The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved several action items on Wednesdayat their Spring General Assembly taking place in Baltimore, June 11-13.
The full body of bishops approved in a provisional vote of 213 to 8 with 4 abstentions the proposed, provisional Strategic Priorities for the 2021-24 USCCB Strategic Plan.
The Bishops also approved the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, 2nd edition, for use in the dioceses of the United States by a vote of 217 to 5 with 2 abstentions; and a new translation of the ritual book used for the Ordination of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons for use in the dioceses of the United States of America. The Latin Church members of USCCB voted by the necessary two-thirds majority to approve the text.
The USCCB Committee on Priorities and Plans (CPP), based on two recent consultations with the body of bishops and one with the National Advisory Council (NAC), developed the 2021-24 Strategic Priorities. These two consultations with the body of bishops consisted of Regional Meeting questions at the November 2018 General Meeting wherein regions provided inputs on the Strategic Priorities for the 2021-24 Strategic Plan; and a Strategic Priorities Survey in January 2019 asking all bishops to further refine and prioritize the November 2018 regional meeting inputs; the National Advisory Council (NAC) also provided their inputs in January 2019 through a similar Strategic Priorities survey. The development of supporting 2021-24 Operational Plans by USCCB Committees, Subcommittees and Departments, which together make up the proximate 2021-24 Strategic Plan, will commence in July 2019.
The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, 2nd edition, fulfills the prescriptions of canon 236 of the Code of Canon Law and n.15 of the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis diaconorum permanentium to ensure unity, earnestness, and completeness in the formation, life, and ministry of permanent deacons in the United States. In September 2017, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV) approved the National Directory, 2nd edition, and submitted it for review to the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance (CACG) and the Committee on Doctrine. In June 2018, after adopting the recommendations of the Doctrine and CACG Committees, the CCLV Committee approved the National Directory and recommended to present it to the body of bishops in the General Assembly session in November 2018, but the Administrative Committee decided to postpone the discussion and vote. This year 2019, the Administrative Committee approved the inclusion of the National Directory on the June 2019 General Assembly agenda for discussion and vote.
The Latin Church members of USCCB also voted today by the necessary two-thirds majority to approve the Ordination of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. It now requires a confirmation of the decision (confirmatio) by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments before it can be published and used in the liturgy. Since Bishops in English-speaking countries around the world have been using a variety of translations of this text for their celebrations of Ordination, the Holy See expressed a desire for greater worldwide unity in these important ceremonies.
This new translation was prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) with input from the international community. While the new text is not drastically different from what is currently used in the U.S., it does update the book to some degree, and the positive vote of the Bishops indicates their desire for an up-to-date text and their support for the Holy See’s perspective on the value of worldwide consistency. The bishops of Canada have already approved the same text, and Wednesday’s vote of the U.S. body of bishops suggests that the hopes of the Holy See are already bearing fruit. Depending on the speed with which the confirmatio is received, the new book might be in print and available for use as early as 2020, though the approval and publication process could take more time.