Bishops' Retreat Is Hot Ticket

By Eric Gorski
Denver Post [Denver]
June 10, 2004

The closed-door nature of next week's summit of U.S. Roman Catholic bishops in Denver is not preventing advocacy groups from seizing the public platform.

At least a half-dozen organizations - ranging from a national group that believes abortion should be illegal to the nation's most prominent Catholic reform group - are planning events coinciding with the prayer retreat of some 250 bishops.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which took on greater prominence in the midst of the clergy abuse scandal, also chose Denver for its national conference this weekend.

Voices from across the Catholic ideological spectrum, coming together outside of what was to be an off-the-record, once-every-five-years meeting for retrospection and prayer, is another sign that these are unusual times for the nation's Catholic leadership.

The six-day meeting at Inverness Hotel in Englewood has been reworked, however, to include two critical points of business: a progress report on a committee looking at how bishops relate to Catholic politicians, and a likely decision on how to proceed on reforms adopted after the abuse scandal.

Here's a rundown of the groups that will seek a share of the spotlight in Denver:

American Life League: The Stafford, Va., Catholic group will unveil a national newspaper ad urging bishops to take a unified stand that Catholic politicians cannot be legitimately Catholic if they support abortion rights, spokesman Joe Giganti said.

Call to Action: The Chicago-based Catholic reform group plans several news conferences calling for annual follow-up reports on sexual-abuse reforms and emphasizing a variety of issues this election year, not just abortion. The group plans an all-day vigil Tuesday outside the bishops' hotel.

Colorado Concerned Catholics: The Denver lay Catholic group has invited the bishops to a Monday night vigil and prayer service, "Catholics Seeking Dialogue." The group is affiliated with Boston-based Voice of the Faithful.

FutureChurch: The Cleveland-based group led by a Catholic sister will continue its campaign to make celibacy in the priesthood optional. Sister Christine Schenk promises to release an anonymous survey of priests in the Denver and Pueblo dioceses showing "positive" results for that cause.

Society for Truth and Justice: Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, heads this Houston group that will hold a 50- hour vigil outside the bishops meeting to persuade bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who back abortion rights.


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