Archbishop Gomez, the current Vice President, would also become the first leading Hispanic bishop ever in the United States.
Presidents of the National Conference often play a role in elections and policy. Prior presidents have been advisers to presidents presidents, influenced state lawmakers to enact new laws, or in the case of the last Californian President of the Conference, Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco from 1977 to 1980, help influence the American response to murders in Central America in the early 1980’s, including that of Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero.
“The president of the Conference is more than a figurehead,” noted Catholic priest Michael Finley. “They influence people and policy. Having Archbishop Gomez in as president is going to influence policy on issues he supports.”
Gomez, an immigrant from Mexico, has been a long time supporter of open immigration to the United States, as well as creating ways to make many illegal immigrants into naturalized citizens.
His stance will mark a major shift away from current behavior of the church in the United States, currently under Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston diocese. Along with a look into Hispanic-American relations within the Catholic Church during the Conference, the Catholic Church in the United States is looking to its future, as well its influence.
“Catholics tend to make a strong voting block, so politicians will always go out of their way to get their approval,” continued Father Finley. “This can mean them introducing laws and favorable decisions. For example, we once had an Archbishop as President of the Conference in St. Louis who believed in having the organization or company directly pay for benefits. During his term, the entire state of Missouri switched to that system for employees based primarily on his influence.”
“With Gomez, we’re going to see more favorable laws, or at least bills, come up for illegal immigrants. First it will be California, then the U.S., depending somewhat on the 2020 election.”
“What’s going to happen, either in 2020 or 2021, we’re going to see some new laws come up for debate and passage in Sacramento about illegal immigration from politicians, more likely than not Catholic or whose voter area has a large Catholic percentage. And then it will spur national change or discussion. Because this term they’re from California it will be bigger than usual since California influences the U.S. law and rules more so than other states.”
“Gomez is going to be interesting because immigration is a very contentious topic right now nationally, and he could have the power to have California bring friendlier immigration laws to the national level.”
The Conference, which will also discuss the churches ongoing sex-abuse scandal struggle, the choice of the Vice President of the Conference, and other small changes within church, is expected to end Wednesday.