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USCCB General Assembly - 2012 November - CNS Stories

 

Bishops urged to broaden support for national collections

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A decline in diocesan participation in national collections has cost programs benefiting from the collections about $8.7 million since 2009, statistics from the Office of National Collections at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops show.

Patrick Markey, executive director of the national collections office, told Catholic News Service Nov. 14 that dioceses have dropped some collections or otherwise combine two or more national collections, resulting in less funds for vital programs that serve church programs in the U.S. and around the world.

Statistics from the office covering 2009 through 2011 show the amount collected was off about $2.9 million annually from earlier years.

The six collections administered by the national collections office raised $56.1 million in 2011, Markey said.

While the losses are small, they do affect the programs that benefit from the collections, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas, chairman of the Committee on National Collections, said in a report during the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.

"The fact is that the good that the national collections do is even deeper than the projects they fund," Bishop Farrell said. "In our parishes, when done correctly, the national collections are an important instrument of evangelization and catechetical formation."

From 2005 through 2011, the loss from collections no longer taken in dioceses totaled nearly $1.5 million annually, according to statistics supplied by Markey's office. An additional $1.4 million annual loss from 2009 through 2011 is attributed to 11 dioceses that have combined at least two annual collections, said a report from the national collections office to the bishops.

Markey attributed some of the loss to the downturn in the economy in recent years, but cited the drop in participation by dioceses in some collections as a key factor.

The national collections office oversees six national collections including those benefiting home missions, the church in Latin America and in Central and Eastern Europe, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Communication Campaign. It also is responsible for a voluntary collection benefiting the Solidarity Fund for Africa.

Collections such as those benefiting the National Retirement Fund for Religious, The Catholic University of America, Black and Indian Missions, and World Mission Sunday are not under the purview of the national collections office.

In his report to the bishops' assembly, Bishop Farrell urged the prelates to support all of the collections in their dioceses.

Acknowledging that the economic challenges remain for many Catholics and many parishes, Bishop Farrell called upon the bishops to view the each collections not as a "burden" but as an opportunity for parishioners to share their generosity with others.

"The national collections are an important mechanism for mobilizing collective action in the church universal and a way for all the faithful to participate in solidarity with the rest of the church. When national collections are dropped off the calendar or not held as an independent event and it is combined with other collections, our parishes are being deprived of the riches that they bear," he said.

"Please hold all the national collections so we can continue to help the church in ways that you have seen that we have done for so many years."

END
11/14/2012 3:26 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Bishops agree work should begin on revision of Liturgy of the Hours

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Just a year after U.S. Catholics began using the new English translation of the Roman Missal at Masses, the bishops agreed Nov. 13 to have work begin on a revision of the Liturgy of the Hours.

By a vote of 189 to 41, with one abstention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved beginning work on updates to hymns, psalms, various canticles, psalm prayers, some antiphons, biblical readings and other components of the liturgical prayers used at various parts of the day.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship, said the work would probably take three to five years to complete.

In presenting the request for a vote to the bishops, Archbishop Aymond said the aim of retranslation would be to more accurately reflect the original Latin texts.

In all, the approval covered 23 different components of the Liturgy of the Hours. Actions to be taken range from incorporating psalms from the Revised Grail Psalter to having the International Commission on English in the Liturgy retranslate some antiphons, the updated proper of the saints and the "Te Deum," a traditional hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the gift of salvation in Christ.

There were short discussions of the issue both when it was introduced Nov. 12 and when the formal vote was taken. Among points raised by some bishops were Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley's comment about "how pleased I am that the committee wants to revisit the Glory Be," because laypeople tend to use an older version than the bishops do.

The traditional ending of the prayer is "as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen." The updated version of the Glory Be, used by the bishops at their meetings, for instance, ends: "as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever, Amen."

The difference causes confusion when groups accustomed to using the different versions pray together, Cardinal O'Malley said.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Ark., noted that since the Liturgy of the Hours was last updated in the 1970s, the revision under discussion would likely be used by the current bishops "for the rest of our lives."

The item actually was put to a vote twice, getting slightly fewer supporting votes the second time.

After the original vote, which tallied 217-3, with one abstention, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the conference, realized that San Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom had been trying to get his attention.

Bishop Brom said he was opposed to beginning a revision of another liturgical text so soon after the new Roman Missal translation was put into effect.

"The long and the short is: I am hearing, especially from priests, but from laypeople as well, real reservations about the English translations of the new missal," he said.

Some of the new translations make the missal not sacramental, "but aggravating. It should not be the basis for other liturgical publications," Bishop Brom said.

After a brief additional discussion, Cardinal Dolan apologized for his haste in calling for the first vote and asked for the item to be voted upon again. The reason for the difference in total number of bishops who voted on the matter -- 221 the first time and 231 the second time -- was not clear. It could be a matter of more bishops being in the room a few minutes after the first vote.

END
11/14/2012 4:32 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


USCCB moves to develop comprehensive public affairs strategy

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In an effort to strengthen its communications and public relations efforts, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the hiring of a director of public affairs as efforts begin to reorganize the conference's Communications Department. The position would work to unify messages on the activities and stances of the USCCB -- not individual dioceses or bishops -- and better carry out church campaigns related to the new evangelization, said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president.

The Nov. 13 vote on hiring the director of public affairs was 202-25 with four abstentions during the bishops' annual fall general assembly in Baltimore.

Cardinal Dolan told the assembly that whoever fills the position also would likely speak on behalf of the USCCB to the media and provide background on church teaching to public officials and in other venues.

The person appointed to the position would be responsible for developing a "more intentional, focused, comprehensive and unified communications strategy" based on church teaching and focused on promoting the new evangelization, according to a supporting document distributed a day before the vote.

"The strategy," the document said, "should create strong and powerful messages that result in a higher level of understanding and acceptance by Catholics and other audiences."

Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis cautioned that when hiring someone who may speak on behalf of the USCCB, it should be clear that the person only represents the conference. He also urged that the new director of public affairs to be well versed in church teaching, structure and ecclesiology and be able to talk about such topics authoritatively.

He also said that any bishop who might publicly question or refute a response from the public affairs director would undermine the USCCB's communications effort.

In response, Cardinal Dolan said the director's role as spokesperson "would not be his or her full-time major occupation, but it would be part of it." During those times when speaking on behalf of the conference, the person would be restating positions taken by the USCCB as a whole rather than staking out new positions or engaging in debates in the media, he said.

The cardinal reiterated that the effort to hire a director of public affairs is part of a reorganization of the conference's Communications Department as the USCCB strives to unify its communications effort around church teaching and the new evangelization.

In calling for the reorganization, Cardinal Dolan said the communications effort of the USCCB must take advantage of new communications technologies as people adopt new ways of obtaining information.

The cost of hiring a public affairs director and support staff and other services is estimated at $400,000 annually, according to the supporting document.

Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., asked about the cost of the effort and whether the $220 million budget adopted during the assembly could afford such an expense. He suggested placing a cap on the communications effort "so we don't find ourselves having sticker shock afterwards."

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston W.Va., chairman of the Committee on Budget and Finance, told the assembly that the cost "can be managed."

The plan calls for a reorganization of the Communications Department, which includes a media relations office, customer and client relations, creative services, which is responsible for online and video messages, and Catholic News Service.

Under the reorganization, the public affairs director would work with the bishops' secretary of communications and general secretary in developing the conference's strategic communications "to support the president, conference officers, general secretary and leadership staff of the USCCB," the supporting document said.

Helen Osman currently is the secretary of communications, and Msgr. Ronny Jenkins serves as general secretary.

The hiring of a director of public affairs was proposed during a meeting of the bishops' Administrative Committee in November 2011. The project was taken on by the Executive Committee, which includes Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, Bishop Bransfield, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. That committee brought the proposal, based on earlier work of a task force, to the full body of bishops.

END
11/14/2012 1:46 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Bishops approve $220 million budget, add military services collection

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a 2013 budget of $220.4 million and agreed to add a national collection for the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

The vote was 200-24 with nine abstentions on the budget. The budget for 2013 represents a 1.3 percent increase from 2012. The new collection for the military archdiocese would begin in 2013. Under the plan, the collection would be taken voluntarily in parishes every three years.

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va., USCCB treasurer, said the 2013 budget includes a surplus totaling more than $749,000. He also told the bishops that there was a projected surplus of $250,000 for 2014, meaning there was no need to seek an increase in the annual diocesan assessment for USCCB operations.

The conference also has taken steps to ease growing long-term deficits from expenditures under its pension plan. The conference announced in September the intent to change the plan from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution arrangement beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The retirement benefits of employees vested on that date will be frozen and the new program will then kick in.

Bishop Bransfield said the new arrangement will stabilize costs and allow the pension program to be sustainable into the future.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., asked about the impact of the pension program's changes on single women in particular. Noting that his archdiocese was undergoing a similar revision of its retirement plan, he suggested that the USCCB review the changes being implemented to ease the financial impact on single women.

Bishop Bransfield said the plan had been under development since 2011 and that due consideration was given to the situation of all employees. He explained that employees vested by the end of 2013 would not lose benefits.

The collection for the military archdiocese was approved by a vote of 123-42 with eight abstentions.

Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Priorities and Plans, explained the collection would be timed to coincide with the Veterans Day holiday in November or "some other strategic date."

The Archdiocese for the Military Services serves 1.8 million people, including Catholics serving in the armed services, their families, students enrolled in the military academies and patients in Veterans Administration medical centers, Bishop Murry said in explaining the proposal for the collection to the bishops.

"The archdiocese is not funded by the federal government and is severely limited in how it can seek contributions at military services attended by the faithful," he said. "With our country at war for more than 10 years, the men and women of the military have experienced very heavy burdens and hardships," he added. "This collection would allow Catholics to express support for military personnel and help support the archdiocese."

The bishops also approved a plan to add two staff members.

One would serve in the National Religious Retirement Office and work directly with religious congregations. The bishops voted 174-49 with two abstentions in favor of the position. The proposal for the position said it would be funded by the annual national collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious.

The second position would be in the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church serving the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. The bishops voted 180-40 with six abstentions to approve the position, which would be funded by the annual Black and Indian Mission Collection.

END
11/13/2012 3:45 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Bishops approve exhortation encouraging greater use of penance

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops Nov. 13 overwhelmingly approved an exhortation encouraging Catholics to take advantage of the sacrament of penance, also known as reconciliation.

The vote, which required approval of two-thirds of the bishops, was 236-1.

The text was prepared by the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, chaired by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis.

The exhortation quotes from the Gospel of John after Jesus arose and told the Apostles: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them." In so doing, the exhortation says, Jesus was "proclaiming that all the suffering he had just endured was in order to make available the gifts of salvation and forgiveness."

It adds, "In the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, we meet the Lord, who wants to grant forgiveness and the grace to live a renewed life in him. In this sacrament, he prepares us to receive him with a lively faith, earnest hope, and sacrificial love in the Eucharist. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we repent, let go of any pattern of sin, grow in the life of virtue and witness to a joyful conversion."

Bishop Ricken, in remarks Nov. 12, said the document was prepared so that it "might assist in the conversion of hearts for Jesus Christ, which is at the heart of evangelization."

He added the exhortation is "rooted in the teachings" of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The brevity of this statement is intended to foster a wide dissemination in parish bulletins, diocesan publications and social media. In response to a question, Bishop Ricken said the document, if approved, would be published as a pamphlet.

The exhortation tries to ease the fears of Catholics who have not gone to confession for some time.

"We bishops and priests are eager to help you if you experience difficulty, hesitation, or uncertainty about approaching the Lord in this sacrament," it says. "If you have not received this healing sacrament in a long time, we are ready to welcome you. We, whom Christ has ordained to minister this forgiveness in his name, are also approaching this sacrament, as both penitents and ministers, during Lent. We want to offer ourselves to you as forgiven sinners seeking to serve in the Lord's name."

The exhortation reminds Catholics that "Pope Benedict XVI has said, 'The new evangelization ... begins in the confessional!'"

One change in the text of the exhortation as proposed will be the inclusion of a reminder to Catholics -- still to be written -- that they are obliged to go to confession at least once a year.

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., complained that such language did not appear in the exhortation and that a bid to include it had been rejected by the committee.

Without such language, "it becomes a bit of a vague statement," Archbishop Sheehan said. "Catholics shouldn't have to go to the website to find out such basic things about our Catholic faith."

Bishop Ricken replied it was the committee's intent to make the exhortation "invitational" in nature. "We didn't want it to be seen as 'You're invited, but you have to come.'" But, with the objection raised by Archbishop Sheehan and other bishops, he said he would take the exhortation back to the committee to find a way to incorporate details of the once -a-year requirement into it.

The exhortation would be made public in time to allow for dioceses to prepare for Lent 2013 and to offer the sacrament at times that are "convenient and plentiful," according to a background document on the exhortation.

END
11/13/2012 4:15 PM ET

Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Committees to prepare document on bishops' use of new technologies

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The chairmen of four U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committees will begin work soon on drafting a document that reiterates the teaching authority of local bishops while urging them to use new technologies to share Catholic theology. The end result is expected to complement a 20-year-old document on the teaching authority of diocesan bishops, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine. The bishops Nov. 12 agreed in a voice vote to the appointment of a working group that includes the chairmen of the committees on doctrine, evangelization and catechesis, and canonical affairs and church governance to draft the document.

No timeline for development of the document was announced.

Originally, the bishops were to consider a document titled "Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities for the Exercise of the Teaching Ministry of the Diocesan Bishop," which was developed by the Committee on Doctrine. It called upon bishops to take advantage of new technologies -- including social media, blogging and cellphone technology -- to respond and explain church teaching when an aspect of church teaching is portrayed inaccurately, particularly by theologians.

A draft of the document was circulated to the bishops prior to the meeting and appeared in media packets as the assembly convened. However, Cardinal Wuerl decided to withdraw it in favor of a more comprehensive statement that would be in line with the bishops' proposed new communications plan, up for discussion and vote Nov. 13, and the ongoing work throughout the USCCB that is related to the new evangelization.

"During that time a lot has happened, including the whole world of communication, the development particularly of digital electronic communications," he told the assembly in a brief report.
Cardinal Wuerl said he conferred with the chairmen of the several committees working on the new evangelization and learned that some of their efforts overlapped with the Committee on Doctrine's work. When it is adopted, the new statement would complement "The Teaching Ministry of the Diocesan Bishop: A Pastoral Reflection," which the bishops approved in November 1991 . It was published in March 1992.  That document on the doctrinal responsibilities of local bishops sets forth guidelines for a bishop to follow when responding to comments, statements, books or other communication from a theologian that incorrectly portrays Catholic teaching.

END
11/13/2012 11:05 AM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Proposed text ties sacrament of penance to new evangelization effort

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops Nov. 12 began consideration of an exhortation that would be issued in their name encouraging Catholics to take advantage of the sacrament of penance, also known as reconciliation.

The text -- presented on the first day of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore -- was prepared by the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, chaired by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis.

The proposed exhortation quotes from the Gospel of John after Jesus arose and told the Apostles: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them."

In so doing, the proposed exhortation says, Jesus was "proclaiming that all the suffering he had just endured was in order to make available the gifts of salvation and forgiveness."

It adds, "In the sacrament of penance and reconciliation we meet the Lord, who wants to grant forgiveness and the grace to live a renewed life in him. In this sacrament, he prepares us to receive him with a lively faith, earnest hope, and sacrificial love in the Eucharist. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we repent, let go of any pattern of sin, grow in the life of virtue and witness to a joyful conversion."

Bishop Ricken, in remarks at the meeting, said the document was prepared so that it "might assist in the conversion of hearts for Jesus Christ, which is at the heart of evangelization."

He added the proposed exhortation is "rooted in the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The brevity of this statement is intended to foster a wide dissemination in parish bulletins, diocesan publications and social media. In response to a question, Bishop Ricken said the document, if approved, would be published as a pamphlet.

The proposed exhortation tries to ease the fears of Catholics who have not gone to confession for some time.

"We bishops and priests are eager to help you if you experience difficulty, hesitation, or uncertainty about approaching the Lord in this sacrament," it says. "If you have not received this healing sacrament in a long time, we are ready to welcome you. We, whom Christ has ordained to minister this forgiveness in his name, are also approaching this sacrament, as both penitents and ministers, during Lent. We want to offer ourselves to you as forgiven sinners seeking to serve in the Lord's name."

The proposed exhortation reminds Catholics that "Pope Benedict XVI has said, 'The new evangelization ... begins in the confessional!'"

If approved, the exhortation would be made public in time to allow for dioceses to prepare for Lent 2013 and to offer the sacrament at times that are "convenient and plentiful," according to a background document on the exhortation.

END
11/12/2012 4:53 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


US bishops consider first new preaching document in 30 years

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops began formal consideration of their first new document in 30 years on preaching Nov. 12, the first day of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The proposed document, "Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily," encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people's daily lives.

It was prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, chaired by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, with subsequent review and comment by eight other USCCB committees.

In formally introducing the proposed document Nov.12, Archbishop Carlson said it aimed for a "pastorally sensitive tone" so that it could build upon a strong theological foundation for the ministry of preaching." He added, "It also makes a strong case for linking the homily to the Sunday liturgy."

Preaching needs to be done "more effectively in the context of the new evangelization," he said. "Our people hunger for better preaching, preaching that would help them rediscover their faith."

"The homily is intended to establish a 'dialogue' between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer," the proposed document says.

"Preachers should be aware, in an appropriate way, of what their people are watching on television, what kind of music they are listening to, which websites they find appealing, and which films they find compelling," it adds. "References to the most popular cultural expressions -- which at times can be surprisingly replete with religious motifs -- can be an effective way to engage the interest of those on the edge of faith."

The intent to write a new document first surfaced six years ago as the silver anniversary neared of the U.S. bishops' last preaching document, "Fulfilled in Your Hearing."

The work of drafting "Preaching the Mystery of Faith" took place over the past year and a half after work was approved on such a document at the bishops' spring 2011 meeting in Bellevue, Wash., near Seattle. New traction on the document came after Pope Benedict XVI issued the apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini" ("The Word of the Lord") two years ago, and "Preaching the Mystery of Faith," according to Archbishop Carlson, is rooted in "Verbum Domini."

"Many Catholics, for a variety of reasons, seem either indifferent to or disaffected with the church and her teaching. We know that the general social context in the United States has a strong emphasis on the individual and individual choice, which often eclipses the sense of community or of the common good that is essential to Christian life," the proposed document says. "Sadly, too, we must confess that the sexual abuse crisis has wounded the church, and this scandal has led some Catholics to lose heart and leave the church."

It adds, "The homilist of today must realize that he is addressing a congregation that is more culturally diverse than previously, one that is profoundly affected by the surrounding secular context and, in many instances, inadequately catechized."

"Virtually every homily preached during the liturgy should make some connection between the Scriptures just heard and the Eucharist about to be celebrated," it says.

Before preaching, "the homilist may need to wrestle for a while with the challenging aspects of the biblical Word, searching for ways it could connect to ordinary experience and how it might be proclaimed to the congregation the homilist serves," it says.

"Then comes the process of drafting the homily in a thoughtful manner, finding the right words, moving examples, and apt metaphors that will bring home to the listener the beauty and truth of the Scripture -- and then reviewing and revising the text of the homily until it is ready," it continues. "Good homilists often practice their homily ahead of time, hearing how it sounds out loud and seeking to preach it with passion and strength."

The draft of "Preaching the Mystery of Faith" says: "The ultimate goal of proclaiming the Gospel is to lead people into a loving and intimate relationship with the Lord, a relationship that forms the character of their persons and guides them in living out their faith. ... An effective homily would show the faithful just how much the Son of God loved them in taking our human flesh upon himself."

END
11/12/2012 4:09 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Archbishop says US church must 'redouble' efforts on marriage issue

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Just shy of a week after laws permitting same-sex marriage passed in three states and voters in a fourth rejected an amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said, "Tuesday was a disappointing day for marriage."

The chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage told the U.S. bishops Nov. 12 at their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore that traditional marriage also faces probable challenges on the judicial front.

Voters in Maine, Washington state and Maryland approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage Nov. 6, while Minnesota voters rejected a state constitutional amendment to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, opening the door for the Legislature and the courts to consider legalizing same-sex marriage there. Maine's referendum to authorize same-sex marriage reversed a 2009 referendum that banned such marriages.

The election results are "a symptom of a much larger problem," basically that "people don't understand what marriage is," Archbishop Cordileone said at a news conference following the session where he presented his report.

In delivering his report, he praised the work of the bishops in those four states to defend the traditional definition of marriage, drawing applause from the bishops in the assembly meeting room.

"In all these states where we did not succeed, we were outspent," he said. In Washington, for example, supporters of the legalization measure outspent opponents by 12 to 1, said the archbishop.

Reporting on the work of his subcommittee, Archbishop Cordileone also talked about the progress of the catechetical efforts on the theological and natural law basis of Catholic teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman for the purpose of developing a family.

The website "Marriage: Unique for a Reason" -- www.marriageuniqueforareason.org -- is regularly updated with blog posts and new information, he reported. The newest in a series of videos intended to explain church teaching will soon be ready. The first in the series to be produced in Spanish with themes directed at Latinos, "El matrimonio, hecho para el amor y la vida," ("Marriage, made for love and life") is in the final stages of production, he said.

Some clips of that video shown during the meeting tell a family story, of an unmarried couple spending the weekend with the young man's grandparents as they celebrate 50 years of marriage.

Archbishop Cordileone noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is thought likely to take up one of several cases challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

The Obama administration has stopped defending the law in court and several federal courts have found its definition unconstitutional.

Those cases or any of several other pending cases related to marriage could redefine marriage throughout the country, he said, warning they could have implications for religious liberty "in serious and unforeseen ways."

A ruling that redefines marriage nationwide would be "the Roe decision for marriage," he said, in a reference to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion virtually on demand in every state.

But Archbishop Cordileone offered words of encouragement, saying, "This work is not in vain." He noted that the same-sex marriages measures approved by voters in those states where the issue was on the ballot passed by a small margin.

"This is not a time to give up, but rather a time to redouble our efforts," he said.

END
11/12/2012 3:48 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Efforts to promote religious liberty will not end, archbishop says

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The work of defending religious liberty will continue more robustly and without end in the face of growing challenges, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, told his fellow bishops during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that "whatever setbacks or challenges in the efforts to defend religious liberty we may be experiencing, we're going to stay the course."

He made the comments in a report on the ad hoc committee's recent activities Nov. 12.

"Defense of religious freedom requires not just dealing with short-term and mid-term goals, but indeed is a project that requires long-term foundational and formational work," he said.

The committee has introduced educational materials aimed at all Catholics, but particularly to young people, Archbishop Lori explained.

Among the activities is a new website -- www.firstamericanfreedom.com -- to explain long-standing church teaching on religious practice and traditional marriage. Other activities will focus on providing materials to parishes, organizations and interested groups to discuss and learn about church teaching on religious freedom, he added.

"Our work is to provide education and formation as part of the new evangelization," Archbishop Lori said in his 18-minute report. "I think that our initial efforts have demonstrated the need for greater formation, especially to reach young people, to open their hearts to their heritage as Americans and to what faith teaches about religious liberty."

Acknowledging the church sustained setbacks as voters in three states approved measures that legalized same-sex marriage, Archbishop Lori said the effort will include wider distribution of a religious freedom curriculum developed for use in schools and parishes. Materials have been prepared in both Spanish and English, according to the archbishop.

At a news conference following the assembly's morning session, Archbishop Lori said young people in particular are vital to the future of the church and the church must make an extra effort to explain its teaching as part of the new evangelization program initiated by Pope Benedict XVI.

"As is often the case as young people grow up, we're all struggling (to) give them tools they need to be faithful Catholics," he said.

He expressed hope that the curriculum might include an essay contest "and other things we hope will be fun. We need to find creative ways to engage and really interest young people."

Beyond reaching young people, Archbishop Lori said in his report, the church's efforts will continue to focus on expanding the definition of religious and faith-based organizations as the rule-making continues under the Affordable Care Act. He reiterated the USCCB's stance that the government's definition of a religious group is inappropriate.

"This is drawing lines in our mission were we do not draw them," he said.

Under the health care law, the Department of Health and Human Services mandates that most employers, including religious employers, provide insurance coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, even if the employer is morally opposed to such services.

A narrow exemption applies only to those religious institutions that seek to inculcate their religious values and primarily employ and serve people of their own faith. The mandate does not include a conscience clause for employers who object to such coverage on moral grounds.

Archbishop Lori said the ad hoc committee will continue to monitor the status of numerous lawsuits challenging the HHS contraceptive mandate and also will become involved in the legislative process when appropriate to change the law so that religious organizations are not required to adhering to the mandate in violation of religious principles, Archbishop Lori explained.

"We seek to defend religious freedom so we have the space, the liberty to fulfill our mission," he said.

"We have an enormous amount to learn and a lot more work to do, especially growing in our capacity to communicate a good message in new and effective ways."

END
11/12/2012 2:57 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Cardinal challenges bishops to undergo their own conversion, renewal

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, challenged his brother bishops to undergo their own conversion and renewal.

One characteristic of this renewal is the sacrament of penance, Cardinal Dolan said.

"This is the sacrament of the new evangelization, for as Pope Benedict reminds us, 'We cannot speak about the new evangelization without the sincere desire to conversion,'" Cardinal Dolan said during his presidential address on the opening day of the bishops' Nov. 12-15 fall general assembly in Baltimore.

"I know I risk the criticism -- I can hear it now: 'With all the controversies and urgent matters for the church right now, Dolan spoke of conversion of heart through the sacrament of penance. Can you believe it?' To which I reply, 'You better believe it!' First things first!"

Cardinal Dolan said, "We cannot engage culture unless we let him (Jesus) first engage us, we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with him, and we cannot challenge unless we first allow him to challenge us."

He noted that during the recent series of "ad limina" visits with Pope Benedict, the pope told the bishops, "As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ's truth."

The recently concluded world Synod of Bishops echoed the papal message, Cardinal Dolan said. In the synod's closing message, the bishops declared, "We bishops firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Jesus Christ who alone can make all things new, l above our all poor existence. With humility we recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus' disciples, especially us, his ministers, weigh on the very credibility of the mission."

Reconciliation "brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance -- a repentance from within that can then transform the world without," Cardinal Dolan said.

"What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the sacrament of penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance."

Cardinal Dolan said, "The answer to the question 'What's wrong with the world? What's wrong with the church? is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming ... none of these, as significant as they are." He quoted author G.K. Chesterton, who wrote, "The answer to the question 'What's wrong with the world?' is just two words: 'I am.'"

"Most of all," Cardinal Dolan added, "we work at giving our people good examples of humble, repentant pastors, aware of our personal and corporate sings, constantly responding to the call of Jesus to interior conversion."

>He said, "We need the sacrament of penance because we are profoundly sorry for our faults, failures and our sins, serious obstacles to the new evangelization. But then we stand forgiven, resolute to return to the work entrusted to us -- as evangelizers of the Gospel of mercy."

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican nuncio to the United States, echoed Cardinal Dolan's call in his own remarks to the U.S. bishops immediately following those of the cardinal.

Noting that there have been some clergy who "out of weaknesses have brought great pain to others," Archbishop Vigano reminded the bishops, "We must continually undergo conversion ourselves ... so people have faith and confidence in us."

END
11/12/2012 12:32 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Internal matters top agenda of bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Statements on preaching and ways that bishops can respond using new technologies to modern-day challenges to their teaching authority are among the items the U.S. bishops will consider when they gather in Baltimore for their annual fall assembly.

Set for Nov. 12-15, the assembly also will consider a statement on work and the economy proposed by the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development as a way to raise the profile of growing poverty and the struggles that unemployed people are experiencing.

The document on preaching that the bishops are to consider encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people's daily lives.

Titled "Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily," the document is the bishops' first substantive statement on preaching in 30 years, said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

The intent to address preaching first surfaced among the bishops six years ago, but drafting it took place over the past year and a half, Archbishop Carlson said.

The bishops also will consider a proposed statement on opportunities to use new media -- including blogging and social media -- in exercising their teaching authority.

The statement drafted by the Committee on Doctrine, "Contemporary Challenges for the Exercise of the Teaching Ministry of the Diocesan Bishop," has been distributed to the bishops and suggested amendments are being received, said Capuchin Franciscan Father Thomas G. Weinandy, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for Doctrine. The text, like all of the proposed documents the bishops will consider, has not been made public.

The statement complements a 1989 document on the doctrinal responsibilities of local bishops that sets forth guidelines for a bishop to follow when responding to comments, statements, books or other communication from a theologian that incorrectly portrays Catholic teaching, Father Weinandy told Catholic News Service.

"Given the situation and the speed and breadth in which (a theologian's view) could be circulated, the bishops on the doctrine committee felt it would be good to encourage, in some circumstances, (ways) to put up more quickly a response to these situations," Father Weinandy explained.

An immediate response from a bishop would be followed up with the normal invitation to dialogue with the theologian, he said.

The statement on work and the economy, titled "Catholic Reflections on Work, Poverty and a Broken Economy," is expected to advance the bishops' priority of human life and dignity to demonstrate the new evangelization in action, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, explained during the bishops' June meeting in Atlanta.

It would be a follow-up to a Sept. 15, 2011, letter by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, in which he urged bishops and priests across the country to preach about "the terrible toll the current economic turmoil is taking on families and communities."

The bishops will devote time to discuss whether to revise the norms governing fundraising as covered by Canon 1262 in church law. The discussion is expected to focus on the need to clarify when a bishop would have to approve any appeal to raise funds based on from where the fundraising appeal originated.

Existing norms on fundraising were approved unanimously by the bishops in 2002 and received approval from the Vatican, or "recognitio," in 2007.

A proposal to establish a new national collection for the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services will be weighed by the bishops. Under the proposal from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the military archdiocese, the collection would be taken up every three years.

The U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services provides pastoral ministries and spiritual services to those in the U.S. armed forces. The archdiocese serves 1.8 million men, women and children in more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the United States in 134 countries.

Liturgical matters also are scheduled to come before the bishops.

In regional meetings, bishops are expected to spend 30 minutes evaluating the implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, which was introduced at the start of liturgical year last November. The comments were being solicited by the Committee on Divine Worship to assist in preparing translations of other liturgical books and plans for their implementation.

In addition, the bishops will vote on a proposed "scope of work" for revision of the Liturgy of the Hours submitted by the Committee on Divine Worship. The committee's request comes as the International Commission on English in the Liturgy has started work on revising some parts of the liturgy, specifically hymns, some orations and some antiphons.

The bishops also will vote on a new treasurer and chairmen of five committees. Those elected will begin three-year terms during the bishops' 2013 fall general assembly.

The bishops will choose a new treasurer; the two candidates are Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse, N.Y. and Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas. The treasurer serves as chairman of the Committee on Budget and Finance.

New chairmen of the committees on Consecrated Life and Vocations, Divine Worship, Domestic Justice and Human Development, Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Migration also will be chosen.

Members of the boards of the Catholic Legal and Immigration Network, Inc. and Catholic Relief Services also will be elected.

Also under consideration will be proposals to add one staff member in the National Religious Retirement Office and another to serve the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs under the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church.

The bishops plan to view a Spanish-language video on the promotion and defense of marriage between one man and one woman.

END
10/29/2012 12:30 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Bishops to consider new document on preaching at fall meeting

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- "My dad used to say, 'I know what happened 2,000 years ago. I need to know how to live my life today.'"

These words, from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, get to the heart of a new proposed document on preaching to be considered by the U.S. bishops at the fall general meeting in November.

The document, "Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily," encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people's daily lives.

Archbishop Carlson, as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, shepherded the writing of the document, which he said had reviews by eight other USCCB committees. "Everyone gets a chance to put their oar in the water. That's what makes it a better document," he told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 18 telephone interview from St. Louis.

Although the full text of the proposed document has not yet been made public, an Oct. 10 USCCB press release highlighted excerpts from it.

"The homily is intended to establish a 'dialogue' between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer," the proposed document says.

"Preachers should be aware, in an appropriate way, of what their people are watching on television, what kind of music they are listening to, which websites they find appealing, and which films they find compelling," it adds. "References to the most popular cultural expressions -- which at times can be surprisingly replete with religious motifs -- can be an effective way to engage the interest of those on the edge of faith."

It has been 30 years since the bishops last addressed preaching, in a document called "Fulfilled in Your Hearing." Archbishop Carlson said the intent to write a new document first surfaced six years ago, although the work of drafting "Preaching the Mystery of Faith" took place over the past year and a half. New traction on the document came after Pope Benedict XVI issued the apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini" ("The Word of the Lord") two years ago, and "Preaching the Mystery of Faith," the archbishop said, is rooted in "Verbum Domini."

With so much time between documents, "I think we really had to take a look at preaching in this country and to the students in the seminary who are preparing to become priests," Archbishop Carlson said, adding bishops were concerned over "the whole question of catechetical preaching."
"Following the Second Vatican Council and 'Fulfilled in Your Hearing,' there is a whole focus on being faithful to the Scripture. At the same time we have to pass on the deposit of the faith," he said.

Catholics in the pews, according to Archbishop Carlson, deliver a mixed verdict on the effectiveness of their own preachers. "There are places where the preaching is considered excellent," he said, and there are others who "wish their homilies were not presented better necessarily, but (that) they were more in touch with their lives."
With fewer priests, is there more pressure on them? "Yes, priests are stretched, but this is a significant opportunity for priests to meet the people of their parish on a regular basis. So this is very important," Archbishop Carlson told CNS. "If you just look at it as I have to get this task done and that task done, it can be challenging for the priest and the people," he added. "It's not something you can do just on Saturday afternoon and expect it to last a week."

Homily aids get a mixed review from Archbishop Carlson. "The most important word is homily 'aid," because it is not meant "to supplant the preparation of the homily," he said. "I think homily aids can be as good as the person who uses them." He recalled a pastor he had years ago who "took the homily aid into the pulpit" and would tell the joke it included, "even if the joke was set in New York."

Jokes and ideas may have their place, he added, but the most effective homilies allow the hearer to "experience the Word in the context of my own faith experience, relate it to the faith experience of the people."
The draft of "Preaching the Mystery of Faith" says: "The ultimate goal of proclaiming the Gospel is to lead people into a loving and intimate relationship with the Lord, a relationship that forms the character of their persons and guides them in living out their faith. ... By highlighting his humanity, his poverty, his compassion, his forthrightness, and his suffering and death, an effective homily would show the faithful just how much the Son of God loved them in taking our human flesh upon himself."

In his own ministry, "I always used to say, 'I can drink coffee and talk,' so that was a beginning," the archbishop said. He added he used to save the homilies he had written for repeated use when those Lectionary readings cycled through again, but "the homilies I used my first years a priest, I threw them away. I was embarrassed. We have to constantly be growing in our relationship with the Lord."

END
10/29/2012 10:38 AM ET
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops



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