Phil Lawler at CatholicCulture.org seems worried that the USCCB is incapable of walking and chewing bubble gum at the same time. He is upset that instead of focusing exclusive on the issue of religious liberty and a few others, the USCCB is diluting its own message. What should the bishops have to say about farm policy?
Well, Mr. Lawler fails to recall the sonorous opening lines of Gaudium et Spes: "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ."
It may not have occured to Mr. Lawler, but farm policy has profound consequences on human beings, and not just the farmers. The ability of the U.S. to export food at relatively low cost to poor countries is surely an appropriate moral concern for a Church which is not precisely international, because she is older than the nations, but which is found in every nation on the globe, including those nations which rely on U.S. farm surpluses to feed their people. I should add that there are poor people on the streets of every city in America who also are affected by farm policy. Finally, perhaps Mrs. Lawler does the grocery shopping, but food prices affect every household in America except for the treasured one percent, who don't need to worry about food prices, only the cost of car elevators.
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You can go down the list of things Lawler claims should not properly be the subject of the bishops' attention, but on many issues, we need to pay attention early so that an issue does not go down a road with long-term negative implications. Lawler may think the issue of digital television is a remote one, but I know one diocese in Latin America that had to raise $4 million on the fly to convert its television station. That's a lot of money that might otherwise go to programs that help the poor or educate the faithful.
What Mr. Lawler is really saying, then, is that the bishops should only pay attention to the things he cares about. He is entitled to his opinion in the matter, to be sure. But, the rest of us can be grateful that the USCCB is not in the habit of trimming its moral compass to meet the needs of GOP strategists.