• U.S. graduate level seminarians decreased to 3284 from 3414 in 2002-2003 according the the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Deacon formation decreased slightly from 3400 in 2002-2003 to 3325 in 2003-2004. Lay minister candidates registered a dramatic decrease of one third, from 35, 448 in 2002-2003 to only 25, 964 currently (see cover story)
(Catholic Trends, May 8, 2004)
• The pope’s remarks about artificial feeding and hydration have been wrongly interpreted said his top bioethics advisor, Bishop Elio Sgreccia: “As long as nutrition and hydration are a support, as long as it is food and thrist quenching drink that helps avoid suffering, it is obligatory. If the patient no longer assimilates food, and if the patient no longer has thirst quenched by fluids, but is only tormented, there’s no longer an obligation to administer it.” Sgreccia is the Vice President for the Pontifical Academy for Life, which cosponsored the Vatican congress on Persistent Vegetative State.
(Catholic Trends, April 10, 2004)
• More Protestants Attend Church than Catholics. For the first time in history there are more Protestants who attend weekly church services than Catholics. November 2003 Gallup poll data show 45 percent of Catholics and 48 percent of Protestants say they attend church services weekly.
(America, January 19-26, 2004)
Bishops Backsliding? In March, the head of the U.S. Bishops’ Lay review board accused U.S. bishops of manipulating them after the Bishops kept the board in the dark about a decision to delay until next December promised yearly audits of their compliance with measures to avoid sexual abuse. This would make any audit of this year impossible. After Burke wrote a sharply worded letter on behalf of the board, the decision was made to move the audit discussion to the June meeting. (The Davenport Messenger May 20, 2004)
• Two More Women Named to Vatican Posts In what is being called “a historic breakthrough,” Salesian Sr. Enrica Rosanna, has been named as undersecretary of the Congregation for Religious, which has responsibility for 140,000 religious order priests, 800,000 sisters and 55,000 brothers. The role of undersecretary is one of the top three positions in a congregation. Historically the position has been held by a priest. Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon was recently named as president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the first time a woman was ever named to that position.
New Mass Translations Won’t Work
Bishops in Australia, England, Wales and the U.S. have said a proposed Mass translation is in need of major revision. The Bishops complained about lengthy sentences, poor syntax and archaic language. The texts were prepared by a newly reconstructed International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) according to Liturgiam Authenticam a controversial 2001 Vatican document which reversed earlier ICEL translation principles of dynamic equivalence (most accurate meaning in contemporary language) for principles requiring a more literal rendering of the Latin. Often at issue was the use of gender inclusive language.
Among other changes criticized by language experts was the change in the Eucharistic Prayer from “stand in your presence and serve you,” to “be in your presence and serve you” in the new translation. “Stand” is a literal translation of the original Latin word stare and according to the new literal principles, should have been the preferred translation. The switch to “be” was made because the Vatican did not want Catholics thinking they were allowed to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer, “a change made for ephemeral ecclesial politics and not to be faithful to the Latin,” according to one insider.
U.S. Cardinal Roger Mahony said: “We simply cannot have a translation that is labored and is not easily proclaimed or understood … the danger is that that kind of new Roman Missal, would simply not be used.” Mahony’s fears are well founded. British sources predict that if changes are not made, it will lead to liturgical anarchy with some priests continuing to use the current 1973 Missal or even the original 1998 ICEL translation which used dynamic equivalence and had been approved by all English speaking Bishops before being rejected by the Vatican. (The Tablet May 8, 2004, Davenport Messenger May 20, 2004)
Politicization of Eucharist Criticized
Bishops and laity alike have criticised some conservative Bishops’ decisions to prohibit pro choice politicians and even those who vote for them from receiving Communion. Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said: “What about people who don’t like Humanae Vitae? What about people who don’t like the church’s teaching on the death penalty or on homosexual marriages? It seems to me at this point that it makes a lot more sense to presume people’s good will, presume erroneous conscience or perplexed conscience and give them Communion, rather than say, ‘I think you think such-and-such.’” (NCR 5/2/1/04)
Meanwhile Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen sees a slippery slope: “ Surely the next step is to put ushers at the door each Sunday with a purity checklist. Adulterer? Out. Gay? Out. Tax cheat? Out. Gossip? Condom in your pocket? Out. Out. Out.” Quindlen pointedly asks: “Why were known pedophiles permitted to give commuion for years, while people of conscience at odds with Vatican teaching (not church dogma) are prohibited from receiving it? ... It is one thing to preach the teachings of the church, quite another to use the centerpiece of the faith selectively as a tool to influence the ballot box, that confessional of democracy… Next month American Catholic bishops meet for a retreat in Colorado. There they should speak out against grievous sin, the sin of using communion to punish by those who have not the moral authority to persuade.”
(Newsweek, May 31, 2004)