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Analysis: After McCarrick report, US bishops have Zoom meeting

By JD Flynn for CNA

Bishops listen to a speaker during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore Nov. 12, 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Denver Newsroom, Nov 6, 2020 / 05:22 pm (CNA).-

Like a lot of people, U.S. Catholic bishops are spending a great deal of time in Zoom meetings these days. In fact in less than two weeks, their annual fall meeting will be a virtual one.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has compressed its November meeting, which is usually a four-day affair, into two afternoon sessions, scheduled to take place Nov. 16 and 17. Because they cancelled their June meeting, the November virtual sessions will be the first time the bishops have met since last year, and the agenda for the meeting will be packed.

But while the bishops have several items of business, it is likely to be what’s said or not said about Theodore McCarrick that gets attention from Catholics during the meeting.

The bishops have done some homework in advance of the meeting, voting on candidates for seven committee heads and on a candidate to replace outgoing General Secretary Msgr. Brian Bransfield, whose term as administrative head of the conference will come to an end at the meeting. Bransfield is expected within the conference to be succeeded by Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, who has been Bransfield’s deputy since 2016.

The race for chairman of the Catholic education committee is likely to garner attention among bishops concerned with religious liberty challenges in Catholic schools. The candidates are Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly, who is known to be outspoken about Catholic teaching on cultural and moral issues, and Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer of Atlanta, who in 2015 called the Obergefell Supreme Court decision, which found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, “primarily a declaration of civil rights.”

Bishops have told CNA they expect Bishop Christopher Coyne is likely to win the chairmanship of the communications committee – the win would be his second term, as Coyne held the same seat from 2014 to 2017. Some bishops have also told CNA they expect Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville – a bilingual Thomist and a Tolkien fan – will be elected to lead the doctrine committee.

Apart from committee races, bishops will vote on a motion to reauthorize their ad hoc committee on racism for another three years, that motion is sure to pass. Also certain to pass are votes on the 2021-2024 strategic plan, which sets the goals of the conference’s staff, and the 2021 budget.

The budget is worth giving attention.

The conference will not project a budget deficit in 2021, but only because the bishops narrowly approved a revenue increase in January, voting for an increase of the amount each diocese must contribute to the USCCB. Without that increase, the conference would have otherwise run a deficit budget or been forced to make deep cuts.

The bishops’ conference was on uncertain financial footing before the financial crisis associated with the pandemic. And last November, Archbishop Charles Chaput objected to increased diocesan funding to the USCCB.

“I don’t think that some of the work of the USCCB is essential to the mission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” he said.

“I don’t have this kind of money to keep increasing it [the assessment],” Chaput said. “We have huge expenses because of the sexual abuse issue and related circumstances.”

Chaput’s comment did not dissuade the bishops from passing a diocesan tax increase.

A virtual meeting may limit the degree to which bishops can raise questions or concerns about the conference budget. But with Church revenues impacted by decreased Mass attendance, even as the stock market recovers, more bishops may begin to raise questions about the viability of the conference budget, even while they are likely to pass it.

The bishops have reportedly also allocated time for some discussion of the issues that have dominated headlines in recent months: the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s burgeoning issues surrounding racial disparities and tensions. While those discussions will be seen as important to have, Catholics will also likely expect bishops to discuss the Vatican’s report on Theodore McCarrick, which will have been released just six days before the meeting begins.

It will be the McCarrick Report that has dominated Catholic headlines in the days leading up to the bishops’ meeting, and there will be an expectation among Catholics that it be a topic of import at the bishops’ meeting. When Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., addresses the bishops, he will be expected to address it. When Archbishop Jose Gomez, USCCB president, addresses the bishops, he will be expected to address it. And when bishops conduct a press conference after the first day of the meeting, it will be the topic journalists want to hear about.

In the two years since Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse and misconduct became known by American Catholics, the U.S. bishops have had varied responses.

At times the bishops have seemed to be looking for answers on McCarrick; at times they have been unwilling to press the Holy See for those answers. At times they have promised transparency, and at other times they have declined to answer questions.

The Archdiocese of Washington has not yet released information about McCarrick’s discretionary accounts, with which he reportedly gave lavish gifts to American bishops and to curial officials. The Archdiocese of Newark has not yet released its files on McCarrick’s beach houses (he had two during his tenure in Newark), and on its records of what went on there.

Catholics have asked that basic standards of accountability be applied to the McCarrick case: That those who ignored, enabled, or covered-up for McCarrick’s criminal behavior be held accountable. They have asked that Church leaders be held responsible for their roles in the McCarrick affair in the same way most laypeople expect to be held accountable for breaches of professional standards of conduct.

Angry Catholics have sometimes demanded more than is reasonable to expect, and in some cases their rhetoric has become systemically anti-clerical. That approach is not helpful, but it does not reflect the mainstream. Most faithful Catholics have said they just want to see their leaders held accountable, because they want their Church to be holy.

The McCarrick Report may be the first step to ensuring that kind of accountability. If it is, the bishops will be expected to address that. But if the McCarrick Report does not answer the questions that Catholics have been asking, many Catholics will be looking to their shepherds to stand up for them, and for their hope that the Church would protect them, hold wrongdoers responsible, and work for truth, and for justice.

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  1. “Catholics have asked that basic standards of accountability be applied to the McCarrick case: That those who ignored, enabled or covered-up for McCarrick’s behavior be held accountable. They have asked that Church leaders be held responsible for their roles in the same way most laypeople expect to be held responsible for breaches of professional standards of conduct.”

    Well said, which begs the question – Is this asking too much?

    • Definitely not, forgive others, that we might be forgiven for our sins… that is for sure. Following of Jesus has no place in the US Catholic church, its all about, show usA the money..

      We need no more proof, usA is total morally, ethically financially, devoid of integrity, clarity, harmony nation.. Get off of zoom, and back amongst the People, where they belong.

      • 70X7 forgiveness, and unlimited mercy were at the core of the catch and release of the offending clergy in the clerical abuse scandal. It only resulted in more people being damaged by the offending clergy in repeated abusive behavior. The Church and the mental health profession did not demonstrate any competency during this scandal. Catch and release was a failure. It took victim lawsuits, legal prosecution, and the laicization of the offending clergy to effectively deal with the clerical abuse crisis.

  2. So, the USCCB has a “committee on racism”? There’s manly courage, no?

    What’s next, a committee on Virtue Signaling?

    And speaking of political fetishes, why not have a committee to fetishize the pandemic, modeled on “the liturgy of the pandemic” being recited in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception?

    And also a committee on “queering the parish,” following the model implemented in Atlanta by “His-then-Excellency” Wilton Gregory, before he was appointed as “godfather” to “The-See-of-McCarrick” in Washington DC. “His Eminence” Gregory can be “the Chair-Person.”

    Who isn’t proud of our collected Bishops?

  3. The real issues Catholics are asking.
    Catholics have asked that basic standards of accountability be applied to, realization of the destruction of Education, an ignoring of an entire Generation plus of children uneducated. Education not, but rather a brain washing, resulting in children saddled with debt, student loans, debt slaves. When to educate ourselves, and others is of the greater moral obligation of ourselves, and to others.. A true Charity to others, that has no exception, to others as well.. The right path, of Truth, has no exception..
    Accountability to Unbridled Capitalism, destroying the US economics, creating in the US, and World, a workforce of wage and debt slaves. Wage slavery is now the norm in the US, and all of the Americas. As the repeat in all of history, a few hoard the wealth today. Leading to doom and social upheaval, in starvation in the USA and the World. The past destruction of the family farm, the back bone of a nation. Where is this in the discussion of “assumed” Catholic leaders agenda?

    Where is the Council on the issue of Millions sent by “assumed” Catholics to Syria, in combination with the corruption of? Why did those millions go to Syria, when those Millions came from US Catholics, and went to Syria?
    Unjust War, the Genocide on Yemen, the Worst Crime against humanity in all of World History, by the US.. Where is the Council of Catholics if they are of the Catholic faith to fully stand against this? Charity to All, Malice to none, is non negotiable, nor murder, war on the poorest of the poor. Unjust war on Iraq, Iran is wrong, defiant to all morals, ethics of the Catholic teachings. Denial of faith, as a wall, denial, indifference to Mexico, Haiti, and all the Americas..
    The Mass slaughter of human life around the World, Americas, Catholics, Venezuela, and Syria, Islamic, and Yemen, poorest of the poor, yet the indifference of, by United States leaders, religious, Catholic, Christian, cries for the Wrath of God..
    The indifference that flows from the issue, to others, is merely a standard today, its only recognized, because the money flows from, in the greed that follows.
    Vanity of self satisfaction, in the denial of charity to others.

    • Please stop posting these psychotic, incoherent, and irrelevant posts on this site. Your behavior is inappropriate and deeply disrespectful.

    • Says Lyle: “Unjust War, the Genocide on Yemen, the Worst Crime [!] against humanity in all of World History…” Really? Yet, Lyle is correct in his concern with education as “ignoring an entire GENERATION.” Most humbly, I recommend a book so titled, by yours truly: “A Generation Abandoned” (University Press of America/Hamilton Books, 2017). The Catholic World Report author-interview is here:

      (Some genocidal history—from the book) “…Utopia was within reach, Marx insisted, if one could tap into the smoldering resentment of the working class only waiting to be organized. Vladimir Lenin activated this ideology by calling for a ruling elite (as with our own self-anointed “creative class”?) to move things along. The Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin, then gave this agenda a big push following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the brutal murder of an ineffective czar and his entire family, plus the annihilation of COUNTLESS Russians, SEVEN MILLION Ukrainians, and a total of SIXTY TO SEVENTY MILLION. This starvation genocide by a modern dictator—known as “Genghis Khan with a telephone”—is little stressed in modern Western education [!]. In China, Mao Tse-tung is credited with an EQUAL NUMBER of casualties. By comparison, Hitler was a piker with only TEN MILLION exterminations (six million of these being Jews).”

      • Its very interesting, Hitler was elected verse, the Communistic party…Who moved on to bring Russia to be communistic….
        Germany today, is one of the most solid economies, while Russia is a civilization mired in total ruin. Also interesting that Hitler was motivated by no better word, Hate of, Unbridled Capitalism….
        People cannot handle thought provoking ideas, but, who would be the US ally today in a war?? Communistic Russia,, and China again?

        or the British, the outlawed the Catholic church under Cromwell, and exterminated all that failed to denounce the Catholic faith, more so in Ireland…

        As the Genocide rages on in Yemen, can we admit the Genocide on the Philippines, or the forced Military take over of Hawaiian Islands was also a Genocide by international law.
        We can also jump back to, Evangelization, did not spread from where Jesus walked, but rather from, the Germanic region of the World… and came to be known as the region of a great priority of ? to who ?.
        The people who first grasped and accepted the Gospel, Jesus, the Catholic church, and then, spread it to the World, was the Germanic region… Interesting..
        So, who knows what the priority of ? to ? is?
        The Genocide of Yemen is totally wrong, but, modernism has its price, as Pius X recognized… oh , is that “Saint” Pius X?
        what justifies the United States actions of Genocide on Yemen? Explain that, when it defies all the Catholic faith stands for?

        We all have to agree, war is murder, as genocide, very defiant to the Catholic faith…

        • We all also have to agree – your posts are disconnected from reality. There is no such thing as “unbridled capitalism,” and there is no “genocide” taking place in Yemen. I guess next you’re going to tell us the earth is flat and the moon landings were fake.

          • I live and work in the Vicariate of Southern Arabia which includes the UAE, Oman and Yemen. The situation there is horrible. Please do not deny the reality of this tragic country. We have already suffered the martyrdom of many of our sisters (Missionaries of Charity). Please pray for the poor and suffering people of Yemen.

        • Lyle, what is your original language? Manifestly it isn’t English. Knowing what it is might help us decipher your posts.

          And are you actually questioning the sanctity of St. Pius X? So, John F. Kennedy was a martyr but Pius X wasn’t a saint? Second question: To what denomination do you belong? Clearly you aren’t Catholic.

    • The mass slaughter of human life around the world? Here you MUST be talking about abortion – 60 million dead babies in the United States alone.

  4. “Angry Catholics have sometimes demanded more than is reasonable to expect, and in some cases their rhetoric has become systemically anti-clerical. That approach is not helpful […].”

    This paragraph is simply incredible! It is unreasonable to expect Catholic teaching from Catholic bishops? It is unreasonable to expect them not to endorse a candidate who promotes infanticide? It is unreasonable for them to oppose immoral laws promoting homosexual “marriage”? It is unreasonable to demand that they root out the sodomites who continue to corrupt the Church at every level?

    If anyone believes that the bishops, these cultural Marxists, have had any sort of reckoning with the truth after the latest round of scandals, almost any statement by Flynn and the CNA will disabuse you of that illusion.

    Every once in a while, the thought occurs to me that I should be engaging in more charity giving with my money. But I am forever finished contributing to the parish > diuocese > USCCB racket. An envelope with some cash handed directly to an orthodox priest. That’s it. Nothing more, ever again.

    Why do we have bishops? We would be better off without them!

  5. The better question of the United States Catholic leadership, Bishops, meet, exist in, Washington DC? Some place between, oh Please Mr. Government save us, and show us the money..
    Defiantly, not among the Poor, the Down trodden, or wage and debt slaves, do they meet, or focus.
    Catholics would do themselves a great favor, and come to a great understanding of the USA church, the politics. If they came to grasp the Truth, Question of Catholic President Kennedy and the issue, the Man was Martyred for standing up for the Catholic faith, and what it calls us to.. Integrity to stand up for the poor, the down trodden, those persecuted and forgotten.. Most directly, the USA actions then on Guatemala, and the Middle East then, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
    Kennedy did stand against the corruption of, and for that he was Martyred, and to that, the persecution, suffering, misery rages on today…
    And those that opposed Kennedy, gained ties to driving the US Catholic Church. Amazing.
    From that, its only expected, they, Catholic leadership, would meet in, Washington DC..

    • “Kennedy did stand against the corruption of, and for that he was Martyred…”

      Uh, no. Please. Stop. Kennedy, at best, was a mediocre POTUS; he was, at best, a deeply compromised and immoral man. Let Camelot go. It was never real.

      • I was quite politically aware at the time of the Kennedy/Nixon election, although not old enough to vote, so I remember it pretty well. I would not have voted for Kennedy (whose party stole the election through voter fraud in Texas and Illinois), although over time I have come to appreciate him more fully. Yes, he was a deeply flawed individual (as are many of us), whose failings were intentionally hidden by the news media, which were quite aware of them. That does not, however, negate the fact that President Kennedy may have seen how profoundly compromised some elements of government were becoming and planned to do something about it. I simply do not know, but sinners are not incapable of doing the right thing, or even incapable of self-sacrifice. I am not much of a Kennedy fan, but I accept the idea that “bad” men can do good things.

    I don’t know if you all have read this but it states on this link that the CEO of Zoom, along with LOTS of others support abortion. I wish a statement would come out from the Pope that ALL catholic parishes, organizations etc. not to use ZOOM for this reason.
    Sincerely in Christ, Karen N. Roggenkamp

  7. Zooming in it was said all enjoyed the Fall color slide show, some were rumored to have had thoughtful thoughts, there was a smattering of what may be taken as constructive musing on the second ‘practicing Catholic’ president, Zooming out well wishes for a happy Thanksgiving were unanimously given and warmly received.

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