McElroy remembered Quinn for his work in nuclear deterrence and outreach to AIDS victims, as well as his collaboration with laity and women religious, and his call for "a rearticulation of Catholic teaching on responsible parenthood."
McElroy has had some health problems, including a quadruple bypass heart surgery last year.
Clash over Communion issue
In the life of the Catholic Church in the U.S., McElroy has taken a critical stance toward those who would rebuke pro-abortion rights politicians like President Joe Biden.
McElroy contended that some unnamed bishops are trying to make abortion “not merely a 'preeminent' issue in Catholic Social Teaching” but a matter that “constitutes the de facto litmus test for determining whether a Catholic public official is a faithful Catholic” and for determining the moral legitimacy of non-Catholic public figures.
“If adopted, such a position will reduce the common good to a single issue,” he said in February 2021 at an online event of Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.
In a May 2021 essay for America magazine, McElroy argued against what he portrayed as “a theology of unworthiness” to receive the Eucharist. The logic of denying the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians constitutes an “extremely expansive” litmus test, he said.
Other Catholic commentators, including Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, note canonical duties barring Holy Communion to those “obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin.”
In November 2019, McElroy sparked controversy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Fall General Assembly when he objected to language in a letter that was to be published as a supplement to the 2015 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” McElroy said he was opposed to a line that said "the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.”
Without being specific, McElroy said this line was “at least discordant” with what Pope Francis has taught.
At a June 2018 meeting of the USCCB, McElroy charged that the current edition of "Faithful Citizenship" (last revised in 2015), does not engage with "Catholic teaching as it is now."
He said that a wide variety of topics have "not a secondary, but a primary claim on conscience," and that "Faithful Citizenship" "undermines that by its tendentious use of 'intrinsic evil.'"
In 2015, he said that Pope Francis has “radically transformed the prioritization of Catholic social teaching and its elements,” calling Faithful Citizenship “gravely hobbled.”
“I believe that the Pope is telling us that alongside the issues of abortion and euthanasia, which are central aspects of our commitment to transform the world, poverty and the degradation of the earth are also central," he continued. However, the voting guide “does not put those there.”
Open to discussion about doctrine?
Discussing the Synod on Synodality at America magazine in May, McElroy wrote that it “should not automatically reject certain topics or positions for dialogue and deliberation merely because they are questions of long-held discipline in the life of the church or reformable Catholic doctrine.”
“The last three synodal processes testify to this reality,” he said. “The synod on marriage and family life examined Catholic teachings and practice regarding divorce and remarriage. The synodal process for young adults pointed repeatedly to the alienation that the Church’s stances on L.G.B.T. issues and the role of women generate among young people. And the Amazon synod saw in the church of the Amazon’s devotion to the sacramental life of the Church a call to allow greater ordination of married men and the ordination of women as deacons.”
The final document of the Amazon synod did not call for the ordination of women as deacons, though it reported that “a large number” of the synod’s consultation sessions requested it. McElroy told NBC News San Diego on Aug. 21 that the synod did not pass this measure because “they didn't want to take a doctrinal position for the Universal Church at a regional synod,” but, he added, “clearly, they asserted they felt this was something whose time has come.”
Following the release of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, McElroy suggested that the divorced-and-remarried may make a "discernment of conscience" that "God is calling them to return to full participation in the life of the Church and the Eucharist."
After Pope Francis in June 2016 addressed a question about apologizing to gays who feel marginalized by the Church, McElroy commented that Catholics who identify as LGBT need to know they are “part of our families.”
McElroy told America magazine in July 2016 that the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s description of homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” uses “very destructive language that I think we should not use pastorally.”
“The word ‘disordered’ to most people is a psychological term,” he said. “In Catholic moral theology it is a philosophical term that is automatically misunderstood in our society as a psychological judgment.”
He suggested collaboration “with those in society who are working to banish discrimination and violence leveled against people because of their sexual orientation.”
McElroy is a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The dicastery’s wide-ranging mission includes social development, charitable and pastoral work, assistance for migrants, refugees, and human trafficking victims, and environmental work that cares for God’s creation.
McElroy’s episcopal motto is “Dignitatis Humanae” (“The dignity of the human”), the name of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.
Carl Bunderson is managing editor of Catholic News Agency. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Colorado Boulder and a BPhil from the Pontifical Lateran University.