Changes in CCCB staff responsibilities

Friday, December 14 2012

Following the explicit approval of the Permanent Council, and after the Commission for Justice and Peace had been duly informed, the Executive Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has eliminated the former staff position of Senior Social Justice Advisor. This change was completed this past December 3. The decision was in view of cost efficiency, but also with the hope of encouraging a more effective team approach to the work of our Conference, its Commissions and its committees.

The importance for Bishops to respond to social questions, including issues relating specifically to justice and peace, was a major historical factor in establishing the world’s first Episcopal Conferences in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Our Conference itself was among those experiments encouraged by Pope Pius XII. The CCCB began in the context of the final years of the Second World War, as the Bishops of Canada looked for ways to collaborate in meeting the social and ecclesial needs of the time. With the implementation of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Episcopal Conferences became part of how the Roman Catholic Church is today organized. Subsequently, their role has evolved, particularly over the last 20 years, to focus especially on providing support for the ministry and responsibilities of Bishops in teaching the Catholic faith, sustaining the unity of the Church, locally and universally, and promoting the proper responsibilities and roles of clergy, religious and laity in proclaiming the Gospel and transforming society.

Following Vatican II, there has been a deeper appreciation for the Church’s specific role in questions of social justice, and what this means in the ministry of the Bishops and their Conferences. In his first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI said that “the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest” (n. 28). As the Holy Father explained, “In today’s complex situation, not least because of the growth of a globalized economy, the Church’s social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church: in the face of ongoing development these guidelines need to be addressed in the context of dialogue with all those seriously concerned for humanity and for the world in which we live” (no. 27).

In light of all the above points, following consultation with the CCCB Commission for Justice and Peace and the approval of our Executive Committee,  the following changes have now been made to the responsibilities of CCCB staff in order to help our Conference develop an approach to its projects which is more effective and collaborative:

1) The title and responsibilities of Dr. Patrick Fletcher have been changed from “Senior Theological Advisor” to “Senior Advisor for Theology and Social Doctrine”;

2) Dr. Fletcher has been assigned the duties of secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace, as well as of the Commission for Doctrine;

3) The Senior Advisor for Interfaith and Ecclesial Relations, Mr. Jonas Abromaitis, will assist the Commission for Justice and Peace with regard to ecumenical and interfaith activities and plans in the area of social justice, as well as continue to be the secretary of the Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue, and also of the Standing Committee for Relations with Movements and Associations.

The above changes are effective immediately. To help with this transition, both Dr. Fletcher and Mr. Abromaitis have already been assisting the CCCB Commission for Justice and Peace. As well, Dr. Fletcher represented the CCCB at the Second Conference on Resettlement which was recently organized by the Office for Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto. As part of its “team approach”, our Conference, its Commissions and its committees will continue consulting and collaborating whenever feasible with Catholic and other agencies or organizations that have particular expertise in related areas of pastoral concern, including questions involving justice and peace. With respect to the Governing Board of the Canadian Council of Churches and the Board of Kairos, the General Secretary and Assistant General Secretaries retain their present roles in assisting and representing the CCCB.

(Rev.) Msgr. Patrick Powers, P.H.
General Secretary
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops