The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World


Franciscan University of Steubenville

Father Michael Scanlan to remain as President

Following concerns expressed at news Father Michael Scanlan TOR was to resign on 30 June as President of Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), the university issued a media release (22 June) indicating Fr Scanlan would be continuing as President for at least the coming academic year 1999-2000.

During a meeting on 17 June, a majority of the Nominating and Executive Committees of the Franciscan University Board of Trustees agreed to accept the following statement from Father Scanlan: "I do believe that my continuing as President is in the best interest of all, so I will fully and actively serve in the presidency for another year or more at the pleasure of the Board."

On 22 February of this year, Father Edmund Carroll TOR, chairman of the Board of Trustees, announced that after 25 years of service, Father Scanlan was stepping down as President of Franciscan University, effective 30 June 1999. The trustees then voted to create the position of Chancellor and elected to install Father Scanlan as the University's first Chancellor, effective 1 July 1999.

After this announcement, at their board meeting in April, the Trustees decided to take more time to make this important decision - the first change in the University's top position in a quarter century - and announced that there would be no firm timetable for naming a successor.

The episode is significant, as Father Scanlan has, almost single- handedly, converted Franciscan University into one of the most solidly Catholic of the nation's over 200 Catholic universities and higher colleges. His departure would have signalled a possible change in direction on the part of the controlling authorities.


Vatican statement on episcopal conferences

Truths ratified by Magisterium cannot be voted on

Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, issued a letter in June on the role of Episcopal Conferences, as a response to John Paul II's motu proprio of last year, Apostolos Suos. Cardinal Moreira Neves, having consulted with other Vatican departments, examines several issues involved with these institutions.

In the text, the Brazilian Cardinal analyses statements made by the Conferences of Bishops on doctrinal matters. He explains, specifically, which declarations can be submitted for approval: "... those doctrinal declarations that the bishops, meeting in Conference, consider to be new questions being addressed, so that the message of Christ will illuminate and guide the consciences of men to give solutions to new problems which emerge with social changes."

In regard to truths of the faith and customs already ratified by the Church in its solemn or ordinary Magisterium, Cardinal Moreira Neves explains that these can be confirmed by the Episcopal Conferences, but not subjected to vote.

Zenit News


The Catholic Church in England and Wales

Statistical decline in key areas

In a recent report in the London Tablet (19 June), statistics from the 1999 Catholic Directory for the Church in England and Wales were analysed.

Compared with 1964, when there were 7,714 priests, in 1997 there were only 5,712, 10 percent of whom are retired. In spite of a significant increase in the Catholic population, there are now fewer priests than there were in 1944.

This is underlined by the figures for ordinations. Whereas there were 178 ordinations in 1944 and 230 in 1964, there were only 119 in 1996 - although this was an increase on 1984.

Of particular concern for Church authorities would be the figures for baptisms. Compared with 137,673 baptisms in 1964, there were only 67,384 in 1997. This indicates that only about half of Catholic parents are having their children baptised in a Catholic Church. The statistics for First Communions and Confirmations are similarly down.

Equally disturbing are the statistics for Catholic marriages. In 1944, there were 30,946 Catholic Church marriages; in 1964, 45,592; in 1984, 28,061; but in 1997, only 14,705.

Even with the help of a recent influx of Anglican converts - especially following the ordination of women in the Church of England - the number of converts to Catholicism continues to fall. From the peak year of 1964, with 12,348, the 1997 figure has declined to 5,089.

The Mass attendance rate has progressively fallen from around 63 percent in 1954, 55 percent in 1964, 42 percent in 1974, 36 percent in 1984, to 26 percent in 1997.


New Dean of Melbourne's Cathedral

Father Dowling's varied background

One of Melbourne's best known priests, Father Gerard Dowling, has accepted the offer from Archbishop George Pell of the position of Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, filling the vacancy left by the appointment of his predecessor - Fr Luc Matthys - as the new Bishop of Armidale, NSW.

Father Dowling, who was ordained in 1958, has served in several Melbourne parishes, worked on the staff of the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau (now Centacare) as a priest counsellor since 1963 and hosted a Sunday night talk-back radio program since 1973 - both of which roles he will continue to carry out.

In the wider community, apart from his reputation as a "media priest", Father Dowling is well-known as a loyal supporter of the Australian Rules football team, the (North Melbourne) Kangaroos. He has written the official history of that club.

In 1985, Father Dowling received a Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his many contributions to the Catholic Church and the wider community.


Church in New Zealand's great loss

The passing of a remarkable musician

22 May 1999 marked the end of an era in Catholic and New Zealand musical life with the death of Maxwell Fernie in his home-town of Wellington, where he had served as Choir Director and Organist for 41 years at St Mary of the Angels' Church.

From 1958 until three years ago (when he suffered a disabling stroke), Maxwell had gained an international profile as an authority in Catholic liturgical music, notably 16th century polyphony and traditional Gregorian Chant, for which the Choir has become renowned.

In 1974 Maxwell Fernie was awarded an OBE in recognition of his contribution to music generally in New Zealand, while in 1989 he received the Papal Medal of Sts Peter and Paul for his service to the Catholic Church in the field of church music.

As a teacher of sacred music, he constantly communicated - both in Church and secular settings - a sense of conviction as to the essential truth of Catholic doctrine and discipline.

In his tribute to Maxwell, during the funeral Mass on 26 May at St Mary of the Angels, the present parish priest, Fr Gerard Mills SM, noted: "He brought to the musical life of this church a special skill in church music that was beyond any other in New Zealand in our time. He understood the place of music in the liturgy and was hurt by any comment that suggested the liturgy was merely a vehicle for sacred music. He saw them as one, as an action of praise and worship. Maxwell Fernie was recognised well beyond New Zealand as an organist and choir director of exceptional skill."

St Mary of the Angels is presently seeking to fill two part-time positions of Choir Director and Organist. Applicants should have a strong empathy with Catholic liturgy and be able to foster Latin plainchant and polyphony, whilst being willing and able to develop new repertoire in the Catholic tradition. Inquiries can be directed to Fr Gerard Mills SM, PP, St Mary of the Angels, 17 Boulcott Street, Wellington, New Zealand, tel +64-4-473- 8074.

From Neil Coup, Information Specialist, Hutt City Libraries, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.


Cardinal Law on US Catholic universities

Important to implement Papal document on Catholic identity

Speaking at a Vatican symposium on the history of evangelisation in Latin America, held in late June, Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, emphasised the need for Catholic universities to be faithful to the Church and warned against dissent from the instructions of Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae is the Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope John Paul II aimed at recovering the Catholic character of universities and educational institutions which define themselves as Catholic.

Cardinal Law was critical of the presence of an "organised resistance of the presidents of many colleges and universities to a juridical application," adding: "We face the idea that the bishop doesn't belong to the Catholic college or university and that the academic freedom would be threatened by the requirement of a mandate in relation to Canon 812."

The Cardinal noted that many Catholic universities in the United States belong to the Jesuits, hence it was not surprising to encounter a "strong Jesuit voice in the discussion" opposing the application of the document. Some weeks ago, a panel of Jesuits, composed of leaders of different American Jesuit universities, argued that Ex Corde Ecclesiae could not be applied to the North American "reality", even though it is addressed to all the Catholic universities of the world. He was critical of this attitude.

"From my point of view", said Cardinal Law, "this is a splendid opportunity to assure for the future the Catholic identity of our colleges and universities. This will happen if we carefully apply the whole Ex Corde Ecclesiae."


Townsville Diocesan Winter School

Sr Elaine Wainwright the featured speaker

Sr Elaine Wainwright, a lecturer in Biblical Studies and Feminist Theology from Brisbane and author of Shall We Look for Another? A Feminist Rereading of the Matthean Jesus, was featured speaker at the Townsville Diocese's Winter School between 11-14 July.

While the texts of Sister Wainwright's Townsville lectures were not to hand as AD2000 went to press, the following extract from an earlier lecture (given in Adelaide) is quite typical. Sister Wainwright then stated: "For a significant time women have similarly been aware that the Judeo-Christian myth, especially in its traditional telling, no longer provides them with sustenance for their journey out of patriarchy. Many of these women share the awareness that is expressed by [Thomas] Berry and find that there is a need for a new story to sustain not only their feminist, but also their ecological journey."

Bishop Raymond Benjamin of Townsville wrote in his diocesan periodical The News: "I encourage you all to make use of the opportunities offered in our Diocese to participate in the Winter School with Sister Elaine Wainwright and the regional gatherings with the Itinerant Preacher, Sister Mary Duffy. Both of these fine speakers will help to focus our image of God for our lives in these times."

Perhaps this was the Bishop's response to the Statement of Conclusions, which the Australian bishops as a whole endorsed at their last conference. In its section on the teaching role of bishops, the Statement says: "The People of God who are entrusted to their care have a right to receive authentic and clear Catholic teaching from those who represent the Church in its various institutions ...".


Christianity: Africa's spectacular growth rate

New findings from British survey

Christianity in the African continent is increasing at a far higher rate than any other continent, according to a study by a British researcher released on 18 June.

The Rev David Barret, an Anglican minister who has served in Africa for decades, found that the number of Christians in Africa was increasing at 3.5 percent annually, or 6 million new Christians each year. The study found that the number of Christians had increased from 9.9 million in 1900 to 203 million in 1980 and that out of 6 million new Christians each year, 1.5 million are adult converts.

Barret also found that Christianity in the Third World has experienced massive gains during the 20th century. An estimated 15.4 percent of the total number of Christians in the world are found in the developing countries. The survey was conducted as part of the first World Christian Encyclopedia.

Catholic World News

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