Tuesday, November 15, 2011
First, focusing on religious liberty is not simply a "recasting" of the Church's existing opposition to abortion and SSM. These are related but distinct issues. I'm pretty sure that the bishops are not dropping opposition to abortion or SSM from their agenda, and supporting the religious liberty cause does not require consensus on the merits of abortion or SSM.
Second, I don't think it's fair to say that abortion and SSM have now "eclipsed" poverty and economic injustice as important issues to the bishops. I don't think there's any comparison between the amount of resources the bishops devote to combating poverty versus combating abortion or SSM. The fact that more of the bishops' teaching platform has been devoted to abortion and SSM in recent years may not reflect changes in relative importance as much as changes in social circumstances.
Third, the suggestion that the bishops' teachings on politics and morality have "been met with indifference even by many of their own flock" does not necessarily follow from the cited statistic that only 16% of Catholics had heard of the document, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship." I'm guessing that the statistics for documents issued by the bishops to address economic injustice would not be much rosier. The implication that Catholics care less about the bishops' teaching on an issue like religious liberty than on an issue like poverty needs more evidentiary support.
Finally, I tend to be leery of cherry-picked quotes to close off an article. They often seem to be carefully chosen laundering devices to allow the expression of the author's own opinion without (explicitly) violating journalistic standards. So the article ends with this: “The bishops speak in hushed tones when it comes to poverty and economic justice issues, and use a big megaphone when it comes to abortion and religious liberty issues.” This is an unfairly sweeping statement, especially as the final word in a "news" article. To take one of many examples: Archbishop Nienstedt, no shrinking violet on SSM and abortion, was front and center over the summer in opposing the GOP's efforts to balance the Minnesota state budget through draconian cuts to social services. It didn't sound too hushed to me.