Monday, 6 May 2013

Saving The Catholic Church - Newsletter

Here is news of what another group is thinking and having the courage to say

Keeping the Faith, by Waking Up the Faithful

May 1, 2013


Pope Francis has settled into his job and, except for one serious disappointment, most of the Vatican II Catholics seem to be saying, “So far, so good.” Of course, the Benedictites and other Restorationists are holding their breaths and no doubt are working diligently on some new strategy of obstruction.

This month we will first talk about what we think Francis has done right and speculate on that serious disappointment. Then we will talk about the Pope’s new advisors and the need to reform much more than the Curia. After that we will raise the serious question of why the Church does not have a formal Constitution delineating rights and responsibilities of all the Church. We will wind up with how all of this has affected those of us in the pews and, of course, some Afterthoughts.

Pope Francis

There is much about which to be pleased and optimistic during these first weeks of the papacy of Francis, including his humility; the dialing back of tasteless, embarrassing pomp and ceremony; and his clear propensity for engaging directly with the People of God. All are welcome changes from the way the Vatican has operated under the Pope’s two predecessors. In response, there is a different feeling among most practicing Catholics and others who have been estranged. It is called hope.

The re-appointment of the Curia leaders on temporary basis, and the warning that changes are coming lest incumbents don’t get too comfortable, was particularly promising. There is some merit, I think, in letting them experience uncertainty for a while. It must be a unique sensation for most.

Ignoring the claim of Benedict XVI that “There is no one who knows how to reform the Curia,” Francis appointed eight cardinals outside of the Curia to do just that, reporting directly to him. Brilliant!

He has taken on the Vatican Bank and promised more transparency. He canceled the $32,500 bonuses that each of the five cardinals overseeing the Bank was paid every year on top of their regular salary.

Wait a minute!

He canceled the $32,500 bonuses that each of the five cardinals overseeing the Bank was paid each year on top of their regular salary.

That deserves to be said twice and reflected upon. What has been going on here for Lord knows how long? What else would we be outraged about, if we knew?

He also appointed the Rev. José Rodriguez Carballo, leader of the Franciscans, to head the department that works with religious men and women around the world. This was seen as a wise move toward healing of the relationship between the Vatican and American women religious, which makes excellent sense.

Then, however, the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed the 2012 censure of the Leadership Council of Women Religious as undermining the faith in the United States, apparently with the Pope’s agreement. That is so repugnant and seems so out of character for this new Pope that I have a theory about it.

Perhaps, since the current leader of the CDF inherited the censure mandate from his predecessor and, since his appointment is now only temporary, the Pope may not have wanted to connect those two things and embarrass him. Perhaps when the new leader of the CDF is announced, he will be asked to allow the newly appointed leader of the department that works with religious men and women around the world to review the decision and make a new recommendation for resolution. That could not be more logical.

I hope my theory is correct and that the mandate disappears in another puff of white smoke.

A Few Good Men and Hopefully, Some Women

Fortunately, the Pope’s new cadre of advisors has not yet been tagged as “the Gang of Eight.” In fact, I don’t believe they have any group appellation, formal or not. That is probably a good thing. The theory is that they are an informally assembled, highly diverse and unbiased task force brought together to reform the Curia, which certainly needs it. However, many other things must also be reformed.

The guiding principle must be that the Curia assists and serves the Pope. Too often the model has seemed to be that the Pope is merely the spokesperson of the Curia.

This group of advisors should be made permanent. The size is just about right, and it should never include a member of the Curia, although it does have one now. The makeup should always be diverse and that means that it should include women. Four and four would be an acceptable ratio.

Some way must be found to make this group accessible to the just short of 1.2 billion Catholics not located in Rome. The people in the pews must have a voice that is heard and heeded. A while back I suggested that there be an ombudsperson in every diocese with a direct line to the Pope. A significant portion of these should be women who are passionate for justice and unwilling to be ignored. Perhaps this group of advisors might be the permanent vehicle for such a communications link.

The Reform of the Curia

The appointment of eight non-curial cardinals to do this job was a good first step, but I hope they heed the words of John XXIII: “we are the Church.” Something must be done to end our disenfranchisement: as long as the bishops are appointed from above and responsible to no one but the Pope, we have no way to communicate officially with the Vatican.

Returning to the early days of the Church, the people of a diocese should be allowed to elect their bishop, who would then be accepted by the Pope. Bishops’ terms of office should be limited to six years, with one re-election allowed. Until that is done, the bishops will continue to be a wall that divides us.

Nomination of women to key positions with substantial authority is the road to the needed reform. Women, too, trace their roots to prominence in the early church when they fully functioned as deacons, and much evidence indicates they did so even as priests.

The Need for a Constitution

All developed nations have a constitution. Such documents are the solid foundation for establishing laws of governance and discipline. The rights of the governed are clearly delineated. The duties and the limits of government are equally clear. This is the framework upon which the laws are supported and measured. So is the process for making laws; the procedure for testing them and to change them.

The Roman Catholic Church has no constitution. Part of that is because the Church is a monarchy; but even monarchies have constitutions. Operating without a constitution, canon law and canon lawyers have no touchstone for reality, human rights or justice. They mix issues of dogma and governance, often using the former to justify the latter.

Pope Francis would be well served to appoint a small team of constitutional experts from around the world to draft a Church Constitution, with clear-cut statements of rights and responsibilities for his consideration and adoption. Then the entire Code of Canon Law must be rewritten to conform. I suspect that many of those canon laws will not meet the criteria of what is right and just.

Only after this is accomplished can the core issues of dissent within the Church, which threaten its survival, be successfully addressed: Education, Equality, Transparency and Governance & Discipline.

What About Those of Us Sitting in the Pews

Based on the indications thus far from Pope Francis, we in the pews seem to have the most to gain if he is successful; and the bishops, minions of the Institutional Church, have the most to lose. Somehow we must project our support for those changes despite the barrier of the USCCB. It is 35 years since we have had a Pope with whom we can identify, and we must show our eager support as loudly as we can.

This newsletter will do its best, but getting involved with organizations like Accelerating Catholic Church Reform will help us to be heard. This is not a time for complacency.

Despite our euphoria over what might be, we must, however, remain cognizant that all around us the corruption of the Institutional Church is still evident. Child rape and its cover-up continue, most recently in the Archdiocese of Newark.

An officious Apostolic Administrator—not an installed bishop—has decreed that there are to be no more Penance Services with General Absolution; all chalices and patens must be gold (do you suppose Jesus ever saw a gold chalice or paten?); and women are not allowed to touch or wash chalices, patens and other vessels used in the Consecration. (Apparently they can hold them while distributing Communion, but that may be the other shoe waiting to fall.)

Where do they find these ignorant, self-centered and arrogant people?


During the past several months we have welcomed many new readers of this newsletter. For them and any other readers, we have two archive files available: 2012 Newsletter-January (inaugural issue) to June and 2012 Newsletter-July to December. They will bring you up to date and are free for the asking. Just send me an e-mail.

Finally, for some reason, the announcement that the USCCB has hired a Sarah Palin advisor to be Cardinal Dolan’s spokesperson makes me smile. Will there be a liturgy change to: “Body of Christ, you betcha!”?

Wake Up the Faithful!

Bob Betterton

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A birthday celebration.

Today, the Feast of Joseph the Worker is also the birthday of Pierre Teilhard deChardin.
Chris McDonnell offers this short posting

May 1st was the birthday in 1889 of Pierre Teilhard deChardin, that is 124 years ago today.

His life sparkles with scholarship and faith. Ordained in 1930 as a priest in the Society of Jesus, his life experience spanned the scientific world and his Christian belief. In 1950 he was named to the French Academy of Sciences for his ground-breaking work in palaeontology whilst at the same time his writings incurred the displeasure of Rome. He was for many years, up to his death in 1955, forbidden to publish his writings or lecture in Catholic Institutes. He was effectively silenced. But he continued to write.

During one of his expeditions in the Ordos desert in China he found himself without the means to offer Mass. Instead he wrote the famous meditation, La Messe sur le Monde, The Mass on the World, a faith-filled statement of his Christian belief. That was in 1923. The opening paragraph sets the tone of the whole essay.

“Since once again, Lord-though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia-I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real
itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world”.

The book in which it was included, Le Milieu Divin, the Hymn of the Universe, was refused the Imprimatur by Rome. That restriction on his publishing lasted through to his death in New York City on Easter Sunday in

His great work, the Phenomenon of Man, was submitted to Rome in 1941, was  further refused and in subsequent years, the restrictions on him were increased.

Yet through it all, he remained faithful to his faith, his priesthood and the Society of Jesus. In more recent years, there have been signs of a slow accommodation to his thought, beginning in the years of the Council where  his privately circulated thoughts are said to have had a considerable influence.

Back in the ‘80s, I was visiting Lindisfarne, Holy Island, off the Northumberland coast. I knocked on the door of the local Anglican chaplain who invited me in, gave me tea and we talked for an hour, much of it about deChardin. He had never read La Messe sur le Monde. So when I got home, I typed it out and sent it to him. I will always remember the letter he sent me in which he said “We may never meet again, but thanks for a lift on the way”.

Too many theologians of the 20th Century received similar treatment from Rome, as do others, priests, sisters and layfolk, in our present time. Somehow we must understand that restrictions such as those experienced by men like deChardin, in the end will not stand the test of time.

Now we have Papa Francesco, himself a member of the Society of Jesus. It would be good, if at some time in the coming years, he was able publicly to recognise and proclaim the value of deChardin’s life of faith, his prophetic writings and the bridge he built between science and belief.