By Catholic News Service
SAN ANTONIO (CNS) – Liturgical matters, immigration reform and same-sex marriage were among the topics discussed by the U.S. bishops in public sessions at their June 17-19 spring meeting in San Antonio.
But the bishops also devoted time – in executive session – to the recent controversy over the University of Notre Dame’s decision to award an honorary degree to U.S. President Barack Obama. They emerged from the meeting with a two-sentence affirmation of Bishop John M. D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., for his “pastoral concern” for the university.
The only two liturgical texts receiving definitive approval from the bishops in San Antonio were a Spanish-language Lectionary and a Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life.
The Mass for life, first proposed nearly 20 years ago by Cardinal John J. O’Connor of New York, passed by a 183-2 vote, with three abstentions. The Spanish-language Lectionary was approved on a 181-2 vote, also with three abstentions. Both now go to the Vatican for confirmation.
But five sections of the Roman Missal being prepared for use in English-speaking countries failed to get the necessary two-thirds votes of the Latin-rite U.S. bishops during the meeting.
With 244 Latin-rite bishops in the United States eligible to vote on the questions, the required two-thirds was 163. With 189 eligible bishops attending the meeting, only 134 voted to accept the first section, Masses and prayers for various needs and intentions.
On four subsequent translations, the votes also failed to reach two-thirds, meaning the 55 bishops not present will be polled by mail on all five parts. That process is expected to take several weeks.
The items that failed to pass contain the Order of the Mass II; prefaces for various occasions; votive Masses and Masses for the dead; solemn blessings for the end of Mass; prayers over the people; and eucharistic prayers for particular occasions, such as for evangelization or ordinations.
On immigration reform, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago wrote on behalf of the full U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to urge President Barack Obama and Congress to enact comprehensive reform before the end of 2009.
“It has been clear for years that the United States immigration system requires repair and that reform legislation should not be delayed,” said the USCCB president in a prepared statement. “I would ask President Barack Obama and congressional leaders of both parties to work together to fashion and enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the end of the year.”
He also urged “respect and observance of all just laws” and said the bishops “do not approve or encourage the illegal entry of anyone into our country.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Ky., chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Defense of Marriage, reported to his fellow bishops about the challenges in meeting their priority focus on marriage, especially the quick rate at which states and courts have been taking up legislation that legalizes same-sex marriage or prohibits it.
Six states now recognize marriage between same-sex couples, Archbishop Kurtz said, and others are considering the same type of laws or a range of others “allowing everything but marriage,” that would give new legal rights to civil unions.
He said the key points that the ad hoc committee is focusing on to support marriage are:
* That marriage is inherently related to sexual differences and the complementarity of men and women.
* That marriage is for the good of children, who are themselves “a great good of marriage.”
* That marriage is a unique bond reserved to men and women by nature.
* That same-sex marriage has negative effects on religious rights.
The bishops also heard brief reports from their conference vice president, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., about their other four priorities: faith formation and sacramental practice; the life and dignity of the human person; cultural spanersity in the Church; and promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
In other actions, the bishops in a 135-2 vote approved a recommendation from their Committee on Budget and Finance to keep the 2010 assessment on dioceses to fund the work of the USCCB at the 2009 level of just over $10 million. The vote was open only to bishops who head dioceses.
But Archbishop Kurtz, chairman of the committee, warned that he would probably be asking for an increase for 2011 when that assessment comes up at the bishops’ November meeting in Baltimore.
The assessments are calculated for each diocese based on a formula that includes offertory income, registered households and contributions to three national collections.
The bishops also approved funding of $450,000 for the New York-based John Jay College of Criminal Justice to complete a study of the causes and context of clergy sex abuse of minors. Commissioned by the bishops in the 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” the study is expected to be completed by December 2010.