Monday, November 11, 2019

On Opening Day, More Questions Than Answers

BALTIMORE – A hundred years since the bishops of the United States – freshly gathered into an episcopal conference – made their first collective strike on the national stage with a sweeping Program of Social Reconstruction, the bench has returned to its cradle in this Premier See with a considerably less ambitious agenda, but the specter of history still hanging over the place.

Per usual, the Fall Classic opens shortly after 9am Eastern, the morning sessions headlined by the programmatic talk by the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, and what'll be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo's farewell address from the USCCB presidency at the close of his three-year term as the de facto leader of the nation's largest religious body. As for the rest, the agenda is posted.

The marquee item of this three-day plenary – the election of the bench's new executive – takes place first thing Tuesday morning. In a change from standard procedure, nearly a tenth of the electorate (the 21 bishops of New York State) will be voting by paper ballot from the North American College in Rome due to their ad limina visit, which will prevent the usual immediate result of the electronic voting carried out on the Floor itself.

Means aside, while the body is widely expected to maintain its half-century custom and elevate the current Vice-President, Los Angeles' Archbishop José Gomez, to the top spot – itself a shattering of precedent on several fronts – even more uncertainty than usual looms over the choice of the next #2. Then again, this opening Monday is always "Super Tuesday" on that front: in other words, it's still very early in the process, and a lot can (and likely will) happen over the next 24 hours.

All that said, as a thanks to everyone who's made the coverage at hand possible, the donors received a 4,000-word curtain-raiser going into the weekend... and in it, they learned how this place isn't the only scene of movement over the days ahead.

You'll see the others as they emerge – for now, here's your livefeed on-demand feed from the Floor; texts, etc. to follow:

SVILUPPO (10.25am): While every one of these meetings opens with some sort of curveball, this time featured two.

First, a sudden motion on the Floor to add a particularly live-wire topic to the agenda....

...and above all, a rare, stunning direct prod at the bench from the Pope's representative – one all the more extraordinary as the bishops prepare to meet with Francis at length over the next two months: