Homosexuality No Factor in Abusive Priests. A preliminary report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to investigate the clergy sex abuse scandal has found no evidence that gay priests are more likely than heterosexual clergy to molest children. “At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now,” said Margaret Smith of John Jay College in a November 17 presentation to the US Bishops meeting in Baltimore. The latest findings also affirmed previous reports that the rate of clergy abuse has declined steeply since the mid 1980s. Most of the claims being made now involve allegations of abuse from decades ago. (Rachel Zoll, Associated Press)

Immediate Action Needed to Restore Decision Making to Laity. World-renowned canon lawyer and theologian Ladislas Orsy recently published an article in the Italian Catholic journal, Il Regno that is “getting lots of attention” in Rome, according to Vatican analyst Robert Mickens. The article criticized the 1883 Code of Canon Law for excluding the laity from “every important decisional process” in the Church. Orsy finds this “paradoxical” since the Second Vatican Council “opened the doors to the increasing promotion of the laity.” Denying the laity participation in governance, he said, is a “reversal of an immemorial tradition” in the church. The full article can be found in Orsy’s latest book published by Liturgical Press, Receiving the Council: Theological and Canonical Insights and Debates (The Tablet 9/5/09)

Irish Bishop Calls for Discussion of Women’s Ordination, Optional Celibacy. In an interview with Dublin journalists, Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe Diocese in Ireland said he wanted to see “another Pope John XXIII,” for such a pope would open up discussion about critical issues in the church, particularly the exclusion of women from the priesthood and optional celibacy. The bishop also expressed sadness about the Catholic Church’s attitudes to homosexuality and its policy of refusing the Eucharist to couples who have remarried. He has already challenged another Vatican rule that almost completely excludes Protestants from its Eucharist and said he had never suggested to Church of Ireland members that they were not welcome to receive the sacrament in his churches. (BBC News 11/14/09)

New French Church Being Born Despite Steep Decline in Mass Attendance. Even though 64% of the French population describe themselves as Catholic, just 4.5% attend Mass weekly according to a recent survey conducted for the French daily Le Monde. Sixty- five percent of weekly church goers are over age 50 and 46% are retired. But Jesuit Fr. Edmond Vandermeersh, a Jesuit sociologist engaged in pastoral care of the young, remains optimistic: “The hierarchy is obsessed with statistics about Mass attendance and they do not see that a new Church is being invented before their eyes. They do not see the growing numbers studying theology and the Scriptures and the devoted service of the Church by the laity, especially women. Instead of wringing their hands over falling Mass attendance, the bishops should be thankful that so many laymen and women are prepared to assume responsibility in the Church.” (The Tablet 8/29/09)

Severe Priest Shortage in Western Europe. In late September, the Council of European Conferences of Priests meeting in Rome reported on the severity of the priest shortage. Ethnic Danes constitute just a quarter of Catholic clergy in Denmark; the average age of priests in German-speaking Switzerland is 74; and the number of parishes in some areas of Switzerland will have to be cut by nearly two-thirds in the next five years. (The Tablet 10/3/09)

Bishop Walter Sullivan Barred from Speaking in His Own Diocese. The diocese of Richmond VA refused to allow a local Pax Christi chapter to hold an event at a Richmond parish even though one of the keynote speakers was the former bishop of that diocese, Bishop Walter Sullivan. Sullivan is also a past bishop-president of Pax Christi International, a Catholic peace group. A diocesan theologian said Pax Christi is not a diocesan organization, so the event could not be held at a parish. In mid October, two talks by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton were canceled after Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette barred him from the Michigan diocese. (National Catholic Reporter)

Translation Critique Falls on Deaf Ears. On November 18, the US bishops voted to accept the final translations of the Roman missal over the objections of the former chair of its Liturgy committee, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa. Trautman sharply criticized the “slavishly literal” translation of the new Roman Missal from the original Latin into English, saying it could lead to a “pastoral disaster” because the vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic. “The vast majority of God’s people … are not familiar with words of the new missal like ineffable, consubstantial, incarnate, inviolate, oblation, ignominy, precursor, suffused and unvanquished.” Trautman also objected that the body of US bishops had never reviewed the translations of the antiphons, noting that this violates the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The antiphons are scripture verses sung at the introit, offertory, and communion. “We are dealing with a significant doctrinal/magisterial issue… we don’t want to send the message that we can bypass that constitution,” Trautman said. But the USCCB voted down his motion to delay final approval of the missal translation until they reviewed the antiphons. (Catholic News Service 10/24/09, 11/18/09)


Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2009


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