Five Things to Expect from Archbishop Kurtz

The Bishop of Rome has called the bishops of the world to a renewal of pastoral outreach within the Church. If Archbishop KurtzAmerican Catholics could use anything these days, it is pastoral guidance from American bishops.

Many of the faithful in the land of the free and the home of the brave are being prodded and paralyzed by fear in the shifting chaos and confusion that are rampant. For many Catholics, the American Dream has become the American Nightmare. The discrepancy between Catholic doctrine and practice over contraception, the failing work of catechesis, the rise of the theological dissent, Common Core corruption, the death of culture, the culture of death, and a chameleon Catholic identity are only some of the crises that are scattering the American flock—a flock in need of shepherding.

Since his election last March, the Bishop of Rome has not been a very political figure—meaning his papacy does not appear to be motivated by politics. His honesty and humility are practically inimical to political posturing. It is possible that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken the Pontiff’s lead, realizing that there is no real victory to be won by pounding the pavement of mainstream politics. Americans do not need any more diplomatic skullduggery; they need authentic, affectionate leadership.

They need the truth.

On November 12th, the USCCB elected as the chief liaison between the US Church and the Vatican a man who has a reputation for being very much like Pope Francis in his pastoral approach. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, became the new president of the leadership conference: a prelate with extensive experience in Catholic social services who brings, therefore, much expectation for advancement on the battlefronts of social American Catholicism.

This new face for the Catholic Church in America, as a gracious conservative, is seen as an indication of a desire among the American Bishops to spread the peacemaking works and words of Pope Francis. However, as a forthright prelate, he promises to retain an aggressive attitude toward the principle social and moral plagues of our country. Though Kurtz is not seen as belonging to any particular party or faction within the Church and considered a proponent of consensus between liberal and conservative groups, there is good reason to expect him to show more backbone than a mere conciliator might have. Archbishop Kurtz has a pugnacious streak to his record that justifies certain expectations—certain hopes.

1.     Archbishop Kurtz has ever been an outspoken prelate on the atrocity of abortion, and has berated politicians who do not conform to the Church’s teaching on the matter. In his first address after his election, he vowed to keep up the fight to defend “the voiceless and the vulnerable,” and to oppose abortion unconditionally in pastoral service to the unborn. In recent months, the media has expressed the world’s disappointment that the new Pope, who seemed to be breaking away from so many stuffy customs, was as traditional as ever on the Church’s stance concerning abortion. If Archbishop Kurtz is like his Pope in any way, this is one. “In a nation founded on the self-evident truth that all are created with an inalienable right to life,” he stated, “the deliberate destruction of unborn children at their most vulnerable stage is a travesty. It is a violent response that does not serve women, children, families or the common good.”

2.    On the issue of same-sex unions, Archbishop Kurtz has been unwavering in his opposition. True to his apostolic station, he upholds the one and only understanding that marriage is a holy union between one man and one woman. Archbishop Kurtz previously served as chair of the US Bishops’ Committee for the Defense of Marriage and Family Life, speaking out openly against legalized same-sex marriage. The only thing that may qualify his prominent disapproval is his statement that he intends to follow Pope Francis’ direction of seeing the person before all else. Kurtz is of one mind with the Pope regarding the need for dialogue and sensitivity in providing pastoral care and direction for those who struggle with homosexuality.

3.     One of the greatest challenges awaiting the new USCCB president is the controversy and contretemps of the US president’s federal health care mandate. The encroachment on religious liberty under the Affordable Care Act, requiring many employers to provide health insurance that includes contraception coverage, even if the employer is morally opposed to the practice, is of tremendous concern to Catholic America—and Catholic America will be looking to Archbishop Kurtz to lead the way through the labyrinth. His track record of vocal protests against the contraception requirement in Obamacare has earned the disapproval of his election from many liberal Catholics, but Archbishop Kurtz has not shown himself afraid of appearing “old-fashioned.” The archbishop takes the helm of the USCCB as dozens of dioceses file lawsuits against the current administration. The calm before the storm? Despite their differences, Kurtz says, the church can maintain a productive relationship with the government.

4.     Like Pope Francis, Archbishop Kurtz is known for his simple lifestyle, living in a plain apartment next door to the Louisville cathedral. He has worked firsthand with the poor and marginalized for years, recognizing the Catholic Church as a Church for the poor. His advocacy for the poor extends to a desire for humane immigration reform and care for the elderly and infirm. The human person is central to Kurtz’s apostolic approach. Like Pope Francis, he pledged after his election to reach out to the poor and undeserving. When asked whether the bishops intend to utilize their authority on behalf of the poor, Archbishop Kurtz replied, “I believe we are very much in solidarity with Pope Francis on this.” In his new position, Archbishop Kurtz will have the power to influence and organize charitable efforts in social services and education.

5.     Archbishop Kurtz, despite being 67 years old, is no stranger to the pastoral opportunities afforded by social media venues, which almost necessarily plays a role in reaching out to the younger generations of Americans. His use of Twitter has gathered over 6,000 followers, a number that will surely grow as his position and profile rises in the US Church. For one who is determined to speak in an orthodox and straightforward manner in the language of love, such efforts to reach a wayward or perplexed youth is encouraging and suggests a new evangelization headed up by the new leader of the American apostleship.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz’s coat of arms bears the motto, “Hope in the Lord.” At this time, as the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States passes into the hands of this estimable man, let us adopt this motto as our own. Archbishop Kurtz’s service in the Lord thus far gives the American faithful cause to hope—to hope in the Lord—for it is only He who is Truth that can give us true freedom.

image: Wikimedia Commons

Sean Fitzpatrick


Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

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  • JMC

    Bad enough that they’re forcing employers to provide contraceptive coverage against their consciences; try this one on for size: How about someone having to pay the premiums for such coverage when they neither need nor want it? I found out that, despite being well past childbearing age, not to mention having had a hysterectomy, the insurance companies still have to provide the coverage. I’ve taken the path of “passive resistance;” I simply won’t buy insurance. .

  • ann c ward

    thank you for informing us about this Archbishop. i did not know him. He sounds like someone i can trust to really be a voice of truth in our culture.

  • Deacon Joe L.

    I certainly hope that His Excellency meets your expectations. Sounds like he will, and then some! But I’ll really miss seeing Cardinal Tim Dolan anchoring the organization. He’s been such a firebrand. We need a lot more like him.

  • Yes, as you wrote, “They [Americans] need the truth.” For all the good qualities of Archbishop Kurtz, though, will he be able to spark authentic renewal in the hearts and homes and parishes and dioceses of Catholics in America? America needs more than an orthodox and good Catholic leader of the USCCB. Will he – can he – ignite the hearts of bishops that are set on the status quo? Will he – can he – so inflame the souls of local pastors that they begin to preach and teach the saving Gospel with burning zeal – that they not rest until every parish initiative is ordered to the holiness and sanctification of all the members? In other words, will his leadership reach down to the pews and kneelers of our churches; will he reach into our hearts and change us?

    America needs truth – so true! And Jesus sent His Church to take that truth to all the nations. We need saints. We need leaders to the extent that leaders can make saints of us – and I think that means, we need leaders who are saints. Paul VI said it better: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (EN 41) Lord, give us witnesses! Lord, give us saints! Lord, give us renewal, and set our faces to the mission – that we can bring light to the nations, as You sent us to do.

  • chaco

    Thou dost overwhelm with ominous agenda. I think it’s good to remember; “We eat an elephant 1 bite at a time.” I think Archbishop Kurtz is imitating Pope Francis’ “Blessed are the poor in spirit” approach; The Pope’s 1st act was to ask that His flock pray for him. Both men are attuned to the need for dialogue & sensitivity while concentrating on “The Person” 1st rather than leading off with “The Law”. [“People sin more from lack of will than from lack of understanding.”] As I write, the movie “Godspell” just popped on the T.V. screen. I never really examined its whole message but it seems to have something to do with trying to speak the Gospel in a language your audience can understand; Much like the main goal of Vatican II. “Poor in spirit” also reminds me that ambition can be a sin, which in turn, reminds me that children are a “Sacrament of the moment” ; Kids are much more prone to live in the moment rather than regret the past or worry about the future. Bottom line; Like the mustard seed that grows into something mighty, just love what’s in front of us with patient mercy & hope and “The Kingdom” will continue to thrive & grow. [Fulfilling “Heaven’s Peace Plan”-Fatima request; “Make reparation for outrages committed against Mary’s Immaculate Heart (console Mama)” is like putting “Miracle Grow” on the mustard plant. “Rejoice Queen Mother, Your Son our God has gone into the depths of darkness & illumined it with Divine Mercy. It has penetrated the hardness of our selfish-vanity & softened our Hearts into praise & thanks for God.” ]

  • dpharisee2010

    HOPE from the LORD is all I wanted to hear. All of what we have right now as to possessions, wealth, fame and everything that makes us proud and mighty is just temporary and we cannot take it with us, ETERNITY is FOREVER so cooperate with our pope right now because he is doing the tiniest will of God his own way, no time for criticism. Mark 22:7 is the hope for conservative, liberal, activists.

  • rosebud

    Mark 22: 7 ?

  • dpharisee2010

    Mathew 7:22. I am sorry, I am not a theologian or well versed with bible verses.

  • Barrysullivan1

    Cardinal Dolan had many good qualities but he still had Obama to the Al Smith dinner which was so sad to those of us who are pro-life and against gay marriage and the requirements of Obamacare. He invited him to the dinner at the same time the Church is suing his administration to try and stop Obamacare regulations -a tremendous teaching moment was lost.

  • Barrysullivan1

    My sisters and several nephews and nieces graduated from TAC so I know you are solid. I think Archbishop Kurtz is a good choice though I do have one concern. This is that the five issues will be considered equal and only one point of view for each issue promulgated as “dogmatic” or binding on all Catholics. For example, abortion is always wrong and that is required belief for Catholics whereas how to handle feeding the poor, immigration reform, etc are open to different morally acceptable solutions. If the USCCB blurs the distinction between these issues and responses I believe the American Catholics will continue to ignore them in large numbers which will be sad for the Church and country.