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An interview with Archbishop Jose Gomez

Archbishop Jose Gomez is set to succeed Cardinal Roger Mahony as head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Feb. 27.

February 13, 2011|By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

And these are areas that have been a big challenge for the church in recent years, right?

Absolutely. So those are kind of my priorities. You know, another aspect is to educate people in the social teachings of the church, because I think it's important to know what the church teaches on immigration or charity or work, how it's possible to sanctify your work; I mean, how to make an impact on society being faithful to the church. With freedom and responsibility, but just knowing what the church teaches.

Which leads me to another question about the role of the laity: Is that something you want to advance?

Absolutely. You know, I think of myself as a priest of the Second Vatican Council, because I became a priest after the Second Vatican Council, and the main call of the Second Vatican Council is the universal call to holiness. Pope John Paul II, in "Ecclesia in America," has a beautiful description of the roles of the lay faithful. And he talks about how some are called to participate kind of in the ministry of the church, like Eucharistic ministers and readers, but also many, or some, are called to influence the world just in their ordinary work. And that's a beautiful kind of way to summarize how everyone, no matter what your position is, should participate in the life of the church.

Cardinal Mahony has been known for having brought a lot of women into prominent roles in the archdiocese. Is that something you see yourself continuing?

Absolutely. I have four sisters! [Laughing] Yes, absolutely. I mean, women are equal and have the same dignity as men and they have to participate in the life of the church. Obviously, the structure of the church calls for some distinctions between the participation of men and women, but absolutely, every place that I have been, women have been important in my ministry.

Can you say if there are areas in which women in the church in Los Angeles have overstepped the bounds that the church establishes?

I don't know. I haven't seen any. I mean, the chancellor [of the archdiocese], Sister Mary Elizabeth Galt, she's a wonderful sister and she's done a wonderful job and that's an important position in the life of the archdiocese. I mean, every single department in the archdiocese has the participation of women, and in the parishes too, so I don't see any conflict or anything.

There's a presumption that you are somehow more conservative than Cardinal Mahony. Do you see any grounds for people saying that? Are there ways in which you might be?

No, I really don't like to talk about — you know, those are kind of political terms, conservative and liberal. I think we all are called to be faithful to the teachings of the church and to the Gospel. You know, obviously my background in Opus Dei sounds like a more conservative. But I'm as conservative as Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict.

You know, I give you an example: Opus Dei, before the Second Vatican Council, was the most liberal organization in the Catholic Church, because it talked about the participation of the lay faithful. That was not normal at that time. And then, somehow, after the Second Vatican Council, it became one of the most conservative organizations in the church. Which, you know, those terms don't really apply to the Gospel. I don't know, I think it's artificial. I'm totally committed to the issue of immigration. I'm also committed to the culture of life. So in political terms those are things that are on the opposite sides sometimes, but the church is richer than those political labels.

But theologically, I suppose one can speak of someone who is more traditional or less traditional. Where would you put yourself on that spectrum?

That's a good question. On some issues I'm traditional. On some issues I'm more — like, participation of the lay faithful, that's not typically considered a more conservative issue.

I mean, what I'm trying to do is be faithful to the Gospel. The Gospel is both conservative and liberal.

Since the subject of Opus Dei came up, can I just ask you — what is your affiliation now with Opus Dei? Do you have a formal affiliation with them?

No. No, now my ministry is to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, so I don't really participate in the activities of Opus Dei. You know, obviously my spirituality as a priest is the spirituality of Opus Dei, but I don't actively participate in any of the activities of Opus Dei. My commitment is to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and I'm trying to minister to every single person in the archdiocese and every single religious community or movement or any people in the archdiocese.

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