Tag Archives: United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops

Same as it ever was? — USCCB “Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development” betrays utter lack of reform

I’ve downloaded and read the CCHD “Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development as Accepted and Affirmed by the USCCB Administrative Committee,” – promulgated on September 15, 2010 – and can only cry in absolute frustration, that nothing has changed. The new, improved CCHD is still all about funding Alinskyian organizing (organizing based on the organizational theories of the late, great Saul Alinsky)….which is still all about progressive politics…which is still all about killing babies.

Yes, CCHD grants will go to progressive organizations that are also concerned with decriminalizing undocumented immigrants, socializing medicine, and nationalizing public education, as it always has, but those are issues good men and women can disagree about. Good organizations, on the other hand, don’t support politicians and policies that kill babies. Since CCHD continues to fund organizations that support pro-abortion politicians and policies, nothing has changed.

There has been no reform of CCHD.

There has been no renewal of CCHD.

CCHD has intractably set its course. It was founded to fund Alinskyian organizing and it will, if this document of “review and renewal” is any indication, go down funding Alinskyian organizing.

The document’s Introduction, for instance, after a whole lot of pious rhetoric, lists 4 examples of “CCHD’s remarkable work.” Two of those examples are Alinskyian organizations: Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), an affiliate of Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation network, and the Federation of Congregations United to Serve (FOCUS), an affiliate of PICO, a network founded in the IAF-style by an IAF-trained organizer. This is “CCHD’s remarkable work.”

Pro-life groups around the US, under the banner of Reform CCHD Now, have demonstrated that dozens of CCHD grantees have been directly engaged in activities that violate Church teachings. According to “Review and Renewal,” CCHD has withdrawn funding from only five of them. If this is the best CCHD can manage, despite overwhelming evidence against the others, CCHD assurances that it will be putting into place “stronger policies and clearer mechanisms to screen and monitor grants and groups” is very un-reassuring.

And while it has verbally distanced itself from groups that are also indirectly engaged in activities that violate Church teachings, the money pours from Catholics, who think their donations are “for the poor,” straight into progressive coffers. So while CCHD states it “will not fund groups that are members of coalitions which have as part of their organizational purpose or coalition agenda, positions or actions that contradict fundamental Catholic moral and social teaching,” it continues to fund the Alinskyian organizing networks and their affiliates. The two “model” grantees give us a very nice picture of how this plays.

Democrat pro-choice politician Henry Cisneros of San Antonio owed his successful mayoral bid directly to the IAF. “IAF’s most successful projects have been based in Texas, where Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio helped elect Henry Cisneros as the city’s first Hispanic mayor.” [David Walls, “Power to the People: Thirty-five Years of Community Organizing,” The Workbook, summer 1994. Cisneros served as mayor of San Antonio from 1981 to 1987.]

As for the Federation of Congregations United to Serve, it recently became a partner with Public Allies Central Florida. Public Allies, whose founding advisory board included President Obama and whose Chicago chapter was run by Michelle Obama from 1993-1996, was one of the original AmeriCorps programs. Its mission is to “advance new leadership” and, in that capacity frequently has “partnered” with Planned Parenthood (e.g. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh). In fact, Public Allies’ national head of finance and administration is Tim Hosch, previously the Controller at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. What an interesting partner for a CCHD-funded organization.

Guilt by association? You betcha. These associations marry Alinskyian community organizations to the progressive policies and persons of the Democrat Party – and Alinskyian community organizations are the groups that receive the bulk of CCHD grants.

With that in mind, consider CCHD’s new “commitments,” detailed in “Review and Renewal.” Many of them involve plastering statements of intention here and there (“Add introductory statement on CCHD mission foundations and identity on all forms, applications, materials,” “Revise CCHD Grant Agreement to more clearly state prohibited activities,” “…add more specific language to the CCHD Grant Agreement,” “…revise and refine the CCHD Grant Agreement for greater clarity”) that will mean absolutely NOTHING unless there is a fundamental restructuring of the collection.

Similarly, creating “a new position to focus on promoting, safeguarding and monitoring the Catholic identity of CCHD and compliance with CCHD requirements” will accomplish NOTHING if the person who fills that position thinks – as CCHD has argued for 40 years – that Alinskyian community organizing and its political shenanigans are perfectly compliant with CCHD requirements.

It’s all doublespeak unless there’s a change of direction – a metanoia – a conversion. Doing what CCHD has always done will produce what CCHD has always produced.

Stop trying to “Share the Good News of CCHD” (could “Review and Renewal” have crafted a more offensive statement?) and start sharing the good news of Jesus. Stop trying to “empower the poor” and help them, instead. Stop worrying about the bad PR (“CCHD will develop more timely, consistent and effective ways to monitor and respond to coverage of CCHD in both new and traditional media”) and worry instead about bad programs. For heaven’s sake, don’t try to persuade us that “enlarge[ing] the range of grant amounts ($25,000 – $75,000)” to organizations whose progressive fellowships – that’s “dead babies” when you come out of the bureaucratic and into the real world – is positive.

Way toward the end of “Review and Renewal,” there’s a little item that “CCHD will seek appropriate ways to integrate its activities to protect the life and dignity of those who are poor or suffering from economic injustice into the broader USCCB “life and dignity” priority…The connection between family (broken families, absent fathers, domestic violence, unwed pregnancies, etc.) and economic (joblessness, low wages, discrimination, globalization, etc.) aspects of poverty should be an area of continuing focus for CCHD.” It’s the best part of this sorry 15-page document.

However, one would like to know why, in the one spot in the US where this very connection was attempted – the Archdiocese of Chicago – the CCHD director was “let go.”

For 40 years, the Catholic bishops and the Catholic community in the United States have been duped. They have been unwitting partners in a serious and sustained commitment to manipulate low-income people and poor communities into supporting a progressive agenda that has included dead babies. That isn’t how we serve the poor – and it doesn’t make their lives better.

But it does insure that the reviewed and renewed CCHD is pretty much the same creature as it’s always been.

Stephanie Block is a member of the Catholic Media Coalition and the editor of the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper.

Info: http://www.usccb.org/cchd/

Respect Life Sunday set for October 3

For More Information, Contact:
Bud Bunce (503) 233-8373

Respect Life Sunday set for October 3

        Catholic parishes in western Oregon will celebrate Respect Life Sunday on October 3. That Sunday will mark the beginning of a month long observance of promoting respect for life from conception to natural death. The theme for this year is “The measure of love is to love without measure.” Archbishop John G. Vlazny will mark the occasion with a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, October 3 at 11:00 am.

        The Respect Life Program was adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1972. It promotes the Church’s teaching on the value and dignity of human life to the Catholic community and to the wider community. It combines education, prayer, service and advocacy. The topics addressed this year include:

* the death penalty and Divine Mercy
* end of life care
* infertility treatments in line with church teaching
* sexual trafficking
* population control
* depression and suicide among youth
* the promise of pro-life youth

        At the request of Pope Benedict XVI, all bishops around the world will join with their parishioners in the Advent season to pray for respect of human life. Archbishop Vlazny will celebrate Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on December 5, 2010 at 11:00 am. The Mass will join with others around the globe to witness that we are a “people of life.”

Bishop Vasa on the USCCB: Sacred Duties, Episcopal Ministry

We are all familiar with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and I suspect most of us accept it as a fact of life. I further suspect that most of us have never really considered the who, what, why, or wherefore of such conferences in the Church. This does not mean that the Church has not given serious consideration to the topic. The concept was not new to the Church in 1965, when the Vatican Council issued Christus Dominus, the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church. It is there, in paragraph 38, where the concept is given definition:

An episcopal conference is a form of assembly in which the bishops of a certain country or region exercise their pastoral office jointly in order to enhance the Church’s beneficial influence on all men, especially by devising forms of the apostolate and apostolic methods suitably adapted to the circumstances of the times. (Christus Dominus, 38)

There is no doubt that such a unified exercise of a pastoral office is both practical and desirable. There are certain things in our country, for instance, that are made possible only because the bishops have joined together in cooperative effort. The work on the revised translations of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal could not be done independently by each bishop. This would be chaotic. The Haitian hurricane relief efforts of Catholic Relief Services is beyond the scope or capacity of any single bishop or diocese. Pouring through, evaluating, and making recommendations on the reform of health care in America requires resources simply not possessed by most dioceses — certainly not mine. It seems to me that a conference, in some form, is nearly essential.

There was a time in the fairly recent past when the conference, and especially its committees, had much more of a life of its own, seemingly independent of the body of bishops; but the revised structures have mitigated this significantly. There is a possibility that there may have been a concerted effort on the part of a segment of bishops in the past to foster a higher degree of autonomy on the part of the conference, but any comment by me would be entirely speculative. In general, I think the conference does a very good job of helping to identify issues, conduct research, and even influence national debates.

In doing this, however, it is sometimes easy for the conference to revert to stronger patterns of autonomy and even to be perceived as possessing types of authority that it neither claims nor possesses. It is easy to forget that the conference is the vehicle to assist bishops in cooperating with each other and not a separate regulatory commission. Undoubtedly, the conference has a place and an important role to play. In general, I find that the existence of the conference provides an avenue for me, as an individual bishop, to interact with my brother bishops, to share ideas, and to participate in national discussions in a way that would largely be impossible without the conference.

There is, however, room for concern about the tendency of the conference to take on a life of its own and to begin to replace or displace the proper role of individual bishops, even in their own dioceses. There may also be an unfortunate tendency on the part of bishops to abdicate to the conference a portion of their episcopal role and duty. For instance, there is a Doctrine Committee that is available for bishops to present questions and problems for a doctrinal opinion. The availability of such a committee is a great service, but if a bishop simply brings every question in his diocese to the Doctrine Committee and then reports to his faithful that the Doctrine Committee of the USCCB has decided X, Y or Z, he is failing to take hold of a responsibility that is uniquely his. It is much more appropriate for him to consult this Committee and then say: “After consultation with the Committee of Doctrine, I have decided X, Y or Z for my diocese.” A response such as this preserves the proper role of both the bishop and the conference. It is, however, much easier and safer to pass the responsibility to the Committee.

Despite the fact that the idea of a conference of bishops is included in the latter portion of the Document Christus Dominus, this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the primary focus of that document. After all, its title is “The Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church,” not “The Role and Place of Episcopal Conferences in the Church.” In reality, Christus Dominus was rather revolutionary because of its strong insistence on the extent of the authority of the diocesan bishop. More than 30 years after Christus Dominus, Pope John Paul II in May of 1998 issued an Apostolic Letter, Apostolos Suos, on the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences. I would surmise that this was done, in part, because of a concern about conferences exceeding the boundaries of their legitimate authority and infringing on the legitimate authority of bishops as taught in Christus Dominus. There, citing the 1985 Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father wrote:

The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held in 1985, acknowledged the pastoral usefulness, indeed the need, in the present circumstances of Episcopal Conferences. It also observed that in their manner of proceeding, Episcopal Conferences must keep in mind the good of the Church, that is, the service of unity and the inalienable responsibility of each bishop in relation to the universal Church and to his particular Church. (Apostolos Suos, 7)

Cardinal Ratzinger (to be Pope Benedict XVI) in The Ratzinger Report, on the State of the Church, was a little more direct.

The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)

This is confirmed in the Code of Canon Law, which delimits the extent of the authority of the conference, noting that the competence of each diocesan bishop remains intact, nor is a conference or its president able to act in the name of all the bishops unless each and every bishop has given consent (canon 455, ß4). Clearly, the conference cannot, on its own authority, substitute for the persons of the bishops, who are, according to Canon 753, “authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.” In his interview, Cardinal Ratzinger confirmed: “No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission: its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops.” As far as I know, the cardinal did not have a change of heart after his papal election.

John Paul II’s apostolic letter contains the same thought:

Certainly the individual bishops, as teachers of the faith, do not address the universal community of the faithful except through the action of the entire College of Bishops. In fact, only the faithful entrusted to the pastoral care of a particular bishop are required to accept his judgment given in the name of Christ in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a religious assent of soul. (Apostolos Suos, 11)

The recognition of the preeminent role of individual bishops is not a creation of the Second Vatican Council. In his second letter to Timothy, who was a bishop, St. Paul writes:

In the presence of God and of Jesus Christ, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingly power, I charge you to preach the word, to stay with the task, whether convenient or inconvenient — correcting, reproving, appealing — constantly teaching and never losing patience. (2 Tim 4:1-2)

This admonition is given to individual bishops and, as the cardinal points out, it does not extend to the episcopal conferences.

Cardinal Ratzinger insists that clarity about the distinctive role of the bishop is critical:

Because it is a matter of safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an episcopal structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The national level is not an ecclesial dimension. It must once again become clear that in each diocese there is only one shepherd and teacher of the faith in communion with the other pastors and teachers and with the Vicar of Christ. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)

If you recall, some time ago, a local bishop offered his own interpretation of “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” telling the faithful entrusted to his care that the conference did not speak for him. This is entirely in line with what the Cardinal had written. Individual bishops are free to adopt such statements and reaffirm them in their own names for their dioceses, but no bishop has an obligation to do so; and such documents do not become normative for a particular diocese unless the bishop, either explicitly or implicitly, recommends them. Thus, if the faithful suggest to a bishop that he is acting contrary to a pastoral document issued by the conference, the bishop’s legitimate response is that he and the people of his diocese are not bound by conference statements unless he so determines.

Concerning such conference statements, Cardinal Ratzinger had something quite prophetic to offer:

It happens that with some bishops there is a certain lack of a sense of individual responsibility, and the delegation of his inalienable powers as shepherd and teacher to the structures of the local conference leads to letting what should remain very personal lapse into anonymity. The group of bishops united in the conferences depends in their decisions upon other groups, upon commissions that have been established to prepare draft proposals. It happens then that the search for agreement between the different tendencies and the effort at mediation often yield flattened documents in which decisive positions (where they might be necessary) are weakened. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)

His eminence then cites a very poignant example from his own native land. He recalls an episcopal conference that had been held in his country in the thirties:

Well, the really powerful documents against National Socialism were those that came from individual courageous bishops. The documents of the conference, on the contrary, were often rather wan and too weak with respect to what the tragedy called for. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)

In the case mentioned above, the bishop was publicly criticized by his people for his failure to accept and adopt not only a document from the conference but, perhaps more significantly, their own particular interpretation of that document. This is not the same scenario envisioned by Cardinal Ratzinger, but it certainly stands as a corollary to it. There is an understandable confusion on the part of the faithful, who — whether with pure motives or not — read or interpret one thing in a conference document and hear something different from their own bishop.

The future Holy Father makes another point, which is certainly a real danger with documents produced by a committee. He points out that the search for consensus can result in a flattened document — or, as one bishop put it, documents that have found their least common denominator. Thus, when individual bishops — and there are more than a few — make personal statements about certain situations, those statements are often stronger, bolder, more decisive, and thus more likely to be criticized as harsh and insensitive. I fear that there has been such a steady diet of such flattened documents that anything issued by individual bishops that contains some element of strength is readily and roundly condemned or simply dismissed as being out of touch with the conference or in conflict with what other bishops might do.

In fairness to the conference, I have to say that I have never seen or heard the conference, either as a whole or as a committee, make any remarks critical of what individual bishops might have done or failed to do in their own dioceses. I think the conference fully understands the limits of its jurisdiction; I could not say the same about the faithful at large. It is quite possible that the faithful, and perhaps our national government, see in the conference a type of intermediate magisterium to which each bishop owes obedience and respect, and which is always empowered to speak for the bishops. This is not the case at all. In fact, quite the opposite has been strongly confirmed in Apostolos Suos. While recognizing the legitimate aims of episcopal conferences, Pope John Paul II wrote:

Such aims, however, require that an excessively bureaucratic development of offices and commissions operating between plenary sessions be avoided. The essential fact must be kept in mind that the Episcopal Conferences with their commissions and offices exist to be of help to the bishops and not to substitute for them. (Apostolos Suos, 18)

In the same document, we find other affirmations of the value of episcopal conferences, but there is often a corresponding word of caution:

Their importance is seen in the fact that they contribute effectively to unity between the bishops, and thus to the unity of the Church, since they are a most helpful means of strengthening ecclesial communion. Even so, the growing extent of their activities has raised some questions of a theological and pastoral nature, especially with regard to their relationship to the individual Diocesan bishops. (Apostolos Suos, 6)

The conference has been quite clear that it prepares pastoral documents and has no authority, on its own, to issue edicts or binding legislation. Since these pastoral documents lack legislative force, they are often couched in what could be described as softer or less rigoristic language. This is appropriate, because they are intended to be pastoral rather than legislative. One need only look at the difference between the documents of Vatican II and the Code of Canon Law. One is pastoral, while the other translates the intent of the pastoral document into concrete legislation. Legislation is up to the local bishop. The diocesan bishop has broad discretion in terms of legislative or disciplinary actions in his own diocese.

St. Paul advised Timothy of possible ways to deal with error, pointing out the need for “correcting, reproving, appealing — constantly teaching, and never losing patience.” The necessary tone of pastoral documents tends more toward appeal than toward reproof or correction. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is certainly pertinent:

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears. They will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables. As for you, be steady and self-possessed; put up with hardship, perform your work as an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

Pastoral documents, recognizing that people have lost a tolerance for sound teaching, tend to appeal without necessarily being too direct or critical. The obvious goal is to offer gentle invitations to conversion in a way that might attract those who prefer ear-tickling messages. Unfortunately, since they are pastoral in nature, such documents are open to a broad range of interpretation and misinterpretation. A charge could be brought that such documents are intentionally vague and misleading; and while I have had an occasional suspicion of this myself, it would be a serious defect of charity on my part to speculate about whether this is actually the case. I would say that the vagueness, whether intentional or not, has occasionally been a cause of concern and even consternation.

Sadly, since sound teaching is often rejected out of hand, the teachers who advocate a popular, ear tickling message are more likely to be admired and warmly received and accepted by our secular age. This contributes to an even further flattening of the message. St. Gregory the Great warns that a failure to be bold in speech can be caused by a fear of reproach. This is a very real danger in our present times. It may well be that a reliance on pastoral documents may stem from a two-fold fear: A fear of reproaching others and a fear of being reproached for having done so. It is sadly forgotten that such an approach may lull the evildoer with an empty promise of safety. There is prudent silence, but there is also imprudent silence. There is indiscreet speech, but there is also discreet and bold speech.

It is quite easy for bishops and priests to operate out of the mistaken notion that, if we preach the gospel in its fullness, we will be warmly greeted, accepted, admired, and acclaimed. This was not the case with Timothy or with Paul or with our Lord. Bishops should not anticipate that it will be so with us. I can assure you that events like this are very much the exception for bishops like me. The message of the gospel, with its call to conversion, is not necessarily easy. The secularity of the age in which we live makes it all the more challenging to preach properly the fullness of the gospel message and to put it into practice in our own lives.

Some teachings of the Church are certainly countercultural, and Paul predicted that they would not be tolerated and would be rejected. It is no news to you that we are very much influenced by cultural attitudes not necessarily informed by the gospel. To the more secular-minded, the teachings of the Church can seem to be behind the times, harsh, judgmental, or insensitive. As a result, some teachings of the Church have been allowed to fall by the wayside through what could be called, charitably, a kind of benign pastoral neglect. For many, in our politically correct world, this is identified with compassion. In truth, it often entails a complicity or a compromise with evil. The harder and less popular teachings are left largely unspoken, thereby implicitly giving tacit approval to erroneous or misleading theological opinions. Gregory, in his Pastoral Guide, writes about this pastoral approach:

A spiritual guide should be silent when discretion requires and speak when words are of service. Otherwise he may say what he should not or be silent when he should speak. Indiscreet speech may lead men into error and an imprudent silence may leave in error those who could have been taught. Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men. As the voice of truth tells us, such leaders are not zealous pastors who protect their flocks, rather they are like mercenaries who take refuge in silence when the wolf appears. The Lord reproaches them through the prophet: They are like dumb dogs that cannot bark. On another occasion he complains: You did not advance against the foe or set up a wall in front of the house of Israel, so that you might stand fast in battle on the day of the Lord. To advance against the foe involves bold resistance to the powers of the world in defense of the flock. To stand fast in battle on the day of the Lord means to oppose the wicked enemy out of love for what is right. When a pastor has been afraid to assert what is right, has he not turned his back and fled by remaining silent? Whereas if he intervenes on behalf of the flock, he sets up a wall against the enemy in front of the house of Israel.

Individual bishops, in their own diocese, have the primary pastoral responsibility for discerning between indiscreet speech and imprudent silence. This does involve a particular judgment, and in this there is great diversity and even disparity from one bishop to another. There is practically no disparity among bishops about the sinfulness of abortion, artificial contraception, homosexual acts, embryonic stem cell research, or the plethora of offenses against purity; but there is great diversity about how to address these evils, or how to deal with those who boast of or even openly endorse them. In this, Archbishop Charles Chaput makes reference to a unity of doctrine but a diversity of strategy.

This diversity of strategy, this prudential decision to be silent or to speak, rests squarely on the shoulders of individual bishops. Thus, while many may think this to be the duty of the conference, it is really the role of the individual bishop. It is their inalienable duty; it cannot be delegated to the conference. In my view, Paul’s words to Timothy need to be a very serious part of the discernment: “I charge you to preach the word, to stay with the task, whether convenient or inconvenient — correcting, reproving, appealing — constantly teaching and never losing patience.”

Some bishops perhaps lean more strongly by temperament to reproving and correcting, while others favor the kinder, gentler approach of appealing. In my view, appealing has its place, but when constant appeal produces absolutely no movement toward self-correction, reform or conversion, then reproving and correcting, become necessary. At some point, there needs to be a bold resistance to the powers of the world in defense of the flock. The fear of offending one contemptuously dissident member of the flock often redounds to a failure to defend the flock. It can redound to a failure to teach the truth. In Saint Gregory’s words: “They hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men but the men and women whose favor may be in jeopardy are often not nearly as favorable as they imagine.”

Unfortunately, the desire to rely almost exclusively on appeal may be indicative of a fear of reproach. This is not new. I mentioned above Saint Gregory’s acknowledgment of this reality. He chastised those who were afraid to reproach men for their faults, and thereby lulled the evildoer with an empty promise of safety. Not only the evildoer but all the members of the flock who see the evildoers carry on with impunity begin to doubt and question their own moral assessments. I hear from many laity that their perception of a lack of courage on the part of episcopal leaders redounds to a discouragement of the faithful.

Fortunately, courage is contagious. Those of you congregated here have undoubtedly been encouraged, literally made more courageous, as a result of Archbishop Raymond Burke’s courage. You have undoubtedly admired Bishop Joseph Martino and Bishop Thomas Tobin for their courage in confronting dissident groups in their dioceses. You are allowed to stand a bit taller as you see Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix boldly confront medical moral evils. You know well, appreciate, and are emboldened by the courage of a Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who unflinchingly speaks an often unpopular truth. These men all encourage you, and they encourage me as well. I am humbled to think that some of you might even be encouraged by me.

What is most notable about each of these courageous men is that they are acting not as members of a congress of bishops, but as individual bishops in their own dioceses. They have each shown a very serious determination to avoid indiscreet speech, while overcoming what would otherwise be an imprudent silence. In the evaluation of a secular media, any strong speech against moral evil is most often labeled as indiscreet; while imprudent silence, even in the face of very serious moral evils, is praised as the epitome of Christ-like compassion. Appealing is praised, while correcting or reproving is deemed to be too harsh.

You need to be aware, also, that episcopal courage is often linked to suffering. For those who have come to be viewed unfavorably in illuminati circles, there is the spreading of defamatory half lies, print and blog ridicule, rumor, gossip, and character assassination. Often real assassination may seem preferable. Then there is the harm to the solid faithful of the diocese who see and hear these things and begin to wonder whether they are being duped for their trust in their bishop. Finally, there is the ever-present threat and reality of economic boycott, which likewise takes a heavy toll, especially in a poor and sparsely populated diocese such as mine. When a bishop recognizes that his preference is to speak boldly but that doing so could redound to the economic crippling of his diocese, then he realizes that reactions to him not only touch him but have potential negative ramifications for the people and parishes under his pastoral leadership. Thus, when faced with the possibility of issuing a very kind pastoral letter or something a little more direct, a bishop may choose kindness — not out of conviction and not out of fear but out of perceived necessity. I sometimes wonder what bishops would say if this consideration was no longer a factor in their dioceses.

While my assignment was to discuss the concept of conferences of bishops, I have found that, in reality, it is only possible to talk about the ministry and mission of each bishop. While this ministry is exercised in communion with his brother bishops, it is not necessarily capable of being exercised in conformity with them. The things that St. Paul wrote to Timothy apply in a unique way to individual bishops, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to apply them to a conference of bishops as a whole. Every baptized person is given that three-fold dignity of priest, prophet, and king corresponding to three Christ-like roles: offering sacrifice, teaching, and leading. This dignity adheres to a person and, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, it adheres in a preeminent and inalienable way to individual bishops. Individual bishops, if they rely too strongly on simply following the lead of the conference, do so at great spiritual peril.

St. Thomas More had it exactly correct when approached by the Duke of Norfolk to join him in signing the Oath of Succession. The duke points to all who have already signed and says: “Can’t you do what I did, and come with us, for fellowship?” Thomas More replies, “And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?” Bishops may not simply go along with the conference for the sake of fellowship.

In closing, I again turn to Apostolos Suos, which is wonderfully clear about the duties and responsibilities of the individual bishop:

Bishops, whether individually or united in conference, cannot autonomously limit their own sacred power in favor of the Episcopal Conference, and even less can they do so in favor of one of its parts, whether the permanent council or a commission or the president. (Apostolos Suos, 20)

* * *

This article was based on remarks Bishop Vasa delivered at the 2010 InsideCatholic Partnership Award Dinner on Thursday, September 16. The title of his address was “Sacred Duties, Episcopal Ministry.”

[Catholic Culture Exclusive] CCHD facing key test of support among US bishops

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is facing a critical test of support among the US bishops this week, CWN has learned.

All members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have been asked to respond by Friday, August 27, to a confidential report on the CCHD. The document—“The Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Deveopment”—was prepared in response to bishops’ concerns that the CCHD has strayed from its original and become too closely involved with radical political movements.

Although the “Review and Renewal” document has gone through 5 successive drafts, a number of bishops within the USCCB appear unsatisfied with the document, and supporters of the CHD are fearful that at their November meeting, the US bishops may call for sweeping changes in the program.

“CCHD is being closely examined and its mission questioned,” one ardent advocate for the program wrote in a letter to the heads of diocesan social agencies. Robert Gorman, the executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, urged allies to contact their bishops and urge them to express their satisfaction with the “Review and Renewal” document, thus giving their support to the current direction and leadership of the CCHD.

The urgency with which CCHD supporters are lobbying the American bishops suggests that they expect a showdown with the program’s critics in coming weeks. So Catholics who hope for a fundamental change in the CCHD approach might also be inclined contact their bishops this week, to express their own concerns before the Friday deadline for comments on the “Review and Renewal” document.

The CCHD was established by the US bishops in 1970 to attack the root causes of poverty in America. For years the program has been troubled by critics who have said the CCHD has become too closely aligned with radical activist groups. Last year that criticism reached a crescendo, as lay Catholic groups exposed CCHD funding for organizations that promote causes inimical to Catholic teaching, such as legal abortion and same-sex marriage. While the CCHD leadership said that such grants accounted for only a small percentage of the organization’s funding for self-help groups, several American bishops announced that they were withdrawing their dioceses from the nationwide campaign to support the CCHD.

The “Review and Renewal” document, which is currently available only to bishops and their staff members, is an effort to reassure the USSCB members that CCHD grants will go only to organizations whose purposes and activities are compatible with Catholic social teaching.

But critics of the current CCHD approach have called for more definitive reform of the organization’s activities. Rather than forming alliances with groups that promote radical social change, they say, the CCHD should recognize the underlying causes of poverty as seen through the eyes of Church social teaching: the breakdown of marriage and family life and the lack of access to quality education.

Cardinal George Announces Vatican Approval of New Roman Missal — Implementation Set for First Sunday of Advent 2011

The ineffable war of delay is over…

HT/J. Balza

U.S. Adaptations to Mass Prayers Also Approved
Parish Education Efforts Urged To Precede Implementation
Resources Available Through USCCB

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Francis George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has announced that the full text of the  English-language translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, has been issued for the dioceses of the United States of America. 
The text was approved by the Vatican, and the approval was accompanied by a June 23 letter from Cardinal Llovera Antonio Cañizares, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Congregation also provided guidelines for publication.
In addition, on July 24, the Vatican gave approval for several adaptations, including additional prayers for the Penitential Act at Mass and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises on Easter Sunday. Also approved are texts of prayers for feasts specific to the United States such as Thanksgiving, Independence Day and the observances of feasts for saints such as Damien of Molokai, Katharine Drexel, and Elizabeth Ann Seton. The Vatican also approved the Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life, which can be celebrated on January 22.   
Cardinal George announced receipt of the documents in an August 20 letter to the U.S. Bishops and issued a decree of proclamation that states that “The use of the third edition of the Roman Missal enters into use in the dioceses of the United States of America as of the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011.  From that date forward, no other edition of the Roman Missal may be used in the dioceses of the United States of America.” 
The date of implementation was chosen to allow publishers time to prepare texts and parishes and dioceses to educate parishioners.
“We can now move forward and continue with our important catechetical efforts as we prepare the text for publication,” Cardinal George said.
In the coming weeks, staff of the bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship will prepare the text for publication and collaborate with the staff of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), which will assist Bishops’ Conferences in bringing the text to publication. In particular, ICEL has been preparing the chant settings of the texts of the Missal for use in the celebration of the Mass. Once all necessary elements have been incorporated into the text and the preliminary layout is complete, the final text will go to the publishers to produce the ritual text, catechetical resources and participation aids for use in the Liturgy.
Receipt of the text marks the start of proximate preparation for Roman Missal implementation. Before first use of the new text in Advent 2011, pastors are urged to use resources available to prepare parishioners. Some already have been in use; others are being released now. They include the Parish Guide for the Implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, and Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ, a multi-media DVD resource produced by ICEL in collaboration with English-language Conferences of Bishops. Both will be available from the USCCB. Information on resources can be found at www.usccb.org/romanmissal
Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, voiced gratitude for the approval.
“I am happy that after years of preparation, we now have a text that, when introduced late next year, will enable the ongoing renewal of the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy in our parishes,” he said.  Msgr. Anthony Sherman, Director of the Secretariat for Divine Worship of the USCCB noted, “A great effort to produce the new Roman Missal for the United States, along with the other necessary resources, has begun.  Even as that work is underway a full–scale catechesis about the Liturgy and the new Roman Missal should be taking place in parishes, so that when the time comes, everyone will be ready.”

Rebuilding the Church –“In Haiti, the church is like a central living womb for the community”


Rebuilding the Roman Catholic Church in Haiti — all but wiped out in the earthquake — will take years, but the process has already begun…  


Churches rising out of the ruins



CONGREGATIONS CONTINUE: At St. Louis Roi church, the pews have been plucked from the rubble and are now lined up for outdoor services  

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Mass at Port-au-Prince’s Sacred Heart Catholic church is held under a UNICEF tarp beside Coleman tents. Open-air, it’s conducted near the statue of the Virgin Mary, one of the few church treasures to survive the Jan. 12 earthquake.  

“We don’t have anything else,” said Bertta Chery, who recently attended a service amid the ruins of the 105-year-old house of worship, one of Haiti’s most treasured. “We are all in the streets.”  

With dozens of others, all dressed in their Sunday best, she prayed for the dead, for the living and — in a deeply faithful country where three out of five people are Catholic and most others are Protestant — for churches to rise again.  

More than three weeks after disaster shattered Haitian life, the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Catholic church and the Vatican have quietly begun the task of rebuilding the Catholic church in Haiti, arguably the country’s hardest-hit institution. Churches of other denominations are also looking toward reconstruction.  

Sacred Heart was among at least 60 Catholic churches that collapsed in the 7.0 quake that killed more than 100 nuns and priests and the top church leadership. It’s estimated that seven out of every 10 Catholic churches were lost. Damage estimates run in the tens of millions of dollars.  

The earthquake is believed to be the most devastating natural disaster to hit a Catholic diocese, said Bishop Joseph Lafontant. With the death of the archbishop and vicar general of Port-au-Prince, Lafontant is now one of the church’s top leaders in Haiti.  

“As for material things — we can rebuild,” he said last week during a break from a daylong meeting with surviving priests. “In lives, the archdiocese suffered.”  

In a country where the government has always struggled to provide even the most basic services, the Catholic Church has always been a lifeline — it runs schools, hospitals, orphanages and charities.  

“In Haiti, the church is like a central living womb for the community,” said the Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary of Miami’s Notre Dame d’Haiti church, who has been conducting prayers and officiating funerals at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Port-au-Prince.  

Complicating matters is the migration of tens of thousands of Haitians from Port-au-Prince, the church’s nerve center, to provincial towns and rural areas less impacted by the quake.  

The Catholic church is less entrenched there, straining the limited resources even further. Protestant missionaries have taken up some of the slack.  


“We’re talking about tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars of damage,” said the Rev. Andrew Small of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaking only of the damage to church structures. The Vatican has tasked the U.S. church with spearheading reconstruction in Haiti, and Small is leading that effort.  

Last week, Bishop Pierre Andre-Dumas of the Diocese of Anse–Veau et Miragone in western Haiti, met with Pope Benedict XVI and international Catholic leaders in Italy and appealed for aid to rebuild the Haitian church. Catholic groups around the world are beginning to respond.  

Two German Catholic aid organizations have dedicated $6 million to the effort.  

In late January, stateside churches raised $10 million through a special collection for relief and rebuilding. Small expects another $7.5 million to be raised in an annual collection to facilitate church growth in the Americas. Often funneled into disaster areas, much of that money will likely go to Haiti.  

Catholic churches from other countries will also play a part in rebuilding.  

“This is a many-year process,” said Small, who recently flew to Port-au-Prince to evaluate damages.  

As a modest first step, the U.S. Catholic church has sent $30,000 worth of equipment to revitalize Radio Soleil, a Catholic radio station operating out of a van in minimally damaged Pétionville. While vast numbers of Haitians still don’t have churches to attend, they can listen to prayers on the radio, Small said.  


This is not the first large-scale church reconstruction stemming from an epic disaster.  

When two devastating earthquakes — 7.6 and 6.6 on the Richter scale — hit El Salvador in early 2001, the U.S. Catholic church gave $1.5 million toward an international effort to rebuild 80 churches over three years. In 2007, when a 7.0 earthquake jolted Ica on the Peruvian coast, U.S. Catholics gave $300,000 to rebuild. And when hurricanes swept through Cuba in 2008, the U.S. church allocated $800,000 toward ongoing church rebuilding.  

Yet, restoring the Haitian church will take longer and be costlier than anything that’s come before.  

“You are not just talking about the church buildings. You are talking schools, clinics and dispensaries, convents and seminaries,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, a former Miami pastor who is working with Small on rebuilding.  

“It’s safe to say Port-au-Prince will need a cathedral again and the country will need seminaries once again, but where they are and how we go about doing it will need to be decided with the Haitians,” Small added.  


The Rev. Jean-Mary of Notre Dame d’Haiti is one of several South Florida Catholic clergymen to rushed to Haiti to fill the spiritual void. Others include the Rev. Robés Charles of St. Clement in Wilton Manors and the Rev. Jean Pierre of St. James in North Miami.  

They are spearheading an effort that will soon have South Florida priests taking rotations there.  

“You have bodies of your people, students, still in the rubble,” Jean-Mary said. “The survivors are in a state of shock. They are people of faith. They are not supermen and women. Down the road, construction of the church will be essential. Without that, people cannot go on.”  

Continue story here


Bishop to Kennedy: “Your position is unacceptable to the Church…”

 “Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion?”

Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence



This from The Providence Journal:

‘Even as they agreed to postpone a planned face-to-face meeting that had been set for Thursday, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin turned up the heat Monday on U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy over his “rejection” of church teaching on abortion, calling on him to enter into a process of conversion and repentance.’

Turned up the heat?

Try pulling out the heat and pummeling the double-tongued Kennedy with a good ol’ fashioned episcopal pistol-whipping… POW!!! SPLAT!!!

The public reply of Bishop Tobin below is in response [Here] to a Kennedy letter accepting an invitation from his bishop to discuss health care reform. However, after passage of the bill on Saturday last, in which, Kennedy voted against a provision preventing federal funding of abortion, the meeting was postponed by mutual agreement after their staffs agreed that the meeting was not as urgent…

Perhaps not, but, after reading over the remarks below one is left wondering if Mr. Kennedy’s own health care package includes ‘urgent ambulatory care.’

[My emphasis/Comments]

Dear Congressman Kennedy:

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” (Congressman Patrick Kennedy)

Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership. [Honestly, when I first read this portion I took it to mean fellow bishops, and only moments later considered it in the probable light– high-ranking Catholic pro-abort politicians. But, is it far-fetched to consider a double entendre here? Remember this phrase: “Profile In Courage.”].

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” [Boy, how often have we heard this error?] That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true.  [“Profile In Courage…”Note: From here on read as P.I.C.!] And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ [Inspired Word of God.] the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine [P.I.C.!], obligations and expectations [P.I.C.!]. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church [P.I.C.!, P.I.C.!!], especially on essential matters of faith and morals[P.I.C.!!!!]; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.[Sing it with me… P.I.C!!!!!!].

Congressman, [Stop. Switch places with Mr. Kennedy and consider if this was your own bishop speaking to you…] I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, [He’s serious.] so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially? In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.[A possible forewarning here?].

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. [keep in mind this letter is intended to be instructive to other Catholics and those in prominent positions of leadership.] I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence

Extraordinary and timely… The Bishop and his letter.


By Karen Lee Ziner

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rep. Patrick Kennedy says he finds it “very disconcerting” that Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will not agree to keep private a discussion about Kennedy’s faith.

Talking with reporters Tuesday in response to an open letter to Kennedy published Monday on the Web site of the diocesan newspaper the Rhode Island Catholic, the congressman said he initially agreed to meet with the bishop with the understanding that whatever he chose to bring up with him would be kept private.

He said the planned meeting, which had been set for Thursday, was postponed because the bishop would not stand by a promise to keep the meeting private.

In his letter to Kennedy — printed in his column, “Without a Doubt” — Bishop Tobin challenged Kennedy’s assertion that he is not any less of a Catholic for supporting abortion rights. The bishop, in addition to calling him to a process of “conversion and repentance,” said that being a Catholic involves much more than cultural heritage or being baptized a Catholic.

The bishop asked in his letter if Kennedy supported the church’s essential teachings on faith and morals, including abortion, if he belonged to a parish, attended Mass on Sundays and regularly received the sacraments.

Kennedy said Tuesday that he has a pastor, and “I have my sacraments through that pastor. I don’t want anyone hounding my pastor. I have sought the sacraments of reconciliation and communion and all the rest.”

When a reporter asked asked Kennedy: “Does all of this hurt you? Do you feel wounded?” Kennedy responded: “I think it’s unfortunate. I’m not going to engage this anymore.”

But when asked if he had been threatened with denial of communion or other sanctions, Kennedy said those were subjects he planned to discuss with the bishop. “Ideally, he will keep it between us.”

Kennedy said he initiially criticized the U.S. Catholic bishops because they said that they would oppose the health-care reform bills pending in Congress if they did not explicitly deny federal funding for abortion.

“What I disagreed with them is that if they didn’t get their they, weren’t going to support overall health-care reform,” he said. “That’s something i felt very strongly was destructive to the process.”

Kennedy’s meeting with reporters took place outside the Chafee Health Center in Providence after volunteers thanked him and Rep. James Langevin for their work on health-insurance reform.


Catholics in Political Life: USCCB

We speak as bishops, as teachers of the Catholic faith and of the moral law. We have the duty to teach about human life and dignity, marriage and family, war and peace, the needs of the poor and the demands of justice. Today we continue our efforts to teach on a uniquely important matter that has recently been a source of concern for Catholics and others.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified. If those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the action are fully aware of the objective evil of what they do, they are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from God’s grace. This is the constant and received teaching of the Church. It is, as well, the conviction of many other people of good will. 

To make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong. This is the point most recently highlighted in official Catholic teaching. The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law. In the United States of America, abortion on demand has been made a constitutional right by a decision of the Supreme Court. Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good. 

As our conference has insisted in Faithful Citizenship, Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.

Our obligation as bishops at this time is to teach clearly. It is with pastoral solicitude for everyone involved in the political process that we will also counsel Catholic public officials that their acting consistently to support abortion on demand risks making them cooperators in evil in a public manner. We will persist in this duty to counsel, in the hope that the scandal of their cooperating in evil can be resolved by the proper formation of their consciences.

Having received an extensive interim report from the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, and looking forward to the full report, we highlight several points from the interim report that suggest some directions for our efforts:

  • We need to continue to teach clearly and help other Catholic leaders to teach clearly on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Our teaching on human life and dignity should be reflected in our parishes and our educational, health care and human service ministries. 
  • We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials. We welcome conversation initiated by political leaders themselves.
  • Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world. We have to encourage this vocation and do more to bring all believers to this mission. As bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates. Rather, we seek to form the consciences of our people so that they can examine the positions of candidates and make choices based on Catholic moral and social teaching.
  • The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions. 
  • We commit ourselves to maintain communication with public officials who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life. Therefore, like every Catholic generation before us, we must be guided by the words of St. Paul, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). This means that all must examine their consciences as to their worthiness to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. This examination includes fidelity to the moral teaching of the Church in personal and public life.

The question has been raised as to whether the denial of Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for abortion on demand. Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action. Nevertheless, we all share an unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity and to preach the Gospel in difficult times. 

The polarizing tendencies of election-year politics can lead to circumstances in which Catholic teaching and sacramental practice can be misused for political ends. Respect for the Holy Eucharist, in particular, demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world.
Catholics in Political Life was developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians in collaboration with Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFMCap, and Bishop Donald W. Wuerl. It was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at their June 2004 General Meeting and has been authorized for publication by the undersigned.

Msgr. William P. Fay
General Secretary, USCCB