Reticent Bishops Shift Away from Wider World

National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Reticent Bishops Shift Away from Wider World


We are grateful for the candor of Archbishops Wilton Gregory and Joseph Fiorenza of Atlanta and Galveston-Houston, respectively, who provide, in recent remarks, a structure against which to understand the changes that have been underway in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for more than a decade.

If the changes have been apparent, it is nonetheless helpful to have two former presidents of the conference offer their understanding of the shifts.

"Today, there are probably more bishops in the conference who would tend to accent Dei Verbum [a Vatican II document dealing with how God reveals himself to the church] than Gaudium et Spes [the Vatican II document on the church and the world], Fiorenza said during a recent interview. "What's emerging out of that experience is a sense of the importance of catechesis, of faithful transmission of what the church teaches."

Perhaps the shift from broader themes and topics to internal matters was inevitable in the broad swings of history. For Vatican II, the reform council of the 1960s, so jolted the church into a new attitude of openness to the world that, in hindsight, a backlash was inevitable.

The other side of Fiorenza's polite characterization of this new focus, however, is the retreat of the conference from the larger issues of the day, save for partisan political involvement by some bishops on a narrow range of subjects.

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