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News BriefsBritish Catholics Resist Closing Parish.  Over 100 former parishioners of St. Michael’s parish in central Manchester recently attended a special Mass at the closed parish hoping to persuade the Salford diocese to keep it open.  For three years local Catholics gathered outside St. Michael’s every Sunday to pray that the Church will reopen. According to organizer Stella Newton, requests to meet Bishop Terence Brain were denied:  “People who are willing to stand out there on the steps in the rain, hail, snow and blizzards shouldn’t be ignored. They should be applauded,” she said.  (The Tablet 3/10/2007)

Spanish Priests Back Optional Celibacy, Women’s Ordination. A survey of 20,000 Spanish priests conducted by the religious magazine 21rs found that 53% favored optional celibacy and 41% said women should be permitted to be ordained to the priesthood. The survey also found that 63% of Spain’s priests believe the Church should be self-financed rather than supported by the state, as this would permit it more independence. (The Tablet 4/7/07 and internet reports)

Younger, Older Catholics Support Opening Ordination.  Two recent studies conducted by  The Life Cycle Institute at Catholic University of America and St. Michael’s College in Vermont found that among younger generations, large majorities would open ordination to women. However, while not quite half the older pre-Vatican II generation would accept women priests, more than two thirds of both older and younger Catholics would accept married men as priests. (National Catholic Reporter 3/9/07)

Spokane Parishes Incorporate, Must Pay $10 Million. As a result of a  $48 million settlement for clergy sex abuse, Spokane parishes have begun a $10 million fundraising campaign to offset the diocesan debt.  Meanwhile, as part of the settlement approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams, parishes will incorporate as nonprofit, nonmember corporations.  Diocesan Vicar General Fr. Steve Dublinski said: “The parish will now own and hold its property. Who owns parish property will never again be a question.”  (Catholic News Service 5/11/07)

Canon Lawyer Decries Lack of Due Process for Priests. Canon lawyer Fr. Michael Sullivan of Minneapolis-St. Paul says he has heard countless stories of lack of due process for priests accused of sex abuse.  Sullivan chairs the board of Justice for Priests and Deacons, a seven-year old organization with 90 affiliated canon lawyers who have assisted approximately 540 priest and deacons. Sullivan found multiple cases around the country in which the “priest is asked if he is guilty or innocent but he doesn’t even know the charge,” because dioceses fear violating the privacy rights of the accuser.  (National Catholic Reporter 4/27/07)

Clergy Abuse Victims Decrease, Legal and Therapy Fees Increase. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there were 714 new allegations against diocesan and religious clergy in 2006, compared to 1,092 allegations in 2004 and 783 in 2005. The allegations involved 710 victims and 448 offenders,  71% of which took place between 1960 and 1984. Eighty percent of victims were male, which is consistent with previous years. In 2006, nearly $400 million was spent on settlements, legal fees and other costs related to clergy sex abuse of minors in the United States. When added to previously published costs, clergy sex abuse has cost the U.S. Church more than $1.7 billion since 1950.   (Catholic News Service)

Bishop Bruskewitz Refuses Child Protection Audits. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska has consistently refused to participate in child protection audits from the time audits were begun.  Three other dioceses also refused to participate this year. They are the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Mass and the Eparchy of our Lady of Deliverance of Newark, NJ. Nationally, dioceses and eparchies spent $25.6 million on child protection efforts in 2006, a 33 percent increase over the $19.2 million spent in 2005.  (Catholic News Service)

One Third of New Priests Foreign Born. A survey conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that nearly one third, or 31% of U.S. ordinands are foreign-born. This compares with 24 percent reported in 1998. Candidates come from 30 different countries, with the largest numbers coming from Vietnam, Mexico, Poland and the Philippines. Their racial and ethnic composition corresponds to that of the U.S. population. The number of U.S. priests has declined 29 per cent in the past 40 years while the Catholic population increased by 40 per cent.  (As reported in The Tablet 5/2007)

A Tale of Two Eucharists. In mid February, the British diocese of Westminster announced a groundbreaking initiative reaching out to homosexual Catholics and their families and friends through special biweekly Masses. The diocese cited Church teaching, “that homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and the Church’s responsibility to offer pastoral outreach to “baptized persons with a homosexual inclination.” Officials emphasized that the Masses will be “open to everyone” and should not be used to campaign for changes in Church teaching.

Meanwhile in mid March, Minneapolis Archbishop Harry Flynn denied the Eucharist to over 500 at a New Ways Ministry symposium on “Lesbian/Gay Catholics in a Sacramental Church.”  An archdiocesan spokesperson said symposium speakers were problematic. Three retired bishops were presenters as well as some of the most highly respected theologians and scholars in the U.S. Church including Sr. Margaret Farley, RSM, Fr. Richard McBrien, Christine Gudorf, Sr. Helen Prejean, Luke Timothy Johnson, Diana Hayes and many others. Noting that half of the attendees were priests or religious, and the other half were lay ministers or parents of gays, New Ways spokesperson Frank DeBernardo said:  “Denying Eucharist to people who have committed their lives to the Church causes greater scandal to the Church than does a public discussion of homosexuality.” It was the first time the Symposium had ever been refused permission to celebrate the Eucharist.
(From The Tablet 2/10/07 and National Catholic Reporter 3/23/07)

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Spring 2007

 

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