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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

6/16/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Bishops meet in New Orleans.

There can be no more question that Pope Francis has had an impact on the clergy of the Catholic Church in the United States, as he has around the globe. American clerics have been challenged to reevaluate their practices and messages in light of a renewed emphasis on the whole body of Catholic Social teaching, including giving a love of preference to the poor.

The bishops gathered in New Orleans to discuss issues facing many Catholics today.

The bishops gathered in New Orleans to discuss issues facing many Catholics today.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/16/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Bishops, Catholic, New Orleans, issues, Pope Francis


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When the Holy Spirit guided the election of Pope Francis, the Cardinals of the Church confirmed a man who would reform the Church. It is not that the Church needed some sweeping doctrinal reform, but a refocus on the fullness of the Social Doctrine of the Church, including the obligation we have in solidarity to show a special love of preference to the poor. 

Some try to analyze this refocus as some kind of split between defending the Right to Life of children in the womb versus reaching out to the poor. When they do so, and that includes some Catholic analysts, they make a major mistake. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta rightly referred to children in the womb as the "poorest of the poor."

While some Catholic clerics in the United States have emphasized the defense of marriage and the unborn as key issues -which they remain - perhaps they have not spoken out as as much about other pastoral issues, such as care for the poor and the stewardship of creation.

Or so claims a recent article in the New York Times which discussed shifts in attitudes on behalf of the Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The sick and hungry cannot wait. Do something to help, today.

In reality, we should acknowledge the fact that our Bishops have been tireless in advocating the cause of the poor in our nation. It should also be understood that issues such as abortion also uniquely impact the poor community, imposing forms of virtual warfare on women advanced by propaganda and producing real casualties.

Still, at a recent conference for Catholic Bishops in New Orleans, there seemed to be a consensus that they could do yet more to share the teaching of the Church as so beautifully espoused in both word and deed by Francis, of the obligation we all have in solidarity to love the poor. 

A few bishops in the Church have been criticized for allegedly living a lifestyle which is too lavish. One was removed from his Diocese by Pope Francis. Last year, the Holy Father recalled the "Bishop of Bling" from his Diocese in Germany to Rome.

This, combined with Pope Francis' witness of an evangelical simplicity and regular preaching on the importance of all Christians living gospel simplicity and reaching out to poor, has American bishops examining their own lifestyle.

Many Bishops already live simple lives. However, because some have lived in homes and driven cars which prompted folks in the pews to wonder, a review is underway.  No inquiry was made as to who owned the homes, how or why they they lived in them - for example, sharing them with the less fortunate.

Bishops need cars and homes. Most Bishops are not members of religious orders with a vow of poverty. They are chosen from the ranks of what are called the secular clergy. But, they are all called to live exemplary lives. That includes bearing witness to evangelical simplicity.

Some who are quick to criticize the Catholic Bishops emphasize that an upgraded vehicle or an expanded residence may mean less money that can go towards the sick and the poor, the addicts and the homeless.

There is nothing new about this allegation. It can also come from many different motivations.

Remember the Gospel accounts of people in the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus criticizing the woman who washed his feet with expensive perfume. (Matt.26:9, John 12:5) And, we can never forget the allegations of Judas. (See, John 12:6)

In the United States, too many are quick to criticize the allegedly lavish lifestyle of the Bishops in the media. In fact, anyone who knows a Bishop also knows the  the judgement is usually without merit - and sometimes based on anti-Catholic bias.

Sadly, many more also judge the poor, somehow blaming them for their plight and doing nothing to help.  That is what is most important. We are called to love the poor as Jesus loved the poor- as Jesus loves the poor. (See, Matt 25) We are to find Jesus in the poor.

There was also a decision made during the New Orleans conference to update the Faithful Citizenship document which is issued by the Bishops every year to help Catholic citizens to inform their voting patterns by the principles offered by their faith.

It will be updated to include the insights offered in the writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, especially concerning our obligations toward the poor.

Finally, it is imperative that that we understand that we are Catholic first, members of the One Human Family discussed by Pope Francis last year. We are Catholic Christians before we are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, or whatever other political affiliation we may prefer.

We are Catholic first, before our jobs and incomes, before our educational level, the color of our skin, or  the choices we have made in the past. It is this Faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ - who can make all of men and women new - that unites us. We are called to live our lives differently now, by living them in Him and with one another, for the sake of the world.

Pope Francis has asked us to pay attention to all of the social and cultural and economic issues which need attention. Our bishops are doing just that and will remind us to evaluate our own choices in living our lives as morally coherent Catholic Christians. For what is good for a bishop is also good for a parishioner.

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