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Eucharist Synod Could Be Defining Moment for Benedict XVI

Petition Campaign Takes on Added Urgency

“We respectfully call on Pope Benedict XVI to make sure next October’s International Synod on the Eucharist is an open process so that solutions to the worldwide priest shortage, including optional celibacy and women deacons, can be thoroughly discussed,” said a FutureChurch press release which also offered prayers for
the new Pope.

The October Synod could be a defining moment for the new papacy. In past Synods, Bishops complained about a closed process that did not listen to their concerns. In 1999, Scotland’s Archbishop (now Cardinal) Keith O’Brien said that the ordination of married men was discussed, but never became part of the Synod statement because of a “lobby” by curial Bishops (The Tablet, 10/30/99).

But last year at Cardinal Koenig’s funeral, then-Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledged that perhaps centralization of Church decision-making had gone too far. The October Synod offers an excellent opportunity for him to make good on his words. This hope was also recently voiced by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony who according to an April 22 Catholic News Service story said he would be surprised if Pope Benedict did not reform the Synod process: “It needs to be rethought, and there needs to be a way for far more interaction.”

In the meantime Catholic activists are working hard to put the priest shortage on the Synod agenda. Twenty one CTA regions, ten sister church reform groups and hundreds of parish based activists all across the U.S. are working to meet a goal of collecting 2005 Synod petition signatures from every state. (See map to see how your state is doing).

The Synod petition requests open discussion of ending mandatory celibacy, welcoming back married priests and opening the diaconate to qualified women now ministering in the Church. Over 21,000 signatures have been collected so far.

An email online petition is proving to be an easy andefficient way of encouraging Catholics to email everyone intheir address book to sign the petition.

In mid September, copies of petition signatures will be sent to each U.S. delegate to the Synod (for names see News Briefs) . FutureChurch’s Sr. Chris Schenk will personally deliver the petitions to Rome next October.


Boston parishes call married priests

High profile parish closings are also adding momentum to the campaign. In Boston, four of the seven congregations refusing to accept closure by Archbishop Sean O’Malley asked him for a priest for Easter Mass. He said yes to two, but turned down “Friends of Star of the Sea Church” in Quincy and Sacred Heart Church in Natick. These two congregations then invited married priest members of Celibacy Is the Issue (CITI) to preside, citing canon law saying when celibate clergy are unavailable, married priests can be utilized. Perhaps because the Quincy mass was planned in a Protestant church, O’Malley relented and sent his own priest to say mass in a public school. But Sacred Heart's outdoor liturgy in a local park had the services of two CITI married priests. In lengthy Boston Globe coverage, a spokesman for a coalition of parishes resisting closure predicted that other congregations would now call on married priests. CITI Ministries (www.rentapriest.com) is happy to oblige. Jesuit author/theologian William Clark said the Boston situation could move the idea of reactivating married clergy from the fringe to center stage.

Orthodox Church opens diaconate to women

Our call for Catholic women deacons got a boost by October’s decision of the Greek Orthodox Church to open the diaconate to women. The Catholic Church has acknowledged the validity of Orthodox sacraments and orders. According to Dr. Phyllis Zagano: “Despite the distinction in Canon 1024-‘A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly’-one can presume the possibility of a derogation from the law, as suggested by the Canon Law Society of America in 1995, to allow for diaconal ordination of women. (The history of Canon 1024 is clearly one of attempts to restrict women from priesthood, not from the diaconate.)”

[Note: both FutureChurch and Call To Action are committed to the full ministerial equality of women in the Catholic Church. We see petitioning for women deacons as a doable next step and one way of reopening the conversation about women’s roles in the Church].

Meanwhile impromptu remarks by Cardinal Walter Kasper at a March 16 talk in New York on ecumenism, provided both good and bad news for the campaign: Kasper said any strong expectation of a change in the requirement of priestly celibacy would only lead to frustration. And while the question of ordaining women to the diaconate is “not settled,” he believes women are already doing what they would be able to do if they were ordained as deacons. Yet in the U.S. women pastoral ministers are rarely permitted to preach or preside at weddings and baptisms, as are permanent deacons. Kasper also expressed surprise by the inner force and vigor of the church in the U.S.


Spring 2005



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