Instead of focusing exclusively on domestic threats to religious liberty—like the HHS contraception mandate—the Bishops are poised to start looking abroad:
The rising tide of persecution facing Christians worldwide has drawn the attention of at least one major institution: the US Catholic bishops. This week the bishops are gathered in Baltimore for four days to, among other things, elect a replacement for Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference (that choice has now been made). The gathering opened yesterday with a address by Dolan, the last speech he would give in his capacity as president, and the NYT reports that he devoted much of the speech to the need for more action on global persecution.
At a news conference, Cardinal Dolan said that the bishops are not abandoning the religious liberty campaign, and that it had been “very successful.” But he said that in the interest of justice and the bishops’ own credibility, the bishops should heed the pleas that they have heard from Christians overseas to turn their attention to those who are being killed and persecuted for their faith.He said, “We don’t have tanks at our door, we don’t have people being macheted on their way home from Mass.”In an interview, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the chairman of the bishops’ ad hoc committee on religious liberty, said, “This doesn’t represent a backing away. It represents an amplification.”
The American Catholic bishops—beleaguered as they are by rising secularism and the lingering effects of the child abuse scandals—are nevertheless are still a powerful institution, especially when they hook into issues that present a more “social justice” angle. If they’re gearing up to make the global persecution of Christians a key item on their agenda, that can only be good news. It will bring attention to an urgent issue that has gotten far less press and less action than it deserves.[Pakistani Christians stage a protest in Lahore on September 22, 2013, against the killing of their community members in two suicide bomb attacks on a Church in Peshawar. Photo courtesy Getty Images.]