9 key things the U.S. bishops did at their fall meeting in Baltimore

bishops USCCB 22 The U.S. bishops met in Baltimore for their annual fall general assembly on Nov. 14-17, 2022. | Katie Yoder/CNA

The U.S. Catholic bishops are headed back to their dioceses after gathering in Baltimore this week for their annual fall meeting.

Here’s a summary of key actions taken at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) fall plenary assembly:

1. They elected Archbishop Timothy Broglio as president.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, was elected president of the USCCB for a three-year term, succeeding Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles. Broglio, 70, brings to the job diplomatic experience, having served the Vatican in Ivory Coast, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and in Rome from 1990 to 2001. As archbishop for the Military Services, USA, since 2008, he defended the religious freedom of service men and women when he called for a religious exemption for the COVID vaccine mandate and raised concerns about religious freedom issues involved in allowing homosexuals to serve in the military.

2. Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori was elected vice president.

The newly elected vice president, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, is a strong advocate for the unborn. In his role with the bishops’ pro-life committee, Lori has spoken out repeatedly in favor of assistance for pregnant women and against the Biden administration’s proposals to expand the availability of abortion. He has been a vocal proponent of the bishops’ 2020 initiative Walking with Moms in Need to help struggling pregnant women, mothers, and babies.

Lori has served as supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus since 2005 and joined the Knights last month on a trip to Poland and Ukraine to distribute aid. At 71, he will not be eligible to be president when Broglio’s term expires three years from now, as the bylaws of the conference say the president needs to be no older than 75 by the end of his term. This is the second consecutive time that the bishops have opted to install a vice president who can’t be considered an heir apparent to the presidency. Lori succeeds Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, 74, who was elected vice president in 2019.

3. In a moving farewell address, Archbishop José Gomez called for bishops to be missionaries in a secular culture that is searching for meaning.

In a stirring speech, the outgoing president of the USCCB, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, told the assembled bishops that a secularized society has lost its way but is experiencing a “spiritual awakening” and a desire for meaning. He called on all Catholics to evangelize and bishops in particular to share their personal encounters with Jesus in the Eucharist as part of the upcoming eucharistic revival. “The Church exists to evangelize,” Gómez said. “There is no other reason for the Church. To be a Christian is to be a missionary disciple.” His complete address can be read here.

4. The bishops decided to begin rewriting their Catholic voting guide after the 2024 election.

The bishops voted to postpone embarking on a full revision of “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a sort of voting guide for Catholics, until after the 2024 election.The “teaching document” asserts abortion should be “the preeminent” political issue for Catholics. In deciding to leave the document as it is, while adding a new introduction and supplemental inserts, the bishops effectively decided to reaffirm its opposition to pro-abortion policies in the political realm. The additional materials, however, could introduce new language, Archbishop Paul Coakley, head of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said.

“Whether it’s a world war raging in Ukraine, people’s questioning of our democratic system, or whatever it might be, we need to help provide some kind of guidance in any number of issues,” he said. “We’ll try to discern what we can offer to people and help them apply teaching in a way that’s meaningful to them.”

5. The bishops showed their support for Ukraine.

The bishops gave a standing ovation after an impassioned speech on the war against Russia by Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak. Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego, who was named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis in May, urged the USCCB to stand by Ukraine. Referring to the possibility that a Republican majority in the House of Representatives might back out of the nation’s commitment to the war effort in Ukraine, McElroy called on the bishops to act with haste to ensure continued U.S. military aid. In his speech Gudziak thanked the bishops and U.S. Catholics for their continued monetary support for humanitarian aid.

6. The bishops elected a steadfast defender of life to the pro-life committee.

The election of Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, a staunch defender of life, as head of the USCCB’s pro-life committee is another signal that the bishops’ resolve in the defense of the unborn has not weakened despite the failure of pro-life measures in the midterm elections.

7. The bishops cut the budget for the three-day Eucharistic Congress.

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Plans for the Eucharistic Revival and Eucharistic Congress were unveiled along with an announcement that the cost of the three-day event would be reduced from $28 million to $14 million with the help of donors and sponsors. Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, who is leading the eucharistic revival initiative — an effort to revive an understanding and a love for Jesus in the Eucharist among Catholics — said 80,000 people are expected to make a pilgrimage to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the congress will take place starting July 17, 2024. Pilgrims will depart from four different locations, he said: one in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, at the site of the tomb of Blessed Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus; in San Francisco at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption; and a fourth site in Crookston.

8. The bishops approved a prayer book for laypeople ministering to the sick.

The bishops voted to move forward with the creation of a new prayer book for laypeople who work among the sick. Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, told CNA that he hopes the potential new prayer book will be helpful for laypeople who want to minister to the sick. “A pastor can put this book into the hands of the folks who help him in visiting the nursing homes, hospitals, and places where there isn’t a priest-chaplain every day, but there might be a layperson there,” Menke said.

9. The bishops voted to advance the causes for sainthood for three American women.

The U.S. bishops decided to advance on the local level the causes of beatification and canonization for Servants of God Cora Louise Evans, a mother and Catholic convert considered to be a mystic; Michelle Duppong, a young campus missionary who struggled with cancer; and Mother Margaret Mary Healy-Murphy, a religious sister who ministered to the poor and to the African American community.

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