Links for Learning
Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students
This months Links for Learners will support high
school curriculum in:
Christian lifestylesthe mission of priests,
bishops and laity
Religionthe role of bishops, now and in history
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article.
Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article
itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the
Link for Learners.
Role of Bishops
This month's Links for Learners profiles Bishop Wilton Gregory
who, as president of the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops, has a leading role in the American Church. Examining
his role will give us a glimpse into the life of a bishop
in today's Church.
One of the strongestand most sacredduties of
a bishop is to teach. In the mid-1960s, when all the bishops
of the world gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council,
they wrote a long letter outlining their position in the Church.
In its Preface, the letter (Decree
Concerning the Pastoral Office of the Bishops of the Church)
says, "Christ gave the Apostles and their successors
the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow
men in the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, therefore, have
been made true and authentic teachers of the faith
The bishops teach on three different levels within the Church:
According to the 1965 Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office
of the Bishops of the Church, "The bishops
successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls." Just
as the original Apostles cared for the early Church, so the
bishops todaytheir successorscare for the Church
throughout the world by continuing the work of Christ. Just
as a family can trace its roots back through its family tree,
so the Church traces itself back through the bishops to Jesus
and the first Apostles.
Through the 2000 years of its history, the Church has faced
many challenges. To cite just one example, in the second and
third centuries after Jesus the young Church experienced a
of rapid expansion throughout the Roman Empire, growing
to almost 5,000,000 members. The diverse mix of cultures and
philosophies in the Roman Empire challenged the Church to
remain true to its origins as it encountered these other cultures
and beliefs. Through the Church's expansion, local bishops
took on a leadership role in their respective regions, then
convened periodically as a whole Church to ensure its faithfulness
to the teaching of Jesus.
In their role as pastors, the bishops work collectively in
national conferences, addressing difficult issues facing the
Church in various nations around the world:
· The U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops is currently addressing the issue
of clergy sexual abuse. Recognizing their responsibility for
their priests, the American bishops created action plans to
deal with both victims and abusers. Vatican II's Decree
on the Ministry and Life of Priests states, "For
above all upon the bishops rests the heavy responsibility
for the sanctity of their priests."
· The bishops in Germany
issued a letter on the 1995 50th anniversary of the liberation
of the extermination camp at Auschwitz, acknowledging anti-Jewish
attitudes in parts of the German Church during World War II
and calling for a future of mutual respect.
· Catholic bishops in the Philippines
recently urged the United Nations to lift its sanctions on
Iraq, citing the suffering of Iraqi civilians.
· Bishops in Scotland
shared with their faithful a communication from Pope John
Paul II to use the Internet to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus
to the world.
· In 2001, African
bishops in Nigeria condemned the imposition by the state
of Islamic law on all residents.
· In China,
Catholic bishops addressed the division of the Church in China
and the Chinese government's recognition of bishops not aligned
Every bishop is, of course, the shepherd of his own diocese,
where he ministers to the believers directly and through the
ministry of his priests. The bishop exerts moral leadership
through his actions and his preaching. Bishop Gregory's column
for his local diocesan Belleville newspaper is a good example
of a bishop's efforts to teach the faithful at home. Bishop
Gregory's writing includes examining the meaning of interfaith
services at the 9/11 anniversary (explaining that we are all
sisters and brothers of a common Father) and the importance
of liturgical blessings for expectant and adoptive mothers.
The ongoing scandal ignited by the clergy sexual-abuse crisis
continues to remind Church leadership of its obligation to
heal and restore. Bishop Gregory views this crisis in the
American Church as a "rich possibility to make the Church
more collaborative," with leadership coming from bishops,
priests and laity alike. Bishop Gregory acknowledges that
the bishops can't deal with this alone. The American bishops
took a step in that direction by creating a National
Advisory Council, teaming a number of lay members with
the bishops to deal with issues facing the Church.
Bishop Gregory is serious in saying that the bishops need
the collaborative efforts of all members of the Church. You
can make your teen voice heard. You demonstrate your care
and love for the Church when you speak from your heart about
what concerns you. The recent celebration of World
Youth Day in Toronto brought young people together with
adult leaders, sisters, priests and bishops, even the pope
himself. Collaboration within the Church can take many forms:
· In religion or CCD class, make an effort to ask
your own questions or offer comments to your teachers.
· Your diocese
no doubt has a Web site. Send an occasional e-mail with
your comments (pro and con) on issues affecting teens. You
can even make it a joint e-mail from your class, or a group
of friends, or a parish discussion group.
· Write a letter to the editor for your diocesan or
local daily paper, perhaps citing a school service project
or thanking a local priest for conducting a school retreat.
· You might take it a step further by offering to
write a monthly column on teen issues for your parish or diocesan
newspaper. The column could be a Christian ministry project
for your class, to be continued annually by each succeeding
statement of the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops, including a list of its many committees and some
recent issues it has dealt with.
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further
general reference. Be aware, however, that some of these
sites may charge for downloading articles contained within
the site’s archives.
United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops
of Vatican II
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
The Washington Post
The Miami Herald
The Associated Press
site to a number of online news publications
The History Channel
The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based
Channel One online resource for the school channel