More friction between the Pope, and American bishops who don’t understand that the Pope is Catholic

Sorry. I couldn’t resist referring to the old joke in the headline. A more straightforward way to say it would be, “don’t understand that the Pope outranks them.”

At moments such as this, it seems they tend to think of him as “just the bishop of Rome,” rather than the Holy Father.

Or maybe they do get it, since it seems they pulled back their harsh statement when the Vatican stepped in.

Anyway, the conflict persists. Following up on my earlier posts on this subject, here are some excerpts from a piece in the Jesuit magazine America, rapidly becoming one of my favorite sources:

In a message of “cordial good wishes” to President Joseph R. Biden Jr. after his installation as the 46th president of the United States, Pope Francis assured him of his prayers “that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office.”Pope Francis

He told the president that he prayed that “under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding.”

“At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses,” the pope wrote, “I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice.”

Furthermore, the pope said, “I ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good.”…

Pope Francis’ warm message contrasted with the public statement that had been prepared by Archbishop José Gomez in the name of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While the bishops’ statement included much the pope would agree with, it nevertheless adopted a confrontational tone over the issue of abortion especially, as well as contraception, marriage and gender. The Vatican only learned of the U.S.C.C.B. message hours before it was due to be released, and a senior Vatican official told America that “it was reasonable to say” that it had intervened but did not confirm or deny the details first reported by The Pillar.

There was a negative reaction from Vatican officials contacted by America in Rome to the statement issued by Archbishop Gomez in the name of the U.S.C.C.B. “It is most unfortunate and is likely to create even greater divisions within the church in the United States,” a senior official, who did not wish to be named because of the position he holds at the Vatican, told America….

Amen to that.

Anyway, as I said earlier, I feel blessed that Francis is my pope, and Joe is my president….

24 thoughts on “More friction between the Pope, and American bishops who don’t understand that the Pope is Catholic

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Of course, let me quickly add that there are a bunch of good bits in the Bishops’ statement, such as this:

    Working with President Biden will be unique, however, as he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith. In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring….

    So that’s good. There’s room to work on this relationship…

    1. Barry

      “ In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges“

      Corrected below

      “the long-standing growth of secularism has been increasingly observed in American culture recently, primarily due to the rampant hypocrisy that many believers have demonstrated by their devotion and Worship of Donald Trump….”

      1. Bob Amundson

        If it looks like a cult, “quacks” like a cult, and “walks” like a cult, it’s a cult. If these people don’t come to their senses, what does a national intervention look like?

  2. Mark Stewart

    “In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture” – nah, they don’t get it. Authoritarian impulses everywhere it seems.

    Mostly it just seems like religions go out of their way to turn people off, circular firing squad-style.

    1. Bob Amundson

      Yes, organized religions are struggling to be relevant. “Religious” single issue Trump supporters did not help.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, there’s no doubt we have growing and aggressive secularism.

      We just have different definitions of what that means.

      And one of the causes of it is clergy who push people away by failing to represent the totality of what Christianity is. Catholic teaching protecting the unborn is a subset of Christian teaching about revering, respecting, and caring for ALL human life. And that, in turn, is a direct outgrowth of love for others, especially the helpless who really, really need that love.

      When you hammer on abortion, and make it clear that as long as some sleazy, evil, hateful, self-centered jerk like Trump is willing to do a deal with you on that ONE thing at the expense of everything else, people fail to see the love. They fail to see what the Church Jesus and Peter founded is all about.

      And no wonder. These clergymen, if they even remember what the overall message is, are failing utterly to communicate it to the world.

      They have SO much to learn from Pope Francis. Francis cares about the unborn, very much so — just like he cares for ALL of the least among us. But he knows how to show the love that is the larger message.

      And you know what? When these guys go to seminary, the first thing they need to learn to do is what the Pope does in that regard….

  3. bud

    I find the Catholic clergy as obnoxious as Trump. The fact that many clergy supported him is neither surprising nor does it represent any change in course from their previous outlandish behavior. Any organization that opposes the use of birth control is really reprehensible. I maintain that the Moonies are a more sensible organization than the Catholic Church.

      1. Bob Amundson

        bud often complains of your use of false equivalence, and sometimes I agree. His comment reminds me of “people living in glass houses should not throw stones.”

  4. Doug Ross

    I guess the Pope didn’t have enough time to suggest not killing innocent people in never ending wars. Oh yeah, they aren’t Catholics being killed… now I get it. The “rights and dignity of every person” pretty much ends when a drone drops a bomb on your house. There is no justification that can align with any Christian religion.

    I can’t fathom requiring a Fortune 500 style corporation complete with CEO, Senior VPs, middle managers, and an ornate corporate HQ to basically explain several chapters of a book that has been in existence for nearly 2000 years. Although the branding, slogans, and loyalty program are pretty strong.

      1. Bob Amundson

        My head is spinning due to the number of logical fallacies in Doug’s statement. I’ll just stop at that – SMH … (better than spinning).

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    I liked this passage from The Washington Post’s coverage of this:

    Within hours, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago and an ally of Francis, issued a sharp rebuke to Gomez and his supporters in putting together the statement.

    “Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released,” Cupich wrote, challenging the idea that Gomez’s words were endorsed by or represent U.S. bishops. “The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.”…

    Other bishops put out more subtle rebukes of Gomez.

    San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy said he was “echoing Pope Francis’ message to President Biden and calling for dialogue, not judgment; collaboration, not isolation; truth in charity, not harshness. … It is a pathway of reconciliation that places the healing of our society ahead of any specific policy issue, in the recognition that repairing the soul of our country is the pre-requisite for any sustainable effort to advance the common good. … Most importantly of all, Pope Francis’ message to President Biden fundamentally speaks to him in his humanity, a man of Catholic faith striving to serve his nation and his God.”

    Hours earlier, Biden attended Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, a soaring cathedral in downtown Washington and one of several where Biden attended Mass as vice president. It is also where the funeral for the first Catholic U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, was held. There, Biden heard a homily by the Rev. Kevin O’Brien, a friend and former official at Georgetown University who heads Santa Clara University.

    “My deepest prayer for you today, as a priest, citizen and friend, is that you always remember that the Lord is near and no matter the sound and fury around you, that God wants to give you peace, a deep-seated peace that will sustain you. Let all of us hear the good news today: The Lord is near, so no need to worry or to be afraid,” O’Brien said during the Mass.,,,

    It’s a shame what’s happened to the USCCB. Things were so much better when Columbia’s own Cardinal Bernardin was the organization’s guiding light

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Turbulent bishops? Is that anything like a “meddlesome priest”? I mean, it turned out pretty poorly for ol’ Tommy Beckett.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yeah, I was thinking of that phrase.

            But let me go ahead here and do what You-Know-Who did NOT do on Jan. 6 (nor did my ancestor Henry II do such), and say I’m NOT inciting y’all to go out and do something violent or otherwise crazy.

            I don’t want anyone to hurt these bishops in any way. I want them to start feeling the love, and acting like Christians. Even though they are being kinda turbulent…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Actually, technically, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. But who’s counting?…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Now watch… someone will say I’m bragging that ol’ Curtmantle is my ancestor.

                  Hardly. He was a real wart. And in a weird way, I have personal memory of that. I once acted in “The Lion in Winter,” playing Henry’s son Geoffrey, and I have clear memories of him locking Richard (the Lionheart), John and me in a dungeon and preparing to have us whacked… Not a nice fellow…

                  But as silly as it is to claim such a connection (with the likelihood of error being contained in every one of those 26 generations), I find the process of digging back that far entertaining. As y’all know…


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