Tuesday, November 17, 2009

U.S. Bishops Meet, and other news

Friends, sorry to be away for a bit, back now.

Blogging for Politics Daily, David Gibson reports on the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore:
The leader of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States on Monday launched a new effort to rein in Catholic debates and dissidents and to remind the flock that the bishops will be the arbiters of what it means to be a Catholic.

In remarks at the opening of the hierarchy's annual meeting in Baltimore, Chicago Cardinal Francis George made it clear that after years of repeated questions about the bishops' credibility, it was time for the bishops to clarify just who can and cannot speak for the church. He also confirmed that he had set up three committees of bishops to develop guidelines for determining what will be considered legitimate Catholic entities. Much more here, do read the whole piece.  [Update:  via Rocco, the text of Cardinal George's address.]
It is relevant to note that a new bishop for the diocese Fort Wayne-South Bend was named on Saturday.  This would be a routine announcement about a fairly humble see except for the fact that this little bit of northern Indiana is also home to the University of Notre Dame.  Rocco Palmo reports.  Given the kerfluffle over the Obama visit to Our Lady's U., it is perhaps not surprising that one of the three committees that Cardinal George is setting up will be on education, rumored to be a committee that will develop guidelines or norms for calling a college or university "Catholic."  I'm troubled by efforts in the area of "Catholic identity" or "brand management" that seem overly top-down.  Still, even at the "top," there might be some push-and-pull, Gibson suggests that the diversity among U.S. Catholics is, to some degree, present when the bishops gather.

Let's hope so.  In a blow to the generous model of catholicity, an email today announced the closing of the National Pastoral Life Center, home of the late Cardinal Bernardin's Common Ground Initiative.  This effort had indeed seemed rudderless (read:  good people with vision and very little official support) since the death of Msgr. Philip Murnion.  The best face possible was put on the announcement, which began
When the National Pastoral Life Center began twenty-five years ago, we never imagined a time when so many of our initiatives would become integrated into the way Catholics in the United States practice their faith and serve the Church. That time seems to be now...
That may be true for some initiatives of the NPLC; some aspects of the Center's work may be flourishing in places in the U.S.  But, with regard to the initiative that sought common ground -- among Catholic parish ministers, theologians across the spectrum, priests, deacons and bishops, vowed women religious, and active Catholic laity from all walks of life -- the cry of "victory" is misplaced. And now the effort is over.

UPDATE!  Not over (though perhaps not quite the same?): the Catholic Common Ground Initiative has moved "home" to the Chicago Theological Union ... the announcement begins thus (read carefully):
On Saturday, November 14 the Catholic Common Ground Initiative (CCGI), founded by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in 1996 just months before his death, will move to the Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry of Catholic Theological Union at Chicago (CTU). The date marks the thirteenth anniversary of the Cardinal’s death.
Cardinal Francis George described the Initiative, formerly housed by the National Pastoral Life Center in New York, as “coming home to Chicago,” the late Cardinal’s archdiocese. “The Initiative is not a forum for negotiating Catholic doctrine but a means to review the challenges to understanding and living our faith in constantly changing circumstances,” added Cardinal George. The Bernardin Center with its rich history and experience of working to build bridges will provide the Catholic Common Ground Initiative with new resources and opportunities...[my emphasis] Here's the rest.