When the nation's Roman Catholic bishops gather in New Orleans this week for their spring meeting, they will once again focus on same-sex marriage and religious liberty - but some observers hope they'll show some concern about social justice.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' website, the meeting, which opened today and continues through Wednesday, will include "an update from Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage." Cordileone is an outspoken opponent of marriage equality and is set to address the antigay National Organization for Marriage's March for Marriage later this month.
The second day "will include presentations and discussion on two special topics: 'Marriage and the Economy' and the New Evangelization and Poverty," according to the site.
Tom Reese, a Jesuit priest, asks at the National Catholic Reporter if the bishops will continue their "truly embarrassing" focus on same-sex marriage while ignoring poverty and social justice.
"Will the bishops finally recognize that poverty and unemployment are much greater threats to marriage than gay weddings? Let's hope so. Poor people are less likely to get married, and families in poverty are more likely to experience stress, conflict, and divorce," he writes, hoping that combining the issues of marriage and the economy will lead discussions in a different direction and help them follow Pope Francis's guidance on church priorities.
Reese may get his wish for a broader discussion.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the bishops' conference, said in a statement that he hopes the meeting will include a focus on immigration reform too.
"The time to act is now. As pastors, we see the human consequences of this broken system each day in our parishes and social service programs, as families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings risk everything to find a better life for themselves and the ones they love. Our nation should no longer tolerate an unjust system," he said last week.
The meeting will also address relief efforts in the Philippines and include an update on protecting children from sexual abuse.
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