Until they don’t. Depends on the issue.

But it’s interesting to juxtapose reactions to the US bishops speaking out on different issues.

Like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s flip-flopping (popular term in politics) from wanting the bishops to stay out of politics when it comes to matters of faith and morals and Catholic politicians, to wanting the bishops to speak from the pulpit actively engaging Catholics to support a measure she backed and felt they should, too. That time, it was immigration reform.

But a big talking point for liberal Catholic Democrats in Congress who disagree with Church teaching and vote for measures according to their own lights, is the primacy of conscience.

Which the Vatican took up as the focus of a conference on the whole issue of conscience, after it got batted about with no small amount of confusion.

So because these legislators have so emphatically insisted on the preeminent primacy of conscience, I’m wondering why the the legislation authored by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Respect for Rights of Conscience Act failed in the Senate as the Blunt-Fortenberry bill, and why it’s not getting more support in the House.

“We have come together to say it’s time to act to protect Americans’ most basic rights – our religious freedom and rights of conscience,” Fortenberry said. “I am very pleased to stand with House and Senate colleagues of both parties to call for swift action on this bill.”

Yes, it’s bipartisan. It’s about the fundamental human right to conscience protection. But it’s received no primacy of attention, or any at all, from those liberal Catholic politicians and precious little from moderates and even conservatives. Because it’s political kryptonite for ambitious senators and congressmen.

In early March, Cong. Fortenberry told me he had 220 co-sponsors and he was hopeful more members of Congress would sign on since the recently announced HHS mandate posed unprecedented federal threats to conscience rights and religious liberty. Last week, Cong. Fortenberry told me he has 224 co-sponsors. That’s shameful, for a lot of people.

The bishops are speaking out alright, more unified than they’ve ever been before. This is their Magna Carta.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....