The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring meeting takes place Wednesday through Friday at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue, Washington. In all there will be about 300 bishops at this meeting. Topping the agenda is an update on marriage between a man and woman aka Gay Marriage, issue of clergy sex abuse, the suicide movement and hear a report on a new church structure for Anglican parishes that want to join the Roman Catholic Church.
The Rainbow Sash Movement does not expect any significant changes out to this meeting. Look for the Conference to shy away from controversy. Unlike Cardinal Frances George, Archbishop Dolan wants to keep his good guy image. He will shy away from any divisive statements that could further alienate lay Catholic opinion.
The Bishops are losing ground on the 3 top agenda items. Gay Marriage is about to be in-acted in New York Archbishop Dolan’s own backyard. The political clout of the Church seems to be evaporating as the Catholic Laity are voting for themselves on these social issues as is evidenced by Gay Marriage.
One of the difficulties of Gay Marriage/Civil Unions is how it affects the various Catholic Charities adoption/foster care programs. The states that have legalized Gay Marriage/Civil Unions have not allowed for discrimination against Gay Couples in the adoption/foster care process.
Also impacted are Partner Benefits for not only Catholic Charities, but also Catholic Hospitals. The choice is quite clear if you accept public funding you cannot discriminate against either gay couples, or gay employees.
The outstanding for Archbishop Dolan is how will he handle it. Will he like Cardinal George of Chicago, Il fight gay marriage to the point of closing down the adoption/foster care wings of Catholic Charities as has happened in Washington, DC, and the Archdiocese of Boston.
Employee benefits programs allow for a little more wiggle room for the Bishops. The Illinois Catholic Hospital association issued a memo to its members that they change their employee benefits programs as reads between an employee and their spouse to an employ plus one.
This will be a growing problem for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and all they want to do is curse the darkness, and not light a candle. Sadly no direct communication is taking place with the bishops and glbt community while such communication is not a guarantee of a solution, it does show a willingness to try to find common ground. Bishops need to move beyond the mentality it is my way or the highway, and embrace dialogue.
The spring meeting will not take this issue up, but you know the Bishops are talking about it because of the possibility of New York enacting gay marriage legislation. Additionally, poll after poll the most recent being the Pew Polls find that 60% of Catholics support gay marriage which is not in sink with the bishops opposition to Gay Marriage.
Concerning Suicide and the clergy sexual abuse scandal the bishops are being dismissed in their efforts. On clergy sexual abuse the Bishops are not being held accountable for their policies. Most reasonable Catholics believe their statements are more concerned with dogma, rather than the human condition.
In Philadelphia, a grand jury recently found that Cardinal Justin Rigali allowed 37 priests accused of abuse or inappropriate behavior to remain in ministry. The grand jury also indicted the former head of the archdiocesan office for clergy, Msgr. William Lynn, on charges of endangering the welfare of children — the first such indictment of a senior church official.Again look for not earth shattering statements on this two issues.
In the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Robert W. Finn admitted last month that he allowed a priest who had taken pornographic pictures of parish girls to continue celebrating Mass and having access to children.
The Bishops still remain clueless on how to bring back unity to the Church in the United States. Archbishop Dolan seems to be as rudderless as was Cardinal Francis George the previous President of the USCCB steering the Church to calmer waters.
Rainbow Sash Movement