The bishop(s) said...

I've frequently referenced here the USCCB's document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (FCFC) and the bishops summary of that statement, The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The full document was passed by a nearly unanimous majority (98%) of the bishops) in November 2007 in anticipation of the election year. A number of bishops are now issuing their own statements on the election and how Catholics are to form their consciences in preparation for it. I'm 100% confident that all US Catholic bishops are pro-life and that none are pro-choice. Still, their is some variety in their approaches and emphases in addressing their people and in how they read the document issued by their national Conference:
  • While stressing FCFC's assertions that Catholics are not single issue voters and that a number of social issues of moral concern need to be part of a voter's discernment, Bishop Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles adds "But that's not always what comes out." In the same interview he said, "We know that neither of the political parties supports everything the church teaches. We are not going to create a culture of life if we don't talk about all the life issues, beginning with abortion but including all of them."
  • Bishop Joseph Martino of the Diocese of Scranton recently directed all of his priests to read his letter on election concerns "at the time of the homily and in place of the homily" on the weekend of October 4/5. Martino recently made an unexpected appearance in the middle of a local parish forum (October 19) and announced that, “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese... The USCCB doesn’t speak for me. The only relevant document ... is my letter... There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”
  • In a letter to his people, Bishop Terry Steib of the Diocese of Memphis affirms FCFC and the role of conscience and prudential decisions, quoting Benedict XVI's encyclical, Deus Caritas Est: "The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must nor remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice." Steib writes "If our conscience is well formed, then we will make the right choices about candidates who may not support the Church's position in every case."
  • And just this week (October 21), US Linkbishops' chairs for Pro-Life Activities and Domestic Justice and Human Development, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre issued a statement focusing in part on the impact of Roe v. Wade in American culture: "The law is a teacher, and Roe taught many women, physicians and others that abortion is an acceptable answer to a wide range of problems." The joint statement also emphasizes that "Our faith requires us to oppose abortion on demand and to provide help to mothers facing challenging pregnancies." (The link here takes you to a summary of Rigali's and Murphy's statement which includes a link to a PDF of the complete text.)


  1. Concord Pastor,

    To add to you list of what the bishops are saying, here is a link to Denver's Archbishop Chaput, who is always good for a quote, apparently.


    Is it the case that within his own territory, a bishop's statement is definitive, as opposed to that of the conference of bishops? This is a very confusing point to me.

  2. A bishop is the chief teacher in his diocese and a national conference does not have jurisdiction over his. It's not to be expected, however, and it does confuse when a bishop rejects the statement of his national conference on a moral issue and, as in this case, an issue on which the local bishop and the conference are in basic agreement.

    Recently Archbishop Chaput began a (pro-life) talk he gave with these amazing words:

    Before I begin, I need to say what a friend of mine calls my ''Litany to the IRS.'' Here it is. I'm not here to tell you how to vote. I don't want to do that, I won't do that, and I don't use code language - so you don't need to spend any time looking for secret political endorsements. I plan to speak candidly, but I can only do that if you remember that I'm here as an author and private citizen. I'm not speaking for the Holy See, or the American bishops, or any other bishop, or even officially for the Archdiocese of Denver. So the things I say are my personal views, nothing more. I think they're pretty solidly grounded in Catholic teaching and the heart of the Church, but it's your task as Catholics and citizens to listen, evaluate and then act as you judge best. (from a condensed text of Chaput's speech)

    I've never before heard of a bishop announcing that in some instances he speaks for the Church and in other instances he speaks only as a private citizen, just offering his "personal views."

  3. But Father Fleming, this whole blog is your personal views! Don't bishops have the same privilege, if they make the context clear?

  4. Of course bishops and priests have personal views. I'm simply not familiar with clerics announcing that for a given moment they are speaking or writing outside their role as representatives of the Church.

  5. And... for the record: my "personal views" do not constitute "this whole blog."

  6. Hello, all,Here's a bishop who had gone where no bishop has gone before. http://www.spacevulture.com/
    I guess some clerics need more than just a day job;-)

  7. I would like to think that even clerics can have a private life. This doesn't seem in any way contradictory to their life as a cleric so I say write on...

  8. Novo - good to hear from you!

    Private life for clerics? Yes and no.

    If by that you mean that not everyone has to know whether I went to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for coffee this morning - of course!

    But there is a transparency expected in the life of clerics through which the light of Christ should shine as unimpeded as possible.

  9. This topic came up in two conversations that I had yesterday.

    It is very confusing when there appear to be so many competing Catholic voices on these matters.

    If bishops start saying things in regard to the USCCB document that sound different, but are essentially saying the same thing, that is one thing.

    If bishops begin to declare the USCCB document irrelevant in their diocese, it concerns me.

    If unity is essential to the church, then what?

    No, I am not advocating an environment of no discussion, but when the basis for the discussion is thrown out the window, where does one go?

    And when does that bishop begin to wander in the realm of "bishop-self" and "private-self" such as we see in Denver a lot lately.

    Sorry for the long comment here, but I must say that one needs to look no farther than documents written by or approved by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his prior role and by the words of Pope Benedict XVI.

    One can see differences, although the essential teachings remain the same.

  10. I am not sure that you have the correct link to the Rigali/Murphy article. I read it on NCR. The photo of Bishop Murphy made him look as if he might have very high blood pressure. I hope that he gets an annual physical.

  11. Thanks for pointing out the link error - I've corrected it.

    That's Bishop Martino with the apparent high blood pressure - must have been quite a meeting!

  12. I think that the bishops' meeting the week after the election should be an interesting one. Talk about potential fireworks! As for Archbishop Chaput's speaking as a private citizen rather than as a bishop, perhaps he couldn't decide if he was Clark Kent or Superman. In fact, despite his protestations he knows he is skating on thin ice with the IRS with regard to separation of church and state and his diocese's tax exempt status. I think it is time for the Attorneys General of the states that have bishops by default "endorsing" candidates to call them to task.

  13. I keep coming back to read this.

    I think shaming Catholic voters to vote against Obama on moral grounds looks very much like a partisan political act.

    It troubles me very much.


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