The USCCB Just Showed Its Hand

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is a bloated, corrupt organization teeming with left-wing bureaucrats who don’t have the Church’s best interests at heart. Crisis Magazine has said so on several occasions. It remains our opinion that all Catholics—laymen, priests, and bishops—would be better off without it.

That said, the USCCB’s committee elections at this week’s annual Fall General Assembly provide a glimpse into the minds of our bishops. On Monday, during their annual Fall General Assembly, the Conference elected a new slate of chairmen to head their various initiatives, and their selections are telling.

1) Committee for Religious Liberty: Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York

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Cardinal Dolan’s standing among his brother-bishops has been in flux lately. Originally seen as a moderate conservative, His Eminence’s great personal charisma and large popular following made him one of the most powerful bishops in the history of this country. He was probably the first American to be a serious contender for the papacy.

His stock began to fall over the years, however, as it became clear that Cardinal Dolan’s winsomeness wouldn’t be enough to see the Church through the sex abuse scandal. Though prayer and penance became the order of the day, His Eminence refused to give up his lavish digs in Manhattan or his French chef.

Cardinal Dolan also appeared to soften on his social witness. His astonishing decision to serve as Grand Master of the New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade—a fundamentally religious event—despite the presence of LGBT “rights” groups. This baffling decision the led his conservative supporters to abandon him in droves.

Lately, however, His Eminence has begun to turn back. In a 2018 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal he condemned the Democrats (who run his city and donate heavily to his diocese) for their embrace of a radical pro-choice agenda. In another op-ed for the Journal earlier this year, he decried the iconoclasts who destroy public monuments they deem to be politically incorrect.

Many were nevertheless surprised to see him offer a prayer during the 2020 Republican National Convention, making him the most senior American prelate to align with the Trump Administration. He opened his prayer: “Let us pray—and pray we must, as grateful citizens of a country we boldly claim to be ‘one nation under God.’ Pray we must, praising the Lord for a country where freedom of religion is so cherished.”

Talk is cheap, of course. Yet, as the Vatican continues to promote “pastoral” bishops to the Sacred College, Dolan’s acts of defiance—however small—have no doubt made him enemies among the progressive ranks. His election to the Committee for Religious Liberty signals the American bishops’ general support for President Trump’s agenda on religious freedom. It may also serve a warning their wayward lamb, Joe Biden.

2) Committee on Catholic Education: Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane

Bishop Daly succeeds Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, a solid conservative who has worked hard to purge his diocese of actively homosexual priests. Still, Bishop Daly is a fascinating choice. He was little known on the national stage until just this year, when the CEO of Catholic Charities in Eastern Washington declared his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and called the Church “racist.”

Bishop Daly not only defended the Church, as others might have done, but he made some trenchant observations about BLM itself. He explained that the movement “is in conflict with Church teaching regarding marriage, family and the sanctity of life. Moreover, it is disturbing that BLM has not vocally condemned the recent violence that has torn apart so many cities. Its silence has not gone unheard. One need not stand with BLM to stand for black lives.”

Again, just words. But, during the initial George Floyd riots, a small group of powerful bishops—most notably, Wilton Gregory of Washington—came out in support of BLM. This, too, may have been a means for the U.S. bishops to register their dissatisfaction with those bishops’ support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

3) Committee on Pro-Life Activities: Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore

Archbishop Lori is a company man through and through. His Excellency helped Theodore McCarrick draft the Dallas Charter. He has also condemned official Black Lives Matter movement, but basically buys into their race-baiting narrative. He was one of those who rushed to condemn the Covington Catholic students long before all the facts were in, and his diocese has been very accommodating to LGBT ideology.

Archbishop Lori replaces the excellent Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas. When Naumann was first elected to the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, he beat out papal favorite Blase Cardinal Cupich. It was a resounding expression of the U.S. bishops’ dislike for that odious prelate, who once banned his seminarians from participating in prayer vigils outside of Planned Parenthood clinics.

Archbishop Lori isn’t committed to the “consistent ethic of life” thing, but Archbishop Naumann was a firm opponent of that error. As he wrote in a 2007 essay for First Things, “Those issues that involve intrinsic evils—direct attacks on human life, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, or direct attacks on the institution of the family… must assume a moral priority.” That’s the sort of man you want at the helm.

4) Committee for Communications: Bishop Robert Reed of Boston

Bishop Reed made his name as head of CatholicTV, the multimedia wing of the Archdiocese of Boston. Bishop Reed is basically apolitical, though he favorably impressed many conservatives by spending twenty-four straight hours in Adoration as reparation for the McCarrick scandal.

The Committee for Communications isn’t glamorous, but it’s quite important. As chairman, Bishop Reed has oversight of (among other things) Catholic News Service, the USCCB’s media arm, one of the most widely-read news sources in the country. It’s a serious responsibility for a young auxiliary bishop. One can assume it’s really a stepping-stone, either to a quasi-independent media apostolate like Bishop Barron’s or a major metropolitan archdiocese—perhaps even Boston.

5) National Collections Committee: Bishop James Wall of Gallup

This is an interesting choice. Bishop Wall is a “reform of the reform” conservative best known for introducing ad oriemtem worship at his cathedral. His letter explaining the decision begins:

Recently Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released a powerful letter, in which he touched on a number of topics, including especially the sexual abuse crisis that has impacted the Church and even society as a whole.  In his letter, he also addressed the Eucharist.  He acknowledged, and rightfully so, that we have become too lax in our approach to the Eucharist.  There were a number of reasons for this, even extreme cases when Holy Communion has been distributed to non-Catholics at weddings and other large events for the sake of “inclusion.” We know, however, that such “inclusivity” is actually quite dangerous, for it can put someone’s soul at risk in the name of not hurting feelings.

Any promotion for a solid, orthodox bishop like Wall can only be good news.

6) Committee on Doctrine: Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville

When he was appointed to Brownsville in 2010, Bishop Flores was considered a rising star in the U.S. hierarchy, and his rise continues unabated.

Bishop Flores likes Thomas Aquinas, Lord of the Rings, Frank Sinatra, and (apparently) cigarettes. He has been a firm supporter of the Latin Mass community in his large diocese. Like most bishops, he takes a fairly progressive view on immigration. But he’s solidly orthodox on all other counts, including life issues. Again, his promotion can only bode well for the Church going forward.

During the meeting, USCCB president Archbishop José Gomez warned the Conference that Joe Biden has

given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics. These policies include the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe vs. Wade. Both of these policies undermine our preeminent priority of the elimination of abortion.

These policies pose a serious threat to the common good, whenever any politician supports them. We have long opposed these policies strongly, and we will continue to do so. But when politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them, there are additional problems. Among other things, it creates confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions.

It will be Bishop Flores’s job to dispel any such confusion.

Should Mr. Biden take office, the bishops have signaled their willingness to confront him on the “preeminent priority.” Let’s pray that Our Lady to give them the courage to follow through.

[Photo credit: Catholic News Agency]


  • Michael Warren Davis

    Michael Warren Davis is a contributing editor of The American Conservative and the author of The Reactionary Mind (Regnery, 2021). He previously served as editor of Crisis Magazine and U.S. editor of the Catholic Herald of London. His next book, After Christendom, will be published by Sophia Institute Press. Follow his Substack newsletter, The Common Man.

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