Were U.S. bishops really sending Trump (or Rome) a message through Archbishop Gomez?

One really annoying thing about the secular media is the inability of many in it to see anything outside the political grid. When I saw this headline over this article in the Los Angeles Times: “LA’s Latino archbishop now holds a top position among U.S. Catholics. Some think that’s a shot at Trump,” I had misgivings. 

For starters, hearing that vague “some think” attribution -- or non-attribution -- drives me batty, as more often than not, it is the reporter’s opinion or the reporter's summary of what's happening, in this case, in the Catholic blogosphere.

I've covered the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meetings many times and it's never easy to discern just what such-and-such a vote might mean. It always helps to remember that the teachings of the Catholic faith simply do not fit neatly into one political party.

So, see what you think about the opening paragraphs of the Times' piece. 

Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez -- a native of Mexico, an American citizen and a supporter of immigration reform -- was elected vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. ...
The first Latino to hold the position, he will begin his three-year term just eight days after the country elected Donald Trump as president. Trump has vowed to deport millions of immigrants who are here illegally and made the construction of a border wall a centerpiece of his campaign.
In a phone interview from Baltimore, where the bishops assembled, Gomez said he was surprised by the results but “grateful to my brother bishops for their trust in me.”
He dismissed the notion that his selection had anything to do with Trump, saying it was about the “challenge in our country to address the broken immigration system.” In elevating him to vice president, Gomez said, the bishops were acknowledging the “importance of Los Angeles in our country and the importance of Latinos in our country.”

Right out of the blocks, Gomez says there's no politics involved.

Then the reporter throws in why he thinks there’s more to this appointment than we think.

Although immigration is not the only issue important to U.S. bishops, (Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of the Catholic News Agency) said that selecting Gomez sends “a powerful message. … it’s impossible not to see a connection.”

But then the article quotes a spokeswoman for the archdiocese saying immigration has always been important to Gomez so it’s not like he’s this surprise candidate. Then the reporter quotes a fellow journalist:

Inés San Martín, an Argentinean journalist who covers the Vatican for the Catholic media outlet Crux, said it appeared that the U.S. bishops’ selection of Gomez was inspired by Pope Francis’ stance on immigration: They wanted a leader in America who too could provide credibility on the topic.
Choosing Gomez, “sends a signal that, on this issue, we’re united and we’ll be watching carefully,” San Martín said. 

If the Los Angeles Times felt it had to rely on Crux's interpretation, that meant that Crux was more in the know than a reporter sitting on the west coast. 

Crux dug into more detail with this article:

The election of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, self-described as a “traditional priest” who leads the immigrant-heavy diocese of Galveston-Houston, as president of the U.S. Bishops Conference was quickly defined by church-watchers and pundits as either a rejection by the American bishops of Pope Francis’s more “progressive” agenda, a warning to Donald Trump, or both.
… DiNardo firmly rejected the first premise, while acknowledging there’s truth in the second, even more so when read together with the election of the first Hispanic bishop as vice president: Mexico-born Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, California…
On the election of the new leadership being a “warning shot” to the Trump administration, DiNardo said: “I think it’s stating from the point of view of the bishops’ conference, that we consider the issues of immigration and refugees central ones.”
“I think it’s not so much talking into [Trump’s] face but letting him know where we’re coming from,” he said.

It also helps to know that in an earlier story, Crux called the election “a shot across the bow from the United States Catholic bishops to President-elect Donald Trump.”

I also went to Whispers in the Loggia, the blog that connects the dots better than anywhere else, and read the reaction -- dated Nov. 15 -- about Gomez’ election:  

Given the fresh charge for solidarity with immigrants shared by Pope Francis and the Stateside bench, however, the collision course between the church's stance and that of the impending Trump administration makes the choice of a Mexican-born migrant, as well as the first Hispanic ever raised into the USCCB's topmost leadership -- and with it, Gomez's positioning as the body's first Latino chief come 2019 -- an all the more potent signal. 

Here is my question: Maybe it is a signal, but is there anyone in Washington listening?

Nothing against the USCCB, but the thought that the new president-elect is going to spend even two seconds meditating over who got elected the head of their conference is pretty far-fetched. Trump got 52 percent of the Catholic vote. 

What on Earth would ever get Trump & Co. to listen to the bishops? I reported in October how the archbishop of Denver all but told local Catholics to vote for Trump, so one can argue that by telling voters to vote pro-life, that left one choice between the two major candidates. Does Trump feel he owes some gratitude to men like Samuel Aquila?

I wish the Times’ story had reminded us that, a few days after the election, Gomez gave a stirring address during an evening prayer service to a mainly Latino audience saying, “We are here tonight because our people are hurting and they feel afraid. We are here to listen to their voices, because they feel they are being forgotten.” 

So, he's definitely a pioneer here. But, does Gomez has any other qualifications for the job other than being at the right place at the right time and being Latino? I would have liked a bit more explanation about his history other than the obvious and a reality check as to whether a Trump administration will even know what Catholic bishops do. 

Or at the least, now that Gomez will be a power player among the bishops, maybe the Los Angeles Times will finally decide to hire a religion writer. I mean, if the bishops are going to be sending veiled messages to Trump, don't rely on your political reporters to interpret them. Try sending someone to Baltimore for those annual bishops' confabs and get your own story.

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