U.S. Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone


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U.S. Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone


JUNE 12, 2014


Catholic Bishops chatted during a coffee break at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday in New Orleans. CreditEdmund D. Fountain for The New York Times

NEW ORLEANS — They are rethinking what kinds of houses they live in, and what kinds of cars they drive. They are wondering whether, in anticipation of the 2016 presidential election, they need to rewrite their advice to parishioners to make sure that poverty, and not just abortion, is discussed as a high-priority issue. And they are trying to get better about returning phone calls, reaching out to the disenchanted and the disenfranchised, and showing up at events.

Fifteen months into the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States find themselves unsettled in ways large and small, revisiting both how they live and what they talk about in light of the new pope’s emphasis on personal humility and economic justice.

Over the last several days as the bishops gathered here for their semiannual meeting, they grappled with the substantive and stylistic implications of a still-new papacy.




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After several of their colleagues faced recent criticism for lavish houses, several bishops said in interviews that they were paying new attention to their own spending, mindful of the pope’s decision to eschew the apostolic palace for a small suite in a Vatican guesthouse, and aware that their parishioners are concerned about how the church uses its money.


From left, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Houston; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.; and Msgr. Ronny Jenkins.CreditEdmund D. Fountain for The New York Times

“They have a justifiable demand that we not spend extravagantly on ourselves, but that we share those goods with others, and he’s really forced that issue,” said Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash. Bishop Cupich noted that he owns no furniture and lives in a room at a seminary, and he said he is re-evaluating his diocesan budget to make sure it emphasizes assisting the poor.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson said he, too, thinks about Francis as he shapes his agenda, which, he said, now focuses on poverty, homelessness, addiction, violence and immigration. And, he said, he is mindful of his own spending.

“We have to have a home, have to have a car that’s not going to fall apart in the middle of the desert, but within reason we have to live simply,” he said. “The Holy Father is such a model of trying to live with simplicity, and that is working its way into the lives of bishops.”

Spending was clearly on the minds of the church’s leaders, some of whom live in grand homes and preach in landmark churches built decades ago as testaments to Catholicism’s acceptance and success after a period of discrimination in the United States. Asked a general question about the pope’s impact on bishops, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, responded with a defense of the upscale hotel where the bishops were meeting, the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.

“We have to meet at a hotel that’s big enough to hold us,” he said. “We have to meet at a hotel that’s big enough to allow media to attend.”

The shift in tone at the Vatican has been disquieting for some bishops. The archbishop of Indianapolis, Joseph W. Tobin, recently told a group of theologians, “What I’ve seen is how disruptive Pope Francis has been within the hierarchy of the United States,” according to The National Catholic Reporter. “I was talking to a couple of brother bishops a while back and they were saying that bishops and priests were very discouraged by Pope Francis because he was challenging them.”

But the bishops are clearly watching with interest. “Priests and bishops are paying close attention to what he’s saying, and reading it,” John Garvey, the president of the Catholic University of America, said in a telephone interview. Mr. Garvey said he was struck by how often church officials mentioned to him something the pope had only just said. “I don’t remember hearing that in the past about Benedict and John Paul.”

The business of the bishops’ meeting — presentations about clergy sexual abuse and assistance to victims of flooding in the Philippines, as well as about the church’s battles against same-sex marriage and in favor of religious freedom — was planned months ago.



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But on Thursday morning, the bishops also spent several hours discussing poverty and the relationship between marriage and economic well-being, both topics chosen to reflect the pope’s priorities. Helen M. Alvaré, a law professor at George Mason University, told the bishops that the Francis papacy was “an inflection point in the life of the church.”

The bishops’ willingness to adapt their agenda to reflect that of Francis will most likely be tested next year, when they must decide how to update their quadrennial guide for Catholic voters. The American bishops, almost all of them appointed by Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict, are a conservative group who have emphasized opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion in recent years and have been unable to reach a consensus on economic issues. On Wednesday, they began a discussion, which will continue through next year, about whether and how to incorporate the priorities of Francis in the 2016 version of the guide, which is called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

“We need to keep talking about the hot-button issues that we’ve been talking about for a long time, but not just those issues,” Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans said in an interview. He added, “We don’t, perhaps, at times talk enough about the poor, about the economy, and we don’t perhaps talk enough about reaching out to those with disabilities, those whose voices are not heard.”

Archbishop Aymond said he has tried to address this in one small way himself, by returning phone calls and letters, and by reminding himself, “people shouldn’t always have to go through several others to get to us.”


Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the gathering that, if the voters’ guide is not revised, “it will not include anything of the teachings of Pope Francis.” And Bishop Robert W. McElroy, an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco, suggested that the document’s discussion of evil, now focused on abortion and racism, should be revisited in light of the pope’s description of economic inequality as a social evil.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Houston, who has been leading the bishops’ effort to consider reworking “Faithful Citizenship,” said the document would not shy away from the abortion issue, which he called “very important, crucial, significant, one of the chief issues” and “nonnegotiable.” But, he said, to reflect Francis’ agenda, the bishops would also “want to make sure we speak very insistently about the role of poverty, about the role of the economy.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia is leading the bishops’ most Francis-friendly effort — to persuade the pope to visit that city next year, when a large gathering of Catholic families is planned there. Archbishop Chaput said he already had “good reasons to believe” the pope would come to the event. But just in case, the entire bishops’ conference agreed to send a letter to Francis, inviting him to attend, and, in the process, to make what would be his first trip to the United States as pope.

A version of this article appears in print on June 13, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone. 


    18 Responses to “U.S. Bishops Seek to Match Vatican in Shifting Tone”

  1. Thomas Says:

    The day the desert turns to sea is the day that these men become the instruments of God.

  2. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    they behave like conquistadores…they have no mercy and will continue to harm countless people worldwide…please remove them, they have done enough harm…

  3. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    families…stay away from any invitation from Chaput…he is an evil man…hard…unable to contain his rage…don’t be taken in by a shiny cross…protect yourselves from his brand of psychic violence…

  4. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Archbishop Full Deposition by Jeffrey Anderson:


  5. Michael Skiendzielewski Says:

    “What I’ve seen is how disruptive Pope Francis has been within the hierarchy of the United States,” according to The National Catholic Reporter. “I was talking to a couple of brother bishops a while back and they were saying that bishops and priests were very discouraged by Pope Francis because he was challenging them.”

    Hand Tobin a crying towel………

  6. Michael Skiendzielewski Says:

    Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia is leading the bishops’ most Francis-friendly effort — to persuade the pope to visit that city next year, when a large gathering of Catholic families is planned there.

    Now all we need here in the City of Brotherly Love is to coordinate the Papal visit with one of the pending archdiocesan criminal trials. Maybe Charles can arrange for the Judge to have the Pope open the court proceedings with a prayer.

  7. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    incidentally…who is the person that stretched shiney heads in the above photo so that the cheese look like CONE HEADS…?

  8. Thomas Says:

    It was an act of God…to make them appear as if they have something between their eyes. God has a sense of humor.

  9. Frank Lostaunau Says:



  10. ERW Says:

    I do not believe they change their ways. Those bishops live entirely Anti-gospel and Anti-Christ.

    Evil is as Evil does.

  11. ERW Says:

    They blame of course the nuns, but the nuns have been completely under the control of bishops. The nuns never did anything, unless is was sanctioned by the bishops and approved by the clergy. until Vatican 2, and now bishops oppress them again, and persecute them.

  12. Thomas Says:

    They don’t listen to the laity, they don’t listen to the pope, they don’t listen to the noise and the signs of change… who do they listen to? Adaptation is for bishops too… as broken, as unfixable as they are… one can live imperfect in a not so perfect world… but one does not live long without love… the people of God are now retracting that love because with their own eyes, and with their own ears they see immorality and hear of the ravages of extreme neglect… the metastatic derangement of stewardship.

  13. Thomas Says:

    You don’t think that they are jealous of nuns do you? Cowabunga! Of course they are.

  14. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Priests and Nuns have been involved in the sexual abuse and maltreatment of children and vulnerable adults.

    There is no denying that Catholic Nuns have not participated with zeal in the sexual torture of innocents.

  15. Frank Lostaunau Says:



  16. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    CAN’T DENY THIS: http://www.scribd.com/ProtectYourChildren

    nuns = evil evil evil girlies

  17. Thomas Says:

    Ebay time?

  18. Thomas Says:

    As long as there is confession in this Church, there will be denial. As long as there are lying and criminal bishops in this Church, there will be treason against the Holy Spirit. As long as there is abuse and abuse of power in this Church, there will be apathy and faithlessness among the people of God. And as long as inequality exist in this Church… there will be trash… the largest heap know to man. Maid service please!

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