The Bishops' Priorities, the Media's "Agenda", and the "Francis Effect" | CWR Staff
Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, the newly elected Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Communications, discusses the recent General Assembly, the Pope, media spin, and mission vs. maintenance
Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and is the newly elected Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Communications. He received his doctorate from the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy at St. Anselmo in Rome, and is a former Professor of Sacred Liturgy and Preaching at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, MA. Bishop Coyne is a former director of the Office for Worship for the Archdiocese of Boston and was also the media spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary for Communications of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Bishop Coyne recently corresponded with CWR's editor, Carl E. Olson, about the recent USCCB General Assembly, held last week in Baltimore, and shared his thoughts about that meeting, specific challenges facing the U.S. bishops, and the “Francis effect”.
CWR: As you noted in a post you wrote during the recent USCCB General Assembly in Baltimore, there have been competing, even contradictory, media accounts of that meeting and its agenda. How would you, as an actual participant in that meeting, describe the proceedings? What were the main points of discussion, concern, and focus?
Bishop Coyne: The general meetings of the USCCB are driven by a list of priorities established by the bishops for four-year planning and action purposes. Our work in session is intended to assist each Ordinary in his Archdiocese or Diocese in fulfilling his mission as its chief Shepherd. A lot of what we do in the general meetings is routine and often unglamorous: we receive reports from the various regular or ad hoc committees on the present state of the work of the Conference as regards the present “priorities.”
So, for example, two of the priorities of the Conference at the present time are the defense of religious liberty and the traditional understanding of marriage. As such, we had a report both in public session and executive session from each ad hoc committee which deal with these issues. As someone who has been attending these meetings for the last four years, at times they are very informative and helpful, at other times they can be tedious and routine. Its the nature of assembles like ours.
CWR: You’ve noted that the top points of discussion were established even before the election of Francis. Yet many seem intent on reading the so-called “Francis effect” into everything. First, how would you describe the “Francis effect”? And how do you think it actually affected, shaped, or challenged how the U.S. bishops are approaching this meeting and their efforts in the coming year?
Bishop Coyne: Well the “Francis effect” plays itself out in a number of ways.