So how did the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops do on the inspired leadership front? (See “Ain’t that a Shame,” November 4, 2017, The Table) The surprise that made lots of news was the election of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann as chair of the Pro-Life Committee over Cardinal Blaise Cupich, 96 to 82: no Girl Scouts over “seamless garment.” Leadership not in a good direction, not in a Francis direction, toward certainty, away from flexibility.
John Gehring in Commonweal spells out the differences between these two men somewhat more politely than Michael Sean Winters summarizes the Vatican politics in the National Catholic Reporter. On leadership, I find more telling the comment of Bishop Frank Dewane, who heads the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Heidi Schlumpf reports “He said many fellow bishops greeted him at the meeting by noting, ‘We’ve heard a lot from you lately,’ and shared how they too were addressing those issues.” I read this as the kind of put-down I often hear when I’ve pressed a point more than the responder wants – but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they do welcome someone taking them from a “ripple” toward a “tsunami,” a rather felicitous metaphor from Bishop Dewane, who has issued two statements since the USCCB meeting critical of the US House and Senate tax proposals. I am compelled to mention that there were lively debates on immigration and on racism – but no concrete proposals for action, yet. The tyranny of the majority, perhaps. And that Mary Hunt’s reaction to the Rolling the Stone Away conference I contrasted to the USCCB meeting in my post “was a fabulous experience the likes of which I have not had since Re-Imagining.”
You’ll have to look up those events because I have to go on to the Pope. Marie Dennis describes the leadership role Pope Francis has taken to condemn nuclear disarmament in favor of total abolition of nuclear weapons. For a long time, the position of the US Bishops had been that deterrence was a rational strategy. Not for this Pope. That’s leadership, and Marie Dennis has been a voice calling in this wilderness for a long while in her various roles with Pax Christi.
The Pope’s strong stand impresses me in light of the Gospel for Christ the King this Sunday. The KING? When did that evolve? Certainly we can identify ourselves among those who the ruler (Quixote translation) welcomes into the reign of justice and love, but do we feel comfortable with the exclusion from the kindom of the accursed ones who did not see Jesus in the suffering and the poor? The Pope condemned those who would threaten the use of nuclear weapons and I, at least, hope that his words and those of the other leaders at the conference Dennis describes will inspire “rulers” with power in our nation to change their ways before it’s too late for all of us.