United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

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General Background

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is a canonically established body which finds its charter in Vatican Council II's Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, Christus Dominus (1965). In this decree, the Council declared that "it would be in the highest degree helpful if in all parts of the world the bishops of each country or region would meet regularly, so that by sharing their wisdom and experience and exchanging views they may jointly formulate a program for the common good of the Church" (#37).

The motu proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae (1966) of Pope Paul VI directed that episcopal conferences be established as soon as possible and that statutes be drawn up and approved by the Holy See. The initial statutes of the U.S. episcopal conference were approved on Dec. 19, 1970. Subsequent revisions were approved in 1976, 1981, 1988, and on Nov. 28, 2000.

The 1983 revised Code of Canon Law made the establishment of national and territorial episcopal conferences a matter of universal law. Canon 447 states, "A conference of bishops, a permanent institution, is a group of bishops of some nation or certain territory who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions for the Christian faithful of their territory in order to promote the greater good which the Church offers humanity, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of time and place, according to the norm of law."

The establishment of episcopal conferences gave rise to a lengthy discussion of their status, in particular, the extent to which they participate in the Church's teaching authority. The 1985 Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican II made the clarification of the juridical status and the teaching authority of episcopal conferences a primary recommendation for action by the Holy See.

That clarification came in the motu proprio Apostolos Suos (1998) of Pope John Paul II which confirmed that an episcopal conference does exercise magisterial authority when teaching with unanimity "in communion with the head of the college [of bishops] and its members." If unanimity is lacking, a majority of the membership alone "cannot issue a declaration as authentic teaching to which all the faithful of the territory" must adhere unless it receives the subsequent recognitio (approval) by the Holy See which will be given only if the majority is "substantial" (#22).

Apostolos Suos made it clear that while the "collegial spirit" is given concrete application "when the bishops of a territory jointly exercise certain pastoral functions for the good of the faithful," this does not take on the "collegial nature" proper only to the entire college of bishops when acting in union with its head (#12). It also decreed several complementary norms with which every episcopal conference must be in conformity.

While the limitations placed on episcopal conferences in the Church's official documents are often emphasized, it must also be said that they have quickly assumed a regular role in the Church's life. In the 1983 revised Code of Canon Law, 84 canons call for or permit legislative action by the episcopal conference, through which the universal law is implemented in the conference's territory; liturgical adaptations and translations must be approved by the episcopal conference; and the Holy See, on an ad hoc basis, may ask a conference to devise norms to meet specific situations. Most of these steps require subsequent approval by the Holy See, but they demonstrate the utility of the episcopal conference both in providing a hierarchy with a unified voice and also in facilitating the Holy See's interaction with that hierarchy.

National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC), 19191966

The formal association of archbishops and bishops of the United States can be traced back to the 19th century and the Plenary Councils of Baltimore. After the Third Plenary Council of 1884, the U.S. hierarchy was not to meet again as whole until 1919, although the archbishops continued to meet annually.

More direct precedents for an episcopal conference in the United States are found in the National Catholic War Council and, especially, the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) whose activities were incorporated into the conference established in 1966 at the mandate of Vatican II.

In response to the first crisis of truly global proportionsthe First World Warthe National Catholic War Council was established as a wartime committee of the U.S. archbishops to coordinate the Catholic activities which had arisen in support of the war effort.

Such coordination was recommended in 1917 by Paulist Father John Burke, director of the Chaplains' Aid Association. With the support of Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, Cardinal William O'Connell of Boston, and Cardinal John Farley of New York, Father Burke assembled a meeting of bishops, representatives of lay societies, and members of the Catholic press. As Burke's plan for coordination was discussed, fear that a new type of organization would usurp the work of existing societies was dispelled; and the delegates passed a resolution recommending the establishment of a national coordinating committee to be known as the National Catholic War Council.

Gibbons, quick to act on this resolution, wrote to the hierarchy proposing the formation of this Council, with all the U.S. archbishops as its administrative board and with a committee of four bishops to direct ordinary activities. After the hierarchy endorsed the plan, the committee of four bishops was appointed in December 1917. Burke was chosen to direct and coordinate the activities of the Council which quickly established a reputation for effectiveness. By the time the war drew to a close, the Council had clearly fulfilled its purpose and had also instilled in Catholics in the U.S. a consciousness of their resources and their responsibility.

In February 1919, the four bishops on the Council's Administrative Committee issued a far-reaching "Program for Social Reconstruction," saying that the only safeguard for the recently achieved peace was "social justice and a contented people." Yet with the armistice the previous November, the War Council faced an uncertain future. It was the intervention of Pope Benedict XV that ensured that its model of cooperative activity would continue. The papal representative at the golden jubilee of the episcopate of Cardinal Gibbons, which was celebrated that same February, told the large number of U.S. bishops gathered for the occasion that the pope wished them to join him in working for the cause of peace and social justice in the world. The bishops responded by resolving to meet annually and, by means of a continuing committee, to foster Christian principles, particularly in the fields of education and social justice. Benedict XV gave his approval of this resolve in a letter the following April. On September 24, the U.S. bishops met together formally for the first time in 35 years and approved the following resolution: "that an organization be formed of the Hierarchy to be known as the National Catholic Welfare Council and its duties and powers to be indicated by those present; and, that an Administrative Committee composed of seven members of the Hierarchy be elected by the National Catholic Welfare Council to transact all business between meetings of the National Catholic Welfare Council and to carry out the wishes of the National Catholic Welfare Council as expressed in the annual session." By secret ballot the seven members of the Administrative Committee were elected from a slate of 15, with Cardinal Gibbons as honorary chairman and Abp. Edward J. Hanna of San Francisco, Calif., as chairman.

The Administrative Committee foresaw that the mass of work involved would be too much for any bishop who also had the care of a diocese; so in December 1919, the committee took over the War Council and its staff, set up a national headquarters in Washington, DC, and unanimously elected its director, Father John Burke, to fill the post of NCWC executive secretary.

In its beginning stages, the NCWC had to face the question of its exact status in relation to a bishop in his own diocese. Some senior prelates saw it as an attempt at a new type of ecclesiastical jurisdiction which would impinge on the autonomy of a diocesan bishop. This point had been thrashed out at the first annual meeting of the bishops, and it was clear that they never intended for this to be the case. However, fears persisted and eventually affected Rome. In 1922, immediately after the election of the new pope, Pius XI, the Sacred Consistorial Congregation of the Roman Curia issued a decree suppressing the organization. Clarification was quickly sought by NCWC's Administrative Board. Through lengthy correspondence and personal representation in Rome, two fundamental points were established: first, the NCWC was a voluntary organization, depending for membership and support on the free choice of each bishop; second, the NCWC possessed no ecclesiastical jurisdiction or compulsory authority. Its only authority was the moral suasion it drew from the consensus of the U.S. bishops. With these clarifications, the Congregation issued instructions permitting the continued existence of the NCWC. Its name, however, was to be changed from "council" to avoid canonical implications; and "conference" was chosen. Thus began a development which brought the organization from a small staff and a budget of $145,000 at the time to a staff of 350 and total expenditures of $7.5 million in 1966.

Organization . Annually there was a meeting in Washington, DC, of all the U.S. bishops, diocesan, coadjutor, and auxiliary, who served the Church in the U.S., its territories, or possessions. At this meeting, the bishops elected ten of their number to serve one-year terms on the NCWC Administrative Board. The U.S. cardinals served on the Board ex officio. The Board acted on behalf of the bishops during the time between the annual meetings. It annually chose its own officers and designated from among its membership an episcopal chairman for each NCWC department.

In general, the Administrative Board acted as the executive agency in all matters referred to it at the bishops' annual meeting. In particular, the members of the board supervised the work of the departments, issued an annual report of their activities to each bishop prior to the annual meeting, and made recommendations to the body of bishops. The Board met in executive session twice a year, just prior to the annual meeting and immediately after Easter. The chairman of the Board presided over the executive department, which supervised and coordinated the other departments' work. A general secretary served as the chief executive officer of the Board and was responsible for supervising the departments.

The bishops established the following NCWC departments in 1919, serving under the executive office: Education, Press and Literature, Social Action, Legal, Societies and Lay Activitiescomprised of the National Council of Catholic Men (NCCM) and the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) and the American Board of Missions, in support of both overseas and home missions. A department for immigration was founded in 1920, and one for youth in 1940. To these departments were added over the years offices and bureaus to deal with specialized fields of concern. Thus, the Family Life Bureau (1931) and the Bureau of Health and Hospitals (1948) were attached to the Social Action Department.

The Press and Literature Department included a news-gathering agency originally known as the NC (or National Catholic) News Service. By the 1960s, it had become the largest religious news service in the world, serving not only the Catholic press in the U.S. but also reaching over 60 countries. In 1941 the Press Department initiated Noticias Catolicas, a Spanish and Portuguese edition of the News Service for the Latin American press. Its operation moved to Lima, Peru, in 1964. In 1989, the NC News Service changed its name to the Catholic News Service in acknowledgment that its clientele was not solely within the U.S.

Other bureaus and offices within the permanent secretariat of the NCWC created as the need arose included: the Bureau of Information (1938); an Office for United Nations Affairs in New York (1945); a Foreign Visitors Office (1949) to assist the increasing number of visitors to the U.S. from other lands on student or government programs; and the Latin America Bureau (1960), in answer to a special plea from the Holy See to put at the disposal of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America the resources of the Church in the U.S.

Also operating under the aegis of the NCWC, but organized as a separate legal entity, was Catholic Relief Services (CRS), first established in 1943 to cope with war rehabilitation and continuing as the bishops' overseas relief agency.

Some committees were established by the general body of bishops and were directly subject to that body rather than to the Administrative Board. These were the Propagation of the Faith, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and committees dealing with the liturgical movement, migrant workers, decent literature, and other specialized fields. Despite this different line of organization, these committees were an integral part of the NCWC.

Activities . In 1919, along with the resolution establishing the NCWC, the bishops issued an extensive pastoral letter on matters of concern to the Church and society. Throughout the following years, a variety of statements were issued to provide the Church in the U.S. with a voice on the concerns of the daywhether ecclesiastical or secular. Such statements dealt with the Depression, the persecution of the Church in Mexico, the Second World War, labor relations, indecent literature, aid to education, military service in peacetime, religious persecution behind the Iron Curtain, racial discrimination and bigotry, and liturgical renewal, among many other things. (Most of these can be found in the first three volumes of Pastoral Letters of the United States Catholic Bishops, published by the USCCB.)

An early instance of the NCWC coordinating a nationwide response to a problem occurred during the days of prohibition when, acting on the instruction of the Administrative Board, NCWC representatives met with federal officials to work out a generally acceptable procedure for obtaining wine for sacramental purposes. A delicate and controversial instance of NCWC activity was its participation, through its general secretary, in the negotiations to end the persecution of the Church in Mexico, involving officials of the Mexican and U.S. governments, the Mexican hierarchy, and the Holy See.

The NCWC was, in general, concerned about relations between Church and State, as evidenced by its commissioning a booklet on the subject entitled The First Freedom, published in 1948.

Through the establishment of an episcopal committee for motion pictures and the Legion of Decency (1934) and its successors, the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures and the Office of Film and Broadcasting, the bishops had a substantial impact on the movie industry.

Committee chairmen and NCWC staff brought the public policy positions of the Bishops to the attention of the Federal government Congress, the presidential administrations, and the executive regulatory agencies through letters, testimony, and personal contact.

The NCWC also instituted several national collections in of support of important activities. Each bishop was free to have his diocese participate in these collections or not participate.

The NCWC's voluntary character and the complete freedom of every bishop to align himself or not with its programs and policies forced it to prove its own worth on the merits of the service that it rendered to the Church.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB)/United States Catholic Conference (USCC), 19662001

In 1966, the bishops of the United States reorganized the NCWC, in response to the mandate of the Council, into the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and the United States Catholic Conference (USCC).

Even before the formal promulgation of the Vatican II decree, Christus Dominus, the U.S. Bishops had undertaken a review of the structure of the NCWC in light of the conciliar teaching. The NCWC was, after all, already a national assembly of bishops with approved statutes. What changes would now have to be made? A lengthy questionnaire was sent to the bishops in May 1965 seeking input about reorganizing the NCWC and revising its statutes. A report on the results was given at the Administrative Board meeting in November of that year; and the bishops authorized the establishment of two committees, one on reorganization and the other on the revision of the statutes and by-laws, the latter chaired by Archbishop (later Cardinal) John J. Krol of Philadelphia. Also crucial to this re-organization were Archbishop (later Cardinal) John F. Deaden of Detroit, the first NCCB/USCC president, and Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop (later Archbishop and Cardinal) Joseph L. Bernardin, its general secretary.

Organization . The membership of both the NCCB and the USCC was made up exclusively of U.S. bishops, but the exact relationship between the twin conferences was always difficult to describe precisely. The NCCB was not a civil corporation but rather an ecclesiastical association to preserve its character as a place where the Bishops could assemble, discuss, and act. As such, it was the U.S. Bishops' response to the mandate from the Council for an episcopal conference which would create the opportunity for some form of collegial pastoral action whose dimensions could not be fully foreseen. The USCC, on the other hand, a civil corporation operating under the nonprofit corporation statutes of the District of Columbia, continued the work of the NCWC whose activities had become well defined over a period of more than forty years. This dual structure also provided for the continued participation of the clergy, religious, and laity in the work of the bishops. So, for example, while, in the NCCB by-laws, its committees were to consist solely of bishops, USCC committees allowed for membership by non-bishops. However, this was at the committee level only. Actual membership in the USCC always belonged exclusively to bishops.

Another way of making a distinction between the two conferences was to describe the USCC as advancing the work of the Church in the area of public policy, while the NCCB was said to be more oriented to internal Church affairs. This distinction appeared in the NCCB/USCC Mission Statement, but it was never a sharp one. All the USCC committees dealt with internal church matters as well as with public policy issues. Alternatively, NCCB committees such as Migration and Pro-life Activities dealt with many public policy issues.

Adding to the difficulty in distinguishing the two was a complete overlap in the administration of the two conferences. The NCCB's Administrative Committee was identical to the USCC's Administrative Board; the officers of one conference were the officers of the other; and the chief executive officerthe general secretary supervised the work of both.

The entire membership elected the twin conferences' four officerspresident, vice-president, treasurer, and secretaryto three year terms. A tradition quickly grewup, departed from only once, of electing the vice-president to the presidency. This made for significant continuity of administration.

The work of the NCCB/USCC, as with the NCWC, continued to be carried out through a structure of inter-locked conference committees and departments staffed by full-time professionals. With the exception of "staff offices" such General Counsel and Government Liaison, which served the NCCB/USCC as a whole, every department was accountable to a conference standing committee. The chairmen of NCCB standing committees were bishops, usually elected by the entire membership of the conference. These chairmen, in turn, appointed the remaining committee membership in consultation with the conference president and general secretary. The membership usually consisted of the chairman and six additional bishops. Priests, religious and laity could serve as consultants to these committees. For the USCC "departmental committees," the equivalent of NCCB standing committees, the entire membership elected two bishops for each as chairman and as an "elected member" who, in consultation with the conference president and general secretary, appointed a membership consisting of an equal number of episcopal and non-episcopal members. The size of the USCC committees could range from 13 to 21 members.

The Administrative Committee/Board (usually called "the Permanent Council" in other episcopal conferences) consisted of the conference officers, the elected chairs of most of the NCCB standing committees and of the USCC departmental committees, the elected members of the USCC committees, and the president of the CRS board. In addition, the dioceses of the country were divided into 13 (originally 12) regions, the bishops of which elected a representative and an alternate to the Administrative Committee/Board. Each conference president also served on it for one year after the completion of his term. Unlike the NCWC, the U.S. cardinals were not automatically members of the Administrative Committee/Board.

There was also an Executive Committee consisting of the four officers and a fifth member elected by the Administrative Committee/Board from among its membership. Three other "executive committees" were chaired by the officers: Priorities and Plans by the president, Personnel by the vice president; and Budget and Finance by the treasurer.

The conference president, in conjunction with the Administrative Committee, could also appoint ad hoc committees and their chairs for periods of up to three years. If necessary, these committees could be renewed.

General meetings of the full body of bishops were held in the fall in Washington and in the spring originally in Chicago, but, later, in a variety of locations around the country. For several years in the early 1980s the spring business meeting was eliminated entirely. A custom also arose of replacing it every few years with a "special assembly" which was not a business meeting and which was long enough to offer time for spiritual and intellectual renewal. These occurred in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, and 1999.

The Administrative Committee/Board met in executive session three times a year, in the early spring and fall and the Saturday before the fall general meeting. Its main function was to set the agenda for the general meetings; but it also acted on the conferences' behalf, when necessary, in between general meetings, including issuing statements or authorizing committees to issue them.

As of 2001, the following comprised the NCCB standing committees: African American Catholics, American College of Louvain, Canonical Affairs, Church in Latin America, Consecrated Life, Diaconate, Doctrine, Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Evangelization, Hispanic Affairs, Home Missions, Laity, Liturgy, Marriage and Family Life, Migration, North American College Rome, Pastoral Practices, Priestly Formation, Priestly Life and Ministry, Pro-life Activities, Relationship Between Eastern and Latin Catholic Churches, Science and Human Values, Vocations, Women in Society and in the Church, and World Mission. There were also committees for the American Bishops' Overseas Appeal, Boundaries of Dioceses and Provinces, and the Selection of Bishops chaired ex officio by the conference president.

The secretariats or departments whose work was overseen by the relevant committees were: African American Catholics; Church in Latin America; Diaconate; Doctrine and Pastoral Practices; Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Evangelization; Family, Laity, Women and Youth; Hispanic Affairs; Liturgy; Migration and Refugee Services; Missions/Science and Human Values; Priestly Formation/Vocations; Priestly Life and Ministry; and Prolife Activities.

The USCC committees and departments were: Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Communications, and Education, along with the Domestic Policy and International Policy Committees to which the Department for Social Development and World Peace was accountable.

A comparison between the committees and departments of the NCCB/USCC with those of the NCWC indicates both the continuity and also the increase in scope of concern of the NCCB/USCC.

In 1969, a council was set up to advise the Administrative Committee/Board about the conferences' proposed actions and to offer proposals of its own for action. Known as the National Advisory Council (NAC), it consists of about 60 members bishops, priests, religious, and laity selected in variety of ways, including two members elected from each of the 13 regions.

Successors to Cardinal Dearden as president were Cardinal John J. Krol of Philadelphia (197174), Archbishop Bernardin, then of Cincinnati (19741977), Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco (19771980), Archbishop John R. Roach of St. Paul and Minneapolis (19801983), Bishop James W. Malone of Youngstown (19831986), Archbishop John L. May of St. Louis (19861989), Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati (19891992); Archbishop (later Cardinal) William H. Keeler of Baltimore (19921995), Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland (19951998), and Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston (19982001).

Originally, the NCCB/USCC took over the headquarters of the National Catholic Welfare Conference on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC, but in 1987 a cornerstone was laid for a new building near The Catholic University of America to house the conferences' headquarters and offices. The building was completed and the offices moved there in 1989.

Activities. Sources for the statements and activities of the NCCB/USCC over the years are the annual editions of the Catholic Almanac, Origins, published by the Catholic News Service, and the later volumes of the Pastoral Letters of the United States Catholic Bishops, published by the USCCB.

The bishops involved the clergy, religious, and laity of the U.S. in widespread consultations on a number of their efforts. Inspired by the national bicentennial, the bishops held hearings throughout the country to prepare a program for future social action. As with the NCWC, numerous statements gave voice to the bishops' concerns. Two major pastoral letters were developed over a number of years, through several drafts, in consultation with experts and church members. The Challenge of Peace (1983) dealt with issues surrounding peace and war and, especially, weapons of mass destruction. Economic Justice for All (1986) enunciated the social justice principles which should guide economic decisions. A third pastoral letter on the role of women in Church and society went through several drafts over nearly a decade, but it was never approved by the bishops due to a lack of consensus on some issues. Material and insights gathered in the process, however, contributed to the development of other documents.

The Challenge of Peace highlighted the impact that the statements of one episcopal conference can have on other conferences and on the Church universal. As a result, during its development, it became the subject of a formal consultation in Rome involving representatives of the NCCB/USCC, European episcopal conferences, and the Roman Curia.

The scope of their pastoral concerns can be read in the sheer variety of the matters with which the bishops dealt, including campus ministry, the Charismatic renewal, children and families, the conflict in the Middle East, domestic violence, evangelization, food and agricultural issues, health care, the laity, ministry to the Hispanic community, the moral life, persons with disabilities, racism, the relationship between bishops and theologians, and the third world debt.

The NCCB/USCC agenda also covered matters arising out the reforms the Vatican II, especially those mandated by the Holy See for action by episcopal conferences with regard to liturgical renewal and the revision of the Code of Canon law.

Some of the major works of the NCCB/USCC have been the establishment of Campaign for Human Development (now the Catholic Campaign for Human Development) to strike at the root causes of poverty in the U.S.; the Catholic Communication Campaign in support of national and diocesan communications efforts in accord with NCCB/USCC goals; adoption of proposals on due process; endorsement of a "Program for Priestly Formation"; establishment of the permanent diaconate in the U.S.; coordination of pastoral visits of the Pope in the U.S.; 1993 celebration of World Youth Day in the U.S.; preparation and execution of plans for the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium of Christianity; and the implementation of the apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education, Ex corde Ecclesiae.

Church-state issues continued to occupy the bishops' attention. Within the first decade of its existence, the NCCB/USCC was put in a strongly confrontational position vis-a-vis the civil government. The U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which resulted in the legalization of abortion on demand nationally, brought a quick response from the bishops who devised a Plan for Pro-Life Activities, which they supplemented regularly with numerous statements in defense of human life from conception to natural death. In a court case which lasted from 1980 to 1990, a group supporting legal abortion sued the Internal Revenue Service to remove the Catholic Church's tax exemption, claiming that the Church's pro-life efforts violated IRS regulations. The case ultimately failed but not before an attempt to force the NCCB/USCC to open up all of its files for discovery was turned back in an appeal to the Supreme Court.

As with the NCWC, committee chairmen and staff brought the public policy positions of the Bishops to the attention of the Congress, the administrations, and regulatory agencies. These efforts were facilitated by the Office of Government Liaison and the Office of General Counsel which also filed amicus briefs on behalf of the conferences in significant legal cases.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001

In late 1991, an ad hoc Committee on Mission and Structure was appointed under the chairmanship of Cardinal Bernardin to examine the theological and canonical status of the NCCB/USCC, review the conferences' mission and goals, and propose modifications that would encourage greater participation by the bishops in the work of the conferences and enhance their sense of unity. (The committee did not involve itself with the internal operation of the secretariats and departments which underwent a separate review in 1991. They remain essentially as described above.) On the completion of its work, another ad hoc committee was set up in 1998, chaired by Archbishop Pilarczyk, to propose new statutes and by-laws, implementing the work of the Mission and Structure Committee and the complementary norms contained in the apostolic letter Apostolos Suos.

The revisions retain most of the structure of the NCCB/USCC as described above. However, the process provided an opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion of the nature and mission of the episcopal conference.

The principal proposed revisions dealt with the consolidation of the NCCB and the USCC into a single conference; the clarification of the episcopal nature of the conference by restricting membership on conference committees to bishops (as was already the case with the NCCB committees); the reorganization and reduction in the number of standing committees; and a change in the membership of the Administrative Committee by adding a second delegate from each region. The latter proposal was intended to promote participation by more bishops in the conference and to encourage them to use regional meetings to discuss the matters coming up at the general meetings.

The "single conference" recommendation and the limitation of all committee membership to bishops inspired a lengthy discussion about preserving the involvement of clergy, religious, and laity which had been a characteristic of the NCWC and the NCCB/USCC. Out of this emerged an affirmation that this involvement could continue through the service of consultants and advisers to the committees. Both these revisions were adopted by the full body of bishops and confirmed by the Holy See. The single conference was designated the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

However, there was no consensus about reorganizing and reducing the number of standing committees, and they remained as they were. There seemed to be a consensus that the number of regional representatives on the Administrative Committee should be doubled to 26. Toward the end of the process, though, the argument prevailed that this would make its size too unwieldy for effective discussion; and the bishops voted to retain the 13 regional representatives.

The process of issuing statements was clarified to meet the concern that too many statements were issued which were not approved by the whole body and also that it was unclear to the public which statements should be attributed to the whole conference and which only to committees.

With regard to the complementary norms contained in Apostolos Suos, the statutes now include an article on "Authentic Magisterium" reflecting its teaching and legislation. Also in response to the letter's encouragement that episcopal conferences make more use of bishops emeriti, the USCCB by-laws now allow retired bishops to serve on standing and ad hoc committees. In addition, the revised by-laws indicate that the general secretary, as required by the Congregation of Bishops, "is to be a priest or a bishop." Another change made in response to the Congregation was a clarification of the territory of the USCCB as "an assembly of the Hierarchy of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands" (rather than "territories" as perviously).

The USCCB replaced the NCCB/USCC on July 1, 2001, the date the revised statutes and by-laws took effect.

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