If Obama wins on November 4 with the help of Catholic voters, the biggest factor in his favor will be the bishops’ own document and Web site, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”
I never thought it likely that Catholic voters could be persuaded to support a candidate with both the most extreme record on abortion and who favors gay marriage. Yet, barring a miracle, that paradox is only a week away: The New York Times is reporting Obama 22 points ahead among Catholic voters. [article]
I wouldn’t put it on the USCCB doc at all. The USCCB could have published Faithful Citizenship with one line saying “Abortion is the preeminent issue of our time.” and they would still have found wiggle room with a Clintonesque meaning of “is”. Like Vatican II we have a “spirit of Faithful Citizenship.” It does not matter what the totality of a document says, they will strip it out of context.
The main things about many dissenters is that they are basically liars. For example Fr. Reese, S.J. recently saying “Democrats are finally emphasizing that it should be rare” when they actually stripped “rare” from their platform and made a stronger statement supporting abortion “rights”. Sure sometimes they are just mistaken and pass on something that somebody else said. Often though dissenters just lie to our face and expect us to accept what they say. So many dishonest things are said that it is hard to find a charitable explanation. No doubt some read a document and interpret them through their own lens and actually think it says what they say it says. That is always a danger for everyone. Mainly though they ignore strong statements and grasp at straws.
Look at what they have done to scripture? So can we be surprised what they do this to a USCCB document.
As to Faithful Citizenship itself it certainly is not without flaws. It is way to wordy, long and, repetitive. Obviously written by a committee and not having a strong editor to clean it up. Though that is kind of the nature of USCCB documents in the first place. It does though have some of the clearer statements on abortion and that it is not just one issue of many and it much better than the documents released in 2000 and 2004.
Somebody who understands how horrific an evil abortion is, is not going to read Faithful Citizenship and say “Wow, I guess I can vote for Obama if I want to.” People who are willing to overlook abortion, ESCR, euthanasia, cloning, and homosexual marriage are not likely to be swayed by a USCCB document anyway.
Besides how many average people in the pew have actually read Faithful Citizenship anyway. Or in fact any USCCB document. I have never seen a bishop’s document passed out or on a table as you enter a church. Sure wonks such as myself read all the documents coming out of the Vatican and USCCB, but surely this is not common. Probably the average Catholic knowledge on these documents is often third hand if at all. So I think blaming the Faithful Citizenship is a bit of hyperbole.
Though I must admit I applauded when Bishop Morlino said “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me.” The problem with all bishop’s conferences is that they are a created structure and really have no theological justification. Like pretty much all committees you end up taking weaker positions in the name of collegiality. For the USCCB the abuse scandal was about anything but Bishop’s who helped enable abusers. Nobody was surprised when the USCCB said it was up to each bishop to decide whether to withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians. The USCCB can easily become a scapegoat, but Bishop Morlino was right in multiple ways. It is the local ordinary who is the official teacher for his diocese. Sometimes it seems to me that we have bishops conferences so that individual bishops can avoid making tough decisions. Thank God that more and more bishops are taking seriously their role as shepherd and are speaking out. Though there have been some great statements coming from the USCCB recently. This is due though to individual bishops part of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. This Secretariat has been there for a long time and never managed to make a statement against a pro-abortion candidate until now.
So certainly there are things we can complain about the USCCB on, but we also give it more credit for what it can do than it deserves.