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The Duty of Bishops to Teach

No matter whether one likes it or not, the bishops have a right and duty to teach. Indeed, greater weight should be given the magisterial teachings of faith than the the objections of dissenters and secular leaders. There are few faith matters as central as the Eucharist.

While we are called as disciples to witness to Christ and the Gospel even in our private lives, given past experience I suspect the President is right about the bishops . . . nothing is going to happen.

One Response

  1. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a document titled: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship – A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. This year the document is published with an Introductory Letter. Pope Francis provides input to the Introductory Letter. In it the Pope states: “The call to holiness, he writes, requires a “firm and passionate” defense of “the innocent unborn.”

    FATHER JOE:It sometimes seems that Pope Francis gives mixed signals. He is certainly readily misunderstood and even purposely misinterpreted. He is a lot tougher and authoritarian than some think. Look at the news. Pope Francis excommunicates Italian Mafia members. Pope Francis excommunicates priests who back women’s ordination and are involved with their ordinations and liturgies. Pope Francis says abortion, even of a sick fetus, is like hiring a Hitman.

    “Equally sacred,” he further states, are “the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”

    FATHER JOE:The Pope would not accept an “either/or argument.” We need to elect officials who will oppose abortion and as an extension of this appreciation for the sanctity of life help mothers to keep their children, empower the poor, assist the infirm and elderly to live full and happy lives, ring the alarm against new threats to life like euthanasia, combat normalization of prostitution and its devaluation of persons, and confront head-on other forms of oppression that reduce people to commodities. In reference to Poland the Pope recently stated: “The Church cannot stop defending life or give up proclaiming the need to protect every human being from conception to natural death. On this question, we can accept no compromise.”

    I form my conscience based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the statements of the pope and on the statements of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. As a person of the Catholic faith, I hold that the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage and the freedom of religion are all preeminent values. I believe that pro-life is more than pro-birth. I believe that unless there is empathy, i.e., for the unborn child and for the child’s mother who is in need of housing, of financial support and of healthcare for herself (during and after her pregnancy) and for her child, abortion will continue. Neither political party supports these preeminent values.

    FATHER JOE: But the preeminent issue remains ABORTION, just as the bishops of the USCCB adopted on November 12, 2019: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

    We have had more than forty years of political debate and we failed to make significant progress in decreasing the rates of abortion. We need a new approach. We cannot rely on politicians to do this sacred work for us.

    We need Catholics of faith to finance and to operate shelters for women.

    FATHER JOE: This is already the case. We fund and operate many shelters for women. We have programs to help women keep their children. We have programs to help women heal from the grief of making a bad decision. Going back to the days of Cardinal O’Connor, we have been pledged as a Church to everything possible to help mothers keep their children or to adopt them out to parents who will love them. The political side of this question is not the only side. Where have you been?

    We need to be called by a religious authority to form a cadre of volunteers for this mission. Catholics need to manifest our culture of life. We need to walk the talk.

    FATHER JOE: The same kids that march by the hundreds of thousands against abortion are volunteers for crisis pregnancy centers and so much else. They seek to inform their peers and they actively work to change minds and hearts.

    “Equally sacred are the lives of the poor.” So, if we fail to have empathy for the child at the border, who we can see, I doubt if we can develop empathy for the child we cannot see in the womb. Matthew 25:40 “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” The focus is on the doing something for the one in need. The people at the border have needs which we can provide. We need healthcare for all. Without empathy for those without health insurance the poor will suffer more and will have a shorter life as shown in post pandemic numbers.

    This political strife is getting us nowhere good. It is my hope that some bishop would launch a program that would light a fire in all of our dioceses. Then we could volunteer or contribute something tangible to the culture of life.

    FATHER JOE: Who are you arguing with? It seems like a strawman to me. Catholic Charities is the largest effort to help the poor in the world just behind the federal government. Indeed, we have partnerships with government, other churches, businesses, etc. to make a difference for those who need us. While the death sentence in the past was accepted in principle, the U.S. bishops have been at odds with the government about capital punishment going back to the 1920’s and 30’s. While national security must be a concern, the bishops and the Church have lobbied for immigrants and right now our outreach at the border, especially giving food and housing, is being stretched to the breaking point. The Biden administration has literally dumped human beings on our doorstep and we are doing what we can through Catholic Charities to help these families and others. I would urge YOU to donate what you can. While many of us have strong reservations about socialized medicine, the U.S. bishops have been advocates for universal healthcare for longer than the Democratic party. But contraception and abortion is not healthcare. The Church has suffered heavily under the pandemic and this has made her outreach to others more difficult but no less important. My parish and I suspect most faith communities across the country have brought food and supplies to households where members were sick and in need. You seem to imply that people of faith have neglected the poor and the oppressed. No, you will find that those who are the most staunch against abortion are also the most generous with time, talent and treasure in their discipleship.

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