U.S. Bishops Signal Potential “Showdown” with Biden Over Equality Act, Other Issues

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles during the USCCB’s Fall 2020 meeting

Meeting virtually this week, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that the nation’s episcopal conference remains deeply conservative.

In his concluding remarks, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) head took aim at President-elect Joe Biden in what one journalist has suggested might become a “showdown” between church leaders and the new administration, in part because of LGBTQ equality.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, in his role as USCCB president, made his comments regarding Biden at the meeting’s end, and provided no opportunity for comment from other bishops. Describing the president-elect not simply as a Catholic, but with the circumlocution of someone who “professes the Catholic faith,” Gomez affirmed that on issues like migration, racism, and the death penalty, there could be positive developments from a Biden administration. But the archbishop continued:

“He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics. These policies include: the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe vs. Wade. . .the restoration of the HHS mandate, the passage of the Equality Act, and the unequal treatment of Catholic schools.”

Reporting on Gomez’s comments, Christopher White of the National Catholic Reporter, suggested the archbishop could be “signaling what could become a showdown between the leadership of the U.S. Catholic Church and the second Catholic president in U.S. history.” White also reported that the USCCB had formed a working group in response to a Biden administration headed by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, who has a strongly negative record in regard to LGBTQ issues, and who serves as USCCB vice-president.

Columnist Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter described Gomez’s claims that Biden’s positions on the aforementioned issues caused confusion among Catholics as “nonsense.” The working group, Winters added, would be studying a “nonexistent problem.” He also noted the differences between how the conference responds to Biden now versus Donald Trump four years ago:

“Here is a link to the statement the bishops adopted four years ago. Note they started by congratulating President-elect Donald Trump and closed by promising him their prayers, none of which made it into Gomez’s statement this time.

“Gomez needed to stand up to the committee chairs who approached him to make this statement. Failing that, he needed to stand up to the staff that drafted this statement, which was churlish and unbecoming. Instead, he caved to their worst instincts and decided to swim with the culture warriors.”

In 2019, the U.S. bishops stated they were “gravely disappointed” by the House of Representatives’ passage of the Equality Act, something which committee chairs for the USCCB said would be “to the detriment of society as a whole.”

Further signs that the bishops’ conference is not backing away from its culture wars mentality were the results of the elections for conference committee chairs. In a separate commentary, Winters stated simply, “The elections for committee chairs showed that moderates are still not able to get elected by this body.”

Most relevant to LGBTQ issues are the elections of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as chair for the Committee for Religious Liberty, which at this point spearheads the bishops’ conference’s anti-LGBTQ work, and Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, as chair of the Committee on Catholic Education, which is increasingly vocal on LGBTQ issues. Both Dolan and Daly have LGBTQ-negative records.

Perhaps the bishops’ executive sessions were different, but the public portions on Monday and Tuesday of this week were disheartening to watch. The meeting confirmed that the USCCB is incapable of responding to the signs of our times, such as the Movement for Black Lives, Covid-19, LGBTQ equality, and sexual abuse in the church. Many, perhaps most, U.S. bishops have rejected Pope Francis’ vision at a fundamental level. Instead, bishops lean ever harder into denying equal rights to LGBTQ people and to women. They abuse the concept of religious liberty for discriminatory ends. And in doing so, they fail gravely at being the pastoral leaders that Catholics and the whole U.S. society desperately need. Beyond a handful of interventions by figures like Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv., of Lexington, Kentucky, the only good news about the U.S. bishops’ meeting this week is that so few Catholics saw it happen.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 19, 2020

10 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    “Very few Catholics saw it happen”. Good point. In fact, most Catholics I know do not care about the issues raised by Bishop Gomez et al. The rank and file Catholics I know are concerned about eldery parishioner’s needs, Covid related issues, finances for the parish, and creating a working relationship with the ever increasing Latino membership. The mostly Mexican and Central American immigrants at our church are , I think, as disinterested in USCCB politics as anybody else who does not belong to the USCCB. The bishops have created an Ol’ Boys Club of a kind. It is its own echo chamber. When Francis told his priests to get out with the flock and smell like the sheep, perhaps he had the bishops in mind. While the USCCB argues for what it sees as crucial, Catholicism evolves. Once again, a less charitable and less constructive tone is taken.

  2. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    I believe Mr. Biden will stand firm because he is who he says he is, ie, a man of faith.
    I find interesting their intense focus on sexual matters yet are collectively responsible for the sexual abuse and cover-up of minors and vulnerable adults. We really need to pray for them. They just don’t get it.

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    I think most people can be pretty well defined by who their friends and enemies are. It saddens me that most Catholic bishops seem to have great affection for President Trump and his minions and the abuse they heap onto the least of our fellow citizens. Is there no bishop who can point out the irony that by their statements they are telling the King he is wearing lovely moral clothes when he is in fact parading around with his moral nudity hanging out and they are doing the same much to their discredit.

    It is fitting that bishops wear red to remind them that they could be called to be martyrs, but would it be better if they wore a working man’s blues and browns to show that they are laboring in Christ’s vineyard? In other words being a servant, not a prince.

  4. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    If opinion polls are correct, Joe Biden is more representative of the opinions of the majority of Catholics in this country than Archbishop Gomez is. The bishops make up a tiny minority of the Catholic Church in the US. I don’t think on these matters they speak for either God or the Catholic Church in this country as a whole. I might also add that Joe Biden was elected secular President by the vast majority of voters in this country, unlike Donald Trump who was elected President by only a majority of the Electors who were elected by a minority of voters. Archbishop Gomez and his colleagues would do well to wish President-Elect Biden well, and to pledge to work with him on the many, many issues the Church and he have in common. Besides: abortion, gay relationships, transgender people, religious freedom, man/woman relationships, and family values were not the focus of Jesus’s life or his work. His focus can be summed up in the work he did, and in the Golden Rule and the parable of the Last Judgement.

  5. John Donahue
    John Donahue says:

    Somewhat dismayed by the terminology of “show down”; it implies the Cowboy mentality of the “OK Corral”! Pope Francis’ latest encyclical calls for a reorientation of the United States Church in its approach to a response to the Gospel message. He constantly gives the image of reaching out, welcoming home, and healing, might I add, “To Teach As Jesus Taught”!

  6. Dean P
    Dean P says:

    Stay strong Archbishop Gomez. Thank you for your leadership here in LA and with the USCCB. Lord bless you, protect you from all evil, and bring you to everlasting life.

  7. Roonell Siero
    Roonell Siero says:

    Today l was listening to B5plus radio in Munchen l could not help it but smile at what was being reported,Arbishop Jose Gomez a Mexican born and promoted into the light of USA Catholicism as a person to guide the ever growing latinex community with all the demands that it takes to able to function and integrate in a society were we have being invited to live in one of the greatest nation of the globe,the least you could tried to do is keep politics out of the religious guidance of the faith we believe in ,by being a good mentor of our faith.

  8. Thomas Rowan
    Thomas Rowan says:

    I no longer look to the hierarchy for guidance on sexual questions. The primacy of conscience guides me to love my neighbor as I love myself. Who is my neighbor? We all have to answer that question from our hearts.


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