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Church criticism not disobedient or disloyal  “Intra-church criticism is declared disloyal and disobedient far too quickly instead of realizing that it is based on concern for the Church’s future,” said Winfried Kretschmann, governor of Baden-Wurtemberg following a disappointing papal visit to Germany. Pope Benedict ignored an ongoing and widely known German Dialogue Procedure for Church Reform.  He called for absolute loyalty to Rome instead (The Tablet 10/1/11 p. 31).

Citing massive exodus, missionary priest in Philippines calls for married priests   Fr. Renzo Carraro, a Comboni missionary serving in the Philippines recently issued an impassioned statement calling for ordaining trusted married men (viri probati). Typical parishes often have from 50,000 to 150,000 Catholics, all served by a single priest. “Priests are obligated to run here and there to celebrate Mass, up to nine in a single day,” Carraro says, “with no time for the ministry of confession or catechesis.” The Filipino Church is experiencing massive defections to other sects. Of the 90 million people in the Philippines, about 20 million have left the Church (National Catholic Reporter 12/9/11).
Pontifical Committee seeks Vatican II artifacts  A Vatican committee has launched a worldwide treasure hunt seeking journals, diaries and other artifacts from the more than 2,800 cardinals and bishops who participated in all or part of the Second Vatican Council. The Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences is asking church archivists, and even the family members of deceased council fathers, to look through their papers to find reflections that can add a personal touch to the historical research already conducted on the official acts of the council (Catholic News Service 12/2/2011).

Lay Ministers increase, priests decrease in U.S. Church  A July 18, 2011, study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found the U.S. Church is “adding about 790 new lay ecclesial ministers to parish ministry staffs each year. Growth in the number of lay ecclesial ministers is in part related to fewer priests available to serve in U.S. parishes. Although the average number of priestly ordinations in the U.S. has been about 500 per year over the last 25 years, there are fewer men being ordained than what is needed to replace an aging clergy population. The number of diocesan priests in the United States declined by 11 percent in the last decade and many more priests plan to retire in the next decade.” For full study visit http://www.emergingmodels.org

Seminarian, Diaconate and Lay Ministry enrollment -- all increase  The 2011 Ministry Formation report from the Center for Applied Research in the apostolate shows that enrollment was up for those studying for the priesthood, permanent diaconate and lay ecclesial ministry during the 2010-11 academic year. In all, there were 3,608 post-baccalaureate U.S. seminarians last year, a net increase of 4 percent. There were 2,775 candidates enrolled in permanent diaconate programs, an increase of 13 percent. There were 18,493 lay ecclesial ministry candidates enrolled a 3 percent increase (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate).

Married ex-Anglican Bishop to head U.S. Ordinariate  Pope Benedict XVI has named a married former Episcopal bishop to head the new U.S. ordinariate for former Anglicans who wish to become Catholics. Father Jeffrey N. Steenson, the former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande will lead the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The ordinariate, which is equivalent to a national diocese, will be based in Houston.  More than 100 former Anglican priests have applied to become  Catholic priests and 1,400 individuals from 22 communities have expressed interest in joining. Because he is married, Father Steenson will not be ordained a bishop and will not be able to ordain priests. He will, however, otherwise function as a bishop and will be a voting member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Catholic News Service 1/1/2012).  

Funding of European Catholic Church “showing signs of crisis”     Between economic downturns and the clergy sex abuse scandal in Europe, sources of state funding for the Catholic Church are in decline, especially in Italy and Germany. Almost 200 thousand German Catholics officially left the Catholic Church in 2010 leading to a loss of their church taxes. In Italy, taxpayers can choose to deduct 0.8% from their annual tax return to go to the Church but the percentage of possible signatories is down. The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross has set up a European workgroup and among other efforts, it is exploring the concept of stewardship, a common practice in the US Church (Vatican Insider 12/5/11).

Influential Austrian women seek Bishop dialogue   On October 21, The “Platform of Austrian Diocesan Women’s Commissions,” a coalition of female diocesan lay leaders, women’s religious orders, the Austrian Catholic Women’s Movement and others asked Austrian bishops for an “honest and respectful” dialogue about the need to appoint women as well as men to leadership positions in the church. Sr. Kunegund Fürst said,  “…[B]oth women and men have a mandate to evangelize, heal and lead inside as well as outside the Church.” Observers believe the bishops are unlikely to refuse the request because of the influence wielded by women in the coalition (The Tablet 10/29/11).

Irish group calls for “holy disobedience”  The Irish We Are Church reform group has been relaunched and is asking for the removal of mandatory celibacy, women’s ordination, welcoming of gay Catholics and the divorced and remarried.  The group planned an inclusive November 27 prayer service designed to coincide with the “forced imposition” of the new Roman Missal which leader Brendan Butler described as “sexist, archaic and irrelevant” (The Tablet 11/19/11).  

Flemish priests, laity urge lay preaching, leadership of parishes and other reforms   Over 6,000 Belgian Catholics including at least 211 priests recently signed a petition asking for trained lay men and women to be permitted to lead parishes, preach and lead communion services in parishes without available priests.  They also called for married men and women to be admitted to the priesthood and for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. Petition signers included hundreds of educators, academics and prominent Catholics.  “These are not ‘protest people,’ they are people of faith said Fr. John Dekimpe, one of four priests who launched the petition (National Catholic Reporter, 12/3/11).


Focus on FutureChurch

Winter 2012


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