Vote on revised medical directives on tap at bishops' spring assembly

Washington — Revised guidelines governing Catholic and non-Catholic health care partnerships will be on the agenda of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly June 13-14 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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The revisions are limited to Part 6 of the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," the document that governs moral questions related to the delivery of health care.

The bishops also will consider a new document described as a "pastoral response" to the growing Asian and Pacific Island Catholic community in the United States. "Encountering Christ in Harmony" offers pastoral suggestions to address the concerns and needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.

Revisions in language to clarify seven of the 17 articles in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults" are on the agenda for review and a vote as well.

In addition, reports on the V Encuentro, a nationwide gathering of Latino Catholics in September, and this fall's Synod of Bishops on on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment at the Vatican are planned.

The effort to revise the ethical and religious directives started with guidance from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican after a "dubia," or formal question, was sent in 2013 to the doctrinal congregation by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then-USCCB president.

The congregation's response included 17 principles which were meant to assist the U.S. bishops "in considering their teaching and governing responsibilities in the development and reorganization of Catholic health care organizations or systems."

Acknowledging the need for such collaborations, the Vatican said that while such partnerships are not inherently wrong, they must be viewed on a case by case basis.

Fr. Michael Fuller, executive director of the USCCB Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs, said the revisions are necessary as mergers between Catholic and non-Catholic health care systems have become more common in the 21st century.

Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine's Subcommittee on Health Care, was scheduled to introduce the final draft of the revisions at the assembly. A discussion was planned and final amendments were to be accepted and considered by the subcommittee. A vote was expected by the end of the assembly.

The bishops previously revised Part 6, the directive's final section, in 2001.

The document related to Asian and Pacific Island Catholics has been in the works for about two years. It follows a report by a team of social scientists based on a nationwide questionnaire and online survey that asked the Asian and Pacific Island community about their pastoral needs.

By design, the document does not address members of the Eastern Catholic churches except for the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholics with roots in India.

Scalabrinian Sister Mryna Tordillo, assistant director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, told Catholic News Service that "Encountering Christ in Harmony" addresses four central concerns that surfaced in the responses: identity, generations, leadership and culture of encounter and dialogue.

The document is the product of collaboration between the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church and the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs.

"The hope is that this document will assist dioceses, pastoral leaders, and other Catholic entities and Asian and Pacific Island Catholics in the pastoral care of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics wherever they are, and continue to welcome and integrate them," Sister Myrna said.

The bishops will vote on accepting the document during the assembly.

The changes in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" offer more specific language in several areas. Article 4 has been revised to protect the seal of the sacrament of reconciliation. Changes in Articles 6 and 12 specifically state that all people who have contact with minors rather than those in positions of trust "will abide by standard of behavior and appropriate boundaries."

In all, seven changes have been proposed for a vote by the bishops.

In addition to the votes on these documents, the bishops will hear a report on the upcoming V Encuentro from Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland, chairman of the Cultural Diversity Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs. Dioceses have conducted regional encuentro meetings that have involved tens of thousands of Latino Catholics.

The V Encuentro will take place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas. About 3,000 diocesan delegates are expected to attend.

Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism will update the assembly on the planned pastoral letter on racism and report on the work of the committee in recent months.

The Share the Journey campaign to welcome immigrants that was initiated by Pope Francis in September will be discussed by Bishop Joe Vazquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, will report on the committee's activities including the upcoming Religious Freedom Week planned for June 22-29.

Discussion and votes were to be proposed regarding new translations of some parts of the Liturgy of the Hours including certain antiphons and intercessions. It is one of several votes on the prayers that will occur over several years.

Finally, the bishops will discuss and vote on supplementary materials for the Roman Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours for the feast days of St. John Paul II, St. John XXIII and St. Mary Magdalene.


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