The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will gather in Baltimore this November for their fall assembly. A new president and vice-president will be elected and the bishops will discuss the future of their campaign against marriage equality.
In light of Pope Francis’ more pastoral and welcoming tone, many observers are wondering how the US bishops will evolve on LGBT issues. This post is the first of several in the coming weeks that will examine the US bishops and LGBT matters.
Bishops remain outspoken in states where equal rights are being codified, and also in places where employees at Catholic institutions are fired at an alarming rate because of LGBT issues. As recently as September, the USCCB released new strategies for opposing marriage equality in a seven-part web series reported on by ThinkProgress.
Taken together, these words and actions by anti-equality Catholic leadership reveal how far they are from the growing majority of Catholics who endorse equal marriage rights and equality in employment.
A piece in The Huffington Post by Cara McDonough questions the bishops’ priorities when so many issues threatening the life and dignity of people go unaddressed. McDonough writes:
“I still identify as a Catholic because I believe organized religion can do good in ways amplified by the fact that its very existence centers around a literal and figurative room of faithful, optimistic believers…
“I don’t think I’m mistaken in assuming that most Catholics, like me, remain Church members not out of fear or guilt, but because we believe that we can create positive change in the world…
“Notably missing from this defensive agenda are any positive action items to enact change in a troubled world that could use our help.”
McDonough contrasts the bishops’ agenda with Pope Francis, who has called for Catholics to focus less on stopping marriage equality and more on creating justice for the poor and marginalized, writing:
“While I wish you’d included even one tiny agenda item discussing, or at least acknowledging, the Pope’s message, I am, sadly, not surprised that you didn’t.
“That’s because it’s become undeniably apparent that your agenda — both small scale, at meetings like the upcoming one, and large scale, guiding your every move as a religious body — is to exorcise all that you deem wrong; to rally against the nuns conducting on-the-ground ministry to the sick and impoverished, and against the ‘sinful’ activists open to the idea of same-sex marriage.”
She concludes with a question that should give the bishops pause:
“Pope Francis motivates the masses because his message speaks to worthy goals that we, as a faith, can work towards, together.
“Do you not fear being left behind?”
Check back in the coming days for further analysis and opinions from Catholics speaking at and about their bishops. If you’re so inclined, why not follow Pope Francis’ lead and write your bishop a letter? If you do, let us know about it in the ‘Comments’ section below or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry