Pontifications

Pontifications


Bishops’ strategy on Obama: Good Cops, Bad Cops?

posted by David Gibson

Cardinal Francis George.jpgSo the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S., through its president, Chicago Cardinal Francis George, welcomes the incoming President-elect just before his inauguration with a respectful, constructive letter, dated Jan. 13, setting out hopes for collaboration and working together on a range of issues, including the pro-life agenda. Notably, Cardinal George did not refer to the Roe decision, and proffered a commitment to working together on policies to “reduce the number of abortions.”
It sure seemed like folks with some political savvy–which the hierarchy did not demonstrate during the election campaign–got to the leadership with some words of wisdom about political realities, and what to fear and who not to fear, and how best to advance the cause. The Jan. 13 letter was a marked shift from the tone and substance of George’s immediate, flat-footed, ham-handed post-election statement regarding Obama.
Obama oath.jpgBut wait! The day before Inauguration Day came word of a follow-up letter from George to Obama on Jan. 16, in which he warned the incoming president not to reverse Bush policies on abotion funding or stem cells, saying they “could introduce significant negative and divisive factors into our national life, at a time when we need to come together to address the serious challenges facing our people.”
Compare that all to the markedly different tone from Rome. A nice telegram from the Pope; an inauguration commentary in L’Osservatore Romano comparing Washington to Berlin in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall; and a Vatican Radio interview with Rick Garnett of Notre Dame who, according to Catholic World News, “commented on the new president’s openness to religion and predicted that under his leadership, the United States would continue to be less secularist than many European nations.”
What does it all mean? First, that the bishops–whose deo internal divisions were exposed during the campaign–are still struggling to find a strategy and a voice to deal with the new political reality. Second, it’s easy for the Vatican to make nice. The local bishops are the point men who have to deal with the Administration on policy questions. Third, George’s tone, while still seeming to come from between clenched teeth, was a good deal more constructive even in the follow-up letter than the November statement and the comments from other bishops and much of the pro-life community.
Reality is being to take hold. The final question is whether this is too little, too late. There is still so little recognition of the historic moment of Obama’s election, little sense of joy or any emotion, or appreciation of the prospect of the end of a terrible policies on torture and such. The bishops seem like such bystanders to this moment.
And there’s a danger that if they don’t get their act together, they may remain so.



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mdiehl

posted January 22, 2009 at 12:44 pm


They seem to have been in that mode since the death of Cardinal Bernardin.



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Charles Cosimano

posted January 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm


I would imagine Obama will politely deal with them in public while privately saying that they can stuff it. If he really does come out of the UCC, he has as much use for the Catholic Bishops as he does for a large rock on the White House lawn. He did not need them to be elected and if he can put the economy back together he will not need them for anything.



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pagansister

posted January 22, 2009 at 7:54 pm


Well said, Charles Cosimano. Obama and actually most folks don’t need the RCC telling us what is right and wrong or what to do. Only I guess if you happen to be Catholic.



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lenber

posted January 23, 2009 at 6:26 pm


Okay Pagansister would you tell us what is wrong being a Catholic?



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Jimmy Mac

posted January 25, 2009 at 6:18 pm


I second what Charles Cosimano had to say. If these bishops think that they will have ANY clout with this administration, they need to start smoking something less hallucinatory. I hope that Obama freezes out Catholic clerical influence completely. The sooner these self-impressed, over-dressed, pampered, cocoon-living theocrats come to a realization that they are virtually useless in the influence business, the sooner they will develop humility and do their penance for the way they have treated Obama during the election and how they have treated their flocks of sheep (not a compliment) over the past few years.



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Abrazos!

posted January 26, 2009 at 12:02 pm


I agree that some of their statements could be delivered with more tact at times. I struggle with their ways of communicating myself. I guess it comes down to what the end objective is. Now my understanding of the CC’s clerics is that they are responsible for one thing: to state the truth of matters at hand as Jesus did–in season and out of season, public relations reps or not (ref. Jn 6:). In that light, it seems like the critics of Jesus’ time probably would have posted articles much like this one. Come to think of it, Jesus just had about ZERO political savvy/clout when it came to dealing with the Pharisees and Sadduccees. I mean, He didn’t even last 3 years in ministry before getting nailed to a tree!! How’s that for strategy?! Perhaps at first glance, those pundits might have seemed right. However, history shows us something different. “Worldy wisdom”–for whatever reason–doesn’t appear to always be compatible with “Godly wisdom.” Today, those clerics of the CC are stewards of a ~2000 year old Church, which has now existed longer than any current institution. Maybe, Jesus wasn’t as dumb as He looked (His personal ministry lasted for less than a current US President’s term)…and maybe the CC clerics aren’t either…only time will tell…but as Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.” Maybe they’re smarter than we give them credit for…



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Abrazos!

posted January 26, 2009 at 12:02 pm


I agree that some of their statements could be delivered with more tact at times. I struggle with their ways of communicating myself. I guess it comes down to what the end objective is. Now my understanding of the CC’s clerics is that they are responsible for one thing: to state the truth of matters at hand as Jesus did–in season and out of season, public relations reps or not (ref. Jn 6:). In that light, it seems like the critics of Jesus’ time probably would have posted articles much like this one. Come to think of it, Jesus just had about ZERO political savvy/clout when it came to dealing with the Pharisees and Sadduccees. I mean, He didn’t even last 3 years in ministry before getting nailed to a tree!! How’s that for strategy?! Perhaps at first glance, those pundits might have seemed right. However, history shows us something different. “Worldy wisdom”–for whatever reason–doesn’t appear to always be compatible with “Godly wisdom.” Today, those clerics of the CC are stewards of a ~2000 year old Church, which has now existed longer than any current institution. Maybe, Jesus wasn’t as dumb as He looked (His personal ministry lasted for less than a current US President’s term)…and maybe the CC clerics aren’t either…only time will tell…but as Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.” Maybe they’re smarter than we give them credit for…



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