Catholic history made ... 30 years ago (updated)

We've seen quite a bit of coverage of Jose Gomez, the new Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles. But check out this basic error from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday (online):

First Latino Archbishop In U.S. Takes To Pulpit

Jose Gomez, the first Latino archbishop in the U.S., takes the helm of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angles on Sunday.

In a word: No. Gomez is not the first Latino archbishop in the U.S. Maybe the folks at NPR should take the "Test your knowledge of Latino history with this quiz" the Houston Chronicle ran a few years ago. Question 4 was "What U.S. city had the first Hispanic archbishop?" Answer:

San Antonio. Patricio Flores became archbishop of the San Antonio archdiocese in 1979. He retired in 2004.

In looking for information, I found this 2005 Associated Press story written by someone named Bobby Ross Jr. It's about Gomez becoming archbishop of San Antonio upon Flores' retirement:

"Flores is a legend. There's no question about it," said the Rev. David Garcia, rector of San Fernando Cathedral, a church that dates to the 1730s. "When the history is written about the Hispanics and Catholics in this country, Flores' name will be at the very top. But that does not mean it's an impossible role to fill for Gomez."

With his formal installation earlier this month, the 53-year-old Gomez became the nation's first Hispanic archbishop since Flores' appointment in 1979. Flores reached the standard retirement age for bishops of 75 last summer and asked to step aside because of health problems. It took the Vatican several months to name his successor.

Besides Gomez, the nation has about 25 Hispanic bishops, but only nine head dioceses. The rest serve as auxiliary bishops: Gomez himself was auxiliary bishop of Denver. And before Flores was named a San Antonio auxiliary bishop in 1970, people even questioned whether a Hispanic could do the job, Garcia said.

"Flores opened doors and sometimes broke down doors to allow other Hispanics to move into positions of leadership," Garcia said. "Very few people seriously question today whether Hispanics can occupy those high positions in business, education, government and the church."

So while Gomez was already an archbishop prior to Los Angeles, he still wasn't the first Latino archbishop. The audio story is very clear that Gomez is simply Los Angeles' first Hispanic archbishop. But the headline and intro for the online version don't.

UPDATE: The inimitable Rocco Palmo comments:

Actually, the first Hispanic archbishop named in the US -- at least in modern times -- came five years before Flores: Robert Sanchez, a priest of Santa Fe who was made archbishop there in 1974.

Sanchez retired in 1994 amid allegations of three affairs with young women (all over 18) in his early days as archbishop, along with instances of cover-up of abuse of minors during his tenure. He's now 76, his whereabouts unknown.

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