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Is There a New Direction for US Catholic Church Under the Influence of Pope Francis?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In what is seen by some as a sign of the new direction for the American church under the influence of Pope Francis, U.S. Catholic bishops will choose new leaders at an assembly in Baltimore this week. Close attention will be paid to who is chosen as self styled experts present differing assessments of the influence of Pope Francis

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The new leaders of the Bishops Conference will be preparing for an extraordinary synod of Bishops in Rome. The Synod will address marriage and the family. The Vatican is calling upon bishops, priests, deacons and other leaders around the world to utilize an assessment tool, a questionaire which seeks information on the situations which have arisen as a result of same sex marriage, divorce and birth control. This is to prepare for the October 2014 meeting.

This gathering of this information is intended to assist the Church in providing pastoral care and missionary outreach in the challenging situations she faces. Unfortunately, some who hope to change what is unchangeable Church teaching, have reported on the surveys with the same kind of inaccurate advocacy journalism which has falsely reported on other matters since Pope Francis began his service as the successor of the Apostle Peter.

Some maintain that there has been overemphasis placed on the challnges faced in the culture as the truth concerning marriage and the dignity of human life is increasingly rejected. "Bishops have been stuck in a bunker fighting the culture war," said John Gehring, who was once in the conference's communications office and is now Catholic program director for Faith in Public Life says. A member of a liberal advocacy group, Gehring says "Pope Francis has said we can't just be known by what we oppose." Father Thomas Reese says,"What's been in the foreground has been their campaigns on gay marriage, abortion and their concerns on the contraceptive mandate." 

Pope Francis has made it clear that the Church must always reach out first with the mercy and the compassion of the Gospel.That demonstrating such a redemptive approach in her mission is the framework within which her opposition to the taking of innocent human life through procured abortion and her defense of marriage as only between one man and one woman must be proclaimed. In an interview published in September, Francis says that the church must become more merciful or risk falling "like a house of cards."

"They may make a greater effort to couple what they say about issues like that with messages of having a more pastoral tone, putting what they say about the questions of same sex marriage in a context of authentic and pastoral concern for same sex couples," Russell Shaw, a writer on Catholic issues and a former spokesman for the conference says. Shaw says he doesn't think the bishops will back off on social issues, just as Francis has reiterated church teachings on these subjects - but that they may shift their approach.

The bishops' conference has taken stands for a proper appraoch to immigration reform and in support of anti-poverty programs under the leadership of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan over the past three years.  The conference has also been outspoken on defending religious liberty as a fundamental human right - protesting the Obama administration's mandate that seeks to force Catholic schools, hospitals and other Church related outreaches to provide insurance that provides abortifacients,sterilization, artificial birth control, all rejected by the Church as contrary to human dignity, against marital fidelity and intrinsically immoral, for free.

This strong stand against the HHS mandate has concerned some who claim that the church's leaders have become too aligned with what they call the political right.However, the Church cannot and will not be contained by political terminology or ideology. She will continue to stay faithful to the Truth as she ministers the Gospel in Love.

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