Friday, July 17, 2009

Membership Notes

Pardon the tardiness of this post. I'd wanted to address this issue much earlier this week, but first had to request information from some resources.

Among the big stories in the Catholic Church last week was the episcopal ordination Mass of Archbishop J. Augustine "Gus" DiNoia, OP, at Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

With Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal William Levada serving as principal consecrator and Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and retired Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly, OP, serving as principal co-consecrators, the beautiful Mass provided quite a send-off for DiNoia as he enters his role as Secretary (the #2 man) in the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.

Now that Father DiNoia is Archbishop DiNoia, there is one question that bubbled to the surface quickly for this USCCB official -- Is DiNoia now a member of the USCCB?

He is, after all, from the United States and a Catholic bishop. Then there's his past association with the organization through his role as head of its Doctrine office. And his ordination took place just across the street from the USCCB headquarters (and Dominican House of Studies, where he also served for years).

The short answer is no. And I had to dig into the organizational statutes to find that membership in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is limited to 1. bishops, archbishops, auxiliary bishops and coadjutors of dioceses and eparchs in the United States and U.S. Virgin Islands and have no membership in another conference, 2. bishops performing special duties entrusted to them by the USCCB or the Holy See for the Church in the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

So, on the flip side, the people not covered by this description are Vatican officials, diplomats, etc. who happen to be Americans. This includes DiNoia, whose work will be not just for the U.S. Church, but for the Universal Church. This includes Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis, now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. This includes Cardinal Levada, formerly Archbishop of San Francisco, now the third most powerful person in the Catholic Church, but not a current member of the USCCB.

It's worth noting that, according to USCCB statutes, retired U.S. bishops have "a consultative voice but not a deliberative vote in the Conference. They are encouraged and invited to attend all sessions of the Plenary Assembly and to make available to the Conference their special wisdom and experience by speaking to issues at hand."

My next question is whether this courtesy extends to retired Vatican officials who were once U.S. ordinaries, such as Cardinal James Stafford, former Denver archbishop and retired Major Penitentiary. I presume so, but there are so many ways to slice and dice this ...

Update: Apparently, the answer to my last question is yes. My source gave the example of Cardinal Edmund Szoka, former President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, also a former Archbishop of Detroit, and also a member of the USCCB.

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