Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services, who oversees the Catholic ministries of the US military, was elected Tuesday as the new president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Broglio, 70, was elected to a three-year term from a field of 10 candidates. He will succeed Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles, who took office in 2019.
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori was elected as the conference’s new vice president.
Typically, the election of new USCCB leaders 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, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, will soon turn 75, making him ineligible to serve.
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The 10 candidates ranged from the relatively moderate Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, a staunch conservative. Cordileone made headlines this year by barring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco from receiving Communion in the archdiocese because of her support for abortion rights.
The candidates were nominated by their fellow bishops, who passed over several of their colleagues who have been elevated to cardinals by Pope Francis.
While Broglio was not seen as a hardline conservative like some other candidates, his choice did not go down well with some center-left Catholics who sympathize with Pope Francis in his occasional spats with American bishops.
“I am disappointed that the Catholic bishops have elected a new president who has a history of being a culture warrior,” said John Gehring, director of the Catholic program at a Washington-based clergy network called Faith in Public Life. “Even as Pope Francis offers a better way forward for the church, too many US bishops are doubling down on old strategies that failed to engage and energize the faithful.”
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The annual fall meeting of bishops will conclude its public sessions on Wednesday. It is the first meeting of the bishops since the US Supreme Court in June overturned the Roe v. Wade who had declared a constitutional right to abortion and returned the question of legal abortion to the states.
Lori, chair of the Episcopal Committee for Pro-Life Activities, acknowledged that many Catholics are in favor of legalized access to abortion.
“Roe’s demise is a great victory, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory if we fail to win the hearts and minds, first and foremost, of our fellow Catholics,” said Lori, who was elected vice president of the episcopal conference. .
“We cannot speak credibly in a polarized society while our own house is divided,” he said. “At the same time, we cannot wait until perfect unanimity has been achieved to testify to environmental culture about human life and dignity.”
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AP VoteCast, a broad survey of voters in the 2022 midterm elections, found that Catholic voters in Michigan were evenly split in 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 the borders of the United States, 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 has been widely criticized for stalling investigations into prominent clerics found to have sexually abused, such as the Rev. Marcial Maciel, leader of the Legion of Christ, a religious order.
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” Broglio said at a news conference after his election. “Many things that we have learned now perhaps certainly were not known then.”
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He said that during his tenure, Maciel “had everyone pretty well informed” because he was recruiting many new priests.
Broglio said that he had left the Secretary of State “when the big accusations came out” against Maciel.
While the allegations against Maciel grew in the 2000s, they initially came to light in a major 1997 Hartford Courant report, which reported on the allegations by eight men against him.
The experience is a “good reminder to be vigilant and to be proactive,” Broglio said.
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Broglio also stood by an earlier statement linking the church’s sexual abuse crisis to homosexuality. He had previously stated that many abuse cases involved homosexuality rather than pedophilia because many of the victims of abusive priests were 12 years of age or older.
A 2011 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the bishops, said that homosexuality was not a cause of priest abuse.
“It certainly is an aspect of the sexual crisis that cannot be denied,” Broglio said Tuesday. “That’s certainly not to point the finger at anyone, but I think it would be naive to suggest there’s no relationship between the two.”
Broglio declined to speculate on why he was chosen or if the vote signaled a different agenda from the pontiff.
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“I am certainly in communion with Pope Francis,” he said. “I’m not aware that this necessarily indicates any dissonance with Pope Francis.”
Last year, Broglio drew national attention when he asserted that service members should be able to get religious exemptions that save them from the Pentagon mandate that all troops receive COVID-19 vaccines.
“Despite the moral permissibility of these vaccines, the Church treasures their teaching on the sanctity of conscience,” Broglio said. “Accordingly, 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 and later earning a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
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He was ordained a priest, for the Diocese of Cleveland, in May 1977 in a chapel in Rome.
In addition to serving as associate parish priest and university professor, Broglio devoted himself extensively to the diplomatic service of the Vatican. He served as secretary of the apostolic nunciatures in Côte d’Ivoire and Paraguay, and later as 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 US Military Services.
As a member of the USCCB, Broglio currently serves as the conference secretary. In the past, he served as Chairman of the International Justice and Peace Committee and Chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.