Fall meeting agenda sees US bishops making plans to plan priorities

National Catholic Reporter

Oct 30, 2019

By Michael Sean Winters

Monday, I began my curtain raiser for the upcoming plenary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, focusing on the election of new officers and committee chairs. Now, the conference has released the agenda and we can look at the items under discussion.

The agenda buried its lede, as the most important item did not appear until the sixth paragraph: “to lead the process of developing a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Hispanic/Latino ministry in response to the V Encuentro process, to be developed and approved by the bishops during the next USCCB strategic planning cycle, 2021-2024.”

Ignore the lousy syntax. The successful Encuentro process in 2014-18 was not just a bit of good news in a sea of bad: The future of the Catholic Church in this country is either Latino or it is nonexistent. The stated need to wait until the next round of strategic planning shows the lack of nimbleness we expect from a bureaucracy, but it shows something else, too.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has spent much of the last 15 or so years focused on ephemera. It has made plans about plans. It has conflated its work with that of several special interest groups like the Becket Fund and the National Right to Life Committee. The latest Pew numbers indicate that for the first time, Hispanic Catholics are less than half of all Hispanics in the country. None of the bishops will stand up and insist that the usual planning process be speeded up to focus immediately on the needs of Hispanic ministry, but someone should.

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