U.S. Bishops Focus on Fellowship, Synodality, and Finances at Fall Assembly

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, attend a conference Nov. 16, 2021, press conference at the fall general assembly of bishops in Baltimore. At the podium is Chieko Noguchi, USCCB Director of Public Affairs. Photo CNS / Bob Roller

The American bishops, meeting in person for the first time since 2019, discussed the long-awaited declaration on the Eucharist without the heated discussion it sparked at their previous meeting.

They also reviewed diocesan financial reports and considered new guidelines for socially responsible investing, as groups of protesters gathered outside the Baltimore hotel where the public sessions of the November 15-18 meeting were taking place. .

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the Bishops Doctrine Committee, presented the communion document to bishops on Nov. 16, saying it addresses the “fundamental doctrine on the Eucharist that the church must recover and revive. “

At the virtual meeting of bishops in June, the focus was on whether the document would address the denial of communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion. At the time, some bishops said a strong rebuke from President Joe Biden, the country’s second Catholic president, should be included because of Biden’s recent actions protecting and expanding access to abortion, while others warned it would represent the bishops as a partisan force. at a time of bitter political divisions across the country.

The document before the bishops at their general assembly in November does not specifically appeal to Catholic politicians, but more generally recalls the seriousness of the sacrament.

“One should not celebrate Mass or receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin without having sought the sacrament of reconciliation and received absolution,” he said.

The brief presentation to the American bishops, followed by some comments from the hall, emphasized that the document was intended to be a theological contribution to the strategic plan of the bishops and to the Eucharistic renewal planned by the bishops by providing a doctrinal resource for the parishes. , catechists and the faithful.

The draft document explains the importance of fellowship, often calling it a gift, and uses references from Scripture, Church prayers, and Vatican Council II documents to support this. He also explains, citing the words of the saints, how communion is not just a symbol but the real presence of Christ.

Prior to this presentation, the head of the National Bishops Advisory Council stressed that this proposed declaration “cannot be partisan”, nor should it be “by a calculated expression or a calculated suppression of our doctrine and our doctrine. belief ”.

“The Eucharist cannot be a divisive tool, it cannot be ideological,” said Mark Sadd of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, who chairs the council, in a Nov. 16 address.

The meeting began with speeches by Bishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Gomez said the American Church is called today more than ever to carry out its age-old mission of evangelism in a time of spiritual awakening emerging from “under the clouds of the pandemic” and the uncertain future of the country.

“People are starting to take a look at what they really believe in and what they value most in their lives,” he added.

Archbishop Peter spoke to American bishops about the importance of listening to the people in the church and being open to the work of the Holy Spirit.

He touched on a topic fresh in the minds of the bishops after hearing about it the night before at their opening Mass and a topic they will continue to discuss in preparation for an upcoming World Synod of Bishops: synodality.

“I believe that synodality is a response to the challenges of our time and to the confrontation that threatens to divide this country and which also has its echoes in the church,” said the nuncio.

During the first day of public meetings, the bishops also discussed new guidelines for socially responsible investing.

A draft USCCB financial investment guidelines document includes broader limits on where money would be invested and proposes a policy of engagement on business practices that impact dignity human.

Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Ill., Chairman of the USCCB committee on international justice and peace, presented the draft guidelines, saying they are based on the investment policy current adopted by the bishops in 2003.

After the presentation, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego asked why there was little mention of fossil fuels in the document, describing the section as “weak,” given the Vatican and Pope Francis encouraged divestment of these energy sources as needed. to slow climate change.

He said investments in fossil fuels have been widely discussed by the task force that prepared the guidelines. The group decided, he said, “that it is not possible now to completely end” investments in fossil fuels and determined that it was best to leave it to financial advisers working with the USCCB a “wiggle room” in determining which investments were appropriate.

The bishops also considered a new resolution on diocesan financial reporting. They first approved such a resolution in 2000 over the following years. The 2016 resolution expires on December 31; the new one is also meant to be good for five years.

Also on the first day of town hall meetings, the bishops elected Father Michael JK Fuller, priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, as secretary general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He will serve a five-year term in this position.

He had held the post of interim secretary general since the resignation in July of Mgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, who resigned after the USCCB learned of an impending media report accusing him of inappropriate behavior.

In the remaining votes, Bishop James. F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, is the new elected treasurer of the USCCB. The bishops also voted for the elected presidents of five standing committees:

– Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations: Bishop Earl A. Boyea of ​​Lansing, Michigan.

– Divine worship: Bishop Steven J. Lopes, who heads the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter based in Houston.

– Domestic justice and human development: Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy in Philadelphia.

– Lay people, marriage, family life and youth: Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles.

– Migration: Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas.

The bishops also listened to a detailed recorded presentation by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta on revisions to the Code of Canon Law on Criminal Sanctions in the Church. The Archbishop is Assistant Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican’s principal investigator of cases of abuse.

He said the revisions to the law would go into effect on December 8 and that it was important to see the sanctions as a way to show “the church’s maternal mercy.” Their aim is primarily spiritual, he said, and they must meet the demands of justice and seek reform from the author. These are acts of charity towards the church community, the victims of crime and the perpetrators, he said, adding that the Pope had strong words on this issue.

As the bishops gathered, some protests took place right outside or near their hotel.

A group of sexual abuse survivors called on bishops to focus less on who can go to Communion and to do more to end sexual and other abuse by the clergy.

“We wanted to come here today on behalf of the survivors, a group of sexual abuse survivors who are committed to fighting for justice and also highlighting what is not talked about when they focus on the Eucharist.” said Sarah Pearson, a Wisconsin sexual abuse survivor who joined other members of the Ending Clergy Abuse organization.

The survivors also called on the bishops to condemn a group that was holding a rally nearby with some speakers claiming that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia. The group called St. Michael’s Media, also known as Church Militant, featured a series of speakers who lambasted the bishops across the street in a pavilion by the water.

Cheered by an audience of over 1,300 along with others watching live, several speakers claimed the bishops were complicit in covering up clergy sexual abuse and other misdeeds. They asserted that bishops should not allow communion for Catholic politicians who want to maintain a legal right to abortion. They also called on the bishops to take a stronger stand against abortion.

On November 15, Catholic men from across the country gathered outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Baltimore to pray for an end to abortion, to repent of their role in abortion, and to call all men to defend the unborn life. They then walked to the Baltimore Renaissance Hotel where the bishops gathered to pray the rosary outside.

That evening, the bishops gathered for their opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The bishops, masked and sufficiently spaced, as well as a few lay people, filled the benches.

Dennis Sadowski, Mark Pattison, Rhina Guidos, Chris Gunty, and George P. Matysek Jr contributed to this story.

Key words: Baltimore, Communion, Eucharist, Fall Assembly, Finances, Synodality, USCCB

Category: Featured, News from the United States and the World


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