The president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said he will seek broad consultations with Catholics in this country to prepare him to represent American Catholicism at November's worldwide synod to assess the effects of the Second Vatican Council.
"We bishops welcome [Pope] John Paul's call for the synod, which will be directed to a progress report . . . a kind of score card" on Vatican II, said Bishop James W. Malone of Youngstown, Ohio.
"We bishops are proud of the vigorous Catholic life in this country and we welcome the opportunity to share our experiences" with bishops from other countries and Vatican leaders, he said.
Malone was a featured speaker at the joint national conference here this week of the Parish and Diocesan Council Network and the National Pastoral Planning Conference, which brought together about 200 clergy and lay Catholics working in local dioceses in 35 states.
Malone said he would ask the administrative committee of the American Catholic hierarchy, at its regularly scheduled meeting next week, "how we can invite consultation" from a broad range of Catholics in this country on their assessment of Vatican II reforms in their parishes and their spiritual lives.
Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago is a member of the international committee meeting at the Vatican this week to plan the special synod, scheduled to mark the 20th anniversary of the close of Vatican II and to afford an evaluation of how the landmark changes mandated by that historic assembly have worked out around the world.
"As soon as we get the agenda" for the special synod, said Malone, "some kind of consultation could be set up."
Pope John Paul II startled even Vatican insiders in January with the surprise announcement, at the conclusion of an ecumenical worship service in Rome, of the extraordinary synod. The next day he took off for an extensive Latin America tour, leaving Catholics around the world to speculate on the significance of the session.
A series of recent Vatican actions to implement more traditional doctrinal interpretation in the church spawned fears among liberals and hope among conservative Catholics that the special session was intended to roll back some of the changes of Vatican II.
However, the brevity of the session, scheduled for Nov. 25 to Dec. 8, tends to preclude the possibility of agreement on any substantial changes by the prelates from 106 national conferences of bishops and top Vatican officials who are scheduled to attend.
Earlier this week in Vatican City, a high church official said the pontiff's call for the 20th anniversary synod would reinforce the reforms of Vatican II. "To pass up in silence an anniversary of this kind could perhaps signify contributing to the burial of the Council," said Archbishop Jozef Tomko, permanent secretary general of the Vatican office overseeing the synod of bishops.
Noting that John Paul "has always believed and continues to believe in the Council," Tomko said the pontiff summoned the extraordinary synod "to collegially involve all the bishops, and through them the local churches, in order to continue with vigor the renewal as understood by the Council."
Tomko made his comments at a news conference at which he released the working documents for the regular 1986 synod, which will deal with the role of lay Catholics.