The Bishops. Old Dogs, Old Tricks?

Bishops, like old dogs, eschew new tricks.

The US Bishops, as a collective, had long been enablers of that wretched party. It seemed that no amount of policy minutiae was to be beyond their purview as long as it involved more government spending and less law enforcement under the pretense of social justice.

For their years of loyal service to the cause, these Shepherds and their sheep have been given the sharp end of the stick. As often is the case, the enablers eventually become the targets.

But these old dogs, it seemed, might be capable of some new tricks after all. When the Church and our God-given religious liberty became the target of that wretched party in general and of its general in particular, the Bishops spoke forcefully for things long ignored. Things like the Constitution, the law, limits on government power were overnight added to the episcopal lexicon. For this, many of us are profoundly grateful.

Yet still, when Congressman Paul Ryan proposed a budget that just begins to deal with the reality of our (immoral) debt crisis, some these very same Bishops were quick to criticize. Old dogs, old tricks it seemed. But maybe not?

Joan Desmond, reporting from the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Atlanta, gives us some hope that some Bishops realize the bigger picture and even criticized the reflexive leftward knee-jerk.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Mich., was the first to step to the podium during the discussion that preceded the vote.

“There have been some concerns raised by lay Catholics, especially some Catholic economists, about what was perceived as a partisan action against Congressman Ryan and the budget he had proposed,” said Bishop Boyea. That statement “didn’t really further dialogue in our deeply divided country.”

In his view, statements that endorsed specific economic policies revealed a lack of “humility.” He told the assembly, “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [of the Social Doctrine of the Church].”

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., agreed that the committee was “at times perceived as partisan” and neglected the principle of subsidiarity, which calls for solutions that can be provided close to people in need.

Archbishop Naumann suggested that drafters of the statement needed to rethink a tendency to advocate for government assistance, and he said that the conference’s proposals should not ignore the ballooning national deficit.

“Sometimes we’re perceived as just encouraging the government to spend more money, with no realistic way of how we’re going to afford to do this,” he observed.


It will not surprise that I agree with Bishops Boyea and Naumann. Even in reaction to the unjust criticism of Rep. Ryan's budget, this is another hopeful sign.

The Bishops revolt against the unconstitutional HHS mandate and this type of realistic dialogue at the Bishop's conference are not things I imagined would happen even a year ago.

And so it is doubly frustrating to see the Bishop's Conference come out in favor of the Obama Administration's illegal amnesty program. While I, like the Bishops, think the policy a decent one, I can not ignore or endorse, like the Bishops, the means by which it has been achieved.

While the Bishops rightly deplore as unconstitutional the imposition of draconian rules defining qualifying religious organizations by executive fiat, they praise the same unconstitutional rule by executive fiat when they like the outcome.

The Bishops, better than most, should understand that the ends do not justify the means.

Moreover, by removing this policy from the proper legislative deliberations, it makes it much more difficult to accomplish some of the other important items surrounding the proper control of our borders. Some of these issues are also matters of justice for those people who are already taxpaying citizens or seeking to become one through legal means.

By approving and applauding this unconstitutional bypass of the separation of powers simply because they like the outcome, the Bishops undermine their credibility and resolve in the fight against the mandate.

Seems these old dogs are still having trouble learning the new tricks.