Meeting Chairman: Philip M. Hannan, Archbishop of New Orleans, La.
Reporter: William H. Marshner
THE WANDERER (Section Two)
W. H. MARSHNER
May 24, 1973
NEW ORLEANS — The Bishops of Region V met with representatives of priests, religious, lay people, youth, women, and Blacks. Altogether, there were 61 participants in the two-day meeting held April 27th and 28th at the somnolent Jung Hotel in downtown New Orleans.
All the meetings were closed to the press except for the fact that Fr. Elmo Romagosa, editor of the New Orleans archdiocesan paper, the Clarion Herald, had access as one of the 61 participants. In fact, Fr. Romagosa was asked by the Bishops to prepare a summary press release on the region’s meeting for the NC news service. Given this arrangement, no one was quite certain whether an open news conference would be held at the end of the two days or not. No newspaper had bothered to send a reporter save The Wanderer, and no journalist showed up to demand a press conference, save the present writer. Therefore it seems appropriate to express a word of appreciation to Fr. Romagosa, who did arrange for this reporter to meet for about 15 minutes with Archbishop Philip Hannan, host of the Region V meeting, for an informal press briefing.
Archbishop Hannon said that the discussions had been most enjoyable and enlightening for all concerned. He felt that the regional format which this year replaced the Spring national meeting had proved itself sound and would be retained.
As far as sex education was concerned, Archbishop Hannan said that these discussions had agreed on the necessity for coordination in efforts between the family, the Church, and the school. Parents themselves, he said, need instruction from the Church on how to teach their children in this delicate area. When asked if any mention had been made of the parent-controlled and conducted sex education program being pioneered in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop Hannan said that he had never heard of it.
On the subject of Humanae Vitae, Archbishop Hannan called attention to a very strong statement made in the course of the meeting by Bishop L. Abel Caillouet, Auxiliary of New Orleans, to the effect that every person has the duty to form a right conscience, that is, a conscience in conformity with the Church’s teaching. However, the official news summary, produced by Fr. Romagosa, indicates that the consensus of the meeting was the idea that the Church’s teaching should form the “background” for each couple’s individual decision. Needless to say, this latter formulation is not necessarily in agreement with, nor nearly as clear as, the one advanced by Bishop Caillouet.
Abortion was a major topic on the agenda. The 61 participants heard a presentation by Robert Winn, president of the Right to Life Association of Louisiana. Winn outlined steps being contemplated to combat the Supreme Court’s January 22nd decision. The Louisiana legislature, he said, will be asked to notify Congress of its desire to see a constitutional amendment passed. Winn also pointed to the urgency of having legislation to safeguard the right of conscience of Catholic doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the State level, instead of just on the Federal level, as is the case with the Heckler amendment to the Public Health Service Extension Act of 1973.
Perhaps the great surprise of this regional meeting came from the youth representatives. The southern director of CYO was present along with at least one young person from each Diocese. They said that “alienation” was not so great a problem as some older people apparently believed. Instead, they said that young people want and expect direction from their seniors. They want to see faith in deeds as well as in words, but at the same time they want more doctrinal content in religious education. This last, a very interesting point, was especially stressed by Archbishop Hannan in his conversation with this reporter and was confirmed by Fr. Romagosa. Unfortunately, the names of the young people who have made these perceptive comments were not immediately available.