Though there were no actions on the U.S. bishops' agenda in Baltimore dealing with immigration, poverty and other public policy issues, the president of their conference said Tuesday he hopes to meet with President Barack Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate soon on several topics.
A proposed 3 percent hike in diocesan assessments for 2016 to fund the U.S. bishops' national operations fell three votes short of approval in electronic balloting Tuesday during the second day of the bishops' annual fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Under the electronic balloting system, votes are kept secret, but the system knows which bishops vote, so the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will send mail ballots to complete the vote.
Church observers say they will be watching to see if any of the votes or liturgical decisions reflect a change in tone within the USCCB.
In a U.S. visit, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told officials at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops not to lose sight "that the voice of the Catholic church must be heard in the public square."
"Otherwise we risk that our democracies are reduced to a vocabulary of truth, which is exclusively pragmatic and positivist," he said Tuesday at the USCCB headquarters in Washington.
"Sadly, in recent years, there has been a deliberate rejection of this call to engage in dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters by some in the Catholic Church."
Catholics must "hold each other accountable for any actions or decisions," one speaker at the USCCB meeting said, but there was no discussion on who would look for that accountability.
Of particular concern are four dioceses that would not allow any audits and the fact that "most" dioceses do not allow or conduct audits of parishes or schools.
Analysis: When President Barack Obama and Pope Francis sit down Thursday, the meeting may offer a vision of what could have been for Democrats and the Catholic church.
The role of the Catholic church is invaluable in keeping refugees safe, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, but his agency and others working with migrants need much, much more.
Speaking to a meeting of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration and staff members of church agencies that deal with migrants, Guterres said the church is vital to helping victims of situations such as the volatile upheaval in the Central African Republic.