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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

American Roman Catholic Bishops and Empty Pews

While USCatholic Bishops meet this week in Washington DC, their dioceses and parishes are experiencing declining revenues from lower church attendance. Churches are closing for lack of parishioners.

An EJ Dionne article (above link) reports how the Bishops are meeting in Washington DC this week but their agenda will not focus much on problems in their churches, but, rather, they will engage in a discussion about health care reform insurance coverage for contraception. This discussion will likely set up a conflict with the President Obama administration's initiative to cover contraception in health insurance plans, allowing women to access the benefit if they choose to pay for this coverage.  Bishops see this health care benefit for women as usurping the Church's position against use of artificial birth control.  Meanwhile, church teaching approves of family planning and I have written about this in a previous blog:

As a Roman Catholic woman, I fully understand the Church position on family planning but it seems to me the Bishops should focus on how to improve the spiritual initiatives in their dioceses rather than waste time on how the government should fund contraception.

US Bishops might ask their own  mothers how they practiced family planning before leaping into a debate about how health insurance pays for contraception.

Meanwhile, Chicago IL Cardinal Francis George reportedly wrote in a newsletter that government health care reform initiatives are just a first step to infringement of religious liberties, even putting the country on a slippery slope toward communism..  I don't suppose Cardinal George spends time reading the US Constitution or talking with US Supreme Court justices.  In summary, dear Cardinal, the US Constitution does not correlate contraception insurance coverage with religious liberty.

Moreover, US Supreme Court justices are Judeo-Christians and several are Roman Catholics. Vice-President Joe Biden is a practicing Roman Catholic.  These Judicial and Executive branches of government are hardly likely to even remotely challenge the separation of church and state. So, why are US Bishops even bothering with the health insurance-contraception issue?  I don't get their spiritual priorities.

How can Cardinal George write such rubbish, especially when health care reform initiatives are consistent with Roman Catholic social justice objectives of providing access to quality and affordable health care to everyone? It's totally inconsistent with social justice teaching to suggest a libertarian view of health care reform or to associate its benefits with communism.

Cardinal George's comments lead EJ Dionne to conclude that the Roman Catholic Bishops may become the Tea Party at prayer.

I don't know an active "Tea Party" advocate, as I believe the entire movement should be dunked before they steep the entire Grand Old Party into decline.  I don't believe Tea Party advocates have any particular religious affiliation.

Are US Bishops becoming Tea Party surrogates when the movement is largely non-religious?

Will the unlikely alignment between US Catholic Bishops and the Tea Party lead to a demise of both?

So, my point is this:  Roman Catholic Bishops must spend more time nurturing spirituality. Creating unpopular political alliances will only create more empty church pews.


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