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A terrific appointment at the US bishops' conference

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 18, 2012

If you aren’t excited about this news story, you probably don’t understand it. This is big. This is huge. This is exciting!

Have you been frustrated, over the years, with the political statements issued by the US bishops’ conference? If so, prepare for a welcome change. Have you wondered why the bishops never seem to listen to reasonable arguments by conservative Catholics? That’s about to change, too.

When John Carr retired from the staff of the US bishops’ conference, after helping to shape the bishops’ statements on political issues for more then 25 years, we wondered whether his departure signaled a shift in USCCB policy. Today we have our answer: Yes, it does.

Jonathan J. Reyes, who will be taking Carr’s post in December, will be coming to Washington from Denver, where he was head of Catholic Charities. His work there, and especially his involvement in projects like “Christ in the City,” testify to his belief that Christian charitable work is inseparable from evangelization. In other words he sees charitable work as a witness to faith, not a call for government support.

The resumés of these two men provide a vivid contrast. Whereas John Carr was hired by the Carter administration, and worked for the White House Conference on Families. Reyes was hired by Archbishop Chaput, and worked for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. Carr sat on the board of the leftist Center for Community Change; Reyes is co-founder of the Augustine Institute. Carr will be taking a post at Harvard’s Kennedy School; Reyes is a former vice-president of Christendom College.

Carr’s background, interests, instincts, and alliances tied him closely to liberal Democrats. Reyes, on the other hand, moves easily in conservative circles. This does not mean that Reyes will be a political partisan, or that the USCCB will suddenly begin endorsing Republican legislative proposals. But it does mean that for the first time in decades, the staff of the US bishops’ conference will not swing reflexively into line with the latest liberal rhetoric. Gaudeamus igitur, and chill the champagne!

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Sep. 20, 2012 7:39 PM ET USA

    A drop of water on a forest fire. How many years will it take this Bishop to reverse the effects of scores of years of damage? But Our Lord is merciful... Ave...