Writer James Carroll takes a quick scan through the latest headlines involving the Catholic Church and politics and concludes, with no small amount of distaste, that the episcopal deck is stacked with (you can almost hear him shudder) conservatives:
The bishops define the public face of Catholicism-and that face is now marked by a scowling moralism. In days past, the immigrant Church was defined by its core commitment to serve workers, the poor, and the marginal. Catholicism was a powerful partner in the New Deal, Labor, War-on-Poverty, and Civil Rights coalitions, and though there were always conservative bishops (like Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York), the Church did not make doctrinal or ethical conformity a precondition of its participation in the struggle for equal justice. That is why, across the 20th century, it was a force for progressive social change. That is over.
For the first time in its history, the American Catholic hierarchy is solidly right wing. There is not one liberal voice among its members. The bishops are at home with the heirs of a know-nothing fundamentalism that once, by every measure of theology and social policy, embodied the Church’s opposite. This realignment is the consequence, within Catholicism, of the conservative appointments made to the episcopate over 27 years by Pope John Paul II, but it also reflects the broader, post-Ronald Reagan phenomenon of the arrival of the Religious Right as an establishment force in American politics.
Continue for the rest.
I’m not entirely sure what Carroll would like to see done differently. Does he expect a bishop to speak out in favor of gay marriage? Ordaining women? Should a bishop advocate giving communion to active supporters of abortion?