Archbishop Jose Gomez

Parade of 2016 yearenders: Crux takes several looks at surprising year in Catholic news

Parade of 2016 yearenders: Crux takes several looks at surprising year in Catholic news

So how much Catholic news was there in 2016.

Apparently quite a bit, and we are not just talking about angry Catholic voters in depressed corners of the Rust Belt, as in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Thus, the journalists in the team at Crux didn't produce one list of Catholic stories, when preparing to mark the end of 2016. They went with four lists, I think. Maybe there are more.

It won't surprise you that the ever quotable Pope Francis got one list all by himself. Of course, there's quite a bit of info linked to Amoris Laetitia and the reaction to it. 

Then there's a list of developments at the global level. This includes updates on clergy sexual abuse and the persecution of Catholics in various locations. However, the section that I think will interest most readers is the take on the role of faith in the Brexit debates, battles over the treatment of refugees and the struggle to define what is and isn't "European," in terms of thinking about the future.

Finally, there is an essay with this headline: "Looking back at 2016, the Year of Surprises: Church in the U.S." Yes, the elections get some digital ink. However, the really interesting material is related to the elections on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is a long chunk of that:

... The election of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles as president and vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops just ten days after Trump captured the White House was also noteworthy.

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

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.

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An accused priest, a long-suffering victim: The hero in this sad tale is ... a journalist

An accused priest, a long-suffering victim: The hero in this sad tale is ... a journalist

We've said it before: Negative posts about media coverage of religion are so much easier to write than positive ones.

When critiquing a less-than-perfect story, there are flaws to point out. Unanswered questions to raise. Bias to criticize.

But when a story hits all the right notes — compelling subject matter, fair treatment of all sides, no sign of where the reporter stands — it's tempting to say, simply, "Hey, read this!" and move along.

That's the case with Godbeat pro Manya Brachear Pashman's in-depth report on whether a Chicago priest should return to ministry after revelations of teen misconduct:

Should a priest's sexual misconduct as a youth bar him from ministry? That's the question facing Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich.
For decades, the Rev. Bruce Wellems, a Roman Catholic priest with the Claretian Missionaries, has served as a father figure for young men in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.
But when revelations of his sexual misconduct as a teenager resurfaced in 2014 shortly after his religious order transferred him to California, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez removed him from ministry immediately. He returned to his former neighborhood to resume work as a youth advocate and community organizer.
Now Cupich must decide whether the popular priest can wear a collar, celebrate Mass and officially return to active ministry. Wellems, 58, admits to the abuse, though his recollection of the details and how long it lasted differs from the victim's.
"These allegations had nothing to do with who I was as a person," Wellems said in an interview with the Tribune. "In my adult life I've done nothing against children. There's nothing that's ever come up."
The contrast between the actions in Los Angeles and Chicago highlights a gray area in the church's policies on clerical sexual abuse of children and a stark difference in how two archdioceses have handled the issue. Rules adopted by America's Catholic bishops in 2002 apply to priests and deacons who commit even a single incident of abuse, but they give dioceses considerable discretion on how to apply the church's zero-tolerance policy.

Another temptation with a story like this is to copy and paste every word. But at 2,800 words, that would make for a long post. And I'd get myself into copyright trouble.

So I'll try to explain what I like about this story. It's not the subject matter per se. Sexual abuse doesn't make for cheerful reading. 

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Gov. Jerry Brown's Catholicity vs. euthanasia decision gets above-the-fold ink

Gov. Jerry Brown's Catholicity vs. euthanasia decision gets above-the-fold ink

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian who moved to Oregon last year so she could end her life instead of facing the last stages of brain cancer, got her political revenge this week.

That's the reality in the news coverage. That’s because -- unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere -- California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making assisted suicide legal. Which opened the gates to this controversial personal or family choice to some 38 million people overnight.

And the Los Angeles Times reporter who covered it did a great job of making the religion angle front and center. That is, the Catholic governor of the country’s most populous state did something totally against his religion, but readers got to learn about how that decision played out. Start reading here:

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, signed a measure Monday allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.
Brown appeared to struggle in deciding whether to approve the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown wrote in a signing message. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

After explaining some provisions of the End of Life Option Act and placing a quote by its opponents quite high in the story, the reporter swung back to Brown, who said he had weighed the religious arguments.

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Pentecostal gap in that LATimes immigration reform story

There was an important interfaith gathering the other day in Los Angeles that allowed some highly symbolic religious leaders to make a faith-based appeal for immigration reform. As you would expect, The Los Angeles Times produced a short news story that focused on the basic facts. Local religious leaders unite for change in immigration law

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Southern California hold vigil calling for a revamp in federal immigration laws.

As noted in the lede, the service attracted several of “Southern California’s most prominent religious leaders,” led by the local Catholic archbishop. The presence of a Catholic leader was par for the course, especially in this case:

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LA Times offers a gentle, shallow Catholic health-care story

I was encouraged, and a bit surprised, that the editorial team at The Los Angeles Times elected to cover the local White Mass honoring Catholics who work in health-care jobs, in Catholic hospitals and in other settings.

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What do conservatives really think about Cardinal Mahony?

Yes, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles will be in Rome and will vote in the process to select the next pope. In fact, as part of his social-media campaign against his critics, he plans to tweet whenever and wherever Vatican officials will let him get his hands on a keyboard.

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What are the real differences between Mahony and Gomez?

Guess what? There are significant differences in the theological approaches and doctrinal convictions of Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez and his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony.

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