U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are gathering at a moment of turbulence for them and the American church, as Pope Francis moves toward crafting new policies for carrying out his mission of mercy – a prospect that has conservative Catholics and some bishops in an uproar.
The assembly, which starts Monday in Baltimore, comes less than a month after Francis ended a dramatic Vatican meeting on how the church can more compassionately minister to Catholic families.
The gathering in Rome was only a prelude to a larger meeting next year which will more concretely advise Francis on church practice. Still, the open debate at the event, and the back and forth among bishops over welcoming gays and divorced Catholics who remarry, prompted stunning criticism from some U.S. bishops.
“Many of the U.S. bishops have been disoriented by what this new pope is saying and I don’t see them really as embracing the pope’s agenda,” said John Thavis, a former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service. “To a large degree, the U.S. bishops have lost their bearings. I think up until now, they felt Rome had their back, and what they were saying – especially politically – would eventually be supported in Rome. They can’t count on that now.” Continue reading