.- The U.S.. Catholic bishops declared on Thursday that local bishops should decide, on an individual basis, how to handle politicians who profess the Catholic faith and yet deny Catholic teachings.
The Bishops’ task force on Catholics in political life, which was formed following the 2004 presidential elections, presented its findings to the entire U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who are holding their triennial meeting this week in Los Angeles.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retiring Archbishop of Washington and chairman of the task force, told the bishops that they should be deeply concerned for the souls of the Catholic Politicians operating in their dioceses and should attempt to draw them more closely to the Church through conversation and dialogue. "Our concern is not politics, nor just particular policies, but their faith and even their salvation. These dialogues are not about winning votes, but saving souls," he said.
The task force met with numerous Catholic politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, during their study.
The bishops who took part in the task force said that it is increasingly difficult to dialogue with many of the politicians who remain at odds with the Church’s teaching on life issues. While the bishops are intent on bringing politicians back into the fold in support of Catholic teachings, they say, it is slow difficult work. At the same time, one bishop said, there can arise pressure from the vocal conservatives in the Church who demand immediate action.
At that point, the bishop is faced with the question of taking severe action with the politician, such as denying communion to the politician or, if it seems that the politician may be coming more in-line, reserving direct action. This judgment, the task force decided, must be reserved for the individual bishop’s judgment in each individual case.
McCarrick also told the bishops that they should be on guard against over politicizing issues within the church, telling them, "My concern is the fear that the intense polarization and bitter battles of partisan politics may be seeping into the broader ecclesial life of our Catholic people and maybe even of our Conference."
The task force has published a small booklet of "Readings on Catholics and Political Life" which they have given to every Catholic member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives.