UPDATE: Bishops scotch talk on politics
…At least officially. Dan Burke at Religion News Service has the scoop, that the USCCB has decided to remove from the agenda a discussion about Catholics and politics. They put the item on the agenda in September, and even this week archbishops Chaput of Denver and Myers of Newark (and likely others) were saying the debate was very much needed, as this RNS report shows.
“I think this is something that has evolved since September,” Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the USCCB spokesperson, told RNS. “Many bishops have already addressed the issue (of pro-abortion rights politicians) through pastoral letters, so there’s not the same need they saw in September.”
I don’t know of any other rationales at work, but the decision is probably a good one. Firstly, they can, and most certainly will, have unofficial discussions and sound each other out, which is what they need to do. An “official” discussion could have led to lots of speechifying and no conclusions, or revealed even more disagreements. The election is over, they can afford to think this through, talk it out. As the thread below on Catholics and politics indicates, the church is not of one mind, or may not even know its mind. (Or is out of its mind?!) Secondly, they may want to see what the Obama administration does, what their approach is, what their relationship might be, before issuing declarations.
Point of discussion: I think in all of this, there are three discrete issues that are often conflated but shouldn’t be. One is a response to Catholic pols (or others, I suppose) who start explaining theology on national TV. That would be Biden and Pelosi, now 2 and 3 respectively in the national power structure. Their theologizing really upset many bishops. But correcting them on theology is one thing. A separate issue is whether Catholic politicians should be barred from communion for certain positions, or if and when “ordinary” Catholics should be barred. The final issue concerns their approach to influencing policies and politics. These are interconnected issues but involve different areas and (may) require different answers.
PS: CNS has a story on a letter from Pensacola Bishop John Ricard to Joe Biden regarding news that Biden had attended mass in the diocese. Seems like a constructive approach. Reactions? Letter (PDF) is here…Via Rocco.