What Benedict sowed in April, Bishops are reaping today.

I am watching a wonderful developing story. 

Bishops in the USA, one by one, are coming out with statements, those statements are getting better and better.

It strikes me that the bishops are using each other’s statements, along with the fine book by Archbishop Chaput, to craft ever stronger letters. 

Ever stronger.

Do you share the impression that the bishops are strengthening each other … after Peter came to the USA to strengthen the brethren?

That is my thought.

On 16 April 2008, His Holiness spoke the assembled bishops of the United States and said:

Clearly, the Church’s influence on public debate takes place on many different levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to be done. Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a "leaven" in society. Yet it cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church’s teaching on today’s key ethical questions. Once again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.

He said: "it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Paul S. Quist says:

    I get the definite sense that the bishops have been strengthened by Pope Benedict’s visit and they are in turn strengthening each other – just in the nick of time. Our own bishops in Canada have just issued a very good statement on Humanae Vitae in honour of it’s 40th anniversary (released on September 26th for the Canadian Martyrs). So I’m very proud of our bishops. I also have the sense that we are soon going to be more and more hated and marginalized by a society that will not tolerate our advocacy for life, for marriage, and for justice.
    Edmonton, Alberta

  2. mpm says:

    Yes, Fr. Z, I think that bishops who want to live their vocations have taken
    heart to speak out in their own words. I think that the variety of voices and
    insights, all stemming from the same branch, sounds much more like the Catholic
    Church should sound than the flat note of a consensus whitepaper.

    Thank God for their steel.

  3. ckdexterhaven says:

    Pope Benedict XVI strengthens the Bishops. The bishops then strengthen the priests, the priests strengthen us. Thank you to Pope Benedict for making a “house call” in April!

  4. Maureen says:

    It’s so beautiful to see things working the way they should, and to be able to be so proud of our bishops. They are acting like prophets and teachers, praise God!

  5. Jason says:

    The Holy Father’s visit really opened my eyes to what it means to be a Catholic in America, and what our role is.

  6. Federico says:

    I think there’s another force at work. Nancy Pelosi (and Joe Biden) thought they could keep pushing the envelope just a little more. Too much is too much and they woke the sleeping giant; what they said was too much even for appeasing bishops to endura. Once episcopal statements started coming out, they (and the bishops issuing them) strengthened each other. Suddenly the (mistaken) notion of public collegiality turned the other way.

    Or maybe it has to do with Benedict’s visit…or a little of both. I see the Pelosi/Biden statements as a more proximate cause however.

  7. Geoffrey says:

    I agree with this very much. I sensed a change back in April. The Holy Father very much “strengthened the brethren” in the US, as well as the flock. As bishops, one-by-one, first issued statements regarding Pelosi, I felt it was a direct result of the Holy Father’s words in April. I think he gave them a little bit of courage. Deo gratias!

  8. Joe says:

    Hi Father,
    I wanted to know, is it proper to wear only an alb with a biretta or must it be cassock or other vestments?

  9. Bob K. says:

    Quote: “The Holy Father’s visit really opened my eyes to what it means to be a Catholic in America”

    Yeah especially watching how the Washington Mass was performed.

  10. JBD says:

    I believe it was H.E. Abp. Burke who brought all this to the fore, which forced then Card. Ratzinger to make a statement, when Burke indicated he would not give communion to prez candidate John Kerry. It seems we have to thank Abp Burke for all this. The man is prolific. He made this comment at the end of 2003.

    I was told that Montalvo (the nuncio to the US at the time) was so upset that Burke opened this can of worms, Montalvo decided he was too ill to install Burke when he was elevated to the See of St. Louis.

  11. TJM says:

    I don’t know much about Msgr. Montalvo. Is he just another “go along to get along” type? I’m surprised that he would be upset with Archbishop Burke about that. Oh, I forgot, he’s a “diplomat” and you’re never supposed to upset anyone because that’s “undiplomatic.” Right? Tom

  12. toomey says:

    A certain grace accompanies Peter that no bishop has. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven.” Also, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail.” God the Father Himself reveals to Peter exactly who Jesus is. And Jesus prays for Peter, (2nd person singular). As one of my very learned theology profs said probably over half a century ago, Jesus’ prayer for Peter is the only time in all of Scripture where God prays for one of His creatures. So many people in Brazil, America and Australis said much the same thing. They could “feel” the presence of the pope. Whether they were at the event, or just watching him on television, they could feel him. Yes, the grace given to Benedict XVI, or if you prefer, Peter the 265th, allows him to give great strength to his bishops. I believe priests and laity benefit also within their state in the Holy Catholic Church.

  13. Garrett says:


    Archbishop Montalvo is two years deceased (RIP). Let’s take it easy.

  14. Margaret says:

    Well, it’s either the Pope’s visit, or somebody’s putting something in the water at the Bishops’ Conference meetings. I suspect the former… :-)

    You’re right, though, Father, thank you for pointing it out. There has been a real rash of bishops fearlessly speaking the truth lately, and it’s a very heartening thing. Thank you, Papa B, for strengthening your brothers!

  15. MVH says:

    Ah, yes! Sometimes all that is needed is a gentle spritzing from a can of Papal whoop**s.

  16. Maureen says:

    That’s a good point about Pelosi and Biden, though. You can only simultaneously insult the bishops’ authority and the Fathers’ teaching for so long, before even the meekest bishop starts to feel his inner St. Augustine stir. :)

    I think part of it was that Pelosi and Biden so obviously thought that there could be no possible objection or reaction to what they were saying. “Well, of course I’m my own bishop and I know best” is not calculated to please a real Catholic bishop.

    And yet, in the past the bishops have let a lot of similar stuff go by, without any comment. So Burke’s promotion and the Holy Father’s B-16 injections must have a lot to do with it.

  17. Archbp. Montalvo lived with us before he died. He was ill indeed. He was very ill and went down hard, I’m afraid, with cancer that ravaged him. He had fought it for a long time.

    He was a true gentleman. We had meals together frequently while he still could.

  18. beng says:

    I dissagree that it’s because Pope Benedict’s visit. The visit may have some small influence.

    The cause, I believe, should be atributed to:

    1. Benedict XVI overal reign so far (Motu Proprio etc)
    2. The internet (most important)

    The voice of orthodox Catholics in the internet has inevitably reach those shepards.

  19. The other David says:

    Yes, this was my sense as well. That the Pope made clear that the Bishops needed to start doing their jobs. The frame was laid by his predecessors in establishing that truth and morality are still taught by the Church, a frame laid in a time when American Catholics had assimilated and put their religion in a corner. Pope Benedict is able to use this frame to specifically task the bishops in their own country.

  20. Margaret says:

    …and it continues. Carl Olson’s Ignatius Insight features a statement from the New York Bishops’ Conference. The money quote:

    “It is the rare candidate who will agree with the Church on every issue. But as the U.S. Bishops’ recent document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship makes clear, not every issue is of equal moral gravity. The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.”

    Full statement at http://www.nyscatholicconference.org/pages/news/show_newsDetails.asp?id=469

  21. Gerard E. says:

    Events came together for this development, added to the Holy Father’s April pep talk. 2008 is also the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae- [Good point!] 40 being a very Biblical number- where Pope Paul VI of blessed memory became very Jeremiah-like. Then again, we have a presidential election featuring a candidate who never saw an infanticide he didn’t like. Of course, we cannot ignore the mangled theological interpretations of Ms. Pelosi and Sen. Biden, too goofy to ignore. But consider this- we baby-boomers have been dragging the culture with us since 1/1/46. By my estimate, the last of us will be celebrating birthdays on 12/31/66. These will be 42nd birthdays, as my Catholic grade school math informs me. Thus our collective reproductive years are rapidly coming to a close. When a majority of us are barred physically from procreation, I predict there will be bewailing in the land, Rachel crying for her children. Thus this outbreak of what the esteemed writer and prophetic figure Mark Shea calls Episcopal Spine Alert. Wondrous to behold.

  22. beng: I also think the internet, the blogosphere more precisely, has made a big difference in motivating bishops to action. But I believe that during the pontificate of Pope Benedict, his visit to the USA marked a turning point.

  23. The other David: I agree. The foundations were laid long before, during the pontificate of John Paul II. Brick by brick they were built. Now we are seeing more the structure laid on those foundations. But I think the visit of Benedict to the USA was a key moment.

  24. Mike says:

    It seems there have been many turning points. Papa Bene’s trip was a big one. So was Abp. Burk’s stand on communion for Kerry and his letter on cannon law 915.

    There is also another factor which is at least equal to both. I think what we see today is this is also due to the ongoing intersession of John Paul the Great.

    We ceded the battle waters after Humane Vite when the Vicar of Christ called us to battle. Half our forces on the Baroque of Peter mutinied in the name of the spirit of Vatican II. The other half froze with inaction due to uncertainty. We have been paying for this lack of faith ever since.

    It has taken two Pontificates, the “Theology of the Body” and an understanding of Vatican II using the “Hermeneutic of of Continuity” to bring us back about half way. We are at a turning point and I think we will see results shortly. Our enemy know this and I expect to see a large push back from the other side at any time. We must keep on praying.

  25. Larry says:

    A lot of things have gone into this. The laity is better informed now that we have the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium. All the information available on the internet makes it very difficult to put something over on the laity. But the bishops themselves are stronger and a more faithful crop than we had for years. JPII and Benedict have and are holding their feet to the fire on many issues and that is good, because the time of testing is upon us. The Church in the US must become stronger if it is to turn the tide of secularism. Pray for our bishops and priests every day and pray that we get many more. I heard the other day that in a major seminary in Nigeria there are 4,000 young men studiying for the priesthood. Four Thousand!

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