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WASHINGTON, D.C., November 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — As they prepare to gather for their annual fall meeting next week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a blistering critique of papal biographer Austen Ivereigh’s latest book, Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church, calling portions of it that involve them “false and misleading.”

In Wounded Shepherd, Ivereigh suggests that a secret plan was devised by U.S. Church officials that they hoped the Vatican would accept as a “fait accompli.”

Ivereigh described the plan as an “ecclesiastical power play against the Pope in what was a quick-fix solution attempting to shore up the US bishops’ reputations,” according to a report in the U.K. Tablet

“It was poor law, drawn up in haste for public relations purposes and more reflective of a punitive American juridical and corporate culture than a Catholic one,” wrote Ivereigh. “Even more shocking was [the plan] to deliberately exclude Rome from the design of the proposal.”

“Their strategy was to confront the Pope with a fait accompli,” Ivereigh reported one source as telling him. “They were thinking ‘if this passes, what’s Rome going to do? Reject it? Their concern was to look as if they had done something, and if Rome objected, that would make Rome look bad.’”

Ivereigh’s book “perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the U.S. Bishops Conference,” said James Rogers, chief communications officer for the USCCB. “The author disparages the General Secretary and a consultant to the Committee on Canonical Affairs particularly by suggesting they drew up documents in October that were then deliberately excluded from Rome,” Rogers added, describing what happened in preparation for the bishops’ fall 2018 meeting. “This is false and misleading.”

“It was intended that the proposals stop short of where the authority of the Holy See began,” added Rogers. 

In their rush to present themselves to the public and the Vatican as fully submissive to Pope Francis, the bishops drew some commentators’ attention to their response and that of the Holy See to the predatory priest and prelate sex scandals that rocked the Chuch last year.

“Austen Ivereigh’s latest attempt to call out the pope’s ‘enemies’ is swiftly shot down by the US bishops,” tweeted Church Militant’s Christine Niles. “Meanwhile, the Vatican's McCarrick ‘investigation’ remains in limbo and largely forgotten.”

Now deleted USCCB photo of laughing bishops. Source:  Twitter.

When the USCCB announced its upcoming fall assembly via Twitter earlier this week with a now deleted photo depicting laughing bishops, critical responses from still troubled Catholics abounded.

O’Catholic tweeted:

Some follow-up agenda items from the last meeting…

–Report on McCarrick

–Solutions for the still existing predatory priest problem

–Solutions for the practicing homosexual clergy

–Fiduciary responsibility of Church finances

“This is not a good image for the USCCB under the present circumstances,” tweeted Gerald Baggot. “Adoration, kneeling and praying a Rosary would be much better.”

“For all Bishops attending the Assembly for once have Faith & Courage call out those who have abused or covered up sexual transgressions or embezzled millions from the Church,” suggested Faithful Catholic. “Call on Fr. James Martin to stop his promoting of gay lifestyles. And call on the Pope to stop idolatry.”

“Here’s an idea, cancel the meeting and read Christus Vincit by Bishop Athanasius Schneider instead,”tweeted another. “That would be a more productive use of your time and resources.”

Bishops going to their ad limina visits are now returning with accounts of their awe at being in Francis’s presence. Describing the pope’s meeting yesterday with the bishops of New England, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut described the event as an extraordinary privilege and a moment of grace.

“Within a few minutes, I realized that I was sitting before a spiritual father who had no agenda except to help us in our ministry,” said Caggiano in a series of tweets.