Due to unforeseen circumstances, we won’t be able to liveblog today’s sessions of the general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as we did yesterday. For minute-to-minute updates from the floor of the meeting in Baltimore, check out the USCCB media office’s Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/usccbmedia. Or, watch the livestream at http://telecaretv.org (click on “Watch Telecare Live”).
Here we are again, ready to liveblog the fall general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, just as we did last year. (If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)
Our thanks to Telecare, the television ministry of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., for livestreaming the meeting from Baltimore.
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4:50 p.m.: Wrapping up for the day with Our Father and Hail Mary, then adjournment.
4:46 p.m.: “A principled position, not a political one,” he says. Also criticizes NYTimes editorial decrying bishops’ efforts.
4:44 p.m.: Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chair of the committee most responsible for formulating USCCB position on health care reform, now addressing bishops. Thanks staff for hard work.
4:43 p.m.: And it is endorsed by the bishops.
4:37 p.m.: Not on agenda, but Cardinal George is thanking members of the House of Representatives who voted to maintain restrictions on abortion funding in health care bill.
4:35 p.m.: Archbishop Dolan concludes by thanking bishops for listening to him “brag” about CRS.
4:21 p.m.: Another annual report, this time on Catholic Relief Services, presented by the chairman of the board, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.
4:10 p.m.: Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia now giving presentation on proposed document, “Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology.” Here’s our preview story.
4:02 p.m.: Preliminary discussion on the bishops’ proposed pastoral letter on marriage.
3:53 p.m.: Here again we have a preview on what the bishops are trying to revise in their health care directives.
3:49 p.m.: Now on to preliminary discussion on a proposed revision to “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care.”
3:41 p.m.: Here’s our story on Cardinal George’s address this afternoon opening the meeting.
3:37 p.m.: If you’re having a hard time following the liturgy issues being discussed right now, here’s a backgrounder on these five action items.
3:24 p.m.: Back in session. First up, preliminary presentations on five liturgy-related action items. The bishops will not vote today — this is just preliminary discussion.
3:01 p.m.: Related to the meeting, we’ve just posted our story on the bishops’ commemoration of the assassination 20 years ago today of six Salvadoran Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter.
2:57 p.m.: Coffee break. Cardinal George wants everyone back at 3:20 to resume.
2:53 p.m.: Father O’Connell gets a standing ovation as he says good-bye and thanks the bishops for the privilege of serving them as president of “your university.”
2:43 p.m.: President of The Catholic University of America, Father David O’Connell, giving his annual update to the bishops. Notes that this is his last address to the bishops before stepping down next August.
2:42 p.m.: Archbishop Sambi concluding his talk. Hope to get the full text later.
2:27 p.m.: If you’re looking for background on the meeting agenda, here’s our preview story. And the bishops’ media office last Friday published this backgrounder called “What’s What at the Bishops’ Meeting.”
2:18 p.m.: Cardinal George concludes his address. Now up is the annual address by the pope’s representative to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi.
2:15 p.m.: Quotes his predecessor, Cardinal Bernardin, on the importance of health care protecting all people, including the unborn.
2:10 p.m.: Cardinal George is emphasizing the importance of the priesthood in this Year for Priests.
2:07 p.m.: VP of bishops’ conference, Bishop Kicanas of Tucson, is introducing Cardinal George for the latter’s presidential address, a sort of a “state of the church” speech that always opens the bishops’ fall meeting.
2:02 p.m.: You can also follow the meeting on the Twitter page of the USCCB media relations office.
1:58 p.m.: National Advisory Council report being given now. Council is a body of laity, religious, priests and bishops that give advice to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on issues facing the bishops. Here’s some background on the council.
1:45 p.m.: Routine opening business, intro of new members, intro of retired bishops who are attending. There’ll be a prayer for deceased bishops, approval of agenda, approval of minutes from previous meeting, before any other action takes place.
1:40 p.m.: That’s Bishop Edward J. Burns, of Juneau, Alaska, leading the opening prayer.
(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)
Tuesday afternoon’s string was getting too long, so we’ve decided to start a new live string here, which begins after the bishops’ mid-afternoon coffee break.
6:45 p.m.: Final press conference is here.
6:23 p.m.: Results are announced that the bishops have approved both liturgical items discussed earlier this afternoon — the Mass translations and the Grail Psalter. Both now need approval by the Vatican before they can be implemented.
And as Cardinal George just said, this ends the public portion of this year’s fall general meeting.
6:17 p.m.: Some questions raised about the criteria and process for the CCHD funding and collection.
6:08 p.m.: He adds that auditors have found no connection between CCHD funding of local ACORN groups and the problems at the national ACORN office.
6:06 p.m.: He stresses that no funds are going to ACORN and that his subcommittee is formally ending any relationship to ACORN because of serious issues such as political partisanship and financial irregularities.
5:45 p.m.: Each of the U.S. synod delegates — Cardinal George, Bishop Kicanas, Archbishop Wuerl, and Cardinal DiNardo — is giving a brief report on what the synod meant to them.
5:36 p.m.: Oral report, led by Cardinal George, now being given on last month’s world Synod of Bishops on Scripture. (You can read all about the synod here.)
5:33 p.m.: Goals and objectives done. Bishop Kicanas thanks the bishops for their input because this will lead to specific goals and objectives to be voted on one year from now.
5:23 p.m.: Bishop Kicanas, who is leading the discussion on goals and objectives, points out that they’re not listed in any order of importance. There had been some concern that cultural diversity was listed ahead of faith formation or vocations.
5:17 p.m.: Seems to be no objections to the goals and objectives, or maybe it’s just because it’s getting late in the day.
5:13 p.m.: I know I missed the debate on the Grail Psalter, but there’ll be more on that later. Now they’re on the long-term goals and objectives.
5:02 p.m.: Committee chairman election results announced. The new chairmen-elect are:
National Collections: Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas.
Cultural Diversity: Coadjutor Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento.
Doctrine: Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
Pro-Life Activities: Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
Communications: Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles.
4:59 p.m.: Paper ballots now being collected.
4:48 p.m.: More discussion of whether these prayers are too long and too hard to understand, even though they’re faithful to the original Latin. Bishop Galeone compares some of the prayers to music — a period is a full stop, a semicolon is a half stop. Should these prayers be poetic or faithful? But Bishop Serratelli, chairman of the liturgy committee, defends the translations, saying they are faithful but not slavish to the Latin. No translation will meet the personal preference of everyone who hears it, he says.
4:45 p.m.: Bishop Braxton warns that some priests and laity have already said they won’t use these translations, so efforts must be made to educate our people.
4:35 p.m.: Ineffable stays. So now they’re working toward a final vote. But this too will be a paper ballot, so results won’t be available right away.
4:29 p.m.: What about the word “ineffable”? Some bishops think people won’t know what it means, but others think liturgical words can rise above ordinary conversation and be worshipful and sacred.
4:21 p.m.: For instance, the dispute now is over how to properly translate a Mass prayer from the original Latin.
4:17 p.m.: This is going to get tedious for the ordinary Catholic, but liturgical issues always take time. And these are the prayers that were rejected at the last meeting.
4:11 p.m.: Here we go. First up, Mass translations.
4:10 p.m.: Cardinal George wanted to resume at 4, but they’re already running late.
(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)
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.
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.
(If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)
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.
12:22 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.)
(UPDATE: For Monday afternoon session, click here.)
The CNS Blog today launches a grand experiment: liveblogging of the public sessions of the U.S. bishops’ fall general meeting in Baltimore. Check back here both for what’s going on on the floor of the meeting but also for links to relevant materials.
12:45 p.m.: Press briefing now being livestreamed on the U.S. bishops’ Web site. Many questions being raised about the Catholic vote in the presidential election. (UPDATE: Link now takes you to recording of this briefing.)
12:32 p.m.: Morning session ends with the praying of the Angelus.
12:16 p.m.: Oops, Archbishop Cordes is now a cardinal (as of a year ago). Here’s a CNS file photo (right) when he visited after Katrina.
12:07 p.m.: Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” is addressing the bishops now on the church’s charitable activities. He recalls visiting devastated areas in the U.S. following Hurricane Katrina.
12:03 p.m.: Concludes by recalling that he was worried about what he would say to the pope when they shared an elevator ride during the papal visit. But the pope set him at ease when he told Father O’Connell that CUA is “a truly great Catholic university.”
12:01 p.m.: Difficult times because of the current economic crisis, but Father O’Connell says fundraising has been strong.
11:51 a.m.: Father O’Connell says he’s proud that the pope chose CUA as “his pulpit” for addressing the U.S. bishops last April. And he says the impact of the papal visit on the students of the university is hard to describe.
11:47 a.m.: Next up, a report to the bishops by Vincentian Father David M. O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America. He’s grateful for the bishops’ support, both personally and financially, for “the bishops’ university.”
11:43 a.m.: Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati draws a laugh from the bishops when he notes that the proposed document is erroneous when it refers to “a varia” since the singular form of the word is “varium.” The proposal then is approved.
11:38 a.m.: Now they’re on “varia” process. This too is fairly internal: How do bishops raise new topics for the conference to explore and how are these ideas assigned to a committee?
11:36 a.m.: Remember, this is just a preliminary discussion. Vote on priorities and plans is tomorrow.
11:30 a.m.: Some discussion of the bishops’ marriage initiative, but much of this discussion continues to be fairly routine.
11:14 a.m.: Priority and plans of the bishops’ conference now up for discussion. This is routine stuff that happens every year, though this is the first discussion following the USCCB restructuring which took effect this year.
11:05 a.m.: Only two questions on the blessing in the womb item, so now they’ve moved on to the translation of the Roman Missal rejected at their previous meeting.
11:01 a.m.: Meanwhile, the full text of Cardinal George’s address to the bishops is now posted on the bishops’ Web site.
10:59 a.m.: Proposed liturgical item on blessing of a child in the womb now on the floor.
10:57 a.m.: Break over, on to “action items.” The bishops don’t vote now. Documents are presented and bishops can ask for clarification.
10:25 a.m.: Coffee break, and then there will be preliminary consideration of the meeting’s “action items,” such as a proposed service for the blessing of a child in the womb and the bishops’ conference priorities and plans.
10:20 a.m.: Auxiliary Bishop Cisneros of Brooklyn addressing bishops about last year’s Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean and presents a triptych representative of the meeting, which Cardinal George says will be given a place of prominence at the bishops’ headquarters.
10:17 a.m.: Archbishop Sambi is given a standing ovation at the end of his talk, customary for the pope’s representative in the United States. Cardinal George suggests he ask the pope for a raise.
10:16 a.m.: USCCB has Web page devoted solely to this meeting.
10:13 a.m.: Archbishop Sambi covering list of all the duties of bishops, including supporting their priests.
10:08 a.m.: Praises American Catholics’ emphasis on religious education.
10:00 a.m.: Archbishop Sambi recalling words of Pope Benedict to the bishops in Washington last April.
9:55 a.m.: Now the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Sambi, addresses the meeting. Last year he announced the schedule for the papal trip to the United States
9:54 a.m.: Time of challenge for the church and the nation, but all times are, the cardinal says.
9:50 a.m.: Applause when Cardinal George comments that life of the unborn cannot be sacrificed.
9:47 a.m.: Opens with comments on the election of the first African-American president, but also talks about how Catholic politicians often have to put aside church teachings to be successful.
9:46 a.m.: Cardinal George, president of the USCCB, is delivering the meeting’s “presidential address,” which some would call a “state of the church” speech.
9:40 a.m.: For instance, report includes recommendations — and strong support — for the bishops’ movie reviews from the Office for Film and Broadcasting.
9:35 a.m.: National Advisory Council report being given now. Council is a body of laity, religious, priests and bishops that give advice to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on issues facing the bishops. Here’s some background on the council from earlier this year.
9:20 a.m.: Meeting opens with message to the Holy Father, as it always does, asking Pope Benedict to pray for the bishops as they deliberate.