A preview of U.S. bishops fall meeting

As this issue of the Newsweekly is hitting mailboxes and church vestibules, America’s bishops — there are more than 400 active and retired — will be heading to Baltimore, as they do every third week of November, for their fall meeting

And as usual, a team from Our Sunday Visitor will be headed there, too: in addition to me, there will be Russell Shaw, a Newsweekly contributing editor and the dean of Catholic journalism in this country, Greg Erlandson, OSV president and publisher, and Msgr. Owen F. Campion, OSV associate publisher. 

For the first time in quite a while, there aren’t any particularly contentious or prickly matters on the bishops’ agenda. The final version of the new Mass translation has been approved. The national mid-term election is past. The next (and final) installment of a report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on clerical sex abuse in the Church in the United States over the past 60 or so years isn’t expected until next month. 

In years past, a handful of protesters have appeared on the blustery sidewalk outside the hotel, calling for women’s ordination, or the denying of Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, or the firing of bishops over their mishandling of clerical sex abuse cases. But it is tough to imagine that anyone will summon enough outrage over this year’s agenda to make the effort. 

Here’s a sneak peek at what they’ll be voting on: 

An agreement between the bishops’ conference and four Reformed churches to recognize each other’s baptism. 

A request from the Pro-Life Activities Committee to begin drafting a policy statement against physician assisted suicide. 

The conference’s 2011 budget, and a proposal to increase the conference’s assessment on dioceses by 3 percent. 

They’ll hear from the new president of The Catholic University of America, John H. Garvey, and get updates on the Church’s response to the earthquake in Haiti, the overhaul of the controversial grant-making procedures of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (see Page 4), and recent developments in the conferences’ work on defending and promoting traditional marriage, preparations for World Youth Day 2011 in Spain, and the adoption of new media in diocesan communications strategies.

What many of the bishops will be most interested in are some key votes on leadership. In addition to heads of half a dozen committees, the conference is due to elect a new bishop president for a three-year term (to replace Chicago Cardinal Francis George) and a new general secretary, who manages the conference’s day-to-day affairs. 

I always find the bishops’ fall meeting an interesting experience, even if every year the bishops seem to open fewer and fewer meetings to the press. 

I look forward to hearing from you feedback@osv.com.