Ignoring Pope Francis, US Bishops Reaffirm Their Work to Oppose Marriage Equality

Pope Francis

It was a question asked last November, and now again this spring by those like Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese: will America’s bishops follow Pope Francis’ lead?

This past week’s meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in New Orleans proved the conference will again ignore Pope Francis’ new direction for the Church. Instead, they reaffirmed the their opposition to marriage equality and other culture war issues.

While New York Times article heralded that “US Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone,” the shift that article describes is in the area of poverty and social equity. That shift is welcome, though there seems to be no change in terms of emphasis on issues concerning sexuality, which Pope Francis had explicitly asked church leaders not to “obsess” about.

In this post, Bondings 2.0 will highlight LGBT-related news from the USCCB meeting,  and readers are encouraged to read more extensive coverage using the provided links.

Staying the Course

National Catholic Reporter reports the bishops opened by voting to “stay the course they have set for themselves over the last several years,” which includes sustained opposition to marriage equality and renewal of the ad hoc committee concerned with religious liberty. Joshua McElwee and Brian Roewe write:

“Going into the event, many analysts and even some bishops had asked if the prelates would be reorienting their work around the new emphases of Francis’ first year as pope, particularly his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), and his pastoral tone.

“Yet in three and a half hours of open discussion on 17 topics Wednesday, the bishops focused more on old business than new.”

Not all were pleased with this continued direction, including an unnamed bishop who criticized the meetings for their lack of pastorally-inclined discussions.   Similarly, the lay-led National Advisory Council urged the bishops to ” ‘re-examine how it reaches out to those experiencing brokenness’ and work for ‘more dialogue and greater acceptance, rather than what is commonly perceived as judgment.’ ”

Anti-Marriage Equality Speakers Prominent

The bishops heard from two speakers, Helen Alvaré and W. Bradford Wilcox. Alvaré, a law professor and advisor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, addressed the bishops about evangelization and the poor. Her talk somehow included a defense of heteronormative ethics while skipping social justice, according to The National Catholic Reporter’s  Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ.

Wilcox, who heads up the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, spoke on marriage and the economy. National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson notes Wilcox previously aided in a now-discredited 2012 study by Mark Regnerus that claimed the children of same-gender parents fare worse than those raised by mixed-gender parents. He recently co-authored a Washington Post opinion piece which said women should marry protective men if they wish to stop sexual violence. This questionable sociologist engaged several bishops’ questions on same-gender marriage.

You can read a full report on their addresses by clicking here.

Faithful Citizenship

The bishops approved a committee to revise and add a new introduction to the 2007 edition of “Faithful Citizenship,” their election year voters’ aid.  Anti-marriage equality efforts may be granted greater prominence in the political document,  as USCCB vice president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, said that since the last revision there has been greater “prominence” in the political world given to “religious liberty and the redefinition of marriage.” Fr. Reese worries that a now perennial defensiveness in the conference will influence the document negatively overall, including on the question of LGBT rights. Final changes will be approved during the bishops’ November meeting.

Marriage & Family Life

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the USCCB’s president, made general comments about how US Catholics responded to the Vatican questionnaire on marriage and family. His takeaway appeared to be that the hierarchy must sway opinions more effectively on such topics.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave a report in which he called this a “critical point” and suggested a constitutional amendment would be necessary to stop the inevitable victories on marriage equality.

Pope Francis’ more accepting style is being well received by bishops worldwide, who now work to open doors for LGBT Catholic and their loved ones. British bishops recently made positive remarks about transgender people and civil unions for same-gender couples. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai met with a leading Catholic lesbian, and he was India’s only religious leader to condemn the opportunity for renewed criminalization of homosexuality in that country. These stories and others show it is possible for the US hierarchy to be more accepting of LGBT people and throw open the American Church’s doors.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Articles

The Advocate: Catholic Bishops Meet on Marriage; What ‘Threats’ Will They Discuss?

New York Times: “US Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone

Associated Press: “US Catholic bishops keep focus on abortion, marriage in political guide

7 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    All of which simply helps to explain why, even among the dwindling number of actively professing and practicing Catholics in the United States, the rantings of these bishops are no longer taken seriously. People love to pray and worship together, and they love the charitable work of Catholic service organizations. and the academic excellence of Catholic schools. But everyone also seems to realize that the anti-gay and anti-feminist rantings of these men are like something from paleolithic times. It’s a pity that we can’t “clone” Pope Francis, and proliferate his charisma, his wisdom, his sense of humor and his personal humility throughout the entire Church. Because what the American bishops are saying and doing now is not only ineffective, but it is actively destructive to the Prime Directive which Jesus gave us: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

  2. Danny
    Danny says:

    US Bishops = navel gazing. The Pope shows them and teaches them what a Bishop’s mission is; and that’s to be a guide and most importantly a listener. These men are on the wrong track.

  3. Mr. L. Murrfudd
    Mr. L. Murrfudd says:

    The bishops have not ignored pope Francis and suggesting they have exposes a lack of understanding as to the church teaching. I am even shocked at reading some of the commentary. I truely suggest people digest these events in an objective manner or be at risk of being disconnected from truth. No one can judge a person. only God can judge. Actions are another matter entirely. Not being able to distinguish a person from a behavior is a flawed way of thinking which inevitably leads to the devaluation and abuse of individuals.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] comment by saying it is really just what would be said about anyone. Last year, the cardinal opposed changes to the USCCB’s document on elections which had been criticized for its fixation on opposing […]

  2. […] remains obsessed with stopping the expansion of rights to LGBT people. The U.S. bishops as a whole reaffirmed their decision to focus on marriage equality opposition during United States Conference of Catholic Bishops […]

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