No more "general absolutions"
Archbishop Pell directs his priests
Late in October, Archbishop George Pell told a gathering of Melbourne's clergy that he had withdrawn all previous authorisations for use of the Third Rite of Reconciliation (or general absolution). This is in line with Canon Law, that it is the responsibility of a local bishop to determine whether grounds exist for use of the Third Rite in his diocese.
The Archbishop is writing to this effect to all clergy in case any priests were not present for his address.
ICEL's 'Liturgical Psalter' loses its imprimatur
Vatican concerned about "inappropriate" style and content
Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland, President of the US National Conference of Catholic Bishops, has written to his fellow bishops and to Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway, Scotland, Chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) regarding withdrawal of the imprimatur from ICEL's new translation of The Liturgical Psalter - the book containing a collection of psalms.
During the US Bishops' 1998 spring general meeting in Pittsburgh, Bishop Pilla said the imprimatur of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, originally granted in January 1995 to the English translation of The Liturgical Psalter prepared by ICEL would be withdrawn.
The US Conference leadership had been in communication with officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since early 1996 regarding concerns about the doctrinal accuracy of the English translation and the use of the text for liturgical purposes. In April 1996 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger notified Bishop Pilla that the imprimatur was to be withdrawn.
Writing over two years later, Bishop Pilla emphasises that this withdrawal should in no way be seen as an adverse reflection on the censors' opinions as to the fidelity or accuracy of the text or on the judgment of the US bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for the Review of Scripture Translations that had recommended the granting of an imprimatur in the first place. Rather, said the Bishop, the imprimatur "legitimately granted by the conference to The Liturgical Psalter in 1995, has been determined now not to be appropriate, given new knowledge, and thus is being revoked independently of the initial action."
Since the meeting in Pittsburgh, in accord with the canonical principles governing the revocation of the imprimatur, Bishop Pilla contacted ICEL's Bishop Taylor, informing him of his intention to withdraw the conference's imprimatur from The Liturgical Psalter and giving him the opportunity to present any information that needed to be taken into account before the imprimatur was formally withdrawn. Bishop Taylor replied, expressing appreciation for the US conference's efforts to resolve the matter "in a respectful and understanding manner", and assured Bishop Pilla of ICEL's full acceptance of the decision.
The decree to withdraw the imprimatur reads as follows: "By means of this decree the imprimatur of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, granted in January 1995 to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy's The Liturgical Psalter, is hereby revoked. Subsequent to the 1995 action granting the imprimatur, this conference received new information about the style employed in the translation, as well as the content of The Liturgical Psalter. After due consideration of this new information, it has been judged inappropriate to allow the text to continue to carry the imprimatur of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The January 1995 rescript may no longer be printed in The Liturgical Psalter, and there should be made no representation that the text carries the approval of this episcopal conference as mandated by Canon 825.1."
Catholic News Service
Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Russia
Pope's message read at dedication ceremony
The first major shrine in Russia to Our Lady of Fatima was dedicated at St Catherine of Alexandria Church, St Petersburg, on 11 October by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, reports Fr Robert J. Fox of the Fatima Family Apostolate. The Shrine was a gift in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Holy Father's pontificate.
The Archbishop thanked Fr Fox and the Fatima Family Apostolate for their role in fund-raising for the Shrine, adding: "For the conversion of Russia, Our Lady demanded consecration to her Immaculate Heart. This was done by Pope John Paul II in union with all bishops throughout the world on 25 March 1984. The subsequent developments in the territories of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe showed us that this consecration was a key turning point with political, social, and - most of all - religious implications."
The Church of St Catherine remains in ruins and needs about three million dollars for its restoration. Fr Fox commented: "The contrast between the restored Marian chapel in honour of Our Lady of Fatima and St Catherine's Church next to it is breathtaking and at the same time heart-breaking."
Archbishop Curtiss of Omaha (USA) in Australia
Addresses convention on how to increase priestly and religious vocations
The Archdiocese of Canberra/ Goulburn monthly, Catholic Voice, reported in its November issue on an address by Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha, Nebraska, to the second biennial convention of the Serra Council of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, held in Canberra.
Archbishop Curtiss said that vocations to the priesthood and religious life are "out there in large numbers," but potential candidates are not being invited or encouraged. He detailed the progress of a national program for vocations running across nearly 200 US dioceses, with the number of candidates to the priesthood rising by 50 per cent to more than 860 in just two years.
In the Archdiocese of Omaha, he said, priests, religious and lay leaders had decided with him to "move the agenda of vocations on all fronts. You can't have a Church without priests. You can't have a strong vibrant Church without religious."
Vietnam: the quest for religious freedom
Papal visit sought for 1999
The Bishops' Conference of Vietnam (11-18 October) has decided to extend an official invitation to Pope John Paul II to visit Vietnam in 1999, asking the Communist Government to approve the invitation, according to the Vatican news agency Fides. If approved, the Holy Father may visit the country in August 1999.
Abdelfattah Amor, the UN envoy on religious intolerance matters, visited Vietnam in October. The head of the Communist religious affairs commission declared that the government would allow Amor to meet with representatives of all religious groups present in the country and to talk with them in private. Amor's visit was expected to lead to the release of 11 dissidents and known religious leaders.
The Government announced on 23 October that 2,630 prison inmates would be released under a presidential amnesty program for the second time in less than two months.
Catholic World News
The Pope's direction on marriage annulments
Canon Law must be followed "scrupulously"
In an address on 17 October to a group of American bishops making their ad limina visit to Rome, Pope John Paul II said that as moderators of their diocesan tribunals, bishops should ensure that their faithful did not have the mistaken idea that a Church annulment is "divorce under a different name."
The Holy Father was obviously well aware that a large proportion of the world's Catholic marriage annulments occur in the United States; also, that this phenomenon can engender a cynical attitude among many Catholics on the Church's teaching regarding the permanency of marriage.
While, as the Pope noted, "the purpose of Church law is pastoral" and hence dispensations and exemptions tempered "the rigour of the law in order to foster a higher good," nevertheless, "the indissolubility of marriage is a teaching that comes from Christ himself, and the first duty of pastors and pastoral workers is, therefore, to help couples overcome whatever difficulties arise." The work of marriage tribunals, he said, should "be carried out conscientiously and in strict observance of canonical directions and procedures."
Wagga Wagga's Bishop acts on R.E.
Concern about government school program
Bishop William Brennan of Wagga Wagga (NSW) issued a decree last October stating that only Catholics approved by himself may teach religion to Catholic children in government schools in his diocese. In addition, he insists that the syllabus used must have his approval, and cover all the major elements of the faith.
In an article in the diocesan paper, Together, in October, Bishop Brennan explained that the "pastoral results" of having Catholic children taught a Scripture program by members of other Churches "have not been encouraging" with few of those involved developing "a sense of being Catholic" or becoming "engaged in sacramental programs."
The Bishop indicated that as from the beginning of 1999, the syllabus to be used should include teaching on the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the Church, including the roles of Mary the Mother of the Church, the saints and the Pope.
Bishop Brennan also defended Cardinal Clancy's statement earlier in 1998 that Catholics could not receive Communion in other churches, except in a few limited circumstances, and that non-Catholics could not receive Communion at Catholic liturgies.
Australian Episcopal Conference statement
Bishop Heap's controversial book not recommended
In an unprecedented move, the Central Commission of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference issued a Statement on 27 October, to be sent to all bishops. The statement was prompted by the controversy surrounding the contents of a new book - The Love That Dares To Question - by retired Sydney auxiliary Bishop John Heaps. The book, among other things, describes the Church's moral teachings as "abysmal" and criticises as overly centralist the rule of Pope John Paul II. The book also calls for relaxation of the priestly celibacy requirement.
The Australian Bishops' Statement reads as follows:
"Bishop John Heaps recently published a book entitled The Love That Dares To Question. It has occasioned some adverse comment. From a strictly doctrinal point of view, it cannot be accused of explicitly deviating from any of the teachings of the Church. It is, however, ambiguous on a number of issues and runs the risk of misleading readers. For this reason, it is not a book that we can recommend."
Former deputy directors of Catholic education jailed
Brisbane Church officials plead guilty to sex offences
Late last October, Fr Ronald McKiernan, the former deputy director of Catholic Education for the Brisbane Archdiocese, was sentenced to three years prison, to be suspended after 12 months, after he pleaded guilty to 15 offences of assaults on males, indecent dealing with boys under 17 and indecent dealing with boys under 14, that took place between 1964-1977 when Fr McKiernan was either a parish priest, a chaplain at various Catholic schools, or a scout master.
Three weeks earlier, Brian Robert Gordon, the successor to Fr McKiernan as deputy director of Catholic Education, was jailed for a minimum of a year for indecently assaulting four 11-year-old boys at a Catholic primary school in New South Wales in the 1970s.
The Church has issued an apology to the victims. In a statement released after Fr McKiernan's guilty plea, Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane said: "In the past the Church had little awareness, and certainly no clear understanding, of sexual offences against children and minors. As a result a number of young people were badly hurt by some who ministered to them on behalf of the Church."
Meanwhile, the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported (4 November) that the parish priest for the past 21 years of St Finbarr's Church, Ashgrove, Fr Patrick Cleary, had pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault against two under-age youths and was sentenced to 15 months jail (with release after 5 months on parole).