Debate on Faithful Citizenship, Part 1

This story appears in the USCCB Fall 2015 feature series. View the full series.

by Michael Sean Winters

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In the debate on Faithful Citizenship, Cardinal DiNardo presented the amendments to the Introductory Note that the drafting committee accepted and the body voted en bloc to accept them. Then, he moved acceptance of the amendment to the document itself. The most notable amendment dropped one of the ten references to same-sex marriage which lowers the number from ten to nine. In discussing another change, a motion was made to restore more forceful language (I would argue more imprecise language) on same sex marriage, and the body, on a voice vote, to accept the committee’s new language but there were a significant number of nay votes cast.

Bishop Jerry Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, said he thought the entire document needs to be re-thought, that it was a mistake to decide in 2014 to only amend the document, rather than starting from scratch. He said, correctly, that it fails as a teaching document. Cardinal DiNardo said the drafting committee responded to the task given to it and thought it was effective as a teaching document. “The document is very useful,” Cardinal DiNardo said. I am trying to imagine the uses to which it might be put and I am thinking it could serve on a desk, if you did not want to put a hot cup down on the wood, the text could go underneath the cup and preserve the wood. Apart from that. ...Bishop John Stowe, of Lexington, Ky., said he thought the document would not be received as exemplifying the mercy the pope has called for, but +DiNardo defended the document against the charge, talking about the long process of consultation. He also noted that the bishops have tried in the past to issue the document a full year before the national election so that they do not appear to be intruding overly into the partisan brawl of an election year. Of course, if this last concern was real, they would have drafted the text very, very differently. The changes introduced clearly are designed to make it lean more to the right and to the GOP.

Bishop Robert McElroy said the vote presented a profoundly difficult choice: the body made the recommendation a year ago for a limited revision, keeping the basic structure and focus of the original 2007 text, and the committee followed that. The problem, he said, was that the original mandate was a serious mistake. “The problem is that we are not living in 2007,” he said. +McElroy said the document does not reflect the changed priorities of the papal magisterium. “The issues of poverty, particularly global poverty, with its victimization, especially of children, and the issue of environmental degradation ... lie at the core of our priorities … specifically, alongside the issues of abortion and euthanasia, poverty and environmental degradations are also central.” The text says the “preeminent issues” are abortion and euthanasia but that poverty and the environment are relegated to second tier status. He said that excluding poverty and the environment “will provide a warrant to those who want to misuse the document.” +McElroy’s intervention is a real throw down to the body. +DiNardo pushed back.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl said that he thought the consensus of the committee provided some continuity of teaching that resulted in “a good, working document. It is not perfect. Short of heaven, I don’t think we are going to get anything that is perfect.” He said he was concerned that the bishops not delay adoption of a document, which would then result in issuing a text during the election year.



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