William Donohue, the outspoken head of the right-tilting Catholic League, has a neat thumbnail sketch of the politics of the bishops conference. It is contained in an email message he sent to USNews’ Dan Gilgoff, apropos of Dan’s post arguing that “the silent majority of U.S. Catholic bishops are embarrassed by conservative bishops’ outspokeness on developments like President Obama’s recent Notre Dame address.” Donohue writes:
The real story here is not that most [bishops] said nothing, it’s about the 80 or so who spoke out. In my 16 years in this job, I have never seen that many bishops go public about an issue like this. In any event, from my perspective, we have more bishops willing to speak out now on matters that conservative Catholics want them to address than we’ve seen in a very, very long time. The ’60s was a decade in transition, the ’70s and ’80s were ruled by liberal bishops, the ’90s was a decade in transition, and now it’s the conservative bishops who are leading the flock.
That’s about as pithy and political–and politically correct, in the sense that it’s a right-on analysis–as it gets. Whether those conservative bishops are leading the flock, or even the hierarchy, is an open question, I’d say.