Archive for category Future of the Church

In came Latin, incense and burned books, out went half the parishioners / National Catholic Reporter

‘The Charlotte Diocese is not alone. While Pope Francis preaches an accompaniment for all spiritual seekers and castigates clericalism … seminaries in the U.S. continue to graduate priests for ordination who look not to Francis, but to Pope John Paul II for inspiration. It is a quiet, awkward and uneasy kind of schism in church practice and discipline.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Religion scholar Maria Lichtmann felt a strangeness overcome St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country Parish in Boone, North Carolina, four years ago.

“Fr. Matthew Codd, the then-pastor at St. Elizabeth’s, was joined by a group of seminarians who went through the church’s theology library and removed books deemed heretical, including those of spiritual writers Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. The books were later burned, she was told by a parish staff member.

“Lichtmann, a retired religious studies professor at Appalachian State University, left the region in part, she told NCR, because of the changes in the parish. She now lives in Georgia.

“‘I felt it was a lost cause,’ she said about St. Elizabeth’s.

“The spirit of hyper-orthodoxy in parish leadership continued, noted Lichtmann, after Codd was replaced in July 2019 by Fr. Brendan Buckler.

“Nearing 18 months since Buckler arrived, on the edge of Boone, a college town and popular retirement community in the mountain foothills, a few dozen now gather every other Sunday at a car restoration shop shared by a hospitable non-Catholic, the husband of a parishioner.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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The people should choose their bishops again / Commonweal

“His (former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s) appointment (to auxiliary bishop of New York) required no consultation with the body of clergy of New York, and no consultation with the body of the laity, beyond those few apostolic letters. It mostly required Cardinal Cooke’s patronage.”

Commonweal

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“There are a number of conclusions one could draw from reading the Vatican report on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. For example: that the clerical sex-abuse crisis in the Church is worse than we thought and extends to vulnerable adults. Also, that position and influence in our Church are easily bought, and that bishops lie, even to the pope, to protect other bishops. But the conclusion that encompasses all of the above is that the way we choose our bishops is deeply flawed, producing bishops who are, in turn, deeply flawed. How did things get this way, and what can be done about it?

“First, let’s consider a bit of history. Once the office of bishop was clearly established in the early Church as the unitary head of a diocese (a Roman administrative unit), that office was filled by someone chosen by local people and priests, then ratified by the neighboring bishops, as a sign of the unity of the Church. Even the unbaptized were eligible, as we know from the oft-told story of St. Ambrose, whom the clergy and people of Milan chose as their bishop while he was still a catechumen. The first bishop of the United States, John Carroll, was elected by the priests of Maryland and confirmed by the pope. Today, we are so used to the pope choosing our bishops for us that we think it was always that way. It wasn’t. In fact, the right of the pope to choose bishops was only settled with the 1917 Code of Canon Law, a papal document that clearly allocated that power to the holder of the papal office.

“Arguably, there is some limited lay input in the selection of bishops. When a priest is being considered for appointment as bishop, the papal nuncio sends out what are called apostolic letters to a select group, which may include laypeople from the area, asking their opinion of the candidate based on some very specific questions …”

By Nicholas P. Cafardi, Commonweal — Read more …

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Clergy shortage grows to more than 14k Catholics for every priest, Vatican data shows / Religion News Service

The reasons for the steady hemorrhage of Catholic clergy worldwide are varied, from secularization to the church’s ongoing sexual and financial scandals. And the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own challenges. (Religion News Service)

“Catholic missions are struggling amid dwindling vocations and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released by the Vatican ahead of the World Mission Day this Sunday (Oct. 18).

“The number of priests and ordained leaders has dropped significantly, especially in Europe and America, according to the report issued on Friday (Oct. 16) by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, charged with distributing clergy and coordinating missions around the world.

“The total number of priests in the world decreased to 414,065 in 2018, with Europe registering a drop of 2,675 priests compared to 2017. The report also reveals a slight decrease in the number of Catholic faithful in America, Europe and Oceania. Meanwhile, Africa and Asia continue to show signs of growth, according to the data.

“‘We mustn’t be afraid! Mission goes on thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit,’ said Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, the secretary of the evangelizing congregation, during a press conference at the Vatican on Friday.

“However, the diminishing number of clergy coincides with an increase in the global population, putting pressure on priests who must minister to larger numbers of people. As of December 2018, the report shows, there are 1,328,993,000 Catholics in the world.”

By Claire Giangrave, Religion News Service — Read more …

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Can laypeople lead a parish? Look to Louisville for a thriving example / National Catholic Reporter

We are a living example of how the Catholic Church can move forward despite the priest shortage, despite the sex scandals and despite the Roman Curia. We are proof that the spirit of Vatican II is still alive and well. At St. William, ‘We are the church’ is more than a slogan. It’s the way we operate. And it is all allowable under canon law! We just need bishops who will recognize the immense possibilities of lay-led parishes. (National Catholic Reporter)

In his recent book Worship as Community Drama, sociologist Pierre Hegy described an unusual Catholic parish whose identity he hid under the name Church of the Resurrection. When the book was published earlier this year and we read the chapter titled ‘A Lay-Run Parish: Consensus Without a Central Authority,’ we could tell that it was about us.

“I asked Hegy about possibly revealing the facts behind the chapter. He replied that sociological protocols had to be followed in the book, but these would not apply to an article in a newspaper. OK, here goes.

“For almost 30 years, the St. William Catholic Community in Louisville, Kentucky, has had a lay parochial administrator but, even before that, all-important decisions were made by the people of the parish.”

By Joseph Martos, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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The Catholic Church’s U.S. seminaries need reform / Religion News Service

This is not an easy task, but it is made more difficult by many bishops who prefer the status quo. I fear we will not see much change in seminaries until Francis has time to appoint more new bishops. It could take another five years before we see real reform of diocesan seminaries. (Religion News Service)

No one has a greater impact on a Catholic parish than its pastor, which is why diocesan seminaries are key to the future of the church in America. Diocesan seminaries evaluate and then form those men who want to be parish priests. Sadly, in recent decades, too many of the priests coming out of these seminaries have been trained to be authoritarians with few pastoral skills.

“Some of them come to seminary with an authoritarian mindset, but faculty at today’s seminaries often do little to change that. Some faculty members even foster it, teaching their students that they have all the answers and that their job is to kick the laity into shape. In these cases, seminarians are not taught to listen, to delegate, to work with committees or to empower the laity, especially women.

“This is not true of all seminaries and seminarians. Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary has improved under the leadership of Cardinal Blase Cupich. Some are mixed bags. Others are disaster areas.

“In the worst programs, students are told not to ask questions but to consult ‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church,’ the book-length presentation of the teachings of the church prepared under the papacy of John Paul II. The documents of the Second Vatican Council are either downplayed or interpreted through a conservative lens. In too many places by too many faculty, moral theology is presented in a legalistic framework in which everything is black or white.”

By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service — Read more …

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Connecticut bishop appoints laywoman to lead parish / Cruxnow.com

He (Bridgeport, Connecticut, Bishop Frank Caggiano) went on to note that the appointment was the first of its kind in the diocese of Bridgeport and added that it has support in canon law. (Cruxnow.com)

Less than two months after serving as delegate in the Bishops Synod on Youth which called women’s leadership within the Church ‘a duty of justice,’ Bishop Frank Caggiano has established a new leadership model in a Connecticut parish, appointing a woman to serve as parish life coordinator.

“The appointment of Dr. Eleanor W. Sauers, which was announced on Sunday in a letter to parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua in Fairfield, Connecticut, grants Sauers decision-making authority over a team of priests who will be responsible for sacramental ministry.

“‘We are at a very particular moment in the history of our Diocese, and indeed, within our Church,’ Caggiano wrote to parishioners. ‘As I travel throughout Fairfield County, it has become apparent to me that many lay women and men are seeking new ways to serve their parishes, and, in collaboration with the clergy, to create vibrant and thriving communities.’

“He went on to note that the appointment was the first of its kind in the diocese of Bridgeport and added that it has support in canon law.”

By Christopher White, Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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From Voice of the Faithful — Here is another idea for responding to the bishop coverup scandals


Expression of Concern

Concerned parishioners from Christ the King Parish in Chicago have written to Cardinal Blase Cupich concerning the crisis in the Church. Voice of the Faithful endorses this letter and urges those who may be interested to read and consider supporting and signing the “Expression of Concern,” which can clicking here.

Cardinal Cupich will be hosting the U.S. bishops for prayer at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago in January 2019 and then meeting with Pope Francis and bishops worldwide in February 2019 in Rome. The “Expression of Concern” letter and list of all signatories will be delivered to Cardinal Cupich in advance of those meetings.

Appointed to the organizing committee for the February meeting of bishops in Rome to discuss clergy sex abuse, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chjicago has assumed new significance in efforts to repair the harm engendered by decades of coverups and denials. Here is an opportunity to bring lay voices to his attention.

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As anger over Catholic clergy sexual abuse intensifies, U.S. dioceses’ average financial transparency score rises only marginally

BOSTON, Mass., Nov. 1, 2018― Anger over clergy sexual abuse has risen dramatically with new revelations in recent months, and Voice of the Faithful’s second annual study of U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency, released in October, shows the average score for those dioceses rising only marginally. Voice of the Faithful has long considered secrecy surrounding Catholic Church finances to be linked to secrecy surrounding clerical sexual abuse.

The average overall score achieved by all 177 dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Voice of the Faithful’s “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2018” was 39.7 out of 60, or 66 percent, which represents a 5 percent increase over the 2017 average score. Thirty-nine percent of dioceses still have not posted audited financial statements on their websites, and 25 percent do not post a financial report of any kind.

Much of the recent anger over clergy abuse is invested in the secrecy surrounding the abuse. “Carrying out a widespread coverup of criminal acts without access to large amounts of untraceable money is impossible,” said Margaret Roylance, Ph.D., a VOTF trustee and Finance Working Group chair.

“In the wake of ongoing revelations about clerical sexual abuse,” she continued, “every Catholic who loves the Church is justly angry and asking serious questions about our Church leadership. This report is one tool in the hands of faithful Catholics who want to know what each of us can do. Genuine financial transparency will be essential in rebuilding U.S. Catholics’ trust in their bishops.”

Roylance continued to point out that:

  • If your diocese does not post its audited financial statement or, worse, not even an unaudited financial report, your diocesan leadership is being less than forthright about its finances.
  • If your diocese does not mandate safe collection procedures, it is failing in its duty to protect the resources you have provided to them.
  • If the names and backgrounds of your Diocesan Finance Council members cannot be found on your diocesan website, you have no way of knowing if they are “truly expert in financial affairs and civil law, outstanding in integrity,” as Canon Law requires.

“We must let our bishops know if their failures of financial transparency prevent us from fulfilling our obligations as good stewards of the gifts God has given us,” she said.

Although the transparency scores of 21 dioceses in the 2018 study dropped from 2017, more than 70 had higher scores and some achieved very significant increases. The Archdiocese of Omaha went from a dismal 26 to 56, and the Diocese of Orlando from 26 to a perfect score of 60, which tied with the Diocese of Burlington. However, Burlington received a qualified opinion from outside auditors, whereas Orlando received an unqualified (good) opinion on its audit. The Diocese of Santa Rosa was the only one of the 177 to post highlights of their Finance Council meetings—another significant factor in diocesan financial transparency.

The highest scoring dioceses in VOTF’s 2018 study are:

  • Burlington, Vermont, and Orlando, Florida, tied at 60
  • Atlanta, Georgia, Baltimore, Maryland, and Sacramento, California, tied at 59
  • Bismarck, North Dakota, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Buffalo, New York, Des Moines, Iowa, Ft. Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Omaha, Nebraska, and San Diego, California, tied at 56

The lowest scoring dioceses in VOTF’s 2018 study are:

  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Orange, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, tied at 19
  • Salina, Kansas, 18
  • Brownsville, Texas, Knoxville, Tennessee, Lubbock, Texas, Portland, Oregon, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, 15
  • Grand Isle, Nebraska, 13
  • Thomas, Virgin Islands, 12

Voice of the Faithful News Release, Nov. 1, 2018
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Want to address priest sexual abuse? The Catholic Church needs to overhaul its seminaries / The Washington Post

Young men who feel called to priesthood, although well intentioned, often have enormous gaps in their prior formation and upbringing. (The Washington Post)

Although clergy sexual abuse scandals aren’t new, the ones that have rocked the Catholic Church this summer revolved around a group seldom focused on before: seminarians. The sexual harassment and abuse of seminarians, and the response of seminary leaders, have been at the center of the case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, whose removal from ministry in June began months of focus on abuse.

“Many Catholics share a heightened, even unprecedented, level of concern for the well-being of Catholic seminarians. They rightly wonder, as well, whether our seminaries can not only screen out potential sexual predators, but also rise to the challenge of preparing for life and ministry men who are emotionally mature, and psychologically and sexually healthy. This requires training for contemporary American society.

“The convergence of these concerns invites a long-needed conversation about reform in American seminaries.

“Many of us who have labored in seminary formation for years consider 2018 a watershed moment, in fact, to insist on long-overdue adjustments and enhancements to seminary training. In retrospect, many of our institutions have too often failed miserably in preparing men for ministry, and many still fall far short of the goal of forming happy, healthy, holy priests. The church urgently needs new approaches to preparing men for priestly ministry given today’s sexualized, secularized culture and the personal challenges facing seminarians.”

By Rev. Thomas V. Berg, The Washington Post — Read more …

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The Catholic Church’s biggest crisis since the reformation / Foreign Affairs

In desperate need of institutional reform and facing growing political, theological, and geopolitical rifts, the church has not experienced so great a crisis since the Protestant Reformation. (Foreign Affairs

The Catholic Church is facing its most serious crisis in 500 years. In these last few months, a new wave of clerical sexual abuse revelations left the world in shock. From Australia to Chile to Germany to the United States, horrifying reports revealed thousands of cases of child molestation by members of the clergy. One U.S. grand jury report documented 1,000 children abused by 300 priests in the state of Pennsylvania alone over seven decades …

“In desperate need of institutional reform and facing growing political, theological, and geopolitical rifts, the church has not experienced so great a crisis since the Protestant Reformation. Unlike that of the sixteenth century, the current situation probably won’t result in a schism or the establishment of new churches. But to understand the magnitude and complexity of what is now taking place, we have to look that far back, and to so significant a rupture.”

By Massimo Faggioli in Foreign Affairs — Read more …

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