The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has selected the conservative Archbishop Joseph Naumann as the new chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities versus Pope Francis’ more liberal pick.
This decision has now inspired speculation that the Catholic leaders are showing resistance to Pope Francis’ agenda.
The close ally of the pope and liberal, Blase Cupich, was defended by Naumann in a 96 to 82 vote.
“The cardinal is a clear favorite of Pope Francis, who appointed him archbishop of Chicago in 2014, then named him to the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops, which helps shape the next generation of the hierarchy. The pope elevated him to the rank of cardinal last year,” writes the Wall Street Journal.
Both Cupich and Naumann do share some similar values and are both opposed to abortion and euthanasia, however Cupich wanted the Pro-Life Committee to expand its focus from both of these issues.
“Cardinal Cupich, meanwhile, indicated that he would have broadened the committee’s focus to include other issues like the death penalty, healthcare and poverty—a list more in line with the priorities of Pope Francis,” writes the Wall Street Journal.
With the decision to elect Naumann, Catholic bishops may be sending a message to the Pope.
“It is clear since 2013 that a majority of them (the bishops) sees the message of Francis’ pontificate, esp. on life and marriage, as not adequate for the Catholic Church in the U.S.A.,” tweeted Massimo Faggioli, a theologian at Villanova.
Also, usually a cardinal is elected to the position.
“The Pro-Life Activities Committee has always been led by a cardinal, a way the bishops have signaled the priority they assign to that committee. The current chair is Cardinal Timothy Dolan who, like Naumann, is a protégé of Cardinal Justin Rigali. Some of us who have been watching the bishops for a long time from the bleachers on the left have a saying about Rigali’s career: ‘He has ruined everything he ever touched,’” writes the National Catholic Reporter.
“This is obviously a break with tradition, in that it’s going to someone who’s not a cardinal,” said Stephen Schneck, a former director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America to the Wall Street Journal. “But I think it’s a very accurate picture of where the U.S. episcopacy is in relation to the efforts we see coming from Pope Francis and Rome.”
“It’s an honor that the bishops chose me,” said Archbishop Naumann after the vote. “I’ve been fortunate in my priesthood to work in the pro-life areas. I hope I can draw on that experience.”
Naumann has been especially outspoken about his disapproval for the pro-choice movement and has demonstrated this with some controversial actions.
“In 2008, Naumann told Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that she should not present herself for Communion because of her pro-choice position. This interpretation of Canon 915 was first advanced by Cardinal Raymond Burke but it was never the position adopted by most bishops who thought it a mistake to politicize the Communion rail. Naumann also ordered his parishes to cease hosting Girl Scout troops over concerns they were somehow involved with Planned Parenthood. He is not exactly a poster child for the culture of encounter,” writes the National Catholic Reporter.
Naumann’s election is good news for Conservative Republicans.
“The Catholic bishops’ emphasis on abortion as the overriding social issue will serve to keep conservative-leaning Catholics aligned with the Republican Party—and by extension the Trump administration,” said Patti Miller, author of “Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church.”
Author’s note: It’s hard to really tell if Catholic leaders are sending a message or not, but a numerous of big publications have reported that this was somewhat of a move in defiance of the pope. It was a pretty close vote too.