By WILLIAM H. MARSHNER
DECEMBER 14, 1972
Our Second Century of Lay Apostolate
WASHINGTON – In a move that strongly indicates continuity rather than change of direction, Fr. James S. Rausch has been elected unanimously to succeed Archbishop Joseph Bernardin as General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and the United States Catholic Conference (USCC).
Fr. Rausch joined the USCC staff in January, 1970, as an assistant General Secretary and became an associate General Secretary in March of the same year. In other words, he has been Archbishop Bernardin’s closest collaborator in administrating the affairs of the USCC. Fr. Rausch’s five-year term will begin on December 15th.
On learning of his election, the forty-four-year-old Rausch issued the following statement:
“It is with gratitude for the confidence placed in me by the Bishops that I accept the position of General Secretary of the NCCB and the USCC. I realize that my election to this post is an ex- pression of intent on the part of those responsible for the leadership of the Conference to continue the policies of those under whom I have served for the last three years — in particular, Cardinal Krol, Cardinal Dearden, and Archbishop Bernardin.
“I hope that I bring to the position of General Secretary an awareness of the desires and expectations of the priests, Religious, and laity in the Church in our Country. I intend to be sensitive to these desires and expectations, and the aspirations of all people of good will as I carry out these new responsibilities, in particular, I pledge my continuing cooperation with all groups and organizations with which the Conferences have collaborated over the years.
“I am especially conscious at this moment that a General Secretary of NCCB and USCC cannot stand alone but depends constantly and intimately on the collaboration and support of the staff of the two Conferences. I know from personal experience that priests, Religious, and laity of the USCC and NCCB make up a corps of dedicated workers unparalleled for their skill and commitment in fostering the good of the Church and society. I look forward to working with them as we continue the many efforts begun by the two Conferences in recent years, and as we seek to break new ground in carrying out our part of the total mission of the Church. I ask for their prayers and the prayers of all my friends.”
Meanwhile, Cardinal Krol, president of the NCCB, had issued this statement:
“I am extremely pleased to be able to announce the unanimous election of Fr. James Rausch as General Secretary. . . . For nearly three years he has demonstrated great competence and dedication in his work with USCC and I feel confident that he will bring the same quality of professionalism and priestly concern to his expanded responsibilities as General Secretary of both Conferences.
“In particular, his close association with Archbishop Bernardin during this period is assurance that the many initiatives successfully undertaken by NCCB and USCC in these years will be continued. I offer my congratulations, and I promise him my support and encouragement.”
Fr. Rausch is a priest of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn. Born on September 4th, 1928, in Albany, Minn., he studied at Crosier Seminary, Onamia, Minn., Sacred Heart Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., and at St. John’s Seminary, Collegeville, Minn. He was or- dained in June of 1956 and made assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. He was instructor at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud from 1957 to 1967 and instructor at St. Thomas College from 1966 to 1967. He also received a master’s degree in education from St. Thomas College in 1963 and also did graduate work in economics at the University of Minnesota. He received a Ph.D. in “Pastoral Sociology” from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1969. Concurrently from 1968 to 1969 he was a Research Fellow with the Division of World Justice and Peace, USCC.
Fr. Rausch edited “The Family of Nations,” a collection of studies on international social justice published in 1970. He is a member of the executive committee of National Catholic Community Service and is on the board of governors of the United Services Organizations.
According to a USCC press release, the by-laws of USCC and NCCB provide that a General Secretary shall be designated initially for a five-year term after which he is eligible for re-election on a yearly basis. The electoral process by which Fr. Rausch was chosen provides that the president of the Conferences proposes a candidate to the Executive Committee of both organizations. If the Executive Committees concur, the name of the candidate is then given to the forty-member Administrative Committee of NCCB and the twenty-five-member Administrative Board of USCC. The candidate must receive two-thirds votes of those two bodies. The nomination and election process in Fr. Rausch’s case was handled by mail.
According to the same by-laws, the General Secretary has the power to hire and fire employees of USCC. This, of course, is the crucial power as far as those of us are concerned who have serious reservations about the Catholicity and competence of certain staff members. Moreover, again according to the by-laws, when the General Secretary is not a Bishop there must also be a Secretary- who-is-a-Bishop to assist him. To this post, Archbishop Bernardin has been named for a one-year term. As the sports fans say, “Why break up a winning team?”
After Fr. Rausch’s election, he gave an interview to Jerry Filteau of NC News. What follows is the bulk of that interview:
“The Church happens at the local level — it is only served by the USCC and NCCB,” according to Fr. Rausch. Discussing his views of the U.S. Catholic Church and his national organization, he said, “the primary thrust of the national office has changed over the last two years. It has shifted in emphasis from program implementation to national leadership and policy formation.”
Speaking of the last few years, Fr. Rausch said: “It’s been a period of growth. Our budget has actually been cut, but we’ve become much more responsive to the local churches, to the need for a collaborative decision-making process.”
“The role of the staff in the Conference is three-fold,” Rausch said. Its functions are:
- Intelligence. “It grapples with the issues, studies them, makes recommendations to the policy bodies.”
- Advocacy. “It sees the needs and articulates them.”
- Service. “It sets up programs to meet the needs.”
The service function, is one of “program design not implementation,” said Fr. Rausch. “The needs are very different from one section of the Country to the other. Pluralism is good in the Church. It is necessary to meet the different needs of different areas.”
Looking forward to an exciting five-year term, Fr. Rausch said, one of the most exciting things happening right now is the development of diocesan pastoral councils and the possible development of a national pastoral council. “You know, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Council has said a National Pastoral Council is advisable but not feasible right now. In order to be feasible, it has to be based on viable diocesan pastoral councils.”
The new General Secretary mentioned two other areas of major concern: The Church’s participation in the U.S. bicentennial in 1976 and the increasing role of minorities in the Church.
“The National Conference on Justice in the World which is now being planned for the bicentennial is very important,” he said. “This will be the Church’s response to injustice in our society and in our relations with other communities around the world. I’ve always had a deep personal interest in these problems. I am also enthusiastic about the on-going efforts to cooperate more fully with the Spanish-speaking, the Blacks, and other minorities in this Country,” he said.
Speaking of his exercise of the General Secretariat, Fr. Rausch said: “In terms of power of the ballot, versus a position of influence, the important thing for a General Secretary is that he is in a position to have a feel for the Conference in a way no one except the president has.”
Fr. Rausch said he did not think there would be a significant change in administrative style with his appointment. “My administrative training was under Archbishop Bernardin. He made a point of working with people, and I hope to continue that administrative policy.”