By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Bishop Martin Amos, just back from the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting, identified these topics as top of his list: a statement on pornography, promotion of religious freedom, and planning for a national convocation to re-energize the Catholic faith. The bishops met Nov. 16-19 in Baltimore.
• On the issue of pornography, Bishop Amos joined 229 other bishops to approve a formal statement titled “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.” “Over the past few years I’ve come to realize how widespread and devastating pornography is,” he told The Catholic Messenger in a Nov. 23 interview. “If we can do something at the parish level, the diocesan level, the national level, to help people know how damaging this can be to a person spiritually and in relationship with others, I think that is very important.”
• Erosion of religious freedom is a continuing topic of discussion at the U.S. bishops’ meetings. “There definitely is an attack on religious freedom in the U.S.,” Bishop Amos said. “Freedom to worship is one part of religious liberty. But we must also have the freedom to participate in the community and in service to others.”
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz reflected on that issue in his presidential address to his brother bishops. Quoting Pope Francis, he said: “Religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families. … Our greatest witness as representatives of Jesus will always be humble, clear and courageous — offered with words that match lives well lived.”
• Convocation 2017, Bishop Amos said, is intended for Catholic leadership in the United States to bring about the “Joy of the Gospel” (Pope Francis’ 2013 encyclical), the new evangelization for transmission of the faith in America. Focus groups and interviews with active and inactive Catholics, Hispanic Catholics and young adults Catholics will precede the convocation.
The idea is to establish what it means to be Roman Catholic today, the bishop said. Diocesan bishops are being asked to bring a diocesan team to the convention composed of diocesan and parish leadership. It’s an expensive endeavor, which will require budgeting ahead, Bishop Amos said. It will be worth the expense if the convocation “helps to reenergize the faith,” he added. The planning gained momentum with the historic U.S. visit of Pope Francis in September.
Other important issues addressed:
Approval of a new introductory note to the statement on political responsibility, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” and approval of limited revisions to the 2007 document. This topic generated vigorous debate because some bishops believe the 2015 version does not adequately address poverty and the earth, Bishop Amos said.
Approval of strategic priorities for 2017-2020: evangelization, marriage and family, human life and dignity, vocations and ongoing formation, and religious freedom.
Approval of the bishops’ conference budget for 2016, but an inconclusive vote on a 3 percent increase in the assessment on dioceses. Diocesan bishops not in attendance at the meeting will be polled by mail.
A shortage of Catholic priests serving as military chaplains. “I think as a diocese we have always been supportive of this ministry,” Bishop Amos said. Several priests have or are currently serving as military chaplains either in active duty or the reserves or in VA hospitals, he added.
Project Rachel, a ministry to those what have been involved in abortion. Bishop Amos was pleased that the Diocese of Davenport’s Project Rachel was mentioned by name as very supportive of this ministry. “I thought that was very cool,” the bishop said.
Marriage and family life: A Pastoral Plan will be developed to update 1990 and 2009 statements, following the final report on the World Synod of Bishops on the Family and an exhortation by Pope Francis on the synod.
Jubilee Year of Mercy: The bishops discussed Pope Francis’ document on the Year of Mercy, titled “Misericordiae Vultus.” Several priests of the Davenport Diocese have expressed interest in serving as Missionaries of Mercy during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that begins Dec. 8 on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. That date also marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. The jubilee ends on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016.
Approved the liturgical book “Excerpts from the Roman Missal: Book for Use at the Chair” for use in U.S. dioceses.
Approved the cause for canonization of Father Aloysius Ellacuria, CMF; Father William Atkinson, O.S.A.; and Antonia Cuipa and 81 companions.
Agreed to a one-time national collection to fund completion of the Central Dome of the Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the laying of the basilica’s foundation stone, efforts are underway to complete the interior design of the upper church. The Trinity Dome (or Great Dome) is described as the “final movement.” The shrine’s founder, Bishop Thomas Shahan, referred to it as a “Hymn in Stone.”
“The discussion was very good on all of the topics,” Bishop Amos said. “It’s not a ‘yes’ group. These are deep, thoughtful people presenting different aspects of the issues.”