Also at the bishops conference…

As I mentioned in my Tastykakes post earlier today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Baltimore (where the Catholic Church got its start in the U.S.).

The agenda has to do with more than sweet cream (and whatever else Tastykakes are made of).

Cardinal George of Chicago (right), the president of the Bishops posse, opened the gathering yesterday by wondering what life would be like without ordained priests, according to Catholic News Service. He considered the possibility of more authority resting with professors, political leaders and therapists — and didn’t like the picture.

Catholic BishopsOf course, “the church would be deprived of the Eucharist, and her worship would be centered only on the praise and thanksgiving,” he lamented.

Today, the bishops celebrated their influence in keeping health-care reform legislation “abortion neutral.”

“It was a good example of how we as a conference can work together to have a positive influence on legislation,” said Bishop William F. Murphy (left) of Rockville Centre (Long Island) in a report to fellow bishops.

At Cardinal George’s request, the bishops applauded in unison to show their support for Murphy’s statement, according to CNS.

George said the conference would “remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation…We will work to persuade the Senate to follow the example of the House and include these critical safeguards in their version of health care reform legislation.”

Interestingly, the left-leaning/progressive National Catholic Reporter reported that George, in his opening address, talked about the need for Catholic colleges, publications and other organizations to more closely align themselves with the bishops’ leadership. He said that Catholic groups that do not do so are “sectarian, less than fully Catholic,” and talked about the bishops strengthening their relationship with Catholic universities and media.

NCR reports that George did not name specific Catholic media, colleges or  other organizations that he had in mind. But he said that “if any institution, including the media, calls itself Catholic,” it is the moral responsibility of a bishop to assure that it is Catholic.

There has been much talk in recent years, both from the Vatican and in the U.S., of Catholic colleges and universities strengthening their Catholic identities.

But how might the bishops reach out to independent Catholic media? NCR is probably itching to find out.

Also, the bishops affirmed today in a pastoral letter that  the church defines marriage as between one man and one woman — and that sex is meant for procreation.

(The bishop in the middle of the picture, by the way, is Archbishop George Niederauer, chair of the bishops’ communications committee.)

Photo: AP/Rob Carr

Maryknoll priest to lead The Christophers

A Maryknoll priest who has served as a missionary in Venezuela and China has been named the new director of The Christophers, the well-known Catholic media group based in NYC.

Father Dennis Cleary took over earlier this month. “I am inspired by The Christophers’ motto: ‘It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,’ ” he said.

The Christophers use various media to promote the message that everyone can make a difference in the world. They also present annual awards for work in television, film and books.

The group was founded in 1945 by a Maryknoll priest, Father James Keller, so Cleary’s arrival has revived the connection between Ossining-based Maryknoll and The Christophers.

Cleary, a Buffalo native, was ordained a Maryknoll priest in 1977. He served in Venezuela from 1976 to 1993, living among the poor. He developed an interest in the media, producing a news show — Channel Zero — for three barrios and starting a production studio in Caracas that did documentaries.

In 1997, he was elected Maryknoll’s U.S. regional supervisor, assigning Maryknollers to ministries across the U.S.

From 2004 to 2006, he taught English and Spanish at a university in Shenyang, China, counseled students and led a reflection group for members of the local church.

He returned to the U.S. as Maryknoll’s director of mission education and promotion.

Mary Ellen Robinson, vice president of The Christophers, who is responsible for overseeing its day-to-day operations, said: “I’m looking forward to working with Father Cleary. I’ve known him for many years, and I’m happy to say he’s been on hand for many of our events and activities. He knows the message of hope and encouragement that we spread all over the world, and I believe that our friends and supporters will welcome his caring presence.”

Here is the Prayer of The Christophers:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be
consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.

–attributed to St. Francis of Assisi