18 November 2015, The Tablet

US Catholic bishops vote overwhelmingly in favour of pornography as a 'mortal sin'

The US bishops voted overwhelmingly to approve a formal statement on pornography at their general meeting in Baltimore this week.

The 2015 version of political responsibility document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship passed by 210-21 voted with 5 abstentions, and a separate vote on the statement's introductory note passed 217-16 with two abstentions; two-thirds of diocesan bishops, or 181 votes, were needed for passage.

It reflects on long-held concerns related to abortion and the needs of poor people. It also references emerging issues related to court decisions on same-sex marriage, public policies that affect religious freedom, and a rising concern for the environment as climate change affects more people around the world.

Questions came from five bishops who said that the document does not adequately address poverty, as Pope Francis has asked the church to do.

The most vocal critic was Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, who said he was concerned that because poverty and the environment did not receive the same priority as abortion and euthanasia, that some people "outside of this room" would "misuse" the document and claim other issues did not carry the same moral weight.

"It does not take into account that Pope Francis has rapidly transformed the prioritization of Catholic social teaching and its elements, not the truth of them, not the substance of them, but the prioritisation of them," Bishop McElroy said.



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The pornography statement, Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography, declares that pornography is a "mortal sin" and urges Catholics to turn away from it. Approval of the statement came on a vote of 230-4 with one abstention, with 181 votes needed for passage.

Bishop Richard J. Malone (pictured above), of Buffalo, New York, chair of the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, described pornography as a "dark shadow in our world today".

He added that pornography is a "particularly sinister instance of consumption" where men, women and children are "consumed for the pleasure of others".

The bishops approved the revised priorities and plans for 2017-20 in a 233-4 vote on Tuesday. The plans emphasise their upcoming focus in five major areas: evangelisation, family and marriage, human life and dignity, religious freedom and vocations and ongoing formation.

Voting at the US bishops conference in Baltimore this week has not gone entirely the way of the pro-Francis campVoting at the annual meeting of the US bishops conference in Baltimore this week has not gone entirely the way of the pro-Francis camp (PA)


The revised plans include the same headings but feature some different wording in the "emphasis areas," which provide more detailed explanations.

In comments on the floor, there were mixed views about the revised plans presented by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Priorities and Plans and US Conference of Catholic Bishops secretary, along with Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, USCCB secretary-elect.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said he was afraid the plans seemed "too self-referential" with their emphasis on advocacy for religious freedom and not enough emphasis on global poverty or immigration reform.

As part of a series of elections, the bishops chose for Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati as treasurer-elect. They also elected Mgr J. Brian Bransfield as the new general secretary; he has been associate general secretary for five years. He will succeed Mgr Ronny Jenkins, who has served two three-year terms.



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