The Catholic bishops’ call for civil disobedience surrounding health care reform doesn’t kick off until Thursday, June 21 but already there are signs that the flock is not as enthusiastic about the bishops’ positions.
Catholic communities across the country have told the bishops via a letter campaign that they will be withholding contributions to the Bishops’ Catholic Communications Campaign as a result of their attacks on health care reform and that they strongly disagree with the direction the leadership is taking the church.
Here is the full text of the letter:
Catholic Bishops Message Should Get Back on Message That Unifies Not Divides
The prophetic voice of the Catholic Church is never more compelling than when it speaks of the needs of the poor. It is the selflessness exhibited by Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day and other great servants that has attracted so many to the Catholic Church and its ministries. The eloquent declaration by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of the church’s affirmation of a “seamless garment” of life promoted a message of great idealism and unity for Catholics.
That prophetic voice of affirmation and unity has been lost and smothered by the divisive message of the church hierarchy. It has adopted a voice of condemnation against those who disagree on issues related to contraception, celibacy, homosexuality and the role of women in the church. The latest example of this crusade is the treatment of religious orders of nuns, many of whom are dedicated to serving the poor and marginalized in our society, who have become the new target for “reform.” Now, the United States Catholic Bishops Conference (“USCBB”) has announced its “Fortnight to Freedom” campaign to promote religious liberty during the two weeks leading to July 4th. This campaign seems motivated by political concerns designed to protect the institutional church rather than its members and to use its members as a political weapon against its opponents. It will be up to the sisters and the laity to restore the message of the “seamless garment.”
The Fortnight to Freedom is a campaign and voice that many of us choose no longer to support in our politics. Nor will we support it with our contributions.
The USCBB will be sponsoring the Catholic Communications Campaign in May and June, an annual collection in parishes that is used in diocese and on a national level to promote media initiatives. We – a group of Catholic laity – will not be participating in this campaign. We do not want our funds to be used to promote the message of condemnation by the bishops and maintain institutional liberty while denying freedom of thought and liberty within the church membership.
We urge Catholics, instead, to consider alternate giving during that weekend and donate those contributions to a parish food pantry, Catholic Charities or another charitable program. The message of the church needs to return to the promotion of a “seamless garment of life.” This unbalanced message of condemnation and ostracism of those who disagree is imploding the church from within, and it needs to end.
We believe the USCBB is pushing the envelope with the Fortnight to Freedom, so we are withholding ours and giving, instead, to those most in need.
This push back against the bishops coincides with the bus tour launched by American nuns in protest of the Ryan budget and the bishops’ calls they turn their attention away from social justice and poverty work.
The Fortnight of Freedom will likely garner a lot of media publicity and the bishops have become exceedingly adept and managing a press conference. But wouldn’t it be great to see the same attention given to the social justice work of Catholics done in defiance of their leadership?
Photo from dumbledad via flickr.