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7 Things You Should Know About The Plenary Council

7 Things You Should Know About The Plenary Council

CRISIS Magazine - e-Letter

August 23, 2002


Dear Friend,

First, let me apologize for the delay in getting this e-letter out to you. Things have been very busy around the office with news breaking left and right. But finally, we've put together some information about the possible plenary council -- information you need to have a look at. If it happens, the council could be a landmark moment in the history of the Catholic Church in America.

But before I get to that, I wanted to mention a few other things that have come up since I last wrote to you:

* First, it seems we got their attention. Voice of the Faithful has come out with a response to the criticism they've received from some media outlets. Indeed, they singled out one group who referred to them as "wolves in sheep's clothing." That group, of course, would be us.

Well, their response is very revealing, I think. We'll have our own comments on it in the next e-letter. I promise, you don't want to miss that one.

* Mea Maxima Culpa. In the last e-letter, I referred to Nostra Aetate as a papal encyclical. Obviously, it was a document of Vatican II, not an encyclical. I type these out quickly and occasionally make mistakes. I do appreciate your corrections.

* An additional update on the last e-mail... William Cardinal Keeler, the head of the subcommittee that released the recent Jewish/Catholic reflections, now seems to be stepping back a bit from the document. He said Wednesday that the reflections do not represent the official position of the U.S. bishops. Nor do they even represent the position of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

It appears that some bishops were none-too-pleased with the confusing document. I'm glad. As I commented in my last letter, while there may be some good points in the reflections, they're buried under a lot of unhelpful and ambiguous language. As a former college professor, I know that an effective teacher must learn to communicate complex subject matter clearly. In teaching us, the bishops need to do the same.

* And speaking of Catholic/Jewish relations, we were recently contacted by the Museum of Jewish Heritage. They held a program this week in New York -- a joint seminar sponsored by both the museum and the Archdiocese of New York. We had hoped to plug the event ahead of time (it featured several speakers, including two Holocaust survivors who had been saved by Catholics). Unfortunately, there were some delays here and we were unable to get you the dates in time.

Nevertheless, you should certainly visit the museum if you get the chance. The late and wonderful John Cardinal O'Connor was a big supporter and was present at the building's dedication. You can find information and directions at the organization's website:

Alright, as promised, here are the 7 Things You Need To Know About The Plenary Council. As you know, a few weeks ago, we told you about the secret letter sent by 8 bishops to their colleagues, calling for a plenary council. You may very well have questions about that (as I did myself). Hopefully, you'll find the answers here.

It seems all the more timely to be discussing the council now, given that the Vatican may not ratify the bishops' zero-tolerance document from their June meeting. The bishops need to start looking for other ways to deal with these current problems, and it looks more and more like a plenary council might be the best way.

I'll talk to you soon,


P.S. The September issue of CRISIS is in the mail right now. It features a blockbuster article on the abortion-breast cancer link...and the mainstream medical cover-up that keeps this link from being publicized. If you're already a subscriber, check your mailbox for this issue. If you're not yet a CRISIS reader, we'd love to have you on board. You can find out more here:

7 Things You Need To Know About The Plenary Council

1. What exactly is a plenary council?

In canon 439, a plenary council is described as "one [council] for all the particular churches of the same conference of bishops." It's different from a universal council for the obvious reason that it doesn't concern the universal Church. For example, Vatican II was a universal council affecting the Church everywhere; the plenary councils held in Baltimore in the 19th century affected only the Church in America. Plenary councils have quite an old history, however, being traced back as early as the fourth century. In those days, plenary councils were called for bishops of a certain region ...

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