Cardinal Robert W. McElroy wrote a very good article in America, the Jesuit magazine of the United States of America, that focused on how the Church must adapt and respond to the changes in society and for the acceptance of people.
Cardinal McElroy is the Bishop of San Diego in California and the Ecclesiastical Province of Los Angeles. He was created a cardinal in August of 2022, garnering much criticism due to the fact that Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles was not chosen instead, despite being his ecclesiastical superior and the then President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. More importantly, further criticism came due to Cardinal McElroy's seemingly liberal stances that often border on heresy in contrast to Archbishop Gomez, a bishop often seen as middle of the road but very much in lign with Church doctrine.
This back drop is so vital into understanding this article written by Cardinal McElroy because it helps many that are self-identified as "conservative" Catholics understand better the "liberal" Catholic cause.
Cardinal McElroy began by highlighting the nature of exclusion that has taken shape amidst the Church and how the result is forcing many Catholics out of their relation with God. This exclusion can be seen with racial minorities, particularly African Americans and Native Americans in the USA, as well as women and the LGBT community.
For this reason, Catholics must embrace dialogue on the structures and culture that creates this exclusion and feeling of alienation because for one, we must seek universal discernment and each region of the world has embraced this dialogue and has sought to come up with solutions. Two, we are a Church that features continual conversion of ourselves and others, and therefore we must continue to pray, reflect, listen in dialogue, and act. We must listen to the Holy Spirit, and seek the continue missionizing of our Church. Cardinal McElroy further wrote that "renewal and reform are frequently [a] gradual processes" in a Church which seeks unity. Three, in the document "Enlarge the Space of Your Tent" by the Holy See in 2022, it mentions how "the vision of a church capable of radical inclusion, shared belonging and deep hospitality according to the teachings of Jesus is at the heart of the synodal process." Therefore, we must move past the increasing polarization of the society around us creating a home for everyone in our Church to connect with God.
The article continued by addressing a key issue at stake in the Catholic Church and that is the continuing divide growing, often artificially created by people who do not place God first, rather that place their politics first. For example, we have many Pro-Life Catholics and Peace and Justice Catholics at odds with each other, we have many self-described Pope Francis Catholics and Pope Saint John Paul II Catholics at odds with each other, and even the topic of masking in the parish has become a place of contempt among Catholics. Cardinal McElroy continued how this divide "is found in the friction between Catholics who emphasize inclusion and others who perceive doctrinal infidelity in that inclusion". These realities have created an idea that there are Conservative and Liberal Catholics who are at odds with each other, when in reality all of these factions of the Church are often correct, and we just must embrace them all, at least the good parts of each community.
"As “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent” observes, we find ourselves “trapped in conflict, such that our horizons shrink and we lose our sense of the whole, and fracture into sub-identities. It is an experience of Babel, not Pentecost.” - Cardinal McElroy
Cardinal McElroy's solution for this "fractionalism" is for us to embrace synodality and to truly listen to each other.
"A synodal culture demands listening, a listening that seeks not to convince but to understand the experiences and values of others that have led them to this moment. A synodal culture of true encounter demands that we see in our sisters and brothers common pilgrims on the journey of life, not opponents. We must move from Babel to Pentecost." - Cardinal McElroy
Cardinal McElroy continued with how we must bring what he calls the peripheries into the center.
The first peripheries Cardinal McElroy focuses on are the peripheries regarding the various American ethnic groups, particularly the Native Americans and African Americans. So often, we see their Catholic culture subjected to ridicule for their various music and dance in mass, their rites, and their clothing in mass. We often see key figures in the Church attempt to push these cultural groups of American Catholics into the periphery by calling their practices heresy. This is not only false, but it also fails to capture these groups into our universal Church, despite many of these traditions being among the oldest among American Catholics.
Other peripheries included victims of clergy sex abuse, the homeless, the undocumented, the incarcerated, and refugees who are all often not welcomed with the same vigor to worship. These often account for the most poor among Americans and yet we tend to exclude them as a community.
Therefore, we must attend to the marginalized as Cardinal McElroy stated.
"Bringing the peripheries to the center means constantly endeavoring to support the disempowered as protagonists in the life of the church. It means giving a privileged place in the priorities and budgets and energies of every ecclesial community to those who are most victimized and ignored. It means advocating forcefully against racism and economic exploitation. In short, it means creating genuine solidarity within our ecclesial communities and our world, as St. John Paul repeatedly urged us." - Cardinal McElroy
Next, Cardinal McElroy focused on women in the Church. He focused on a very important concept and that is that we must "[eliminate] rules and arbitrary actions that preclude women from many roles of ministry, administration and pastoral leadership." We as a Church should "adopt the stance that we should admit, invite and actively engage women in every element of the life of the church that is not doctrinally precluded."
While Cardinal McElroy left the question of woman priests ambiguous, Cardinal McElroy supported the allowance of women as permanent deacons and the change in the Roman Curia and other positions of power within the Church to include women if they can doctrinally.
Women are the backbone of the Church, hence why Cardinal McElroy is so focused on this topic.
Next, Cardinal McElroy focused on what he calls the Christological Paradox. This focuses on the LGBT community and those divorced and not annulled, as well as those in only civil marriage.
Cardinal McElroy wrote that "the exclusion of men and women because of their marital status or their sexual orientation/activity is pre-eminently a pastoral question, not a doctrinal one." And, Cardinal McElroy furthered this thought when he stated that the Eucharist should be a healing for the sick, and not a reward for the perfect, hinting at his policy of giving the Eucharist to even those openly in sexual sins.
"'The dream is of a church that more fully lives a Christological paradox: boldly proclaiming its authentic teaching while at the same time offering a witness of radical inclusion and acceptance through its pastoral and discerning accompaniment.” In other words, the church is called to proclaim the fullness of its teaching while offering a witness of sustained inclusion in its pastoral practice." - Cardinal McElroy
For Cardinal McElroy, our Church should be opened for all people, while we should preach the Gospel so people follow it. This means that we should serve the Eucharist to most individuals and we should also encourage the parishioners to avoid sin.
This is part of the radical inclusion to include LGBT people in the Cburch.
An interesting point by Cardinal McElroy is his stances on how the focus on the Eucharist should not put sexual sin at the top, as more sins are worse. And, Cardinal McElroy reverts from previous Catholic held belief that we should separate an LGBT individuals who are merely attracted with those who commit the LGBT sexual acts.
"The distinction between orientation and activity cannot be the principal focus for such a pastoral embrace because it inevitably suggests dividing the L.G.B.T. community into those who refrain from sexual activity and those who do not. Rather, the dignity of every person as a child of God struggling in this world, and the loving outreach of God, must be the heart, soul, face and substance of the church’s stance and pastoral action." - Cardinal McElroy
In other words, Cardinal McElroy hopes to convey the idea that we should be embracing all of those in sexual situations opposed to our Church as Children of God or else we will come across as placing their sexual identity over their identity as a person.
Cardinal McElroy did not write about homosexual and other identities and marriage.
Cardinal McElroy concluded with: "We in the United States must seek a church whose doors do not close and a perimeter that continually widens if we are to have any hope of attracting the next generation to life in the church, or of being faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
This was a very informative article by Bishop McElroy with many who would object to various parts of the article. For example, the ending comes to contradict ealier reasons provided as it replaced the importance of God with the importance of continued high numbers of Catholics.
In the end, Cardinal McElroy wants us to talk and listen more like in the Pentacost instead of fighting and not listening like at Babel.
For those seeking to understand more of the liberal Catholic community, this article by Cardinal McElroy is so very important.