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Kicking off

posted by awelborn

Post edited:
Here’s the full text of Cardinal George’s speech, from the USCCB website:

In working for the common good of our society, racial justice is one pillar of our social doctrine. Economic justice, especially for the poor both here and abroad, is another. But the Church comes also and always and everywhere with the memory, the conviction, that the Eternal Word of God became man, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, nine months before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This truth is celebrated in our liturgy because it is branded into our spirit. The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice. If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be president of the United States. Today, as was the case a hundred and fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good.
This is the fiftieth year since the calling of the Second Vatican Council by Blessed Pope John XXIII. The Pope looked at a divided world and hoped that the Church could act as Lumen Gentium calls us, as the “sacrament of the unity of the human race.” Those who would weaken our internal unity render the Church’s external mission to the world more difficult if not impossible. Jesus promised that the world would believe in him if we are one: one in faith and doctrine, one in prayer and sacrament, one in governance and shepherding. The Church and her life and teaching do not fit easily into the prior narratives that shape our public discussions. As bishops, we can only insist that those who would impose their own agenda on the Church, those who believe and act self-righteously, answerable only to themselves, whether ideologically on the left or the right, betray the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our episcopal conference is given us in the Church’s canon law so that we might have an instrument for shaping spiritual unity, for creating the bonds of affection that help us to govern in communion with each other, especially in a divided world and in a Church that knows dissent from some of her teachings and dissatisfaction with aspects of her governance. As we all know, the Church was born without episcopal conferences, as she was born without parishes and without dioceses, although all these structures have been helpful pastorally throughout the centuries. The Church was born only with shepherds, with apostolic pastors, whose relationship to their people keeps them one with Christ, from whom comes authority to govern the Church. Strengthening people’s relationship with Christ remains our primary concern and duty as bishops. We extend that pastoral concern, especially at the beginning of a new administration and a new Congress, to Catholics of either major party who serve others in government. We respect you and we love you, and we pray that the Catholic faith will shape your decisions so that our communion may be full.
We meet amidst enormous challenges to our Church, our country and our ministry, but that is, to some extent, always the case. Sometimes I’ve been tempted to think that bishops should be given, at their consecration, not crosiers but mops! What we are given before the crosier, if you recall, is the Word of God in written form, held above our head so that it may permeate our spirit. With you, I pray that all the topics we consider in our meeting now and all we do in the difficult days to come will be done together in the charity of Christ, who is the source of our unity and our strength. In so governing, in calling all to join us in listening to the incarnate Word of God from within his body, the Church, what we do now will have consequences for eternity; and we will be good shepherds to our people, good servants in our society and good disciples of Our Lord.



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bill bannon

posted November 10, 2008 at 10:44 am


I hope they address how younger Catholics became increasingly pro choice:
Catholic News Service Oct.14… ” Young Catholics said they are more likely to support legalized abortion and same-sex marriage than older Catholics; 60 percent of young Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 51 percent of older Catholics who believe that.”
source: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0805230.htm
NCR had several years ago found the same thing simultaneous with the same young Catholics being against the death penalty. So it seems that the young Catholics ingested the latter position on the death penalty from the last papacy and from the USCCB….without ingesting the anti abortion position which is now infallibly defined in section 62 of “Evangelium Vitae” by John Paul II….whereas the death penalty issue has no such exalted ranking. So the young are against an infallibly defined position on abortion….. and are unified obediently to the recent Magisterium on what is not the subject of infallibility…the death penalty. I hope they have free Advil at the Conference.



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Joseph

posted November 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm


The speech sounds promising, but let’s see if he meant what he said about “mops”.



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Janet Kempf

posted November 10, 2008 at 1:43 pm


This is in response to Bill Bannon’s comments.
Without the benefit of researching an answer, I’ll take a stab at an answer as to how younger Catholics have become pro choice.
I’ll wager that most of the young Catholics polled have attended public schools and that’s where they “ingested the latter position on the death penalty….without ingesting the anti abortion postition”. The formation of their consciences have little to do with any papal encyclical or USCCB letter.
That is why I think the Catholic Church would be better off – particularly in urban areas where Catholic education is in decline – in concentrating real money and resources into CCD and Adult Catechesis programs.



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Mike

posted November 10, 2008 at 2:22 pm


One needs to fly speck the poll data.
Are these young people those who “call themselves Catholic” or those who regularly attend Mass? In the latter category, my guess is that opposition to abortion is much higher.



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Nerina

posted November 10, 2008 at 2:26 pm


Janet. I agree about funding more Adult catechesis programs. Educate the parents, and then let the parents educate their children.
My two older children are now in junior high and are just beginning to be exposed to very liberal ideologies. However, the Catholic faith is daily conversation at our dinner table. We constantly talk about having a Catholic worldview and how it affects our beliefs and actions. I pray that what we’re doing is having some positive effect.
Bill, that’s a depressing survey. When I’ve gone to the March for Life, I’m always impressed by how many young people attend. I wonder who was surveyed?



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Clayton

posted November 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm


We are, perhaps, at a moment when, with the grace of God, all races are safely within the American consensus. We are not at the point, however, when Catholics, especially in public life, can be considered full partners in the American experience unless they are willing to put aside some fundamental Catholic teachings on a just moral and political order. The hubris that has isolated our country politically and now economically is heard, but not usually recognized, in moral arguments based simply and solely on individual moral autonomy. This personal and social dilemma is not, of course, a matter of ultimate importance, for America is not the Kingdom of God; but it makes America herself far less than she claims to be in this world.
This was well put, and needed to be said. I wonder if the MSM will tune this out in their coverage.



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Jim

posted November 10, 2008 at 3:40 pm


Mike,
It’s very un-Christian to speak of Catholics in terms of subcategores. Baptized Catholics are Catholics. Period.
We have an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays, but not doing so is not grounds to excommunicate.
Besides, bishops should be concerned about all Catholics, all Christians and all people within their dioceses.



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lisas

posted November 10, 2008 at 5:27 pm


I’m sorry and embarassed that I can’t answer this well if at all, which is why I’m asking here.
What is economic justice? What does it look like in the real world? How do we know when it is acheived or realized even in one small place, a corner, a neighborhood, a household, a person?
Is acheiving economic justice even the right words to use?



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Karen LH

posted November 10, 2008 at 6:17 pm


Lisas,
I don’t know if this is the kind of answer that you are looking for, but the Holy See published a “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”, which is a compendium of all of the Church’s teaching about social justice, which would include your question.
You can buy it in book form from Amazon, or read it online here.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted November 10, 2008 at 8:09 pm


“It’s very un-Christian to speak of Catholics in terms of subcategores. Baptized Catholics are Catholics. Period.
“We have an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays, but not doing so is not grounds to excommunicate.”
Actually, excommunicated Catholics are still Catholics too. But in understanding the effectiveness of the Church’s catachesis and the extent to which her members follow her teachings, it makes sense to look at different categories.
Of course, the Church and its organizations make distinctions too… the Knights of Columbus for example is open only to practical Catholics.



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Sawyer

posted November 10, 2008 at 8:26 pm


To Bill and Janet:
The young Catholics who oppose the death penalty and support legal abortion are the products of defective, gravely scandalous catechesis in our parishes and Catholic schools. Check out the percentage of young Catholics who support same-sex marriage.
What passes for religious education is often better and more accurately characterized as leftist ideology dressed up in the terminology of Catholic faith.
If something is supported by leftist ideology, then all the Catholic documents and authors that seem to support it (even though the issue might be a matter of prudential judgment rather than doctrine) are referred to and taught.
If something is opposed by leftist ideology, it is either ignored or the pseudo-doctrine of the “primacy of conscience” becomes the central part of the lesson. Seldom is Catholic doctrine on a matter opposed by leftist ideology given clear, correct, complete or convincing presentation to young people by their teachers, mostly because the teachers don’t assent to Catholic faith on those matters.
I teach in a Catholic high school, and you’d be flabbergasted at what passes for religious education. One teacher, a permanent deacon, told the class that he supported same-sex marriage and that the Church’s doctrine against homosexual acts and unions was merely its position that anyone in good conscience could disagree with. God help us.



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Jim

posted November 10, 2008 at 8:34 pm


Well, a lot of the talk about election results and the differences between Mass-attending Catholics and Mass-non-attending Catholics is starting to sound like the GOP’s appeal to “Real Americans”. Catholics are Catholics, called together by their baptism.
If we’re going to encourage more frequent Mass attendance — which I think is a key for the Church’s mission — we can’t do it just to try to assure voting en bloc.
And we certainly can’t start writing off our brothers and sisters in Christ. None of us is earning our salvation: it’s a gift from God.



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Rich Leonardi

posted November 10, 2008 at 8:47 pm


It’s very un-Christian to speak of Catholics in terms of subcategores. Baptized Catholics are Catholics. Period.
Would you not agree that statistical distinctions exist between practicing and non-practicing Catholics? That was Mike’s point, I think.



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Jim

posted November 10, 2008 at 9:51 pm


Mike’s question was about young people “who call themselves Catholic” [his quotation marks]…….we’ll each have to decide if it was intended to be snarky.



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Mike

posted November 10, 2008 at 9:55 pm


Yes, that was my point, Rich.
I’m not trying to trash Catholics who don’t attend Mass.
I’m simply positing that non-Mass attending Catholics may skew the data on “support” for abortion.
Non-Mass attending Catholics skewed the data on “support” for Obama. Count them and a “majority of Catholics” voted for Obama. Don’t count them and a “majority of Catholics” voted for McCain.
There are interesting reasons why this is the case, but I was simply trying to cheer up Bill Bannon. It’s not as bad out there as the enemies of the Church would have the public believe.



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Blake Helgoth

posted November 11, 2008 at 3:38 am


Young catholics:
I spent more than 8 years involved in youth ministy for a very large parish. I would say over a 3rd – 2/3rds of the youth I worked with did not attend Sunday Mass on a regular basis, hopefully due to no lack of effort on my part. When they were polled about media and social choices, their responses were little different form their non-Christina peers. When quizzed about doctrine, few knew the basics. Those that did came from families that were involved and took the Church seriously. But even those families that seem solid would send kids to universities that that made it difficult at best to remain faithful. I watched year after year as many of the ‘better’ kids fell away at the hands of secular (or catholic in name only) campus life and teaching. So, I suppose that it is no suprise that these young Catholics vote the way they do. I’d say the answer lies in serious doctrinal teaching and reform of Catholic higher education. I hope the bishops continue to take into consideration what Pope Benedict XVI had to say about that when he visited.



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Joseph R. Wilson

posted November 11, 2008 at 7:05 am


“I teach in a Catholic high school, and you’d be flabbergasted at what passes for religious education.”
Many of our bishops are asleep at the wheel. Wake up! We need good teaching from our bishops. Where is the logic of the Catholic politician taking a stance against society having the right to end the life of a dangerous criminal, while supporting a right for the woman to end the life of her innocent child? Our teachers haven’t been well taught.



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Maureen

posted November 11, 2008 at 7:43 am


Nobody is writing anybody off. They’re distinguishing between “people who go to church on Sundays or more often, who have gotten catechized more and thus understand that babies are people with rights” versus “people who’ve never gotten much catechesis, thus never go to church, thus don’t understand that babies are people with rights because all they know is what the mainstream culture teaches”. There seem to be fairly clear differentiations, as large groups.
Now, of course, some people who have gone to church every Sunday or more often have still not gotten catechized correctly on this issue, which would likely be a function of how various dioceses and parishes handle this stuff. Similarly, there are probably plenty of Catholics who never got much teaching or who really have trouble getting up on Sundays, but who somehow learned or reasoned out that babies are people with rights. But as large groups, that’s not how it works.
This isn’t a condemnation of Catholics who haven’t been taught what they should do. Those who didn’t teach them — those are people who need to think about their souls. Also, those Catholics who do know better but still don’t come to church, or refuse to believe that babies have rights, or believe that babies are people with rights but it’s completely okay for people who aren’t Catholics to do mean things to them (especially if said Catholics pull a long face and think deep agonized thoughts while voting in ways that get babies killed, the which sad thoughts are sure proof you’re not committing sins) — those are people who need to think about their souls .
But Jesus Christ is the only one who can condemn.
Well, Jesus, judges on death penalty cases, and abortionists with the proper killing tools.



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Clayton

posted November 11, 2008 at 8:12 am


I wonder if there are parallels between the current situation and the situation of the Church in third-century Carthage at the time of St. Cyprian.
If so, what lessons might be helpful for us today?
(Someone with a better grasp of Church history than me: please comment!)



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lisas

posted November 11, 2008 at 10:09 am


Another simple thought from me: maybe those young people need to be around more babies and pregnant women to stop seeing pregnancy and children as some sort of detriment to achievement and hindrance to wealth or middle class prosperity.
Maybe they need to meet more women and men who have children, enjoy their children.
Maybe we need to look at our own Catholic culture prosperity gospel and build up qualities and attitudes in kids that help them choose life. Self-control. A sense of sacrifice as opposed to a sense of entitlement. This isn’t easy. I struggle with these daily. Doesn’t everyone? The message of secular culture is “go ahead, you deserve it.”



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Jim

posted November 11, 2008 at 11:08 am


In other words, exclusionary quotation marks aside, a majority of Catholics voted for Obama, as best we can tell.
This is the data that the bishops should consider primarily, not consoling themselves with the data on one subgroup.
It reminds me of a discussion I witnessed at a parish in which a lay person suggested we should step up our efforts to bring in the non-Mass-attending Catholics and to which the pastor said something to the effect that we have no room to handle them at Mass and we already have enough Masses. In other words, it’s easier to preach to the choir.
If Baptism is efficacious — and I believe it is — we should concern ourselves with all baptized Catholics.
What I believe is going on here is that the data are being revisited and re-sorted so that the effectiveness of the bishops’ recent efforts is not questioned too closely.



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Jose

posted November 11, 2008 at 11:10 am


regarding categorizing Catholics:
I sometimes sit in the pew and think that 90% of the folks there are ‘cultural Catholics’ robotically doing what their parents did with no real idea of why they are there.
My next thought is that we would be much better off without them.
But then I remember that I used to be one of them and am forever grateful that I was not ejected by the 10 percent and beg forgiveness for such petty mean-spirited thoughts.
Still, if we want to understand what is going on, we do need to acknowledge that there are categories.



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Emily

posted November 11, 2008 at 12:14 pm


Could someone with a better grasp of Church history than I please explain what the situation of the Church in Carthage at the time of St. Cyprian was, and why Clayton (comment #19) referenced it? I freely admit that I don’t really have much knowledge of Church history, and I’m curious. Thanks!



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Mary Jane

posted November 11, 2008 at 12:54 pm


The parallel to third-century Carthage is intriguing. The critical point is that the bishops will finally have to act. For each bishop who makes a statement, there are a host who remain silent.
Call influential and highly public individuals who press for/support/vote for abortion, etc. to repentance and reconciliation – with a time limit. If they persist in error, you have to excommunicate them. For their own good and the good of all those they give scandal to and who are led astray, justifying their behavior with the example of powerful people in public office.
You’re not burning anyone at the stake. You’re not depriving them of their livelihood or public office. You’re just clarifying what it means to follow the teachings of the Church. And the door is always open to come back.
Otherwise, the bishops will continue down the road to irrelevance.



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Glenn Juday

posted November 11, 2008 at 1:12 pm


#24 “Otherwise, the bishops will continue down the road to irrelevance.”
should read
“Otherwise, the bishops will continue down the road to covenant faithlessness”.



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TerryC

posted November 11, 2008 at 1:14 pm


Jim,
When attempting to analyze polling results not taking into account the situations of the subjects results in skewed results. For this purpose lets divide the polling pool, which consists of people who self-identify as Catholic into two groups. Group A will consist of people who adhere Catholic doctrine. Group B will consist of people who don’t.
Those who adhere to the requirements of the Church will attend Mass every Sunday.
Those who do not attend Mass every Sunday are not likely to listed to what the bishops say either. If they are already ignoring a fundamental requirement of their faith, weekly worship, which is mandatory, why would anyone think that they will listen to the guidance of their bishop, which is also mandatory?
The fact that they attend Mass faithfully is an indication of their entire relationship with the Church. The fact that they do not is also an indication of their relationship with the Church.
Realistically the bishop’s influence over someone who has, by their own actions, failure to following even the simplest requirement of their Catholic faith, is pretty likely to be nill.
The fact that the Group A people attend Mass regularly does not mean they will attend to their bishop, but it is much more meaningful to look at that group to determine how much influence the bishops have.
It is also meaningful to ask what the bishops should do to increase their influence among Group A. Better catechesis is a valid answer.
Group B is not likely to have the opportunity to be exposed to better catechesis. In truth this is no more a monolithic group than Group A, but the common thread is that members of Group B are probably not members of a parish, do not have a pastor, and get almost all of their information on the Church from secular sources. While not content to write off these people, reaching them is probably not much different than evangelizing Protestants and is a chore for people engaged in the missions rather than an internal matter for the diocesan bishop.



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Jim

posted November 11, 2008 at 2:12 pm


“Group B is not likely to have the opportunity to be exposed to better catechesis. In truth this is no more a monolithic group than Group A, but the common thread is that members of Group B are probably not members of a parish, do not have a pastor, and get almost all of their information on the Church from secular sources. While not content to write off these people, reaching them is probably not much different than evangelizing Protestants and is a chore for people engaged in the missions rather than an internal matter for the diocesan bishop.”
Are you kidding? Most of your so-called “Group B” are, you might be surprised to find, registered in a parish.
Too bad you regard their pastoral care as “a chore for people engaged in missions”………….the poor virtual Protestants…….almost like Samaritins.



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Mike

posted November 11, 2008 at 5:05 pm


Terry C states it quite correctly.
Remember, the concern mentioned by Bill Bannon was that young Catholics do not oppose abortion as one would think they should.
This statement can only be understood in context, as Terry points out. Many of those who blur the context do so in order to do damage to the Church—to show it as powerless and ineffective.
In terms of action, the Bishops should not abandon their efforts with non-Mass attending Catholics. Indeed, there are significant efforts in the culture to “evangelize” them (quotes because it’s a superficially anomalous to “evangelize” already baptized Catholics).
But priorities must be established in any organization, and the priorities of the Church, in terms of life issues, should focus on turning around Mass-attending Catholics. In differing degrees, they are a more receptive group and therefore more capable of being converted.
The Church should also focus more urgently on dispelling confusion created by high profile individuals (priests and lay alike) who misrepresent Church teaching. The response to Pelosi and Biden was a good start, but it needs to be done incessantly, since the confusion itself is created incessantly. Doing this ever once in a while does not work, and creates cynicism that the Church has ulterior motives.



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Franklin Jennings

posted November 11, 2008 at 10:56 pm


“What I believe is going on here is that the data are being revisited and re-sorted so that the effectiveness of the bishops’ recent efforts is not questioned too closely.”
Clayton points to something interesting, but I suspect Jim is spot on in his analysis. The Bishops have tried teaching, teaching isn’t working.
I assume Jim is proposing that the Bishops try excommunicating all who fail to keep the precepts of the Church, so that we might better ensure their catechesis. I’m not certain I endorse so draconian a measure, but it can be argued to have merit.
I mean, otherwise, Jim would seem to be just obfuscating, and I’d never make an assumption like that. Wouldn’t be charitable. Then again, Jim isn’t even clear on what excommunication is.



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Glenn Juday

posted November 12, 2008 at 2:13 am


As near as I can tell, the body of bishops as a group (with appropriate allowance for individual exceptions) have been notable for papering over irreconcilable differences, extending consequence-free forgiveness to abusing priests that degenerated into systematic abuse of the lay faithful, adopting a PR approach when the depth of scandals was revealed, avoiding confrontation of anti-Catholic propaganda posing as instruction in the faith, immersing themselves in reports and committees, and preferentially avoiding criticism from the political left.
A mixture of the silly, irrelevant, maddening, and horrifying.
The bishops, as a body (with appropriate allowance for individual exceptions) have not been notable for an overriding concern for sanctification of the lay faithful (see Vatican 2), offering the sacraments in joyous accord with the mind of the Church, propagating the liturgical and artistic riches of the western Church as a living heritage, zealously guarding the Holy Eucharist from profanation and the lay faithful from scandal, and generally being willing to take vicious criticism from the culture and its elites in unshakable firmness for eternal truth.
Their title means “overseer”. What they are to oversee is not politics, their own preferences, or even the typically lax and slouching, spiritually down-market preferences of the laity they are called to lead to holiness (not to electoral victory). They are to oversee the saving Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the saving power of the sacraments. Look at, in this year of St. Paul, how proud he was of his sufferings and the abuse he took.
Our bishops need our prayers. We need their spiritual leadership and fatherhood. How long, O Lord, how long?



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Jim

posted November 12, 2008 at 7:52 am


Actually, Franklin, I’m even more simplistic than you assume I am. ;-)
The bishops are still stuck on proving how theologically sophisticated they are when what is needed is basic catechesis………….a topic they have sadly neglected among their flocks for almost 40 years.
Catholics, especially non-practicing Catholics, need to be fed and nourished in the faith……………..otherwise all the nuanced statements and veiled threats that the bishops can concoct will continue to get the same results.
From what I saw yesterday at the USCCB session, they are still convinced that all that is needed is better rhetoric. Neither wordsmithing nor threats of excommunication are going to get the results they want. It surely hasn’t woked so far.
On the other hand, if they don’t really care about being effective, they are on the right path.



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bill bannon

posted November 13, 2008 at 10:59 am


The Bishops’ letter to Obama is now at the USCCB site and again as in an after conference press interview two days ago on EWTN, Cardinal George…(who seemed intent on giving press interviewers a minimum in his answers to them)…alludes here in this letter to “Catholics” being all against abortion…which he stated at the inception of the said interview also:
“On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will.”
Would that it were so. Obama can read in the news media or at Catholic News Service that it is not so….that many Catholics are bizarrely non Catholic on that infallibly defined issue issue (EV,sect.62).
If Obama perceives that the leader of the USCCB thinks non real rhetorical tricks like statements of fictional unity will work on a Harvard lawyer, we are in trouble. In my opinion, the letter would have been better served to warn of the closing of one third of the US’s hospitals..Catholic… were they to be coerced by FOCA to perform anything that went against their conscience. Mention of the risk of damnation in this area for all but those with a sincere erroneous conscience….would also have been apropo….but I know that is asking too much… though centuries ago, Rome often made that plain to kings.



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Mike

posted November 13, 2008 at 11:59 pm


Bill-
I frankly wish Pope Benedict would make things “plain” to Catholic politicians, as you say.
As Obama is not a Catholic, Pope Benedict can’t hold sway with him, but let Benedict lay the gauntlet down for him in a different way.
The voices of the American Bishops are too disparate, unfortunately.
Let the rebuke come from Rome, from the top, as it did in olden days. Let there be no ambiguity.
Mike



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