Bishops stir the pews
Providentially, during the last lap before the election, Church leaders and lay experts are meeting for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization in Rome, where they are discussing the best way to mute the siren song of secularism and draw Catholics back to faith in Jesus Christ.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, in his opening address at the synod, urged Christians to “overcome the syndrome of embarrassment” that led the faithful to shrug off threats to the survival of “marriage, family, the concept of the common good and objective right and wrong.”
The breakdown in the transmission of the faith that followed the Second Vatican Council was partly responsible for this state of affairs, he admitted, and his urgent tone suggested that the Church cannot afford any further delay in repairing the damage.
The cardinal’s words provide spiritual and cultural context for the U.S. bishops’ election-year pastoral letters and social-media tools that provide guidance to Catholic voters on religious freedom, life and marriage issues, sometimes with combustible results.
It’s too soon to say whether these efforts will have a decisive impact on state contests or on the outcome of the presidential election.
The U.S. bishops do not endorse candidates, and commentators are still debating whether Church leaders’ unresolved dispute with the Obama administration over the federal contraception mandate could lead Catholics in battleground states to shift their support to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But it’s indisputable that the bishops are stirring both intense hostility and enthusiasm among Catholics in the pews. Many are grappling with hot-button issues that test their political loyalties and an often tenuous grasp of Church doctrine.
The bishops’ opposition to same-sex “marriage” in Washington, Maryland, Minnesota and Maine — four states that will decide the issue in November — underscores the scope and complexity of their role in the 2012 campaign season.
As the gap between Catholic and mainstream values continues to widen, Church leaders are spearheading referendum battles that double as catechetical seminars.
The high stakes involved have prompted bishops to drive these campaigns. [More]