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LA pays $660 million abuse settlement.  On July 15, the Los Angeles diocese announced the largest church sex abuse settlement to date.  Cardinal Mahony apologized to the more than 500 victims who are slated to receive a total of $660 million. In June, Mahony announced that the archdiocese will sell the chancery to meet obligations and identified about 50 diocesan properties that will be sold. He promised: “No parishes or parish schools will be closed to fund these settlements, nor will their essential ministries be affected....”  (America 7/30/07 and National Catholic Reporter 6/8/07)

Numbers of lay ministry candidates increase by 25%, diaconate and priest candidates decrease.   In June, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate released results of its recent survey of ministry formation enrollments.  There are 20,240 individuals working toward degrees or certificates for lay ecclesial ministry, a 25% increase from a year ago. The number of graduate level seminarians decreased by two to 3,306 and the number of candidates enrolled for the permanent diaconate declined by 18% to 1,942, although four fewer programs reported in 2006 than in 2005. (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate)

Cardinal Martini won’t celebrate Tridentine Mass. On July 29, respected biblical scholar, Cardinal Martini of Milan wrote that, while he admired Pope Benedict’s “benevolence” in permitting wider use of the Latin Mass, he himself would not celebrate it. Martini said his experience as a bishop had taught him the importance of using common prayer forms to express Catholic unity.  His first reason not to use the old Mass however was that “with the second Vatican Council there was a real step forward in understanding the liturgy and its ability to nourish us with the word of God, offered in a much more abundant way than before.” The Pope
himself concelebrates the Mass in Italian each day using the Vatican II rite. (Catholic News Service, The Tablet 7/21/07)

Nuns challenged to reconcile with church. In an August second keynote address to 700 members of Leadership Conference for Women Religious, Dominican Sister Laurie Brink called for reconciliation with the institutional church.  For the last 30 years, she said, many women religious opted for ministry outside the church because of anger over “the ecclesial deafness that refuses to hear the call of the Spirit summoning not only celibate males, but married men and women to serve at the table of the Lord.”  For change to happen, religious women must reconcile “…if there is to be a future for women religious that upholds our dignity as reflections of the divine equal to that of our brothers, respects our baptismal promises and honors our commitment to the mission of Jesus. Such an effort will cost us dearly." (Catholic News Service and Chris Schenk)

Pope reinstates two-thirds election requirement. Pope Benedict XVI reversed a procedure introduced by John Paul II by ruling that papal elections will always require a majority of two-thirds of the cardinals present. If the cardinals are deadlocked more than 13 days, runoff ballots between the two leading candidates will be held, but two thirds will still be required to elect. Under the old system a determined faction could have held out through the first set of ballots until the simple majority ruling kicked into place, thereby diminishing the possibility of finding a candidate acceptable to most cardinal electors. (Catholic News Service)

San Diego parishes apparently hid funds. R. Todd Neilson, a forensic certified public accountant who conducted an audit on orders of the judge overseeing the San Diego diocese's bankruptcy case, found that several parishes had irregularities in their accounts.  One parish, initially presented as impoverished, was later found to have $1.2 million in its bank accounts. Two others apparently put checks for tens of thousands of dollars into parish safes, where the amounts would not be factored into data included in the bankruptcy materials. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louise DeCarl Adler ordered the audit in April. She said she was mystified by “the most Byzantine accounting system I've ever seen.” (Catholic News Service)

Conference focuses on best management practices for parishes.  At a June conference of Church leaders at Villanova University, speakers emphasized the need for regular performance evaluations for all parish ministries. “Almost every organization of any size employs some sort of more or less structured system for regular assessment or evaluation of the performance of its personnel. A conspicuous exception to this trend is the Roman Catholic Church,” said Father John P. Beal, a canon law professor at The Catholic University of America. In his keynote talk, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, DC said, “For the bishop or pastor, accountability understood as transparency of the exercise of authority does not mean giving up decision-making authority. It does, however, mean that such apostolic authority is exercised in the context of an informed and consulted local church.” He said accountability requires “three distinct but related activities: communication, consultation and collaboration.” (Website of National Leadership Roundtable)

Victims of abusive priest can sue seminary.  A Seattle court of appeals rejected a request to dismiss two lawsuits against a former Sulpician seminary that trained a priest who sexually abused minors.  Former priest Patrick O’Donnell studied at St. Thomas Seminary in Seattle and is accused of molesting at least 65 minors between 1970 and 1985 when he was permanently removed from the priesthood. The lawsuits contend that seminary officials knew O'Donnell had molested boys but recommended him for ordination anyway. (Catholic News Service)


Focus on FutureChurch

Summer 2007


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