Archive for category Future of the Church

‘God may be calling us’: Meet the women aspiring to become deacons / America: The Jesuit Review

I do not have a cavalier attitude about ordination. A calling, a vocation, is not something you just carry around in your back pocket no matter what gifts you have.

Anna Keating in America: The Jesuit Review

“I recently attended a listening session for the synod in which the global church is now participating. The priest taking notes for the bishop began the session by saying something along the lines of: ‘Don’t waste your time coming up here and making a comment that asks the church not to be Catholic. Women cannot receive holy orders. This is an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. No generation in the church will ever see a woman at the altar.’

“It was an odd way to begin a listening session, both because no topic is meant to be off the table at the sessions, and because the statement is false. While the Catholic Church is not considering ordaining women to the priesthood, the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate is a real possibility.

“In 2016 Pope Francis created a commission to study the history of women deacons. This focus on history is notable because it acknowledges that women deacons are an ancient tradition in the church. St. Phoebe is named as deacon in the Bible (Rom 16:1-2). Both the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) and the Council of Chalcedon (451) mention the ordination of women to the diaconate. Chalcedon states, ‘No woman under 40 years of age is to be ordained a deacon,’ thereby suggesting that older women deacons were permitted. As late as the 11th century, the right of the diocesan ordinary to ordain women deacons was confirmed by three consecutive popes. Pope Benedict VIII wrote in 1017, ‘We concede and confirm to your successors in perpetuity every episcopal ordination not only of presbyters but also of deacons or deaconesses.'”

By Anna Keating, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Ministry & Governance: What might ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ have started / Commonweal

Gianfranco Ghirlando {Pontifical Gregorian University emeritus professor of canon law) made this striking change even clearer at a March 21 press conference, saying that ‘the power of governance in the Church does not come from orders, but from one’s mission.’ Governance becomes linked to canonical mission, which one is eligible for through baptism—not from the power of orders …

By Paul Lakeland, Commonweal

“There is great rejoicing in heaven today, or at least in that little corner where Yves Congar is still toiling away. No other twentieth-century Catholic theologian was so insistent on the close connection between baptism and mission. Now that Pope Francis has made clear in his motu proprio, Praedicate evangelium, that because “the Pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the church,” and “any member of the faithful can preside over a dicastery,” Congar’s great work, Lay People in the Church, comes to full fruition.

“Jesuit Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlando made this striking change even clearer at a March 21 press conference, saying that “the power of governance in the Church does not come from orders, but from one’s mission.” Governance becomes linked to canonical mission, which one is eligible for through baptism—not from the power of orders, as John Paul II had said in the previous curial reform. Now, in principle, all levels of Church governance are open to any Catholic, male or female. But there are two questions to be asked about the implications of the change for the role of ordained ministry. First, what is left for ordained ministry if governance is removed from the job description? And second, how, if at all, can we reconnect ministry and governance for the good of the Church?

“Pope Francis has long wanted the ordained to give more attention to pastoral concerns and spend less time managing a complex institution like a parish or diocese. Given the growing shortage of ordained ministers, this surely makes good sense—except, of course, that just as the pope has now made clear that there is no essential connection between ordination and governance, so it is also evident that there is no essential connection between ordination and pastoral activities.”

By Paul Lakeland, Commonweal — Read more …

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Is Pope Francis prepping for doomsday in the church? I hope so. / America: The Jesuit Review

If that interpretation proves accurate to the Vatican’s intent, it would mean not only that most of the departments in the dusty but incredibly well-decorated halls of Rome can be run by women and men who aren’t priests, but that our local parishes and dioceses could. 

By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review

“If you’re not a Vaticanista, the announcement of the proposed reform of the Roman Curia on March 17 might have seemed like some pretty standard Catholic gobbledygook. What is the Roman Curia? And why should I care about dicasteries? Does this mean I get to go back to eating meat on Fridays? If not, why are we talking about it?

“But in the midst of the release of the reform document (which was actually a big deal for many reasons), Vatican experts recognized something that actually could change things for you and me in a potentially massive way. As one theological expert who worked on the constitution put it, the Vatican seems to be saying that the “power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders” but from one’s mission in the church. That is, being in positions of leadership in the church should not require a collar, ordination or being a man.

“If that interpretation proves accurate to the Vatican’s intent, it would mean not only that most of the departments in the dusty but incredibly well-decorated halls of Rome can be run by women and men who aren’t priests, but that our local parishes and dioceses could. Your sister could potentially be put in charge of the parish where I say Mass; my aunt Kathleen or Uncle Stan could even end up running the diocese someday! (And they would be awesome.)

“If this sounds hard to believe, let’s remember that almost all of our Catholic schools are run by incredibly talented women and men who are not priests, and have been so in most cases for decades. The same is true of our Catholic social service agencies, homeless shelters and pretty much every other Catholic institution. Even some parishes are already run by “lay administrators” who effectively serve as pastors.”

By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Pope Francis is drawing on Vatican II to radically change how the Catholic Church is governed / America: The Jesuit Review

… Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., explained the changes, saying that the ‘power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders’ but from one’s mission. The is a huge step for an institution that has for centuries relegated governance and administration to the ordained and only gradually opened both to lay people …

America: The Jesuit Review

Pope Francis’ long-awaited reform of the Roman Curia takes a head-on approach to the crises facing the church, using the Second Vatican Council as a road map for reclaiming the church’s credibility.

One could argue Francis was elected to carry out this reform, given that it was a main subject of the cardinals’ pre-election conversations in 2013. It is only the fifth such effort to remake the Curia in the last 500 years. The last three followed Vatican II, with efforts by Paul VI in 1967 and John Paul II in 1988 preceding Pope Francis’ reform. Since then, the church has lost credibility and hemorrhaged members in wealthy Western nations where its hold was once the strongest and is now experiencing a severe shortage of priests, leaving some Catholics without access to the sacraments for up to a year at a time …

The new constitution for the Roman Curia, “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), which was finally released March 19 after nine years of work, recognizes that in the face of the crises of abuse, vocations and credibility, the way forward is not a “smaller but purer” church but rather a broad evangelization, the road map for which is Vatican II.

By Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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How Do We ‘Keep the Faith & Change the Church’?

Voice of the Faithful marks its 20th year in 2022 and is offering a series of articles about who we are and what we do. The following is by Margaret Roylance, VOTF trustee and vice president, and chair of VOTF’s Finance Working Group.

March 1, 2022

As Mary Pat Fox described last month, Voice of the Faithful grew at an astonishing rate in the first few months. Looking back, though, the amazing thing is the speed and clarity with which the mission and goals of the organization were discerned. Centered in prayer, speaking boldly and listening attentively to one another, we were journeying together in faith 20 years before Pope Francis’ Synod. That convinces me that VOTF was and still is a movement of the Spirit.

Founder Jim Muller’s motto was “Keep the Faith – Change the Church.” When our critics asked us what that meant, we said we respected the role of the hierarchy, but all the people of God must be involved in discerning where the Spirit is leading the Church. Cardinal George of Chicago responded that “Keep the Faith, Change the Church” was problematic because any change in the Church will, “unless most carefully thought out,” change the faith. He cited the example of Martin Luther. We were under suspicion as heretics by association with the leader of the Protestant Revolt! How could we keep the faith we loved, but change the Church whose leaders had covered up such tragic crimes?

Responding to our baptismal call we submitted our needs for new leadership to the Vatican, starting with a replacement for Cardinal Law in Boston. We studied Canon Law and Church governance structures and asked the Church to follow its own promises to involve the laity in governance and guidance through membership on Diocesan Finance Councils. Canon Law requires one in every diocese. We volunteered for parish pastoral and finance councils. We did not fade away as many bishops believed we would. We were in it for the long haul.

Recognizing that the abuse crisis was enabled by a pervasive culture of financial secrecy in the Church, a dedicated group of volunteers collaborated for five years to develop a fair, fact-based, reliable and repeatable system to measure financial transparency on diocesan websites. This Finance Working Group realized that all of us, even bishops, care about grades. We published our first diocesan financial transparency report in 2017 with financial scores for every diocese in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

The average score was 60% in 2017. In 2021, our fifth annual report showed an average diocesan score of 69%, and five dioceses received perfect scores of 100%. Thirty-eight dioceses received scores in the 90s. Diocesan leaders have realized that receiving a good transparency score from an independent organization like VOTF can help convince their members to provide financial support for their programs.

We are no longer called heretics, at least not by most Catholic bishops. Bishops have thanked us for our efforts and a steady stream of CFOs has asked us for assistance in increasing their transparency scores. Genuine financial transparency is on the rise in the U.S. Church. We will continue the yearly transparency reviews, and are using the same approach to look at child protection policies on diocesan websites. We have found that love of the Church, prayer, hard work, and persistence can produce results that were unimaginable in 2002, and we are just getting started!

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Is Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality bound to disappoint–or will it renew the church? / America: The Jesuit Review

An even more fundamental question could draw us into the content of our journeying together. Could we ask, ‘As God’s pilgrim people journeying together, how can we more effectively bring the life-giving power of the gospel to a world so desperately in need of it?’ That question would more closely correspond to the vision of Pope John XXIII and, I believe, of Pope Francis as well.

By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review

“Pope Francis has begun a multi-year process for the entire church, what he has called ‘a synod on synodality.’ In his talks and in the preparatory documents, he has explained the unusual term ‘synodality’ very simply by retrieving its Greek roots. ‘Synodality,’ as he describes it, is being syn-hodos, on the road together. The Holy Father wants this vision of the church being on the road or journey together to come alive.

“When I first heard about synodality, the concept held a strong appeal for me. I saw it moving the church beyond the usual and tired constructs of institution, organization and bureaucracy. I saw it underscoring an experience of church that included a greater sense of community and connection in the unfolding of history. The Second Vatican Council had captured this with its striking image of the church as the pilgrim people of God in ‘Lumen Gentium.’ So far, synodality seemed good, indeed, very good.

“Then I began to have questions and hesitations.”

By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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U.S. Catholic clergy shortage eased by recruits from Africa / National Catholic Reporter

During his 18 years in the U.S., Abanulo has filled various chaplain and pastor roles across the country, epitomizing an ongoing trend in the American Catholic Church. As fewer American-born men and women enter seminaries and convents, U.S. dioceses and Catholic institutions have turned to international recruitment to fill their vacancies.

Kwasi Gyamfi, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Athanasius Chidi Abanulo — using skills honed in his African homeland to minister effectively in rural Alabama — determines just how long he can stretch out his Sunday homilies based on who is sitting in the pews.

Seven minutes is the sweet spot for the mostly white and retired parishioners who attend the English-language Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the small town of Wedowee. ‘If you go beyond that, you lose the attention of the people,’ he said.

For the Spanish-language Mass an hour later, the Nigerian-born priest — one of numerous African clergy serving in the U.S. — knows he can quadruple his teaching time. ‘The more you preach, the better for them,’ he said.

As he moves from one American post to the next, Abanulo has learned how to tailor his ministry to the culture of the communities he is serving while infusing some of the spirit of his homeland into the universal rhythms of the Mass.

“‘Nigerian people are relaxed when they come to church,’ Abanulo said. ‘They love to sing, they love to dance. The liturgy can last for two hours. They don’t worry about that.'”

By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Encuentros: Learning from 50 years of synodal experience — if we’ve been paying attention / National Catholic Reporter

‘Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka ‘Encuentros’), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Catholics in the United States have been engaged for 50 years in groundbreaking processes of synodal discernment, dialogue and decision-making. Some readers may ask: How is this possible? Isn’t synodality a novelty, a trend distinctive of Pope Francis’ pontificate? How come I never heard of this in my parish, diocese, Catholic school, seminary or college?

“If you asked any of these or similar questions, chances are that you are unaware of some of the most exciting — and yes, synodal — conversations about ecclesial life, mission and evangelization among Hispanic Catholics, who constitute nearly 45% of the Catholic population in the U.S.

“Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka “Encuentros”), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.

“Perhaps this is the crux of the matter. For far too long, Hispanics have been perceived as ‘foreigners,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘visitors,’ and not as constitutive members of our Catholic community.

“We continue to assume that to be Euro-American, racially white and English-speaking are the essential marks of American Catholicism. In certain circles, one could add middle-class and college-educated to that list. Consequently, whatever happens in the faith communities that do not match such identifiers fails to be perceived or treated as really American Catholic.”

By Hosffman Ospino, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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‘The deep heart’s core’: Faith of lay people will guide Catholic Church for uncertain future

So why am I still hanging in there? That is a question I struggle to answer except, to say, borrowing a few words from Yeats, that there is something I feel “in the deep heart’s core” which doesn’t allow me to walk away just yet.

Patricia Melvin, The Irish Times

“I am torn. A rather negative starting point I must confess, but let me elaborate. On the one hand I hear the echoing voices of my now adult children expressing, rather vehemently, their incredulity that a woman they deem intelligent continues to be involved with the Catholic Church.

“It is an institution which has become irrelevant in their lives. They repeatedly describe it to me as misogynistic, homophobic, abusive and money-grabbing. I understand where they are coming from and find myself sadly in agreement with their analysis.

“So why am I still hanging in there? That is a question I struggle to answer except, to say, borrowing a few words from Yeats, that there is something I feel ‘in the deep heart’s core’ which doesn’t allow me to walk away just yet.

“And so, I have found myself involved in a process in the Killala diocese called Placing Hope in Faith. This listening exercise was initiated by clergy and completed well before the synodal process, now under way in the Catholic Church worldwide, began.”

By Patricia Melvin, The Irish Times — Read more …

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Speak Boldly, Listen Carefully: Inside the Synod / Commonweal

There is confidence, too, that the people of God will, over time, hear the call to assemble. And when they do, that they will speak boldly and listen carefully, and that somehow, in spite of all the resistances and obstacles, not another but a different Church will come forth. Adsumus Sancte Spiritus.

Commonweal

“At the start of July, in preparation for what has become known as the ‘Synod on Synodality,’ the general secretariat of the synod’s spirituality commission convened a meeting of the heads of religious orders in Rome. In the big aula of the Jesuit Curia on the Borgo Santo Spirito were gathered the superiors general of the Jesuits, the Marists, the Claretians, the Eudists, and the Salesians, along with the master of the Dominicans, the vicar general of the Augustinians, the Benedictine abbot primate general, and so on, together with the presidents of the umbrella bodies of male and female religious across the Catholic world, whether contemplative, apostolic, or charismatic. The point of the gathering? To share experiences from the many different traditions of synodality and collective discernment. Or, in simpler language, to find out how the different orders make decisions, elect leaders, and hear the Holy Spirit nudging them to change.

“While in Rome for the October 9–10 launch of the synod, I heard about this gathering from a number of those who were involved, among them the woman who has become the synod’s face and voice. What the meeting showed, the French Xaverian Sr. Nathalie Becquart told me, was how each of the orders had developed different mechanisms of deliberating as a body and reaching consensus—whether classically, in the form of the “General Chapters” of monasteries and friaries, or as exercises in group discernment as developed, say, by the Jesuits. Many religious institutes had regular assemblies, others engaged in consultations prior to decision-making, while some combined consultative and deliberative practices. The diversity of methods and traditions was tremendous. Yet alongside the clear lines of authority and obedience in most religious orders were two elements they all seemed to have in common.

“The first is that discernment and decision-making are the business of the whole body, not just of the few entrusted with governance. In his landmark October 2015 synod speech, Pope Francis quoted an ancient maxim: Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus tractari et approbari debet (“what affects everyone should be discussed and approved by all”). And because, as St. Benedict notes in his seventh-century rule, God sometimes speaks through the youngest in the community, enabling participation means paying special attention to the timid edges, to the unlikely places, to those outside.

“The second is that this business of consultation and deliberation is not separate from the life of prayer but intrinsic to it. The habitus of community decision-making is attentive listening to others, straining for the whispers of the Spirit even in the mouths of people we resent or disagree with. It calls, therefore, for giving time to all, in equal measure, for speaking honestly and boldly but not hammering others with our views, for sitting in peaceful, open silence so that we can hear what words do not always say and can often conceal. Synodality requires us to understand that we do not possess the truth, but that sometimes, when we put aside our emotions and agendas, it possesses us, overflowing the narrow channels of our thinking.”

By Austen Ivereigh, Commmonweal — Read more …

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