Earlier today, we posted that it looked like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was not encouraging local bishops to consult with the laity about topics such as same-sex marriage, contraception, and divorce, in advance of the 2014 synod on marriage and the family. That report was based on an October 31st National Catholic Reporter article, which has been updated today.
Reporter Joshua McElwee updated the story after he received the following response from Helen Osman, the USCCB secretary for communication, about how bishops are being encouraged to proceed:
“We’ll follow the usual process, since Rome asks for this kind of consultation on a regular basis.
“We pass on to bishops what is sent to us. They then take care of the local consultation and send the data back to us. We transmit it to the Holy See. That is why the letter says the bishops will send back observations (gathered locally).
“It will be up to each bishop to determine what would be the most useful way of gathering information to provide to Rome.”
Even with this new statement from the USCCB, it seems like local bishops are still going to have to be encouraged by their local churches to collect opinions since the USCCB will not be doing so. It seems odd that they will be following “the usual process” when it is clear that the Vatican is requesting something very unusual and extraordinary.
With proper encouragement and some creative suggestions from their conference leaders, the U.S. bishops could initiate an incredible opportunity to hear from Catholics about their beliefs on some of the most important and personal matters of today. The USCCB is foregoing an incredibly positive potential moment in the life of the Church by not being more pro-active in motivating individual bishops to listen to their laity and local pastoral leaders. It will remain up to the people in the pews to get their bishops to be active listeners. Let your voice be heard!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry