John Gehring and Richard Wood have explained what is on the line in this week’s deliberations at the USCCB:
Nearly two months after Pope Francis made his first visit to the United States, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops will set its strategic plans for the years ahead and refine a presidential election-year message to Catholic voters. The Francis era presents an unprecedented opportunity bishops should not pass up if they want to reclaim a more effective voice in the public square. The pope’s focus on inequality and exclusion — in tandem with his desire to disentangle the Church from culture wars — should be the roadmap for an American hierarchy trying to navigate through bumpy terrain.
Catholic bishops meet at a critical moment.
But as Michael Sean Winters explains, the initial Faithful Citizenship draft seems to take a step in the wrong direction:
If you thought the bishops of the U.S. would heed the pope’s call to steer clear of the culture wars and focus on the poor and the immigrant, you would be wrong.
The drafting committee said that they were only making minor changes but they actually reconfigured the text’s entire treatment of Catholic Social Teaching. Where there were once seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching, now there are four principles. This has the effect of demoting the preferential option for the poor and workers’ rights from the fuller and more prominent treatment they received in earlier texts. Care for creation, which the drafters might have noticed was the subject of a recent papal encyclical, is also relegated to the second tier of concerns. I am sure it is just a coincidence that these are issues that cause Republicans to squirm. The section on intrinsic evil, which causes Democrats to squirm, has been retained and expanded. The former attempt at balance, the desire to avoid appearing too partisan, is now abandoned. Even within the section on intrinsic evil, it is shocking that same sex marriage now gets more ink than abortion.
Finally, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego discusses with Kevin Clarke the types of revisions that are necessary for the Bishops to exercise real leadership, embrace Francis’ agenda, and connect with the millennial generation:
Hopefully the Bishops will find a way to address these flaws, set aside the failed culture war approach, and provide American Catholics with a better understanding of the issues at stake in upcoming elections and their gravity.