Doubts if US bishops’ election guide reflects Francis

Sharp debate on the degree to which US bishops should adjust their priorities to match those of Pope Francis preceded approval of an election-year guide.

The US bishops, meeting this week in Baltimore, approved an election guide called “Faithful Citizenship”.

It stresses the moral imperative to evaluate political candidates according to their position on marriage and abortion.

It addresses a broad range of issues in Catholic social teaching, including protecting immigrants and the environment, fighting racism and poverty, and opposing the death penalty.

But the bishops said they consider opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights paramount in this US presidential election season and beyond.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said the document was “gravely hobbled” and did not reflect the Pope’s priorities.

Bishop McElroy argued that the document, a re-working of an 84-page treatise first written in 2007, should be scrapped.

“Specifically, I think the Pope is telling us that alongside the issues of abortion and euthanasia — which are central aspects of our commitment to transform this world — poverty and the degradation of the Earth are also central,” Bishop McElroy said.

“But this document keeps to the structure of the worldview of 2007. It does not put those there.”

Bishop McElroy argued that the new draft still “provides a warrant for those who will misuse this document outside this room to exclude poverty and exclude the environment as key issues and say they are secondary, and cite this document as they have done for the last two election cycles”.

Bishop McElroy was supported by a number of other bishops, some of whom were also dismayed by the number of times the draft mentioned same-sex marriage, given that the US Supreme Court has ruled on that issue.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington said that while the document is not perfect, it is still good.

Cardinal Wuerl said that by supporting it “we will have something done this year and not run the risk of trying to do something in the midst of an election campaign”.

The document was approved by 210-21 with five abstentions.


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