US Catholic Bishops Elect Timothy Broglio as New President

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Military Services Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who oversees Catholic ministries to the U.S. Armed Forces, was elected the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday.

Broglio, 70, was elected for a three-year term from among 10 candidates. He will succeed Bishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who took office in 2019.

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori was elected the conference’s new vice president.

Usually, the election of a new USCCB leader is a formality, with the bishops elevating the conference vice president to the position. But this year’s election was wide open because the incumbent vice president – Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron – will soon turn 75, making him ineligible to serve.

The 10 candidates ranged from the relatively moderate Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle to Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone, a staunch conservative. Cordileone made headlines this year when it banned Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a San Franciscan, from receiving communion in the archdiocese because of her support for abortion rights.

The candidates were nominated by their fellow bishops, who bypassed several of their colleagues who were elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Francis.

While Broglio was not seen as as hard-line a conservative as a few other candidates, his election has not gone down well with some center-left Catholics who sympathize with Pope Francis in his occasional clashes with U.S. bishops. .

“I am disappointed that the Catholic bishops have chosen a new president who is used to being a culture warrior,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director for a Washington-based clergy network called Faith in Public. Life. “Even as Pope Francis offers a better way forward for the church, too many American bishops are redoubling their efforts on old strategies that have failed to engage and energize the faithful.”

The annual fall meeting of bishops will conclude its public sessions on Wednesday. This is the first gathering of bishops since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade who established a constitutional right to abortion and referred the issue of legal abortion to the states.

Lori, chair of the bishops’ committee on pro-life activities, acknowledged that many Catholics favor legalized access to abortion.

“Roe’s passing is a great victory, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory if we fail to win over the minds and hearts, first and foremost, of our fellow Catholics,” said Lori, who was elected vice-president. -president of the episcopal conference. .

“We cannot speak credibly in a polarized society while our own home is divided,” he said. “At the same time, we cannot wait for perfect unanimity to be reached to bear witness to the prevailing culture on human life and dignity.”

AP VoteCast, a sweeping survey of voters in the 2022 midterm elections, found Catholic voters in Michigan were roughly evenly split on a referendum enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution , while 60% of Catholic voters in Kentucky voted against an anti-abortion constitutional amendment.

Broglio – a staunch opponent of abortion – has extensive experience outside US borders, having studied in Rome and served in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.

Broglio worked as chief of staff to the late Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was Vatican secretary of state, from 1990 to 2001. Sodano was widely criticized for blocking investigations into prominent clerics convicted of sexual abuse, such as the Reverend Marcial Maciel, leader of the Legion of Christ, a religious order.

“Hindsight is always 20/20,” Broglio said at a press conference after his election. “A lot of things that we learned now were probably not known then.”

He said that during his tenure, Maciel “pretty blew everyone away” because he recruited so many new priests.

Broglio said he left the secretary of state’s office “just as the big charges came out” against Maciel.

As allegations against Maciel grew in the 2000s, they were first exposed in a major report in 1997 by the Hartford Courant, which listed charges brought by eight men against him.

The experience is a “good reminder that we need to be mindful and proactive,” Broglio said.

Broglio also backed up an earlier statement in which he linked the church’s sex abuse crisis to homosexuality. He had previously said that many abuse cases involved homosexuality rather than pedophilia, as many victims of abusive priests were 12 and older.

A 2011 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the bishops, said homosexuality was not a cause for abuse by a priest.

“It’s definitely an aspect of the sexual crisis that can’t be denied,” Broglio said Tuesday. “It’s certainly not to point a finger at anyone, but I think it would be naive to suggest that there is no relationship between the two.”

Broglio declined to speculate on the reasons for his election or whether the vote signaled a different program from that of the pontiff.

“I am certainly in communion with Pope Francis,” he said. “I’m not aware that this necessarily indicates some dissonance with Pope Francis.”

Last year, Broglio drew national attention when he claimed the military should be able to obtain religious exemptions sparing them from the Pentagon’s mandate that all troops should be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Notwithstanding the moral licitness of these vaccines, the Church cherishes its teaching on the holiness of conscience,” Broglio said. “As a result, no one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of their conscience. »

Broglio grew up in the Cleveland area, attending Catholic schools there before attending Boston College, then earning a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland in May 1977 in a chapel in Rome.

In addition to being associate parish priest and lecturer, Broglio was very involved in the diplomatic service of the Vatican. He was secretary of the apostolic nunciatures in Côte d’Ivoire and Paraguay, then was apostolic nuncio in the Dominican Republic.

Broglio was ordained an archbishop by Saint John Paul II in March 2001. In 2007, he was named the fourth Archbishop of the United States Military Services.

As a member of the USCCB, Broglio is currently the conference secretary. In the past, he served as Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace and Chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.

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Crary reported from New York.

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Associated Press religious coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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