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Excommunicated Nun To Be First Australian Saint.  On October 17, Pope Benedict will canonize Blessed Mary MacKillop, the Australian co-founder of a religious order dedicated to educating the children of the poor.  In 1871 MacKillop was excommunicated by the Bishop of Adelaide, Lawrence Sheil, who did not approve of the sisters’ way of life. MacKillop maintained she was following a call from God.  The excommunication was rescinded shortly before Bishop Sheil’s death five months later. MacKillop’s order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, eventually received papal approval and today her congregation numbers one thousand Sisters ministering throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as Ireland, Peru, East Timor, Scotland and Brazil. (Catholic News Service and Website of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart)

Bishop Uses Cell Phone Messages To Recruit Seminarians. One morning in late December, many college-age men received phone calls or voice mail messages from Allentown Bishop Barres or two other diocesan priests asking them to consider a vocation to the priesthood. “In this phase of the vocation initiative -- ‘Hearing His Call’ -- the focus has been on helping young men consider that the Lord might be calling them to this wonderful vocation,” said Father Andrew Gehringer, diocesan director of vocations. (Catholic News Service 2/15/10)

Cardinal Rode Criticizes Nuns, Mother Millea Asks Compliance.  In early February, Cardinal Rode said the “crisis” in vocations was caused by a “secularist mentality” on the part of religious orders in the developed world and implied that communities that accept “foreign vocations” (sic) “in places like Africa, India and the Philippines,” could be taking a “deceptive and damaging shortcut.”  Barring mistakes in translation, this is disturbing evidence of a surprisingly narrow Vatican worldview with regard to women religious, and the apparent no-win status of women in leadership in the church.   On January 10, Mother Mary Claire Milea sent a letter to the heads of communities of women religious in the United States asking them to “prayerfully reconsider” their decision to not comply with a Vatican questionnaire that was widely regarded as infringing upon their canonical rights and responsibilities. The personal visits by officials who have been required to take an oath of fidelity will begin in April and continue into the Fall.  (Catholic News Service 2/4/2010; National Catholic Reporter, 1/22/10)

Will Change In Canon Law Open Way for Female Deacons?  Just before Christmas, Pope Benedict made changes in canon law to clarify the role of deacons.  According to female diaconate expert, Dr. Phyllis Zagano, the changes “may have ended the controversy over whether women can be ordained deacons.”  The changes make it explicit that governance rests with bishops and priests, while deacons are to serve in “the liturgy, the word and charity.”  An in depth 1974 analysis by a member of the International Theological Commission, Fr. Cipriano Vagaggini OSB, confirmed the tradition of ordained women deacons in the church. Once that became clear, the argument among the prelates revolved around how to restore women to the diaconate while barring them from the priesthood.  Zagano believes Benedict’s canonical change could be interpreted as addressing that issue, though she acknowledges there are still many hurdles to be overcome.  (The Tablet, January 8, 2010)

VOTF Asks for Apostolic Visitation of US Bishops.  In early 2010, Voice of the Faithful sent a letter to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, requesting an apostolic visitation to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the individual American bishops in connection with the ongoing clergy abuse scandal. The letter points to a “loss of credibility of the bishops in all arenas” and asks the Vatican to take corrective action. The letter expresses the view that the actions of the US Bishops’ Conference and individual bishops pose a “much greater threat to the life of the Church in the United States” yet the Vatican “persists in  an investigation of women religious.”  To send your own letter visit:  http://votf.org/page/write-your-own-letter-cardinal-re-example/9021

British Laity, Italian Cardinals and Theologians “Stand Up for Vatican II”. In late January more than 200 people gathered in central London to launch a campaign asking for implementation of some of the central tenets of Vatican II. Calling itself “Stand Up for Vatican II” the group asked for the creation of diocesan pastoral councils, smaller parishes and decentralization of power from the Roman Curia.  As a first step they will lobby every bishop in England and Wales to preside at a special mass in their cathedrals commemorating the 45th anniversary of the closing of the council. Meanwhile a group of leading Italian theologians, with support from two Jesuit cardinals –Carlo Maria Martini and Roberto Tucci- have launched  a website called “Viva Il Concilio” (Long Live the Council) www.vivailconcilio.it

Priest Numbers Plummet in France, Germany, Spain. In France the number of ordinations to the priesthood have reached an all-time low of 100 per year and the Catholic Church in Germany recently reported a continuing decline in vocations with 25% fewer seminarians than five years ago. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, the head of Spain’s Bishops’ Conference has said that nearly half of the parishes in Spain do not have a permanent priest and a dozen dioceses in Spain have vacant sees. (America Jan 4-11, 2010, The Tablet, November 28, and December 5, 2009)

Vatican Denies Return To Pre-Vatican II Mass Customs. In an early January interview with the conservative Italian daily Il Foglio, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera denied his office would require that communion be received exclusively on the tongue, increase the Latin used in the Mass or make mandatory ad orentem (eastward facing) worship.  Llovera is the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship. In the interview he said Pope Benedict had “ratified” a list of proposals given him last April but said the contentious items were not among them. (The Tablet, January 16, 2010)


Focus on FutureChurch

Winter 2010


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