Monday, June 05, 2006

Holy Downsizing, Bishops!

A few weeks back, word tripped the wire that three plans were being floated for the pruning of the administrative apparatus of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Judging by what Catholic News Service reported the other day in a piece by Jerry Filteau, it looks as if the most draconian route is being taken -- a drastic slashing which would reduce the number of standing committees from the current 35 to 14, eliminate the 16 ad hoc committees and slim the Conference's Administrative Committee from 50 members to 34.

Of course, it gets difficult when one realizes that it's not about the committees per se -- it's not an esoteric belief that there are simply too many of them, and it often seems as if every bishop is the chair of something or other -- but the lay staffing of these committees. Fewer committees will almost inevitably mean fewer staff, if the proposals as written are adopted.

Remember well, though, this is the USCCB: no proposal is adopted verbatim. Ever. Keeping that in mind, they'll be discussed at the summer meeting, which begins ten days from today in Los Angeles.

The products of that discussion will likely come up for a first vote, which is expected at the USCCB's November meeting, to be held this year in Baltimore.

Among the proffered consolidations reported by CNS:
  • Collapsing five committees -- "vocations, priestly formation, diaconate, consecrated life, and priestly life and ministry" -- into a single committee for Clergy and Religious Life, which would also include the ad hoc for Bishops' Life and Ministry and the former committees (to be made boards) for the North American College and the American College at Louvain;
  • A combined Committee for Catechesis and Catholic Education to replace "catechesis, evangelization, education and world mission"
  • Amalgamating all the national collections -- e.g. Retired Religious, Catholic Communications Campaign, Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Relief Services, etc. etc. etc. etc. -- under a single committee oversight.
  • Your beloved BCL (Bishops Committee for the Liturgy) would be rechristened the (serene and kindly) Committee for Divine Worship, also picking up the work of the ad hocs on "national shrines, the charismatic renewal, and church stewardship."
According to the Conference's news service, under the proposals Doctrine would assume the task of Scripture translations and health care issues; Laity, Marriage and Family would be merged; and the "big guns" of Pro-Life, Communications, Migration, Children and Young Adult Protection, and Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs would remain practically untouched.

There is more, of course, but it'd bore you to tears.

Keep an eye on this -- as many of you know, nothing can be stickier than tinkering with a well-established machine.