BALTIMORE — The incoming president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he is willing to meet with public officials, including President Joe Biden, to discuss public policy issues of concern to the church.
“I don’t see my role as political, but if there is any way to insert the Gospel into all aspects of life in our country, I certainly will not miss any occasion to do that,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, told reporters Nov. 15, hours after he was elected during the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.
He said his predecessor as president, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, had desired to meet with Biden, but that such an opportunity did not present itself since Biden’s election two years ago.
“If he wants to meet with me, I’d be happy to meet with him,” Archbishop Broglio said.
After Biden was elected in 2020, Archbishop Gomez announced the formation of a working group of bishops to address issues surrounding the election of a Catholic president and policies that may come about that would be in conflict with Catholic teaching and the bishops’ priorities.
That outcome of that effort eventually led to the bishops issuing a statement on the importance of holy Communion in the life of the Catholic Church and did not address any conflicts between the stances of Catholic elected officials and church teaching on the dignity of life.
Archbishop Broglio also said he planned to continue efforts that began under his predecessor to bring the U.S. bishops closer together after recent assemblies demonstrated in public conflicting views on a variety of issues they have addressed.
This year’s fall assembly included specific periods of “fraternal dialogue” and reflection. The arrangement of the assembly room also was changed to promote more face-to-face dialogue at round tables rather than long rows of seating focused on the stage where USCCB leaders led proceedings.
“I intend to continue the good work that Archbishop Gomez began, I think, by giving us a good example of listening but then of leading. I think I will just try to continue in that same vein,” Archbishop Broglio said.
“The bishops have made great strides in working together and talking to one another. Hopefully, this process will continue,” he added.
In response to a question about why he was elected and the perception that his election showed that the U.S. bishops may not have the same priorities as Pope Francis when it comes to building a church that is more synodal in nature, Archbishop Broglio said that the query was better asked of his fellow bishops.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” he said.
“As far as I know, I’m certainly in communion with Pope Francis as part of the universal church. As brother bishops, we certainly know each other. I’m not aware that this indicates some dissonance with Pope Francis,” the archbishop continued.
He also said he planned to ensure that progress continues toward the upcoming Synod of Bishops on synodality. The process is now in the continental phase, where bishops’ conferences are meeting to discuss what issues to bring forward when the bishops meet in Rome in October.
U.S. and Canadian church leaders, part of the North American continental group, have planned to hold a series of 10 meetings by March to prepare for the synod’s first gathering. A second gathering is planned for October 2024.
“The USCCB will try to listen as much as we can,” during the upcoming sessions, he said.
While geographically in North America, Mexican church officials planned to prepare for the synod through CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ council.
Archbishop Broglio also addressed a question regarding his role as a Vatican diplomat under Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former Vatican secretary of state who died in May.
Many observers saw the cardinal as a key player in the Vatican’s slow response to the clerical sexual abuse scandal, particularly in the case of the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.
“Hindsight is always 20-20,” Archbishop Broglio said. “So many things that we’ve learned now perhaps certainly weren’t known then.
“In my own experience working Cardinal Sodano’s office, the main question would have been about Marcial and I think at that point he had everyone fairly well buffaloed because there were so many vocations (in the Legionaries). I actually left the office by the time the accusations came out,” he continued.
“These things are always a good reminder that we have to be attentive and that we have to be proactive,” the archbishop added. “I think certainly the USCCB has given us a good example of that.”
The USCCB in 2002 adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which spells out specifically how dioceses are to respond to allegations of clerical abuse.
In addition, the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting System was put in place in 2020 to handle allegations of abuse regarding a bishop or questions about how a prelate responded to any abuse cases.