Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested that the audience for Faithful Citizenship isn’t Catholics in the pews, but pastors and state Catholic conference staff members, and that the working group’s proposal to develop shorter, more consumer-friendly resources “would accomplish the goals I think we had set out for ourselves.”
Bishop George Thomas of Las Vegas called Faithful Citizenship lengthy and cumbersome, and said that it reaches state Catholic conferences and clergy but misses the mark in reaching the hearts of “ordinary people.”
He charged that the document has “serious lacunae,” and that there should be created a shorter, more user-friendly document which follows the model of Pope Francis.
In a carefully-composed piece of rhetoric, Bishop Thomas said the present pope has both substance (he “connects worship and compassion, liturgy and justice”), with an eye on the preferential option for the poor, and style (“he prefers dialogue over diatribe, persuasion over polemics, accompaniment over alienation”), and that the US bishops should take his example and “the content of his teaching” to revise or replace Faithful Citizenship.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois voiced his support for the working group’s proposal, noting the importance particularly of video for reaching people today -- on his flight to the meeting, he said, no-one was reading, they were all watching screens.
He urged that another lengthy document not be issued, and suggested a series of videos rather than a single one be produced, which suggestion was agreed upon by Archbishop Gomez.
Another Los Angeles auxiliary, Bishop David O’Connell, agreed with the proposal and suggested, “we need to take time to think about how Pope Francis’ teachings inform our pastoral practice.”
Bishop John Botean of the Romanian Eparchy of Saint George’s in Canton, was highly favorable to the use of video, but emphasized that “we need to know what will be said.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio suggested that the document underlying whatever content is put out is not the question, because “there was consensus” to get Faithful Citizenship adopted, and that the greater question is how to disseminate its message.
Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond indicated his support for the proposal, and added that individual bishops are able to issue pastoral letters themselves.
Intervening again, Bishop Botean suggested that the working group on Faithful Citizenship produce a third item: a new document that expresses current concerns, anxieties of our day, without revising or replacing Faithful Citizenship.
Then Bishop Coyne suggested the conference was not ready to vote: “we’re so divided right now, we’re unclear where we want to go.” He suggested tabling the action item, noting that some, himself included, want an entirely new document on citizenship.
He was supported in that move by Bishop Soto, who said the discussion had given the working group a lot to consider, so that they could return with a “more robust proposal” for the November meeting of the conference.
At this point, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco rose to note the dizzying number of alternative proposals, none of which had been clearly formulated.
A vote on Bishop Coyne’s proposal to table the discussion was held, with two-thirds rejecting his proposal. The discussion continued, focused on developing amendments to the original proposal which might satisfy those bishops with objections.
Cardinal Tobin emphasized that “a number of us are calling for a different source document" to replace Faithful Citizenship, which would inform the content of videos and other new media which the working group would produce.
Bishop Mark O’Connell, a Boston auxiliary, suggested that Faithful Citizenship could be revised, but not replaced, and that the wording of the action item be changed to reflect that.
Bishop McElroy suggested that all reference to Faithful Citizenship be removed from the wording of the proposal.
Bishop McElroy’s suggestion was rejected by the working group.
The working group did, however, concede to changing the language for the pending action item, which was amended to say that the short video and other secondary resources should “complement, rather than replace” Faithful Citizenship (the original had read “complement, rather than revise or replace”). The working group also added a clause saying that newly developed resources should also “apply the teachings of Pope Francis to our day.”
With the revised wording, the proposal came to a vote. The measure passed with well more than a two-thirds majority, though it required only a simple majority. 144 bishops voted in support of the action item, with 41 (just under 22 percent) opposing it.
The discussion was pointed, and took a great deal more time than was anticipated, pushing the public session of the meeting into the afternoon rather than ending before lunch. Faithful Citizenship continues to be the guiding document for civic engagement by Catholics in the US.
Amid repeated reference to “new teachings” of Pope Francis, the unexpected argument demonstrated a deep division among the US bishops.