USA Bishops

USA Roman Catholic bishops meeting

Pastoral over ideology

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (Vatican ambassador to USA) directly challenged the U.S. Catholic bishops meeting this week. “The Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people. The pontiff made a special point of saying that he wants ‘pastoral’ bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology.

Almost since his election in March, Francis has signaled that he wants the church to strike a “new balance” by focusing on the poor and on social justice concerns and not overemphasizing opposition to hot-button topics like abortion and contraception and gay marriage — the signature issues of the U.S. bishops lately.

While Francis’ new approach — which Vigano said must include “a noticeable lifestyle characterized by simplicity and holiness” — has captivated the wider public, some bishops and church conservatives have chafed at the pope’s shift.

“Bishops have been stuck in a bunker fighting the culture war,” said John Gehring, “Pope Francis has said we can’t just be known by what we oppose.”

In an interview Pope Francis said the church cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and must become more merciful or risk falling “like a house of cards.”

To me there appears to be a shift from “rules first” (and might there be some truth in pointing out that a lot of the bishops who were at this meeting were appointed because of their focus on the rules?) The new emphasis is more clearly, it seems to me, in the order of: God – people – principles – rules. Does this remind you of someone else who had this approach? Someone whose name starts with “J” perhaps?…

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