by Kevin Clarke
Just a few hours after its bishop-members voted down the candidacy of Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark for the number-three spot at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Nov. 16, Bishop John Stowe, O.F.M. Conv. of Lexington, Ky., was smiling through evident frustration. In a few hours he would—again—implore his fellow bishops to consider a complete rewrite of its quadrennial Faithful Citizenship statement, with the aim of reflecting the ecological and economic issues prioritized over the last decade by Pope Francis.
That decision has been put off for years with compromises worked out over editorial tweaking or new introductions to the document, which was first composed in 2007. Bishop Stowe seemed resigned to a similar outcome in 2022, two years before an important presidential election campaign.
“In the 2020 election, as in the 2016 election, the argument was, ‘Well, it’s too late to do something,’” he said. “Well, it’s not like we don’t know when elections are.”
Conference members indeed voted that afternoon to delay an overhaul of Faithful Citizenship—this time until after the 2024 election, indicating that an entirely new document on how U.S. Catholics should think about voting will not be completed and distributed until the 2028 election.
America spoke to Bishop Stowe about his impressions of the fall general assembly and the state of the U.S.C.C.B.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What do you think the election of Archbishop Timothy Broglio says about the direction the conference is going to take over the next three years?
I think it says we’re definitely not going to be going in the direction of Pope Francis any more than we have, and that’s unfortunate. I hope Archbishop Broglio can bring us together a little bit better than we have been, but I’d also like to see Francis’ agenda much higher on the bishops’ priorities.
Just after his election, Archbishop Broglio expressed a willingness to meet with President Joseph Biden, only the second Catholic to serve in the highest political office in the land. Do you think the U.S.C.C.B. can find common ground to work with Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress despite differences over abortion?
I hope that Archbishop Broglio and the president do meet, and I think if Archbishop Broglio doesn’t start his term by issuing a critique of the president or rallying the troops against him, that might be a possibility….