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

Catholic-Anglican, Catholic-Jewish updates

A couple of quick updates:

1. I tried to make some sense yesterday of the Vatican’s plans for welcoming disaffected Anglicans. Seveal readers thought it’s a bigger deal than I did — and they may be right.

tjndc5-5b1zfjkl3wh1kt3dbk3i_layoutI got a pithy reaction from Bishop Catherine Roskam, the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, which I share here:

*****

We appreciate the welcome the pope extended to those in the Anglican communion who are disaffected. We for our part continue to welcome our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, both lay and ordained, conservative and liberal, who wish to belong to a church that treasures diversity of thought.

*****

John Allen has a comprehensive analysis of “What the Vatican’s Welcome of Anglicans means” HERE.

2. I wrote at the start of the week about Archbishop Dolan planning to take part in a program about Catholic-Jewish relations with the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC.

It turns out that Dolan will be focusing quite a bit about Catholic relations with the Jewish community — and not just in New York.

tjndc5-5p0fc6hpy5iqbjxb6h4_thumbnailHe’s been named Moderator of Jewish Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a pretty significant role. He’s replacing Cardinal William H. Keeler, the retired Archbishop of Baltimore, who has been a key international figure in Catholic-Jewish relations.

The appointment is effective Nov. 11 and is good for five years.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the Bishops  Conference, says:

*****

Since the Second Vatican Council, important strides in this relationship have been made through dialogue and collaboration in countering racism, anti-Semitism and other offenses against human dignity. Our Episcopal Conference, through the leadership of your predecessors in New York, and especially through the tireless and generous service of Cardinal William Keeler, has sought to contribute to the work of reconciliation between the Church and the Jewish people after centuries of mutual estrangement. While we look back with gratitude on nearly a half century of progress in these efforts at healing and renewal, we also know that important and pressing challenges lie ahead for us.

*****

George also said that the Jewish community will find Dolan to be “a friend who communicates the joy of his own faith, while at the same time conveying profound respect for the spiritual gifts of the other.”

Dolan will join Keeler on November 11 for the semi-annual USCCB’s consultation with the National Council of Synagogues — with Dolan taking over as co-chair.