Bp. Boyea (D. Lansing) skeptical about need for USCCB document on U.S. economy

When I heard that the bishops of the USCCB in their plenary session were talking about drafting a new document on the economy and related issues, I first reaction was “OH NO! Don’t they learn from history?”

I also read this on Catholic World News:

By a 171-26 vote at their meeting on June 13, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a proposal by Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, to begin drafting a message on the US economy.

The draft of “Catholic Reflections on Work, Poverty and a Broken Economy” will be brought to the body of bishops at the conference’s November meeting, after this year’s US presidential elections. During the discussion leading up to the vote, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing criticized the committee’s opposition to the budget plan put forward by Congressman Paul Ryan. “There have been some concerns raised by lay Catholics, especially some Catholic economists, about what was perceived as a partisan action against Congressman Ryan and the budget he had proposed,” Bishop Boyea said in reference to the USCCB committee’s opposition to the House budget plan. “We need to be articulate only in principles, and let the laity make these applications … It was perceived as partisan, and thus didn’t really further dialogue in our deeply divided country.”

[NB:] “I’m not sure that we have the humility yet not to stray into areas where we lack competence, and where we need to let the laity take the lead,” he added. “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [on the Social Doctrine of the Church].”

Following his remarks, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit called upon the committee to place greater emphasis on the “disintegration of the family” as a factor in the breakdown of the economy. Echoing Bishop Boyea’s comments, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City said that the committee is “at times perceived as partisan” and needs to consider the principle of subsidiarity, which has been “neglected in past documents.” Archbishop Naumann added that solutions that place emphasis in enrolling people in government programs have been “tried for decades” and failed. “We need to talk about the debt and the real seriousness of that debt,” he continued. “Sometimes we’re perceived as just encouraging the government to spend more money with no realistic way of how we’re going to afford to do this.”


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in The Drill and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Weetabix says:

    I think the Bishops would better serve the faithful by addressing their spiritual poverty, by discouraging them from accruing debt in their pursuit of material goods, and by encouraging family play in lieu of individual digital entertainment.

    The “not to stray into areas where we lack competence” advice applies almost universally to anyone with power or influence. It’s a golden piece of advice.

  2. markomalley says:

    I agree with Weetabix.

    Having said that, if they don’t have the humility called for by Bishop Boyea, I certainly hope that they will comply with the norms in Apostolos Suos.

  3. chcrix says:

    “…need for USCCB document on U.S. economy”

    Not unless Tom Woods drafts it.

  4. Mark01 says:

    I agree with Weetabix, the bishops would do far better to help individuals attain salvation than tell us how to run an entire economy.

  5. Burke says:

    Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s …

  6. PA mom says:

    Wise words from the bishops…

  7. sisu says:

    We watched it live -So proud! that’s our Bishop!!

  8. BillyHW says:

    They have not the competence. Thank you God that we have at least 3 bishops who understand this. Please send more.

  9. Pingback: Bp. Boyea (D. Lansing) skeptical about need for USCCB document on U.S. economy | Catholic Canada

  10. Geoffrey says:

    The laity are called to deal with temporal affairs and order them according to God’s will (cf. Lumen Gentium, 31). Hence the proper formation of the laity is of fundamental importance, the duty of which falls to the pastors of the Church, i.e. the bishops. We need the USCCB to speak out on such matters, otherwise the laity will continue to listen to party platforms instead of the Gospel.

  11. Cantate says:

    Please God, the bishops should speak to keeping the Faith, and not to various and sundry topics like the economy and social justice. Lack of authentic teaching from the bishops is how we got where we are–and the place is not good. When will they ever learn? The bishops should disengage from their unholy alliance with the democrat/socialist party, and teach the unvarnished Truth. The economy and social justice, etc. etc. is the domain of the laity. The bishops should stick to their own domain–the preservation and passing on of the Faith. Let us pray!

  12. msproule says:

    That’s my bishop! I am grateful for His Excellency and his sensible remarks. Kudos Bishop Boyea!

  13. heway says:

    Boy, oh boy, I agree with everybody here. Earlier this year I emailed the USCCB and complained about their treatment of Congressman Ryan. As a social security and medicare recipient I feel more qualified, than those who don’t participate, o judge the goodness of his plan. This morning Sr. Maureen Fiedler was on NPR telling us that Network or some such organization is going to march and complain about Ryan’s budget. When I see these people in line at the grocery store, then maybe I’ll listen to their advice. This is where they should listen to the laity….

  14. DisturbedMary says:

    171 – 26! It’s worse than I thought. If I thought this had anything to do with my Catholic faith, I would break away and start my own church.

  15. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    Father Z (and others),

    If you want to watch and hear what the objections were in greater detail, go to the link below, and choose the Morning Session. Skip over to 2:32 and the Q&A begins, with Bishop Boyea.

    CWR’s report was good, but you’ll enjoy hearing their full arguments. And, the CWR report doesn’t mention Bishop Paprocki’s concerns, which also probably spoke for a good many of us.

    Again…. morning session , skip to 2:32 and let it play out.


  16. Kathleen10 says:

    The Bishops may want to take a page from the situation with the LCWR. It may be a good time to refocus for the Bishops as well. We have perhaps heard more than enough on social justice and tolerance, also being careful not to judge others. We desperately need to hear more about respecting life from birth to natural death, and how abortion and euthanasia are not part of God’s plan for us. We need to hear more about why God created us man and woman, and that this is the best way to raise happy, healthy children. We need to hear about the necessity of making judgments, because what we now have is a generation of people who have little ability to tell right from wrong in any sphere, so incapacitated are we by instructions not to judge, lest we be judged. This one passage taken out of context by so many, leaves an entire generation speechless in the face of sin and evil. Or how about Natural Law? Sin? Confession? How about homosexuality? Where do the Bishops stand on the issue of homosexuality? Are they for it? Against it? We could really use the clarification, because it’s rough out here. Who cares about economics when our children are being indoctrinated in their schools, and parents feel constrained by pressures to tell them it’s “just another kind of family”. To whom do the laity turn, when there are no voices to lovingly but definitely instruct on such important matters? Who is going to instruct on these admittedly difficult, but necessary social issues? If it is not the Bishops, the supposed leaders on faith and morals, then who?

  17. haribo says:

    I don’t think the bishops are helping the situation much by throwing their most devout members under the bus when it comes to economic issues. I don’t think the media can distinguish between prudential matters and doctrine, and most Catholics probably can’t either. We have pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-religious freedom politicians made to look like bad Catholics because they disagree with the USCCB on the economy. Paul Ryan using the principle of subsidiarity to defend his budget suddenly looks like Nancy Pelosi using St. Augustine to defend abortion, and how are uncatechized Americans supposed to tell the difference between the two?

  18. Peggy R says:

    Oh, no! No! No! Please don’t say a gosh-darned thing. Unless you understand markets. Read Milton Friedman please. Read Marx’ “Manifesto” and see how it resembles liberal/Dem policy prescriptions. See how the destruction of the Church and the family are key ingredients to their agenda. Go visit w/Fr. Sirico and the Acton Institute folks.

    No, please don’t, bishops. Just don’t.

    Rather, let’s correct the dissenters.

  19. BillyHW says:

    Who will be the first brave bishop to pull out of the USCCB? The time has come.

  20. frjim4321 says:

    I see Boyea moving up one of these years . . . anybody know how long he’s been in Lansing?

  21. msproule says:

    @Frjim4321 Bishop Boyea has been in Lansing for just over 4 years.

  22. Less statements from the USCCB on matters of prudential judgement..more statements relevant to our salvation. So it seems the USCCB tries to be experts on everything. The USCCB can’t be the jack of all trades. It needs to stick to teaching Faith and Morals in union with the Holy Father.

  23. Phil_NL says:

    “I’m not sure that we have the humility yet not to stray into areas where we lack competence, and where we need to let the laity take the lead,” he added. “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [on the Social Doctrine of the Church].”

    Now that’s a refreshing, and very commendable, attitude from a bishop. I’m very sad – but unsurprised – to see that this position is still in the minority though. The bishops need to learn that their involvement in politics on matters where one in conscience can disagree upon has a 99% chance of leading to disaster. There will always be catholics who’s prudential judgement will be diametrically opposed, and often with good reason. And any sheep who sees the bishops leading the flock in a silly direction will give less credence to the shepard”s staff when it actually does involve proper sheparding.

    Bishops and economics don’t mix. (if you need a QED, google Bp Muskens, now thankfully retired, who defended stealing bread – and probably would not have stopped at bread either).

    Now let’s pray they’ll eventually also reach the same wisdom on immigration.

  24. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    Someone just emailed me asking about the video of the Q&A session. I had put a time stamp of 2:32. It looked like 2 minutes and 32 seconds. My regrets.

    Go to this link, highlight the morning session, then in the player at top, drag the handle to the 2 hour 32 minute mark.

    I tell you it is really worth listening to the whole Q&A session. There were other bishops who also spoke their concerns about any economic statement coming out of the USCCB. And, you really need to watch Bishop Boyea to appreciate his candor. Bishop Paprocki is not cited in the article, but he too had some very good things to say.


  25. Supertradmum says:

    No, no, no. It would be a repeat of the debacle of last Autumn in the Vatican. Please God, no more socialism and communism in our midst.

    Thank God for this good bishop.

  26. Tradster says:

    …committee is “at times perceived as partisan”…
    I nominate that as the understatement of the day!

  27. Jim of Bowie says:

    This is one of the times when I’m glad nobody takes this organization seriously.

  28. flyfree432 says:

    Continue to be proud of our bishop!

  29. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Phil_NL, well, probably Bp Muskens at least in this was only teaching according to a general principle of moral theology, shared among others by St. Thomas Aquinas (cf. Sth. II/II 66 VII) and popularized in Germany by Cardinal Frings of Cologne (however in the hunger-winter of 1946 and with an appeal not to go beyond the limts of strict necessity; yet breeding the word “fringsing” for stealing small objects for immediate need).

    That aside,

    it would be untrue to hold a non-overlapping magisterium of the laity for economy, or whatever. Also (dear @Peggy R) in principle the Reductio ad Carolummarxum is not a counterproof, and I wonder whether anybody does understand markets (which do, at any rate, not function according to a simple “eat or get eaten” or “demand and supply” mechanism)… However, the interesting points are matters where one in conscience can disagree upon, as dear @Phil_NL said. “Measure what can be measured; make measurable what cannot”, said David Hilbert, and though he was not totally right there’s something in it. Besides, dear @haribo raises interesting points here. And “whereof one cannot talk” yet “thereof one must be silent”, as Ludwig Wittgenstein said. He was not right either, but you see what I mean.

  30. irishgirl says:

    Bravo, Bishop Boyea!
    The bishops should stick to spiritual and moral affairs, and leave temporal affairs (which will soon pass away) to the laity, who are ‘out in the world’.
    As Blessed Jacinta of Fatima said, ‘Priests [and bishops are in Holy Orders] should concern themselves only with things of the Church’. How wise this little one was!
    Please, Your Excellencies, teach us instead on how to save our souls and get to heaven! You are not competent enough to speak on passing things like the economy (and I’m getting sick of hearing constantly about ‘the economy this, the economy that’).
    Speak out about the immorality of artificial birth control and abortion; speak out about the immorality of homosexuality and how it will lead souls to hell due to impurity; please, PLEASE speak about the Four Last Things!
    This world is a passing thing; heaven and hell are eternal!

  31. ecs says:

    The irony that even after the DHHS mandate matter the majority of the American episcopoacy remain card carrying members of the American Communist Party (also known as the American Democrat Party). Even as a high schooler the blatant partisanship and extreme level of ignorance on basic economic/political philosophy amongst the American clergy pushed me away from the Church. Even at 15, I doubted the routine sermon I would be subjected to on how enslavement to a Godless centralized command and control system was supposedly Catholic and in furthance of social justice. I thankfully did my homework later in life and realized that advocating these socialist economic policies was most certainly not Catholic. These bishops prior to writing any such economic document should go back and watch some old Life is Worth Living episodes wherein Bishop Sheen destroys the soviet model which these bishops more or less advocate. The episodes are only twenty minutes long and maybe they could get a much needed introduction into the concept of subsidiarity.

  32. ecs says:

    I would have to agree also with the questioning of whether the bishops as a group are competent to sit in judgment of matters such as these. Surely they have the competence and authority to clarify and to evangelize on certain Catholic social principles, but not the application of those principles. For instance, has any of these bishops in the last forty years attempted to obtain a job in the private sector sufficient to feed and support a family with multiple children? I think not. Your average working Catholic father and/or mother has more understanding and competence to discuss the application of Catholic social principles/teachings than any of our bishops do just by the very fact that we are the ones out in the world actually suffering to make ends meet on a daily basis. Our general state in life provides a level of understanding and competence on these matters that your average bishop’s state in life does not.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    Now, I must confess that I think the Church and even bishops have a right to make statements on the economy. There are historical traditions for this, among our Popes. However, the problem is the leaking, slow leaking, of Marxism into the Church, even in America. Would like more input from the Acton Institute at the USCCB, and other groups, which are not tainted with socialism or communism nonsense.

    That the Church must make statements in the public square is a given, but with wisdom, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and frankly, the USCCB is not up to this task.

  34. teomatteo says:

    “…Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit called upon the committee to place greater emphasis on the “disintegration of the family” as a factor in the breakdown of the economy.”

    I agree with my Archbishop here in this regard. His empahsis on the family brought back the voice of my father many years ago. Back when Ronald Reagan became President one of the first things he did was install the Pershing II (‘peace keeper’) in europe and then at some point the Catholic Bishops had a paper on the morality of the ‘bomb’. Which was good and important but my father ranted on about “how the souls in the pews on sundays were being lost with all the fornication (he used a different term), and dee-vor-sen go’en on, but the bishops are writen’ about the bomb! They ain’t saying nothen about what’s sending people to hell! ” My dad, Happy Fathers day!

  35. Chrysologus says:

    The USCCB didn’t seem too concerned about appearing partisan when they drafted their recent religious liberty document! Nor are they are concerned about documents about abortion appearing partisan.

  36. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    teomatteo – I wish there was a “like” button or a thumbs-up icon here because I would have clicked it on your post!

  37. MPSchneiderLC says:

    Let’s not jump to judgment.
    We don’t even know what the document will look like yet. Depending on which bishops write it it could be Republican (not good), Democrat (worse), or Catholic without drawing party lines (like the Compendium – recomended reading).

    The key to be Catholic is being joyfully in love with Jesus Christ, not to believe in right or left politics.

  38. AvantiBev says:

    “Archbishop Naumann added that solutions that place emphasis in enrolling people in government programs have been “tried for decades” and failed. ‘We need to talk about the debt and the real seriousness of that debt,’ he continued. ‘Sometimes we’re perceived as just encouraging the government to spend more money with no realistic way of how we’re going to afford to do this.’ ”

    WOW!!! I have been waiting 35+ tax paying years to hear that one! Yep, when I was growing up the bishops were cheerleaders for the growth of Leviathan; this program and that. Now that Leviathan has turned his fangs toward the Church’s freedoms (not just my freedom and my pocketbook) God is bringing from an evil a good. Guess those prayers for our bishops are working.
    God bless you Archbishop Naumann and those 2 bishops from Lansing and Detroit, Michigan.

    Now I shall continue to fight poverty by praying for more preaching on St. Joseph’s role in Jesus’ life and The Gospel of John 4: 1-23. No, ladies, Jesus was not alright with shacking up and serial monogamy any more than His Father in Heaven is. The fastest way to poverty – spiritual and material – is the broken, fatherless non-families our sexual “liberation” has created. I now believe the current crop of bishops are capable of connecting those dots.

  39. Katylamb says:

    He’s my bishop. I’m so proud of him. He seems kind of soft spoken to me, not like a fighter at all. I’ve worried about him a little. Now I’m proud and pleased as punch. God bless him.

  40. Imrahil says:

    Dear @MPSchneiderLP,

    of course the key to be Catholic is being joyfully in love with Jesus Christ, not to believe in right or left politics.

    But that does not mean that just because there are two (or more) parties, any of the things contended between them either must not be thought about at all, or that, so to speak, one must bash the parties at equal intervals. (For I somehow feel that those who favor neutrality in practice are for bashing equally so much more than for praising equally… just saying.)

    And another thing is that a partisan that strives for fairness can generally see better both values and mistakes of both his own party and his adversaries, compared with one who declares himself neutral outstander while he is at the least no outstander. (Which is a thing contemporary journalism suffers from.)

    We cannot avoid to be partisan, nor should we; we should strive to be fair partisans and declare our allegiance frankly beforehand. (If all available parties are no option, at least for theory we must put up an alternative that is an option. Prudential voting for the lesser evil can come afterwards; what is wrong with the world is that we do not ask what is right [Chesterton].) (Everyone must if possible change his own party if it believes in untruths; and there are times when to change allegiance; but I’m not speaking of that.)

    That is: the laity. The clergy must principally indeed be non-partisan (which is sort of a sacrifice); but even this is only made easier if assertions are possible (if true) such as “considering all this, party A is on objective grounds more eligible than party B” or “we cannot nor want to deny that personally, if clerical neutrality would not hinder us, so and so many would be so and so partisan” or “of course the Christian cause is for the time being linked with the partisan cause of such and such parties and generally it is a virtue not to disappoint one’s ally”.

  41. Tradster says:

    GRRRRR!!!!! Now those know-nothing ivory tower “social justice” liberals in the USCCB have gone and done the expected. They applauded and cheered Obama’s illegal edict to stop deporting illegal aliens just to get more illegal votes for him and the other Demon-crats (“Catch-Release-Vote” as Rush Limbaugh dubbed it).

    “at times appear to be too partisan”??? Ya think?!

  42. UncleBlobb says:

    Thank God for the hope found in the good and holy sense of these few, aforementioned bishops!

  43. MPSchneiderLC says:


    I understand that if you express the Church’s positions properly, you will end up tending to one party or another even if the Church only expresses principles not policies. The implied problem is that almost everyone here assumes that the bishops will present it one way and they believe the other way. (Simplified: the Bishops are Democrats, those self-described “Real Catholics” here are Republicans – although I think that sounds too political.)

    My critique was pre-judging the majority of the bishops that they will twist Catholic doctrine towards a certain political position. As bishops, they fall into your clergy category and should not support one party but can and should present principles.

    For the record, I am a religious brother and cannot legally vote anywhere. (I am a Canadian citizen but unless you have resided in Canada at least 1 of the last 7 years or so, you can’t vote [which seems like a just law even though it goes against me]).

Comments are closed.