When Bishops Don’t Speak Out


As we begin Holy Week 2012, a reflection from Bill Press, writing (29 March) in the Chicago Tribune:

“No doubt about it. On abortion, Catholic bishops are against it. On homosexuality, Catholic bishops are against it. On same-sex marriage, Catholic bishops are against it. On contraception, Catholic bishops are against it. And they actively lobby Congress to pass laws supporting their position. Recently, the Conference of Bishops even identified their top priority for 2012 as persuading Congress to overturn President Obama’s mandatory coverage of birth control in all health plans. Two years ago, they opposed passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act….

“But still, as a Catholic, what I want to know is: Why are the bishops so quick and eager to speak out about issues involving sex — yet remain totally silent on so many other established teachings of the Church?

“The Catholic Church, for example, officially opposes the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment. But when is the last time you heard the bishops decry application of the death penalty? According to the Death Penalty Information Center, as of October 2011 there were 3,199 persons on death row in the United States. Shouldn’t that also be one of the bishops’ top priorities? Yet, to my knowledge, the bishops have never denied communion to any politician who voted in support of the death penalty, though they did deny the sacraments to Geraldine Ferraro, John Kerry, Joe Biden, and other pro-choice Catholics.

“Same with the war in Iraq. Pope John Paul II was outspoken in his opposition to the Gulf War in 1991 and the war in Iraq in 2003. “War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations,” declared the pope in January 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq. But, again: American bishops never pressured Congress to vote against the war and never criticized Catholic members of Congress who eagerly voted for it.

“And what about working families? No institution has spoken out more strongly on behalf of economic justice than the Catholic Church. In his great encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), Pope Leo XIII recognized the rights of workers to form unions, to engage in collective bargaining, and to earn a fair salary: enough to support the worker, his wife and family, with a little savings left over. But when’s the last time you heard a Catholic bishop talk about the “living wage”?

“….How shameful, then, that bishops maintain total silence about the House Republican budget authored by Paul Ryan. This year’s Ryan budget, like last year’s, is just the opposite of what the Church teaches. It would drastically cut social programs that aid the poor, including medical care provided to the poor through Medicaid. It would also threaten health care for seniors by ending Medicare as we know it — while preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans.

“The Ryan plan, in other words, is not preferential treatment for the poor. It’s preferential treatment for the rich. But what have Catholic bishops said about it? Absolutely nothing. Not a word. Zip. Nada.”

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6 thoughts on “When Bishops Don’t Speak Out

  1. As much as I hate to say it, the underlying thread in all is the suppression of women. They speak against birth control- and just who are those most affected by excessive child bearing? Women and their children. Low wages affects more women than men. More women are poor worldwide than men. Whatever puts women back where they think the female half of the population belongs is good by them.

    • Yes! Institutional leadership still has major gender and sex problems. Sometime ago, I received a payer card from a bishop friend…it was full of “men,” “man,” “mankind,” “his,” etc. when all the male words referred to men and women. In an email, I asked the bishop why he did not use inclusive language. He said he had no time for all that “inclusive language nonsense.” So I changed al the male nouns and pronouns in his prayer and sent it back to him…..asking what he thought about that. He fired back an angry email saying that he was disgusted and offended that I had put “all that woman stuff” in his lovely prayer. I replied that women (and many men) are disgusted and offended by church insistence on exclusive language in prayers, liturgy, biblical translations, and official documents. He did not reply…..

      John

  2. I wish I could disagree with proud military mom and John Greenleaf’s thoughts, but in conscience, I cannot.
    When will we women decide to organize a “Fast from Service”? If we meet in our homes for 40 days working on “all that women stuff”, the parishes will suffer, but the tide against women will begin to turn.

  3. Rev. Robin Meyers’ SAVING JESUS FROM THE CHURCH and THE UNDERGROUND CHURCH challenge Christians to become followers of The Way (Deeds not Creeds) which entails living, and speaking the truth to wedded ecclesial and wealth-driven leadership that kills reforms that challenge the powers of the Empire. As Howard Zinn put it, YOU CAN’T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN.

    I offer Thomas Merton’s words to Paul Ryan and other conscience starved capitalists: “Living space, law and order, nourishment for all, are basic needs without which there can be no peace and no stability on earth.’No faith, no education, no government, no science, no art, no wisdom will help (hu)mankind if the unfailing certainty of the minimum is lacking.’ ”

    See Merton’s Introduction to THE PRISON MEDITAION OF FATHER DELP

    Nancy Moews

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