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US Bishops on retreat this week

Under increasing fire from all sides of the political spectrum, the US Catholic Bishops are holding a private retreat this week in Denver, Colorado.

Over 250 of the American Bishops are on retreat in Denver, Colorado this week. They didn't seem to be saying much themselves in the lead-up to the retreat but every news outlet in the country seemed to be trying to read much into the meeting. And the meeting has brought out protesters from both sides of the spectrum.

The Washington Times, and most of the reputable media, are focusing on the main agenda issue which would seem to be consideration of the progress being made in handling the abuse crisis. The Bishops have come in for some criticism from members of their own review board. The Washington Times reports four of them are resigning this month, including Chair, Anne Burke, who has publicly complained that the bishops are dragging their feet on keeping all dioceses in line.

Also causing much speculation in the media is whether there might be some definitive statement on the issue how the Church deals with the distribution of communion to those who might not be in agreement with Church teaching on particular issues, particularly abortion.

Archbishop Charles Chaput is the local bishop for Denver and the Denver Post newspaper carried a question and answer set of responses from the Archbishop in its Sunday edition on these hot issues. The Archbishop's responses are diplomatic and clearly phrased to try and honestly answer the questions but also to not pour more oil on the troubled waters.

Other news surrounding the conference concerns the activities of various lobby groups. The Denver Post also reported on Sunday that "About 275 members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, are meeting at the Denver Hyatt Regency this weekend to share stories, plot personal recoveries and challenge the nation's Roman Catholic bishops to do more to protect children."

On the other end of the spectrum, Cybercast News is reporting that "conservative Christians will rally outside the meeting urging the bishops to deny communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion" and quotes some of the organisers. The conservative Crisis Magazine last week carried an open letter challenging the Bishops from former US Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson Russell Shaw.

Shaw's letter begins: "Although unsought advice, like the common cold, can be as unpleasant to receive as it is easy to give, the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canon Law say we laypeople can and should tell our pastors what we think about "things which pertain to the good of the Church" (Lumen Gentium, 37). Unfortunately, despite this official endorsement, the absence of the processes and structures for expressing public opinion that Vatican II also called for makes that a lot easier to say than to do. But if ever there was a time for it, surely it's now, in the midst of the most serious crisis the Church in the United States has faced."

Washington Times – Catholic bishops face vexing issues
Denver Post – Abuse victims call on bishops to act – Pro-Life Activists Target US Catholic Bishops' Meeting
Crisis Magazine – An Open Letter to America's Bishops

15 Jun 2004