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USCCB Timeline 1917-2017

  • U.S. Enters WWI.
  • Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore sends letter to President Woodrow Wilson expressing loyalty: "Our peoples now as ever, will rise as one man to serve the nation."

National Catholic War Council (NCWC) founded to organize Catholic war efforts and liaise with U.S. government. Paulist Fr. John Burke chosen as its head.

WWI ends.


  • Bishops gather at the Catholic University of America results in creation of National Catholic Welfare Council and a 14-part pastoral letter dealing with both domestic issues and international relations for a post war world. The structure and priorities of the NCWC's work were also planned. Overseas work of the War Council continues.
  • NCWC's Administrative committee publishes the Program of Social Reconstruction on behalf of the body of bishops, a guide to address issues of social justice upon which future international peace would likely depend.

NCWC News Service and Bureau of Immigration launched.

NCWC Dept. of Social Action under Fr. John Ryan publishes The Church and Labor focusing on 'temporal concerns' like education, wage and labor rights.

Because 'Council' has specific canonical meaning, name changed to National Catholic Welfare Conference. The word "Conference" replaced "Council" in the organization's title, underlining the fact that it was consultative rather than legislative.

Bishops protest Mexican government's persecution of Catholic Church.

Bishops' issue statements on Unemployment and Economic Crisis.


  • Committee on Motion Pictures' Legion of Decency campaign launched to oppose 'salacious motion pictures.'
  • Statement Present Crisis reflects on the growing international unrest and armament buildup in Europe.

Assembled bishops send communication to Spanish and German hierarchies decrying religious persecution. Criticize communists for denying liberty and religious expression. Warn of the growth of secularism.

Bishops warn against greed which sows discord and threatens fragile peace in the world.

NCWC's Peace and War addresses the Vatican attempts to keep the peace as well the modern war machine that destroys whole nations, not only their armies.

U.S. enters WWII.

War Relief Services of the NCWC begins.

War relief continues through the 40s-50s and from it a separate aid organization, Catholic Relief Services, begins organizing church humanitarian efforts including the resettlement of refugees.

First guidelines for The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Facilities, by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

Catholic Relief Services distributes more than $1 billion in relief supplies around the world.

Ongoing resettlement of refugees from Communist Europe.

Pastoral letter calls for an end to segregation

Vatican II

Pope Paul VI visits the United States.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops created following recommendation from the Vatican Council and NCWC becomes the United States Catholic Conference. Archbishop John Dearden the first president with Bishop Joseph Bernardin its first general secretary.

National Advisory Council created to advise the Administrative Committee.

Update of the Ethical and Religious Directives, declaring that a Catholic health facility has the "responsibility to reflect in its policies and practices the moral teachings of the Church."

First national Encuentro.

Following SCOTUS decision in Roe v. Wade, the NCCB/USCC devised first Plan for Pro-Life Activities.

Creation of the Hispanic Affairs Secretariat and Convocation for the Second Encuentro.

First pre-election statement on Political Responsibility by the U.S. Bishops.

Second National Hispanic Pastoral Encuentro, apostolic blessing sent from Pope Paul VI.

Pope John Paul II visits U.S.

Four U.S. nuns killed in El Salvador. President of the USCC, Archbishop Joan Roach, statement to the governments of El Salvador and the United States decrying the violence and bloody repression by Salvador's military and paramilitary.

President Ronald Reagan became first US president to meet with pro-life marchers during March for Life.

Pastoral Letter The Challenge of Peace focused on threat of nuclear weapons.


  • Full diplomatic relations established between U.S. and the Vatican.
  • 100th Anniversary of the Third Council of Baltimore.


  • Catholic Relief Services distributed $471 million in relief aid to Africa.
  • Third Encuentro.

Bishops release Economic Justice for All stating social justice principles in the economy.


  • Pope John Paul II visits U.S.
  • Plan Pastoral Nacional del Ministerio Hispano created.


  • NCCB/USCC headquarters move from downtown D.C. to property near Catholic University.
  • Six Jesuits killed in El Salvador. Statement by the Catholic bishops' conference to key members of the Bush administration and the Congress condemning the pattern of violent activity in El Salvador
  • U.S. bishops approve statement on AIDS, Called to Compassion and Responsibility: A Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis.

Ad hoc Committee On Mission and Structure examines theological and canonical status of NCCB/USCC.

Observance of Fifth Centenary of the discovery and evangelization in the Americas.

Pope John Paul II and U.S. Bishops celebrate World Youth Day in Denver and the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium of Christianity.

English language Catechism of the Catholic Church released.


  • CTNA, the Catholic Television Network of America, ceases operation after 14 years.
  • Pope John Paul II visits the U.S. and addresses the United Nations.

U.S. bishops urge United States to lead global movement for a land-mine ban.

U.S. Supreme Court rules doctor-assisted suicide should be decided at state level.


  • Approval new Lectionary in English
  • Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life issues Always Our Children for Catholic parents of gay and lesbian children.

Pope John Paul II visits United States, U.S. Bishops urge debt relief.

Holy Year, Encuentro 2000 celebrated.


  • Consolidation of the NCCB and USCC into the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB),
  • CRS raises millions to aid Afghan refugees fleeing war. Updated Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities published.


  • Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved at bishops' meeting prompted by high-visibility abuse cases and intense media scrutiny.
  • Vatican issues decree confirming U.S. sex abuse norms as law for all U.S. dioceses.


  • National Review Board, lay group formed by the Bishops in 2002, commissions John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to study every known allegation of clerical sexual abuse of minors in every U.S. diocese and religious order since 1950.
  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops registered its opposition to a Food and Drug Administration proposal to permit over-the-counter sales of certain emergency contraceptives.
  • U.S. bishops met with representatives of the church in Africa and discussed the growing needs of the church on that continent.


  • Office of Child and Youth Protection and National Review Board published the results of the first sex abuse and child protection compliance audits in 191 dioceses across the country.
  • U.S. bishops backed a federal constitutional amendment to uphold the traditional definition of marriage.

Pope John Paul II dies, Benedict XVI his successor.


  • The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is published in English and Spanish by U.S. bishops.
  • US Cardinals, in Washington for Catholic University of America fund-raising dinner, converge on White House and Capitol Hill to lobby for humane immigration reform.
  • Bishops approve reorganization of the conference's committee structure. The current 36 standing committees and 16 ad hoc committees reduced to 16 standing committees. The new committees, like the current ones, will have only bishops as members. Five current management or administrative committees will be reduced to four. Some of the current standing or ad hoc committees become subcommittees.

U.S. bishops' Faithful Citizenship document emphasized a wide range of issues and prompted debate over whether Catholics could vote for pro-choice candidates.


  • Pope Benedict XVI visits the U.S.
  • Bishops vote in first strategic plan for five years and establish priorities; supporting marriage, faith formation and sacramental practice; the life and dignity of the human person; cultural diversity in the church; and promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Health Care Reform legislation excludes abortion funding, a debate influenced by U.S. Bishops. U.S. bishops threatened to oppose health reform unless the legislation banned the use of federal funds to cover abortion.

New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) is released.

U.S. bishops reiterated the church's teaching on the sanctity of marriage, made their Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage a permanent subcommittee and distributed materials explaining the Catholic view of traditional marriage.


  • English translation of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition released.
  • USCCB helped form the Circle of Protection coalition in 2011 to make sure budget policies protect programs serving poor, vulnerable and elderly people.

Fortnight for Freedom initiated by the U.S. bishops, celebrated annually, calls for a two-week period of prayer, education and action on preserving religious freedom in the U.S.


  • Pope Benedict resigns, Pope Francis elected.
  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to press for a national budget that does not adversely affect poor people. Bipartisan legislative leadership urged while USCCB reiterates a circle of protection around programs that protect poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad, advance the common good, and promote human life and dignity.
  • U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The U.S. bishops called it a "tragic day for marriage and our nation."
  • Strategic plan "The New Evangelization: Faith, Worship, Witness." Four priorities of the conference being faith formation and sacramental practice; strengthening marriage and family life; the life and dignity of the human person; and religious liberty.


  • USCCB Migration & Refugee Services settled 20,875 refugees from around the world in 2014, with the largest numbers arriving from Burma, Bhutan, Iraq, Somalia, and the Congo. This accounted for over one quarter of all refugees resettled in the United States during this period.
  • U.S. bishops having long supported affordable health care for all object to the Affordable Care Act because the law requires that most employers, including religious ones, cover employees' artificial birth control, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs, even if employers morally oppose such coverage.
  • 225th Anniversary of the founding of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.


  • Year of Mercy is proclaimed by Pope Francis.
  • Pope Francis visits the United States for the World Meeting of Families.


  • Bishops adopt a strategic plan setting five priorities: evangelization, marriage and family life, human life and dignity, vocations, and religious freedom. The five-year plan incorporates the theme "Encountering the Mercy of Christ and Accompanying His People With Joy."
  • USCCB fall general assembly, bishops urged to bring wider attention to the plight of Middle East Christians .


  • Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America attended by more than 3,000  lay and religious leaders from 160 dioceses and 185 national organizations.
  • 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bishops' Conference of the United States.

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