November 17, 2015 // Uncategorized

USCCB president urges bishops pray to 'see as Jesus sees'

Retired Bishop David E. Foley of Birmingham, Ala., casts his vote during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore Nov. 17. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

BALTIMORE (CNS) — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ urged his brother bishops to pray for virtues that would help them be better spiritual leaders.

“Lord, give us an understanding heart and a credible moral voice,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, in his homily at a Nov. 16 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.

The afternoon Mass was celebrated after the bishops spent the earlier half of the day discussing a varied slate of items as their Nov. 16-19 fall general assembly opened in Baltimore.

Archbishop Kurtz also urged the bishops to pray for the “eyesight to see as Jesus sees” and for the renewed grace to love God and serve others.

“Help us steer straight,” he added, referring to how good administrators have the ability to steer their ships through rough waters.

The next morning, the bishops voted on a new USCCB general secretary and committee chairmen-elect; debated and voted on a proposed statement on pornography titled “Create a Clean Heart in Me”; and debated revisions to their quadrennial statement on political responsibility.

In the elections, they chose Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield as the new general secretary; he has been associate general secretary for five years. They also voted for Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati as treasurer-elect.

He has been, working alongside the current general secretary, Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, whose term is ending.

The previous day, in presenting the pornography statement to the bishops, Bishop Richard J. Malone, of Buffalo, New York, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, described pornography as a “dark shadow in our world today.”

He added that pornography is a “particularly sinister instance of consumption” where men, women and children are “consumed for the pleasure of others.”

The Nov. 17 vote on the document came midday via paper ballots, so the results were not immediately available.

The bishops also debated proposed revisions to their quadrennial political responsibility statement, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” A vote on the document was delayed until the afternoon.

The 2015 version reflects on long-held concerns related to abortion and the needs of poor people. It also references emerging issues related to court decisions on same-sex marriage, public policies that affect religious freedom, and a rising concern for the environment as climate change affects more people around the world.

On the first day of the assembly, an afternoon session took up how the U.S. Catholic Church can move forward in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage this year. To that end, the U.S. bishops are planning to develop a pastoral plan for marriage and family life. The pastoral plan, according to Bishop Malone, will seek the bishops’ input.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said the Supreme Court’s decision was a “great disappointment,” but it was not unexpected.

In comments from the floor about the court’s decision and how the church should proceed, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said Catholic leaders need to approach the court’s decision much like they did the Roe v. Wade court decision legalizing abortion. He said the church has been active in advocacy work and in getting its pro-life message public.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, said the church also needs to look at economic reasons for why people aren’t marrying and reach out to these couples.

In his address as president of the USCCB, Archbishop Kurtz called on his fellow bishops Nov. 16 to imitate the “pastor’s presence” exhibited by Pope Francis during his recent U.S. visit, “touching the hearts of the most influential, the forgotten and all of us in between.”

Noting the upcoming Year of Mercy that begins Dec. 8, Archbishop Kurtz said a ministry of “presence means making time and never letting administration come between me and the person. It’s seeing the person first.”

“Our hearts respond to (the pope’s) call to be pastors who are present, welcoming and eager to walk with our people,” he added.

He said the role of the bishops “as a conference in our public actions” was to “seek to be a presence in the public square — always seeking the common good and making room for faith to act — never imposing but always inviting, serving.”

A convocation for Catholic leaders planned for 2017 represents “a new way of reaching and teaching our people,” Bishop Malone said in a presentation to his fellow bishops.

Bishop Malone was joined by two other bishops in a presentation on the national convocation, planned for July 1-4, 2017, in Orlando, Florida, and the communications research leading up to it. The theme of the meeting is “The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, who chairs the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, were the other presenters on the convocation, representing the Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, which has been meeting quarterly since June 2009.

Cardinal O’Malley said the aim of the research project was to “focus on the people in the pew and why they accept or disregard the church’s teachings.” The goal was to find ways to “motivate Catholics to embrace the full vision of what it means to be Catholic,” he added.

“While the nationwide survey focused on those regular attending Sunday Mass,” the cardinal said other research looked at subgroups such as Hispanics, young singles, young parents and a group dubbed “missionary disciples” because of their high level of church engagement and their desire to evangelize others.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio painted a dire picture of “a pastoral problem that affects all of us” in a report to his fellow bishops about the “desperate” shortage of Catholic priests serving as military chaplains.

The head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said there were only 217 Catholic priests serving the 1.8 million Catholics in the U.S. armed forces around the world, and the numbers would soon decline due to retirements and medical leaves.

“Witnesses to Freedom” will be the theme of the 2016 observance of the Fortnight for Freedom, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, told the assembly.

“The fortnight gives us an opportunity to remember those witnesses past and present through the church, witnesses who testify to the meaning of freedom of conscience and the obedience of the truth,” he said.

The two-week event will include a nationwide tour of first class relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Archbishop Lori said details of the tour have yet to be arranged, but that a schedule will be distributed when it is finalized.

Church resettlement programs in the United States will continue to aid refugees who are fleeing violence and social ills despite calls that the country’s borders should be closed to anyone but Christians.

The church’s response is focused on people in need of food, shelter and safety and not their particular faith Archbishop Kurtz told reporters during a midday break in the bishops’ fall general assembly Nov. 16.

“We at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities, we are always open to helping families who come into the United States in need of help,” he said at a news conference. “We have that tradition of doing it and we’re going to contribute.”

Archbishop Kurtz explained that any assistance provided to refugees and immigrants is carried out under government contracts and that the vetting of newcomers will have been completed by government agencies long before church agencies become involved.

“Our efforts are going to be to reach out to people and to serve them,” the archbishop said.

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Contributing to this roundup were Nancy Frazier O’Brien, Dennis Sadowski and Carol Zimmermann.

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