What does the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) do?
Our purposes under civil law are:
to unify, coordinate, encourage, promote and carry on Catholic activities in the United States;
to organize and conduct religious, charitable and social welfare work at home and abroad;
to aid in education;
to care for immigrants;
and generally to enter into and promote by education, publication and direction the objects of its being.
Our mission is to support the ministry of bishops with an emphasis on evangelization, by which the bishops exercise in a communal and collegial manner certain pastoral functions entrusted to them by the Lord Jesus of sanctifying, teaching, and governing (see Lumen gentium, no. 21).
This mission calls the Conference to:
Act collaboratively and consistently on vital issues confronting the Church and society (see Christus Dominus, no. 38.1)
Foster communion with the Church in other nations, within the Church universal, under the leadership of its supreme pastor, the Roman Pontiff
Offer appropriate assistance to each bishop in fulfilling his particular ministry in the local Church (Cf. Apostolos suos, 1998.)
The mission of evangelization is entrusted by Christ to his Church to be carried out in all her forms of ministry, witness, and service. By evangelizing, the Church seeks to bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in living their faith in Jesus and strengthened by the sacraments, most especially the celebration of the Eucharist, they freely share that faith with others to transform the world. (Based on Go and Make Disciples, A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States, 1990)
In 1917 the U.S. bishops formed the National Catholic War Council (NCWC) to enable U.S. Catholics to contribute funds and commit personnel to provide spiritual care and recreation services to servicemen during World War I. In 1919 Pope Benedict XV urged the hierarchy to join him in working for peace and social justice. In response, the bishops organized the National Catholic Welfare Council in and set up the first Administrative Committee of seven members to handle the Council's business between plenary meetings. The headquarters were established in Washington, DC and a general secretary with some staff was appointed.
In 1922, the word "Conference" replaced "Council" in the organization's title, underlining the fact that it was consultative rather than legislative. At the same time, the National Catholic Welfare Conference was created to address such concerns as education, immigration and social action.
This model continued until 1966 when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) were established. The NCCB attended to the Church's own affairs in this country. Its committees were exclusively bishops and their secretariats. In USCC, the bishops collaborated with other Catholics to address issues that concern the Church as part of the larger society. Its committees also included lay people, clergy and religious.
On July 1, 2001 the NCCB and the USCC combined to form the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). USCCB continues the work done by both, maintaining the same staff. The bishops themselves form approximately 17 committees, each with its own responsibility.