USCCB set to convene virtual assembly six days after McCarrick report

CNA 5dcb9d1240e77 171321 1 Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gather for their Fall Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on Nov. 11, 2019. | Christine Rousselle/CNA

The Fall General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will be held in two live-streamed sessions on November 16 and 17.

The meeting is set to commence six days after the long-awaited release of the Vatican's investigation into disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick. The report is set to be released almost exactly one year after Cardinal Sean O'Malley told the USCCB's 2019 fall meeting that the report would be released "soon." 

The bishops will also learn the results of the committee chairman elections, and hear addresses from the apostolic nuncio and the National Review Board.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who was elected president of the USCCB at last fall's assembly, will give his first address as the conference's president, after the spring general assembly, scheduled to occur in June, was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the USCCB, the meeting will "include dialogue by the bishops on a pastoral response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a pastoral response to racism." Additionally, the bishops will vote on the strategic priorities of the 2021-2024 Strategic Plan, the renewal of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and the budget for the upcoming year. 

Due to the pandemic and the virtual nature of this year's assembly, the bishops were provided with mail-in ballots to vote in the upcoming conference election. Typically, the votes would occur at the assembly, in-person. 

The bishops will be voting for the chairmen-elect of seven committees: Priorities and Plans, Catholic Education, Communications, Cultural Diversity in the Church, Doctrine, National Collections, and Pro-Life Activities. 

The winners of these elections will serve one year as "chairman-elect" before they take over as chairman at the 2021 Fall General Assembly. Once elevated to chairman, the bishop will serve in that role for a three-year term. 

The bishops will also vote for a chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, which is currently being led by acting chairman Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. 

At the Fall 2019 General Assembly, Wenski tied a vote with Bishop George Murry, S.J. of Youngstown following the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville due to medical reasons. Murry was older than Wenski, and was declared the victor of that election. 

The position of chairman became vacant once again following Murray's death on June 5 after a relapse of leukemia. Wenski agreed to assume the role on an acting basis. 

The bishops will also be voting for a new general secretary, who will serve a five-year term. 

The current general secretary is Monsignor Brian Bransfield, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Also up for election will be new board members of Catholic Relief Services. 

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