National Catholic Reporter's latest editorial succinctly argues that the bishops' ability to fulminate persuasively on matters political has been more than a little undermined by their behavior during the abuse crisis:
It has been clear for some time that U.S. bishops have been unpersuasive in making the case for any number of political positions and strategies, from abortion to the death penalty. The reasons may be many, but certainly one of them is the fact that the bishops are saddled with the hypocrisy of their own behavior in the sex abuse crisis. Their version of pick-and-choose morality in the abuse crisis, relativistic in the extreme, makes it difficult for them to pronounce as moral authorities with any credibility.
When you make exalted claims about yourself as the possessor and purveyor of absolute, unilateral truth, people do tend to look at how you behave and how you live as a litmus test of the gobsmacking truth you're seeking to purvey. When your episcopal palace has glass walls and anyone with eyes can see that the truth coming out of your mouth doesn't match the truth you're living inside that palace. . . .
Or as Phyllis Zagano pithily notes, re: the pope's "new evangelization" platform,
The bottom line is no one is going to follow Jesus unless the messengers act like Jesus. It is just not going to happen.
And she's very right, it seems to me.
But not a whit of this stops the bishops from trying, from continuing to carry the big stick and speak very, very loudly. As David Gibson reports at the Commonweal blog, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs has just expanded that nifty little list of "non-negotiables" the bishops and their Republican taskmasters love to use as a big stick with which to beat susceptible Catholic voters about the head. You know the list I mean: the one that tells you you'll damn your soul to burning hell if you vote for a politician respecting the law of the land with Roe v. Wade or supporting the civil right of gay citizens to civil marriage.
Sheridan has now added support for the HHS guidelines to his list, and has stated that if V-P Joe Biden happened to blow into town and present himself for communion, the good bishop would do everything possible to let Biden know he's not welcome at the Lord's table. Since the Lord appears, you understand, to share Sheridan's notion of non-negotiables.
Which, curiously, doesn't include questions about care for the poor, immigration, or capital punishment, as David Gibson notes.
As I said yesterday, with Archie Bunker sitting on practically every episcopal throne in the land, woe betide the people of God and the gospel we're given to live and proclaim. When our "pastoral" leaders make such mincemeat of the core values of our tradition and of the gospel itself, there's not much left to do except stop our ears against the arrant nonsense and shoulder up our cross and continue on our journey. In the footsteps of Jesus, who never behaved in the slightest way like any of these empty fulminators, stick-brandishers, and jealous, petty manipulators of a table the Lord himself sets for all.