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Bishop James Conley of Lincoln leads Eucharistic procession around Planned Parenthood facilityCatholic Diocese of Lincoln/Facebook

LINCOLN, Nebraska (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop James Conley is urging Pope Francis to support American bishops, not criticize them, as rumors swirl that the Pontiff will visit New York City to speak at the United Nations this fall. 

Conley, 69, has been the bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, since 2012. He is generally considered one of the more conservative bishops in the U.S. Conley has supported the Church’s teachings on refusing Communion to pro-abortion politicians and pushed back against the pro-LGBT efforts of dissident clergy. He has also warned about the danger of the German Catholic “Synodal Path.”  

On May 15, Conley published an article for The Catholic Thing in which he called on Francis to acquaint himself with “the real terrain of American Catholic life.” Conley also noted the negative impact Francis’ verbal attacks have had on devout Catholics.

“Francis is not without critics. His past comments about ‘backward-looking’ and ‘reactionary’ attitudes in American Catholic life have caused resentment among some faithful Catholics,” Conley wrote. “And his view of Church leadership in the United States – often perceived as negative – has perplexed American bishops who, as a body, have a long record of loyalty and generosity to the Holy See.” 

Conley added that “men in our country who accept an appointment as bishop today, are, by and large, men who know full well that they will suffer.” They “need – and they deserve – encouragement, clarity, and support from the man who holds the Office of Peter. Pope Francis can provide all three.” 

For the past twelve years, Conley has led Catholics in praying the Stations of the Cross outside a Planned Parenthood center in Lincoln on Good Friday. He has also repeatedly conducted a Eucharistic procession around the same facility. 

In his essay, Conley noted that he himself previously served as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation (now Dicastery) for Bishops, a role he described as “largely bureaucratic.” The group is responsible for recommending priests  to the Pope as potential bishops. Pro-LGBT Chicago Cardinal Blasé Cupich has served on the Dicastery since 2016. In 2022, Francis appointed three women to the organization. 

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Conley recalled that the abuse crisis has diminished the prestige of being a bishop. Still, his “brother bishops” take up “the cross of Christian leadership,”  he wrote.  

Conley added that his fellow bishops are “faithful to the Church and devoted to their people” but also “unquestionably loyal to Pope Francis, which makes his ambiguities and seeming criticisms difficult to understand.” 

As reported by LifeSite, Francis has frequently expressed great antipathy toward devout Catholics living in the United States. At various times since the 2013 conclave, he has remarked that conservative and tradition-minded American Catholics are “reactionary” and “rigid,” and even, as he said during an interview with “60 Minutes” earlier this month, have a “suicidal attitude.”  

READ: Pope Francis says ‘conservative’ bishops have ‘suicidal attitude’ during 60 Minutes interview

Francis’ Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Christoph Pierre, was criticized in November 2023 after belittling younger clergy who offer the Latin Mass and wear the traditional cassock. In 2019, Francis likewise accused young men who wear traditional priestly attire of harboring “moral problems” and “imbalances.” 

Francis’ most infamous interaction with an American cleric was when he unceremoniously dismissed Bishop Joseph Strickland from his See in Tyler, Texas, in November 2023. 

The Traditional Priestly Society of St. Peter has its Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska, which about 12 miles southwest of Lincoln.