By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Bishop Martin Amos spent most of last weekend among “21,000 of my best friends” at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Kansas City, Mo. His Nov. 20 arrival at the conference also marked the third anniversary of his installation as bishop of the Diocese of Davenport and followed a three-day conference with fellow bishops in Baltimore.
Both conferences gave him a deeper realization of the role of technology and its impact on the lives of people, especially the youth who are growing up in the digital age, he told The Catholic Messenger during an interview Nov. 23.
The pressing issues at the bishops’ fall general assembly dealt with approval of:
• A pastoral letter on marriage. Catholic News Service reported that some bishops expressed concern about the document’s pastoral tone and content. Bishop Amos described the letter as “both pastorally sensitive and pastorally challenging. Strengthening marriage is one of the priorities of the conference.” He hopes that couples will read the letter (available online at www.usccb.org) and that it will be used in marriage preparation classes and in high schools. The letter is one of many ways of educating Catholics about church teaching on marriage. Another is a series of videos on marriage being produced to help young married couples build and strengthen their marriages, Bishop Amos said.
• The final documents related to translation of the Roman Missal. The bishops approved the final five documents that provide for a more literal translation of the Latin text to English. Each section now goes before the Vatican for approval. Among modifications Bishop Amos proposed and that the bishops accepted were several relating to inclusive language. Bishop Amos told the Messenger that Deacon Frank Agnoli, the Davenport Diocese’s liturgy director, recommended the changes to him.
One of the accepted modifications involves the opening prayer for the memorial of St. Isidore. It replaces “salvation of mankind” with “salvation of all people.” Since that prayer was originally written in English, it makes sense to use inclusive language, Deacon Agnoli said. Another prayer, for Thanksgiving, acknowledged Bishop Amos/Deacon Agnoli’s concern that not all people who came to the United States found a place of promise and hope; some found only a place of enslavement. Whether the Vatican accepts the modifications is still to be seen, Deacon Agnoli said. Bishop Amos said the new translation is expected in 2011, which gives publishers time to print the texts and dioceses time to educate Catholics so that they “realize what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
• A document on reproductive technologies, which addresses the issue of married couples facing infertility problems. Some reproductive technologies are not morally legitimate ways to solve these problems, the bishops say. The document “is an effort to help people understand the acceptable and unacceptable techniques and provides the theological background on why they are or are not acceptable,” Bishop Amos said.
• Revised directives guiding Catholic health care facilities on medically assisted food and hydration. The revised directives take into account Catholic teaching by the late Pope John Paul II and the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. The document states more strongly the need to provide food and water even to patients in a persistent vegetative state. Bishop Amos said the revised directives are more helpful and specific than the previous directives.
• The bishops also listened to and discussed a preliminary report on the John Jay study of the causes and context of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Bishop Amos said the findings indicate that decades ago, when most of the clergy sexual abuse occurred, the church and society didn’t know how to deal effectively with clergy who sexually abused minors. “It wasn’t insensitivity on the part of the church,” he said.
• A report on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) also was presented to the bishops, which strongly defended and supported the organization’s work on behalf of poor people striving to overcome poverty. The bishops criticized organizations that erroneously stated that CCHD supports organizations that violate church teaching. “CCHD and the U.S. bishops would never support anything that is against church teaching. Some of the Web sites (that are attacking CCHD) are not telling the truth,” Bishop Amos said.
• The bishops also heard a report on health care reform and reaffirmed USCCB President Cardinal Francis George’s statement expressing the bishops’ commitment to keep health reform legislation in the Senate abortion-neutral.
At the youth conference, Bishop Amos led an evening prayer service and morning Liturgy of the Word service, attended two keynote addresses with youth, celebrated Mass, heard confessions and enjoyed the whole experience. He exchanged hats, traded small treasures — like pins, buttons and book marks.
“I was with 21,000 of my closest friends,” the bishop said, smiling. “The sheer number of people, excitement and wholesomeness of the event was just impressive.”