The chairmen of four U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committees will begin work soon on drafting a document that reiterates the teaching authority of local bishops while urging them to use new technologies to share Catholic theology.
The end result is expected to complement a 20-year-old document on the teaching authority of diocesan bishops, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine.
The bishops Nov. 12 agreed in a voice vote to the appointment of a working group that includes the chairmen of the committees on doctrine, evangelization and catechesis, and canonical affairs and church governance to draft the document.
No timeline for development of the document was announced.
Originally, the bishops were to consider a document titled "Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities for the Exercise of the Teaching Ministry of the Diocesan Bishop," which was developed by the Committee on Doctrine. It called upon bishops to take advantage of new technologies -- including social media, blogging and cellphone technology -- to respond and explain church teaching when an aspect of church teaching is portrayed inaccurately, particularly by theologians.
A draft of the document was circulated to the bishops prior to the meeting and appeared in media packets as the assembly convened. However, Cardinal Wuerl decided to withdraw it in favor of a more comprehensive statement that would be in line with the bishops' proposed new communications plan, up for discussion and vote Nov. 13, and the ongoing work throughout the USCCB that is related to the new evangelization.
"During that time a lot has happened, including the whole world of communication, the development particularly of digital electronic communications," he told the assembly in a brief report.
Cardinal Wuerl said he conferred with the chairmen of the several committees working on the new evangelization and learned that some of their efforts overlapped with the Committee on Doctrine's work.
When it is adopted, the new statement would complement "The Teaching Ministry of the Diocesan Bishop: A Pastoral Reflection," which the bishops approved in November 1991. It was published in March 1992.
That document on the doctrinal responsibilities of local bishops sets forth guidelines for a bishop to follow when responding to comments, statements, books or other communication from a theologian that incorrectly portrays Catholic teaching.