If you think government action is infringing upon our religious liberty and you have a bishop’s teaching responsibility, then you might use the American Catholic pulpit to have a letter read to the faithful. Or, you might not, because:
• Those not yet convinced by your letter cannot get up and walk out without foregoing the Eucharistic meal. This turns your teaching moment into a captive audience speech and creates hearts of tearful yearning for connection between an American identity and our Catholic faith.
• As a heavy-handed teaching process it only hits the folk who agree with you.
• There are alternative means of teaching at your disposal, such as adult faith formation parish committees.
• The norms of the country, right of expression, discussion, etc. are offended. A technique that might work in a more authoritarian national context is generally not appropriate in a Catholic pulpit in a representative democracy.
• Your target last weekend, President Obama, is a Christian and advancing the very Christian cause of expanding access to health care for millions of people in this country. We should be celebrating this. If we differ on the means, we could demonstrate how Christians in dissent treat each other. I think Catholics acting like Christians is generally a very good thing.
Finally, why must we settle for a letter to the editor as the only forum for the Catholic children of God to raise their hand and humbly indicate: I disagree. Can we talk? Even on important topics like religious liberty, laity might have a good thought or two. So, a letter to the editor, such an American thing, is resorted to as an answer to a letter read at Mass from a loved teacher.