By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
The following Q&A with Bishop Thomas Zinkula provides a synopsis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting held Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore.
Q: What strategic set of priorities did the bishops vote on? What are your thoughts about the value of these priorities?
A: The bishops approved four strategic priorities for 2021-24. They are Evangelization: Form a Joyful Band of Missionary Disciples of Jesus Christ; Life and Dignity of the Human Person: Serve the Common Good as the Leaven in a Free Society; Protect and Heal God’s Children: Restore Integrity, Foster Virtue; and Vocations: Equip All Christ’s Disciples for Mission. Each of them has some emphasis areas. In my opinion, each of these priorities is critically important. I have focused considerable attention on all of them during my time here.
Q: During your meeting, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. How did you and your fellow bishops respond? What are your thoughts about DACA and its future?
A: The Iowa Catholic Conference and other Catholic entities have been encouraging people to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators to vote for House and Senate bills that, if passed into law, would provide a path to citizenship for qualifying Dreamers. Legislative action is very important because it appears that the Supreme Court is likely to strike down the DACA program, but we will see.
Q: What did the bishops talk about regarding refugee resettlement?
A: The Bishops’ Working Group on Immigration Issues told us that this year the U.S. is at the lowest point ever with regard to the number of refugees accepted into the country: 18,000. Fifty-one refugee programs have permanently closed, and 41 have suspended services this year. That includes 18 Catholic Charities’ programs that have closed, and 16 that possibly will close.
Q: Bishop Frank Caggiano urged that bishops do more to support Catholic teens and young adults and to use the pope’s document, “Christus Vivit” as your guide. What is your reaction to his request?
A: The entire Church obviously has to do much more to evangelize Catholic youth and young adults. I think Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “Christus Vivit,” is an excellent document. It would be very helpful if many people read it, discussed it and used it as a resource guide for reaching out to religiously unaffiliated young people.
Q: A pastoral framework for marriage and family life should be ready for a vote next November. How do you see that framework connecting or meshing with marriage and family life ministry in our diocese?
A: The framework needs some more work but it is a good first draft. Marianne Agnoli, our Marriage and Family Life coordinator, has been doing a great job developing and enhancing programs that address many of the situations identified in the pastoral framework (such as ….). I thought the feedback from the bishops was good. For example, someone suggested that the Church needed to provide formation for families so they can evangelize other families. Another bishop said we need to engage in missionary discipleship and go out to families because many of them aren’t coming to us.
Q: Bishop Frank Dewane commented that clergy and laity could play a role in bringing together people along the rural-urban divide to build an understanding for sensible policies to help end gun violence. What can we do in our diocese regarding this issue, especially in light of Burlington’s problem with gun violence in recent months and Davenport’s persistent problem with gun violence calls?
A: To address the specific situations you mentioned; one thing that would be helpful would be for the state legislature to enact legislation that would provide broader background checks and some limits on the ownership of handguns. I’m not sure about Burlington, but I know that there has been a lot of work on this issue in Davenport. You might want to talk to Father Jake Greiner (pastor of Our Lady of the Victory Parish in Davenport); he is on a committee that has been dealing with this.
Q: What’s new in the sixth edition of the Program of Priestly formation for U.S. dioceses?
A: One thing that is new in the sixth edition, and which has generated some discussion among bishops, is the notion of a Propaedeutic Stage prior to entry into a traditional seminary. During this stage, the diocese has the opportunity to ascertain if the applicant has the requisite qualities necessary for seminary formation. The Propaedeutic Stage can lay a solid foundation for seminary, by helping applicants develop a solid life of prayer and attain a familiarity with Christian doctrine by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church.