For those who may be lamenting the seeming resurgence of the Catholic Left in the Age of Obama, I would like to point out some good news: This year’s spate of bishops’ assignments have been quite heartening. Since the beginning of 2009, there have been ten appointments announced by the Vatican. All of them should be encouraging to those who grumble about the “bishops this” and the “bishops that.”
Just as encouraging should be the record number of bishops who were outspoken during the presidential campaign in defense of unborn life, and those who publicly criticized Notre Dame for honoring President Barack Obama.
Of course, this new spirit of activism among the bishops is not good news to everybody. David O’Brien of Holy Cross tried to spin a theory about why many other bishops remained silent during the Notre Dame flap: “Their most recent engagements with politics sharpened divisions within the Church and left the bishops shaken, even embarrassed.” O’Brien hoped that the bishops’ conference, meeting in San Antonio last week, would put away their “shrill tone,” “make a new start,” and “build on hope, not fear.”
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Dan Gilgoff, at his very fine “God & Country” blog at U. S. News & World Report, was prompted by O’Brien’s article to ask whether one could in fact claim that a “silent majority” of the bishops support Obama. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, responded to Gilgoff’s question by saying, “The real story here is not that most [bishops] said nothing, it’s about the 80 or so who spoke out. In my 16 years in this job, I have never seen that many bishops go public about an issue like this.”
I agree with Donohue completely. The same thing could be said for the record number of bishops who spoke out during the 2008 presidential campaign on subjects ranging from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Sen. Joe Biden on St. Augustine and “Faithful Citizenship,” to the question of whether a Catholic can vote for a pro-abortion candidate in good conscience. As Donohue added, “We have more bishops willing to speak out now on matters that conservative Catholics want them to address than we’ve seen in a very, very long time.”
As it turned out, the bishops’ meeting in San Antonio did not go as O’Brien had hoped. The bishops did not ignore the Notre Dame scandal — they took the opportunity to show their corporate support of Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who refused to attend the Notre Dame commencement for the first time in his 24 years as bishop. His fellow bishops wrote:
The bishops of the United States express our appreciation and support for our brother bishop, the Most Reverend John D’Arcy. We affirm his pastoral concern for Notre Dame University, his solicitude for its Catholic identity, and his loving care for all those the Lord has given him to sanctify, to teach and to shepherd.
What’s more, the bishops’ appointments of 2009 thus far suggest there will be more strong leadership in the future. As you look at the list, bear in mind that five are archbishops and four of the dioceses– New York, Detroit, New Orleans, and St. Louis — are among the most influential in the nation.
January 5: Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland was appointed Archbishop of Detroit
January 19: Rev. Edward J. Burns of Pittsburgh was appointed Bishop of Juneau, Alaska
February 3: Rev. James S. Wall of Phoenix was appointed Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico
February 23: Bishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee was appointed Archbishop of New York
March 23: Auxiliary Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Diego was appointed Archbishop of Oakland
April 21: Bishop Robert Cunningham of Ogdensburg, New York, was appointed Bishop of Syracuse
April 23: Bishop Robert J. Carlson of Saginaw, Michigan, was appointed Archbishop of St. Louis
May 27: Msgr. John O. Barres of Wilmington, Delaware, was appointed Bishop of Allentown, Pennsylvania
June 3: Bishop George J. Lucas of Springfield, Illinois, was appointed Archbishop of Omaha
June 12: Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of Austin, Texas, was appointed Archbishop of New Orleans
There’s still plenty of good news in the Church today… if you know where to find it.