Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Why are the US bishops taking a stand--any stand-- on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 21, 2014

Where do you stand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement?

You don’t have a clue? Didn’t know that such an agreement had been proposed? Have no idea what it includes? Just hearing about it for the first time? Then you’re with me.

Maybe you’re familiar with the issue. Maybe you know what the agreement involves. Maybe you have strong opinions about it. Good for you. But I’m quite sure most American Catholics are with me: uninformed and undecided.

So why has the the US bishops’ conference entered the discussion with advice to Congress about the proposal? Certainly the bishops aren’t speaking for the Catholic people of the United States; the Catholic people, as a group, don’t have an opinion. It’s highly unlikely, in fact, that the Catholic bishops of the US have clear opinions; most of them, too, are undoubtedly unfamiliar with this issue.

So when two bishops sign a letter to Congress, who do they represent? It’s very difficult to explain any way in which they are speaking for anyone but themselves. And if they are only speaking for themselves, it’s very difficult to explain why the statement was released.

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.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 22, 2017 2:45 PM ET USA

    A very cogent essay. But the "Everything that…" sentence doesn't make sense in the context of his own words on Socrates and St Paul, and, certainly what we know of the Church Fathers and Doctors that are the Catholic pillars of "Western Civilization." Is Caffarra a fideist? The "Everything that…" quote skates onto the fideist ice. Certainly, if we look from Descartes or Luther onward, the "Everything that…" statement makes sense, but not before.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Sep. 22, 2017 10:41 AM ET USA

    "If you are tempted to think of...Caffarra as an ally of 'conservative' forces within the Church, you might have trouble explaining... 'Everything that makes up what we call 'Western civilization' leads to atheism or to the expulsion of religion from the horizon of life.'" I suppose that a political conservative or a Protestant could have a problem with that, but an observer with eyes open to reality and truth will recognize Western civilization for what it is: a protest against true religion.

  • Posted by: Elan - Sep. 21, 2017 11:46 PM ET USA

    That final quote hit me hard.

  • Posted by: Columbo - Jan. 22, 2014 3:28 PM ET USA

    The letter from our Bishops certainly do represent our Catholic principles,and was a wonderful thumbnail summary of our core values on the pertinent issues prior to the politicians and bureaucrats final draft of any such treaty.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2014 12:02 PM ET USA

    This letter is yet another emanation from the overstaffed USCCB which feels compelled to generate paper as to issues about which the bishops know little. Are the bishops familiar with the story of the boy who kept shouting "WOLF"? After a while nobody was paying attention.