The U.S. bishops’ conference will cancel its third consecutive in-person gathering during the coronavirus pandemic. Bishops are voting this month on whether to hold a virtual meeting in place of the scheduled June plenary assembly, as they did in place of their November 2020 meeting.
“The bishops are voting now to determine if the body should meet in an all-virtual format,” USCCB spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told The Pillar on Friday.
If a virtual meeting is not approved, the bishops will not proceed with their originally scheduled in-person meeting, which was to take place in Denver.
The bishops last held an in-person meeting in November 2019, during which Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, was elected conference president. The conference cancelled entirely its June 2020 meeting, which was scheduled to be held in Detroit, and conducted an abbreviated virtual session in November of last year.
Ordinarily, the bishops meet twice annually: each November in Baltimore, and each June in a different location. The June 2019 meeting had originally been scheduled to take place in Santa Barbara, California, but was moved to Baltimore in the wake of the Theodore McCarrick scandal.
The agenda of the June 2021 meeting has not yet been set. Much of the November 2020 virtual meeting was occupied with discussions of racism, after the widespread national protests following the death of George Floyd, and of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich criticized a statement released by Gomez on Inauguration Day; the statement raised concern about the agenda of the incoming Biden administration on abortion, religious liberty, and gender ideology. Cupich lamented unspecified “institutional failures” at the conference, which he pledged to address. While no bishops have yet endorsed that assessment, the topic is expected to be raised for discussion at the November meeting.