U.S. Catholic officials have gathered in Baltimore for their annual autumn summit and issued an appeal for peace and unity amid conflicts among their clerical ranks.
The conference comes following Pope Francis’ actions, including removing one of his hardline detractors from his seat as bishop of Tyler, Texas, and issuing a letter communicating a more welcoming approach to transgender individuals than the official opinions of the U.S. bishops. The leader of the American Catholic Church, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, has shown compassion for those living in war-torn regions like Myanmar and the Middle East.
Earlier this month, Catholic clergy and laypeople convened for 25 days in Rome to discuss the future of the Catholic Church, particularly its attitudes toward women and LGBTQ Catholics. This month’s conference in Baltimore follows on the heels of that historic gathering.
Pope Francis’ envoy to the United States, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, recognized concerns over the recently finished synod but was hopeful. He stressed communication and said bishops should demonstrate how harmonious differences enhance the beauty of the Catholic church.
The bishops intend to update their voter guide in preparation for an election year in which interest is likely to be stoked by the debate over abortion. To lead the conference’s anti-abortion efforts, Bishop Daniel Thomas of Toledo was recently elected to lead the conference’s pro-life activities committee. Since Thomas serves in Ohio, where Catholic groups “recently spent more than $12 million fighting a lost battle against abortion access,” the head of Catholics for Choice, Jamie Manson, deemed the appointment ironic.
The divisive synod process continues, with leaders reconvening in Rome next year. By edging the Catholic Church closer to accepting transgender persons and expelling Bishop Joseph Strickland, an outspoken opponent of the Pope and a voice against LGBTQ inclusion, from his diocese in Texas, Pope Francis has made moves that have placed him at odds with some of his conservative detractors.