How to Cover the Catholic Church
circumstances might pressure bishops, without opportunity for due deliberation,
into a conference statement that would have to stand the test of time for years or
decades. The presidential statement alternative allows the bishops to address such
issues and express a consensus but have their collective views articulated only by
the authority of the conference president and not the entire body.
The USCCB Office of Media Relations will typically make the texts of a
general assembly’s proposed action items available to the media upon request
within a few days after the bishops have had a chance to review the materials
via the Internet, e-mail or postal mail. For example, if the fall meeting is Nov.
12-15, the materials will have been sent to the bishops by Oct. 12 and will
typically be made available to media on request by Oct. 16 or so—allowing
time first for those bishops who still receive hard copies of the documentation,
instead of electronic versions, to receive the materials and review them.
The Office of Media Relations requires all journalists seeking to cover a
bishops’ meeting to apply in advance for credentials. The application form,
which must be signed by a journalist’s editor or other executive officer, is typi-
cally available online a month or so before the start of any meeting open to
For those who have not requested advance copies of agenda documenta-
tion, at the start of each general assembly that documentation is available in
the media center, along with media packets including the meeting agenda,
press releases and other background materials. Reporters can pick up the doc-
umentation and all related materials when they register at the meeting site.
Depending on the nature and extent of a meeting’s documentation, the Office
of Media Relations may also make it available on CD.
Because of space limitations in the meeting room, journalists working for
outlets that only occasionally cover the bishops’ meeting or for outlets of lim-
ited or infrequent circulation may be allowed access to the meeting room itself
for only one or two sessions. The on-site media center, however, provides a
live television feed of the entire proceedings, and all accredited journalists
have access there throughout the meeting.
The bishops begin each morning and afternoon session with about 20
minutes of prayer based on the Liturgy of the Hours, the church’s official daily
prayer cycle that all Catholic bishops, priests and deacons are expected to
observe to sanctify the entire day with devotion to God. Morning sessions end
, the traditional noontime prayer of the church.
Usually there is a news conference after every major public session of
a fall or spring meeting of the USCCB. All accredited journalists, photogra-
phers and TV camera crews have full access to such news conferences. The
panelists at a news conference are typically the current chairman of the bish-