DOWNEY - The appointment early last week of San Antonio prelate Jose Gomez as coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles, to work alongside Cardinal Roger Mahony until the latter retires early next year at his official retirement age of 75, won showers of praise and opprobrium on both.Scandal seemed to swallow Mahony in mid-2007 and it abated only when the sex abuse claims involving 508 victims of pedophile priests were settled for $660 million. He has also been derided as the "Hollywood Cardinal." The Los Angeles archdiocese, with its 5 million members, is the largest in the nation. On the other hand, the Irish cardinal has been hailed for his championship of social justice, the rights of immigrants, the role of the laity in worship and governance, his advocacy for the "poorest of his flock," etc., with people alternately lauding and condemning his liberal tendencies. It is to his everlasting credit that the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was built, after the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It was dedicated on Sept. 2, 2002. Born on Feb. 27, 1936 to Irish parents in Hollywood, ordained in 1962 and elevated to cardinal in 1991, Mahony is the first native Angeleno and the third Archbishop of Los Angeles to be named a cardinal. He succeeded Cardinal Timothy Manning. It was reported he rejoiced at the 58-year-old Archbishop Gomez' appointment. In welcoming the San Antonio prelate Tuesday, Mahony was quoted as saying, "I welcome Archbishop Gomez to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with enthusiasm and personal excitement." One correspondent sees Gomez' appointment as signaling the "decisive role Hispanic leaders will increasingly play in the church throughout the country," while another considers it a "statement by the pope on the direction he wants the American church, with its 68 million members, to take." A similar trend is also being increasingly acknowledged here in Downey. Composition of the local population has recently been skewing towards a Latino majority, nudging local churches to help nurture Latino concerns and interests. Gomez himself had this to say: "When I received word of my appointment, I went immediately to my chapel to pray… I asked for the grace of generosity, to be able to give myself completely to this new call from God. I also asked for fortitude, to be able to accept this responsibility, which is unquestionably immense…I will never forget that when I hung up after speaking with Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio in the U.S., the first thing that met my eyes was an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hallway. I felt the love and protection of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who has accompanied me in each moment of my ministry. I entrusted my new ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to her." Criticized also for lapses in taking errant priests to task in his diocese, Gomez has meanwhile been characterized as a "bridge-builder with excellent people skills," and not straitjacketed as a conservative, either, even with his affiliation with Opus Dei. He, too, is known as a strong supporter of migrant rights. If nothing else, he has always reached out to immigrants throughout his whole apostolic career I took a random opinion sampling of the reaction to the recent development by a handful of Downey Catholics. Deputy city manager Desi Alvarez said: "It's time there's a change. Mahoney has been cardinal for 25 years, and all in all he's been doing a good job. But there are issues to be resolved, and the diversity of the church, especially the archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the United States, can no longer be ignored." Councilmember and deacon Mario Guerra: "I think Archbishop Jose Gomez is a symbol of what we can do, if we put our minds and hearts into it. I think he's a great choice. He's an immigrant like I am." (Guerra currently serves as one of a dozen 'stational' deacons in the cathedral in Los Angeles; he has for three years been assisting Cardinal Mahoney at Mass, and he says he's looking forward to do the same for the incoming L.A. Archbishop Gomez, who will presumably become the first Latino cardinal from the U.S.) And this from Mike Pohlen: "It's probably the smartest thing they can do, since 70 percent of the archdiocese is Hispanic. I'm a realist, and I just want to live with reality. I didn't agree totally with what Cardinal Mahony tried to do, but they become a target in a position like that. I'll pray for Archbishop Gomez as well." The first thing deputy city clerk Joyce Doyle uttered was, "It's, oh, so political," unaware that Cardinal Mahoney is dutybound to tender his resignation upon reaching age 75. Upon learning this she said, "It's too soon to judge."
********** Published: April 16, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 52