Upcoming bishops’ meeting reflects current state of US church

National Catholic Reporter

Oct. 28, 2019

By Michael Sean Winters

Two weeks from today, the U.S. bishops will gather in Baltimore for their annual plenary meeting and, in a sense, the gathering is a metaphor for the situation of the Catholic Church in our nation at this moment in time. The meeting, like the church, is traditional, but no one knows what to expect, it will largely be ignored by mainstream society, and it is difficult to feel much confidence in the current leadership.

The biggest challenge is to get back to a sense of normalcy without downplaying the still potentially explosive issue of clergy sex abuse. The last two meetings were dominated by the issue with virtually all other business suspended. There were protesters outside the hotel and hordes of reporters inside. The usual friendly banter at the receptions seemed strained. The bishops as a whole looked haggard. And, the conference’s leadership did not seem up to the task, at the last minute, forced to withdraw its inadequate proposals by the Vatican last November.

One of the items on the agenda is to elect a new president and vice president of the bishops’ conference. It is widely anticipated that current vice president, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, will ascend to the presidency, and this is the one bright spot of the agenda: At a time when our president is demonizing immigrants and worse, inflicting real harm on real people, the bishops are about to elect a Mexican immigrant as their leader. Additionally, Gomez’s statements at home tend to be more powerful than what the national conference issues, and so we can all hope protecting immigrants becomes the bishops’ top priority in the year ahead.

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