Cardinal appointments suggest leftward drift in American church leadership

The appointment of new U.S. cardinals by Pope Francis is likely to tilt the American church toward a more conciliatory stance on contested social issues reports America magazine (October 9). The decision by the pope to name Archbishop Blaise Cupich of Chicago and Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis could have significant impact on the church, writes Michael O’Loughlin. Cupich is a “key Francis ally on proposed reforms that supporters say could make the church more welcoming to disaffected Catholics. Archbishop Tobin’s openness toward expanded opportunities for women in the church and his support for resettling Syrian refugees, even over objections from G.O.P. vice presidential hopeful Gov. Mike Pence, put him squarely in line with the pope’s agenda.”

O’Loughlin adds that the pope was aware of Tobin’s management of the controversial oversight of nuns ordered by Pope Benedict XVI and how his stance angered church hardliners for urging greater restraint in the investigation on doctrinal issues. The fact that the pope passed over Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, Los Angeles’s Archbishop Jose Gomez, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore—three archdioceses traditionally led by cardinals—may say as much as the appointments. These three church leaders have been more confrontational on culture war issues, such as abortion and gay rights, as well as resisting, or being more likely to resist, some of Pope Francis’s efforts at reform, such as opening communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. O’Loughlin concludes that the “picks show Francis wants the church in America to be more focused on issues like immigration, the role of women in the church and the need to bypass traditional centers of power” to find leaders in sync with his style and message.