Experts hope for progress in health care, disability ministry and Hispanic Catholics at June meeting of US bishops

(OSV News) Ahead of the June meeting of US bishops, pastoral experts told OSV News they look forward to making progress on issues impacting health care, Hispanic Catholics and people with disabilities .

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will hold its spring plenary assembly in Orlando, Florida, June 14-16. As chairman of the USCCB, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the US Archdiocese for Military Services will speak to bishops and oversee the proceedings. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, will also speak to the bishops. The June 15-16 public sessions will be live streamed on the USCCB website at

Between prayer sessions and dialogue, the bishops will review a variety of topics, including the triennial national Eucharistic revival of bishops, currently underway, and preparations for two major events: the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, which is the event culmination of the awakening and World Youth Day with Pope Francis, which will take place from August 1 to 6 in Lisbon, Portugal.

While the plenary agenda has not been finalized, the bishops are also expected to discuss a plan for the ongoing formation of priests, priorities for the USCCB 2025-2028 strategic plan and translations of texts for the Liturgy of the Hours, and provide counseling on canonization causes for the Shreveport Martyrs, five priests who heroically ministered to the victims of an 1873 yellow fever epidemic in Shreveport, Louisiana.

In addition, the bishops will likely discuss revising part of their Religious and Ethical Guidelines (ERD) for Catholic health services, especially part three, which concerns the relationship between medical professionals and patients.

The topic is both critical and timely, Dr. Timothy Millea, a retired spine surgeon and chair of the Catholic Medical Association’s health policy committee, told OSV News.

The relationship between the clinician and the patient has come under increasing attack on so many levels, Millea said.

Conscience rights for Catholic medical professionals are of particular concern, especially when doctors are asked to perform procedures that violate their religious beliefs, he said.

Millea said ERDs would benefit from a (broadening) discussion of respecting the conscience and religious beliefs of both physicians and patients.

We can accept that they’re asking us for something we can’t do, and they shouldn’t expect us to do it nor should we be intimidated, threatened or punished by our employer or the government, Millea said.

Charleen Katra, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability in Washington, told OSV News she will be at the June meeting for talks on a new pastoral statement targeting people with disabilities in church life.

Since the bishop’s first statement was published in 1978, there has been an increase in diagnoses of autism and mental illness, as well as a broader understanding of disability and the many facets of (related) needs, Katra said.

The language of disability has also changed over the past four decades, highlighting the person ahead of any diagnosis or descriptor and providing more respectful and accurate communication that honors the person’s dignity, he said.

Katra said an updated statement should contain a greater emphasis on the talents and vocations of people with disabilities in the church and the blessings faith communities have received from their active engagement.

Focusing on spiritual themes of hope and joy in pastoral ministry to people with disabilities can help remove stigma and an attitude of piety, Katra said.

Also likely on the June agenda will be discussion of the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino ministry, developed from the 5th National Hispanic Ministry Meeting in September 2018, an important consultation exercise in a spirit of synodality, Hosffman said Ospino, associate professor and chair of religious education and pastoral ministry at Boston Colleges School of Theology and Ministry.

Coming some 36 years after the bishops’ first such document in 1987, the plan will likely emphasize areas for pastoral action in the context of Hispanic Catholic ministry as identified by pastoral leaders and researchers over the past few decades and should be seen as a statement of that job, Ospino told OSV News.

In the years since, the number of Hispanic Catholics has increased dramatically, accelerating the need to prioritize accompanying Hispanic Catholic youth, supporting Hispanic families, and training Hispanic pastoral leaders, he said.

Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.

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