Monday, November 14, 2005

Too Much Secrecy?

Ann Rodgers -- one of the few secular reporters at The Meeting, because she's got the beat covered -- files a pregame piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Longtime observers say that, while aspects of the sexual abuse crisis have regularly been discussed in closed session, other issues are probably driving the closure from noon tomorrow to noon Thursday.

These include issues involving Catholic seminaries, disagreements between bishops over communion for Catholic legislators who support abortion rights, and disagreements between the bishops and Vatican officials about changes to the English liturgy.

Asked why the bishops had closed so much of the meeting, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, replied, "Their agenda is not that heavy. I think they have more to talk about in executive session than in public session."

The two major items on the public agenda are a statement against the death penalty and guidelines for lay persons who do pastoral ministry.

The 275 bishops need time away from live television coverage to build relationships, said Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh. Post-meeting evaluations have shown that closed sessions were the highest-rated, he said.

"There has to be some space in which the bishops can talk about sensitive issues without having it first interpreted through the media," he said.

They also want "to find some time to pray together. So we are going to have some time before the Blessed Sacrament," he said.

Well, wouldn't it be nice if cameras covered the bishops before the Monstrance, a la the Synod? If you recall, St. Peter's was open to the public when the Synod fathers made their holy hour.

Best quote, per usual, comes from Bishop Anthony Bosco, emeritus of Greensburg, whose media cred is the stuff of legend.... So much so that he even joked about me once in a press conference; it was the apex of my career and I still love it that he did that.

Retired Bishop Anthony Bosco of Greensburg once organized closed summer retreats for the bishops, but believes their decision to close so much of the main meeting is unwise.

"I think all it does is create suspicion. ... It doesn't benefit anybody," said Bishop Bosco, who will not attend.

"There were those who were absolutely vigorously opposed to [allowing media]. I said that I was very much in favor because I think the reporters should suffer the way we do and sit through it," he said.

Bishops always say their meetings aren't fun, and the comparison to purgatory has been thrown around.... Will executive session relieve the pain? We'll see.