The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Plenary Assembly got underway today
in Baltimore. The three day meeting is the first under the Presidency of Archbishop
Timothy Dolan of New York and with the participation of Archbishop Viganò the newly
appointed Apostolic Nuncio to the US.
In his opening address, Archbishop Dolan
stated that the bishops “most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that
truth and restore the credibility, the beauty of the Church”, to re-engage with people
who have fallen away from the Church and practise of the faith.
He stated “they
drift from her, get mad at the Church, grow lax, join another, or just give it all
up. If this does not cause us pastors to shudder, I do not know what will. The reasons
are multiple and well-rehearsed, and we need to take them seriously”.
Dolan went on to note: “Two simple observations might be timely as we as successors
of the apostles embrace this urgent task of inviting our people and our world to see
Jesus and His Church as one. First, we resist the temptation to approach the Church
as merely a system of organizational energy and support that requires maintenance”.
second he said regard’s the sinfulness of Church members which however, “reminds us
precisely how much we need the Church. The sinfulness of her members is never an excuse,
but a plea, to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from which flows the
sacramental life of the Church”.
In fact, the focus of the Autumn session is
on internal Church matters, which has drawn the criticism of some mainstream media
who expressed disappointment at the church leaders failure to put economic justice
to the forefront.
Los Angelus Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, who heads the
USCCB communications committee explains why looking inward is important before reaching
out to broader society, “we feel a need to look at some issues that are important
to us as a conference”.
Bishop Zavala notes how not all items on the agenda
are looking inward; “one of the key issues that we will be looking at is the religious
liberty. We are forming a new task force on religious freedom…because the bishops
are concerned that the freedom of religion – what we call our first freedom – is being
eroded. It’s not just a matter that people aren’t able to practise their own faith
but also that we as a Church have a right to define what our ministry is and who are
ministers are”. Just one step to reclaiming the truth perhaps? Listen to Emer
McCarthy’s full interview with Bishop Zavala: