What’s next for the American bishops?

The American bishops meet in Baltimore next week to elect a new leader and figure out the way forward. Clearly the first seven months of Francis’s papacy have had an effect on the American episcopacy.

The question is: to what degree? And how will his papacy affect the public policy agenda for the bishops moving forward.

John Gehring of Faith in Public Life addresses these critical issues in TIME today.

Catholic leaders pouring more resources into fighting the cultural tide on issues of sexuality obscures the fact that traditional Catholic teaching on the economy is left of most Democrats in Congress. New Deal reforms championed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt even owe a debt to Catholic bishops, who asked a populist Catholic priest whose thinking on social inequality was widely read in the decades following World War I to develop a bold plan for progressive social change that included minimum wages, public housing for workers and insurance for the elderly and unemployed. Time magazine described Msgr. John Ryan as the “Right Rev. New Dealer” and “U.S. Catholicism’s most potent social reformer.” Where is this Catholic leadership today?