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uncertain trumpet

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 13, 2006

The US bishops' conference has issued a response to the "Statement of Principles" in which 55 Catholic Democrats from the US House of Representatives announced that their votes would not be guided by Church teachings on subjects like abortion and same-sex unions.

In their response the bishops clearly stated that the Democratic politicans were wrong.

Oh, wait. The bishops didn't clearly state that the Democrats were wrong. They said that the lawmakers' statement was "welcome," but went on to say that we "need to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s constant teaching that abortion is a grave violation of the most fundamental human right...." and that "all Catholics are obliged to shape our consciences in accord with the moral teaching of the Church."

If you're familiar with the issues, you read the bishops' statement carefully and recognize that they are disagreeing with the Democratic politicians. But if you're not familiar with the issues, and/or you don't read carefully, you don't get that message. And most Catholic Americans probably won't read the statement carefully, because they'll never hear about it, because...

The Democratic statement was an obvious effort to grab headlines and sway public opinion. If the bishops really wanted to counteract that effort, they would have been careful to include a clear, simple message in their own statement: something that would make for a good quote in the lead paragraph of a news story. There's no such simple, declarative statement here. No bid for widespread attention. No direct confrontation of the legislators' errors. No clear teaching.

What is clear is the bishops' enthusiasm for-- can you guess?-- dialogue. And not just any dialogue but "especially the irreplaceable dialogue between Catholic political leaders and their own bishops."

Oh, that dialogue? You mean the dialogue between politicians who pronounce their contempt for Church teaching and prelates who warn those politicians of their spiritual peril? That dialogue certainly is irreplaceable, because you can't replace what you never had.

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