CNA Staff, Jan 22, 2021 / 07:56 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, showed courage in releasing a statement on the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration despite opposition from within the conference, said papal biographer and longtime Church observer George Weigel.
Weigel said Gomez displayed “episcopal courage” at a time when others demanded “a reprise of the accommodationist approach to Catholic public officials long championed by Theodore McCarrick.”
Weigel, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Washington D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, penned an essay published in First Things on Friday, commenting on the statement released by Gomez on Inauguration Day and the subsequent criticism from Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.
The statement from Gomez noted that Biden’s inauguration marks the first time in 60 years that a president has professed the Catholic faith. This presents a unique circumstance, Gomez said, particularly because Biden is in support of legal abortion and has pledged to increase taxpayer funding for it.
Cupich later criticized Gomez for releasing the statement, saying it was an “ill-considered statement” that “was crafted without the involvement of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops.”
Norms from the bishops’ conference, however, indicate that standard procedures were followed ahead of the release of the statement.
Weigel argued that Gomez releasing a statement on the inauguration was in keeping with the recommendations from the Working Group on Engaging the New Administration created by the bishops at their November 2020 meeting.
As Gomez told his brother bishops, Weigel said, the working group had proposed “a letter to the new president from Archbishop Gomez, writing as a pastor. The letter would promise support for the new administration in areas of agreement. It would also identify administration policies, including abortion, that the bishops believed violated human dignity, and it would urge the new president to reassess his positions on these questions.”
The letter did just that, Weigel said. It noted numerous issues of concern among both political parties, but said that “the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘preeminent priority’.”
“By any reasonable standard, Archbishop Gomez’s statement was balanced and measured; absent the controversy that erupted before and after its release,” Weigel said.
However, he said, “Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark put intense pressure on Archbishop Gomez to make no statement, as did the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.”
Weigel said the controversy “underscored the statement’s firm, clear, and unambiguous stance on the ‘preeminent priority’ of the life issues—and thus heightened the impact of those parts of the statement that the dissident cardinals may have found so objectionable that they tried to quash the entire document.”
He said Cupich’s suggestion that Gomez was somehow acting against the norms of the bishops’ conference “is itself unfair and irresponsible.”
“To suggest that there was something unprecedented here is to falsify history,” he said. “What was indeed unprecedented, as Archbishop Gomez pointed out in his statement, was the situation of a president of the United States who professed a devout and heartfelt Catholicism and yet was publicly committed to facilitating grave moral evils.”
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