by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR
After much effort and debate, the U.S. bishops approved a new introduction and an amended version of “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the document issued every four years before a presidential election. The introduction and revision, which were the work of 10 committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, were presented to the bishops at their fall meeting in Baltimore.
The introduction was approved on Nov. 17 by a vote of 217-16, with two abstentions, while the document itself was approved 210-21, with five abstentions. A two-thirds vote was necessary for passage.
The overwhelming vote disguises the fact that many bishops were not happy with the documents, but they realized that there was no way that a new document could be produced in a timely way before the election. They felt the documents were better than nothing, and they did not want the conference embarrassed by having the documents fail to be approved.
As Tom Roberts reports, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego correctly argued that trying to update the 2007 version of Faithful Citizenship did not work because “we are not living in 2007.” It “does not take into account the fact that Pope Francis … rapidly transformed the prioritization of Catholic social teaching and its elements — not the truth of them, not the substance, but the prioritization of them. [He] has radically transformed that in articulating the claims that fall upon the citizens as believers and disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston responded that his committee did what the bishops asked them to do at their spring meeting, namely write a new introduction and make revisions to the 2007 document...