US bishops discuss penance, homilies, religious liberty, economy

The U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore began with an emphasis on conversion and a return to the sacrament of penance.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, told the bishops at the start of the Nov. 12-15 meeting that he could imagine the criticism he might get for emphasizing penance when there are plenty of “controversies and urgent matters for the church right now.”

But he stressed that the bishops cannot engage culture, dialogue with others or confront challenges unless they first recognize their own sins and experience the grace of repentance.

The cardinal also said the sacrament of penance was something the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops planned to stress for all Catholics year-round with reflections on re-embracing Friday as a day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, papal nuncio to the United States, echoed Cardinal Dolan’s call for reconciliation.

Noting that there have been some clergy who “out of weaknesses have brought great pain to others,” Archbishop Vigano reminded the bishops. “We must continually undergo conversion ourselves … so people have faith and confidence in us.”

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., chair of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, presented a document that encouraged all Catholics to make a renewed effort to seek the sacrament of penance, also known as reconciliation.

If approved, the document will be published as a pamphlet in time to allow dioceses to prepare for Lent 2013.

The bishops’ assembly, which opened nearly a week after Election Day, also included discussions about religious liberty and marriage. [More]


Catholic News Service