"Pope Francis doesn't want cultural warriors; he doesn't want ideologues," said Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash.:
"The nuncio said the Holy Father wants bishops with pastoral sensitivity, shepherds who know the smell of the sheep."
Bishop Cupich was conveying instructions the papal nuncio had delivered from Rome to guide U.S. bishops in choosing a new leader.
They chose Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who has a master's degree in social work, to succeed Archbishop Timothy Dolan whom Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times describes thus:
"[A] garrulous evangelist comfortable in front of a camera, [who] led the bishops in their high-profile confrontation with the Obama administration over a provision in the health care mandate that requires most employers to have insurance that covers contraceptives for employees."
That mandate also requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations.
Yet here is further confirmation His Holiness seeks to move the Catholic Church to a stance of non-belligerence, if not neutrality, in the culture war for the soul of the West.
There is a small problem with neutrality. As Trotsky observed, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." For the church to absent itself from the culture war is to not to end that war, but to lose it.
What would that entail? Can we not already see?
In America, the family has disintegrated. Forty percent of working-class white children are born out of wedlock, as are 53 percent of Hispanic children, and 73 percent of black children. Kids from broken homes are many times more likely to drop out of school, take drugs, join gangs, commit crimes, end up in prison, lose their souls, and produce yet another generation of lost souls.
Goodstein quotes the Holy Father as listing among the "most serious of the evils" today "youth unemployment." And he calls upon Catholics not to be "obsessed" with abortion or same-sex marriage.
But is teenage unemployment really a graver moral evil than the slaughter of 3,500 unborn every day in a land we used to call "God's Country"?
Papal encyclicals like Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno have much to teach about social justice in an industrial society.
But what is the special expertise of the church in coping with teenage unemployment? Has the Curia done good scholarly work on the economic impact of the minimum wage?