For those who came looking for battle cries, the USCCB meeting has been a disappointment. True, Bishop William Lori, head of the new ad hoc committee on religious liberty gave a rousing speech on the subject, but USCCB President Archbishop Timothy Dolan did not mention the issue, still less issue a summons to war, in his inaugural presidential address. Indeed, at a press conference yesterday, when asked about his meeting with President Obama, Archbishop Dolan said that “I found the president of the United States to be very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community. I left there feeling a bit more at peace about this issue than when I entered.”
The afternoon session of the USCCB today was highlighted by elections for chairmen-elect of various committees. Traditionally, chairmen-elect serve for a year with the incumbents, learning the ropes as it were, before taking over as chair the following year.
Last year, however, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore was elected to serve as the chairman-elect of the committee on international justice and peace, but his selection lapsed when Pope Benedict named him to head the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, an appointment that requires residency in Rome. The bishops selected Iowa’s Bishop Richard Pates, by a vote of 122-114 over Bishop Frank Dewane, of Venice, Florida, and Pates will take the chairmanship of the committee immediately.
The new Secretary-Elect for the USCCB, one of the organization’s principal officers, will be Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle.
Few committee chairs have a more difficult and delicate assignment than leading the Committee on Doctrine. The bishops selected Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul to lead the committee with 128 votes, compared to 111 votes for Worcester, Massachusetts Bishop Robert McManus.
Several bishops made presentations at the USCCB meeting on their different areas of competence this morning.
Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, chairman of the Committee on National Collections, presented a new document, “One Church, One mission – Guidelines for Administering USCCB National Collections in Dioceses.” The new guidelines “do not create new rules,” Farrell said, but instead provide some of the history and context for the collections. He noted that the World Mission Sunday Collection is mandated by canon law, and that two, Peter’s Pence and the Holy Land Collections, are both undertaken at the request of the Holy See. The other national collections, such as the Home Missions Appeal and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, were approved a two-third majority of the USCCB.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan delivered his first presidential address to the full plenary of the USCCB today since taking the helm of the bishops’ conference last year.
“Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives,” Dolan began, quoting Blessed John Paul II, moving into a discourse on the necessary connection between Christ and the Church, quoting the great theologian Henri deLubac, “For what would I ever know of Him, without her?” Dolan acknowledged the difficulty this linkage has faced in recent years, saying, “Because, as the chilling statistics we cannot ignore tell us, fewer and fewer of our beloved people – to say nothing about those outside the household of the faith – are convinced that Jesus and His Church are one.”
For the next couple of days, I shall be live blogging from the USCCB meeting which kicks off this morning in Baltimore. This morning features the first presidential address by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the first address from the new nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, who dined last night with all the U.S. cardinals and the officers of the conference. In the afternoon, there are a few action items and, most importantly, the election of some key committee chairs, including new chiefs for the Pro-Life Activities Committee, the Committee for International Peace and Justice and the Committee on Doctrine.
President Obama met quietly with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan Nov. 8, the White House has confirmed. Dolan is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The men discussed a range of issues related to the often complicated and recently fractious relationship between the administration and the U.S. church hierarchy. A spokesperson for the USCCB declined to confirm or deny the meeting.
The meeting came in advance of next week’s plenary meeting of the USCCB in Baltimore at which the bishops will discuss their new ad hoc committee on religious liberty. It was sandwiched between two of President Obama’s foreign trips, to France for the G-20 summit and his forthcoming trip to Asia.
According to a White House official, who spoke with NCR on background, the meeting was part of the Obama Administration’s work with faith leaders from across the spectrum, and was one among many meetings with officials from the Catholic Church and the Administration.
My conservative pals were all excited yesterday when Sandro Magister wrote an article to the effect that Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State, had "disowned" the recent document on the economy issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
In an article at CNS today, veteran Vatican reporter John Thavis debunks Magister's article.
Rod Dreher has a truly splendid essay up at RealClearReligion that starts with the Penn State scandal but looks at how our moral vision can often become blinded by loyalties to our own.
My friend Rick Garnett has taken issue with my verdict on the Ohio election in a posting at his blog "Mirror of Justice."
Certainly, I do not endorse every provision of every contract that has ever been negotiated between public employee unions and local and state government authorities. Nor do I always support the political positions taken by these unions. But, I do know that oftentimes, politicians would convince union members to forego an increase in wages in exchange for better pensions or better benefits. For the politicians, this had the effect of keeping the current pols from having to raise taxes to pay for higher wages and pushing the long-term expense of such agreements on to future politicians. There may be a need to re-visit those arrangements, but such changes should be negotiated at the bargaining table, just as the original agreements were. That is why I supported the effort to overturn the Ohio law.
Next week, at the annual USCCB Plenary meeting, the bishops will select several new committee chairs. One of those committees, the Committee on Doctrine, is an especially delicate assignment. Even a man with as clear and careful a mind as Cardinal Donald Wuerl has found himself in the midst of controversy.as chair of the Doctrine Committee. Sometimes controversy is unavoidable, to be sure, but it serves the best interests of the Church when such controversies are handled by bishops, like Wuerl, who are known for their thoughtfulness.