I have to admit that I don't really follow US ecclesiastical politics closely because I find it (like US politics generally) rather bemusing given the strong admixture of anti-government sentiment that seems to colour debate on any issue.
But the outcomes of the latest US Bishops Conference meeting is certainly worth contemplating.
Election of Archbishop Dolan as President of the USCCB
Instead of the usual automatic succession of the Vice-President of the bishops' conference, Archbishop Dolan of New York was elected the new President.
The result seems to have been the outcome in part of a blog campaign against the presumed automatic succession of Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, partly due to his handling of the abuse crisis in his diocese (including allowing the ordination of a suspect priest who went on to be convicted of abuse to proceed), and partly because of his reputation as '“the leading liberal hope” among the progressive wing of the Church.'
But the election of Archbishop Dolan also seems to signal a more general desire among the American bishops (due in part to a series of recent Benedictine appointments) to continue the more activist role in the public square on moral and other issues as carried out by the outgoing President, Cardinal George.
Meanwhile back in Australia...
Meanwhile the Australian Bishops Conference has put out more than half a dozen statements over the last year on refugees - but not one on the abortion, homosexual 'marriage', homosexual adoption or euthanasia debates (and no, putting up an opinion piece on your website from Fr Brennan does not count) currently raging in this country.
Just as well that the Pope has reiterated that bishops' Conferences are there to support individual bishops in their leadership role, not replace them.
Still, the Pope's recent remarks do stress the value of collective action.
Adelaide, oh Adelaide...
It would have been nice to see some action from the Australian Bishops' Conference in support of the Vigils for Nascent Life called for by the Pope for example.
But presumably the President of the Conference, Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, has been rather preoccupied of late with the continuing issues posed by allowing his offsider Monsignor Cappo to be on the taxpayer payroll and participate in taxpayer funded junkets to Italy.
The homosexual challenge
But there are still plenty of opportunities ahead for supportive action.
Our Parliamentarians are gearing up, courtesy of the Greens, to canvass their electorates on homosexuality. And the Labor Party is bringing forward its National Conference to December 2011 so it can have a debate on whether to change the Party Platform opposing homosexual marriage. What a perfect time for some strong catechetical resources to be put out on the subject...
I'm not holding my breath however.
And on the subject of bishops conferences...
Fr Blake of St Mary Magdalen has a great post today on the subject of bishops conferences, with some links worth following back. I strongly endorse his sentiments, which are equally applicable to the ACBC:
"In the US there is openness; agendas, speeches, voting are public, here [England] everything is behind closed doors, except for the close of session press conference. A committment to openness by the US Bishops helped to repair the loss of trust following their abuse crisis.
It is not just the Cathosphere that is critical of the Bishop Conference... Today we are rightly suspicious of closed shops and groups who meet in secret, men exercising power without scrutiny. People expect transparency, openness and honesty, especially from the clergy, with the net the technology is possible."