Newsletter Winter 2001
FutureChurch Covers Bishops' Meeting
Focus on FutureChurch is now a member of the Catholic Press Association
which allowed FutureChurch executive director Sr. Chris Schenk to
attend the November meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB) as a press representative.
The bishops near unanimous decisions
on many social justice issues made one proud to be Catholic. They:
- Passed a comprehensive statement
on criminal justice urging reform and noting that "the current
trend of more prisons and more executions with too little education
and drug treatment, does not truly reflect Christian values and
will not really live our communities safer."
- Addressed violence in the Middle
East, for the first time calling for an independent Palestinian
state as well as respect for Israelšs right to exist.
- Called the Sudanese government
to accountability for "slavery, torture, execution, religious
persecution, discrimination" and violence toward its citizens.
- Issued a statement on immigration
rejecting an anti immigrant stance, and making suggestions for
advocacy, welcoming and ministry to the immigrants in our churches.
They also called on Congress to revise the nation's immigration
laws to uphold immigrants' dignity and human rights.
- Agreed to give special attention
in conference activities to the multiculturalism of the church.
Justice issues internal to Catholicism
were predictably more problematic. Most troublesome was the discussion
of procedural guidelines for granting the mandatum that all Catholic
theology teachers in higher education are required to receive from
the local bishop in order to teach as a Catholic theologian.
This sounds reasonable in theory until
one remembers that certain present day 'definitive teachings' such
as the non ordination of women were identified only by men in the
Vatican with little or no consultation with either bishops or theologians,
let alone the women who experience a priestly call. Plus there
is the difficulty that very few bishops are doctoral level theologians.
Presently only Bishop Ray Lucker is even a member of the Catholic
Theology Society of America. If we compared the mandatum requirement
to the medical profession, it would be like requiring a neurosurgeon
to get approval from a general practitioner before being allowed
to practice his or her specialty.
However, according to Archbishop Pilarczyk,
the mandatum requirement will be nearly impossible to enforce,
"We do not in law or in fact have the mechanism to enforce the
requirement that a teacher have a mandatum." At a later press conference
he reiterated that the presence or absence of the mandatum from
a bishop can have no effect on a given university's decision to
hire or fire. Over the next several months the bishops will meet
with theologians in their dioceses to discuss the guidelines before
their proposed adoption next June.
Demonstrators were also much in evidence.
More than 100 people from a Christian Gay Rights group called Soulforce
protested in front of the National Shrine where the bishops concelebrated
Mass. In a separate action, women's ordination advocate Janice
Sevre-Duszynska interrupted the Monday morning meeting. She urged
the bishops to "take women down from their crosses" and be compassionate
toward "those who are called by God to ordination." After being
asked to desist, she chose instead to sit in silent protest for
over an hour until police ushered her out. While a few bishops
seemed sympathetic, most ignored her action.