Opinion: Pope Francis’ diversity push isn’t necessarily a ‘liberal’ move

Los Angeles Times


On Sunday, Pope Francis named 20 new members of the College of Cardinals, 15 of who are under 80 and eligible to take part in the next papal election. As he did with his first batch of appointments to the college, Francis chose several bishops and archbishops from the developing world and bypassed the archbishops of sees in Europe and the United States that traditionally are headed by a cardinal.

More proof that the pope is a liberal, right? That was the tenor of a lot of the coverage. Just as the pope has urged bishops to reach out to the “peripheries” of society (the poor, migrants, fallen-away Catholics), so he is now using his appointment power to name prelates from the peripheries of the world.

But there is a sense in which this diversity initiative is not liberal at all. In announcing the new cardinals, the pope said that they “show the indelible tie with the church of Rome to churches in the world.” But for some liberal Catholics, the goal has been to downsize the papacy and the importance of Rome, not to make the central government of the church more representative.

In 1999, the liberal former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, published a book called “The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity.” In a column in 2005, I summarized the proposal for a downsized papacy as follows: “For one thing, it would be more parochial, more local, with, most likely, an Italian pope who tended to his Roman flock and didn’t stride so much on the world stage.”

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