BALTIMORE - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved several items, including a proposed statement on pornography and a new introductory note and limited revision of their quadrennial statement on political responsibility, during their annual Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, November 17. The bishops also voted on a liturgical book, strategic priorities for the 2017-2020 cycle and on the 2016 budget.
The bishops approved the strategic priorities for the 2017-2020 planning cycle with 233 votes in favor, 4 against and 0 abstaining.
The priorities are:
Evangelization: Open wide the doors to Christ through missionary discipleship and personal encounter.
Family and marriage: Encourage and heal families; inspire Catholics to embrace the sacrament of matrimony.
Human life and dignity: Uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death with special concern for the poor and vulnerable.
Vocations and ongoing formation: Encourage vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, and provide meaningful ongoing formation to clergy, religious and lay ministers.
Religious freedom: Promote and defend the freedom to serve, witness and worship, in the U.S. and abroad.
The full body of bishops also voted 230-4-1 to approve a proposed formal statement, Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography. This is the first formal statement issued by the body of bishops focused exclusively on a pastoral response to pornography production and use.
The bishops also voted 217-16-2 in favor of on a new introductory note and 210-21-5 for a limited revision to their quadrennial statement on political responsibility, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship." The revised statement, which is reissued the calendar year before a U.S. presidential election, will feature new language around issues of public concern for Catholics.
The bishops voted 187-27-3 to approve the liturgical book Excerpts from the Roman Missal: Book for Use at the Chair in dioceses of the United States presented by the Committee on Divine Worship. This item, passed by at least two thirds of the Latin rite bishops, will be sent to Rome for approval.
The bishops voted by voice in favor of approval of the 2016 proposed budget, presented by the Committee on Budget and Finance.
The results of the vote by diocesan and eparchial bishops for a three percent increase in the diocesan assessment for 2017, was 123-49. The vote fell short of the necessary 132, and ballots will be mailed to bishops not present.
By a voice vote, the bishops also participated in the canonical consultation of three causes for canonization: Rev. Aloysius Ellacuria, CMF, sought by Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles; Antonio Cuipa and 81 companions, sought by Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida; and Father Bill Atkinson, sought by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. This is a step in the Catholic Church's process toward declaring a person a saint.