The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Analysis: The USCCB ‘abortion debate,’ and what came after

By JD Flynn

Bishops listen to a speaker during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore Nov. 12, 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2019 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- On Tuesday, 69 U.S. bishops voted against the inclusion of a paragraph in a letter they plan to soon publish. Within hours, a conservative social media figure said those bishops “are not Catholic,” and ignited an online firestorm. Here’s how that happened.

The bishops were at the fall meeting of their episcopal conference, discussing proposed amendments to a short letter they intended to send out, as a supplement to “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” their 2015 document on voting and public life.

On Monday Nov. 11, the bishops had been given the opportunity to review a draft text of the letter and propose changes. They had several hours to submit written amendments, which would be debated Nov. 12, before a vote on the entire letter.

Cardinal Blase Cupich proposed an amendment.

Cupich proposed to add into the letter paragraph 101 of Pope Francis’ 2018 Gaudete ex esultate. The paragraph cautions against those who would relativize “the social engagement of others,” or act as if “the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend.”

The cardinal said in his proposal that he wished to add the paragraph because “the draft proposed wording citing this paragraph omits ‘equally sacred’ from the start of that list of important concerns, defacing the point the pope was making, which is obviously that ‘defense of the unborn is not ‘the only thing that counts.’”

Led by Archbishop Jose Gomez, the letter’s drafting committee reviewed the Cupich proposal, along with dozens of other amendment proposals, on the evening of Nov. 11, before presenting them the next day, alongside recommendations from the committee on each one.

On the Cupich amendment, the committee asked the bishops to accept a compromise recommendation, namely, to include the phrase “equally sacred,” but not the entire paragraph Cupich proposed. The committee said the whole paragraph would add length to a letter already three pages long, but it encouraged adding the words “equally sacred,” which seemed to be the key phrase Cupich wanted.

On Tuesday, Cupich rose to ask for a reconsideration of that recommendation. He said he appreciated the desire for brevity, but he wanted the whole paragraph.

From his view, the proposed paragraph contains “all of the elements in the call to holiness that we are to exercise as faithful citizens. He speaks about the need to make sure we avoid those kinds of ideological frameworks that our society today is so paralyzed in our political discourse by, but also, he wants to make sure…that not only do we avoid that, but we engage one another and he also makes sure that we do not make one issue that a political party or group puts forward to the point where we’re going to ignore all the rest of them.”

Bshop Frank Dewane said the committee had tried to accommodate the cardinal’s request, and suggested he could add even more additional language into the text as a compromise.

Cupich was not interested in that suggestion.

“I appreciate that attempt at accommodation. My point is that this is the magisterial teaching of Pope Francis put in a very succinct way, and I think we can all benefit from it as we speak to our people about issues…so I would still like to have the entire paragraph,” he said.

Gomez asked the body of bishops to debate and vote on the point in question: Should the committee summarize the pope’s text, or include the entire paragraph Cupich had mentioned?

The disagreement was not, at that point, perceived to be a matter of doctrinal debate. To be sure, some bishops have speculated privately that Cupich wanted to include the full text to advance his commitment to a “seamless garment” vision of social justice. Others, though, noted that Cupich has a regular habit of calling for greater use of the pope’s texts in conference documents; one bishop called this habit “obsequious.” But several others, even some who regularly disagree with Cupich on serious doctrinal matters, took the suggestion at face value, telling CNA they thought the amendment was a good idea.

To that point, the question was about whether to include a text or to summarize that text. No one who had spoken disagreed with the substance of the paragraph; their conversation had been about how best to present it.

As the debate began, Bishop Robert McElroy rose to speak first. He said that he supported Cardinal Cupich’s amendment for the reasons already stated, and because of his objection to a line in the bishops’ letter he called “at least discordant” with the pope’s teachings. The line said that “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.”

The “preeminent quote” he said would be used to undermine what he understood the pope’s point to be in the paragraph suggested by Cupich.

“So either we should get rid of ‘preeminent,’ or, if we’re going to keep ‘preeminent’ in there, let’s at least give the pope a fighting chance with his view, to keep that whole paragraph in there, because that’s where he articulates his vision of this very controversial question.”

“It is not Catholic that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching. It is not. For us to say that, particularly when we omit the pope’s articulation of this question, I think is a grave disservice of our people…so either we shouldn’t have preeminent in there, or we should have the pope’s full paragraph where he lays out his vision of this same question, delicately balancing all of it in the words he does,” McElroy said.

Many bishops looked shocked by McElroy’s words.

The draft language McElroy objected to, that abortion “remains our preeminent priority because it directty attacks life itself” came from an amendment proposed by Archbishop Joseph Naumann. Any bishop had been free to stand and ask that it be given separate consideration, rather than be passed on a consent agenda. That was exactly what Cupich had done with his proposed amendment, and McElroy had been free to do the same.

But for some reason McElroy had not asked for debate on the Naumann “preeminent priority” amendment. Instead, the bishop made his objection to the language in the speech he gave while the Cupich amendment was on the table.

In short, McElroy’s objection to “preeminent priority” was not formally manifested according to the rules of order, even though it could have been. The motion on the table was still about the Cupich amendment.

After McElroy spoke, Bishop Joseph Strickland was given the floor.

“I absolutely think ‘preeminent’ needs to stay,” Strickland said.

The bishop seemed to think that McElroy had changed the matter up for debate. Some journalists suggested he had gotten confused. Although he made his point plainly, “preeminent” was not up for debate, there was no formal question of taking it out.

Strickland has been lauded by some Catholics for the courage he is thought to have shown by his remark. But whatever his reasoning, the bishop contributed to McElroy’s diversion: he weighed in on a debate the body wasn’t actually having. It was not the first time at the meeting that Strickland seemed to be out of step with the conversation.

On Monday morning, as they got underway, the bishops were asked to approve their meeting’s agenda, a standard part of the rules of order. Bishop Earl Boyea made a motion that an update on the Vatican’s McCarrick investigation be added to the agenda. Strickland seconded that motion. The bishops voted and Boyea’s motion, seconded by Strickland, passed by a voice vote.

Immediately after that vote, Strickland asked for the floor and was recognized.

“I echo the request for the investigation of the report on McCarrick,” Strickland said, before proposing that “future agendas” include a section “to address the questions of guarding the deposit of faith,” though the bishop did not specify what exactly he meant.

Strickland’s “echo” seemed out of place: He stood, it seemed, to “echo” a motion that he himself had already seconded, and that had already passed the entire assembly of bishops. In the press gallery, journalists asked one another whether the bishop understood that the idea had just passed, after he personally seconded it.

On Tuesday, it was Archbishop Charles Chaput who got the debate over the Cupich amendment back on track. He spoke after Strickland.

“I am certainly not against quoting the Holy Father’s statement,” Chaput said.

“I think it’s a beautiful statement, I believe it,” the archbishop added, weighing in on the motion on the floor.

Chaput then turned his attention to McElroy’s remarks. He did not address the question of whether “preeminent” ought to remain in the document. But he did address the argument McElroy used to support the Cupich amendment.

“I am against anyone stating that our saying [abortion] is ‘preeminent’ is contrary to the teaching of the pope. Because that isn’t true. It sets an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father which isn’t true. So I don’t like the argument Bishop McElroy used. It isn’t true.”

“We do support the Holy Father completely, what he said is true, but I think it has been very clearly the articulated opinion of the bishops’ conference for many years that pro-life is still the preeminent issue. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t equal in dignity, it’s just time, in the certain circumstances of our Church, in the United States,” Chaput said.

The bishops applauded Chaput.

An analysis of Chaput’s remarks suggests two things: that he might have been favor of Cupich’s amendment, of which he said he was “not against;” and that he opposed the argument used by McElroy to support that amendment.

After Chaput, Gomez said the committee preferred to leave the long quote out, mentioned that a reference to the full text was made in a footnote, said the committee was “called to have a brief document,” and called for a vote.

By a vote of 143-69, the bishops chose the committee’s summarized text over Cupich’s preference for a long excerpt from Pope Francis.

Based upon his own remarks, it is reasonable to conclude that Chaput himself may well have voted in favor of including the whole text, which he called “beautiful,” even while he strongly disagreed with McElroy on why the reasons to vote for it.

Shortly after the vote, Strickland weighed in again, this time by tweet. “Thank God the USCCB voted to uphold the preeminence of the Sanctity of the life of the unborn.  It is sad that 69 voted no,” he tweeted.

Strickland’s tweet went viral. It was an incorrect interpretation of the vote, based upon the bishop’s apparent belief that the language of preeminence was up for a vote. Not to belabor a point, but it never was.

A half hour after Strickland tweeted, a conservative YouTube commentator named Taylor Marshall retweeted the bishop’s text, adding his own brief comment: “69 USA bishops voted ‘no,’ which means 69 USA bishops are not Catholic.”

That tweet, like Strickland’s took off into the ether of social media, and soon more voices weighed in, accusing bishops of heresy and spinelessness.

The vote was over whether bishops should quote a long paragraph, or summarize it. For that, bishops were accused of heresy.

On Nov. 14, Strickland weighed back in, tweeting about “the hard data that approx 1/3 of the bishops voted against the language of ‘preeminence.’”

“I pray for unity, Guarding the Deposit of Faith with Pope Francis,” he added.

By his own tweeted admission, the bishop who sparked an online backlash that ended with bishops being called heretics did not know what they had actually voted about.

The consequence of that backlash is that some Catholics may needlessly lose trust in their bishops, and lose confidence in the claims of the Catholic Church.

The U.S. bishops face a serious divide over their understanding of Pope Francis, occasioned by a small number who seem to have positioned themselves as the pope’s authoritative interpreters. It seems clear that divide may well boil to a head.

But the bishops are also divided by what seems to be a hermeneutic of suspicion, which allows some among their number to accuse others of voting against the dignity of human life, even when that misrepresents what’s actually happened.

The bishops are in danger of the kind of partisanship that could lead them to reflexively oppose those with a different viewpoint, rather than doing the hard work of listening carefully, condemning what is false while seeking unity whenever possible. That kind of partisanship would inevitably heighten disunity among practicing Catholics.

Bishops like Chaput and the late Cardinal Francis George, who sought unity with brother bishops even amid real disagreement, are often hailed as models for a conference that could address serious issues with an authentic spirit of fraternity. But whether those models will be heeded by future generations of leaders remains to be seen.

Praying for unity is important. So is the virtue which leads to it. In the social media era, bishops can feed the polarization and nastiness of hot-take culture, even inadvertently. Charity, especially amid disagreement, must be a “preeminent priority” of the apostles, if Christ’s Church is to live in unity.


If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


About Catholic News Agency 313 Articles
Catholic News Agency (www.catholicnewsagency.com)

63 Comments

  1. The point still is, Pope Francis desires total “obedience to his magisterium”. Which, within a few months of his election, he voiced putting abortion on “the back burner”.

    When did the magisterium of a pontiff become a revolutionary act?

    • “The consequence of that backlash is that some Catholics may needlessly lose trust in their bishops, and lose confidence in the claims of the Catholic Church.”

      Oh my. Your statement, JD, seems to overlook how little confidence and respect there exists for bishops considering how they grossly mishandled the abuse crisis.

      • Spot on, Windswept.
        The author is so naive as to think Catholic bishops are any longer respected or trusted.
        Unfortunately, those days are long gone. A self inflicted decapitation.

        • No, the pro-life issue is directly and only about DEFENDING PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE WOMB FROM BEING EXTERMINATED.

          The other issues of making life flourish are goods to be pursued, but they do NOT rise, nor come close, to the level of life against death.

      • You are absolutely correct. Pope Saint John Paul II stated it perfectly in his Dec. 30, 1988 Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World). Under the heading Respecting the Inviolable Right to Life: “The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
        Our bishops have not taught this to their sheep because it counters their teaching Cardinal Bernardin’s “Consistent Ethic of Life,” i.e., “the Seamless Garment.” The only benefactor of that teaching by the U.S. Bishops is the pro-abortion Democrat Party because the teaching allows Catholic Democrats to remain in that organization and supporting it, for those “other so called ‘pro-life’ issues.” Those Catholics give the Democrat Party the electoral power to keep abortion legal, and now, even infanticide. Self identified Catholics gave Obama 54% of their vote in “08,” and 50% in 2012, and Hillary Clinton got “48%” to Trumps “45%” in 2016. I’m a south Chicago born Catholic, and former Democrat political activist who realized in 1975 that the Democrat Party was becoming the pro-abortion party, and nothing is going to stop them. And when I read in the LA Times in 1984 that the U.S. Bishops adopted Bernardin’s “Consistent Ethic of Life,” I realized that was the end of ever getting a Constitutional Right to Life Amendment passed, because Catholics now have reasons to stay in the pro-abortion party, reason now called “pro-life.”

    • Bad news for you… Per StJPII’s catechism, “the task of interpretation is vested uniquely in the Pope and the bishops.” To be Roman Catholic is to accept and attest to the Magisterial teaching of the Church (“vested uniquely in the Pope”), even when we must personally disagree or even dissent.

      For 2,100 years, the primary battle of the Church has been to find a “middle way”: even when forces from the left and/or right try to pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Typical for tunnel-visioned (“it’s all about me”) Americans, except for the old geezers squeezing the life out of the Church in the United States, most of the world’s Bishops are in full agreement with most or all of Holy Father Francis’ agenda and priorities.

      • “most of the world’s Bishops are in full agreement with most or all of Holy Father Francis’ agenda and priorities”

        Most of the world’s LATIN bishops, maybe.

      • Mr. Busby:

        It is unconvincing to try to use the faithful John Paul II, and other faithful pontiffs, who The Pontiff Francis subverts, to make an appeal for the person of the Pontiff Francis, who has fully revealed his apostasy in his personal acts of idolatry in October 2019.

        The Pontiff Francis would be obedient to The Lord by repenting of his idolatry.

    • This article shows what a verbose group of Democrats hide in the USCCB! They realize that if the protection of the unborn IS the preeminent position of Catholic Faith, at this time; Ms Pelosi is going to have to accept the disgrace and consequences of Excommunication!
      So much dialogue to evade even mentioning the political aspects of this subject !

  2. After watching Bishop Joseph Strickland interviewed by Raymond Arroyo on the key issue of abortion, whether it or ecology immigration be held as the preeminent issue the more traditional Bishops seem to be in passive resistance. Archbishop Chaput’s relatively strong rebuttal to Papal Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre’s insistence that Am Bishops fall in line with the Pontiff on Amoris Laetitia [as if remaining in justifiable doubt is insubordination] indicate the lines are drawn for battle. Cardinal Cupich as expected is in favor of Pope Francis’ push for a preeminent ecology social justice policy was backed as noted in this CNA report by Bishop McElroy in long winded blatant disregard for the mass killing of prenatal infants and his opposition to Bishops who favor focus on the abortion catastrophe. Cardinal Cupich, Farrell, Bishop McElroy are the Pontiff’s Scots Guard. Where are the other voices in support of Archbishop Chaput? This is certainly a moment of truth for them in the most consequential sense. Passive resistance unless there is also strong leadership is historically dissected and compromised by opponents. Resistance must be respectfully direct, clear, adamant. Perhaps a lecture tour by Bishop Athanasius Schneider would inspire that resistance.

    • While I would argue that Holy Father Francis’ first priority is the salvation of souls, let us remember that without a habitable planet, the issue of “life” is moot. Pure water and air are foundational to human existence.

      Additionally, the most egregious instances of pollution and degraded habitat fall disproportionately upon the poor and disenfranchised. Thereby making ecological justice a foundational component of the Church’s “preferential option for the poor.”

      • life is the ontologocial question. It supercedes all other considerations which are life but which/who need life respected for life to be allowed to grow. Abortion should be the preeminent issue since it precedes all other areas as it treats an openness to life itself even before birth. No surprise B.McElroy states what he did… very pro lgbt people have an unmistakeable pattern of also advocating abortion, all the life issue.. .they see it differently, and not in a Catholic way, and there surely is a way.. existence is not subjective. And no wonder the Bishops are in dispute…. P.Francis, no matter what anyone likes to think, has been very inconsistent these past seven years. I’m deeply distressed, as many , what has happened to the Catholic Church. The consciences of many are dead: certain cardinals, priests, theologians, and we all know it. The number alone show this, and under this papacy.

      • True Randell ecological concern is certainly warranted. The issue is essentially shifting the focus away from what enables us to genuinely care for all life, personal morality. The abortion crisis, killing the infant created in God’s image is destruction of ourselves. The phenomenally high rates worldwide are soul numbing. Deaden the human soul and charitable concern transforms into self preservation. A world ideology committed to survival and individual comfort at all costs.

      • Climate science is not part of Sacred Tradition, and the pope, even under Latin teaching, has no special competence to talk about science or make judgments about scientific or even political issues as they are related to particulars.

      • ECOLOGY SÍ — GLOBAL WARMING NO!

        What arrogance has taken possession of us poor frail creatures on this mortal coil, making us think that we little ants can change the weather on this huge planet. We forget that glowing star out there that we fondly call the SUN, which from time immemorial has been sending us its powerful rays, its warmth, its energy. We forget the powerful forces in the very belly of our magnificent planet, a planet we think we can tame. We’re acting like little gods. We’re just little ants.

        The Global Warming people often confuse global warming or climate change with ecology. And they say: “Yeah, look at India, look at China. How dirty their air and water are.” True, but that’s got nothing to do with global warming or climate change. That’s ecology. We all want clean water, clean air, clean lakes and rivers, unpolluted peppers and tomatoes, magnificent landscapes. And today, at least in the United States, we’ve never had such clean air and water and lakes. Our cars are using fewer and fewer toxic ingredients. Why, even Great Britain’s Daily Mail for January 2, 2015, had this comforting headline: “Carbon dioxide emissions help tropical rainforests grow faster: Study shows trees absorb more greenhouse gas than expected.”

        But that’s all ecology. We’re all for ecology. In fact, let’s leave our children an even more beautiful and healthy planet than we inherited. But let’s not try to change the climate and temperature of this temperamental Planet Earth. It won’t work. Instead, let’s try to enjoy and beautify this unique and magnificent home lost among the trillions of other planets and stars. Ecology has nothing to do with global warming or climate change, which is the greatest scientific fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

        Former Vice President Al Gore invented his own “tipping point” clock a few years ago. Excerpt: Former vice-president Al Gore came to Washington on July 17, 2008, to deliver yet another speech warning of the “climate crisis.” “The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis,” Gore stated.

        In a word, taking care of the environment has nothing to do with trying to change the climate of Planet Earth. The Sun has been taking care of the climate change for millions of years and will continue to do so despite the fact we humanoids insist on exhaling “poisonous” breath into the atmosphere. In fact, on April 20, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Agency declared that even human breath (CO2) is a pollutant!!! (Houston, Planet Earth quietly vanished a couple of years ago…)

      • Well, I’d agree that we’re all called to be good stewards of God’s Creation but I’m also deeply concerned about the affluent eco-activists targeting poor and 3rd World women with abortion and eugenic population control.

  3. Our Pope gave a 50 minute speech to the U.S. Congress and spoke for the sanctity of life for 5 seconds. That should tell you all you need to know about our leadership in Rome.

    • Is there anyone in the cosmos unfamiliar with the teaching of the Church relating to abortion? Even the heathens in Muslim nations can tell you what the Church (and other Christian entities) are “against”.

      The real question is what are we “for”? Ask that question, even of faithful Roman Catholics in the United States, and be prepared to endure profound silence.

      • OK.
        I am “for” respecting and obeying the Fifth Commandment of God. Especially as it pertains to the defenseless unborn.
        I am “for” this, preeminently, as regards to any other issue brought up by any American bishop or bishops conference.
        Anything unclear?

      • “Is there anyone in the cosmos unfamiliar with the teaching of the Church relating to abortion?”

        Perhaps not; but there are plenty, including “Catholics” in Congress, who are ignoring it.

  4. Mr. Flynn’s analysis is more than a little overwrought.

    Unity is not an end-in-itself, and it has no value in itself.

    Unity can and will result where people pursue the priority of faithfulness to Jesus, his Gospel and the perennial teaching of his Church.

    Unity is NOT about the Pontiff Francis popularity contest.

    I note that it was “His Excellency” McElroy and “His Eminence” Cupich who drove the wedge of the Pontiff Francis popularity contest.

    I note that both of these characters promote anti-Christian LGBT ideology in their dioceses.

    I also note that they harp on the Francis popularity theme.

    And I have not forgotten that it was the unrepentant sociopath sex abuser McCarrick himself who constantly drove the dual themes of “the popularity of Francis” and “the teaching of Francis.”

    Well done…by both Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Strickland in confronting and thwarting the subversive “Francis Popularity Contest.”

    I am in union with Jesus The Incarnate Son of God, and the perrennial teaching of his Church, which puts me in union with Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Strickland and many other bishops, and certainly every Pope before 2013.

    I am not and will never be in union with men like McElroy and Cupich, who are not faithful to the Gospel.

    And I am not and will never be in union with men who presided over and perform and promote pagan idol worship, which the Pontiff Francis did in October 2019.

    And Archbishop Gomez, the new president of the USCCB, permits the promotion of LBGT ideology in his diocese, so he is yet another false shepherd, and is not in union with the perennial teach of the Church.

    “One in Christ Jesus” does not equal “USCCB unity.”

  5. “A half hour after Strickland tweeted, a conservative YouTube commentator named Taylor Marshall retweeted the bishop’s text, adding his own brief comment: ’69 USA bishops voted ‘no,’ which means 69 USA bishops are not Catholic.'”

    A “YouTube commentator named” Taylor Marshall. Seriously, JD, you ought to consider punching up and to your left instead of down and to your right. We need to stop worrying about “unity” when it comes to people like Bergoglio, Cupich, and McElroy. Stop limiting yourself to the literal words of what they say and start paying attention to what they do. “Pro-life” has a very specific meaning, and it is not the trademark of the USCCB. It is not the plaything of Cardinal Bernardin or his progeny. This was clearly an attempt to re-introduce the seamless garment rubbish to preeminence, with abortion severely diminished alongside other very specific left wing solutions to issues such as immigration and the environment.

    All that said, I would be perfectly happy if the USCCB ceased issuing pastoral letters on these types of things. Nobody reads them, and they have no impact other than to incite tit for tat insider baseball arguments among Catholic commentators.

    • “This was clearly an attempt to re-introduce the seamless garment rubbish…”

      I agree. These attempts by the hired men to smuggle ecclesial permission to cast votes for publicly pro-abortion politicians must be squashed and denounced every time they occur.

      “… I would be perfectly happy if the USCCB ceased issuing pastoral letters on these types of things.”

      Yes, while so many hired men were spending time drafting pastoral letters the pastoral crises of the past century went whizzing past them unchecked. Whoosh! The sheep have scattered. No bishop’s duty can be outsourced to any USCCB pastoral letter. Each bishop must do his pastoral labor himself.

  6. THE USCCB’S ARE TRYING TO SPLIT HAIRS IN THEIR DISCUSSIONS ON ABORTION!
    AN ABORTION IS A SIN AND A SIN IS A SIN. YOU CAN’T WATER IT DOWN. I REST MY CASE.

  7. JD,

    You have analyzed the trees carefully. But, the vote was about the forest. +Cupich wanted obfuscation to blunt efforts against the abortion holocaust. McElroy’s aim was more direct. The goals are the same. The paragraph vote was a proxy for the whole disagreement. Either that is too nuanced for you or you are part of the obfuscation agenda.

    • CNA is part of the establishment media. They don’t want to do too much to upset the bishops. (And you don’t have to be directly funded by the bishops to be establishment, which is Flynn’s stock reply.) He paints Strickland in a bad light but notice he takes pains to make the other objecting bishop, chaput- Flynn’s former employer- come out unscathed. He is also in denial that mcelroy and cupich precisely reflect Francis’ view- which Francis himself has stated in gaudete et exultate- and are Francis’ men. It’s silly to deny that.

    • Yes. “ Either that is too nuanced for you or you are part of the obfuscation agenda”
      Also the dismissive treatment in this article if bishop Strickland supposedly not understanding is ludicrous. The CNA author presented unfairly. The left wants to use sneaky verbiage just as they have before . Strickland knee wgat was going on. Cupich teal., including this author are hiding behind sham of disingenuous.. manipulation

  8. There is no such thing as “the magisterium of Pope Francis” or “the magisterium of Pope Fill In The Blanks.”

    The role of the pontiff is to serve the Magisterium of Christ and His Church. Period.

    So when I hear the papal nuncio proclaim “the magisterium of Pope Francis” this is NOT the Catholic Faith. He is the Vicar of Christ not Christ Himself.

    Bergoglio is a publicly manifest idolater, heretic and apostate who has DECLINED to respond to dubbia directly related to his role as pontiff etc…

    We are called to “believe” to “have faith” but not to “pretend.” I’ve stopped pretending…but not praying and fasting.

    • Joseph-

      Precisely right that there is nothing Catholic happening when the Nuncio Christophe invokes “the Magisterium of Pope Francis.”

      We have faith in Jesus and the perennial teaching of His Catholic Church, and NOT in persons behaving like the isolator Pontiff Francis, only because they happen to hold the high office of pontiff.

    • Joseph, “the magisterium of Pope Francis” was a new one on me too. But is speaks volumes of the two who traded on it. Thank the Holy Spirit for Chaput and Strickland who kept the phrase out. We already know how thar Pope’s phrase has been exploited by the Democrats and the left. PF is a confusing mess but time is exposing the anti Magisterium in the church. The pachamama idol was the last straw. All that needs to be fixed is being revealed. What the heck has happened to the Jesuits?

  9. JD, we get it.
    You don’t like Bishop Strickland’s response because your response to him was too long and too much.
    Your true colors show through.
    Strickland responded in a timely manner to the attack by McElroy on the primacy of the defense of the helpless unborn. Are you too overeducated to understand that? Too sophisticated? Too wrapped up in Robert’s Rules of Order?
    You do know who butters your bread, JD, that is crystal clear.

  10. ““It is not Catholic that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching.”

    Abortion is not social teaching. It is moral teaching. There can be some dispute about most social teaching, in the sense of how best to achieve a living wage, for example. There can be no dispute about the fact that abortion is wrong.

    “But the bishops are also divided by what seems to be a hermeneutic of suspicion,”

    If the bishops are not suspicious of some of their number, they are clueless. Perhaps if they had had a “hermeneutic of suspicion” about, for example, Theodore McCarrick, it would have been much better.

  11. Strickland seems like the low-IQ sort in his statements and outbursts. Or more charitably, he is far more concerned with seeming righteous to a partisan crowd than exercising prudence, intelligence… or righteousness. In other words, why wasn’t he elected USCCB president?

    It’s no surprise that ideologue ramblings, diversions and deflections would find a popular audience in the United States ‘conservative’ circles, since this is what they are used to hearing on online tabloids (dressed up as ‘orthodoxy’). God forbid you disagree with them, or you’re a heretic, lol.

    • Joe K:

      You have immediately signal you are unable and/or unwilling to make a defensible argument when you begin by asserting that people you disagree with are stupid.

      In fact, such words make others wonder whether you might not be very intelligent yourself.

  12. I think that it is critical to note the words Pope Francis has used to describe abortion. Pope Francis has called abortion an “absolute evil”. On another occasion, he described it as a “horrendous crime” and a “very grave sin”. On yet a third occasion, Francis echoed the words from the Vatican II document, “Gaudium et Spes” that called abortion an “unspeakable crime”. On a 4th occasion, he compared to hiring a hitman.

    Francis’ absolute abhorrence of abortion should have been more clearly highlighted in this article. It seems to me that if a U.S. bishop used Francis’ own language on abortion, he would be chastised for undermining Pope Francis.

  13. This is an excellent article laying out a well-balanced and cogent summation of a complex and highly nuanced situation. Bravo to J D Flynn.

    A word to the Editors… be careful about putting forth fair and balanced opinions. If not, be prepared to endure the petty and narcissistic vengeance of Taylor Marshall (the petulant).

    • Nuance is lost on the general public, so doesn’t count for anything in the long run. Only the bottom line will be exploited. So you can argue nuance all you want but the result is that PF’s trying
      to eliminate abortion as the preeminent issue of our time has been stopped. Strickland removed the not so nuanced position of
      the Chicago Cardinal and his cohort by calling him out.

  14. There is a divide between the bishops and their interpretation of the obvious and intentional confusion used as a means to an end by the pope. The author writes of a possible hermeneutic of suspicion and a partisanship of disunity as if this still can be avoided in the USCCB. It is so evident that we are way beyond that point, to anyone paying attention, that it caused me to ponder once again, the big picture. Although victory in the war over sin and death is assured for the faithful, there are many battles left to be decided, and many souls hang in the balance.

  15. Even the faithful Bishops in this General Assembly fell short. Abortion is way, way, way more than just a “preeminent” issue. It is the First Issue by far, and negating or diluting it is the Absolute Open Door to Evil Issue, as proven by the disastrous results of the psychotic mainstreaming of sinful insanity since abortion was legalized in the USA.

    By equating this First Issue (a permanent, total, most heinous crime) in “equal dignity” to ecology, immigration, etc. (temporary social issues), elevates this temporary social issues (with future imaginary deaths, while abortion is here-and-now murder) and reduces abortion to a mere social issue, both part of the Dictator Pope strategy and that of his followers. The dilution of abortion as the First Issue is the KEY to making to turning it into the Absolute Open Door To Evil.

    In general society that D.A.T.A. (dilution-and-then-approval) strategy has opened the door very wide to all of the present heinous corruption and perversion that is suffocating its very willing followers and all of general society. Death of the most innocent brings death to all society, human souls and all Creation. No wonder they hide behind hypocritical environmentalism!!

    It is crafted and intentionally designed to do the very same in the Catholic Church. We must take our Bishops to task and , if worse comes to worst, we lay Catholics must stand solid and forever against it and against the Dictator Pope who, in delusional narcissism, wants his very words in everything the Church is and does through his “spiritual” hitmen- plausible deniability and fabricated consensus at its lowest. Our faithful cry should be: “Jesus is God, Pope Francis is NOT!!” Let’s put it on shirts, etc. and everywhere. Clear enough, Catholic enough!! In the past, Faithful Catholics stood up against the 8 bad Popes we had then. We were born for such a time as this!

  16. Many things going on here! Regarding the magisterium, broadly speaking, there are really only one of two positions a pope can hold: either the pope is the servant of “the Faith once delivered to the saints”, or he is an innovator and the Deposit of Faith is his to treat more or less as he wishes. As time progresses, it appears that the current pontificate leans towards the second of these.

  17. All this noise about a letter that most people and in all likelihood most Roman Catholics won’t read…

    Clueless bishops – pastoring through useless publishing. Do the laity need another voter’s guide for 2020? Bishops do not have any special competence with respect to moral theology, including that area of moral theology which would encompass moral life. Nor is their judgment regarding the conclusions of moral theology infallible. At best, it might be possible that the majority opinion regarding the soundness of a conclusion might be worthy of consideration – so long as they acknowledge that they have the option of abstaining because of their lack of competence. When bishops cannot even get the first principles of political community correct (look at the incomplete state of Roman Catholic social teaching in this regard), does it really matter what they think about political matters. At best they could give discuss evils that are prohibited and what obvious voting choices are prohibited because they facilitate or involve formal cooperation in evil. But they would also have to acknowledge that it is possible that they are ignorant about other voting choices that facilitate evil or involve formal cooperation in evil, as these are known only to the experts in the moral theology.

  18. The murder of thousands of babies every day in our midst is not just another issue on a par with all the rest, anymore than Jew-gassing in Nazi Germany or slavery in the antebellum South were issues on a par with other issues. The bigotry that allows such catastrophes is perpetuated and affirmed when the correction of such abuse of human dignity and human rights is not made the priority.

    It is simply evil not to make the mass murder of children the priority, and it is evil to fail to inform the laity of the grave sinfulness of voting for politicians who support it. There are no proportionate reasons that justify voting for such politicians.

  19. Bishop Strickland and Archbishop Chaput were defending Catholic moral teaching. Writing in Christifideles Laici Pope St. John Paul II stated as follows: “the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
    Defense of the innocent unborn is indeed the preeminent concern of our day.

  20. Bravo to the 140-or-so US Bishops who voted to defend the lives of the unborn, and down with the 70-or-so US Bishops who voted against STANDING OUT to defend the lives of the unborn.

  21. Would the author have Bishop Strickland not confront what he clearly understood as a game of words, and a battle over protocol? – Pharisaic tricks! God bless him, and the Holy Ghost be praised for giving Strickland eyes to see.
    As for “The consequence of that backlash is that some Catholics may needlessly lose trust in their bishops, and lose confidence in the claims of the Catholic Church” – the writer’s head is buried somewhere in the sand. Loss of trust and confidence exists in many more than “some,” and has one source – the muddled waters of the current Pontificate.

  22. Two months before Roe v Wade Michigan voters rejected abortion to 20 weeks by 63 percent, and North Dakota voters by 67 percent. Thus when the Supreme Court overturned all state laws against abortion the stunned bishops should have reacted with one voice, telling their 55 million Catholics, something like this: “The next time your congressman comes home, put your hands loosely around his neck and say, ‘You’re a nice guy, Bill, but if you don’t overturn this immediately you’ll be toast in the next election.’ Problem solved. Instead they designated October Pro-Life month and afiled to wield the awesome political power of American Catholics. The confused Cardinal Bernardin’s ‘Seamless Garment’ gave congressmen and Catholics an ‘out’. But the SG is analagous to a man’s choking on a piece of meat, and the bystanders arguing, “Well first we have to tie his shoes” (poverty), and “Look…..his necktie is crooked” (homelessness), and “Wait till we clean his fingernails (capital punishment), instead of decisively doing the Heimlich maneuver (congressional action). After all these years the prospect is much more difficult because abortion has sadly insinuated itself into most family circles, making people reluctant to speak against it. Which brings us to the present travesty in which every candidate for the presidency in the traditional party of Catholics supports abortion up to the moment of birth! But the bishops, sadly, had nothing to say about this in Baltimore

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Analysis: The USCCB ‘abortion debate,’ and what came after - Catholic Daily
  2. Analysis: The USCCB ‘abortion debate,’ and what came after | Catholic Canada

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.


*