Monday, November 12, 2007

Morning at "The Circus"

Good morning from Baltimore and Opening Day of the November Meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

One might be tempted to say "let the games begin," but in truth, things have been ramping up from before the weekend. The 300-odd high-hats in attendance started arriving as early as Thursday, the last two days featured a good bit of committee business, and the various receptions and other side-elements of the gathering are already in full swing.

Last night's major events took place away from the week's headquarters at the Waterfront Marriott, as Catholic Relief Services hosted a social to show off its new headquarters, and the Basilica of the Assumption was packed to overflowing for a Mass marking the bicentennial of Mount St Mary's in Emmitsburg.

In his homily, the hometown emeritus Cardinal William Keeler drew on the theme of persecution in the Sunday readings to muse that "anti-Catholicism is still around," albeit "often in disguise." Among his examples, in an unscripted aside the cardinal singled out the city's paper of record, the Sun, ostensibly for its coverage of the recent removal of a South Baltimore pastor by newly-installed Archbishop Edwin O'Brien.

Among Fr Ray Martin's offenses were his continued employment (despite prior warnings) of a maintenance staffer with a criminal record -- a violation of archdiocesan hiring and screening policies -- and a recent funeral at which Martin allowed an Episcopal priest to proclaim the Gospel and receive the Eucharist. Reaction from upset parishioners, one of whom likened the suspension to the "dark ages," has driven local press coverage.

Thirty-five bishops concelebrated the evening liturgy, including Washington's Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the Mount's mitred former rectors, Archbishop Harry Flynn of St Paul and Minneapolis and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg.

Late word from The Floor says that the plenary's marquee document -- the four-yearly election pastoral on "Faithful Citizenship" -- has been revised with modifications submitted by the bishops; those submitted from the floor after its first run-through today will be debated and voted on during the week.

On a final note, I could barely turn around yesterday without someone or other stopping to ask "How's the Boss?"

Well, grazie Dio -- and, in large part, to the many prayers of this readership -- late in the week Gram came home from the hospital and is back in the saddle.

Suffice it to say, whew.

She's not completely out of the woods just yet, but things have cleared up enough to let all of us breathe a good bit easier. Most importantly, she's being her fiery self again, so much so that not even the doctors were spared in the run-up to her discharge.

For all the prayers, messages and kind words sent this way in the last week, no words could ever say sufficient thanks; yet again, you've all worked another miracle.

It's great to be here, of course... but it's never easy to be away from her.

Happy Monday, Happy Meeting, more from The Floor as things kick off.