USCCB Strategic Priorities

This story appears in the USCCB Fall 2015 feature series. View the full series.

by Michael Sean Winters

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Archbishop Peter Sartain, of Seattle, presented the strategic plans and priorities to the body, noting the degree of consultation involved in drafting the priorities. He noted that the National Advisory Council was consulted but based on the presentation yesterday, I am guessing there was not much challenging coming from that quarter.

At the June meeting, several bishops voiced concern about the priorities as proposed, noting that there was insufficient emphasis on the poor, migrants and care for creation. As noted this morning, not much has changed, there have been tweaks here and there, but the framework remains the same.

Regrettably, in June, despite the concerns raised in the debate, when the vote came, more than ninety percent of the bishops voted to move forward with the core five priorities, with minor changes. That was a mistake. The five priorities – evangelization, family and marriage, human life and dignity, vocations and religious liberty – seem ill-designed to chart a future for the Church marked by accompaniment, humility, and mercy.

In discussion, Bishop George Thomas, of Helena, Montana, who had earlier raised concerns at the June meeting, said that “today, I want to say I am very grateful to the committee…for including many of the interventions that were made on the floor [in June].” He specifically mentioned that concern for the poor is now mentioned twice in the plans, even though concern for the poor did not get its own subheading. +Thomas also called for the application of Catholic Social Teaching to reflect the preferential option for the poor, and called upon the conference to exercise a more prophetic voice on behalf of the poor. The bishop asked that the Church’s opposition to the death penalty receive mention in the section on human life and dignity.

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago raised questions about the way religious liberty was dealt with in the text. He said it seemed “self-referential” in the text, and wondered why advocacy for religious freedom was mentioned but that other areas of advocacy, such as immigration, were not highlighted. In response, Archbishop Sartain responded that immigration reform was mentioned in another part of the text.

The bishops are voting now and results will be announced later today.  

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