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From the Director’s Desk…

Is Revolution Brewing Over Eucharistic Famine?

Dear FutureChurch friends:  

One of the more surreal moments of Benedict XVI’s May visit to Latin America was his exhortation to 200 Latin American bishops to make sure their people celebrated the Eucharist every Sunday. 

Vatican speechwriters must have been jetlagged or completely out of touch to let slip by this papal equivalent of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.”

It is impossible to have the Eucharist every Sunday in a country like Brazil where there are over 7,000 Catholics for every priest and eighty-percent of all Sunday celebrations are led by the laity.

A frustration in Benedict’s papacy is his propensity to set lofty ideals while ignoring systems that make it impossible to meet them. The only way Catholics in Latin America and elsewhere will be able to have Eucharist every Sunday is for the Vatican to deal with the priest shortage.  Yet, even though Vatican functionaries are ignoring critical problems in the clerical system, bishops and laity around the world are not. Consider the following:

On August 1, a group of lay and religious Catholic leaders and activists published a petition calling on the Australian Catholic Bishops to collectively discuss the possibility of ordination of married men and separately, the ordination of women. The petitioner contextualized their call within the growing  crisis of a lack of priests in many parts of Australia.

• Two Portuguese bishops recently spoke in favor of more flexibility on priestly celibacy: “Celibacy for priests is not a dogmatic principle.  It is a matter...that can be changed,” said Antonio Sousa Braga, bishop of the Azores.

• 400 parishioners in France demonstrated outside church one Sunday because they wanted their priest to stay even though the diocese ordered him removed for cohabiting for two years with a widowed parishioner.  “Give us back our priest -- what has he done but brought us closer to God?” one sign said.

• Concerned over a growing shortage of priests, parishioners at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Johannesburg, South Africa, presented to their bishop a “discussion document” about mandatory celibacy that was also published in the Catholic newspaper. The document stated that, while the celibate priesthood should be encouraged, the “current discipline” of celibacy was restrictive, and inconsistent within the church.

• On July 2nd, the U.S. Voice of the Faithful called for an ecclesial review of mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests. Under discussion for nine months, the initiative was developed collaboratively with VOTF's priest support group, national representative council and national officers.

Many say the Catholic Church will be difficult to reform since the contemporary papacy is an absolute monarchy.  But if enough Catholic leaders, both lay and ordained, refuse to accept the growing Eucharistic famine as God’s will for the church, new structures will necessarily emerge that invite the participation of all the People of God.  But we will need to take our courage in hand, and storm our 21st century barricade: Catholic apathy.  If more Catholics follow the example of the bishops, priests and laity listed above, we could truly become the change we seek.

Peace and blessings,
Sr. Chris Schenk CSJ, Executive Director

Focus on FutureChurch

Summer 2007


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