Bishops’ Meeting Day Two
Today publicly began at 630am for me with a concelebrated Mass followed by a 90 minute breakfast meeting and it ended at 615pm when the final public session of this meeting was gaveled to a conclusion. It was a long and tedious day for all the bishops with very focused discussions among ourselves and then some action items and elections voted on. On the day when the Conference usually votes on elected offices and action items, it has been the recent custom to engage an electronic voting service whereby each bishop is allocated one wireless voting machine and the results are calculated and announced almost instantaneously. Well, shortly into our first vote, the machines malfunctioned and we had to use paper ballots. We Florida bishops were blamed by some for the voting irregularities and the length of time it took to announce results.
I would say that our primary focus throughout this long day of extended sessions was on the new reality the nation and the Church are facing with a new Congress and Administration. Are Executive Orders which will surely reverse the gains made in protecting human life for the last eight years coming? Will there be a rush to pass legislation introduced last year called the “Freedom of Choice Act” which will likely mandate abortion services even when against one’s conscience just around the corner? What did the election mean for the life issues? What should bishops do and when if faced with a new challenge to human life? Some of the discussion was both hypothetical and anticipatory since there is currently no such legislation.
Bishops also must face the reality that we have not communicated our message on the sanctity of life in the past in a way which has been convincing and well received to and by our people. Over time we have issued many statements but who has been listening to us? Conference procedures which are well designed in our USCCB STATUTES AND BY-LAWS prudently make it very difficult to offer last minute statements for the discussion and vote by the body of bishops assembled. A number of bishop members would have liked a statement from the full body of bishops. We ended up empowering Cardinal George of Chicago and our President to draft either a statement or letter which would set forth our concerns and our hopes. That statement by the President will be forthcoming in a few days.
We approved the latest translational work by ICEL (The International Commission on English in the Liturgy) of the prayers we use at all Masses. This has been something of a “hot topic” for at least eight years in our Conference and is of great concern to me. I have told you before that we will be changing the prayers and dialogues which we use at Mass (probably not before 2012 at the earliest). “The Lord be with you” will now return to the response of “And with your spirit” from the present “And also with you.” There will be some changes in the Gloria and other Mass parts and in all the prayers spoken by the priest/celebrant. In our parishes we are currently using prayers adopted and approved in the early seventies and translations which allowed for the various language groups to translate according to something called “dynamic equivalency” or with sensitivity to the development of modern languages. Now we must translate literally from the Latin and faithfully render the translation. We have been at this, as I mentioned above, for a long time and our bishops are tired of it. So we passed along a part of the new translation which we declined in June. To their everlasting credit, the Bishops’ Committee on Worship worked hard to accommodate the complaints of June and gave us a vastly improved text.
There was a lot of other “stuff” but those were the big issues today and I am worn out and in need of sleep. It is at times like this that I appreciate the privilege that is mine to serve the people of our five counties and tonight, home with all its challenges, looks better than the national stage. I return tomorrow night and will post some final reflections tomorrow.