Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a letter to the president of the U.S. bishops' conference, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, regarding the conference's plans to draft a policy on the worthiness of pro-choice politicians to receive Communion.
The letter gave a tutorial on what it means to be a bishop, writes NCR political columnist Michael Sean Winters, a lesson that is "sadly as necessary as it is embarrassing" for the U.S. bishops.
Ladaria effectively derailed those plans, Winters says, adding that the cardinal is at pains to remind them how bishops should conduct themselves.
"The letter systematically pulls apart the rhetorical building blocks that had been assembled by the advocates of denying Communion to President Joe Biden," Winters writes, naming three bishops — Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, and former Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput — who have "so thoroughly conflated their identity as Catholics with the pro-life political movement, that they had confusedly thought it was fine to assemble political talking points and strategies, and then wiggle them into some kind of magisterial teaching."
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has urged the U.S. bishops to proceed with caution in their discussions about formulating a national policy "to address the situation of Catholics in public office who support legislation allowing abortion, euthanasia or other moral evils."
Amid conservative Catholics' growing calls to deny President Biden Communion, San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone has released a letter calling for public figures who support abortion to be barred from the sacrament.
Read a previous column by Winters, in which he says that by cloaking their essentially political objective in religious garb, the U.S. bishops are undermining the faith in ways President Joe Biden never will.
Pope Francis' new system to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse or cover-up against individual Catholic bishops, which went into effect in June 2019, is admirable, NCR writes in an editorial. For the first time in millennia — quite literally — there is an active process in place to hold prelates accountable should they fail in their duty to protect children or vulnerable adults from clerical predators.
"But after two years, it is clear that the process — which involves the Vatican empowering archbishops to conduct investigations as necessary in their local regions under the norms of the papal motu propio letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi — requires significant improvement," we write.
First, we say, should be a "substantial increase in transparency about which bishops are being investigated, what the accusations being brought forward involve, and who exactly is doing the investigating."
"Second up is something that, three decades into the church's continuing abuse crisis, many would have reasonably thought the Vatican should have understood by now: lay experts must be involved in all investigations," we write.
Bishops, canon lawyers and others discuss the way Pope Francis' sweeping church law on bishop accountability, issued two years ago, is playing out for the U.S. church.