Repudiating Pope Francis, U.S. Bishops Vote to Create Marriage and Family Document

U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore

Meeting earlier this week, U.S. bishops voted to develop a document on marriage and family in a delayed response to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. But overall the meeting was largely a continued rejection of the pope’s vision. National Catholic Reporter explained:

“The bishops’ pastoral plan — scheduled to be ready in November 2019 — would propose ‘a pastoral plan, not the pastoral plan,’ said Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, a member of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, who presented the proposal to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 14 at their fall meeting in Baltimore.

“Malone, stepping in for committee chair Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who was unable to attend the meeting, said the bishops’ statement and pastoral plan could provide ‘broad contours and considerations’ in light of Amoris Laetitia, ‘not attempt to address every area of pastoral ministry in detail.'”

This vote reverses the U.S. bishops’ collective silence on Amoris Laetitia, which was not taken up at last fall’s meeting. NCR reported Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said at the time that there would be no document about implementing the exhortation.

But several bishops at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting proposed that the 2019 document be linked to the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae rather than focus on Amoris Laetitia:

“At their meeting Nov. 14, bishops raised issues of marriage preparation, same-sex marriage, marriage enrichment, and contraception as issues to be included in the document and pastoral plan. . .More than one bishop mentioned the anniversary of Humanae Vitae, including Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who is also chair of the bishops’ subcommittee for the defense of marriage. . .

“Bishop Robert Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, agreed, noting that Catholics today ‘live in a culture where marriage today is basically what people want it to be,’ he said.

“The bishops need a practical pastoral plan to counteract such cultural influences, Conlon said, citing as an example a couple who visited him recently and who felt that the marriage, ‘so to speak,’ of their daughter and another woman was ‘perfectly legitimate.'”

The bishops also rejected Pope Francis’ vision in two other actions. First, their appointees to the upcoming 2018 Ordinary Synod of Bishops, which is taking up the theme “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, are a who’s who of conservative voices. The four delegates are Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles. Second, the bishops broke from tradition of having a cardinal head the Pro-Life Activities Committee and elected Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas rather than Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who was appointed by Francis and mirrors his pastoral approach.

In a final note, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville was elected chair of the new Committee on Religious Liberty.

Commenting on the plans for the 2019 document, Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter said “[i]t was nice to see someone finally mention the document” and the bishops seemed to recognize they could not ignore a magisterial document. But he cautioned “the devil will be in the details,” writing:

“The most important takeaway from the U.S. bishops’ plenary meeting this week in Baltimore is that they as a group remain determined to resist the pastoral impulse and approach to which Pope Francis is calling the church. Just as it took Pope John Paul II years to take the conference in a more conservative direction, it will take the bishops who champion Francis a few more years before they have the votes to take the conference in a new direction.”

Despite hopes of some observers, including me, that the U.S. bishops might shift course to Pope Francis’ vision for the church, resistance in the U.S. episcopate remains strong. Where Pope Francis is opening conversations, even if his handling of LGBT issues is mixed, these bishops are perpetuating old, closed conversations. If they approach contemporary questions of marriage and family through the lens of Humanae Vitae the result will be misguided, and the document will immediately be deemed irrelevant by most Catholics, should they know about the document at all. For now, as we wait, let us pray for something better.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 17, 2017

 

15 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    This does not surprise me. The USCCB has had a decidedly political orientation for decades. Their support by organizations like the Knights of Columbus, which pours millions of dollars into anti Gay legislative attempts, is well documented. So, does the USCCB want to ‘repudiate’ the Pope or curry favor with the American political right? Either way, their actions are disappointing and leading the Church, in this country at least, into troubled waters.

    Reply
    • Miriam
      Miriam says:

      Thomas, your words on the Knights sadden me as I am a Fourth Degree K of C and tg. Only my local council knows my tg status, as far as I know. I believe I live in accord with the teachings of Christ Jesus and His Church. My own integrity cost me my marriage and any public ministry in my local parish. Is this what current USCCB leadership want?

      Reply
  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    It was a very similar and comparable situation in Australia — in its recent struggle over same-sex marriage rights — but the voices of the people themselves came through resoundingly in favor of full human rights and liberties for all GLBT citizens. These American bishops seem to be living in some sort of cultural backwater which dates from the 18th or 19th Century. Why not poll American Catholics themselves, and determine where the Holy Spirit is leading them, in regard to basic fundamental human rights and liberties?

    Reply
    • Richard Boyle
      Richard Boyle says:

      “Why not poll American Catholics themselves, and determine where the Holy Spirit is leading them, in regard to basic fundamental human rights and liberties?” ??? I am sorry, but but this is an outrageously logical and rational idea…and therefore something the American Bishops will never do, sadly enough.

      Reply
  3. Richard Rosendall
    Richard Rosendall says:

    I am afraid it would take a mass extinction for the bishops to budge. You can have the voice of an angel, and indeed a pope as decent as Francis, and they will dig in their heels. Francis will not last as long as JPII, and short of that, I don’t see how the wall of resistance can be overcome. It is sad beyond words.

    Reply
  4. DON E SIEGAL
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    US Bishops Vote to Create Marriage and Family Document

    “Bishop Robert Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, agreed, noting that Catholics today ‘live in a culture where marriage today is basically what people want it to be,’ he said. The bishops need a practical pastoral plan to counteract such cultural influences, Conlon said, citing as an example a couple who visited him recently and who felt that the marriage, ‘so to speak,’ of their daughter and another woman was ‘perfectly legitimate.’”

    And that marriage is not only legitimate, it is a viable civil marriage to be celebrated with all the respect and dignity due any other marriage.

    “If [these bishops] approach contemporary questions of marriage and family through the lens of Humanae Vitae the result will be misguided, and the document will immediately be deemed irrelevant by most Catholics…”

    That is an accurate assessment of the proposed document and, that lens will undoubtedly be pointed backward in the direction of the Council of Trent 1545 – 1563.

    Such a document will also be another invitation for people to deem the Church itself to be irrelevant and leave.

    Reply
  5. Cheryl Rogers
    Cheryl Rogers says:

    In great sorrow AGAIN! What is wrong with people especially the leaders of the church. They seem to be forgetting all about ‘what would Christ say/do?’
    and to be sooooooo resistant to Papa Francis, I would have thought the American group of leaders would have been much more enlightened.

    As I have done for the past almost 4o years of fighting to be a different voice within the church to stop being so conditional on who is acceptable? in the Roman Catholic Church. Stop all this legalistic male dominated rhetoric which is not sheparding us to God but driving us into the arms of Evil through their egotistical blindness. Yes, pray we must and pray hard and constantly AGAIN! but in the meantime as done in the past the way to advance change is through hitting the oppressors in the wallet. Let’s stop contributing to our discrimination by giving it all in tithe to these bishops and their diocese, but give a just gift then the balance to those organizations, New Ways Ministry or HRC or Southern Poverty Law Center which works truly for a unitive consciousness of justice and Jesus. If we all do this maybe it will help move the vision we so much want and work for and Papa Francis is trying to start the spark forward with change.

    Reply
    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Bioshop Carlos, not only are they “not open to change”, but many of them…(I hesitate to say “most of them” only because I lack the empirical evidence to verify something which is quite obvious)…happen to be super-paranoid closet cases! The cold fact is that they harbor a mortal fear of being “outed” to the world — if they were to say or to do anything which showed genuine empathy with their GLBTQ congregations. I am absolutely convinced of the truth of this insight — as (I suspect) are perhaps 80% of our thoughtful and well-educated Catholic laity, regardless of their personal sexual identity or marital status. Hypocrisy is the root sin practiced by our deeply closeted clergy — not always (or even necessarily) the open violation of their vows. Remember the appallingly pompous Cardinal Raymond Burke, who delighted in wearing those 15-foot-long “Capa Magna” vestments — generally with an altar boy holding up the back end? One simple question: WHAT WOULD JESUS SAY? Enough already. It’s way past time for our clergy to GET REAL with their parishioners.

      Reply
  6. Miriam
    Miriam says:

    Wonderfully insightful. Now, do we “pray, hope, and don’t worry” or do we tell our bishops where we stand? The Holy Spirit, after all, speaks through us also. Also do we pass on articles such as yours to our bishops?
    God guide and bless us.

    Reply

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