Monday, November 12, 2018

At Long Last, The Floor Is Open

(Updated 9.40am)

BALTIMORE – And now, five months since the storm broke, what's arguably the climactic moment of the US church's response is now upon us.

Over 13 years of these weeks in the cradle of American Catholicism, the scene around the harborside hotel has most often been referred to as "The Circus." But this year, with a media contingent five times its normal size and protests outside slated to peak tomorrow, the term "Fortress" has taken its place; where you'd usually find two security staffers for the whole complex, this time even riding the escalators requires a credential, each of them ringed by a mix of private guards and city cops.

As for the mood, even if the weekend's arrivals and committee gatherings proceeded without incident, there's no shortage of apprehension around. Indeed, even now – while the bench quietly received the drafts of a proposed code of conduct and plans for the creation of a new, majority-lay commission to address allegations against bishops some 10 days ago – no one knows what's going to happen by this plenary's end; that this is the first chance the 250-odd bishops have had to hear each other out is a more significant variable than the wider world tends to grasp.

All that said, the standard Opening Monday will feature several twists from its 9am Eastern start – first, even before Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo gives his customary Presidential Address, a separate major statement "on the crisis" will be delivered, word of which only emerged over the weekend. Yet later in the morning might just bring the day's principal fireworks –  all eyes are on the remarks of the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, whose unexpected private audience with Francis on Saturday morning was greeted with shock among the gathered prelates. (That, just this morning, the pontiff's Domus homily focused on the qualities of a bishop is no less significant.)

Here, the livefeed, and the full agenda for the unusual three days of public sessions:

As ever, more to come.

SVILUPPO: From this morning's session, a new piece contains further significant developments.