During their annual three-day fall assembly in Baltimore, the US bishops’ discussed threats to religious liberty, efforts to support traditional marriage and the need to keep a close eye on health care issues.
They also were updated on the Roman Missal translation and the new US ordinariate to bring former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
During the Nov. 14-16 meeting, they also voted on several items, ranging from approving the annual budget of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to adding new optional memorials for Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Marianne Cope to the US liturgical calendar.
New Orleans Abp. Gregory M. Aymond, chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship, gave a brief report Nov. 15 on the adoption of the new Roman Missal, addressing questions related to its implementation this Advent.
When asked if it were possible to still use the old missal translation in certain circumstances such as when eucharistic ministers visit the elderly for Communion services, the archbishop said: “The guidelines say to use the new one. But the pastoral practice should allow for some flexibility.”
In votes cast during the first two days of the meeting, the bishops elected Abp. J. Peter Sartain of Seattle as USCCB secretary-elect and Bp. Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, as chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
They also approved a $217.4 million budget for 2012 and a 3 percent increase in diocesan assessments for 2013. They also overwhelmingly approved a five-year extension of a resolution calling bishops to adhere to sound financial reporting within their dioceses and OK’d priorities and plans for 2012 for the USCCB with a 219-6 vote.
The bishops overwhelmingly approved a new set of guidelines for how dioceses and parishes will administer national collections. The document a combination of history, rationale and how-to guide.
On the first day of the gathering, the bishops voted to establish a permanent Subcommittee on Health Care Issues under the Committee on Doctrine’s jurisdiction.
Prior to the 214-15 vote, Abp. Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., said he was “strongly in favor” of the new subcommittee because health care is part of “the Gospel mission of the church” and involves “billions and billions of dollars in funding.”
The new subcommittee will address such issues as guidance in implementing the bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” and in addressing non-Catholic hospitals in Catholic health systems, for-profit Catholic health care, canonical status of Catholic health facilities, conscience protection and health care reform.
The bishops approved Oct. 22 as an optional memorial for Blessed John Paul II in the US liturgical calendar. They also approved an optional memorial for Blessed Marianne Cope, with the date to be determined.
Washington Card. Donald W. Wuerl announced Nov. 15 that a new ordinariate–functionally similar to a diocese–will be created Jan. 1 to bring Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
The cardinal said that 67 Anglican priests have submitted their dossiers seeking ordination in the Catholic Church, and 35 of those have received the initial approval from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That means they can move to the second stage of approval, which includes a criminal background check, psychological evaluation and a recommendation from the Catholic bishop where he lives and from his Anglican ecclesiastical authority.
The actions followed the November 2009 issuance of an apostolic constitution authorizing the creation of an ordinariate to bring in Anglicans, or Episcopalians as they are more commonly known in the US, who seek to leave their tradition and join the Catholic Church.
The cardinal later told reporters that Anglican parishes with a total of about 2,000 members have asked to become part of the Catholic Church through the process established in 2009. Card. Wuerl was named by the Vatican to head an ad hoc committee for the constitution’s implementation.
On the first day of the meeting, Bp. William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and chairman of a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, outlined threats to religious liberty issues, saying there seems to be a pattern in culture and law to treat religion “as merely a private matter between an individual and one’s own God.”
Regarding efforts to support traditional marriage, the chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth reported to the bishops Nov. 14 that their campaign to strengthen marriage has reached a large audience and has been honored by professional advertising organizations.
In a presentation on the work of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Bp. Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., said public service announcements with the theme of “a good marriage goes a long way” were released in September to 1,600 television stations and 7,000 radio stations.
He also announced the launch of a new Web site–www.marriageuniqueforareason.org–aimed at educating Catholics on the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Web site corresponds with a new DVD, guide, and booklet.
In a related report, Bp. Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., chairman of the defense of marriage subcommittee, said there are a great many challenges on the legal front to traditional marriage, ranging from various states legalizing same-sex marriage to the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.
He said one thread of the subcommittee’s efforts is to work on persuading the Obama administration to “press the reset button on the trajectory of undermining marriage.”
The bishops also heard from Card. Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Card. Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Card. Donald Wuerl of Washington about the church’s efforts to expand and strengthen the church’s post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel.
Women who have had abortions, as well as the men and parents who might have encouraged it, “need to know that God forgives them and that all is not lost,” said Card. O’Malley, who described Project Rachel as “one of our best pastoral initiatives.”
In another report, two bishops who recently visited Iraq said the US and American Catholics must do their part to help keep Iraq from sliding into chaos once US troops leave the country at the end of the year.
“The US withdrawal of combat troops does not reduce the obligation to help,” principally to protect Iraqis and provide assistance, said Bp. Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, during a Nov. 15 press briefing at the bishops’ meeting.
“It would be extremely important for our government to participate in an orderly transition. … The great fear right now is if the troops leave, the violence will intensify,” Bp. Kicanas said, adding the US must “make sure people’s lives are protected and violence doesn’t erupt.”
In his opening address Nov. 14, Abp. Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, said the church needs to restore its luster, credibility and beauty in the hearts of its members.
He called on his fellow bishops to communicate to the world that the sinfulness of the church’s members is not “a reason to dismiss the church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more.”
The archbishop said the church still has plenty to say to the modern world.
In later remarks, he said he was encouraged by a Nov. 8 private meeting he had with President Barack Obama at the White House. He found the president to be “very open to the sensitivities” of the US Catholic Church on issues related to religious freedom that the two discussed.
At a Nov. 14 news conference, Abp. Dolan spoke about Penn State University’s sex abuse scandal, which he said “shows that the scourge (of sex abuse) is not limited to any one faith and certainly not limited to priests,” he said.
During the first day’s session, the bishops also met Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano, the new apostolic nuncio to the US.
Contributing to this report were Nancy Frazier O’Brien, Mark Pattison and Patricia Zapor in Baltimore and Carol Zimmermann in Washington.