The fall meeting of the U.S. bishops opened today in Baltimore.

The Daily Blog will report on developments there this week. For now, we’d like to draw attention to a couple of key items on the agenda.

The first one is a planned discussion of the issue of the responsibilities of Catholics in public life to stand up for fundamental Church teachings on abortion. While the bishops collectively spoke much more forcefully on this matter in 2008 than in previous election cycles, it remains clear that they’re still a substantial distance from unanimity on the best approach on how to deal this controversial issue.

The second item is a key liturgical matter: The bishops’ scheduled revote on whether to approve the Church’s new translation of Mass prayers. The new translation, produced by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) with the specific aim of attaining greater fidelity with the original Latin prayers, did not obtain the required two-thirds approval when the bishops voted on the subject earlier this year.

A failure to do so again would further stall the process of approval that’s necessary before an amended set of Mass prayers can be introduced into liturgical celebrations in the United States.

— Tom McFeely