In November, when the U.S. bishops met for their annual meeting in Baltimore, they did not pick up on the themes that are the signature features of the papacy of Pope Francis: concern for the poor and marginalized, criticism of the capitalism, and the mercy and compassion of God. Rather, they continued to worry about gay marriage and the contraceptive mandate and voted to write a statement on pornography. (Spoiler alert: They are against it.) It was truly embarrassing to watch the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in action in Baltimore, especially for those who remember the glory years when the bishops were prophetic voices with their letters on peace and the economy. It was as if they had missed the Francis memo.
This week, the bishops will have another chance to get on the Francis bandwagon as they meet Wednesday through Friday in New Orleans. Will they miss the bus again?"Family issues" will again be front and center at the meeting in New Orleans. The bishops will get an update from their Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, chaired by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. This is the committee that fights gay marriage. They will also hear from Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, which is leading the fight against the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.