Something's wrong with the world when one bishop is trying to defend the charitable efforts of the church while another is addressing the Rhode Island Young Republicans about–you guessed it–gay marriage. As Scott Alessi notes in his blog post, Bishop Thomas Lynch St. Petersburg has stepped into defend Catholic Charities (of all things) against attacks from the American "Life" League that Catholic Charities President Larry Snyder is somehow connected to pro-abortion or pro-contraception forces for being a judge in a contest. Meanwhile, Bishop Tobin is up in Rhode Island licking his wounds over yet another loss in the civil same-sex marriage debate. Poor people? What poor people?
Unfortunately, there are more Tobins than Lynches in among the U.S. bishops, the enduring legacy of the last two popes, who appointed more idealogues than pastors, more partisans than proponents of the poor. The American Life League and other attackers of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, poverty work, and community organizing could never have gotten as far as they have in their fundamentally baseless attacks if not for the silence–if not support–of the church's chief shepherds, leaving us with many have referred to as the "Republican captivity of the U.S. Catholic Church," of which Tobin's meeting with Rhode Island's up-and-coming GOP is only one example.
Churches should be, of course, above partisan politics, calling politicians of every stripe back to the basic demands of the Bible: justice for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the poor. One reason for the current pope's popularity is surely his basic message that the church should be a church of the poor. It would be nice if a few more of his brother bishops in this country would take note.