• Sara Larson

Here's What The Bishops Did Today (USCCB General Assembly Day 2)

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

It’s the end of another long day watching the USCCB General Assembly. For those of you who were not following along with my live updates on Facebook, here is a compilation of all my updates from throughout the day:

(Click here to read my summary of Day 1 first if you haven't done so yet!)

Getting Started

Good morning all! It's a cold and windy morning in Milwaukee, a great day to be camped out on the couch with my laptop and the USCCB meeting.

Here's the agenda for this morning. The most important item will be the election of the new president and vice president of the USCCB. I'll keep you posted!

The Big Vote

We began with morning prayer, followed by a quick reminder about the electronic voting system and the process for including votes from bishops that are currently in Rome on their ad limina visits.

The first order of business was the election of the new president and vice president. Here's the slate of candidates and information about the voting process from the USCCB website:

• Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Military Services

• Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport

• Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City

• Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco

• Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville

• Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles

• Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee

• Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois

• Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend

• Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit

"The president and vice president are elected to three-year terms, which begin at the conclusion of the meeting. At that time, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, will complete their terms as president and vice president, respectively.

The by-laws of the USCCB provide that the first election is that of the president by simple majority vote of members present and voting. Following the election of the president, the vice-president is elected from the remaining nine candidates. In either election, if a candidate does not receive more than half of the votes cast on the first ballot, a second vote is taken. If a third round of voting is necessary, that ballot is a run-off between the two bishops who received the most votes on the second ballot."

The Results

As expected, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles was elected president with a large majority of votes.

After two inconclusive votes, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was chosen on the third ballot as vice president (which, by tradition, makes him likely to be the next president in 3 years).

I need to learn more about Vigneron to think about what this means in relation to the USCCB's response to the abuse crisis. My first impression is fairly neutral.

New Leadership For This Issue

After lots of other committee elections, there was an important vote for Chair of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

I was excited to see Bishop Shawn McKnight on the ballot. If I could have picked any bishop to lead on this issue, it would be him.

He did not win. Instead, Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-Joseph was elected.

Here are the few things I know about Johnston:

- He succeeded Bishop Robert Finn, who was the first and only bishop convicted of failure to report child abuse. (For what it's worth, my impression is that some of these younger bishops who inherited terrible messes from previous bishops have become the strongest leaders on bringing improvements and increased accountability.)

- His diocese just released their list of names of accused priests back in September. The list was criticized by SNAP for not including religious order priests, visiting priests, etc.

- I just found these two articles that make me feel somewhat hopeful about his leadership: Bishop James V. Johnston: “We have to address failure” and In Service Of Lamentation, Diocese Apologizes To Victims Of Sexual Abuse

Moving Through The Agenda

The next portion of the meeting involved the approval of action items 4-7: an updated Program of Priestly Formation, a new translation of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, and a new translation of the Hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours (including a lovely demonstration by a small choir of young adults). All of this proceeded without much discussion. (My impression is that all the real work happens in the committees.)

Quite a fiery discussion and debate about the wording of new materials for Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. I'm a Church nerd, so I find all of this really interesting (you can view the video for yourself on the USCCB website if you're interested too), but nothing else this morning that referenced abuse in the Church.

The morning wrapped up with a dynamic discussion about ministry to Hispanic Catholics, approving Action Item #8, authorizing the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church’s Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs to lead the process of developing a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Hispanic/Latino ministry. Lots of passion and energy around this issue.

Now most of the bishops take a lunch break - But I'll be here watching the press conference to see if anything interesting happens.

What Gomez Said About The Abuse Crisis

The mid-day press conference included questions about immigration, DACA, abortion, priestly formation, and global warming.

There was also a direct question to president-elect Gomez about his plans for addressing the abuse crisis.

His response: "We are just going to continue to work on everything we are doing." He mentioned supporting victims "as we are already doing" and addressing the application of Vos Estis in every single diocese. "We want to support anyone who has suffered as a consequence of abuse and support all the people who are helping us address these situations."

"We are totally committed to the protection of children and the support of anyone who has suffered as a consequence of this tragedy."

A rather underwhelming answer, in my opinion.

But now I get a break while the bishops have lunch.

Passing the Hat

One more quick thing before I grab lunch: As many of you know, I left my job in parish ministry last January so that I could commit to doing this work full-time. I am grateful that for the last 10 months I have had the ability to be totally focused on this issue in our Church, and I would like to keep doing that!

If you want to help support me in this work, so that I can keep doing it in the next year (and still pay for groceries!), please consider making a small commitment through my Patreon page:

Thank you for considering this!

With Apologies to Saint Irenaeus

There was a quick vote for Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services to become the new secretary for the USCCB (replacing Vigneron).

Then, we moved on to an action item that I would normally have just nodded past: a voice vote to support a request for the Pope to name Saint Irenaeus a Doctor of the Church.

Theologically, it's a no-brainer, and it did pass unanimously. But get this: The request is coming from Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.

Yes, that Barbarin: French Cardinal Found Guilty of Covering Up Sexual Abuse.

And this too: Pope Rejects Resignation of French Cardinal Convicted of Abuse Cover-Up.

It's hard to see Barbarin’s name on a proposal, even one that is so innocuous. (No offense to St. Irenaeus.)

And it gets worse. Cardinal DiNardo, in a comment meant to be a light-hearted joke as he was introducing the action item, said this: "Actually, this request comes directly from God."


Inside Baseball

Next came two long presentations followed by discussion:

  • Bishop Nelson Pérez of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church on the follow-up to the V Encuentro

  • Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth on the development of the pastoral plan/framework for marriage and family life ministry and advocacy.

Again, interesting for Church nerds like me, but nothing of note regarding the abuse crisis.

After this, a short break, then two more presentations. I don't expect much more of note today, but I'll keep listening just in case.

One Thing That Breaks My Heart

The meeting day ended with two more agenda items:

  • The first was a presentation by Archbishop Chaput and two young adults who participated in the youth synod with Pope Francis. Both of these young people spoke powerfully about the role of youth in the Church and their passion for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their peers.

  • The second was a report from Archbishop Gomez from the working group on immigration issues, which was followed by very vibrant discussion and several stirring speeches about the need for the Church to oppose racism, care for immigrants, and encourage compassion.

This is one of the many things that breaks my heart about the scandal in the Church today.

There is so much more we could be doing on behalf of those who are suffering. There are people who need our voices. So much of what these bishops are saying is good and helpful and important.

But how can our Church speak credibly about these moral questions? Who will listen to us now?

Wrap Up

The day closed off with a press conference featuring questions about immigration, evangelizing young people, and theological differences about faithful citizenship.

By the way, reporters are instructed at the beginning of each press conference to focus their questions only on the agenda items from the previous segment of the meeting. So there's not really an opportunity to ask more general questions about the abuse crisis (although it would be nice if the reporters would try anyway!).

Today was a bit light on any discussion pertaining to clerical abuse or accountability. However, the first major item on the agenda for tomorrow is an update on the implementation of the third party reporting mechanism for bishop misconduct. So, that's when we'll see more focus on these issues.

I'm signing off for the day now! I look forward to taking a break from the computer, having dinner with my family, and then gathering with fellow Catholics in Milwaukee for a discussion group about these issues in our Church (

Tomorrow is a later start, with some regional meetings taking place at the beginning of the day before the public session begins at 11:00 EST. See you then!


Tonight, please join me in praying for all of our bishops.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

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