When San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy receives his prestigious red hat at the Vatican on Saturday, he will bring to the College of Cardinals a fervent loyalty to Pope Francis that has often put him at odds with the conservative majority in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
McElroy, 68, is the only American among the 21 clerics being installed as cardinals by Francis in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. He was chosen over numerous higher-ranking American archbishops, including two from his home state — outspoken conservative Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and José Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the U.S. bishops conference.
McElroy has been among the few American bishops who questioned why the conference insists on identifying abortion as its “preeminent” priority. Echoing the pope’s concerns, he has questioned why greater prominence is not given to issues such as poverty, immigration and climate change.
The Rev. James Martin, editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, described McElroy as “one of the foremost articulators in the United States not only of Pope Francis’ vision but also the vision of the Second Vatican Council and, more basically, the vision of the Gospel.”
“He has been the special champion of people on the margins, both in society and in the church,” Martin said via email. “It’s not surprising that the Holy Father would have singled him out for this honor and that he would want the future Cardinal McElroy present in the conclave that will elect the next pope.”
Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America who has been critical of many Vatican decisions under Francis’ papacy, said McElroy “often speaks from the ideological margins” and thus would be seen, in this papacy, as an appropriate candidate to be a cardinal.
“But mostly, his elevation reminds me that more senior and substantial prelates like Archbishop Cordileone and Archbishop Gomez have, once again, been very deliberately passed over,” Pecknold said in an email.
“It will bring tremendously destructive consequences,” McElroy wrote last year. “The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare. This must not happen.”
Cordileone, in contrast, said earlier this year that he would no longer allow House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.
Last year McElroy was among a small group of bishops signing a statement expressing support for LGBTQ youth and denouncing the bullying often directed at them.
The bishops said LGBTQ youth attempt suicide at much higher rates, are often homeless because of families who reject them and “are the target of violent acts at alarming rates.”
“We stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you,” the statement read. “Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side….”
Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk, vicar-general for the Diocese of Orange, said McElroy’s leadership skills have been impressive.
“One thing I respect about him is that while he is confident in the positions he takes, he truly is open to hearing the take of others and engaging in a dialogue with those who have different points of view,” Doktorczyk said….
The above comes from an August 23 story in the Associated Press.