By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Bishop Martin Amos and his fellow U.S. bishops hope for more time to provide input to the Vatican in preparation for the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family. The U.S. bishops anticipate a worldwide consultation of bishops, which will use the final report of the 2014 extraordinary synod as the framework for the 2015 synod.
“We thought we needed more time and a consultation (method) that will be more user-friendly. At this point we don’t know what form the consultation will take or how widespread it will be,” Bishop Amos said Nov. 17 while speaking with The Catholic Messenger about the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore.
Bishop Amos said the 2014 extraordinary synod provided an opportunity to speak openly, listen with humility and to be open to the Holy Spirit, according to the participating cardinals and archbishops. He appreciated Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s quip that there must have been two extraordinary synods because the one the cardinal participated in differed from the one the media reported on. “The synod was about the beauty and truth of marriage and Church teaching isn’t going to change,” Bishop Amos said.
Other issues of interest he shared from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Nov. 10-13 meeting:
• Mental health. Individuals and families struggling with mental health issues should receive the same level of support from the Church that people with physical disabilities receive.
• Catholic schools and cultural diversity. The bishops affirmed the value of Catholic schools but also addressed concerns about underserved populations, especially Hispanics, Bishop Amos said. Superintendents, pastors and principals should prioritize a culturally responsive approach. The bishop noted that, in general, the Hispanic community does not see Catholic school education as a possibility. Reaching out to underserved populations will be a priority in the Davenport Diocese, which is undergoing strategic planning, the bishop said.
• Formal statement on pornography. Bishops meeting in their regional groups were asked to review a draft outline for a proposed formal statement on pornography. Bishop Amos said the draft is lengthy. His group recommended a shorter summary statement to accompany the longer one.
• Life and Dignity of the Human Person. The bishops discussed why parishioners accept or reject Church teaching. Research from a study the bishops undertook found a “disconnect” between Church teaching and Jesus. Research also shows that different groups have different reasons for the disconnect, which means that more than one approach will be necessary to address it, Bishop Amos said.
• Faith convocation. The bishops’ study found that Catholics want to know more about their faith. So the bishops will bring together 3,000 to 5,000 Catholic leaders in summer 2017 to talk about what it means to be Roman Catholic. They will discuss evangelization, vision of the human person, the poor, and the continental mission of the Americas, Bishop Amos said.
• Religious liberty. The emphasis will be on teaching, media and networking rather than on legalism and academics, Bishop Amos said. The 2015 Fortnight for Freedom will focus on evangelization through word and deed. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humane).
• Year of Consecrated Life. During a 14-month period (Nov. 30, 2014-Feb. 2, 2016), Catholics will express gratitude for and celebration of the witness of consecrated life.
Feb. 8, 2015, has been designated as a day for Religious Open Houses; summer 2015 will offer a day of service and mission in which people join the religious in their missions; Sept. 13, 2015, will be a day for prayer for religious. Prayer cards will be available on the USCCB website (www.usccb.org). Bishop Amos also sees an opportunity for The Catholic Messenger to write about different forms of consecrated life.
• Lay Ecclesial Ministry Summit. This event will take place June 7, 2015, to mark the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ statement “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord.”
• Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities. The bishops agreed to approve drafting of a revision to the document. The original document was published in 1995 and does not address such issues as autism and celiac disease, Bishop Amos said.
• Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The bishops voted to proceed with revision of a section dealing with formation of new partnerships with health care organizations.
• Sainthood cause of Father Paul Wattson. The bishops endorsed the sainthood cause for Fr. Wattson, co-founder of the Society of Atonement in 1899. He was a leading advocate of Christian Unity.