By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tA national advisory body to the U.S. bishops intended to represent “the church in miniature” has endorsed a “dialogue on the national level” with the country’s priests, intended to move towards “reestablishing trust” between bishops and priests damaged by the sexual abuse crisis.
That dialogue would be focused on implementation of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” adopted by the bishops in June 2002, though it would also consider broader questions in the relationship between bishops and priests.
The suggestion came from the National Advisory Council, a body of more than 40 laity, deacons, priests and religious intended to form a composite of the U.S. church in terms of geography, age, ethnicity and occupation.
The report from the council was delivered this morning by Archbishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage, Alaska, one of three bishops who sit on the council. While technically the council is an advisory body to the Administrative Committee of the bishops’ conference, typically it delivers a report to the fully body of bishops as well.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting June 12-14 in Orlando, Florida.
Schwietz also told the bishops that the advisory council is “strongly supportive” of the proposed statement on embryonic stem cell research, up for a vote during the Orlando meeting.
The council, Schwietz said, is concerned about a “serious lack of knowledge and understanding among health care professionals, parishioners, clergy and religious about appropriate Catholic teaching” on the issue.
“U.S. Catholics and the general public are often confused about nature of embryonic stem cell research and the issues involved,” Schwietz said, summarizing the council’s discussions. “They are often misrepresented and misunderstood in the secular media and public perception.”
“U.S. Catholics and the general public deserves a clear, concise, unambiguous statement on this topic,” Schwietz said. In particular, he said, the council applauded the statement for stressing that “the Catholic church supports and encourages morally acceptable medical research and scientific progress.”