This Week: The US Bishops Test Relations With Rome, by Phil Lawler

Founder’s Quote
November 16, 2019
Msgr. Charles Pope: Do You Desire Heaven? Really?
November 16, 2019

By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Nov 15, 2019

For a welcome change, our top headlines of this week do not involve scandals in Rome. The annual meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) produced the most interesting news developments, at least for American Catholics. Yet the turmoil in Rome was still visible in the background, because the 3-day meeting of the American bishops in Baltimore provided several clear indications of tensions between the US hierarchy and the Vatican.

Before the meeting began, the USCCB had taken the highly unusual step of criticizing a book about Pope Francis. The USCCB statement complained that Wounded Shepherd, by Austen Ivereigh, “perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the US Bishops Conference.” It’s certainly understandable that American bishops would be tired of that narrative. But bear in mind that the narrative has been advanced by some of the Pope’s closest advisers, notably including the Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro. And Ivereigh’s book won a highly favorable review from the Vatican News Service. So clearly there is some resistance in the US hierarchy—if not to the Pope’s leadership, at least to the rhetoric being churned out by papal supporters.

And then Archbishop Christoph Pierre—who as the apostolic nuncio in Washington is the Pope’s representative to the American bishops—complicated matters with an address to the USCCB urging the American bishops to be more supportive of the Pope’s priorities. “The pastoral thrust of this pontificate must reach the American people,” Archbishop Pierre insisted. Was the papal diplomat hinting that he, like Ivereigh, perceived some resistance to the Pope’s leadership? Was he urging them to back off questions about Vatican problems? ….