Picking up where CB left off, the December Clergy Communications newsletter also has a misleading notice from the archdiocesan Social Action office. It states the “U.S. Bishops” have formed a “circle of protection” around welfare state programs that enslave support the poor and vulnerable as Obama and Congress debate the fiscal cliff. As a body the U.S. bishops, i.e., the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voting en masse, have done no such thing. Two liberal bishops, Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairmen of the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively, have issued a series of press releases on behalf of their subcommittees taking liberal positions on fiscal matters. As Catholics, you are free to read these statements (the latest, from Nov. 14, is here), but in and of themselves they are about as binding on your conscience as the instructions on a bottle of aspirin — which you may need after reading them. The Cincinnati Enquirer now reports that eleven Catholic agencies within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati have lent their names to this effort. In any event, George Weigel took up this theme in a recent essay.