Below is a series of updates from the bishops' annual spring meeting, which concluded June 15.
U.S. bishops extend the Working Group on Immigration
June 15, 2:30 p.m.
In a press release distributed on Thursday afternoon, the U.S. bishops announced that it has “extended the bishops' Working Group on Immigration” in recognition of “the continued urgency for comprehensive immigration reform, a humane refugee policy and a safe border.
Cardinal DiNardo made the announcement on the second day of the 2017 Spring General Assembly in Indianapolis.
Repealing Obamacare and gutting the safety net will hurt the poor
June 15, 1:30 p.m.
A handful of bishops offered impassioned pleas for Catholics to take a stand against both a proposed federal budget that critics say guts the social safety net and efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act with a law that could strip health care from millions of poor Americans.
“Within two weeks we may see a federal budgetary action with potentially catastrophic effects on the lives of our people, most especially children and the elderly, the seriously ill, the immigrant and our nation’s working poor,” Bishop George Thomas of Helena, Mt., said on Thursday during an address at the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Indianapolis.
“If left unchallenged or unmodified, this budget will destabilize our own Catholic health care apostolates, take food from the mouths of school-age children and the homebound, and deny already scarce medical resources from the nation’s neediest in every state across the land,” he continued.
The body of bishops applauded when Bishop Thomas finished speaking.
Ending immigration group and establishing religious liberty group sends the wrong signal, some bishops say.
June 15, 11 a.m.
A day after a temporary group addressing recent threats to immigration concluded its work, Catholic bishops voted on Thursday to create a new permanent committee aimed at addressing religious freedom issues in the United States, sparking a vigorous floor debate about the perceived priorities of U.S. bishops.
Meeting in Indianapolis for their spring meeting, the bishops voted 132 to 53 to make permanent an ad hoc committee formed in 2011 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was then president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The vote was not without controversy, however, as evidenced by floor comments from close to 20 bishops, including four cardinals.
Bishops renew pledge to fight Trump-backed immigration proposals
June 14, 6 p.m.
Taking stock of their efforts over the past six months to combat some Trump administration attempts to crack down on undocumented people living in the United States, Catholic bishops meeting in Indianapolis today pledged to be more proactive in laying out a vision for comprehensive immigration reform.
Bishop Joe Vasquez, head of the bishops’ migration committee, said in a report to fellow bishops that church leaders now seek “to move beyond simple reaction to the various negative proposals we have seen lately.”
Chair of National Review Board: Sexual abuse by clergy “not a thing of the past”
June 14, 4 p.m.
Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, urged the bishops to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and supporting victims of abuse "at the forefront" of their ministry.
He said sexual abuse of minors by clergy is "not a thing of past" and stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not "let complacency set in" in their efforts to stop it.
The review board is a group working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address and prevent sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. by clergy and other church personnel.
Cesareo pointed out there was still work to be done in this area, but he also praised the bishops for what they've accomplished and stressed that dioceses in the United States are among the safest places for children and are also models for rest of the world.
In his report to the bishops, he presented some of the key points of the recently issued 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic Church's "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
The report—based on audits conducted between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016—shows that 1,232 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy came forward with 1,318 clerical abuse allegations in 132 Catholic dioceses and eparchies. The allegations represent reports of abuse that occurred from the 1940s to the present.
One weak spot he noted in the audit process is the overall lack of parish participation, which he urged bishops to do something about to provide full transparency.
The bishops also announced the appointment of four new members to serve on the review board: Amanda Callanan, director of communications for the Claremont Institute; Suzanne Healy, a former victims assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Dr. Christopher McManus, a Virginia physician; and Eileen Puglisi, former director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.
-- Catholic News Service
Preparing for Vatican youth summit, bishop urges inclusion of the imprisoned
June 14, 2:30 p.m.
Bishops from around the world will meet in Rome next year to discuss how young people discern their vocations in life. To prepare for that meeting, called a synod, the Vatican has asked bishops to collect feedback from young people about their faith. To facilitate the process, the Vatican has created an online survey aimed at people between the ages of 16 to 29.
In the United States, bishops are being asked to consult with their dioceses and submit reports by September, and at this week’s spring meeting of U.S. bishops, several offered ideas on how to gather information.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said that in addition to engaging young adults during confirmation, which is typically celebrated during high school, young adults on the margins should also be widely consulted.
The bishop noted that many young people are involved with anti-racism movements and he asked how the church might engage with those individuals.
Pointing out that U.S. bishops are preparing a pastoral statement on racism, he asked how to include in the synod preparation “those who are very angry and disconnected from the political process and who perhaps feel disowned by the more traditional institutions and organizations that were important to their parents and grandparents.”
“Young people have a particular perspective on the signs of the times, [and] would be a tremendous resource to a local bishop.”
Bishop Soto, who chairs the committee overseeing the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, said church leaders should also try to include voices of young people who are incarcerated and those whose lives are made complicated by their immigration status.
“We should not neglect the opportunity to focus on the synod and themes of the synod with them, that population that almost feels thrown aside, thrown away by society,” he said.
Bishop Robert Reed, an auxiliary bishop in Boston, suggested that parishes appoint a young adult to help gather information from their peers and present it to pastors and bishops.
“Young people have a particular perspective on the signs of the times,” he said, and such an arrangement “would be a tremendous resource to a local bishop.”
The two prelates overseeing the process of collecting information for the synod from the United States are Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. The synod will take place in October 2018 in Rome.
Pope Francis’ representative to the U.S.: Listen to those who disagree with you
June 14, 12:05 p.m.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, told Catholic bishops meeting in Indianapolis this week that in order to evangelize effectively, “Pope Francis calls the whole church to listen more,” especially to the laity.
“Do we listen, even to those with whom we disagree, so that we might propose the essentials of the Gospel in a more persuasive, life-changing way?” he asked.
The archbishop said even with advances in technology and social media, evangelization is stifled when church leaders “only speak with those with whom we agree and do not listen enough to those at the margins of the church and society.”
“The call to be a missionary disciple demands moving beyond our comfort zone to the peripheries,” he continued.
Examples of bishops going to the peripheries, he said, included celebrating a Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight immigration issues, the annual March for Life in Washington and a Mass last year at Baltimore’s St. Peter Claver Church meant to highlight racial injustices in the United States.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre: “The call to be a missionary disciple demands moving beyond our comfort zone to the peripheries.”
When it comes to political divisions in the church, Archbishop Pierre urged a “consistent ethic and culture of life,” echoing a phrase made famous by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who sought to bring together Catholics active in anti-abortion efforts with Catholics focused on other social justice issues such as poverty and peace.
Archbishop Pierre, who served as the nuncio to Mexico before being sent to Washington by Pope Francis last year, called on bishops to encounter others from “other cultures, countries and faiths, as a way of promoting peace and understanding” and tied the theme of solidarity to the ongoing refugee crisis.
“Solidarity demands recognizing the common, inherent dignity of each person, refusing to accept the throwaway culture,” he said. “The idea of welcome another, especially someone fleeing persecution or ‘certain death,’ as is the case with so many migrants, is the common work of humanity, helping us recognize that we are part of the same human family.”
He also thanked the bishops for their work on religious liberty, pro-life issues, immigration and healthcare.
Background and Context
The Catholic bishops of the United States gather in Indianapolis today and tomorrow for their annual spring meeting, where, like millions of ordinary Americans, they will discuss the burning political issues of the day and consider what they can contribute to the conversation. Some of the issues on the agenda—immigration and health care specifically—have already caused a great deal of tension between the White House and Catholic leaders, while others, such as religious freedom, present an opportunity for collaboration.