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Newsbriefs - Spring 05newsbriefs

Vatican OK’s Swiss lay homilies, intercommunion.
In February, Bishop Amedee Grab, president of the Swiss bishops’ conference, announced that because of a shortage of priests the Vatican will allow Swiss pastoral assistants who hold degrees in theology to give sermons at Mass and to baptize wherever a priest is not available. The Swiss have also been given permission for the Protestant partner in a mixed marriage to receive the Eucharist in a Catholic Church. (The Tablet 2/12/05)

Vatican to Reopen Maciel case.
On December second, eight former members of the Legionaries of Christ who filed pedophilia charges in 1998 against the order’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado were informed by their canon lawyer, Martha Wegan that a Vatican prosecutor, Fr. Charles Scicluna, has agreed to reopen the case. Paradoxically, only a week earlier, Pope John Paul II publicly praised and blessed Maciel. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tabled the case in 1999 ostensibly because the charges created a “delicate” situation since Ratzinger believed Maciel had done much good for the Church. One of the victims, Juan Vaca of Holbrook NY has been pursuing accountability for nearly 30 years. By 1996 the group of accusers had expanded to nine men charging that in the 1950’s and 60’s Maciel sexually assaulted over 20 seminarians in Rome and then provided absolution for the “sins” they committed with him. (National Catholic Reporter 1/7/05)

Legionaries banned from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus dioceses.
Bishop Harry Flynn has joined the Columbus diocese in requesting that the Legionaries of Christ are “not to be active in any way in the archdiocese.” Flynn also said that Legionaries lay associate movement Regnum Christi is to be “kept completely separate from all activities of the parishes and archdiocese.” In a letter to Fr. Anthony Bannon, Legionaries national director, Flynn said that “our pastors continue to sense that a ‘parallel church’ is being encouraged...that separates persons from the local parish and archdiocese and creates competing structures.” The diocese of Columbus, Ohio established a similar policy regarding both groups in October 2002. (Catholic Trends 1/1/05)

New Statistics.
The 2004 Vatican Yearbook revealed that in 2003 the number of Catholics worldwide increased to 1.114 billion (from 1.045 billion in 2002) while the number of priests increased only slightly to 405,450 (from 405,178 in 2002). The number of parishes increased by over 1000 to 219,655 (from 218,196 in 2002).

31% of U.S. Catholics Attend Mass Weekly.
U.S. Catholics who say they attend Mass at least weekly number 31% in 2004 (compared to 33% in 2000) according to the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate (CARA). CARA researchers believe the trend to long-term decline in Mass attendance “is best explained by generational change and not any large segment of the Catholic population changing their patterns of Mass attendance.” Gallup polls measuring how many Catholics say they attended Mass in a given week peaked in 1957-8 at 74% and fell back to 40% in 2003.
(America 1/31/05)

Brazilian Bishops request New Council, Transparency in Bishop Appointments.
On Jan 15, the Associated Press reported that eleven of Brazil’s bishops petitioned the apostolic nuncio for more transparency in papal appointments. Bishop Tomas Balduino said the letters also requested that Bishop Pedro Casaldaligoa’s replacement should continue his work in behalf of landless farmers and not favor the interests of large landowners. In March, Bishop Demetrio Valenti called for a new ecumenical council while Cardinal Caludio Hummes asked for a “servant” church in “dialogue with the contemporary world.” Both were in Rome celebrating the 40th anniversary of Vatican II. (The Tablet 3/26/05)

Lay Business Leaders Hope to Improve Church Management.
On March 14, a group of Catholic bishops, lay leaders and business leaders publicly announced the formation of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management. The group plans to distribute a program with six DVD’s and a workbook to all Catholic parishes and dioceses to begin a national dialogue on leadership and church management. It hopes to help Catholic dioceses and parishes improve administrative practices and financial and human resource management as the church deals with the priest shortage and the consequent need for training effective lay leadership. It also plans to create Catholic advanced management degree and certificate programs at selected educational institutions throughout the country. The round table has a website (www.nlrcm.org) which makes available the full text of its report and other recommendations and activities. (America 3/28/05)

Vatican says only priest can administer anointing of the sick
On February 11, the Vatican said only priests can administer the anointing of the sick, and this must be “definitively” accepted by Catholics. In recent years, church groups, deacons and some bishops have requested permission for nonpriests -- including permanent deacons and lay people -- to administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. In some areas this means that seriously ill Catholics cannot always receive the sacrament in a timely way. The doctrinal congregation, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said it was issuing the note because it wanted to make it clear that the church’s teaching would not change. (Catholic News Service)

O’Malley to reopen two occupied churches
Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley, confronted by unexpectedly strong resistance to his effort to close scores of Catholic parishes, agreed to fully reopen St. Albert’s parish in Weymouth and to partially reopen a closed parish in Sudbury. The two parishes are among seven that have been occupied for months in round-the-clock vigils maintained by Catholics seeking to persuade O'Malley to reverse the most controversial of the 83 parish closing decisions he announced last summer. But O'Malley said yesterday that even after reconsideration, he is convinced that the five other occupied churches, in Brookline, East Boston, Everett, Scituate, and Wellesley, should remain closed. (Boston Globe 4/1/2005)

Canada Diocese Sells Parishes
The Catholic Diocese of St. George in Newfoundland will sell all its churches, 150 properties in all, to settle with 39 sex abuse victims. Earlier this year, St. George’s became the first Catholic diocese in Canada to seek bankruptcy protection as a result of $40 million in sexual abuse claims. It has since negotiated a $10.5 million settlement. The St. George’s diocese will have to put its savings and investments toward the settlement along with the parish properties. The diocese appealed to its 32,000 parishioners for donations to buy back core properties when they go on sale in the coming months. “What we’re hoping is we can save, or repurchase, one-third of them,” said St. Georges Bishop Douglas Crosby. (Associated Press 5/9/05)

Australian Priests’ Council asks for discussion of Mandatory Celibacy at Eucharist Synod
In December, the National Council of Priests of Australia responded to preparatory documents for the October Eucharist Synod by expressing concern that “there are no questions in the Lineamenta document about the serious shortage of priests in many places and the consequent impossibility for many communities to celebrate Eucharist frequently and regularly.” They said, “the synod fathers have [to] examine honestly the appropriateness of insisting upon a priesthood that is, with very few exceptions, obliged to be celibate. Priesthood is a gift; celibacy is a gift: they are not the same gift.” The Council represents half of Australia’s 1649 Catholic clergy and includes 42 bishops and three cardinals among its members. Subsequently, three Australian bishops, Gerard Hanna of the Wagga Diocese, Bishop Pat Power of Goulburn and Canberra, and Bishop Brian Heenan from the Rockhampton Diocese in central Queenslands publicly supported the statement. (See www.futurechurch.org for complete articles).

Leadership, U.S. Delegates to Eucharist Synod Named
On March 30, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a statement saying that Pope John Paul II had confirmed the November election of delegates to the forthcoming International Synod on the Eucharist (October 2-29). They are Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, President of the USCCB, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, immediate past president, Cardinal Justin F. Rigali of Philadelphia, and Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh. Elected substitutes, or alternates, were Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie and Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City.
Also in March, the Vatican named four cardinals and an archbishop to lead the discussions at the Synod. Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice will be recording secretary with the job of introducing and summarizing the discussion. Presiding responsibilities have been given to three Cardinals: Francis Arinze of Nigeria, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara, Mexico; and Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi, India. The synod's special secretary will be French Archbishop Roland Minnerath of Dijon.
(Catholic News Service)

Spring 2005





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