What conclusion should people in the pews draw from the silence of the bishops as the conspicuously Catholic Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan refuses to allow a vote on any of the gun control bills that have been drafted? Not even the sit-in by the Democrats, led by civil rights icon, John Lewis to get the House of Representatives to vote on the bills appears sufficient to move the bishops to speak out and exert some measure of moral authority.
Apparently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is all about promoting life –so long as it is in the womb. Once again they have launched a re-run of the so-called “Fortnight for Freedom” this week. Already a highly questionable piece of theater, it seems particularly ludicrous this year in the face of the bishops’ refusal to exert moral leadership. They have yet to play a public role in advancing gun control, or in condemning the rhetoric of lies, hate and fear-mongering that is particularly prominent in the GOP nominee’s audition for the top job in the land.
A recent National Catholic Reporter (NCR) editorial accurately describes what the bishops have reduced themselves to: “warriors who insist on carrying on the ideological opposition to the Affordable Care Act under a thin disguise of a fight for religious liberty.” NCR goes further to say, “It is time U.S. church leaders remove themselves from the thrall of shrill lobbyists and partisan ideologues.” The absurdity of their “moral shell game,” NCR tells us, is especially clear as parish life and ministry continue in dioceses and Catholic institutions across the country whose insurance companies provide full contraceptive coverage in accordance with state laws. The New York archdiocese’s commercial insurance company, we learn from the paper, is one such example, providing a comprehensive range of contraceptive drugs and devices.
Newtown. Charleston. San Bernadino. Orlando. We remember the more recent places of massacre like national monuments. But for grieving families and friends these place names are like headstones for loved ones lost to preventable gun violence. As terrible as these mass killings are, this Mother Jones report shows that easy access to guns has taken a far heavier toll than the general public readily understands or remembers.
The bishops clearly have other priorities. You would not know from their website, their Facebook or their Twitter accounts, or from the news releases being issued this week, that the bishops have anything other than abortion, contraception and the tired, useless fight with the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act on their minds. They certainly appear to have nothing to say to encourage Speaker Paul Ryan to do the right thing, and let elected representatives vote on commonsense measures that could save lives. Perhaps as they take to the pulpit in the name of “freedom” these next two weeks, their encounters with Catholics living in the real world who have been touched by the tragedy of gun violence might move them to break their silence.
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