The U.S. bishops tackled difficult issues, such as assisted suicide and protections against clergy sex abuse, during their June 15-17 spring general assembly meeting in Bellevue, Wash., near Seattle. Here are the highlights of the developments from the sessions.
In a vote of 187-5, with four abstentions, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved revisions to “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which provides guidelines for handling allegations of clergy abuse. The charter was adopted in 2002 and revised in 2005. The current revisions include explicitly mentioning child pornography as a crime against Church law and considering abuse against someone who “habitually lacks reason,” such as someone with a developmental disability, to be equivalent to child abuse.
Despite the overwhelming support for the revisions, retired Anchorage Archbishop Francis T. Hurley raised concerns over the “zero tolerance” aspect of the charter, while Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., proposed 28 amendments to the charter, none of which passed.
Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., who heads the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, said another review would take place within two years, particularly taking into account the findings of “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.”
“The charter has served the Church well,” Bishop Cupich said. “It is a helpful tool as we keep our pledge to protect children, promote healing and rebuild trust.”
Assisted suicide statement
The bishops voted 191-1 to approve a policy statement on physician-assisted suicide, called “To Live Each Day with Dignity.” This is the first time the collective body of bishops has presented a statement on the issue. It addresses the Church’s opposition to physician-assisted suicide and its concern for those tempted to take their own lives. It also criticizes the “false compassion” of those advocating assisted suicide.
“The sufferings caused by chronic or terminal illness are often severe. They cry out for our compassion, a word whose root meaning is to ‘suffer with’ another person. True compassion alleviates suffering while maintaining solidarity with those who suffer,” the document states. “It does not put lethal drugs in their hands and abandon them to their suicidal impulses, or to the self-serving motives of others who may want them dead. It helps vulnerable people with their problems instead of treating them as the problem.”
The bishops also appeal to Catholics to uphold the right of each person to live with dignity.
The statement, along with fact sheets, prayers and other resources, can be found at www.usccb.org/toliveeachday/.
Roman Missal news
USCCB President Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized bishops to permit the gradual introduction of the musical settings of people’s parts of the Mass from the new English translation of the Roman Missal in September. This will primarily affect the Gloria, the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Memorial Acclamations.
The bishops hope that introducing this aspect of the Mass early will mean that parishioners will be familiar with the prayers that are sung when the revised Missal is implemented Nov. 27. Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, told the bishops during the announcement, “I ask you to encourage this as a means of preparing our people and helping them embrace the new translation.”
Also at the meeting, the bishops approved the Spanish translation of the U.S. Propers and Adaptations to the Missale Romanum, Third Edition, and they approved a set of liturgical prayers associated with the principal patronal feast days of 20 Spanish-speaking countries as an appendix to the Spanish translation of the new Roman Missal for use in U.S. dioceses.
“As Spanish-speaking Catholic immigrants continue to arrive in the U.S., they wish to celebrate Mass on the patronal feast day of their respective countries,” Archbishop Aymond said.
In a 194-1 vote, the USCCB established the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry, which will be part of the Committee on Catholic Education. The move means the Commission on Certification and Accreditation, based in Milwaukee, will be dissolved at the end of the year. Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who heads the USCCB’s Committee on Priorities and Plans, said the move will save about $46,000 and eliminate one staff position.
Catholic News Service contributed to this report.
Marriage Movie (sidebar)
The video “Made for Life,” part of the USCCB educational initiative “Marriage: Unique for a Reason,” has been released as the second of five videos promoting and protecting the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The video, whose release was announced by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., at the spring meeting, features real married couples discussing issues such as the gift of children, the indispensable place of fathers and mothers, and sexual difference.
Ordinariate Progress Report (sidebar)
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., gave a report to his fellow bishops on efforts to incorporate former Anglicans who want to enter into full Communion with the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Wuerl, who was appointed last fall to guide the incorporation of Anglican groups into the Catholic Church in the United States, said that as many as 100 Anglican priests and 2,000 laypeople could be the first members of a U.S. personal ordinariate. He reported that St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston has developed a Vatican-approved nine-month program of priestly formation for Anglican clergy who wish to become Catholic priests.
He said that he has received “a significant number of letters, emails and calls” from Anglicans who are interested in joining the Church.
In a news conference after he spoke, Cardinal Wuerl said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the ordinariate was established by the end of the year.
Other Developments (sidebar)
At their spring meeting, the bishops also ...
◗ Dropped from their agenda without comment a discussion of their perennial “Faithful Citizenship” document on political responsibility.
◗ Saw a video appeal from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin for strong U.S. participation in the International Eucharistic Congress scheduled for next year in his city.
◗ Heard about a plan to review the mandate of each national collection held in this country.
◗ Gave a standing ovation to Ken Hackett, who addressed the bishops as he prepared to retire from Catholic Relief Services after nearly 40 years with the international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community.
◗ Heard from Father Edward Dougherty, superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, about the 100th anniversary of the organization founded by the U.S. bishops to recruit, train, send and support American missioners overseas.
◗ Bid farewell to Msgr. David Malloy, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who was completing five years of service as USCCB general secretary.