Faithful Citizenship Debate Continues

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

by Michael Sean Winters

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Disaster #2 is taking shape as the bishops vote by paper ballot on Faithful Citizenship. Based on the tenor of the debate, it is surely going to pass.

The Faithful Citizenship debate continued into the afternoon. Over lunch, several bishops expressed some surprise that Cardinal DiNardo had been so prickly in responding to Bishop McElroy. “It was rude,” one bishop told me. Back in the aula, Bishop Stephen Blaire suggested that the document be remanded for improvement, arguing that the text was now unwieldy. Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, said the bishops needed to keep the focus on forming the conscience of voters, and less on particular issues. Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland said he did not perceive a revolution in Catholic social teaching since 2007 when the core document was last re-written.

Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford warned against a viewpoint he called "regime change." He recalled what Pope Benedict said about "a hermeneutic of continuity" except Benedict never said that. Benedict spoke about a "hermeneutic of reform" which entails elements of continuity and discontinuity. It was George Weigel et al. who tried to switch and therefore to narrow Benedict’s words.

The biggest change in the amendments was in the document’s treatment of intrinsic evil. The category is still used, even though it is the wrong category, but the language was cleaned up to point out that rarely do public policies entail intrinsic evils. 

What to say? This is another step away from the direction to which the pope is calling the Church. The Holy Father, I am told, is aware of the opposition he faces in the U.S. episcopate. They have given substance to that awareness this week and as much as they will try and deny it, it is obvious to us all.

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