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Catholic Bishops Fight For Authority Over U.S. Flock


Bishops listen to an address by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful institution, at least on paper.

But a recent debate over contraception coverage has exposed a deep divide between the 271 active bishops and the rank-and-file U.S. Catholics who are supposed to follow their moral authority. It also has raised questions about why some prominent Catholic intuitions ignore the bishops’ teachings – and whether the bishops will be able to reassert their authority.

The gulf has left some politicians, ever eager to court the Catholic vote, struggling to figure out who now speaks for the Church. Some ordinary Catholics in the pews are wondering the same.

“The bishops have lost their monopoly on speaking, and they have lost a lot of their clout,” said Father Thomas Reese, a Georgetown University theologian and church scholar.

Led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the bishops have been pressing a muscular campaign to fight a federal mandate that would have required all health insurance plans, including those offered by religious employers, to offer free birth control.

A leading voice, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut., was scheduled to testify on Thursday on Capitol Hill.

But other widely-respected Catholic groups, including the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals, have disavowed the bishops’ fight. They have accepted a compromise, announced last week by President Barack Obama, to allow religious institutions to opt out of paying for contraceptive coverage. (Their insurers would pick up the tab instead.) [More]





  1. Norm Fite says:

    Trust in the Lord. He will not fail you.
    He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us. Listen to Him.
    Go to confession, receive absolution, and believe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
    Go to mass, hear the Gospels, apply the teaching of Christ to your life.
    Go to mass, receive the Eucharist, believe in the gift you have just received.
    Pray daily.
    Say the Rosary daily.
    Take the time to educate yourself in the Faith.
    Take the responsibility to educate your children and others around you in the Faith by your actions and then by words.
    Use the tools Christ gave us, and you will receive Grace. Through Grace the gift of faith will be given you.
    This is what Christ taught, this is what the Church teaches.
    Is this what we do?
    I pray that the gifts of Christ that are present to you will be utilized to strengthen His Church, and bring you ever closer to Him.

  2. [...] Bishops Fight For Authority Over U.S. Flock By editorsub1 on February 17, 2012 5:46 am in US News By Stephanie Simon reuters Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:15am [...]

  3. MGM says:

    The Holy Spirit went to a country and made them all Catholic (Philippines) but uncathecised. HE allowed a protest against the church in the 1500. Protestants became well versed with scriptures to which almost 30 years now, they started converting to the CATHOLIC CHURCH. They (converts)were the ones who re-affirmed me back to my faith. I saw their reverence of the Eucharist, their respect for the pope and had studied our faith in depth. I believe in John 17. Protestants and all others will continue coming in. Muslims will come through the blessed mother. I saw their love for Mary when I was in Ephesus

  4. Cecilia says:

    I’m in a bible study class called “The Bible Timeline”. It is “The Story of Salvation” and I promise you nothing has changed. The problems they had then are the problems we have today. They were unfaithful to God, then repented, only to be unfaithful again, etc., etc., etc. The only reason God doesn’t punish us the way He punished them (through exile & slavery) is for the sake of His Son’s sorrowful passion. This is a video class and you can find out about it at BibleStudyforCatholics.com. I actually attend class with a moderator but you can order it and view it at home or with friends. A very good book to read is “A Father Who Keeps His Promises” by Scott Hahn. The bishops may not be doing their job but it’s no excuse for us not to learn because God is providing other means for us to learn our story. When my children were young, and I realized they weren’t learning their faith in a Catholic school, I ordered the Baltimore Catechism and taught them their faith the same way I learned it, through memorization. It’s important the story is past from one generation to the next, and if you have to do it yourself, so be it.

    • Vin says:

      Thank you Cecelia for your common sense. Yes, the church has failed to catechize as was done in the past, though I don’t believe all cafeteria catholics can use that as an excuse. Some are so saturated with modernity, they cannot see it. I have to cling to Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against His church. In my heart I want to think the church is being cleansed by revealing those in power who use the church to their own purposes. Very sad.

    • Catholic in the Pew says:

      Oh, please. A another Catholic who worships at the altar of Scott Hahn’s unbiblical theology of salvation by works. Why does the church and local parishes keep elevating these converts as “trophy wives” simply because he is a former Protestant? Even Protestants had problems with Hahn’s teachings.

  5. Pauline (Eire) says:

    For Catholic/Christians you people, most of you, from reading the postings here are awfully judgemental. Moan, moan, moan about everyone else and everything. I was raised in a country with the ‘older’ Catholicism and still practice to a large degree. We were raised to believing we live the faith – not moan and lament about how others may or may not live/practice it. It’s not just the bishops in the US who seem to be having difficulties. The ‘laity’ there need to grow up too. If you want change – faith, hope and love. Pray. Quit whining or you’ll drive the rest away too. Get off the computers, quit crying and go into the street and help truly helpless brother or sister.

    Maria Gabriella – who offered her self for Unity – interceed for us. :-)

    God bless us all.

    “Lord, PRESERVE US FROM SOUR FACED SAINTS.” Teresa of Avila. (Doctor of the Church).

    • Vin says:

      I guess you never got the message regarding loving your neighbor as yourself. Catholics, real Catholics, are not supposed to stand by and watch your neighbor lose their soul. Being judgemental when you see someone in

    • Vin says:

      It appears you did not get the real message of Jesus. Being judgemental when you see a person in jeopardy of losing their soul is what you are supposed to do. But, of course, you have to recognize the sin first and certainly birth control is a sin according to God. THERE IS NO COMPROMISE. Just saying.

  6. ladymum says:

    Why blame the bishops, even the 12 apostles chosen by Christ were NOT perfect men. WE, the people have chosen NOT to listen to the teachings of the Church on Contraception, Sunday Mass obligation, etc. WE have to become more faithful people and better ourselves. “Preach the Gospel and when neccessary use words” St Francis

  7. Catholic in the Pew says:

    “The bishops have lost their monopoly on speaking, and they have lost a lot of their clout,” said Father Thomas Reese, a Georgetown University theologian and church scholar.” Hey, Father, –I guess you would know since Georgetown and other Catholic universities hire Islamics, liberal feminist nuns and seculars who advocate and promote gay marriage. How about promoting biblical principles instead of creating more catechetical legalism. Now wonder Catholics don’t know what the hell you guys are doing anymore and are leaving for other Christian churches. It’s certainly true in my diocese.

    • Karen C says:

      Amen! Why do so many Catholics insist in membership in a Church whose teachings they reject? Quite possibly because the likes of Fr. Reese would have them believe the Church is a democracy. Better to interview a priest at Franciscan University or Christendom or some other university known for its faithfulness, rather than a university who hijacks the name Catholic but sets themselves up as their own magisterium.

    • Marc says:

      Father Thomas Reese, SJ, has no moral authority and no clout–what-so-ever. He is bad mouths the Church at every chance he gets. The Vatican sacked him as the editor of America Magazine. “widely-respected Catholic groups, including the Catholic Health Association” are they joking? Widely respected–I think not.

  8. richard says:

    Bishops need to remain true shepherds of their flocks.

  9. francis Joseph says:

    So many true and wonderful comments. The dying of the Catholic Church has been going on for three generation. The new religion of America is “Secularism”. Present Obama is its leader. The Catholic Church is now so weak and divided it cannot fight back as Obama is coming in for the kill. The Liberal free-style catholic in name only could care less what the Bishops think or say. The Bishops are so crippled by the sex abuse scandle and can’t see it. Prayer, prayer and more prayer by the practicing catholic as few as we are is needed. This war of the Catholic church has just started. It is going to get very ugly.

    • Ivana says:

      Well said. They should have spoken out thirty years ago. When sin is no longer preached, this is the result. Now they are reaping the consequenses.

  10. taad says:

    Do our bishops really get what is going on? Has it sunk in yet what John Paul II said in 1976 as a cardinal:“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel, between Christ and Antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously…”
    Cardinal Karol Wotyla, 1976

  11. Ann says:

    Nate, you are right on about broken marriages, selfish children, infidelity, deaden souls of families using the pill,etc.
    God has given us the gift of life, and I for one believe that those who are selfish enough to use contraception are denying a potential brother or sister in Christ to be born.

    • RJ says:

      I heard a group of Reformed mainline non-Catholic clergy speak on the radio about the IUD’s & birth control, saying it could cause abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.

      Several years ago, a fellow Catholic woman told me that. But I didn’t believe her. Even when I’ve heard that said from the Vatican, I never believed them either.

      Our bishops and church leaders are not credible. Yet now I find out they were telling the truth about contraception.

      Further, one out of 8 women can get breast cancer, and new studies show it may be from birth control pills.

      This is like the fable my mother would tell me, when I was a child: “The little boy who cried wolf”.

      I still do not believe just anything that comes from our bishops. They lie too much – and are most interested in being self-serving and in weilding power and control.

      When they start to teach the Bible (in its fullness) and lead lives that indicate they know how WE live, then I’ll listen to them.

      But with that said, I wrote to my Congresswoman via email, to support what the bishops are asking. She wrote back to me today, telling me she supports the Obama mandate, and yet, in her letter, she called herself a “devout Catholic”. Go figure.

      This is about Religious Liberty. Bishops and all Catholic Media would be wise to reach out to others of like mind, such as the group of Reformed non-Catholic pastors I heard speak on the radio about this mandate.

      Time for parish priests to speak up too-the stakes are too high. Too much to lose, if we sit quiet. Follow the bishops – at least they are not crying “wolf” about this!

  12. Richard Andrew says:

    I see a wide variety of self-styled Roman Catholics who are 1) opposed to the bishops; 2) opposed to the Pope; 3) opposed to this or that teaching of the Church; 4) opposed to this or that doctrine of the Church; 5) who pick and choose what they want to believe and practice in terms of the Faith.

    Such Roman Catholics are actually Protestants. If they had any integrity, they would leave the Roman Catholic Church and join a Protestant denomination that suits their fancies — there are lots of options.

    What such people shouldn’t do is continue calling themselves Catholic and then bellyache about everything they don’t like about the Church!

    We are called to have the Mind of Christ, not the mind of the world (Romans 12:1-2).

  13. JoeCee says:

    The report states “But a recent debate over contraception coverage has exposed a deep divide between the 271 active bishops and the rank-and-file U.S. Catholics who are supposed to follow their moral authority.” That’s just the point: the bishops have lost their moral authority to lead.

    • J. Pease says:

      the problem goes way back …they have not been leading…that is the real problem and now are trying to correct this and hopefully they will now lead.

  14. Kris says:

    I , tragically, have to agree with the article and statements. Yet, I will also have to give the Bishops a large majority of the responsability for the current condition of the Church. How many years since Pope Paul VI encyclical on life have we experienced the authorit of the Bishops in explaining why and how we should stand for Life from conception? Why using artificial birth control goes against everything we believe and would lead to a culture of death? In fact, just the opposite, we mostly heard silence. When priests in the confessionals let individual catholics know it was a matter of choice, how did they stand up for the authority of the Church? When were they reprimanded? For too long we have watched the decay of the authority of the Bishops by themselves and by those that stood as their representatives. I also include those religious sisters and brothers who now openly claim they have authority to make statements for the ‘church’. This was the claim by those that signed the declaration of disobedience in the NY Times back in the 1960′s after Pope Paul VI’s encyclical came out against artifical birth control. They claimed there was another magesterium and it was the rouge theologians. The problem is they were only reprimanded on very rare occasions, and now we see the end results of that situation. The whole history of the Church beginning in the Old Testament has seen these situations over and over again. God is still in control and the last chapter of the book is known to us. Yet now, those who will stand for the unadulterated truth will have to undergo persecution. But this will only bring about the purification of the Church once more. So in the cross we will see the beauty of the Church rise once more.

  15. john says:

    The bishops and clergy were silent when Obama first ran for office.He has surrounded himself with CINO in order to mislead and confuse.The church is particularly at fault for remaining silent about sin from the pulpit and it’s consequence.One needs only to look in the obituaries and see how many people think that their beloved deceased went directly to heaven or are “angels”now,it’s time priests worry more about offending people than offending God.If they don’t like what they hear and walk because it’s too uncomfortable for them let them go..afterall..Jesus did the same with those who could not understand Him when He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.As the pope said..the church in the future may get smaller but holier.

    • Joe says:

      The bishops and clergy were silent for nearly 50 years so that the majority of Catholics pay no attention to artificial contraception. Judgment day comes for all of us.

  16. June St. James-Pfouts says:

    I agree with all comments expressed and share in the same sorrows and disappointments over the place where our beloved Church in the USA has come at this point. We must then strive ever more faithfully to live in personal holiness, to rapair for sins within and without the Church, and to pray continually that our Bishops be true shepherds of souls in their charge and uphld the deposit of Faith of our Holy Catholic Church.

  17. Faith Marrotte says:

    I too will follow the teachings of the Lord. Its about time all the bishops stand up for the Catholic faith and not compremise on the teachings of the church. Don’t think that God wont punish us for all the sins of abortion, contraception, Gay marriage. He has punished before and he will punish those again espially those in public office who promote this sin. We all need to stand up for what is right even the4 liberal cooleges and liberal nuns who are paid by the administration.

  18. raay metzger says:

    We are on the road to China,Russia and Germany.The next move will be one child families,with planned parenthood runing the program,as they do in China,It’s too late to fight,but not to pray,I would hope the Bishops try to save what is left of the Church.

  19. Kimberly says:

    I have been saddened to see that so many Catholics have abandoned the teachings of our faith. I agree that it has taken us years to get here because we’ve had a weak hierarchy and I wonder if we can pull everyone back into the Church at this late date. As a parent, it’s doubly hard to teach my children the ways of the Church when this issue is exposing just how many Catholics do as they wish. We have to start with our own families. I am also begging my Pastor to talk about this on Sunday and to remind our congregation what is is that we believe.

  20. Matthew Jay says:

    The problem is the bishops are about 30 years too late. I fully support what they are trying to do but where were they when the dissent really took form in 1970′s? As a result, they now have a much bigger problem trying to re-assert their proper authority. Their predecessors basically empowered an entire generation of Catholics who: 1) don’t know their faith and as a result 2) don’t feel any compelling need to submit to the authority of the Church. We reap what we sow. Ergo, we get Catholics such as Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, the spiritual children of Fr. Charles Curran.

    • Dcn. Rich Wilson says:

      Matthew Jay,
      You are right brother, except that is more like 40 years. If we rely soley on our own abilities it is impossible, but we have the benefit of Supernatural Hope – the Holy Spirit. We must pray for our bishops and support them even when it is most difficult. This is what Blessed John Paul II told us in Ecclesia in America, as he called for the New Evangelization. It’s not really new but to those of us who never heard it, it is a new word. It cannot be just the clergy who bring this word into the public square but all the faithful. A great resource is “Go and Make Disciples” at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/evangelization/go-and-make-disciples/ this will help the entire Church begin to grow to the beauty that she truly is. In Christ’s Peace, Dn. Rich

  21. karen Wheelock says:

    Nate, you are right on. Unfaithful Catholics have given the Church a bad reputation. They do not have the moral strength to fight evil, and if they do, its a weak effort. As G.K. Chesterton once said…”The first effect of losing faith in God, is the loss of common sense.”

    Many who call themselves Catholic, will fall by the wayside when they are confronted with that proverbial line in the sand. Its being drawn now, as we speak.

  22. adam Kanihan says:

    As for Me and My house we will fallow the Lord.

    • Pauline (Eire) says:


      The postings on this thread are laced with just about everything but ‘common sense’.

      I love the American people. But the Catholics I talk to, friends I have there, seem to have experienced some kind of disconnect.

      Not just since VatII.

      I always find myself wondering what planet the people there actually inhabit.

      A really good priest said to me many years ago as he lay dying. “You will never get to Heaven walking backwards out of hell.”

      Looking the devil everywhere leaves us unable to truly see God anywhere – not least in our very selves and our neighbour.

      There seems such little depth to your spirituality.

      And to the other person.

      “Unfaithful Catholics” can’t give a bad reputation to anything if it is truly good. It will speak for itself.

      You should speak for it through your life. Let it shine through your own ‘good’ness.

      Badmouthing your neighbour is neither good, charitable, christian nor truly Catholic.

      And just pray for the others.

      What Americans seem to lack generally, which might be part of the problem, least of all the ‘faithful Catholics’. True humility.

      More of this – rather than ‘common sense’ might work to greater effect at bringing you together – unity.

      The Mother of Jesus did not say many words – but pondered all things in the heart and loved greatly.

      Look to Her for inspiration and guidance.

  23. Nate says:

    It is amazing how blind our unfaithful Catholics have been to their own situations, as a result of their break with Christ and his Church. I see the broken marriages, the selfish children, the deadened souls of families that use the pill. They laugh yet there is no joy, they cry yet there is no relief. They die yet there is no repose.


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