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Pope Francis names Davenport, Iowa’s Bishop Zinkula to lead Archdiocese of Dubuque

Bishop Thomas Zinkula, who has led the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa since 2017, was named the next archbishop of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, on July 26, 2023. / Diocese of Davenport.

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2023 / 05:51 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport to lead Iowa’s Metropolitan Archdiocese of Dubuque.

Zinkula, 66, has led the Davenport diocese, in southeast Iowa, since 2017. 

The Archdiocese of Dubuque has been run by an apostolic administrator since the April 4 resignation of Archbishop Michael O. Jackels for health reasons. Jackels led the archdiocese for 10 years.

The Archdiocese of Dubuque serves over 190,000 Catholics across 17,403 square miles in north central and northeast Iowa. 

A Lifelong Iowan

Born in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Zinkula earned bachelor degrees in mathematics and economics and business. He went on to also earn a law degree from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

After working for several years as a civil lawyer, he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 1990 at the age of 33.

In 1998, Zinkula was awarded a licentiate in canon law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada.

He served as an associate pastor and pastor at various parishes in Dubuque while also working in the metropolitan tribunal.

Zinkula was judicial vicar of the archdiocese from 2000-2010 and served for two years as episcopal vicar and priest supervisor for the Cedar Rapids region of Iowa.

He was rector of St. Pius X Seminary in Dubuque starting in 2014, before being named the ninth bishop of Davenport, taking up the post on June 22, 2017.

Priorities as Bishop

In 2020, Zinkula was one of five U.S. Catholic bishops who joined over 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates.

“As faith leaders from a diverse range of traditions, we call on President Trump and Attorney General Barr to stop the scheduled federal executions,” the statement read.

In 2021, Zinkula established a “Diocesan Gender Committee” to study the phenomenon of transgenderism, with an eye toward drafting a statement or policy “to help guide Catholic schools, parishes, and others in their interactions with transgender persons and their families.”

The group and its activities have been criticized for not being sufficiently grounded in Catholic teaching. A Nov. 18, 2021 presentation by members of the Gender Committee, including Davenport vicar general Fr. Thom Henenn, to diocesan school principals and pastors received pushback for using language and concepts inconsistent with Catholic anthropology in its presentation of gender issues and in the role playing activities in which attendees were asked to participate. 

Davenport’s diocesan newspaper has also been criticized for its associated series, “A Pastoral Approach to Gender.” The series included a feature story on a Florida deacon’s son who identified as a woman. The Dec. 16, 2021 piece described the young man as the deacon’s “daughter,” used feminine pronouns throughout, and closed with a quote from the deacon that “there’s more to human beings and human sexuality than is incorporated into that Christian anthropology we believe in…It isn’t just male and female he created them.”

In a follow-up editorial, Zinkula defended running the article as “a way to put a human face on the issue,” although he described the trans-identifying person who had been featured in the piece as the “child” of the deacon and his wife, not their “daughter.”

According to diocesan sources, no guidance based on the committee’s work has been issued, but a study day addressing the topic is scheduled for November 2023.

More recently, the Diocese of Davenport has focused heavily on synodality as part of the universal Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality. Zinkula was also one of eight bishops who took part in the North American Synod Team during the continental stage of the process.

Regarding the Synod, Zinkula told Davenport’s diocesan paper that while “some people are expecting big doctrinal changes…we don’t want to lead them on.”

“This is not what the synodal process is about,” he said.

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