Posts Tagged parish
By Bill Casey, long-time Voice of the Faithful® affiliate leader, former board chair and trustee
Today (July 22), I attended a presentation by Fr. Helmut Schuller at the National Press Club in D.C. The venue was one of several stops in a multi-city tour, during which he is talking about a group of Austrian priests’ “Call to Disobedience.” Schuller is one of the founders of the group, which comprises about 15% of the priests in Austria but is supported by a large number of Austrian clergy and lay people.
Schuller is a low-key guy with some very insightful conclusions about the failed/failing state of parishes in Austria and throughout much of Europe. There are too few priests to properly serve too many parishes, and as a result, the faith communities suffer from a disengaged faith experience — those that still remain active, not to mention the droves of others, including the youth, who have no connection to parish life. In response, Schuller’s group calls for pastoral disobedience when responding on a personal level to those excluded from full faith experience, including the divorced and remarried who are precluded from Eucharist, gays and lesbians who are excluded officially or unofficially from parish life and sacraments, and women and married men who are excluded from ordination. His group calls for public prophetic disobedience in calling for reforms that are silenced or ignored by hierarchical positions.
Although we would expect any such priest in the U.S. to be silenced, banned, or excluded in some way if he did what Schuller has done, Schuller and the other priests are in good standing within their dioceses. Schuller himself writes a weekly commentary on the Sunday readings in the diocesan newspaper, and his bishop (Cardinal Schonborn) did not attempt to block his speaking tour on these topics. Of course, at the only Catholic parish which invited him to speak, Boston Cardinal O’Malley banned him. The President of Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, however, ignored objections from Archbishop Chaput and hosted a talk anyway.
Some key comments that I heard from Schuller today included the following (my wording):
- The Austrian clergy experience deep sorrow over the minimalist life of parishes where priests can barely cover a weekly liturgy and little else. It is a scandal when parishioners receive so little from their clergy.
- What have lay people received over the last 40-50 years as a result of their “obedience” to hierarchical decisions? There are far more victims of “obedience” than disobedience in our faith communities.
- The Church should fulfill an initiative of Paul VI who wanted to develop a “Constitution” for the Church that would distribute authority and hold those with authority accountable for exercising it.
- The handling of the sexual abuse scandal in our Church would have unfolded quite differently if such a Constitution were in place ten years ago.
- If reform were to take place, it would need to come out of the full collaboration of clergy and laity alike. Reform by lower clergy meeting with higher clergy is not a model to seek. A new Council at this moment in time would favor the latter.
Schuller struck me as a priest deeply concerned about the full life of Catholics, not as a headline-grabber for priestly interests. I hope that his movement infects priests in other countries to take a prophetic stand as a group and receive the fullest support and collaboration of laity in healing our deeply wounded Church.
Also see “Reformist Priest Sees Potential Ally in Pope Francis” by Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service, which reports on Fr. Schuller’s National Press Club talk.
The shortage of Catholic priests is an economic drama playing out across major countries to a yawn by the news media. In the United States, 20 percent of parishes have no priests. Since 1995, bishops have sold more than 1,700 churches – on average, that’s a church shuttered once a week for 18 years — down-sizing a religious infrastructure that had grown steadily between the end of the Civil War and the 1969 voyage that put Americans on the moon.”
By Jason Berry in GlobalPost.com. Click here to read is entire article.
The Catholic Church’s process for protecting children from clergy sexual abuse still has major weaknesses.
Annual audits assessing compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People still do not allow fully independent auditors complete access to all information. And auditors still are discovering weaknesses in compliance at the parish level. Everyone knows it, and no one is doing anything about it.
In a news release today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops outlined the results of its 2012 annual diocesan audit, from which the folling is taken:
StoneBridge (Business Partners) cited limitations, including “the unwillingness of most dioceses and eparchies to allow us to conduct parish audits during their on-site audits.” It said that “the auditors must rely solely on the information provided by the diocese or eparchy, instead of observing the program firsthand.”
Another limitation is staff turnover in diocesan child abuse prevention programs. As a result, “records are often lost, and successors to the position are often placed in key roles without formal orientation,” StoneBridge reported.
Al J. Notzon, III, chairman of the National Review Board (NRB), which oversees the audits, echoed StoneBridge concerns in a letter to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Notzon highlighted the importance of good record-keeping “and the great significance of involving parishes in the audit process.”
Voice of the Faithful® began calling for fully independent audits with full access to all information soon after the Charter was promulgated in 2002. And VOTF’s early child protection efforts saw the same problem of compliance in parishes cited above, where already overburdened staffs were hardpressed to assume the paperwork burden required by new child protection guidelines and programs.
That was more than a decade ago. Heightened awareness and attempts to create more secure environments may have made children safer, but while these discrepancies in the Church’s audits remain, what are we to believe when Cardinal Dolan says in USCCB’s news release, “We seek … to assure that our audits continue to be credible and maintain accountability in our shared promise to protect and our pledge to heal.”