Monday, October 12, 2009

Here Comes the... Pastoral

Sure, the Fall Classic might be a month away... but already, the centerpiece action-item of this year's USCCB November Meeting has been leaked.

Currently weighing in at 57 pages, the final committee draft of "Love and Life in the Divine Plan" -- the US bishops' long-awaited pastoral letter on marriage -- was published in full late in the day by the National Catholic Reporter, which ran the proposed text alongside an editorial calling for it to be scrapped... at least, in its current form.

Two years in the making, the letter is the kingpin of the bench's concerted "pastoral initiative" which has aimed primarily to affirm the sacrament and married couples as the institution's traditional status faces challenges ranging from rising societal acceptance of cohabitation and divorce to the increasing success of same-sex marriage advocates, who've won legislative or court approval of gay unions in six states over the last five years.

The marriage initiative is one of the five national priorities agreed to by the bishops for their current planning cycle, which runs through 2011.

As any attempt to summarize the lengthy, precise text would fail to capture the whole, it's best taken in full. That said, it's likewise crucial to underscore that what's in print now is by no means final; the draft is currently in the hands of the entire body of bishops, which -- if longstanding tradition holds -- will submit a raft of proposed amendments before Plenary Week, each then being accepted or declined by the conference's Subcommittee for Marriage and Family before the green-lighted changes are worked in and, finally, the draft reaches the Floor for a final debate and vote.

(Whew -- mouthful.)

More November preview to come... in the meantime, as always, stay tuned.