Gomez and Mahony, a study in contrasts—UPDATED

With both men making headlines recently, the Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at their distinctive styles:

In more than two decades leading the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahony headlined immigration rallies, marched for worker rights and made national news by announcing he would defy a congressional bill he regarded as anti-immigrant.

But the man who replaced him in 2011 — Archbishop Jose Gomez — has shied away from such attention-getting actions. Instead, he plans to take 60 conservative Catholic business leaders on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City this fall in hopes of winning them over on immigration reform.

It’s a distinctly different style from that of Mahony, whom Pope John Paul II nicknamed “Hollywood” for his frequent media appearances.

“Cardinal Mahony was pretty much everywhere,” said parishioner Carlos De Leon as he departed from Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels last week. “Archbishop Gomez seems much more behind the scenes. It’s a different management style.”

Yet Gomez has begun quietly making his mark on the archdiocese, the nation’s largest with 4.5 million Roman Catholics in 120 Southern California cities.

He has elevated issues such as opposition to abortion and euthanasia. He has promoted evangelization and religious education and embraced more conservative voices.

At the same time, he has not led an ideological purge of the archdiocese as some liberals had feared might happen under a cleric associated with the orthodox Opus Dei organization. Gomez has not, for instance, shut down a program Mahony developed that has trained lay leaders, particularly women, for powerful church roles, said Claire Henning, a pastoral associate at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood.

“I was one of the first to say, ‘Oh my God, Opus Dei,'” Henning said. “But I’ve been very impressed. I had a lot of presuppositions about him which were wrong.”

One of Gomez’s most ambitious initiatives has largely gone unnoticed in English-speaking Los Angeles: active outreach to Latinos, who comprise 70% of archdiocese members and 60% of Catholics under the age of 35 nationwide.

The archbishop has launched a weekly Spanish-language radio and TV show to teach the faith, covering such topics as marriage and respect for life, that reaches an audience of more than 2 million.

The 61-year-old Mexico native has also attended popular Spanish-language gatherings — Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and a Divine Mercy conference at the L.A. Convention Center, for instance.

For Frances Guerrero, the archbishop’s outreach has had a powerful effect on her family.

The parishioner at St. John the Baptist church in Baldwin Park said she has brought her family to see the archbishop celebrate Mass, preside over a cultural festival and speak at a Guadalupe event sponsored by Univision, the Spanish-language television network. Each encounter has deepened her family’s connection with Gomez, she said, drawing her husband back to church.

Read more. 

UPDATE: In NCR, John Allen has some interesting takes on a Mahony backlash in Rome:

Fairly or not, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has become the latest symbol of the Catholic church’s failures on the child sexual abuse scandals, and like Cardinal Bernard Law in 2005, his participation in the looming papal election is stirring controversy.

Spokespersons both in the Vatican and in Los Angeles have said that Mahony will take part in the conclave, insisting that it’s not a personal choice but a duty of office that comes with being a cardinal, and that only grave health problems could relieve him from fulfilling it.

That, however, has not stopped a backlash from forming in various quarters. Today it reached Italy, with Famiglia Cristiana, a newsmagazine published by the Paolini fathers with one of the largest circulations in the country, splashing “the Mahony case” on the cover and launching an on-line poll asking readers whether Mahony should stay away.

Unsurprisingly, the “stay home” vote took a strong early lead.

Read what some are saying. 

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