June 17, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – As I followed the recent USCCB meeting in the press, I never saw references to any public comments made by any bishop on the recent Open Letter, which accused Pope Francis of the delict of heresy, or any comment on the “Declaration of Truths” (see prior discussion on the the Open Letter here and the Declaration of Truths here). One would think a sizable gathering of bishops, who are Successors of the Apostles, would find in these documents — which deal with a grave crisis in the Church at the present moment — an occasion to make a public comment–one way or the other. One would think…right?
Yet, to my knowledge at least (and please, readers, comment below to correct me)…not a single bishop at this gathering of US Successors of the Apostles made a single public comment about any of these documents, or the accusations or truths asserted therein. Who knows, perhaps some of the bishops might have chatted or joked about the Open Letter and the Declaration of Truths over cocktails or an afternoon round of golf between sessions at the gathering.
However, that not one of these Successors of the Apostles had the doctrinal backbone or wherewithal to make a single public comment either for or against the Open Letter or the Declaration of Truths is just another demonstration of the milquetoast quality of bishops we have in the US. But, not to be harsh on the US bishops, I suspect they are representative of their brethren in the episcopacy elsewhere in the Church.
Indeed, the sad state of our episcopate was on full display at the USCCB meeting, such as when one bishop did rise to suggest communion should not be given to Catholic politicians who support abortion. After this suggestion was made, not a single voice seconded the motion nor voiced any public support whatsoever for the motion (see here). Then there is the case of Cardinal Cupich who would not deny communion to pro-abortion politicians (see here), even though that is what is required by canons 915 (see also here) and 916.
The USCCB, in the main, has had a problem with both teaching and enforcing doctrine. But for one example, as Roma Locuta Est has noted before, the USCCB website carries a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew in which it is claimed Apostle Matthew did not write the Gospel of Matthew (see The USCCB does not know who wrote the Gospel of Matthew? Let’s tell them.). But given our bishops, in the main, don’t know who wrote the Gospel of Matthew, and cannot be bothered to take down this insanity from their own website, it may come as no surprise they voted 194 to 8 with 3 abstentions for approved the revised passage on the Death Penalty for the US Catechism for Adults (see here and here).
My intent is not to discuss the doctrinal issues surround Pope Francis’ recent adjustment to the Catechism on the Death Penalty (NB: my previous comments are found here in More Papal Confusion: Footnoting Francis throws his predecessors under the bus). However, I do note that the Declaration of Truths does propose the following proposition regarding the Death Penalty, which appears to be denied by Francis. In the Declaration of Truths, proposition #28 states the following to be true:
“In accordance with Holy Scripture and the constant tradition of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, the Church did not err in teaching that the civil power may lawfully exercise capital punishment on malefactors where this is truly necessary to preserve the existence or just order of societies (see Gen 9:6; John 19:11; Rom 13:1-7; Innocent III, Professio fidei Waldensibus praescripta; Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. III, 5, n. 4; Pius XII, Address to Catholic jurists on December 5, 1954).”
Again, my intent is not to get into a debate on the death penalty here. What I wanted to draw attention to is the following: that the statement above, for all practical purposes, was rejected by the USCCB when it voted 194-8-3 in favor of making a change in the US catechism in conformity to the change proposed by Pope Francis. That is, only 8 bishops – 11 if you count the abstentions – had any sort of problem with Francis’ change.
While Catholics following the Amoris Laetitia debacle and the Dubia could probably guess there were few bishops out there willing to make a stand in support of orthodoxy, there have been no metrics to indicate how few that number might be in fact. In that sense, we’ve been flying in the dark, wondering how many bishops might be out there that support the Dubia, the Declaration of Truths, the Filial Correction…or who might even be sympathetic to the recent Open Letter. Hard to say. There is no polling of bishops on these questions.
However, as I see it, given the Declaration of Truths position on the death penalty above; the USCCB’s vote count (194-8-3) on the death penalty entry to the US Catechism was essentially something of a proxy vote on the Declaration of Truths–and thus, in a way, a statement on the controversies that sparked the need for it. Sure, it is not a scientific poll, but I suppose it to be at least “directionally” accurate or suggestive of the state of affairs in the USCCB. Therefore, if I had to guess, the Declaration of Truths — had the US Bishops put it to a vote at all — would have gathered 8 votes at most out of the 205 US Bishops voting. That’s only 4%. Pretty sad. Well, optimistically, maybe 5% if you include the 3 abstentions. That’s 4-5% of the episcopate that could or would support the Declaration of Truths in total…maybe. If that is a fair, ballpark estimate, we would be at a level of episcopal rot not seen since the time of the Arian crisis.
But, the vote speculations aside, a growing number of Catholics see the problems in the episcopacy. Up to this point, I believe an increasing number of Catholics (1) have seen the McCarrick scandal as symptomatic of wider problems within the episcopacy and seminaries which need to be investigated (but are not), (2) have seen bishops ignoring the Church’s teaching on homosexuality (e.g., invitations to Fr. Martin SJ, supporting gay pride parades), and (3) have seen the bishops ignore the real questions raised by the Dubia. Even before the Open Letter and the Declaration of Truths, I’ve met many Catholics who have said they have quit contributing to the archdiocese, as well as their own parish given the archdiocese benefits from “taxing” it. I suspect more and more Catholics will stop contributing directly to their dioceses, and instead find alternative ways to support and fund good, Catholic priests and Catholic institutions. Maybe then, when their checkbooks run empty, some bishops will wake up and realize there is a crisis…and that they are part of it.
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).