Two stories of political significance emerged from the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last month. The first was the election of the USCCB’s first Latino president, Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles—an immigrant to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico.
Gómez is often described as a pastorally minded conservative, but he’s also a forceful advocate for immigration reform. At his first press conference as president-elect of the USCCB, he spoke out about the Supreme Court debate on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, urging that a way be found to let Dreamers stay in the United States. That shouldn’t have been a surprise. Two days after Donald Trump won the presidency, Gómez held an interfaith gathering at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to express solidarity with all those who now feared deportation and demonization. “Tonight we promise our brothers and sisters who are undocumented, we will never leave you alone,” he said.
But if Gómez’s election gave him a “megaphone,” as Thomas Reese, SJ, put it, to speak out about cruel and inhumane immigration policies, the bishops left no doubt that abortion remains their top concern. The language they approved for a letter that will supplement their quadrennial statement about elections, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, states this unequivocally: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.” It’s an interesting statement. By those criteria, it’s not clear why the climate crisis isn’t just as urgent—a habitable planet is a precondition for “life itself,” and in the decades ahead the “number of lives destroyed” by flood, famine, and fire could be catastrophically high.