Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

At 50th Anniversary Meeting, US Bishops Lobbied by 'Unbishops'

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

At 50th Anniversary Meeting, US Bishops Lobbied by 'Unbishops'

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON--The bishops versus the unbishops. That's really where it's at, at the 50th anniversary meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference. - The bishops are easy enough to identify. Even without the pectoral cross, there's a certain dignity of bearing, a certain authority that's easy to spot. But the unbishops. They're something else.

They range from beard-and-sandals to clerical collar. From miniskirt to maxi. From Afro-cut to crew. Their rhetoric is equally diverse. From the suggestion that "the institutional church is in many ways materially and psychologically associated with the social forces of racial discrimination, economic exploitation and political oppression," to screaming street language in a bishop's face.

Just as it has in the rest of the world, -confrontation politics has become an established part of the bishops' conference. The busiest people that first morning were the unbishops, who were "handing out a three-page mimeographed document called 'The People's Agenda" Someone thrust a copy into Archbishop Fulton Sheen's hands. "What's this?' asked the wary archbishop. "It's the People's Agenda, sir," responded the neatly dressed young pamphleteer. "No thank you," said the archbishop, and with thumb and forefinger he dropped it back into the arms of the startled unbisho.p.

The People's Agenda listed 41 demands, in 12 categories, ranging from immediate withdrawal from Vietnam to a phasing out of parochial schools.

Inside the conference, the bishops voted to establish a national Catholic crusade against poverty, the Campaign for Human Development, committing the church to raise a fund of $50 million "over the next several years. …

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