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The USCCB and the Weaponization of “Dialogue”

In the wake of the latest instance of a faithful son of the Church pointing out that the papal emperor has no clothes, we have been treated to yet another flurry of loud and aggressive assertions that there is nothing to see here, no confusion really exists, and can everyone please stop acting childish and just move along?

Meanwhile, that faithful son — Fr. Thomas Weinandy — has been forced out of his position as a doctrinal consultant to the USCCB, while their president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, had the audacity to talk about his “departure” under the auspices of “an opportunity to reflect on the nature of dialogue within the Church.”

Dialogue? Really? Since when does dialogue include the immediate dismissal of a man who posed his concerns — rooted in his conscience, which we are constantly informed by our betters in the Church can serve as the arbiter of all critical moral truths — with such deference and respect to the pope that people have criticized him for being too obsequious? Of course DiNardo wasn’t man enough to come out and admit that Fr. Weinandy had been told to resign; instead, he referred to his “departure” as though his former chief of staff on doctrinal matters had merely drifted away inexplicably on a gentle breeze like Mary Poppins.

Let’s make something clear: the USCCB is a disgrace to Catholics everywhere — a predominately progressive organization that has enriched itself through hundreds of millions of dollars of government money for refugee resettlement while opposing any sensible laws to restrict immigration — a fact that looks very much, as Catholic writer and author John Zmirak pointed out on yesterday, like political simony. “How much would we have to pay the bishops to teach what the Catechism says on #immigration?” he asked. To put it more bluntly, I’d be interested in knowing how much we’d have to pay them to just be Catholic.

The USCCB’s concern for disassociating itself with an uncouth thinker only goes so far, however. For example, they still haven’t asked Ralph McCloud to resign. McCloud is the head of the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development, who split his first year working for the US bishops by moonlighting as treasurer for the political campaign of Wendy Davis, a Planned Parenthood-endorsed candidate for the Texas state senate who was at that time was in the process of unseating a pro-life incumbent. Davis would go on to be known for her 11-hour long filibuster in the Texas legislature to block more restrictive abortion regulations. Under McCloud’s leadership the CCHD has been linked to funding from Planned Parenthood affiliates and an organization performing same sex marriages.

No “departure” for Mr. McCloud while wistful reflections on dialogue were issued.

Or what about the USCCB subsidiary, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which was recently exposed as being involved in developing an African sex-education program “aimed at children as young as 10, encourages condom use, promotes abortifacient contraception, normalizes homosexuality and masturbation and lists Planned Parenthood as a resource.”

Was action taken? Nope.

For that matter, how about Jessica Garrels, a “program quality coordinator” for CRS, whom, as Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute reminded us yesterday, “had strongly supported and promoted Planned Parenthood on her Facebook page.” Among other examples Hichborn cited — including a profile picture with a Planned Parenthood graphical overlay on her account —  on January 9, 2016, Garrels “wrote “Well said!” cheering on the statement of US Representative Gwen S. Moore in her defense of maintaining funding to Planned Parenthood.” Hichborn continues:

Shortly after the the article on Garrels was published and sent to the bishops of the United States, Garrels’ Facebook page was locked up tight to hide her posts from public view.  CRS never issued a response to the report, and when LifeSiteNews contacted CRS for a comment on the matter, “CRS did not respond to LifeSiteNews’ inquiry into the information about its employees’ public support for Planned Parenthood.”

As it turns out, Garrels is still employed at CRS over a year later.

Just this summer, Garrels gave an interview to the Huffington Post on behalf of Catholic Relief Services. Clearly, they think she’s a perfectly acceptable ambassador for the brand.

Support abortion? Not to worry! You can stay at the USCCB.

Respectfully ask the pope to consider the damage he is doing to the Church by citing specific examples raised through pastoral work via the concerns of the faithful? Get. Out.

Knowing just how impossible it is to do what I’d really love to see happen — defund the USCCB — makes fighting back challenging. After all, with a tidal wave of cash coming from the federal government, we can only do so much damage by starving them of income from the faithful. And we should starve them in any way we can. Not a single penny should be transferred from the faithful to a single USCCB program. In fact, we should probably begin putting the pressure on our own bishops through their annual appeals. Perhaps we should all put letters in those envelopes in lieu of checks, telling our bishops that if they don’t reign in the conference, they’ll get no more money from us. But to be honest, it’s hard for me to come up with a specific action item in this regard because the whole thing should simply be gutted and set on fire and dumped into the nearest ocean. (And nuked from orbit, just to be sure.)

Feeling this frustration yesterday and looking for any opportunity to make our voices heard, I began encouraging people on social media to go to the Facebook page of the USCCB and leave one-star reviews after I saw others encouraging the same. Within no time, their page was flooded with people complaining about their treatment of Fr. Weinandy along with other issues. Clearly, there’s a lot of pent-up frustration out there amongst the faithful.

But the USCCB wasn’t having it. They began banning anyone who left a negative review from interacting with their page, making it impossible to comment on other reviews or posts or even to so much as hit the “like” button. Today, since Facebook won’t allow a page owner to edit or delete negative reviews, they’ve instead found a way to remove the reviews feature entirely. (That’s okay, though. I saved a whole bunch of them in a nice long screenshot. You can download the PDF here. For posterity!)

So. Much. Dialogue!

You can still go to their contact page and give them a piece of your mind. Mostly, though, this will be a minor irritation that low-level staffers will have to deal with. After all, important members of the USCCB — like Cardinal Blase Cupich, who is in the running for the USCCB’s pro-life committee despite repeated collusion with pro-abortion politicians and an outrageous statement about the undercover Planned Parenthood videos — have to give critical talks like this week’s “Dialogue [there’s that word again!] in the Key of Pope Francis”, in which he is seen defending Fr. James Martin, SJ, and telling us that if we want to “take up discernment” in the mode of Pope Francis, we must “be prepared to let go of cherished beliefs and long-held biases”.

And what about this gem, taken from the same speech?

Image courtesy of @RadicalCath

Cupich, of course, makes an important point here about the evolution of decentralized ecclesiastical structures. Many people simply discount the role of the USCCB because it has “no power” and “no official authority” within the Church. But remember, Francis wants to change that too. From his exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (32):

The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”.[36] Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.[37] Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.

The pope took a big step, in fact, toward granting significant autonomy to bishops conferences in his motu proprio Magnium Principium, which, as he clarified in his very public rebuke to Cardinal Sarah, grants them the authority to perform their own regional Mass translations without Rome’s pre-approval. (Already, the excitement in parts of Europe is bubbling over with the new possibilities!)

Meanwhile, the faithful are left with no recourse to this style of “dialogue,” which effectively amounts to being shouted down and told to know our place, under the iron fist of the Dictatorship of Mercy. In addition to continuing to speak out, prayer and penance is most likely the course of action the saints would recommend. Admittedly, however, such a response feels incredibly meager in the face of the continued implosion of all we hold sacred.

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