French Catholics Want Married, Women Priests.  A new poll of practicing Catholics in France conducted by the Catholic daily, La Croix found that 75 percent  of those interviewed want the church to ordain married men and to allow married priests to return to active ministry. Sixty-seven percent supported ordaining women.  The poll of 1000 people was conducted in late May.  (The Tablet 6/27/2009)

Church Credibility, Seminary Admissions Plummet in Poland.  In the midst of what appears to be a severe loss of credibility, admissions to Poland’s 84 Catholic seminaries have plummeted by 30 percent since 2006. A Gallup poll conducted last year found that fewer than nine percent of Poles said they trusted the Church’s hierarchy, compared to 45 percent in 2002. In an April Church Statistics Institute survey, four of ten Catholics claimed to know priests who “ignored the faithful.” Most observers point to several factors at the root of the crisis.  They name disaffected priests, church leaders who suppress free theological discourse, and secular media disclosures that as many as 20 bishops cooperated with the secret police who infiltrated the Church during communist rule.
 (The Tablet 6/20/09)

Pope Meets with Austrian Bishops amidst Fears of Schism. In late June four senior Austrian bishops were invited to Rome for two days of talks with Pope Benedict and heads of curial offices. The Vatican sought to defuse tensions in the Austrian church over the appointment in January. Among other things, Wagner had implied that Hurricane Katrina was a punishment from God for “the spiritual pollution” and “amoral conditions” plaguing New Orleans. His appointment, although later withdrawn, prompted two Austrian Bishops to warn of possible schism.  In a Salzburg lecture, emeritus Auxiliary Bishop Helmut Kratzl warned of a “backlog of reforms” that, if not addressed, could lead to schism.  He pointed out, as examples, the need for episcopal collegiality and for the local bishops to have more of a voice in episcopal nominations.
(The Tablet 6/20/2009 and 7/4/2009)

New Members of Religious Communities Diverse, Passionate about Commitment. An August 11 study released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that most of 4,000 women and men choosing religious life today are passionate about it despite  aging populations and diminishing numbers in most US communities.  New members are also more ethnically and culturally diverse than in previous generations. Although about 94 percent of members of U.S. religious communities who have made final profession are white, a growing number of those in formation come from non-Caucasian backgrounds. Approximately 21 percent of those in initial formation are Hispanic/Latino, 14 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 6 percent are African/African-American. About 58 percent are Caucasian/white. (Catholic News Service 8/11/09)
Full study available at

Vatican City, Holy See $22. 2 Million in Red. Vatican officials pointed to the global economic crisis as the source of a $22.2 million deficit at the end of the 2008 fiscal year.  The Vatican City State, which usually ends the year with several million dollars in surplus, posted a $21 million deficit while the Holy See posted a $1.26 million deficit. According to a July 4th press statement from a council of cardinals charged with budgetary review, the figures were drawn up using “provisions adopted as an exceptional measure by international accounting organizations” to ensure a realistic evaluation despite the huge fluctuations in currency and stock values caused by the current economic crisis.
(Catholic News Service 7/6/09)

Cardinal Newman Beatification Set for May 2010. Cardinal John Henry Newman whom many credit as the theological forefather of the Second Vatican Council, will be beatified on May 2nd in the Birmingham England Oratory that he founded.  Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree authorizing beatification after Vatican experts approved the 2001 healing of Deacon John Sullivan of Marshfield, MA, who was  “bent double” by a severe spinal condition, as a miracle attributed to Cardinal Newman’s intercession. The beatification date and venue were proposed by the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes and will soon be accepted by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Newman’s theological work on the “sensus fidelium” (sense of the faithful) acknowledging the Spirit’s presence in all of the faithful, led many theologians to recognize Vatican II as “Newman’s Council.” (Catholic News Service 7/15/09)

African Priests Break with Rome Over Celibacy Rules. Breakaway Catholic groups accepting married priests are springing up in Zambia and Kenya.  Fr. Luciano Mbewe was recently excommunicated for forming the Catholic Apostolic National Church of Zambia and meeting with Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and his “Married Priests Now” movement. A group in Kenya has just appointed a married priest as its local bishop. In June, African Archbishop Paulin Pomodimo, 54, of the Central African Republic was forced to resign after priests of his diocese were found to be living more or less openly with women and the children they had fathered. These events prompted the Vatican to give local bishops increased power to discipline and laicize priests who are married or cohabiting with women.The power to discipline priest sex abusers, however,  must still come from Rome.  (The Tablet 6/20/09).

Quick Laicization Process Helps Children of Priests. In a letter to the world’s bishops, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of the Congregation for the Clergy said one reason for a recent decision to streamline the priest laicization process is to help children who had been fathered by priests.  In Germany, an estimated 3,000 children have priest fathers. David Weber, the son of a Jesuit priest, has begun a new initiative:  “Human Rights for Priests’ Children.” Weber says many children are denied the right to child support, inheritance rights and the right to contact their fathers.  (The Tablet 7/11/2009)

American Catholic Council Promotes Grassroots Listening Sessions. A new coalition of organizations, communities and individuals has been organized with a view to stimulating “discussion at every level of the Catholic Church in the United States to consider the state and future of our Church.”  The group plans to convene a nationwide conference on Pentecost 2011 (June 12-14). But first it hopes to encourage local and regional listening sessions to be held over the next two years. The American Catholic Council Declaration states in part: “We do not challenge the faith we were given or the essential beliefs of our creeds and councils. We do know that this faith is not tied to the governance structure of any one historical period or culture. We seek a Church in which all the baptized have an effective voice in decision-making and a ministry worthy of their calling.”  For further information visit www.


Focus on FutureChurch

Summer 2009


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