U.S. bishops fall plenary assembly concludes with new officers elected, many actions taken

BALTIMORE - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathered November 14-17 for their Fall Plenary Assembly in Baltimore. During their meeting, the bishops elected a new president, vice-president, and secretary to lead the Conference; their terms began immediately at the conclusion of the 2022 plenary today. During their gathering, the body of bishops also elected new chairmen of seven standing committees. Six of the elected bishops will serve for one year as the committee chairman-elect before beginning a three-year term that begins at the conclusion of the bishops’ 2023 Plenary Assembly, and the new chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities assumes the chairmanship immediately to complete the term of the previous chairman who was voted Conference vice president. 

The assembly began with an address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles gave his final address as USCCB president upon completion of his three-year term.

The bishops spent time in prayer and fraternal dialogue with one another throughout the gathering. In acknowledgment of twenty years since the drafting and passage of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the bishops were led in prayer and reflection by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR of Newark and Mr. Mark Joseph Williams.

The robust agenda for the bishops’ assembly included updates on the following items: the Synod of Bishops; the ongoing war in Ukraine; the bishops’ Eucharistic Revival initiative and national congress; the Church’s support for women and families in light of the Supreme Court’s decision this summer in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization; policy advocacy and ongoing work of Migration and Refugee Services; information on World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal; and the Journeying Together intercultural dialogue and encounter process.

The bishops also engaged in discussion on the approach to their teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, and its related materials to be executed over the next year. By an overwhelming majority, the bishops voted to reissue the teaching document without revisions but add supplemental materials and begin a process of reexamining the teaching document following the 2024 election.

The bishops voted with 215 in favor, 4 against, and 1 abstention to approve the 2023 proposed budget, presented by the Committee on Budget and Finance.

 The Latin Church members of the USCCB voted to approve revisions in rites related to the anointing of the sick and lay ministry to the sick, as well as liturgical texts for two recently instituted feast days:

  • A revision of the U.S. English-language edition of “The Order of the Anointing of the Sick and of their Pastoral Care” was approved with 196 in favor, 4 against, and 1 abstention. A new U.S. Spanish language edition of the same text was approved with 200 in favor, 3 against, and 3 abstentions.
  • The texts of prayers and rites in English that can be used by lay ecclesial ministers in their ministry to the sick, “Lay Ministry to the Sick” was approved with 196 in favor, 8 against, and 2 abstentions. The Spanish-language edition of the same text was approved with 196 in favor, 8 against, and 2 abstentions.
  • Liturgical texts for the two optional memorials, the memorial for Saint Paul VI (May 29), and the memorial for Our Lady of Loreto (December 10) passed with 204 in favor, 0 against, and 0 abstentions.

The approval of all texts requires a two-thirds vote of the Latin-rite bishops, and the “The Order of the Anointing of the Sick and of their Pastoral Care” also requires “recognitio” from the Vatican.

The bishops were also consulted on the causes of beatification and canonization for three lay persons: Mother Margaret Mary Healy-Murphy, Michelle Duppong, and Cora Louise Evans. By a voice vote, the bishops affirmed support for the advancement of all three causes of beatification and canonization on the diocesan level.

Tune in to USCCB’s Catholic Current for November 15 and November 16 from Baltimore. News updates, texts of addresses and presentations, and other materials from the 2022 plenary are posted to: www.usccb.org/meetings.