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The U.S. Bishops met this past week in Baltimore and it was two days of fairly procedural discussions and long speeches and talk of preparing documents that very few people outside that that ballroom will read.
But a few things struck me watching the footage of the proceedings and from the transcript of what was said.
The first thing I noticed was how many of the interventions expressed viewpoints that are not in fact the teachings of the Catholic Church.
To take one example, the bishop of Venice Florida, Bishop Frank Dewane—apparently speaking to previous USCCB statements—supported the idea that civilians should have virtually no access to handguns.
The Second Amendment should go?
The question of violence in our society is an important one but taking guns away from EVERYONE is worse than putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg, because it ignores the root problems:
…the breakdown of the family, the fallout of failed sexual revolution, the skyrocketing divorce rate, the epidemic of depression and suicide.
…the exodus out of the Church and away from Jesus Christ.
…the secularist media machine hell-bent on selling fear, relativism, and despair.
But the real clash of happened on the second day between Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.
Bishop McElroy does not like the idea of non-negotiables for Catholic voters, Including please sing abortion and euthanasia as more important than the urgent them things like the environment and care for the poor. Full stop.
In his address to the Bishops, the Bishop of San Diego expressed displeasure with the phrase “preeminent concern given to the weakest members of society,” a reference to the killing of innocent unborn human beings through abortion.
This line appears in a 2015 USCCB document that very few people read called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The Bishop’s at this week’s meeting are set to publish another letter that contained the line, “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.”
Well, Bishop McElroy objected to the line as being “at least discordant” with the pope’s teachings.
He didn’t say why this is, since Pope Francis has referred to abortionists as “hitmen.”
Among other things, McElroy said:
“It is not Catholic that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching. It is not. For us to say that, particularly when we omit the pope’s articulation of this question, I think is a grave disservice of our people…so either we shouldn’t have “preeminent” in there, or we should have the pope’s full paragraph where he lays out his vision of this same question, delicately balancing all of it in the words he does,”
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler Texas said that he thought preeminent should stay.
Next up was Archbishop Chaput wasn’t having any of the reasoning proffered by is brother Bishop McElroy.
Archbishop Chaput replied:
“I am against anyone stating that our saying [abortion] is ‘preeminent’ is contrary to the teaching of the pope. Because that isn’t true. It sets an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father which isn’t true.
So I don’t like the argument Bishop McElroy used. It isn’t true.
In an unusual break with protocol, the bishop’s broke into applause.
This clash right here is a microcosm of the civil war going on right now inside the Catholic Church between those who go along with the word salad and the weaponized ambiguities of Pope Francis, and those who want continuity with the previous 265 popes and sacred Tradition especially in the area of moral theology.
First, is this disagreement imaginable under John Paul II or really any previous Pope?
Second, many people are beginning to ask why the bishops have to meet in lavish hotels in big cities? Wouldn’t any of the unused or abandoned retreat houses or monasteries across the country provide a more fitting setting?
Third, then Cardinal Ratzinger has explained that National Bishops conferences do not have magisterial authority and their pronouncements per se—especially in matters political or prudential—are not binding on the faithful.
Not including retirees, there are 433 Bishops in the United States. The airfare alone comes to over $130,000 for this 48 hour event, not including the army of staffers, not including hotel, Ubers, meals ,and other costs.
The annual budget of the USCCB is 180 million dollars, and not all of it is funded by donations. For the Catholic Relief Services alone, federal monies accounted for 64.70 percent of its total annual budget.
It’s getting harder to know where the Church ends and where the State begins.
Somehow the Church in America managed to preach the gospel, celebrate the sacraments, and teach the Faith before then for over 300 years, before the US Conference of Catholic Bishops began in 1966.
All things considered, with six adults leaving the Catholic Church for every convert who joins, maybe it’s time to streamline and get back to basics, and seriously consider putting the USCCB out of its misery.
Let me know in the comments.