Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Social Encyclical Primer

Since it looks like Pope Benedict's long-awaited social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, will be appearing any day now (he reportedly signed it Monday), it's probably a good time to take a look at the history of Catholic social teaching, specifically as it has been expressed through papal encyclicals.

Here are the highlights:

Rerum Novarum (Of New Things) 1891, Pope Leo XIII -- essentially the Big Bang of Catholic social teaching, truly groundbreaking, and the standard that popes have looked back to ever since (see below). This encyclical tackles the turmoil surrounding labororers in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, touching on issues including socialism, unbridled capitalism, a living wage, the relationship between laborer and employer, and the relationship between classes. Pope Leo also makes a first mention of the preferential option for the poor.

Quadragesimo Anno (After Forty Years) 1931, Pope Pius XI -- following Rerum Novarum by exactly 40 years, this encyclical offers an update on the state of labor and industrialization, also offering strong critiques of communism, unrestrained capitalism and classism.

Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) 1961, Pope John XXIII -- issued 70 years after Rerum Novarum, this encyclical looks to the Church as the "Mother and Teacher," calling the world to salvation and better social relationships with one another. It looks at science and technology, noting both their power to improve the human condition, but also to limit human freedoms, calling on governments to safeguard against this and ensure human rights. The encyclical calls on wealthier nations to help poorer ones. It also criticizes ideologies (not specifically naming communism) that promise to create a paradise in this world, while disregarding religion.

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) 1963, Pope John XXIII -- issued only two months before the pope's death, this encyclical is the first ever to be directed to "all men of good will," instead of just the world's Catholics. In a response to the Cold War, the encyclical outlines necessary conditions for a lasting world peace, looking at the rights of individuals, the relationships between individuals and states, the relationships between states, and the relationship between leaders and the whole world.

Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) 1967, Pope Paul VI -- this encyclical, which Benedict's new encyclical is believed to echo, looks at the economy on a global level and addresses the rights of workers to unionize and to have secure employment, decent working conditions.

Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) 1981, Pope John Paul II -- issued in honor of the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, this encyclical once again looks at the rights and dignity of workers, with emphases including disabled workers, emigration, materialism, and the spirituality of work.

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern) 1987, Pope John Paul II -- this encyclical honored Populorum Progressio on its 20th anniversary, offering a then-contemporary reading of the challenges first addressed in the earlier encyclical.

Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) 1991, Pope John Paul II -- on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, John Paul II reflected on the current state of issues that Leo XIII had assessed in his day. Leo XIII had issued warnings about socialism before it had developed into a movement. John Paul II wrote in the immediate wake of the fall of communism.

Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) 1995, Pope John Paul II -- an affirmation of the gift of human life and the need to protect it, this encyclical dealt with widespread abortion, the threat of euthanasia and renewed use of the death penalty.

Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) 2005, Pope Benedict XVI -- Benedict's first encyclical, that could have been an abstract or scholarly treatise, instead dug deep into the concept of love and cited the connections between love of God and love of neighbor. Pope Benedict said the Church could no more neglect charity than it could Scripture or the sacraments and even called charity a manifestation of Trinitarian love.

Caritas In Veritate (Charity in Truth) 2009, Pope Benedict XVI -- anticipated since 2007, this encyclical is believed to follow up on the themes of Populorum Progressio. Dealing with the ethics of contemporary economics, it's reasonable to think that the global economic crisis will weigh in heavily on what the pope has to say.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Sheared Lambs Did Their Part

New archbishops around the world will receive their pallia from the pope on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Among those going to Rome for the occasion are Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Archbishop-designate Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Archbishop-designate George Lucas of Omaha.

Much symbolism surrounds the pallia, which are white woolen bands, about two inches wide, that are worn around the neck. Pope Benedict XVI will present a pallium to Latin-rite archbishops recently named to head metropolitan sees.

Pallia are liturgical vestments worn over the chasuble at Mass, decorated with six dark crosses, with a strip hanging in front and in back and a pendant at the end of each strip. From front or back, the pallium resembles a “Y.” The pallium represent the archbishop’s authority over his ecclesiastical province and his unity with the pope, who also wears a pallium. The wool of an archbishop’s pallium recalls Jesus’s words to Peter: Feed my lambs (Jn 21:15). An archbishop is buried with his pallium.

There are differences between the archbishops’ pallia and the pope’s pallium. The archbishops’ pallia are woven from wool from lambs. The pope’s pallium is woven of wool from both lambs and sheep, to reflect Jesus’s telling Peter: “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep.”

The wool for the pallia is no ordinary wool. It comes from very young lambs who are incensed and blessed after a solemn Mass on the Feast of St. Agnes (January 28) at Rome’s Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls. Afterwards the lambs are shown to the pope at the Vatican and then cared for by the Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. The nuns care for them until Holy Thursday when the lambs are sheared.

On June 28, the vigil of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pallia are placed on an altar in St. Peter’s Basilica near the tomb of St. Peter, where they remain throughout the night.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Unprecedented Dialogue Bears Very Specific Fruit

I recently had the unique experience of sitting in on a conference call in person, as the USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development facilitated the announcement of some "guidance and options" that emerged as a document, Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions, from the unprecedented dialogue between the U.S. bishops, Catholic health care and labor leaders. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, moderated both the dialogue and the phone conference.

America Magazine has already blogged on the session, capturing quite a bit of its content and flavor.

The aim of the "guidance and options" dialogue and document was to create a fair process for Catholic health care workers to decide whether or not to form a union. This involved a long process of getting Catholic bishops, Catholic health care leaders and labor leaders to find common ground informed by Catholic social teaching.

Ultimately, the document proffers seven key principles of appropriate conduct between employers and union representatives:

-- demonstrate respect for each other’s organization and mission
-- provide workers with equal access to information from both sides
-- adhere to standards for truthfulness and balance in their communications
-- create a pressure-free environment
-- allow workers to vote through a fair and expeditious process
-- honor employees’ decision regardless of the outcome
-- create a system for enforcing these principles during the course of an organizing drive

That last point about enforcement raised a question from a reporter if these measures were going to be enforced by the dialogue panel that produced them. It was quickly noted that the document's "guidance and options" were just that and therefore non-binding. The point of non-binding seemed to elicit a tone of "well then, what's the point?" in the reporter's voice.

The points, it turned out, were several. First, Cardinal McCarrick pointed out, the document wasn't binding because the panel was not in authority to bind (trust a man who's participated in a conclave to know a little something about conferring the power to bind). That is, none of the organizations involved owed any sort of allegiance to the dialogue panel. But, it was then raised, those very organizations and institutions had come forward years ago and asked that a document of this sort be created. So, now that it's been made a reality, why would they not want to adopt its principles?

I believe it was Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Hospital Association who raised the point that these principles, though non-binding, reflect solid Catholic social teaching and would be in the best interest of any organization to implement.

So, while the unionization of Catholic health care workers may be a little on the esoteric side for some of us, this is still a happy instance of dialogue and working toward common ground bearing fruit for the benefit of all involved.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Catechetical Sunday Goes Digital

The latest to jump into a stream of Web endeavors by various departments at the USCCB, Evangelization and Catechesis has made the materials for Catechetical Sunday 2009 available exclusively online.

While Catechetical Sunday isn't until September 20, the materials are traditionally made available earlier in the year to give teachers, families and other catechists time to prepare in parishes, homes and dioceses across the country. And so numerous resources are available on the new Catechetical Sunday Web page in both English and Spanish, as announced by our office this afternoon.

While some Catechetical Sunday materials have been made in electronic form, i.e CD Roms, in the past, this is the first time the materials have ever been offered entirely online.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bishops Changing Stuff

While bureaucracies, committees and other organizational structures are often regarded as obstacles to change and flexibility, this week's meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops in San Antonio showed that this is not necessarily the case.

First came the early intervention in the meeting when USCCB President Cardinal George asked if there were any amendments to the proposed agenda and Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles stood up and said yes, as a matter of fact, there were. Mahony proposed that, meeting in a border state, perhaps the meeting would be a good opportunity for the bishops' to reiterate their support for comprehensive immigration reform. After approval both for the motion and then, the next day, for a text adapted by Cardinal George from a proposed text by Cardinal Mahony, this was the quick end result.

Cardinal Mahony's intervention on the agenda wasn't the only example of a single bishop causing the proceedings to seemingly turn on a dime this week. Even more striking was the change that grew out of a question/comment by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska during the debate on the liturgical items before the body of bishops.

Up to this point in the meeting, the bishops had been cruising along nicely with their electronic voting system, approving the long-gestating Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life and its subsequent adaptation into the U.S. missal.

But when the next action item, Masses and Prayer for Various Needs and Intentions -- part of the ongoing work of completing a new English translation of the Mass -- came up for a vote, the screen that had projected the earlier vote totals, complete with colorful bars, remained blank.

The vote, it was announced, had been inconclusive. That is, the item had failed to achieve the necessary approval of two thirds of the Latin church bishops and would therefore be sent to the bishops absent from the meeting to complete the ballotting by mail.

It was at that moment that Bishop Bruskewitz stood and, even admitting that this was probably an exercise in futility, asked why it was that the bishops were not permitted to see the inconclusive vote totals. He included the observation that the USCCB staff get to see the results (though this writer is certainly not one of those special few). Were they somehow trustworthy, he speculated, while the bishops themselves were not?

Msgr. David Malloy, General Secretary of the USCCB, noted that there had never been a leak from the USCCB staff on a vote total and that the policy of not releasing an inconclusive vote was done to preserve the integrity of the balloting process. The bishops present at the meeting vote on a measure without knowing its prospects for passing or not passing. Bishops absent from the meeting should receive the same treatment, lest they be swayed by the knowledge that their vote might be critical or futile, one way or the other, whatever the case may be. If memory serves, he also suggested that there was a fear of inappropriate lobbying for the votes of absentee bishops, should it be public knowledge that a vote is very close.

From there, a lively debate ensued, with it quickly becoming apparent that more than a couple bishops were also interested in knowing the inconclusive total. Questions were raised as to whether absent bishops would receive minutes of the meeting or summary of the debate preceding the vote -- such as Bishop Donald Trautman's unambiguous declaration that he felt the new translation was unproclaimable and not ready. Msgr. Malloy said absent bishops receive documentation but not minutes.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, after discouraging the cumbersome prospect of sending whole debate transcripts to absentees, said he saw Bishop Bruskewitz's point and moved that the inconclusive total be made known. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia seconded the motion.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit then stood up and said that he didn't favor such a sudden and sweeping change in Conference procedure without its going through the proper channels. On those grounds, he opposed the motion.

At this point, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Vice President of the USCCB, asked if this motion applied to all inconclusive vote totals or merely the one currently before the bishops. Archbishop Pilarczyk clarified and said his motion would be for all of them from here forward.

With that, Bishop Blaise Cupich of Rapid City, S.D. opposed the motion on the earlier grounds of making the mail vote different from the original vote.

Other points that were raised included Cardinal Mahony citing that he had absent auxiliaries who would find the vote count helpful and Bishop Michael Pfeifer of San Angelo noting that essentially all bishops have cell phones, e-mail, etc., that they weren't somehow disconnected from what was going on with the conference simply by missing a meeting or not being provided with a vote count.

Ultimately, the motion passed, 122 to 65. From there, each liturgy vote, all but one of them inconclusive, splashed across the screen, providing an erstwhile unseen perspective on where the bishops as a whole stand on the particular issue of liturgical translations.

And while this whole affair could be chalked up to mere procedural matters, voting on voting, as it were, it still offers an interesting glimpse of one bishop expressing a sentiment that, by his own admission, might have gone nowhere, but instead ended up changing the protocols of the organization on the spot. Bolder people would make comments about the Spirit, but this writer will stop at saying this is yet another instance of the U.S. bishops wrestling with that mysterious concept talked about at Vatican II called collegiality, that is, the collaborative and collective exercise of their authority in governing and ministering to the church.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And We're Done

With the bishop going into executive session for the remainder of their meeting, Media Relations is pretty much folding up shop. A few reporters are lingering, filing their stories, grabbing interviews, etc. An overcast day in San Antonio has just turned to rain, and we'll be headed back home tonight.

Thanks to all who loved our Twittering this meeting to death. Apologies to all who found it incessant. Hopefully, once we've recovered, the activity on the blog will pick up, and the Twitter feed will return to its usual two or three items a day ... that is, until the fall general meeting in Baltimore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 1 Down

So, I found out toward the tail end of today's press conference that there's such a thing as a Tweets per hour limit. This, along with the Internet outage at the start of Archbishop Kurtz's presentation on the ad hoc committee on marriage, was my only real technical hiccup today.

So, Twitter may think I'm a spammer now. And at least seven of our followers walked away, presumably in disgust from the excessive posting. But still, it seemed like a successful, stenographer-styled, apparently first-ever Twittering of a USCCB meeting.

Some memorable comments slipped by, and it was nigh impossible to nail exact quotes. But I don't think I libeled any of my collective employers today. The @replies on Twitter suggest that our coverage went over very well, complete with some passionate, sometimes heated reactions to what some of the bishops had to say.

I recommend going to Twitter and searching for "@usccbmedia" to get a flavor of the discourse.

To get the original feed itself, again, the Twitter handle is twitter.com/usccbmedia.

Well, the last interview has ceased, and it's time to close the media shop and embark on another evening in gradually cooling San Antonio.

Thanks again to everyone for reading and commenting. It made an exciting day riveting.

On the Ground in San Antonio

Pardon the sparse posting. USCCB Media Relations, along with much of the Conference, has been in San Antonio since Monday. The Hyatt Regency Riverwalk -- a beautifully cavernous hotel with a fun layout -- is crawling with bishops and their staff.

The last couple days have featured blistering San Antonio heat outside the hotel, which subsides into pleasantly warm nighttime temperatures, just perfect for strolling the Riverwalk and searching out Texas barbecue.

Tech people are currently working on the video feed that will link the EWTN camera to several monitors throughout the hotel. Their coverage is to be "partial" this time, with a one-camera setup.

The first public session of the meeting is slated to begin in about two hours (1:30 p.m. Central Time). We'll be active on Twitter as events unfold.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Orleans Names and Numbers

While Rocco Palmo beat us to the punch in observing this, it's still worth noting here that this morning's appointment of Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin Texas as Archbishop of New Orleans (congrats, Archbishop-designate Aymond!) gives the Archdiocese of New Orleans four living archbishops.

The other three being now-retired Archbishop Alfred Hughes (2002-2009, Archbishop Francis Schulte (1988-2002) and Archbishop Philip M. Hannan (1965-1988). As Rocco pointed out that this is unprecedented, all I have to add is hopefully somebody takes a picture.

While it's more-or-less equally common for a diocese to have either just an ordinary or one active ordinary and one retired ordinary, it's interesting to note that New Orleans was still in rare-enough territory before taking a turn into unprecedented.

It appears that, out of 195 dioceses and archdioceses, eight U.S. dioceses currently have three living ordinaries, that is, an active ordinary and two living emeritus bishops. This does not include auxiliary bishops, active or otherwise, nor does it count dioceses whose bishops have been assigned elsewhere and replaced.

That said, the eight are Amarillo, Kalamazoo, Marquette, Palm Beach, Providence, Sacramento, Springfield in Massachusetts, and Steubenville. (Research comes from the online Catholic hierarchy database, which is in no way affiliated with the USCCB.)

And since this blog has displayed an inordinate interest in the nationwide statistical breakdown of bishops (at least until next week's meeting is over), it's worth noting that the new numbers are:

Currently, 6 dioceses are vacant (sede vacante):


There are 425 active and retired Catholic bishops in the United States:

257 Active Bishops:
5 Cardinal Archbishops
28 Archbishops
1 Coadjutor Archbishop
154 Diocesan Bishops
0 Coadjutor Bishops
69 Auxiliary Bishops

168 Retired Bishops:
7 retired Cardinal Archbishops
21 retired Archbishops
91 retired Diocesan Bishops
49 retired Auxiliary Bishops

Thursday, June 11, 2009

U.S. Bishops' Meeting to be a'Twitter

The content of this post probably could've been handled in 140 characters, but I just wanted to announce ahead of time the intention of the USCCB's Office of Media Relations to Twitter the U.S. bishops' annual spring meeting, which will be June 17-19 in San Antonio.

The public sessions of the meeting are June 17 in the afternoon and June 18 in the morning, and hopefully during the time, the Twitter handle usccbmedia will provide regular updates of the proceedings.

In meetings past, reporters have filed their stories live from the site of the meeting, bloggers have blogged, and USCCB Media Relations has moved quickly to put out releases on major votes and other pivotal decisions by the bishops. But now the information will be coming much more quickly, consistently, and in smaller pieces. It's unclear at this time what sort of coverage this meeting will be receiving from other live news outlets, so our Twitter feed may be the only source of its kind.

Hope you follow us in San Antonio!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day's Count Part II

The U.S. bishops meet in San Antonio a week from tomorrow, and our staff will be on the ground a couple days before that. In the meantime, our media backgrounder on U.S. church statistics has gone to the printers, and the Congregation for Bishops in Rome keeps cranking out bishops' appointments. We'll see just how much more dated our statistics are by then.

Last time, I reported the following ...

Currently, 5 dioceses are vacant (sede vacante):


There are 425 active and retired Catholic bishops in the United States:

258 Active Bishops:
5 Cardinal Archbishops
28 Archbishops
1 Coadjutor Archbishop
155 Diocesan Bishops
0 Coadjutor Bishops
69 Auxiliary Bishops

167 Retired Bishops:
7 retired Cardinal Archbishops
20 retired Archbishops
91 retired Diocesan Bishops
49 retired Auxiliary Bishops

Well, a lot has happened in three weeks. Chronologically speaking, on May 27, the pope accepted the resignation of the Bishop Edward Cullen of Allentown, Pa., and appointed Msgr. John Barres, up to that point the chancellor of the Diocese of Wilmington, as Cullen's successor. The pope also named Father Lee Piche as a new auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

On June 3, the pope accepted the resignation of the then-serving-longest-past-retirement-age bishop in the U.S., Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha and named Bishop George Lucas (not to be confused with the Star Wars creator) of Springfield in Illinois as his successor.

Finally, yesterday, the pope named the vicar for priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Msgr. Timothy Senior, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese. (This appointment, as has been noted elsewhere, brings the number of Philly auxiliaries back up to four in the wake of last month's appointment of Bishop Joseph Cistone to Saginaw, Mich.)

So, crunching and pushing and pulling the national numbers once again, this swath of appointments raises the number of bishops nationwide by three, nets a gain of one active bishop, raises the number of retired bishops overall by two, raises the number of retired archbishops by one, retired diocesan bishops by one, nets zero in the number of active archbishops, reducese the number of active diocesan bishops by one, raises the number of active auxiliaries by two, and even opens up a vacant diocese.

Or to illustrate it in a less headache-inducing manner, I believe that leaves today's statistics as follows ...

Currently, 6 dioceses are vacant (sede vacante):
Springfield in Illinois

There are 428 active and retired Catholic bishops in the United States:

259 Active Bishops:
5 Cardinal Archbishops
28 Archbishops
1 Coadjutor Archbishop
154 Diocesan Bishops
0 Coadjutor Bishops
71 Auxiliary Bishops

169 Retired Bishops:
7 retired Cardinal Archbishops
21 retired Archbishops
92 retired Diocesan Bishops
49 retired Auxiliary Bishops

Of course, with a week till the meeting, media may want to keep checking back for the latest numbers.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Message to PBS: The masses want the Mass

PBS is thinking about striking 'sectarian' programming from its line-up. If you don’t like the idea, let ‘em know by June 12, 2009. Why should PBS take the Mass from the masses?

As viewers from PBS Pledge Weeks know, PBS wants to receive your money. Let PBS receive your message too – that you want viewers to be able to access religious programming, including church services, such as the Mass.

Responding to people who want church services on the air, won’t put PBS out anything. Airing the Mass does not make PBS give up prime time. The Mass generally airs in the morning. It’s a gift to shut-ins who otherwise cannot experience the service that comforts them. Anyone who’s ever watched a TV Mass with someone who until old age went to Mass every day or even every Sunday knows the consolation this experience gives a growing segment of our society.

No one’s asking PBS to pay for the programming. People just want to have access to the Mass. The airwaves belong to us all, so church people aren’t asking any undue favor when they seek to have the airwaves they own be used for what they want.

Details: The Public Broadcasting Service (“PBS”) is poised to vote on June 14-15 on a revised programming policy for its affiliated TV stations which, among other policies, would not permit them to air “sectarian” programs. Part of its decision will include a definition of “sectarian.” PBS’s proposed definition appears to allow airing of such programs as “The Face: Jesus in Art” and “Walking the Bible,” but to exclude from its stations programs which consist of religious services (such as the Mass).

At a meeting with staff of the U.S. bishops, PBS spokespersons said that its upcoming decision will be an attempt to balance the need for its affiliates to meet their statutory requirement to meet local needs and interests with a desire to prevent the PBS “brand” from being associated with particular religious views and beliefs. PBS is a private corporation whose members are the TV stations affiliated with PBS. It is not a government agency, so constitutional concerns and arguments are not germane to this proposed policy. Nevertheless, PBS’ decision can be influenced by the opinions not only of its member-stations, but of the affected communities.

The national PBS leadership is receiving comments on its proposed “no sectarian program” rule from its affiliates, which include several stations owned by religious entities. Those include WLAE, a New Orleans PBS affiliate owned by a lay Catholic organization; KMBH, a Brownsville PBS affiliate owned by the Diocese of Brownsville; and KBYU, a PBS affiliate owned by a division of Brigham Young University. The Archdiocese of Washington already has been informed by WHUT in Washington, D.C. that its Mass for shut-ins, which had been aired for years on that station, will be dropped.

PBS staff told USCCB that the decision-making committee would find community reaction helpful. If you have a reaction to this proposed decision, please send an email or fax to: Helen Osman, Secretary of Communications, USCCB at hosman@usccb.org or 202/541-3129 before June 12, 2009. We will forward these comments to PBS immediately.

More information on this topic can be found at http://www.current.org/pbs/pbs0907sectarian.shtml.