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Calls for Optional Celibacy, Women’s Ordination Increase.  In early February 144 German theologians called on the Church to abandon mandatory celibacy for priests, open up the clergy for women and accept gay couples. The 143 professors said the church must implement bold reforms because of “a crisis without precedent” owing to clergy sex abuse.  And in late September, the new Jesuit provincial in Germany Fr. Stefan Kiechle, SJ called for the ordination of married men and women stating that the Church was going through a “massive crisis” and such steps were necessary because of a severe priest shortage. Meanwhile in Melbourne, Australia, Fr. Greg Reynolds told congregations in three churches that the Church was obstructing the work of the Holy Spirit by refusing to ordain women. In late November the new Swiss bishop of Basle, Felix Bmür, told a Swiss daily that just because a man is called to the priesthood, he may not be called to celibacy.  Gmur is also allowing lay theologians to preach
(Associated Press and The Tablet 10/2/2010, 11/27/10, 12/4/10)

England Faces Drastic Priest Shortage.  The diocese of Liverpool will experience a forty percent decline in active priests, from 170 to 100 priests by 2015.  This means that most priests will be assigned to two parishes if all 189 parishes are to be served. The diocese had just one ordination last year and there are only nine seminarians. The diocese has been arranged into twenty-four pastoral areas, allowing one priest for 5000 people.  In the north of England, the dioceses of Hexham and Newcastle, will see a decline from 115 to73 priests to serve its 181 parishes by 2020.
(The Tablet, 11/6/2010 and 1/22/2011)

Pope’s Choice of New Cardinals Assures European Dominance. Fifteen of the new cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict last November are European bringing the total to 62 Europeans of 121 eligible cardinal electors under age eighty. Less than twenty-five percent of the world’s Catholics in the world hail from Europe. Roman Curia cardinals make up thirty percent of voters. Interestingly, five cardinal electors are biblical scholars, (previously there had been just one) and none are liturgical specialists, a surprising fact in light of Benedict’s emphasis on liturgy
(The Tablet, 11/6/2010 and 1/22/2011)

Over 87,000 Austrians Leave Catholic Church.  In 2010, 87,393 Austrians registered their exit from the Catholic Church with government officials, the highest figure since World War II.  Observers point to the clerical sex abuse scandal as the probable cause.  The exodus will have a significant financial impact as Church funding comes from government allocation of monies based on registered membership within any given denomination.  Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn chose a pastoral response: “The relationship to God continues even after one has left the Church. One cannot withdraw from God’s love”. (The Tablet, 1/22/2011)

New Vatican Official: Wants to ‘Learn From, Walk with’ U.S. Women Religious. In his first interview for the American media since being named as the Vatican’s new top official for religious life, Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz has signaled that he is open to dialogue with women religious in the United States about the on-going Apostolic Visitation, saying he recognizes that whenever higher authority in the church intervenes, there’s always a “problem of trust.” Braz de Aviz entered the seminary in Brazil at age eleven and served as a diocesan priest before studying in Rome.  He then served as a seminary professor and rector before being named to the episcopacy sixteen years ago, serving in four different dioceses. (National Catholic Reporter 1/7/2011 and The Tablet 1/8/2011)

Anglicans Received into Catholic Church, but will Married Ordinations Continue?  Over the next year,  thousands of Anglicans from England, Australia and Canada are expected to convert to Catholicism into special ordinariates approved by Pope Benedict.  But there appears to be some debate as to whether married Anglican men will continue to be accepted into seminaries. British Bishop Malcome McMahon said earlier this year that married laymen would not be eligible for ordination.  Yet the Reverend Ian Gray, vicar general of the Traditional Anglican Church in Britain recently said he believed the success of the new ordinariate will depend on whether married men could be ordained in perpetuity.  “[I]f three, four, five years down the line married men are no longer eligible to be ordained, then there are going to be very serious problems…”. (The Tablet 12/11/10)

Rural Catholics Choose Married Pastor After Diocese Closes Church.  After losing a 5 ½ year struggle to save their vibrant rural parish, about 50 members of the former St. James Catholic Church in Kansas, Ohio, formed a nonprofit group and met every Sunday for prayer. Recently they began celebrating Sunday Mass with a married priest. The Rev. Randal LaFond is a member of CITI Ministries Inc., a Brunswick, Maine, group promoting the availability of resigned Roman Catholic priests, who remain priests according to Canon law.  (Toledo Blade 1/16/2011)

Facing Financial Scandals, Pope Creates New Vatican Watchdog. On December 30, the Vatican announced that Benedict has created a new department called the “Authority of Financial Information,” with the power to supervise all Vatican transactions, including those of both the Vatican Bank and Propaganda Fide. The move came on the heels of two Vatican financial scandals both under investigation by Italian civil authorities. Early last year authorities seized $30 million in assets from the Vatican bank over violations of European anti-money laundering laws. The other investigation focuses on the sweetheart deals Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe allegedly gave on Roman apartments in exchange for millions of Euros in public funds for construction and restoration, in some cases for work that was never completed. (National Catholic Reporter 12/30/10)

Irish Women Feel Disrespected, Controlled by Catholic Church. A recent study in Ireland found that just 25 percent of Irish women believe that their church treats them with respect, compared with 94 percent of Protestant women who felt that their denomination respected them.  Seventy-five percent of Irish Catholic women polled felt that the Church “has tried to control the position of women in society,” a view held by only 20 percent of Protestant woman. While 60 percent of Catholic women agreed with the statement “my Church appears to put men first,”68 percent of Protestant women disagreed with the statement. The study interviewed over 500 women in 2002 and 2006. It was conducted by a group at Trinity College, Dublin. (The Tablet 11/13/2010)

 

Focus on FutureChurch

Winter 2011

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