The following column by E.J.Dionne, Jr., syndicated columnist for the Washington Post and nearly a hundred other papers, appeared on May 23. 

There is a healthy struggle brewing among the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops. A previously silent group, upset over conservative colleagues defining the church’s public posture and eagerly picking fights with President Obama, has had enough.

The headlines this week were about lawsuits brought by 43 Catholic organizations, including 13 dioceses, to overturn regulations issued by the Obama administration that require insurance plans to cover contraception under the new health-care law. But the other side of this news was also significant: The vast majority of the nation’s 195 dioceses did not go to court.

It turns out that many bishops, notably the church leadership in California, saw the litigation as premature. They are upset that the lawsuits were brought without a broader discussion among the entire membership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and wanted to delay action until the conference’s June meeting.

Until now, bishops who believed that their leadership was aligning the institutional church too closely with the political right had voiced their doubts internally. While the more moderate and liberal bishops kept their qualms out of public view, conservative bishops have been outspoken in condemning the Obama administration and pushing a “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign aimed at highlighting “threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad.”

But in recent months, a series of events — among them the Vatican’s rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, encouraged by right-wing U.S. bishops — have angered more progressive Catholics and led to talk among the disgruntled faithful of the need for a “Catholic spring” to challenge the hierarchy’s shift to the right.

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., broke the silence on his side Tuesday in an interview with Kevin Clarke of the Jesuit magazine America. Blaire expressed concern that some groups “very far to the right” are turning the controversy over the contraception rules into “an anti-Obama campaign.”

“I think there are different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into [a] political issue, and that’s why we need to have a deeper discussion as bishops,” he said. “I think our rhetoric has to be that of bishops of the church who are seeking to be faithful to the Gospel, that our one concern is that we make sure the church is free to carry out her mission as given to her by Christ, and that remains our focus.”

Clarke also paraphrased Blaire as believing that “the bishops lose their support when the conflict is seen as too political.”

Blaire’s words were diplomatic. But in a letter to the national bishops conference that has not been released publicly, lawyers for California’s bishops said the lawsuits would be “imprudent” and “ill-advised.” The letter was not answered by the national bishops group before the suits were announced.

Already, there are reports that some bishops will play down or largely ignore the Fortnight for Freedom campaign, scheduled for June 21 to July 4, in their own dioceses. These bishops fear that it has become enmeshed in Republican election-year politics and see many of its chief promoters, notably Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, as too strident.

The irony in the current acrimony is that Catholics were broadly united in January across political lines in opposing the Department of Health and Human Services’ initial rules on contraception because they exempted only a narrow category of religious institutions from the mandate.

Facing this challenge, the president fashioned a compromise under which employees of Catholic organizations such as hospitals and social service agencies would still have access to contraceptive services but the religious entities would not have to pay for them. This compromise was accepted by most progressive Catholics, though many of them still favor rewriting the underlying regulations to acknowledge the religious character of the church’s welfare and educational work.

But where the progressives favor pursuing further negotiations with the administration, the conservative bishops have acted as if it never made any concessions at all. Significantly, Blaire identified with the conciliatory approach. As Clarke wrote, “Bishop Blaire believes discussions with the Obama administration toward a resolution of the dispute could be fruitful even as alternative remedies are explored.”

For too long, the Catholic Church’s stance on public issues has been defined by the outspokenness of its most conservative bishops and the reticence of moderate and progressive prelates. Signs that this might finally be changing are encouraging for the church, and for American politics.

To read original story, Click here.



Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 2:08 AM By thadzgonzales
Healthcare is not subject to normal market forces! Anything that you have to buy at any random moment in order not to die is not something to which a rational supply/demand calculus can apply. Check out “Penny Health” articles on how to reduce the cost of insurance.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 3:00 AM By Max
If I look at the CV’s, no one here in California has anywhere near the political/diplomatic background of Dolan, Lori, et. al. and they are not as connected to DC so I am going to stick with Dolan and company. I really do wish ABp. Gomez would roll up his sleeves and get in the fight. I like Gomez but the last thing LA needs right now is a quiet administrator who puts his archdiocese ahead of the Church Universal. For what it’s worth, the Jesuit’s “America” is as close to being anti-Catholic as possible without being supressed altogether.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 6:09 AM By PETE
The USCCB has NOT filed any lawsuit. The USCCB has no authority over individual Diocese. Lawsuits were filed by individual DIOCESE and individual Catholic Universities and individual Catholic Organizations. Since when do leftist Bishops think they have the right to tell other Bishops how to run their Diocese? – This is a VIOLATION of Church law. This is especially strange when many CA Bishops have the most pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Dioceses in the USA based upon their elected politicians and judges.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 6:17 AM By MIKE
Each Diocese Bishop speaks for his own Diocese only. Bishop Blaire must learn that the USCCB has no authority over any individual Diocese except those things approved by the Vatican such as GIRM. The USCCB has NOT filed any lawsuit itself. QUOTE: “We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical concrete function.” “No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of consent given to them by the individual bishop” UNQUOTE – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the “Ratzinger Report”. For leftist Bishops to try to control other Dioceses in the USA is an outrage.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 6:34 AM By ally
I didn’t know there was a “progressive” Catholic church. Is that the same as “cafeteria Catholic” or is it the beginning of a new protestant movement? I believe all the protestant churches were founded by men who believed they knew more than the pope.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 6:43 AM By HOLLY
There a point of importance each of us must convey to the public press whenever possible. There is no such thing as liberal or conservative Catholics when it comes to Religion; only Catholics, Catholic Heretics, or Catholic Schismatics. All Catholics are required to adhere to the CCC. Definition of heretics and schismatics – CCC #2089.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 6:58 AM By Dennis
First, consider the source, E.J.Dionne, Jr., a progressive columnist who tries to convey his even-handedness in all things, but just can’t make it out of the liberal mindset. He, like many of his media colleagues, is no friend of the Catholic Church. Second, his twisted conjecture of not all dioceses participating is flawed from the onset to justify his view.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 6:59 AM By SANDRA
When Bishop Blaire’s Diocese is overflowing with vocations of faithful Priests and Nuns who adhere to the CCC in entirety and most of the Catholics in his Diocese vote against immoral politicians, then his teaching job is well done. Until then, he should keep his nose in his own Diocese and outside of other Diocese. He should never talk to the National Press except about his own Diocese. The USCCB is not in any lawsuit and can not dictate to any Diocese Bishop. Blaire wants to create a mini-US Vatican where socialists rule.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 7:34 AM By Gordon Campbell
St John Chrysotom was right.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 7:35 AM By Tom Barbarie
Bishop Blaire should explain what is wrong with an anti-Obama campaign. Any Catholic worthy of the name should be anti-Obama and proud to be part of an anti-Obama campaign. Obama has shown by his actions that he is an enemy of the Catholic faith and a blot on the country — particularly on those who voted for him. On secular grounds alone, i.e., foreign policy, economic policy, identification with the cultural scum of Hollywood, inflammation of racial animosity, Obama has been a disaster beyond the fears expressed by thoughtful people in 2008. His brazen attempt to stifle religious freedom was as predictable as it is insufferable. Put me down as anti-Obama — and anti-Blaire while you’re at it.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 7:39 AM By Bud 
Talk about inertia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 8:39 AM By MAC
According to Church law, the Bishop of each Diocese speaks for himself and his own Diocese only. Other Bishops do not get involved unless there is a violation of Church teaching – which there has not been. The USCCB has not filed any suits. This has been done by individual Diocese and individual Catholic organizations over which Bishop Blaire has no authority.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 8:53 AM By Madison
Due to the poor catechesis by several Bishops in CA, Catholics have voted and helped put into office many immoral politicians who in turn appoint immoral judges at all levels of government. Bishop Blaire should recognize this. I would not want CA or the 9th Circuit Court determining anything about the US Constitution including Religous Freedom. Until the majority of Catholics in CA are told NOT to VOTE for Politicians who promote immorality and sinfulness through abortion, homosexuality, class and racial hate mongering, etc., then please stay out of this issue. The lack of proper catechesis is the fault of Bishop Blaire and others.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 8:54 AM By gravey
Does anybody really care what E.J.Dionne says? He is a self-identified “liberal” Catholic who never has anything good to say about the Church or the Magisterium. Like fellow faux Catholic Jorn Kerry once said: “I am a democrat who just happens to be Catholic.” Dionne is the same; his Catholic Faith takes a back seat to his liberal politics.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 8:54 AM By Larry
Isn’t Cardinal Mahony–who could hardly be called “right-wing”–also guilty of anti-Obamaism? Didn’t he say that any politician who took the action Obama did does not deserve anyone’s vote?

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 9:10 AM By Bentley
ally & HOLLY you are 100% right, and we must use correct terminology and insist that our Bishops do so as well using the CCC. When it comes to the Catholic Faith there are only – “CATHOLICS”, “CATHOLIC HERETICS”, and “CATHOLIC SCHISMATICS”. All other descriptions are lies approved by Satan intended to confuse and lose Souls. It is not OK to be a heretic or schismatic.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 9:10 AM By JLS
When the next wave of “Cristeros” rise up to save the Church, most of the bishops will run and hide from them.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 9:18 AM By PETE
gravey, so is E.J. Dionne a ‘Catholic Heretic’ or ‘Catholic Schismatic’? ( CCC: ” 2089 INCREDULITY is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. HERESY is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same. APOSTACY is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. SCHSIM is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”) gravey, you asked why we should care – because some of his writings are posted all over the Country – and cause Scandal, Confusion, the spread of lies, and potentially the loss of Souls.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 9:20 AM By Life Lady
The Church is not a democracy so whatever someone thinks is okay with those so-called Catholics who dissent from Church teaching and practice, forget about it. As someone else above has already aptly pointed out: there is nothing like a liberal Catholic or whatever, there is only a Catholic. If they dissent, if they decide that they don’t like the Church, they have already left it, perhaps not bodily, but spiritually and morally, especially those people already using contraception etc. Those people have left the Church the moment they decided to take a pill, or stepped into the physician’s office to be sterilized. There is nothing “health” about dissent except for the dissenter to take themselves and actually leave their parish church and go to the local protestant sect, whatever that is. To stay is to continue to sin, to live in sin and to abuse the Blessed Sacrament by receiving it improperly and immorally. You are either for or against Our Lord. To abuse His Church by dissent is to your own downfall. It’s okay to question and to seek the deepest understanding of Him, and His Church, but that is not dissent, that is accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit in trying to plumb the depts of understanding of God. But dissent, that is opposition. Get thee behind me!

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 10:44 AM By Jeff
Blaire and those bishops who side with him are weak and would rather talk, talk, talk than stop the public assault by the Obama adminsitration on the Church and it’s teaching. Their talking faith without works is dead.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 12:17 PM By Marie
Face up to it. The bishops, collectively, in this country are pro-Obama. We could possibly blame this on the radical bishops’ conferences that pull their strings. Certainly that is true in California. Bishop Bruskewitz was right when he some time ago referred to the hierarchy of today as a “hapless bench of bishops”.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 12:34 PM By Angelo
Bishop Blair claims, “the Bishops lose their support when the conflict is seen as too political.”. I would like to hear Bishop Blair give just one example of what he means by this statement. I myself am glad that our Bishops are speaking up in defense of our Religious Freedom. The Bishops in the past lost my support for not speaking up! Now that they are not being silent, I have hope that they will do their job and lead us on the path of living life to the full on the way to eternal life with God. As a practicing Catholic since the 70’s, I’m going to enjoy saying this, BISHOP BLAIR IS OUTDATED AND NEEDS TO ACCEPT CHANGE AND REFORM FROM THE OUTDATED PRACTICES OF THE BISHOPS FROM THE ERA OF THE SILLY SEASON OF THE CHURCH!!!

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 1:56 PM By DAVE
Angelo, the Bishops lose support from Satan, and his followers. Either something is right or wrong. The do- nothing Bishops are wrong. They have had many years of doing nothing. And then they wonder why Catholics vote for scandalous politicans who pass immoral laws and regulations. It is because catechesis in many CA Diocese stinks.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 2:03 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
Gee this so called Reporter from the MSM is so free with words like “right wing”, “conservative” etc. etc. Can’t they even get a new script? By the way, since when is Cardinal Wuerl who practically canonized the Chapaquidick Kid, considered “conservative”? God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 2:14 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
Pete, 6:09 PM, I assume you are the Peter who is in keeping with the Magisterium, and are now using Pete instead of Peter to delineate from the other one. “Since when do leftist Bishops think they have the right to tell other Bishops how to run their Diocese?”. Well unfortunately that question is too easy to answer. The answer is since the Commander and Cheat has assumed that he, and he alone is our ONE and has the right to force us to buy a commerical product! God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 2:26 PM By Since when do leftis
Does anyone here who does not support the actions of Blaire and his ilk still question why some priests and laity have decided that to save their souls they had to separate from some bishops and follow the example of St. Athanasius the Great, Doctor of the Church! God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 6:23 PM By lula
We belong the to The Kingdom of God here on earth,”Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” as citizens of His kingdom here on earth, we all must obey the law of Our Savor, the Law of the Land for heaven here now on earth to reach the everlasting KINGDOM with God! Anyone who is not obeying His Law giving to us by His Son when He was on earth will not obtain HEAVEN ~ the goal of being a Christian. “The word was made flesh and dwelled among men.” His flesh lived eery word He has spoken. Anyone who calls himself/herself a follower of Christ but rejects His Word, that person should truly thinks who is him/her serving? Anyone who is a Roman Catholic who loves Obama and all of his ways is not a Roman Catholic ~ the tree is known by its fruits!

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 7:11 PM By max
ah, KENNETH, there go you again with saint athanasius. you refer to him so often, i get the idea you two attended high school together!

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 7:21 PM By cjo
I guess there’s a reason it’s called the “left coast”. Bishops are suppoed to LEAD..not hide!!! Thank God for Cardinal Dolan!!!

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 9:32 PM By Cody in Tucson
I want to report that in his 5/29 online Monday Memo my favorite bishop, Bishop Kicanas, is supporting the Fortnight for Freedom effort. I am breathless! We’ll see if this support also shows up in the June addition of his diocesan newspaper. I may need medical attention if it does!

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 10:38 PM By Abeca Christian
max what do you have against St. Athanasius?

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 10:56 PM By JLS
max, if repetition of a point fails to help you connect the dots, then why would you brag about it?

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 10:56 PM By Angelo
Cody in Tucson, If Bishop Kicanas is your favorite Bishop, then I have reason to fear him. What, if I may ask is the “Fortnight for Freedom effort.”?

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 10:57 PM By JLS
I agree with lula, especially that Obama is a fruit.

Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 11:15 PM By gravey
PETE, Your point is well taken.

Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012 7:45 AM By JLS
Juggling the lives of unborn babies, health care, and freedom is a difficult act, and the bishops make it seem like it is what the Church is supposed to do.

Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012 8:04 AM By MD
First off, the words conservative and liberal should not be used in discussing matters of faith. Cardinal Dolan and those pushing hard to fight the HHS mandate are Orthodox, they abide by Church teaching and fight for the Truth of the Catholic Faith given to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There are those who fully embrace Church teaching and those who do not with the ones who do not dubbing themselves as “progressive Catholics.” I understand Bishop Blaire’s concern that the “right” in this country will use this as a means to promote their agenda, but its not about politics, the greater picture is the freedom to practice our Catholic faith unimpeded by our federal government. God Love You.

Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012 8:45 AM By IMPOSSIBLE

Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012 9:36 AM By max
IMPOSSIBLE — thanks for YELLING yourr entire post. it’s so refreshing, and a great wake up. better than coffee.

Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:39 AM By Victor M. Fierro
We are The Militant Church. What does that mean? We defend the church when it is THREATENED as many of our brothers in the past have done. Go see the movie FOR GREATER GLORY, if you think this cannot happen here you are mistaken it has already started. There is much danger and fear but we have the PROMISE OF OUR LORD I WILL BE WITH YOU TILL THE END OF TIME. It is time to stand up and be CATHOLIC FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD!!!!! We must be Catholic and that makes us STRONG.

Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012 6:38 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
7:11 PM By max, Do you have any real idea of what a Doctor of the Church is? Well St. Athanasius the Great even though he was excommunicated by Pope Liberius is now a Doctor of the Church! Pope Liberius is not even in the Book of Martyrology! He is the only one amongst the early Popes who is not consider such. God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2012 3:29 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
Victor, Even the play “Viva Cristo Rey” has strong implications for modern day Obamamerica (I may have just invented a new descriptive term for the Obamanation). If you haven’t seen it yet, please do! God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher