Bishops’ meetings won’t heal the U.S. church. We need a Fourth Plenary Council involving all Catholics. / America: The Jesuit Review

The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore concluded in December 1884. Among its results was the standardized catechism known to generations of Catholics as the Baltimore Catechism. This meeting was the last of 13 councils of different kinds that took place in Baltimore between 1829 and 1884. These 13 councils made the United States one of the most conciliar places in the Catholic Church during that time—rooted, in part, in the country’s own democratic experiment.

Given all the challenges facing the Catholic Church in our country, we are far overdue for a moment in which the bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful of our country can discern together how to be the people of God in our time and place. It is time that we as a church convoke a Fourth Plenary Council of Baltimore. Given the work of practical preparation and spiritual conversion needed for such an event, it should be held in 2029, the 200th anniversary of the First Council of Baltimore in 1829. That will allow us to walk together in dialogue about the pastoral needs of our church.

The most prominent of the many challenges before the church in the coming decades is the issue of clerical sexual abuse of minors and the enabling of that abuse by bishops, religious superiors and other church leaders. We have yet to acknowledge fully and address these sins, both past and present. Nor have we appropriately addressed the ongoing responses to survivors of clerical sexual abuse and other forms of sexual harassment and misconduct.

By Brian P. Flanagan, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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