I have to agree with anselmusjmj. Catholic writer George Weigel has spent a great deal of time analyzing the [sadly still] ongoing crisis in the Roman Catholic Church in America. He has ferreted out several causes among American Catholic Bishops for the current malaise. I am not competent to to make a final judgement on his analysis, but it seems to have some foundation. Weigel notes first that at the time of World War II, there was a common opinion that no Catholic bishop in America came from a family where the parents attended college. This of course, is certainly no longer true. But Weigel’s point is that the American episcopate is primarily rooted in the working class and lower middle class strata of mid-20th century Catholicism and not surprisingly has deep roots in the Democratic Party especially the Democratic Party whose base is urban ethnic neighborhoods.

According to Weigel, this is shown by the American bishops involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the government anti-poverty movement. Bishops do not self-identify as conservatives. They don’t even like the word. They wish to be seen as liberal and pro-life at the same time. But they are not comfortable with their position. Many favor the idea of women priests although they have settled for altar girls and women Holy Communion distributors. While the bishops cannot really find fault with the anti-abortion movement, they cannot be said to be completely comfortable with it as they believe that it is at some level anti-woman. Weigel believes that being “stuck” with the pro-life movement, these bishops long to be “liberal” on as many other issues as possible: anti-war, anti-capital punishment, pro-illegal immigration. Being labeled misogynistic or homophobic seem to upset their consciences far more than being labeled soft on abortion or euthanasia.

In my own diocese [which shall remain unnamed], the current bishop [who shall also remain unnamed] has set up the obligatory pro-life ministries, annual pro-life Masses and marches to the State House. At the same time it is quite clear that his heart really lies on matters of the rights of illegal immigrants. No letter protesting Obama’s attack on religious liberty was read in my parish or the parish of any one of my friends. Instead, a letter was posted on the diocesan webpage. On the other hand, our bishop and several others wrote a scathing letter to the state newspaper on the injustice done to illegal immigrants through attempts to deny them driver’s licenses. I seem to remember several episcopal visits to the State House, several articles in the secular press and in the diocesan newspaper on this issue. Several.

I vividly recall a letter from our bishop before the Presidential election stating that Catholics should not vote on a single issue but on all the issues. If I am not mistaken, a similar letter was read at all Masses before the previous election too. “Not voting on a single issue” is code for not voting for an anti- abortion candidate. I also read an interview with our current bishop which stated that he thought it was a good idea to give an honorary degree to President Obama and scolding conservative bishops, priests and laity for not working with the powers that be and instead marginalizing the church into a kind of Amish situation. There was discussion of the Cardinal Bernardin way of dealing with things, getting more bees with honey than vinegar, the seamless garment argument and so on. I remember going to our diocesan webpage after President Obama made his so-called accommodation. This was after I had read of several American bishops and cardinals and a slew of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish legal scholars who had declared Obama’s accomodation unsatisfactory. But to my surprise I discovered that my bishop was still “considering Obama’s new offer.” I am guessing this is more of the Cardinal Bernardin approach. Now I’m not saying anything about our saintly bishop. I have no idea what cross he is carrying. And I have no doubt that he will go straight to Heaven when he passes on. But I cannot say I am happy with his policies.

I recently played a little video clip from an organization called “Priests for Life.” In it, a Father Frank Pavone noted that since abortion is not merely a private issue, but a public one; therefore, the Pope and Bishops desire that there be public prayer against abortion at all Masses, that is, during the General Intercessions [Prayers of the Faithful]. Now I have been to many different Catholic parishes in my city and state and I have hardly ever heard a Mass intercession against abortion. Now perhaps our good bishop ordered this to be done but his priests simply do not follow it. Or maybe it is laity in charge of General Intercessions who do not follow it. I don’t know. It is very clear though, that it is not being followed where I live. Why not?

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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