By Lisa Zengarini
At their 2020 Fall Plenary Assembly, which met 16-17 November in a virtual format, the U.S. Bishops focused on racism; the challenges and opportunities for evangelization presented by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the Vatican’s recently released report on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In his opening address as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Monday, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez called on his fellow bishops to spread the Gospel of Jesus to help people move on through the crisis, following “the courageous example” of Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, who was beatified on October 31. “This is far more than a public health emergency,” he stressed.
Archbishop Gomez also spoke, amongst other things, about the sexual abuse crisis and the McCarrick Report issued by the Holy See, and renewed the U.S. bishops’ commitment “to protecting children and vulnerable adults and to eliminate this scourge of abuse from the Church”. These were among the main topics discussed during the meeting in which the Bishops heard the latest report from the National Review Board on child and youth protection in the US Church.
In an online discussion on November 17 they talked about the impact of the Coronavirus on local church communities, noting that isolation has not lessened people’s hunger for the Eucharist.
In a year marked by social unrest and protests for racial equality in the US, following more high-profile killings of Afro-American citizens at the hands of the police, Bishops shared thoughts and experiences on the issue of racism. The assembly voted to approve the renewal of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism that focuses on addressing the sin of racism. The committee was established in August 2017, upon the unanimous recommendation of the USCCB’s Executive Committee and in consultation with members of the USCCB's Committee on Priorities and Plans.
The assembly also approved the Revised Strategic Priorities for the 2021-24 USCCB Strategic Plan, “Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope” and accepted the recommendations of the Committee on Budget and Finance for approval of the 2021 Proposed Budgets.
Finally, the assembly announced the new chairmen of eight standing committees, the new General Secretary of the USCCB, and new members of the board of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Bishops elected as General Secretary Father Jeffrey D. Burill, S.T.L., a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse who has served as Associate General Secretary of USCCB since February 2016.