They say that a committee is a place where a horse goes to become a giraffe. That being said, the 2021 Fall General Assembly of the USCCB took place from November 16th through November 18th in Baltimore, MD leaving a horse in the competent hands of more than 200 American bishops.
As the prelates gathered to meet there were two events taking place simultaneously, each aiming to send a message to the assembled bishops. Roughly 200 individuals participated in the Men’s March to End Abortion. Across the street at a waterfront pavilion Church Militant hosted the “Bishops: Enough is Enough” rally that featured Father James Altman, David L. Gray and other prominent speakers.
While the messages being conveyed outside the meeting were clear, the messages inside weren’t nearly as transparent — at least, not at first.
Like pageant contestants longing for a crown, Monday started with prelates who long for red hats, kicking things off with a quasi-conclave. For now, only the bishops know everything that went on during the secret meeting. Though by the looks of Wednesday’s session, one is left to wonder if the meeting included something which emasculated every bishop in the room. We will, without a doubt, know soon enough what went on behind closed doors. It’s well known that bishops are notoriously horrible at keeping secrets.
Tuesday’s session included an opening pep talk by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Having observed a number of his speeches, it’s evident Archbishop Pierre perceives himself as entertaining. In typical fashion, the Vatican’s version of Maurice Chevalier peppered a number of humorous anecdotes into his presentation, which was a propaganda piece from the corporate office about — you guessed it: the Synod on Synodality.
“I believe that synodality is an answer to the challenges of our time and to the confrontation, which is threatening to divide this country, and which also has its echoes in the church,” Archbishop Pierre said.
“It seems that many are unaware they are engaged in this confrontation, staking out positions, rooted in certain truths but which are isolated in the world of ideas and not applied to the reality of the lived faith experience of the people of God in their concrete situations,” he said.
In an attempt to shed some light on the obscure term, Archbishop Pierre said synodality is not “a meeting about meetings.” He then perhaps prophetically quipped, “If that were the case, we would certainly be in one of the lower rings of hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno.’”
One interesting take away from Tuesday’s session was a concern raised in a report presented by Mark Sadd, chairman of the National Advisory Council. In his remarks, Mr. Sadd noted that the council had more questions than answers with regard to the synod. Though he did note that Archbishop Pierre’s presentation was insightful.
He must have heard a different presentation than me because I’m still confused.
Tuesday culminated with a presentation by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States. He thanked the bishops for their “warm and ecumencial presence” during the recent visit to the United States of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
His Eminence went on to state that a “dialogue of love” between the faiths was the future for the two churches. “Since 1965 — at the happy coincidence of the reestablishment of Catholic-Orthodox relations and the Second Vatican Council — this Consultation has produced thirty-two documents, reports, and statements,” he said. “Some of them became real references for theologians, and for our Churches to walk together towards unity.”
Real references for theologians, eh?
On Wednesday morning, the bishops approved new guidelines governing financial investments that include wider limits on where money would be invested, focusing on corporate practices that impact human dignity. Among those who stood to discuss the issue were Bishop Robert McElroy (San Diego, CA) and Bishop Joseph Strickland (Tyler, TX).
“I think we’re going to have to move to an absolute prohibition on fossil fuels if we’re going to give witness to where the world needs to move,” Bishop McElroy said.
Greta would be so proud of Cupich’s protégé for his sustainable stance.
Seeking a gold star from the chairman, Bishop Strickland rose to inform his brother bishops that financial advisors to the Diocese of Tyler expressed that the diocese excels in ensuring that its investments are morally sound.
Later in the morning, Bishop James Johnston Jr. (Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO), chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, brought forward the committee’s desire to update the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” sooner than originally planned. The measure called for updating the charter in 2022 rather than in 2025.
Retired Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (Brooklyn, NY), urged that the review be expanded to include events surrounding priests accused of abuse. He said that investigations can take as long as two years, which he felt was too long for a priest who is innocent of an allegation to be cleared by church officials.
It’s not like he’s partial or anything.
In November 2019, Bishop DiMarzio was accused of abuse by a man who said the bishop abused him when he was a preteen altar boy in Jersey City. Earlier this year, a second man accused Bishop DiMarzio of sexually abusing him as a child in 1970s when the bishop was a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. While the Vatican has cleared Bishop DiMarzio of the allegations, a lawyer for both accusers has filed civil lawsuits against him.
Auxiliary Bishop Mark O’Connell (Boston, MA) rose to suggest that the review process be expanded to include vulnerable adults. Again looking for a gold star, Bishop Joseph Strickland (Tyler, TX) rose to express his appreciation and support for the work of the committee. The vote was 230 bishops in favor of the plan and five bishops against it.
The morning session also included bishops voting to advance the causes of beatification and canonization for Servants of God Charlene Marie Richard, Auguste Robert Pelafigue, and Joseph Ira Dutton.
“We are not asked to approve the cause,” Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ canonical affairs and Church governance committee, clodhoppishly said. “Rather [what] we are invited to do is to observe, related to the cause, any advancements of views of social, religious, or even political significance.”
Since Vatican II, timing, contributions, and optics have become key factors in advancing causes to sainthood. It’s safe to assume that the upcoming synod, with its emphasis on lay input was on their minds as the bishops expressed their enthusiasm for the causes of three lay individuals.
“The source and summit of the Christian life” was the topic of discussion before lunch.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades (Fort Wayne-South Bend, IN) called for discussion and vote on the long anticipated 26-page statement entitled, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.”
The document piqued the interest of the Vatican and Washington alike. Over the last few months we’ve waited for this document, wondering whether or not it would in essence suggest barring politicians who support abortion rights from receiving the Eucharist.
This was the moment Catholics on both sides of the debate had been waiting for, eager to see who would rise for and against the document. We expected lively debate and passionate speeches. We didn’t get much of anything.
Likely still scared from Monday’s pact of emasculation, few bishops rose to speak during the discussion.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann (Kansas City, KS) reminded his brother bishops not forget the responsibility they have to “take care of the souls” of Catholic politicians who do not publicly support Church teaching on abortion. Bishop Donald DeGrood (Sioux Falls, SD) pointed out what he perceived as healthy tension for the bishops, to call out what isn’t right.
The document, much like the discussion, was disappointing. Rather than explicitly denying the sacrament to pro-choice politicians, it focuses on the importance of teaching the Real Presence of the Eucharist and the Eucharist as a tool for evangelization.
The measure passed by a vote of 222-8. While I’m not a fan of the outlet, NPR News aptly described the outcome as “a year of polarized debate that ended in a whimper.”
To say the document left many Catholics disappointed would be an understatement. Not since the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story have we come to expect something exciting, only to receive something mundane.
I suspect the bishops knew this would be the case. Thus, the next item on the agenda was a quasi-pep rally led by Bishop-designate Andrew Cozzens (Crookston, MN).
The Minnesota prelate took to the stage with enthusiasm as if to say, “Hey, we know the document stunk on ice, but wait ‘til you see what we have in store for ya!”
He presented a three-year Eucharistic revival initiative, culminating with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in 2024. The presentation included a flashy video highlighting “what to expect in Indianapolis.” Images of race cars, live bands, high end restaurants, an aquarium, and exciting night life flashed on the screen. One thing noticeably absent, however, was the Eucharist.
Bishop Michael Duca (Baton Rouge, LA) pointed out to Cozzens that the faithful “are not coming to Indy for the things Indy provides, but for the things the Eucharist provides.”
After the video things got awkward for a moment when Bishop Strickland rose to speak. While more than 10 minutes had passed since the discussion of the lackluster document on the eucharist, Strickland no less said he “wanted to follow on what Archbishop Naumann spoke about.”
As he stood at the microphone with cell phone in hand, the Texas prelate was flicking up and down on the screen nervously, then began to read what appeared to be some sort of prepared speech. It was evident the words were not written by Strickland and it seemed as though he was reading them for the first time. He began by saying he was “speaking in the spirit of synodality.” He went on to thank Pope Francis, “for stating clearly that abortion is the murder of unborn children.”
Bishop Strickland concluded his remarks and the facial expression of Bishop Cozzens was that of awkward bewilderment. None the less he thanked Strickland for his random ramblings and carried on with the presentation without giving Strickland a gold star.
The proposed Eucharistic Congress is slated to carry a hefty price tag of $28 million dollars and will cost each attendee $300 to attend — not including food and lodging. While some bishops expressed concern at the price, Bishop Cozzens said the cost was reasonable. He expressed that he desires the event to have an atmosphere similar to that of World Youth Day or NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference). Such an environment, he believes, is worth $300 per person.
World Youth Day, huh? Suddenly, a nightmarish image passes through my mind of Dana Scallon leading attendees in a riveting version of We Are One Body.
After Cozzens concluded his remarks, the bishops prayed the Angelus and made a beeline to the buffet.
That’s where I leave my analysis of the 2021 Fall General Assembly — at the buffet. Because, like the bishops, those who attend the Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis will find themselves once again hungry only a few hours later. Under the juvenile direction of Bishop Cozzens, the USCCB is, as usual addressing symptoms but not the cause.
At first glance, Cozzens comes across as a sort of Peter Pan like individual — a boy who never quite grew up. The 53 year old presented the Eucharistic Congress in a manner reminiscent of a 5th grader at a science fair. It’s evident that he’s a devotee of Pope John Paul II by the way that he constantly referenced World Youth Day as he pitched the Eucharistic “revival.”
It’s time that somebody acknowledges the 800lb gorilla in the room: World Youth Day was among the epic failures of John Paul II’s pontificate. I realize, of course, that saying this will inevitably stir up his cult following but facts are facts.
The fact is that 70% of Catholics in the United States view the Blessed Sacrament as a symbol, rather than a sacrament. The majority of these individuals grew up during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
The fact is that vocations, even under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II continue to decline year after year. World Youth Day was supposed to bring about flourishing vocations — where are they?
In her article, “What’s Wrong with World Youth Day,” Dr. Marian Horvat, Ph.D. reviews the book, “World Youth Day, From Catholicism to Counterchurch.”
Another item considered irrelevant at WYD is the moral code of times past. Mrs. Ferreira notes: ‘At Rome, dubbed a ‘Catholic Woodstock,’ bare shoulders and midriffs and micro-minis were allowed in St. Peter’s, and the papal Mass featured dancing girls in wispy costumes.’ In Toronto, pilgrims ‘stripped down to bikini tops and frolicked in a fountain at a main venue’ (p. 64).
On the night before the papal Mass, the youth – male and female together – were camped out in tents or sleeping bags for what the secular press has dubbed as the “Papal slumber party” (p. 65). What happened in some of those tents can be left to the imagination of the reader. Certainly, it was to avoid this kind of scandal that Catholic morals always – until Vatican II – forbade non-married men and women to sleep in such conditions. And then there is the entertainment, plenty of rock, dance, and drama to keep things lively. At WYD 2002 in Toronto, for example, there were 25 stages where 500 different performances were executed. The “pilgrims” on the whole were not seeking a more profound knowledge of Catholic faith, but rather “community,” experience and a good time. It is, as Mrs. Ferreira appropriately dubs it, “religion as fun.”
In the words of the Dixie Chicks: “there’s your trouble” — religion as fun.
If we’ve learned anything in the last half century of the neo-modernist crisis, surely we’ve learned that the LifeTeen, World Youth Day and NCYC approach to catechesis is an epic failure.
What Bishop Cozzens is proposing is yet another pizza party to the tune of $28 million dollars when what the faithful need is manna in the form of solid catechesis, and what God needs is Eucharistic reparation — NOT revival.
As Catholics, we have to face an uncomfortable reality: the blame for the crisis in the Church does not rest exclusively in the lap of Pope Francis. With the exception of the short pontificate of Pope John Paul I, every pope since Paul VI has in some way broadened ecumenism, promoted globalism in some form, compromised doctrine, and weakened catechesis. World Youth Day is one such example.
The juvenile initiative set forth by Bishop Cozzens, along with the Synod on Synodality and the watered down document “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” are further proof that the modernist Church desires a weak, stupid flock that can easily be duped – ultimately into a Masonic, globalist agenda culminating with the reign of the Antichrist on throne of St. Peter.
For now, they can enjoy their revival but God will have Eucharist reparation one way or another.
In his opening speech to the prelates, Archbishop Pierre made a joke about Dante’s inferno, I conclude with a more ominous thought, paraphrasing Chrsysostom, Eudes, and Athanasius: “The Road to hell is paved with the skulls of many bishops.”
Jeremy Dannebohm is a freelance writer and traditional Catholic. All too acquainted with controversy and attacks, Dannebohm is quick to defend those disenfranchised by the post-conciliar Church. He resides in the Carolinas.