a Latino, they just didn't know which one. Given the high percentage of Latinos served by the archdiocese AND the dominating importance of the immigration issue to Mahone, I think this is 99% likely to be true.

Anonymous said...

The High Priest and melchizedekian Missionary Abbot Bain will be favoing Monsiour Gomez for the post. This will help uplift the hispanic people to better understanding of what is to come in preparation.
Unity for all faith in one Voice!
Allowing the 'Arcangels to do their Divine Job.
A servant of God
Clem.

Anonymous said...

My only prayer is that he will be a conservative Bishop. We really need a Shepard in Los Angeles.

I hope that Pope Benedict knows whoever is chosen very well and that he will have the same mindset as the Pope.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

MB said: I hasten to add though that such speculation can (and has) been carried out in ways that are sometimes harmful and uncharitable

AMEN! It sometimes amazes me how much people respect Pope Benedict XVI, but don't follow his example when talking about other people. We all have to be on guard for this unvirtuous, and sometimes objectively grave matter, when doing our examination of conscience.

Very good and informative post. It does make sense to send a Hispanic Shepherd to that diocese.

Sending traffic your way, Michael!

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