Are The US Bishops Trying to Help Trump Win Reelection?

MSW writes:

Preeminent: Adj. surpassing all others; very distinguished in some way.

This adjective was the focus of two debates at the heart of last week’s bishops’ conference plenary. It was added to the text of a new letter that will supplement the bishops’ quadrennial, and apparently irrevocable, statement about elections, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The first had to do with U.S. politics and the second with Pope Francis….

The 143-69 vote not to include a longer quote from Francis that would have better balanced the preeminence of abortion indicates that abortion really is the top priority for the bishops — which is precisely why the change was wrong-headed….

The aim of the underlying document is to form consciences. Telling us what their priority is this election cycle does not help me form my conscience….

In explaining why he wanted the change to “preeminent,” Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, unwittingly gave the game away: “We are at a unique moment with the upcoming election cycle to make a real challenge to Roe v. Wade, given the possible changes to the Supreme Court,” he wrote. “We should not dilute our efforts to protect the unborn.”…

There are deeper problems with the document, problems that demand the bishops start from scratch next time, and not just the fact that the text does not reflect the papal magisterium on political issues of Francis or Pope Benedict XVI. The exclusive focus on issues, originally seen as a way of avoiding partisanship, has instead brought the ideological divisions of the politicians into the life of the church. Instead of recognizing the underlying thrust of Catholic social teaching — for example, its concern that a hyperindividualism, or erroneous autonomy, inevitably degrades important social bonds — the current listing of issues, and seeking to prioritize them, inevitably involves political calculations the bishops have no competence in making. It allows for the perception, and perhaps the reality, that the majority of bishops see the church as an extension of the Republican Party….

Voters do not get to vote on a particular issue. We select from a list of candidates. We need to consider not only where they stand on issues, but their character and their competence as well….

Apologists for Trump will be citing the word “preeminent” from now through election day. The bishops knew that and voted for it anyway. Francis famously wrote in Amoris Laetitia: “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.” The majority of the U.S. bishops seem more interested in getting Trump reelected than in forming consciences….

Which leads to the second focus of debate: The majority of bishops are perfectly willing to ignore Francis. They not only included this word, “preeminent,” that runs counter to the holistic approach to issues he advocates, they have barely done anything to implement “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” and have done even less on Amoris Laetitia….

My advice to Catholics next year? Reread Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens, Benedict’sCaritas in Veritateand Francis’ Laudato Si’. If you are ambitious, include Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno. Although this last was issued in 1931, it strikes me as timelier than “Faithful Citizenship.”

Why “But, Abortion!” is No Excuse for Ignoring Moral Imperatives

Brian Fraga writes:

“But, abortion!” has become sort of a tongue-in-cheek retort in some Catholic circles to refer to arguments when the right to life is seemingly used by people to downplay or dismiss other important principles in the Church’s social teaching, such as the preferential option for the poor, caring for creation, welcoming the stranger or paying the worker a just wage.

The right to life is a foundational issue, and I would argue that all the other rights we have, including those that are enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, really don’t mean anything if we don’t have the right to be born. As I see it, abortion is a social justice issue….

the way we Catholics often talk about abortion has become sadly myopic, especially in our American political context where neither of the two major political parties offer platforms that are fully consistent with Catholic Social Teaching principles….

Democrats have solid ideas on consumer and worker protections, the environment, firearm regulations, immigration reform and healthcare. But they have become increasingly liberal on some social issues, especially abortion. The leading Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 want to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal tax dollars from being used for most abortions.

Republicans are staunchly against abortion….

But the Trump presidency has also become synonymous with nativist and divisive political rhetoric, heavy-handed immigration policies such as child separation, not to mention racist dog whistle politics, chronic dishonesty, a disrespect for democratic norms, even an alleged disregard for the rule of law that has resulted in an impeachment inquiry.

That is a vexing political picture for Catholics in the United States. But to hear some tell it, any legitimate concern one may have about a politician who claims to be pro-life automatically takes a backseat if the opposing candidate supports legal abortion. It’s akin to a get-out-of-jail-free card for a politician who steals from taxpayers but promises them that they’ll make abortion illegal.

That kind of thinking makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to have honest, straightforward and respectful conversations about politics, especially abortion….

I think that is what the “preeminent” abortion language debate was really all about last week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Baltimore….

Welcoming the stranger, caring for creation, advocating to abolish the death penalty, taking care of the poor and standing up for the vulnerable who are already alive are moral imperatives, not “prudential matters” as some would suggest out of ignorance or cynicism. Implementing those imperatives into public policy and legislation is where prudence comes into play.

The current state of our politics does not always make it easy to make prudential decisions, especially in the voting booth….

So it’s unfair to assume that criticizing Donald Trump for his immigration policies means someone is pro-abortion, just as it is to say that someone who voted for Trump because of his promises to appoint pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court must be a racist or hate immigrants.

Pope Francis on the Throwaway Culture of Selfish Nationalism, Inequality, Environmental Degradation, Structural Poverty

Embed from Getty Images
via CNS:

At a time when “situations of injustice and human pain” seem to be growing around the globe, Christians are called to “accompany the victims, to see in their faces the face of our crucified Lord,” Pope Francis said….

Listing examples of places where Catholics are called to work for justice and for the safeguarding of creation, Francis spoke about “a Third World War being fought in pieces,” human trafficking, the growing “expressions of xenophobia and the selfish search for national interests,” and the inequality between and within nations, which seem to be “growing without finding a remedy.”

Then there is the fact that “never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years,” he said, and that environmental destruction impacts the world’s poorest people most of all….

For Arrupe and for Catholics today, attention to society’s “discarded ones” and the struggle against the “throwaway culture” must be born of prayer and fortified by it, Francis said. “Fr. Pedro always believed that the service of faith and the promotion of justice could not be separated: they were radically united. For him, all the ministries of the society had to respond, at the same time, to the challenge of proclaiming the faith and promoting justice. What until then had been a commission for some Jesuits should become everyone’s concern.”…

“This active contemplation of God, of God excluded, helps us discover the beauty of every marginalized person,” the pope said. “In the poor, you have found a privileged place of encounter with Christ. That is a precious gift in the life of the follower of Jesus: to receive the gift of meeting him among the victims and the impoverished.”…

While individual care for the poor is essential, a Christian cannot overlook structural “social evils” that create suffering and keep people poor, he said. “Hence the importance of the slow work of transforming structures through participation in public dialogue where decisions are made.”

Pope Hosts Meal with 1,500 Needy People on World Day of the Poor

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via Reuters:

Pope Francis hosted 1,500 homeless and needy people for lunch on Sunday as the Roman Catholic Church marked its World Day of the Poor.

The menu for all in the Vatican’s large audience hall, including the pope, was lasagna, chicken in cream of mushroom sauce, potatoes, sweets, fruit, and coffee…

Francis established the yearly worldwide Catholic observance of the day in 2016.

Seeing Mary and Christ in Those on the Margins of Society

Millennial writer Meghan Clark writes:

A Mary who radically accompanies the oppressed, marginalized, and vulnerable is most clearly represented in the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. “Guadalupe,” as theologian Nichole Flores notes, “comforts those on the margins of society even as she equips them for action.”

This tradition has also led to many contextualized icons of Mary, Jesus, and the Holy Family. In Mother of God: Protectress of the Oppressed, artist Kelly Latimore offers a powerful Madonna and Child as Central American migrants clad in a silver mylar blanket behind a chain fence. In September I processed behind this icon with several hundred fellow Catholics in prayerful protest of ICE policies in Newark.

Resistance to enculturated images of Mary, Mary with Jesus, the Holy Family, or simply Jesus is often a symptom of underlying racism or ethnocentrism. Resistance to the sacred image is a proxy for resistance to encountering our brothers and sisters.

“Beauty unites us,” reminds Pope Francis. “It invites us to live human brotherhood, countering the culture of resentment, racism and nationalism which is always lurking.” When we let go of our expectations, we open ourselves to our neighbor, to a deeper relationship with Miriam of Nazareth and to her Son.

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for November 2019: For Dialogue and Reconciliation in the Middle East

In the Middle East, concord and dialogue among the three monotheistic religions is based on spiritual and historic bonds.

The Good News of Jesus, risen out of love, came to us from these lands.

Today, many Christian communities, together with Jewish and Muslim communities, work here for peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

Let us pray that a spirit of dialogue, encounter, and reconciliation emerge in the Middle East.