Fearing “Attack” On “Fundamental Values,” The Bishops Warn Biden’s White House

As the US bishops face a moment unseen in most of their lifetimes – the nation’s election of a Catholic to the Presidency – the issue of Joe Biden’s faith emerged by surprise at today’s public close of the USCCB plenary, as the bench’s leadership suddenly moved to draw a line in the sand with the incoming Democratic administration over its support of legal abortion.

Five days since the President-elect received a congratulatory phone call from the Pope – during which the two discussed the common causes of “caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees” – while Archbishop José Gomez made a passing nod of hope that Biden’s “faith commitments will move him to support some good policies,” the conference president quickly pivoted to underscore that the new White House “will support policies that attack some fundamental values we hold dear as Catholics… [which] undermine our ‘preeminent priority’ of the elimination of abortion.”

Announcing a working group led by the USCCB vice-president, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, and rounded out by several key committee chairs, Gomez said that “when politicians who profess the Catholic faith support” abortion and a concept of religious freedom that allows enforcement of protections for civil rights, “there are additional problems. 

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On Day Two, The “Viruses” Take Center Stage

Set to begin at 1pm Eastern, this final day of a virtual – and heavily curtailed – USCCB Plenary will be underpinned by what’ve arguably been the two key threads of American life in 2020: the bench’s free-form discussions on COVID-19’s impact on the nation’s largest religious body, and the shape of the church’s witness against racism.

To be sure, these aren’t debates leading up to a vote, simply pastoral talks to compare notes on best practices and possible areas of improvement. In that light, these conversations tend to be even more revealing of the mind of the body than exchanges over specific policy questions.

Yet again, here’s the livefeed….

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Amid COVID and Ted, The Bench “ZOOMs” Forward

And now, for something completely different – a hundred forty years since the collegial governance of American Catholicism began with a November meeting of its archbishops, a full century since the entire bench convened as the global church’s first episcopal conference, the leadership of the nation’s religious body has never experienced a moment like this… quite possibly in more ways than one.

Due to COVID-19, the annual five-ring circus in Baltimore has fallen by the wayside, with the 250 voting members and 50-odd retirees gathering from home via Zoom – a platform with which the prelates have become all too familiar since the pandemic’s initial lockdowns began in March.  On the bright side, however, as a good few bishops have long griped about the outlays of money and logistics that go into in-person meetings, their thesis that the bench can sufficiently handle its business with an online plenary can finally be put to the test.

Of course, the setting of the two-day talks isn’t the only exceptional matter at hand. The timing of last week’s release of the Vatican’s McCarrick Report was dictated by this meeting – largely as its continued absence would’ve made for a fiasco, even among the broad middle of the conference given the two-year delay. Accordingly, today’s planned 1pm start has been delayed by 90 minutes to allow for an initial discussion of the 450-page text and its findings in closed-door executive session. 

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