USCCB MEETING, DAY TWO
The second day of the annual fall meeting of the bishops of the United States had more parts than a dinosaur skeleton, not a mindless analogy mind you. When one asks 305 bishops (active and retired) to work on the plans, programs, priorities and new initiatives of the conference for the years 2013-2016, almost everyone has an opinion. And all of us had an opportunity to voice those opinions during the second half of the morning session when we broke into regional groupings (in our case the two dioceses of North Carolina, the one in South Carolina, the two in Georgia, and the seven in Florida). Every bishop in the region weighed in as to whether or not we should stick with the five priorities of the last five years, add “Religious Liberty” and the “New Evangelization” or reduce our expectations for the next planning cycle. First thing in the afternoon, the chair of the committee on Priorities and Plans and the Conference Secretary, Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio tried to assimilate all that had been heard at the morning regional meetings into a roadmap for his Committee to finish its work. Hats off to Bishop Murry for working with the clay putty of ideas the body of bishops had.
Also in the regional meetings we discussed how the Pontifical document Ex Corde Ecclesiae of ten years ago was being met by the Catholic colleges and universities in our region. There are five such institutions in four (arch)dioceses: Belmont Abbey in the Charlotte diocese, St. Leo University in our own, Ave Maria in the Venice diocese, and Barry University and the University of St. Thomas in the Archdiocese of Miami. I was able to report that as regards St. Leo, the president, Dr. Arthur Kirk, Jr. and I meet annually, our Vicar General, Monsignor Morris is both an alum and on the Board of Trustees, and that I have promised to return to Board membership if invited this year when I end my term on the Catholic Health Association Board.
For about an hour, our region knew when its dates for the Ad Limina visits to Rome were to be, but then word quickly came from Rome that the newly announced visit of Pope Benedict to Mexico and Cuba might delay us into late May or early June. Que sera sera!
Of great interest in the afternoon was a report by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington on the establishment of an ordinariate (think diocese even though there are some canonical differences) to accommodate those parishes and priests in the United States who wish to leave the Episcopal Church and become Roman Catholics while retaining their rites and ritual. Pope Benedict XVI opened up this possibility a few years ago and England and Wales already have such an ordinariate. Cardinal Wuerl said that the United States would have one as well by January 1, 2012 and a Catholic priest who has joined the Church through the Pastoral Provision would be or has been chosen to serve as the head of the ordinariate. If that priest, and this is most likely, is married then he cannot be ordained a bishop but he can administer the ordinariate. Two parishes, one in Fort Worth, Texas, and one in Washington, D.C. have come over under this papal provision so far. I do not expect any movement in the territory of our diocese at this time.
With that report, we concluded our public business, had a coffee break, and went into Executive Session, which will last until midday today (Wednesday). This afternoon I will be “following my star”, AMTRAK’S “Silver Star” and should arrive in Tampa’s Union Station around noon tomorrow. The “Star” does not move as does the “Meteor” and the trip will take twenty-two hours instead of nineteen on the way up. Plenty of time to prepare yet another blog entry as this weekend, Christ the King will be such a busy one for our local Church. All aboard!