Much of the attention going into the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) meeting Thursday was focused on the debate over a potential document on the Eucharist in the life of the Church.
The discussion on the document was indeed lengthy, and featured significant disagreement among the bishops.
A few prelates also had a short back-and-forth over a proposed amendment to a draft pastoral framework for ministry on marriage and family life.
But other topics were discussed on the second day of the USCCB’s virtual meeting as well, albeit in a less contentious manner:
- The bishops heard a report from the National Review Board (NRB), a lay advisory group focused on sexual abuse prevention and response that was formed in 2002. NRB chair Suzanne Healy applauded the bishops for their efforts to create safe environments, stressing that the policies that have been implemented are effective. The number of current abuse allegations reported this year is just 22, she said, down from the previous year. The NRB also had a number of recommendations for the bishops to make further progress, including additional reconciliation efforts, both with victim-survivors of sexual abuse and with the broader Catholic community; full cooperation with audits (Healy noted 35% of dioceses last year did not have a formalized parish audit in place); regular audits for the recently-created Catholic Bishops' Abuse Reporting Service; the full publication of lists of accused priests; and further education in trauma-focused therapy principles for anyone who interacts with victim-survivors.
- The bishops voted in favor of advancing the canonization causes of two Servants of God, both wartime heroes who risked their own lives to protect others. Father Joseph Lafleur sacrificed his life to help other prisoners of war evacuate a sinking ship during World War II. Leonard LaRue - later known as Brother Marinus - was a Merchant Marine who volunteered his cargo ship to conduct one of the largest single refugee evacuations in history during the Korean War. Multiple bishops voiced support for the causes. Bishop Glen John Provost of Lake Charles, La., recalled working years ago at a parish at which Lafleur had served, and how a number of the older parishioners there had known Lafleur and remembered his priestly zeal with admiration. Auxiliary Bishop Elias Lorenzo, O.S.B., of Newark noted that he had personally known and admired the sanctity of Br. Marinus, as his own Benedictine monastery is close to the one that the Servant of God entered after concluding his service as a Merchant Marine. Both causes received the approval of 99% of the bishops.
- The bishops voted on whether to authorize the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs to develop a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American and Alaska Native ministry. Bishop James Wall of Gallup, N.M., who heads the subcommittee, explained that in a 2019 listening session, Catholic Native Americans voiced concern that ministry to native communities was a low priority in the Church. The last pastoral plan for native communities is from 1977 and should be updated, he said, also calling for increased communication between native and Church leaders. Several bishops voiced support for the initiative during the discussion time, noting challenges facing native communities, including poverty and disproportionate COVID-19 mortality rates. Results of the bishops’ vote will be available tomorrow.
The bishops voted on three liturgical text translations. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has spent years working on more accurate and precise translations of various English liturgical texts. Thursday’s vote included translations of propers and antiphons for Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, as well as the Order of Penance and intercessions and psalter concluding prayers for the Liturgy of the Hours. Results of the bishops’ vote will be available tomorrow. Last week, The Pillar talked with Fr. Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB’s office for divine worship, about the Liturgy of the Hours translation project. You can read more here.