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Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski attended a session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 14 in Baltimore.
Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski attended a session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 14 in Baltimore.
Photo Credit: Bob Roller | OSV News

U.S. bishops’ November meeting focuses on synodality, technology in liturgy, and advancing a cause of canonization

USCCB held fall assembly Nov. 13-15 in Baltimore

BALTIMORE — The first public day of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ fall plenary assembly in Baltimore saw elections to important posts, while public presentations chiefly centered on synodality, the use of technology in the liturgy and advancing the cause for canonization of a champion of evangelizing through media.

On the second day, the bishops approved supplements to “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” — a teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics — and voted to support a request that Pope Francis name St. John Henry Newman, the 19th-century British cardinal, a doctor of the Church.

The bishops’ first order of business was voting to approve a letter to Pope Francis that affirmed their shared concern with the pontiff over the conflicts engulfing the world, their desire to facilitate “prayer and dialogue around the reflections of the synthesis report” from the synod and his recent environmental teaching in “Laudate Deum” calling for “ecological conversion.”

The morning session on the first day began with Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., giving a reflection on synodality and its relationship to the U.S. bishops’ ongoing National Eucharistic Revival.

While acknowledging the “synodal method has been a challenge for us,” he explained that “these two realities belong together by their very nature, and they shed light on one another.”

The address by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services, focused principally on international conflicts taking place around the world, highlighting various Catholic groups committed to the Church’s evangelization, and emphasizing that more could be done to further the National Eucharistic Revival. He called particular attention to the role of “committed priests on fire with the Gospel” who “motivate so much of the charitable outreach of the Church.”

Archbishop Broglio emphasized what he saw as “the many synodal realities that already exist in the Church in the United States,” naming various advisory bodies at the diocesan level, the National Advisory Council and USCCB committees.

“That is not to say that we do not have to grow and open ourselves to new possibilities, but we recognize and build on what is already present,” he said. “We open our hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit and we listen to that voice.”

The bishops voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize their Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism for two more years and to evaluate whether or how it should be a permanent part of the conference structure. They made a one-time change to their handbook rules so retired Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry could continue as the committee’s chairman; the rules prohibit a retired bishop from serving as a committee’s chairman.

Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a kind of Catholic diocese with Anglican traditions under the auspices of the pope, presented on liturgical adaptations for the U.S. Liturgy of the Hours set to be voted on the next day. He also gave a presentation asking whether the U.S. bishops wanted the Committee on Divine Worship, which he chairs, to develop national guidelines regarding the use of technology in the church’s liturgy.

The document also asked about livestream liturgies and screens in liturgies, whether they were used well or poorly, and for both it asked what “opportunities and threats does this practice present?” It also asked if any dioceses in the bishops’ respective regions issued guidelines regarding the use of technology in the liturgy. It also asked them whether “new national guidelines merit further consideration,” noting that the U.S. bishops last issued guidelines on digital transmission of the liturgy in 1996.

The bishops elected Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City as secretary-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops also voted for chairmen-elect for six committees: Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, New Jersey (Catholic education); Bishop William D. Byrne of Springfield, Massachusetts, (communications); Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, New York (cultural diversity in the church); Auxiliary Bishop James Massa of Brooklyn (doctrine); Bishop Daniel H. Mueggenborg of Reno, Nevada (national collections); and Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, (pro-life activities).

They also reappointed the bishops for the boards of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, and Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Church’s overseas relief and development agency.

The bishops voted to support the sainthood cause launched by the Archdiocese of New York for Father Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), a Catholic convert and pioneering Catholic publisher who founded the Paulist Fathers.

“Ultimately, this is what we’re about: promoting and directing our faithful and ourselves towards sanctity,” Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, said in introducing the cause with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

The plenary assembly on the first day concluded abruptly, with Archbishop Broglio calling the U.S. bishops into an unscheduled executive session. No reason was given.

On the second day, the U.S. Catholic bishops approved supplements to “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” — a teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics — on Nov. 15 during their annual fall plenary assembly in Baltimore.

“The purpose of these items is to address current, recent policy issues and to incorporate the teachings of Pope Francis since the last update,” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, explained to bishops in a presentation he gave the day before as chair of the task force charged with drafting the supplemental materials.

A new introductory note, five bulletin inserts and a template video script supplement the document, last updated in 2015, that outlines the bishops’ guidance for Catholics in forming their consciences as they exercise their rights and duties as U.S. citizens. The bishops will reexamine the document following the 2024 election.

The new introductory note reads: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks our most vulnerable and voiceless brothers and sisters and destroys more than a million lives per year in our country alone.”

The bishops voted almost unanimously (with two “no” votes) Nov. 15 to support a request by the the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales that Pope Francis name St. John Henry Newman, the 19th-century British cardinal, a doctor of the Church.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chair of the doctrine committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, presented the question to the body of bishops. A majority of members present and voting was needed to pass the motion.

Bishop Flores said in June the conference received the request from Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, requesting “that the USCCB send a letter in support of the proposal.” He noted that the conferences of the Catholic bishops of Ireland and Scotland also have agreed to support this petitionary process.

“The Committee on Doctrine considered this matter back in 2019 and concluded that the writings of St. John Henry Newman are truly eminent and of great relevance for the church today, especially in the areas of the development of doctrine, the moral foundations of education, the primacy of conscience, the role of the laity and the search for the truth, amongst many others,” Bishop Flores said. “The committee therefore determined that St. John Henry Newman is indeed worthy of this high honor.”


Bishops elect USCCB secretary, chairmen-elect of 6 standing committees

By OSV News

BALTIMORE (OSV News) — The U.S. bishops Nov. 14 elected Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City as secretary-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He won with 187 votes over his challenger, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon, who received 55 votes.

Archbishop Coakley was elected secretary last year to complete the term left vacant when Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, then the secretary, was elected to a three-year term as conference president. The USCCB secretary also serves as chairman of the Committee on Priorities and Plans.

The bishops also voted for chairman-elect of six standing committees. The names of the committees follow, in alphabetical order, with the new chairman-elect and vote tally follow:

— Committee on Catholic Education: Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, New Jersey, 144; Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, 101.

— Committee on Communications: Bishop William D. Byrne of Springfield, Massachusetts, 142; Coadjutor Archbishop Christopher J. Coyne of Hartford, Connecticut, 103.

— Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church: Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, New York, 126; Bishop Earl K. Fernandes of Columbus, Ohio, 116.

— Committee on Doctrine: Auxiliary Bishop James Massa of Brooklyn, 125; Bishop John F. Doerfler of Marquette, Michigan, 118.

— Committee on National Collections:Bishop Daniel H. Mueggenborg of Reno, Nevada, 146; Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, 97.

— Committee on Pro-Life Activities: Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, 161;

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, 84.

Archbishop Coakley will serve one year as “elect” and the chairmen-elect also will each serve for one year as “elect” before they each begin a three-year term in their respective positions at the conclusion of the fall plenary assembly in 2024, when the current committee chairmen complete their three-year term.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, was elected as the chairman of the pro-life committee during the November 2022 plenary to complete the term left vacant when Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore was elected conference vice president.

The other chairmen whose terms heading standing committees end in 2024 are: Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, Catholic education; Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Reed of Boston, communications; Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, cultural diversity; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, doctrine; and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, national collections.

In other elections, the bishops reconfirmed give bishops who are currently board members of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency: Bishop Brendan John Cahill of Victoria, Texas; Bishop Daniel E. Garcia of Monterey, California; Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Bishop Luis R. Zarama of Raleigh, North Carolina; and retired Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn. The bishops also confirmed the appointment of two new members of the CRS board: Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Reed of Boston and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington.

The bishops also confirmed the appointment of two prelates to the board of the Catholic Legal immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC: Archbishop George Leo Thomas of Las Vegas and Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr. of Washington.

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