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Bishops discuss other matters, too.

WASHINGTON -- While the U.S. bishops gave much attention to the effort of formulating a pastoral on women, they also attended to a series of other matters. Among those concerns, the bishops:

* Passed a resolution on clergy sexual abuse expressing the need to take quick action on accusations of abuse and to be a "healing" presence in the wake of such allegations.

* Passed a national plan for evangelization in the United States but turned down a move to fund a conference staff position to promote evangelization.

* Authorized a new Mass for human life, accepted a revised translation of the lectionary and established a policy for adding saints to the new calendar of celebrations.

* Approved a new national plan for seminary formation.

* Approved extending a national collection to aid the church in Eastern Europe.

* Approved a 1993 budget of nearly $41.4 million for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and its public policy arm, the U.S. Catholic Conference.

* Approved a pastoral letter on stewardship aimed at developing financial and human resources for an increasingly financially strapped church.

* Heard the new chairman of their Committee for Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Roger Mahony, call upon Americans to work to stop the Freedom of Choice Act.

* Heard Cardinal Joseph Bernardin encourage them to focus on the issue of domestic violence.

* Received bad news concerning revenue shortfalls in their television network.

In an unexpected development, a clergy resolution on sexual abuse was approved by a voice vote after being prompted by remarks by Mahony after he had met with 10 abuse victims.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, outgoing conference president, said it was the first time the full body of bishops had spoken on the topic. "All our actions should show our church as a living, caring and healing church," the resolution said. "We pledge again our care and concern for all victims of abuse, wherever and however it occurs."

Responding to calls for a uniform national policy to respond to abuse cases, Pilarczyk said the conference "does not have the authority to mandate such a policy" any more than it could tell a bishop to "lift up a car and carry it to a meeting."

He later confirmed reports that discussions were under way to simplify rules to allow bishops to laicize priests who sexually abuse minors. The subject had come up in closed session during the three-day meeting.

Also, the bishops accepted a national plan for evangelization in the United States with a 229-2 vote. With no discussion, the bishops agreed to issue the document "Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States."

The document states that evangelization should be a call to deepen understanding among practicing Catholics, to reevangelize those who are Catholic in name only, to reconcile those who have stopped practicing their faith, to form children into disciples, to invite other Christians to know the church's message and to call to conversation those who have no faith.

In a vote of 210-3, the bishops agreed to adopt a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life, requested by New York Cardinal John O'Connor, outgoing chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The bishops, voting by written ballot, also approved a proposal, 160-2, to extend aid to former Soviet-bloc nations a fourth year. A two-thirds vote of all U.S. bishops was required for passage.

When first approved at the bishops' 1990 fall meeting, the measure called for a three-year collection, with an option for two more years. The first collection took place in 1991, and the collections had been expected to end in 1993.

Archbishop Francis T. Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska, said "it should be made very clear" that Russia is part of the collection, which has drawn $11 million in contributions since its inception. The archbishop's mission project in Magadan, in the Russian Far East, has received funds from the collection. "It's just beginning to open up," Archbishop Hurley said, adding that "little pockets of Catholics" are "surfacing throughout the Far East."

In another matter, Bernardin, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life, asked the bishops to take a strong stand against domestic violence "in an official and authoritative way."

He presented the bishops a 16-page statement, titled "When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women," cowritten by his committee and the bishops' Committee on Women in Society and in the Church.

The statement was approved for publication by the bishops' administrative committee in September. The statement declares that violence against women, whether it takes place within or outside the home, can never be justified.

"Violence in any form -- physical, sexual, psychological or verbal -- is sinful, many times it is a crime as well," says the joint committee statement.

Citing statistics from the Journal of the American Medical Association, the statement says three million to four million women in the United States are battered each year by their husbands or partners.

The statement advises male abusers to contact their parish and Catholic Charities or area shelters for the name of a program for abusers. The statement advises pastors and pastoral staff to make the parish a "safe place" where abused women and male abusers can come for help. It urges them to have an action plan ready if an abused woman calls for help and to build a relationship with police and domestic violence agencies.

In another matter, Auxiliary Bishop John T. Ricard of Baltimore told the U.S. bishops that their television network faces "significant cutbacks" in its budget because of revenue shortfalls for the past two years. He said the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America board was meeting to discuss various options on how to provide future services in light of decreased revenues in a recessionary economy.

Although the number of subscribing dioceses is up from 121 to 123 this year, CTNA remains underused, Bishop Ricard said. "We must support our network," he said. "It belongs to you. It remains at your disposal, yet largely underused." The bishops "must address the issue of support for our telecommunications network," Bishop Ricard added.
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Title Annotation:National Conference of Catholic Bishops 1992 conference
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Dec 4, 1992
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