BALTIMORE (RNS) — U.S. Catholic bishops have elected Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who oversees the Archdiocese for the Military Services, as the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Broglio’s election to a three-year term, which he won in a 138-99 runoff against Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore on Tuesday (Nov. 15), comes as no great surprise. When bishops voted for the same position in 2019, Broglio placed second behind Archbishop Jose Gomez.
While not seen as a hard-liner, Broglio does not represent a radical ideological departure from his conservative predecessor. The archbishop said as much during his first ndws conference as president.
“I intend to continue the good work that Archbishop Gomez began,” he told reporters.
Like Gomez, Broglio has shown a willingness to take conservative public stances — particularly, in Broglio’s case, on LGBTQ issues.
He staked out one of of his most controversial positions in 2018, when he defended a U.S. Air Force chaplain who blamed gay priests for the Catholic sex abuse crisis, stating in an email that there is “no question that the crisis of sexual abuse by priests in the USA is directly related to homosexuality.”
Broglio doubled down on that position on Tuesday.
“I think it’s certainly an aspect of the sexual abuse crisis that can’t be denied,” Broglio told reporters when asked about the email. “I think it would certainly be naive to suggest that there is no relationship between them.”
His argument is disputed by a 2011 John Jay College of Criminal Justice report on the causes of clergy sex abuse, which argued the claim is not borne out by statistical evidence.
Broglio has long held a conservative line on LGBTQ issues. In 2011, he joined other bishops in urging then-President Barack Obama’s administration to drop a legal challenge against the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
In 2013, Broglio put forth rules for Catholic military chaplains that not only prevented them from being forced to bless or witness a same-sex marriage, but also from participating in funerals that could “give the impression that the church approves of same sex ‘marital’ relationships.”
Broglio has attracted controversy in other ways as well. Last year, he spoke in support of Catholic members of the armed services who sought the use of religious waivers to opt out of COVID-19 vaccines. It was a position that set him apart from many other U.S. bishops — including Gomez, whose archdiocese declined requests to offer vaccine waivers.
Broglio assumes the presidency as some members of the conference call for denying Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden. Asked about the role of politics in his new position, Broglio said he does not see his role as “primarily political” but would not shy away from public debates.
“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,” Broglio told reporters, adding that he would like to meet with Biden.
Before overseeing the military archdiocese, Broglio, 70, served as the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic as well as its delegate to Puerto Rico, from 2001 to 2008.
In addition, he worked as a secretary for the late Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who defended serial sexual abuser Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ religious order.
Broglio was asked about his time working for Sodano during his news conference.
“I think hindsight is 20/20, so many things that we’ve learned now perhaps were worth knowing then,” he said. “These things are always a good reminder that we have to be attentive, and we have to be proactive.”
Lori, who currently heads the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was elected as the conference’s vice president.