By CHRISTOPHER MANION, February 15, 2020
At the USCCB’s annual meeting last November, America’s bishops considered updating their document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizens. The text, published every four years, represents a classic in the genre of boring, meandering memos prepared by large and cumbersome committees. Nonetheless the November debate on the document exposed serious fissures in the ranks of the USCCB.
The debate centered on the content of a letter introducing this year’s version of the document. On one side, Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago and Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego sought to remove the depiction of abortion as a “preeminent issue.” Their proposal was criticized by Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, who insisted that the term remain in the document, and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., who cited the views of Pope Francis in endorsing the term’s prominence in the text.
Ultimately, bishops voted 143-69 in favor of keeping the original text. It reads as follows:
“The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty, and the death penalty.”
After the vote, Archbishop Chaput complained that Bishop McElroy’s argument “sets up an artificial battle between the Bishops’ Conference of the United States and the Holy Father.”
Unfortunately, Your Excellency, it’s worse than that. What the debate really exposed was a genuine battle fomenting within the USCCB membership itself. The “Seamless Garment” legacy of Cardinals Joseph Bernardin and Theodore McCarrick lives on today, not only among the bishops but within the conference’s permanent bureaucracy as well.
And while in November the bishops voted two to one in favor of keeping abortion “preeminent” among the Church’s concerns, the conference’s Deep State employees are stacked in the other direction. Even though they represent only a minority of the bishops, their power is secure. Whatever officers the USCCB’s periodic “elections” might name, the McCarrick Machine is still firmly in charge.
In 2018, Jayd Henricks, a longtime USCCB senior executive, published in First Things magazine a plea to the bishops he had served for eleven years. “It seems to me that there are two dominant camps among the bishops in the United States, and perhaps worldwide,” he wrote. “One regards the Church as a platform for political interests. My professional experience taught me that this group includes key authorities in Rome. The other regards the Church as a pastoral reality.”
As The Wanderer reported at the time, Mr. Henricks demanded a thorough investigation of the McCarrick Machine, followed by a quick and necessary cleansing of the USCCB’s ranks. “I implore you nonetheless,” he wrote the bishops, “to state publicly what most of you know needs to be done so that the corruption within the Church is brought into the light and eradicated. Only if the evil is exposed can the Church be healed. If you do not pursue this course, the faithful will blame you for the next scandal, which is sure to come, and their distrust will surpass that of the present moment.”
As we now know, nothing was done, the scandals continue, and the distrust has grown indeed.
Last week, the USCCB’s Catholic News Service (CNS) made a major announcement. “A series of long-planned videos that supplement the U.S. bishops’ quadrennial ‘Faithful Citizenship’ document that provides guidance to voters during a presidential election year have been finalized for viewing . . . five videos in four languages explore various aspects of Catholic social teaching while reflecting the teaching of Pope Francis.”
The article cited Jill Rauh, director of education and outreach in the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development. Rauh told CNS: “The videos intend to help Catholics engage in participation in political life, first and foremost, guided by their faith as opposed to any affiliation with any political party that they have.”
“In addition, the videos invite Catholics to engage with civility and to learn about and advocate on behalf of all of who are vulnerable, from the unborn to immigrants to people who are in poverty, to our common home, to families,” Rauh said. (USCCB sources tell The Wanderer that “several offices” contributed to the video production, “especially the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.”)
A report in LifeSiteNews prompted me to review the English and Spanish videos for The Wanderer. I kept searching for the prominent featuring of abortion, which the bishops had soundly voted to keep “preeminent.”
It was nowhere to be found. Of all the feel-good images reflecting the other Social Justice issues, the producers couldn’t even fit in one Ultrasound of an unborn child.
The videos turned the bishops’ decision upside-down, and Bishop Strickland was incensed. “This contradicts the wording of preeminence the Bishops voted on & recent comments from the Holy Father,” he wrote on Twitter. “The preeminence of the sanctity of life in the womb must be respected. What good is a pristine planet if the unborn never get to live on it?!?”
Will USCCB’s Videos Have Magisterial Warning Label?
Many Catholics don’t know it, but all of us are forced each and every weekend to pay for all this. Our Sunday collections are taxed by our diocese, and the diocese in turn is taxed by the USCCB. In fact, last November, the bishops passed a tax hike on every diocese to squeeze even more money out of the faithful to fund the USCCB’s renegade bureaucracy.
Mr. Henricks identified one USCCB faction that views its role as a “platform for political interests.” Today that powerful group is known as the McCarrick Machine. Even though they lost two to one in last November’s vote, they still run the USCCB’s day-to-day operations. The results are twofold: While the conference’s “experts” routinely dilute the Church’s moral teaching (as they have with the videos), they pander and promote the political agenda of the Democrat National Committee. And the faithful are paying the bill.
Many Catholics wonder, “Why bother with the USCCB at all. Who listens to them?” After all, as Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon bluntly admitted eight years ago, the abuse and coverup scandals “shredded” our bishops’ credibility. It was shredded then, and it is shredded now. So who listens to them, anyway?
That’s a good question. According to Pew Trust, there are 99 Democrat Catholic representatives and senators in the 112th Congress. 98 of them are pro-abortion until birth. And well over 90 of them have never been publicly remonstrated by their bishops, much less denied Communion under Canon 915. And yet the USCCB’s Deep State endorses virtually every policy item on their agenda.
But wait, what about abortion? We have learned from this Political Video Scandal that the USCCB bureaucracy can and will defy the bishops on even this “preeminent” issue. And Donald Trump? Well, he’s the most pro-life president in history, but so what?
The bishops’ credibility is shredded, but they are still useful to the pro-abortion Democrats. Here’s how: When they trot out their socialist programs, these vile, villainous advocates of infanticide can claim moral cover from —– the Catholic Church! The endless drivel in USCCB’s foul political effluence is grist for the Abortion Party’s malicious mill.
The “Faithful Citizenship” videos require a warning label: “These videos do not represent the teaching of the USCCB and Pope Francis!!”
Will the bishops put it there? Or will their Deep State betray them again?