A year before the election, some Catholic bishops want poverty and environment central to Catholic voter guide

Heated debate over USCCB voter guide reveals a 'rhetoric of regime change'
Bishop McElroy (photo: U-T San Diego)

Bishop McElroy of San Diego (photo: U-T San Diego)

The following comes from a November 17 Religion News Service article by David Gibson:

The nation’s Catholic bishops on November 17 passed an updated guide for Catholic voters ahead of next year’s elections, but only after airing unusually sharp disagreements on how much they can, and should, adjust their priorities to match those of Pope Francis.

More than any other item on the agenda of the bishops’ annual meeting here, the debate over the lengthy voter guide, called “Faithful Citizenship,” revealed deep divides among the bishops and provided a snapshot of the extent of the “Francis effect” on the U.S. hierarchy.

In the most impassioned objection to the voter guide, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy took the floor to argue that the document — which was a reworking of an 84-page treatise first written in 2007 — should be scrapped because it did not reflect the way that Francis has elevated the battle against poverty and for the environment as central concerns for the Catholic Church since his election in 2013.

“I believe that this document is gravely hobbled,” said McElroy, who was an outspoken advocate for the church’s social justice teachings even before Francis named him to the large and growing Southern California diocese earlier this year.

“Specifically, I think the pope is telling us that alongside the issues of abortion and euthanasia — which are central aspects of our commitment to transform this world — poverty and the degradation of the Earth are also central,” McElroy said. “But this document keeps to the structure of the worldview of 2007. It does not put those there.”

Instead, he said, the voter guide “tilts in favor of abortion and euthanasia and excludes poverty and the environment.”

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockon, California, agreed that “the times have dramatically changed” and said the “cumbersome” new draft needed to be scrapped.

But members of the committee that spent nearly a year-and-a-half reworking the voter guide rejected the pushback.

“We still think it’s effective,” a clearly irritated Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo — chairman of the drafting committee and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — told Blaire and the other critics.

Another member of the drafting committee, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair, also rejected the critiques, and he echoed comments by other conservatives who were disturbed by the idea that Francis has ushered in a “revolution” in Catholicism that their documents needed to reflect.

“There is kind of a rhetoric of regime change that is going on in the church” in the wake of the election of Francis in 2013, said Blair. “I think we have to be very, very wary of that.”


  1. In California, any voters’ guide should name the politicians, starting with Gov. Jerry Brown (former Jesuit seminarian, pro-abortion, pro stem cell research) and include the names of all the legislators that vote pro-abortion, pro-Obama care, and include all the San Francisco City-County supervisors who tried to charge the S.F Archdiocese millions when they made a paper transfer of property. Let’ get the info out there.

  2. Gov. Brown wants to build a multi billion $$$$ train from Bakersfield to nowhere at a time when we are in a major multi-year drought. With our ever-increasing population, the money should be used to build many reservoirs throughout the state.

    • John Feeney says:

      Well said Sarah!

    • CA is $426 Billion Dollars in debt.
      Where does Brown expect to get the money to build the train? As well as maintain, and man (wages / benefits) it ?
      He just wants to keep growing the State Government at taxpayer expense.

      CA needs more Desalinization Plants to sustain life.

  3. I don’t believe the environment even comes close to the importance of protecting children in the womb and the importance of marriage. And while it is important that we as christians take care of the poor through the church and independently, giving more money to the government is waste.

  4. FrancisBishops McElroy and Blaire believe in the anti-air conditioning Laudatory Sii Enciclycal that has wormed its way into the Magisterium of the Church. Despite what Papa Francisco so boldly states, Anthropogenic Global Warming is a huge hoax devised to establish a World-wide tax to prepare the transition to a One World Government as envisioned by the Masons and French revolutionaries.

  5. Square, Uncool Catholic says:

    Ah yes, the out-of-touch, graying bishop. An endangered species enjoying one last gasp of emboldened air from a confusing pope before dying out altogether. This species is still convinced that it is 1969 and if enough of us link arms and sing “We Shall Overcome” that Christ will magically be in our midst and that electing pro-abortion politicians who adhere the the Port Huron Statement will cure all of our ills.

  6. This is plain, unadulterated communism. Protecting the nation from invasion must be the number one priority. Yes, we must be stewards in regards to ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ but we will always have the poor. No wonder the Catholic Church is waning in membership and authority. To quote Donald Trump (concerning Obama)they are “insane”! Ave Maria Purrissima !

  7. JOBS to get people out of poverty must be one of the top priorities.
    According to the US Dept of Labor Statistics – as of Oct, 2015 there are
    94.5 MILLION American citizens aged 16 and over in the USA not working.

    The USA can not afford ILLEGAL immigrants, and the Bishops must acknowledge this fact.
    ILLEGALs must be returned to the Country of their origin.

  8. “If he (POPE) speaks about the environment, the climate, the economy, immigrants, etc., he is working from information that may be correct, or mistaken, but [in these cases] he is speaking as Obama speaks, or another president,” Cdl. Sarah explained.
    “It doesn’t mean that what he says on the economy is dogma, something we need to follow. It’s an opinion.” – Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

  9. “Poverty and for the Environment as central concerns” – absolutely NOT.
    Bps Robert McElroy and Stephen Blaire are absolutely WRONG.
    These are NOT equal to the INTRINSIC EVILs – of Abortion, Contraception, Homosexual Marriage, Euthanasia.

    “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion, General Principles” (- Pope Benedict)http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm

  10. As a San Diego Catholic and a priest of the diocese I respect Bishop McElroy’s and Pope Francis’ thoughts on environment, but these issues lack definition and clarity. It seems to me I would be running away from the difficult struggles to protect life, to save people from sin and give them new life in Christ if I were to pursue undefined and unproven environmental issues. 60 years of the great society has increased poverty. Certainly sin and the destruction of the family are at its core. ISIS and the drug traffickers also show us how unclear immigration and open borders policies bring destruction to society. Show us the truth and facts of your issues, and maybe we too can sign onto them with you, bishops, but not at the level of…

  11. Bishop McElroy fits the classical definition of a Progressive bishop.Rewriting
    the document to push the global warming agenda will alienate a sizable
    portion of the Catholic population. Voters value our responsibility as stewards
    of the earth. On the other hand, global warming is still a hotly debated
    scientific issue whose claims are still to be proven.

  12. Show us the truth and facts of your issues, and maybe we too can sign onto them with you, bishops, but not at the level of life issues. And don’t denigrate the importance of life issues either by putting them on par with climate change.

  13. Abortion and Euthanasia are non-negotiables, poverty and the degradation of the Earth are not.

  14. While the bishops are at it, maybe Scripture needs to be updated too. Like in Genesis, what happened to the apple core after Adam and Eve got through with it? On their faith journey, did they take the apple with them to recycle into mulch? Did they go out and spread the seeds of the apple throughout the world?

    • LOL

    • …I’m thinking they secreted the contraband seeds out in their loin clothes, DottieDay, and planted orchards. Instructions at the time of the flood were to feed the apples, seeds and all to the birds so that they could take them on the watery journey inside the birds who would subsequently see to future seeding.

      Maybe you should write a paper and send it up the chain for future meetings!

      • Ann Malley, Since the Catholic Church is melting even quicker than the icebergs and you seem to know a lot more about the Bible than me, I think you should write the encyclical, er, bishop’s booklet on the ecological journey of progenitor A and progenitor B. : ) If you hurry, you can bring it to the climate change meeting in Paris next month.

        • …and since I am female with no ordination (aka: grace of state) they will be forced to give my observations priority as mine is theology done on the knees while rooting out dirty, balled up socks (AKA: The Climate Change Monster) from under beds. But hey, with the Smoke of Satan rushing in to choke and blind, the view under the bed is pretty clear ;^)

  15. Five Non-Negotiable Issues (from http://www.biblicalcatholic.com)

    There is a hierarchy of truths in Catholic Social teaching. Defending innocent human life, protecting marriage and concern for the poor are at the top of it. To not compromise on these positions is not, contrary to what some may assert, to engage in ‘single issue’ politics. Rather, it is to judge all other important issues through a lens of truth and a genuine concern for the ‘common good’ of all. Based on Church teachings, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Encyclicals of the Pope, and issue papers from the Office of the Doctrine of the Faith, the following five issues concern actions that are intrinsically evil and must never be promoted by the law.


  16. evil actions are those that fundamentally conflict with the moral law and can never be performed under any circumstances. It is a serious sin to deliberately endorse or promote any of these actions, and no person who rea1ly wants to advance the common good will support any action contrary to the non-negotiable principles involved in these issues.
    1. Abortion
    The Church teaches that, regarding a law permitting abortions, it is “never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it” (EV 73). Abortion is the intentional and direct killing of an innocent human being, and therefore it is a form of homicide. The unborn child is always an innocent party, and no law may permit the taking of…

  17. his life. Even when a child is conceived through rape or incest, the fault is not the child’s, who should not suffer death for others’ sins.
    Another sub-set issue within this subject area that is non-negotiable pertains to Human Reproductive Technologies, which includes the Church’s position against Contraception, In-Vitro Fertilization and Sterilization.
    2. Euthanasia
    Often disguised by the name “mercy killing” euthanasia is also a form of homicide. No person has a right to take his own life, and no one has the right to take the life of any innocent person. In euthanasia, the ill or elderly are killed, by action or omission, out of a misplaced sense of compassion, but true compassion cannot include intentionally doing something…

  18. intrinsically evil to another person (cf. EV 73).
    3. Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    Human embryos are human beings. “Respect for the dignity of the human being excludes all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo.” (CRF 4b) Recent scientific advances show that medical treatments that researchers hope to develop from experimentation on embryonic stem cells can often be developed by using adult stem cells instead. Adult stem cells can be obtained without doing harm to the adults from whom they come. Thus there is no valid medical argument in favor of using embryonic stem cells. And even if there were benefits to be had from such experiments, they would not justify destroying innocent embryonic humans.
    4. Human…

  19. 4. Human Cloning
    “Attempts … for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through ‘twin fission,’ cloning, or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union.” (RHL 1:6) Human cloning also involves abortion because the “rejected” or “unsuccessful” embryonic clones are destroyed, yet each clone is a human being.
    5. Homosexual “Marriage”
    True marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Legal recognition of any other union as “marriage” undermines true marriage, and legal recognition of homosexual unions actually does homosexual persons a disfavor by encouraging them to persist in what is an…

  20. objectively immoral arrangement. “When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.” (UHP 10)

  21. Pope Francis is promoting Liberation Theology, and the bishops he has named, including McElroy and Blaire fit into his agenda. Bishops are supposed to promote Catholic values and lead their flocks to heaven. They should focus their efforts on evangelization and catechisis. Instead of being bishops, McElroy, Blaire and like minds should lead the Sierra Club and/or other environmental groups.

    • You use the term Liberation Theology, to quote Ignio Montoya from “The Princess Bride”, I do not think you know the meaning of the phrase.

    • Sarah, I agree! The job of a Bishop is to help bring people to heaven, to promote Catholic values and evangelize and catechise. the flock. That is just what they are doing for the most part. Taking care of the earth is being a good Catholic. Not taking care of it will keep us from heaven. It’s like saying we are pro-life, but don’t want basic health insurance for poor people, for everyone, or being pro-death penalty, or not paying taxes, or not providing proper shelter for homeless folks, or not wanting to pay livable wages so that someone who works 40 hours a week can support his/her family. Those are all part of the faith teaching of our Church. I’m sure you agree!

      • Some sins are mortal, some sins are venial. While your list of “must does” to get into heaven is something we might all agree on, consider that there are many ways to accomplish that list. Much can be done outside of govt. I think many rely on govt to take take of the poor, provide housing, a pay check, insurance, etc. because it gets us off the hook to do so as individuals. I am more apt to vote for someone who will allow me to choose how I serve the poor; the RCC has a proven record of doing so; the govt does not. The RCC protects the rights of the unborn; the govt does not. Knowing the teachings of the Church points back at us, not the govt. or a politician who wants the govt to do it all. That is what would keep us from heaven. I’m…

  22. Tom Barbarie says:

    The bishops can put out a voter guide urging Catholics to vote only for bald-headed candidates or for people who weigh more than 500 pounds. It matters not a whit. The bishops apparently don’t realize that their mutterings are of no concern to the Catholic people, most of whom don’t know who their bishops are or what they do with their time.

  23. Sarah, Bishop Blaire was the Bishop of Stockton….long before Holy Father Francis was elected.

    And as far as Bishop McElroy goes, I know for a fact that he has a HUGE heart, besides a wonderful brain that God gave him!

    Pray for him and all the Bishops!!!

  24. Christ, who is God and man plainly said; ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’. It appears very clearly that the bishops do not believe, or have rejected , or have never heard this verse from the Gospels before. But then, it is not surprising since many of them have ceased being Catholic or Christian a long time ago, a fact proven by their voting for Obama even though he always was for infanticide and abortion. Ave Maria Purrissima !

  25. “WORTHINESS to RECEIVE HOLY COMMUNION, General Principles” – (Cardinal Ratzinger) Pope Benedict.

    Pope Benedict knows more than McElroy and Blaire.

  26. I am only reiterating Holy Mother Church’s will for our salvation. As a mother, I would never, ever feed my child poison or lead him/her down a dark alley. Never.
    Matt.18: 1-7
    At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his…

  27. Most of the bishops were born Catholic and baptized democrat. There may be a few ounces of faith left, but mainly their makeup at present is socialistic communism. That is why many of them voted for Obama both times, and why the majority of Catholics know nothing about the Catholic faith.

  28. Father Karl says:

    Unfortunately the death of the Christian West has been successful due to the socialistic and communistic policies of the Catholic hierarchy.

  29. Part 1 ….Making Moral Choices p18 http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship-title.cfm
    34. …..A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.
    In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.
    At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other…

    • (cont)
      At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil
      to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

  30. (Con’t)35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies
    promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.
    Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons,
    not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

  31. Daishin Sunseri says:

    The Catholic Church is quite good at causing confusion. After all it’s been doing that for thousands of years. I see the moral teaching of the church (Pope and Bishops) as quite elastic. Most Catholics don’t discuss dogma. Changing moral positions scares some of the faithful more than denying the authority of the Rome.

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COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.