U.S. bish­ops will pon­der pol­i­tics as they pick new leader

Francis con­founds some Catholics

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY NATHAN PORTER

As the world’s Catholics ad­just to a very dif­fer­ent kind of pope in the Vat­i­can, Amer­i­can Catholics across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum are watch­ing closely as the coun­try’s Catholic bish­ops gather this week to se­lect a new U.S. leader.

Lib­er­als have been thrilled by some of the pro­nounce­ments from Pope Francis, while con­ser­va­tives are watch­ing war­ily as the bish­ops gather in Bal­ti­more.

Many con­ser­va­tive Catholics ar­gue that the next head of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops (USCCB) should main­tain the doc­tri­nal stan­dard the Catholic Church has up­held through­out its his­tory — and re­sist the temp­ta­tion to adopt a more rel­a­tive the­ol­ogy.

“The church is not a democ­racy,” said Judie Brown, pres­i­dent of the Catholic or­ga­ni­za­tion Amer­i­can Life League. “We can­not vote on what we want to be­lieve and what we don’t want to be­lieve.”

The con­fer­ence be­gan Mon­day, and the elec­tion for pres­i­dent will be held Tues­day.

The gath­er­ing is be­ing closely watched for clues as to how Amer­i­can bish­ops are re­act­ing to Francis.

“It is all very po­lite. But be­hind the veil of pleas­antries, there are real dif­fer­ences, and the USCCB needs to de­cide if it is go­ing to get on the Pope Francis band­wagon or pur­sue the kind of cul­ture war­rior ap­proach that has too of­ten hi­jacked the bish­ops’ stance in the pub­lic square these past few years,” lib­eral Catholic Michael Sean Winters, au­thor of “Left at the Al­tar,” wrote re­cently in the Na­tional Catholic Re­porter.

Church lib­er­als hope the se­lec­tion of Francis also sig­nals a new di­rec­tion for Amer­i­can Catholics.

“I hope the ap­proach that Pope Francis has taken is re­flected by the hi­er­ar­chy,” said David Nolan, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Catholics for Choice. “I think it gives the bish­ops an op­por­tu­nity

to show that they have lis­tened and heard what Pope Francis has said.”

Mr. Nolan and Catholics for Choice be­lieve that the next USCCB pres­i­dent should place less em­pha­sis on “ha­rangu­ing” in­di­vid­u­als about re­pro­duc­tive rights and their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

Ten can­di­dates are run­ning for pres­i­dent: Arch­bishop Gre­gory Ay­mond of New Or­leans, Arch­bishop Charles Cha­put of Philadel­phia, Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., Car­di­nal Daniel DiNardo of Galve­ston-Hous­ton, Arch­bishop Jose Gomez of Los An­ge­les, Arch­bishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Arch­bishop Wil­liam Lori of Bal­ti­more, Arch­bishop Den­nis Sch­nurr of Cincin­nati, Arch­bishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, and Arch­bishop Thomas Wen­ski of Mi­ami.

The Amer­i­can bish­ops heard di­rectly from the pope’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mon­day.

Arch­bishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apos­tolic nun­cio based in Wash­ing­ton, told the bish­ops they should not “fol­low a par­tic­u­lar ide­ol­ogy” and should make Ro­man Catholics feel more wel­come in church, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press. He urged the bish­ops to fol­low the pope’s ex­am­ple to es­chew pomp and pur­sue a life of sim­plic­ity.

“There has to be a no­tice­able life­style char­ac­ter­ized by sim­plic­ity and ho­li­ness of life. This is a sure way to bring our peo­ple to an aware­ness of the truth of our mes­sage,” he said.

“The Holy Fa­ther wants bish­ops in tune with their peo­ple,” he said. “He made a spe­cial point of say­ing that he wants pas­toral bish­ops, not bish­ops who pro­fess or fol­low a par­tic­u­lar ide­ol­ogy.”

Though the po­lit­i­cal arena cer­tainly will play a large role in the pres­i­dency of who­ever is elected today, many con­ser­va­tive Catholics hope that the next pres­i­dent will find a way to tran­scend pol­i­tics and the pres­sures it can place on faith and doc­trine.

“Sadly, most of our lead­ers find it more ap­peal­ing to be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect than truth­ful,” said Ms. Brown.

The win­ner of Tues­day’s se­cret vote will suc­ceed Car­di­nal Ti­mothy Dolan of New York, who opened the con­ven­tion Mon­day with his fi­nal ad­dress as pres­i­dent.

Dur­ing his three-year pres­i­dency, Car­di­nal Dolan has in­creased me­dia aware­ness and helped the church re­bound from sex-abuse scan­dals that caused many to ques­tion its le­git­i­macy.

Car­di­nal Dolan also ex­pressed sup­port for im­mi­gra­tion re­form. Last week, he sent a let­ter to mem­bers of Congress ask­ing that they ad­dress the po­lar­iz­ing is­sue be­fore the end of the cal­en­dar year, ac­cord­ing to the Catholic News Ser­vice.

“Like him or not, you couldn’t ig­nore him,” Rocco Palmo, ed­i­tor of Whis­pers in the Log­gia, a widely read blog on the Ro­man Catholic Church, told the Bal­ti­more Sun. “He’s a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion leader. It’s like Elvis is leav­ing the build­ing. Who’s go­ing to take the stage now?”

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