By Mary Ann Kreitzer
Faithful Catholics following the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops over the years wonder if the organization represents the views of the bishops—at least the orthodox bishops. The number of scandals emanating from the bishops’ bureaucracy is shocking! Truth and error cannot happily coincide. When the truth unites itself to the lie, it becomes a lie. So what is the proper response to the USCCB’s cooperation with evil? It may be the same one taken by another group in the Church—faithful vowed religious women who chose divorce rather than continue the connection to their sisters of the lie. Can the USCCB be reformed or should those bishops who love the truth separate themselves from what has become an evil bureaucracy undermining the Church? The precedent for such a divorce is found in the divorce of traditional religious orders of women from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). About 15 years ago, they decided to withdraw and form their own conference. Perhaps it is time for faithful bishops who adhere to the truth to imitate them and divorce the USCCB, which has become little more than a mouthpiece for liberalism and dissent.
In many respects, the current situation at the USCCB resembles what happened to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. In 1992, the orthodox nuns abandoned the LCWR. Its leadership and the majority of orders had increasingly distanced themselves from the doctrines of the Church, and from the pope and magisterium. The LCWR drifted more and more into left-wing political and feminist radicalism. Donna Steichen described it well in her 1991 book, Ungodly Rage. After Vatican II, “LCWR encouraged the exodus from traditional apostolates, and initiated or supported many of the organizations and coalitions formed to hasten the radical ‘renewal’ of its members.” Not only did the LCWR endorse the Equal Rights Amendment, it worked actively within the Church for its passage. It became an advocate of women’s ordination, feminist translations of Scripture and feminist spirituality, including earth and goddess worship.
The group also became practically an arm of the most radical element of the Democratic Party, inviting pro-abortion speakers to address them, engaging in leftist lobbying and networking with pro-abortion secular organizations. Sr. Donna Quinn, who recently made the news for serving as a deathscort at a Chicago-area abortion mill, is described by Steichen as forming a nuns’ lobby group “to harry the bishops” at their spring 1977 meeting. These feminist nuns successfully convinced the bishops to promote “women’s issues.” Their agenda, however, reflected only feminist concerns. Mothers agonizing over the loss of faith among their children, traditional laity and religious devoted to fostering the faith were ignored. Astonishingly, it was the “suffering” of the “poor” nuns, their grievances over supposedly being disenfranchised by a patriarchal Church, that attracted the bishops’ attention.
There is little evidence that the LCWR has changed over the years. The group still supports radical environmentalism and earth worship, and demands empowerment. In 1997, Sr. Sandra Schneiders addressed the LCWR, saying that, for many nuns, “the God of Christianity seems too small, too violent, and too male; the focus on Jesus Christ seems narrow and exclusive; the resurrection seems mythological if not incredible and, in any case, irrelevant to a world in anguish.” Schneiders continues to be an influential voice for dissenting orders in the U.S., and the LCWR remains wedded to its rebellious ways, serving the politics of the world rather than Holy Mother Church. Today, it promotes comprehensive health care reform, opposes torture (except for the unborn), endorses blanket amnesty for illegal aliens and works to reduce carbon footprints. Meanwhile, it completely ignores fundamental sanctity of life questions.
Is it any wonder that orthodox orders fled this witches’ den? Traditional congregations, mostly young and vigorous, established a new conference, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), which was approved by the Vatican in 1995. CMSWR promotes the countercultural vision of religious life that fosters wearing the habit as a sign of vocation, communal life and prayer, Eucharistic worship and traditional apostolates. Its member orders showed wisdom and discernment when they separated themselves from the bad companions in the LCWR who had become strange bedfellows. These are the orders thriving and drawing in young women who share their vision.
Which brings us back to the USCCB? One could make a cogent argument that the same thing that happened to the LCWR is happening at the USCCB. The bishops’ conference has become increasingly problematic in its approach to many issues and more aligned with the political left than the Catholic Church. Many departments at the USCCB are mouthpieces for liberalism. Let’s examine a few to see how far astray the organization has gone.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is so infamous that a brief discussion should suffice. Thirty to fifty percent of its annual grants go to community organizing groups that are mainly networks of Catholic parishes and non-Catholic congregations that support abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and other moral evils. The CCHD funds no direct-aid agencies that actually serve the poor, but instead claims to focus on the “empowerment” of the poor. In reality, the CCHD empowers organizations like the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and the Gamaliel Foundation, which are less concerned about the poor than achieving their own goal: power for the organizer. They use their networks to promote many issues that are diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching.
Most of the faithful don’t realize that the CCHD also funds educational efforts that work to radicalize Catholics in the pew. “Social justice” trainers use the small-group approach to educate participants in “social justice,” then funnel them into local community organizing efforts. But the social justice principles fostered are not those of Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum or Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus. Rather, they teach “social justice” in the image of the liberation theologians, a philosophy rejected by the Church.
The CCHD is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advancing liberalism at the USCCB. Some of the most problematic departments are involved in communications. For years, Catholics have objected to the Catholics News Service’s left-leaning articles and terrible movie reviews. Fawning pieces on pro-abortion politicians are common. Catholic doctrine is usually ignored in articles on controversial issues and the spokesmen quoted often spout the dissenters’ spin. One example is the CNS article on Obama’s visit to the pope last summer. CNS quoted Patrick Whelan of Catholic Democrats, who endorsed Obama’s dishonest abortion reduction strategy using the rationale promoted by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG). His position was no surprise; Whelan was a signer of the Catholics United letter endorsing radical pro-abort Kathleen Sebelius to head Health and Human Services. He is also featured on the CACG blog. So CNS gave credibility to a man working with two George Soros-funded Catholic front groups to undermine the faith. The CNS articles on Ted Kennedy’s funeral were primarily puff pieces, and while his pro-abortion record was mentioned in passing, it was overshadowed by praise from people like Cardinal Roger Mahony and Fr. William Byron, S.J., both Catholic liberals. You can tell a lot about a news outlet by whom they choose to quote, and CNS regularly is a megaphone for dissent.
The only word one can use about CNS movie reviews is shameless. If it’s about homosexuality, a favorable review is pre-ordained. Brokeback Mountain, the story of two homosexual sheepherders, received an L rating (“limited adult audience”) before the Catholic outcry led to its reclassification as O (“morally offensive”). The reviewer, Harry Forbes, who regularly gushes over outrageous films, removed his name from the amended review. Forbes also waxed eloquent over Milk, the biographical film about homosexual San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, who was murdered in 1978.
One of the most controversial CNS reviews was Forbes’ enthusiastic endorsement of the anti-Catholic hate film The Golden Compass, whose evil organizational villain was the “magisterium,” an obvious reference to the leaders of the Church. His review created a tsunami of protest that led to its withdrawal, but not before the film company used it to promote the movie. Canon lawyer Pete Vere was quoted by LifeSiteNews.com as saying, “Several bishops have spoken to me about this review, and they are horrified at what has been done in their name.” Archbishop Raymond Burke, then of St. Louis, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver both publicly condemned the review. Fr. Thomas Euteneuer and other Catholic leaders called for Forbes’ removal, but he remains as CNS’ lead film critic.
CNS articles and film reviews aren’t the only source of communications scandals at the USCCB. Recently, a liberal network, So We Might See (SWMS), contacted the Federal Communications Commission asking for legislation to control “hate speech.” The SWMS coalition includes the USCCB Office of Communications and bills itself as a “national interfaith coalition for media justice.” In addition to the OC, the coalition includes the United Church of Christ, the National Council of Churches, Disciples of Christ and several other denominations noted for their liberalism. The USCCB logo is prominently featured on its web site. The petition to the FCC specifically targeted Rush Limbaugh and, on other pages of SWMS’s web site, it attacked other conservative talk show hosts for their “hate” speech. The petition was signed “by the So We Might See Coalition,” which included the bishops’ office.
Angry Catholics responded to this with outrage, which led Archbishop Chaput to issue a disclaimer on the part of the bishops. SWMS, he said, had “misrepresented” their position, and the USCCB had not signed on to the petition drive. His statement begged the question, however. Why are the Catholic bishops networking with liberal churches who oppose central doctrines of the faith and who are clearly using the bishops? Obviously, SWMS can’t be trusted to tell the truth. Also, besides holding pro-abortion and pro-homosexual positions, these network partners are working to pass Obama’s immoral health care reform package that would mandate abortion funding and force Catholic health care personnel to cooperate with intrinsic evil. Not only that, SWMS is another George Soros-funded initiative. This leads one to ask why on earth the bishops would join this coalition in the first place? Who authorized the decision? Did the bishops vote on it?
The SWMS fiasco highlights another problem with the bishops’ bureaucracy: attributing actions and documents to the bishops without their vote or even notification. That’s how the infamous 1997 statement on homosexuality, Always Our Children (AOC), was released without the bishops’ knowledge or consent. One of its writers was Fr. James Schexnayder, a notorious dissenter from Church teaching who believes homosexual sex is perfectly fine and frequently lectures to that effect.
The firestorm over AOC led the bishops to require their vote on such documents in the future. The Vatican also mandated changes to AOC, which was amended in 1998. It continues, however, to be used by radical homosexual groups to advance acceptance of homosexual activity. The evil done in the bishops’ name often outlives their correction. But how did Schexnayder get the assignment to write the document in the first place, given his background? It is one more sign of a bureaucracy out of control and filled with moles who do not believe in Church teachings. That can only happen because many of the bishops are derelict in their duty. It also leads one to ask, “Do they really believe?”
Schexnayder is by no means the only dissenter to be supported by the USCCB. The bishops’ National Review Board was filled with Catholics working for pro-abortion politicians in 2004. Leon Panetta, Robert Bennett and Pamela Hayes were all exposed by Catholic World News for their connections and donations to pro-abort Democrats. (None currently serve.) In 2005, Catholic sources revealed that Teresa Kettlekamp, director of the USCCB’s Office of Child and Youth Protection, was on the advisory board of the National Center for Women and Policing, a division of the radically pro-abortion Feminist Majority. When her connection was exposed, Archbishop Harry Flynn leaped to her defense. Would he have done so if she was an advisor to a KKK project? Kettlekamp continues to head up the child protection office, and there is no evidence the bishops subsequently explored her views on abortion. Doesn’t child protection begin in the womb?
The fact is that Catholics in the pew, faithful clergy and orthodox bishops simply cannot trust the USCCB not to provide cover (and salaries) for dissenters working against the doctrines of the Church. During the 2004 presidential campaign, a USCCB employee told me that dozens of cars in the parking lot sported Kerry bumper stickers. No surprise. One highly placed employee was an out-and-proud Kerry supporter. Ono Ekeh, program coordinator of the Secretariat for African-American Affairs, was also administrator of the Catholics for Kerry news group. On the web site, he stated, “John Kerry has recently made it clear that he will not be taking orders from the Vatican and rightly so... Senator Kerry made a prudent decision in rejecting the Vatican’s demands. Such a rejection does not mean a lack of respect for the Vatican or the Church’s teachings. Rather, it highlights that the man understands that his obligations are primarily to the people his [sic] serves and not the Vatican.” Such doublespeak illustrates the hypocrisy of liberals working at the USCCB.
One USCCB document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, has become a primary reference for justifying Catholics voting for pro-abortion candidates. In 2008, before the presidential election, Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pennsylvania, made the news for interrupting a pre-election forum at St. John’s parish in Honesdale, where the USCCB letter was being used to defend voting for pro-aborts. Panel members based their opinion on paragraph 35, which reads, “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” This paragraph, like Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment” rhetoric, is commonly used to support voting for even pro-abortion extremists. Bishop Martino, who arrived while panel members were making opening statements, was angry that, while the bishops’ letter was distributed at the forum, his letter on the primacy of the pro-life issue was not. “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” he told the audience. “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me. …The only relevant document ... is my letter. …There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.” Sadly, this courageous bishop has since been forced into early retirement. What does that say about the bishops’ good ole boys’ club?
One could write a book about all the egregious scandals related to the USCCB. But the biggest scandal of all may be that the bishops themselves, for the most part, do nothing about them. Dioceses continue to pour money into this bloated bureaucracy that occupies a multistory building down the street from the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. How many of its hundreds of employees at that site and throughout the country really embrace the faith? Judging from the ongoing scandals, not enough.
In 1992, the orthodox women religious took the courageous step of withdrawing from the LCWR despite being in the minority. They decided to stop supporting the majority of women religious who embrace the lunacy of the liberal left. Isn’t there at least a minority of faithful bishops who will imitate their sisters, recognizing the irreconcilable differences between what the Church really stands for and the wicked bureaucracy that claims to speak for them? If the truth is unevenly yoked to the lie, divorce is a natural and healthy choice. Silence and inaction, on the other hand, when it means cooperating with evil, is wrong. Let us pray that the good bishops of the United States, few though they may be, recognize that to continue supporting the USCCB makes them complicit in the bureaucracy’s evil agenda. Your Excellencies, it’s time for a divorce. Send the shameless hussy packing. She’s hurting the true bride of Christ.
Mary Ann Kreitzer is president of the Catholic Media Coalition and Les Femmes (a lay Catholic media apostolate in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia), as well as editor of Les Femmes' quarterly newsletter, the Truth. This article, along with endnotes, was originally published in the Autumn 2009 issue of the Truth and is featured here with Les Femmes' kind permission.