Liveblog: U.S. bishops’ Tuesday afternoon session

(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)

We continue our grand experiment: liveblogging of the public sessions of the U.S. bishops’ fall general meeting in Baltimore. (Earlier sessions here, here, and here.)

4:11 p.m.: Go here for the rest of this afternoon’s liveblog, because this post was getting too long.

3:48 p.m.: To help you understand the discussion earlier in this post on politics and abortion, we now have, in a separate post, the preliminary text of the guidance statement for Cardinal George as he formulates that response.

3:42 p.m.: Just before coffee break, votes are announced on “action items” discussed in the morning. All were approved: priorities and plans, the budget for 2009 and both the English and the Spanish versions of the special blessing for children in the womb.

3:37 p.m.: Other bishops talking about the impact of recent hurricanes in Texas and Louisiana. These are heavily Catholic areas, where the parish hall serves as the community gathering place, but the media has moved on and no one knows about the ongoing suffering.

3:29 p.m.: Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston is giving an update on recovery from Hurricane Ike. Notes that once the media left, no one knows about the devastation. Says life in Galveston is still a catastrophe.

3:24 p.m.: Cardinal George sums up by noting the variety of audiences the statement could be aimed at — general public, Catholics, politicians — but that arguments can be based on natural law theory, not just religious principles that others can reject. He promises “I’ll do my best” with all the suggestions that have been made.

3:18 p.m.: More calls for a “prophetic” statement. Obama was elected by using the words “hope” and “change,” and the bishops must be equally prophetic.

3:15 p.m.: Bishops encouraging other bishops to not be afraid to stand up for life in whatever they do in their home dioceses, even if it means risking their own lives.

3:07 p.m.: Bishop Martino of Scranton alludes to Vice President-elect Biden when he comments that no Catholic politician should be able to come into his diocese — Biden was born in Scranton — and erroneously state Catholic teaching on abortion.

3:05 p.m.: Bishop Trautman says he trusts that Cardinal George will issue a good statement, but also suggests that it take a prophetic tone. Bishops now express joking concern that the cardinal will be up all night trying to take all their suggestions to heart.

2:53 p.m.: Bishops also concerned about the term “common good” since some Catholic groups tried to use that terminology to justify voting for pro-abortion politicians.

2:47 p.m.: Lots of bishops speaking up now. I take back what I said below at 2:29 — they were just getting warmed up.

Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., and Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., attend the Nov. 11 session of the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., and Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., attend the Nov. 11 session of the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

2:45 p.m.: Archbishop Hughes raises issue that President Obama may be able to reverse a number of executive orders on his first days in office, underlining the urgency of this question.

2:38 p.m.: More applause as bishops recall the link Cardinal George made in his presidential address yesterday tying the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision to the current battle for the rights of the unborn.

2:34 p.m.: Bishop Boyea draws applause when he raises the specter of Catholic hospitals being forced to shut down because of their refusal to comply with regulations requiring them to perform abortions.

2:29 p.m.: Bishops going point by point through a five-point proposal for the statement. Little discussion, because obviously everyone in the room agrees on the importance of the abortion issue in America today.

2:25 p.m.: Cardinal Egan asks that the statement be limited to “one important thing to say” and not let it get lost in trying to cover too much. Bishops agree by voice vote.

2:21 p.m.: Politicians and abortion discussion now beginning. Statement coming, but can’t be issued by the full body of bishops on such short notice, so the bishops are authorizing Cardinal George to issue a statement on their behalf.

2:19 p.m.: Just for the record, Cardinal George is reading the text of this morning’s statement on the economy.

2:15 p.m.: Here’s a link to the list of the five committees for which the bishops are electing chairmen.

2:12 p.m.: Back to elections for committee chairs, but they’re doing them by paper ballot, so we won’t get results right away.

1:57 p.m.: Getting ready for the afternoon session. Bishops have lots to cover.

“Solidarity at a Time of Economic Crisis”

The new statement on the economy approved by the bishops this morning and issued in the name of Cardinal Francis George, USCCB president, has not yet been posted on the USCCB Web site, but here is an unofficial version:

As the Catholic bishops of the United States gathered in Baltimore and as servants of Jesus our hope, we bring with us our concern for people in our dioceses, and we want to express our active support and solidarity with all those who are being hurt by the current economic crisis. As pastors and bishops, we see the many human and moral consequences of this crisis. Clearly, the impact is greater in some regions than others. However, across our nation families are losing their homes; retirement savings are threatened; workers are losing jobs and health care; and many people are losing a sense of hope and security.

This disturbing and complicated situation brings home a universal truth: we are all children of God. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We all are in this together. Hard times can isolate us or they can bring us together. The Catholic community will continue to reach out to those in need, stand with those who are hurt, and work for policies that bring greater compassion, accountability and justice to economic life.

Pope Benedict XVI has outlined our goals in his 2008 World Day of Peace message: “The family needs to have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all.” He also insists that society and public policy should be “committed to assisting the family in these areas.”

We offer our prayers for the families and individuals, our sisters and brothers, who are hurting, anxious or discouraged in these difficult times. We also pledge our prayers for our wounded nation and suffering world. We pray that, working together, we can find the courage, wisdom and ways to build an economy of prosperity and greater justice for all.

(UPDATE: Here’s the official version.)

Liveblog: U.S. bishops’ Tuesday morning session

(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)

We continue our grand experiment: liveblogging of the public sessions of the U.S. bishops’ fall general meeting in Baltimore. (Earlier sessions here and here.)

12:41 p.m.: Press briefing for journalists about to begin here.

12:34 p.m.: No time for Q&A, so the morning session is now over.

12:30 p.m.: Consumers want conversations, but they will be more accurate if you participate in them, so that’s why the church needs to be involved in these tools.

12:25 p.m.: Search engines also important. Google search of “Bible,” for instance, brings up USCCB’s New American Bible page as one of the top results.

12:22 p.m.: Facebook page for fans of Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., shown on the screen, drawing chuckles from the bishops. YouTube channel sponsored by Philadelphia Archdiocese also shown.

12:20 p.m.: Tons of information being presented here, compacted from the three-hour workshop on Saturday. Blogs, RSS, social networks, other new tools. Don’t know how many bishops are understanding this.

12:12 p.m.: Now the bishops are hearing about “user-generated media” and “consumer-generated media.” The latter can have a great impact on organizations and brands.

12:09 p.m.: Digital media can be a very powerful ally of the church, she notes.

12:02 p.m.: Amy Federman, from Burson-Marsteller, is giving the presentation, telling the bishops about the importance of participating in this new age of digital communications. In a show of hands, biggest group of bishops admit they are “absolute beginners.”

11:57 a.m.: Next up, a presentation on digital media and Web 2.0. A version of this was presented to the bishops’ Communications Committee in June, then there was a workshop for bishops on Saturday.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives his homily during Mass Nov. 10 at the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives his homily during Mass Nov. 10 at the bishops' general meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

11:54 a.m.: On the economic crisis, a statement is being discussed that will be issued in the name of Cardinal George as president of the conference. By voice vote, the bishops assent to it being issued.

11:51 a.m.: Just to clarify, I think these were always going to be paper ballots, under conference rules.

11:48 a.m.: Bishops speaking on importance and symbolic value of such a blessing. And then there’s another paper ballot on this. Also voting on a separate Spanish version.

11:43 a.m.: Next up, debate and vote on blessing service for children in the womb.

11:41 a.m.: No questions here either, so another paper ballot, with results announced later.

11:39 a.m.: Now they’re talking about priorities and plans for the USCCB. Much of this is internal, but let’s see if questions are raised.

11:35 a.m.: No questions from the floor for Archbishop Schnurr, so now they’re voting on it by paper ballot. Results later.

11:30 a.m.: Moving on to debate and vote on USCCB budget for 2009, presented by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr.

11:27 a.m.: Still problems, so moving to written ballot for members of the board for Catholic Relief Services, which had to be on paper anyway.

11:25 a.m.: Trying again with vote for chairman-elect of national collections committee.

11:22 a.m.: Uh oh, there’s a problem with the electronic voting.

11:20 a.m.: New secretary-elect for USCCB is Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown.

11:15 a.m.: Meanwhile, check out this new story from CNS:

Three bishops honored for their restoration efforts following Katrina

11:12 a.m.: These elections used to be complicated paper ballots, but now they’re mostly electronic, with devices that look like TV remote controls.

11:10 a.m.: Executive session and coffee break over, so back to work. First stop: elections.

9:10 a.m.: As previously announced, the bishops are in closed, executive session until approximately 10:30, and then we’ll all face a busy day with elections, priorities and plans, liturgy, a discussion and/or statement on politicians and abortion, the current economic crisis, and possibly CCHD/ACORN. Stay tuned.

CNS Bible Blog: Jesus’ farewell discourse

Link to Bible Blog seriesBy Father Scott M. Lewis, SJ
Special to Catholic News Service

After the supper (described in the Gospel of John, chapters 13-17), Jesus gives a long farewell discourse reminiscent of the sort of teachings that great philosophers and religious figures were expected to give to their followers prior to their departure from this world. It represents a sort of last will and testament.

Many of the verses are repeated several times and the discourse is rather circular. It probably is a compilation of many of the things that Jesus had said at various times in his ministry. Jesus tells them that in the Father’s house there are many dwelling places and he is going to prepare a place for them (14:2). But they are puzzled and can’t understand where he is going and how they can follow even though he insists that they know the way.

Scott M. Lewis SJ

Scott M. Lewis, SJ

Finally, he must spell it out for his rather slow-witted disciples: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6).

How are we to interpret this? For so long it was thought that one must be a card-carrying Christian in good standing in order to be “saved” and be with God. And we must remember that John would have raised the bar even higher: one must be a member of his particular brand of Christianity. But we must not confuse what Jesus is saying about himself with institutional Christianity.

The “way” is the term given to the earliest Christian communities. It simply means the path — the spiritual path — that leads to God. We saw earlier that when Jesus is portrayed as the “truth” it has nothing to do with doctrine. Jesus simply knows and reveals God as God really is: love and light, in whom there is no darkness or violence. He is the “life” in that he imparts the life-giving spirit of God to all those who open their hearts and minds to him.

Jesus is the divine pattern for what it means to be authentically human and divine. Those wishing to reach God must conform to this pattern regardless of who they are or what label is attached to them. This pattern is love, humble service, and openness to the transcendent and holy. An astounding promise is made in verses 12-14: the believer will do the works that Jesus did and even greater ones!

A stained glass image of Christ (CNS photo from Crosiers)

A stained glass image of Christ (CNS photo from Crosiers)

If this is true, then it seems that we have missed something. Often we are too literal in our interpretation of the Gospel, others times not literal enough. This instance belongs to the latter. This spiritual empowerment — already indicated in the prologue (1:12-13) — is possible because Jesus shares all that he is and has with his disciples through the gift of the spirit.

But there is an important proviso: disciples must “abide” in Jesus. Abide (menein) appears 10 times in the image of the vine in chapter 15. This image of the vine is similar to that of the body of Christ in 1 Cor 12:12-27; Col 1:18; and Eph 1:22-23. The image indicates that we are totally dependent on Christ for our spiritual power and sustenance. Once cut off from him we wither and die, although we may not realize it immediately. We can even continue to go through the motions of religious practice. One abides in Christ by means of love. Verses 12, 15, 21, and 23 spell it out: If you love me (conditional) you will keep my commandments. It is then that Jesus and the Father will take up residence in the believer’s heart and soul. It describes a mystical union that is a way of life rather than an experience of a few key moments.

Love is the way in which God is known as well as an empowering principle. Love — abiding in Jesus — also transforms human relationships with God. The divine friendship to which Jesus invites his followers means that nothing is hidden and that there is an easy familiarity with the Lord. Being a servant of the Lord is great, but being the Lord’s friend is far better. Which are we?

More on today’s bishops’ meeting sessions

Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise, Idaho, takes a call Nov. 10 before the start of the opening session of the U.S. bishops' meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Bishop Michael P. Driscoll of Boise, Idaho, takes a call Nov. 10 before the start of the opening session of the U.S. bishops' fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

SECOND UPDATE: We’ve also moved this story on the missal-translation issue:

Bishops again take up section of missal translation rejected in June

UPDATE: Cardinal Cordes (see previous post) also spoke yesterday on the papal encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” Here’s our story on both events:

Pope’s encyclical said to give charities encouragement, guidance

- – -

Here’s more on this morning’s discussion of a blessing for pre-born children:

Bishops to vote on blessing service for children in the womb

And on Cardinal George’s and Archbishop Sambi’s talks this morning:

Bishops’ conference opens with nod to historic presidential election

Liveblog: U.S. bishops’ Monday afternoon session

(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)

Continuing our experiment with liveblogging the bishops’ general meeting, here’s this afternoon’s session. (Click here for Monday morning.)

2:40 p.m.: Again, that’s it for today’s liveblog. The bishops will be back in open session at mid-morning tomorrow.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, right, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, talks with conference vice president Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 10 before the opening session of the U.S. bishops' general fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, right, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, talks with conference vice president Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 10 before the opening session of the U.S. bishops' fall general meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

2:30 p.m.: So now they’ll go to small-group meetings on the priorities for about an hour, and then the bishops will hold their regular regional meetings. So, that’s it for today.

2:26 p.m.: They’ll vote tomorrow on the goals, and bishops will also be asked to indicate which objectives are most important and least important.

2:21 p.m.: Nine goals and 30 objectives to be discussed. Nine goals are listed in that news release I mentioned a few minutes ago.

2:18 p.m.: Three-year goals, and Bishop Kicanas says he hopes by 2011 the bishops can look back and see what’s been accomplished.

2:13 p.m.: Bishop Kicanas, vice president of the conference, opens the discussion explanation on the five priority initiatives for the USCCB. (Here’s a news release on the five initiatives, who heads the task forces, and what the goals are.)

Dorothy Day’s birthday

1952-dorothy-day11

Catholic Worker Movement co-founder Dorothy Day celebrates her birthday in 1952. (CNS/courtesy of Jim Forest)

Author Jim Forest sent along a reminder that Nov. 8 was the birthday of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. She was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1897.

Forest, who has written extensively about Day’s life and his experiences of life working alongside the fervent advocate for New York’s poor and homeless people in the 1960s and 1970s, sent this excerpt from one of her essays:

“People say, What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes.”

The Vatican’s sainthood effort, which Day once said she would hardly welcome lest it minimize the importance of her work, continues.

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