Tenth anniversary of new Catechism
International Catechical Congress held in Rome
On 11 October, Pope John Paul II received 220 participants at the International Catechetical Congress which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the original edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the fifth anniversary of the Latin edition.
The Catechism is now available in 60 languages, including Chinese, Russian, Lithuanian, Arabic and Georgian and more than nine million copies of the 500-page volume have been sold.
Australia was represented at the Congress by Bishop Gerald Holohan of Bunbury (WA), who chaired the English language group, and Msgr Peter Elliott, Episcopal Vicar for Religious Education, Archdiocese of Melbourne, who is a member of the International Council for Catechesis of the Congregation for the Clergy.
Msgr Elliott presented the Melbourne Archdiocese textbook project, To Know, Worship and Love, to the Congress. The Melbourne project is arousing much international interest due to its emphasis on doctrinal content, Catholic culture and vivid art works.
The emphasis of the Congress was on Christ-centred catechesis guided by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Directory for Catechesis (1997).
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who chaired the editorial committee that produced the Catechism, suggested it would be useful to have a shorter version. However, he admitted it would be extremely difficult to condense the Catechism while remaining faithful to the original text.
He said that he was satisfied with the impact that the Catechism has had in the 10 years since it was first issued, but that it remains essential to broaden the use and understanding of the Catechism. He suggested, for instance, that it should form the basis for instruction for all first-year seminarians.
The use of the Catechism was also important among young people, he added, because "many of them have not received adequate religious training in their families, or their schools, or their parish catechetical programs."
New mysteries of the Rosary
John Paul II issues apostolic letter
Pope John Paul II observed the 24th anniversary of his papal election on 16 October with a dramatic gesture, issuing an apostolic letter in which he proposes five new mysteries to the Rosary.
The apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, also proclaims a special year of dedication to the Rosary, with the request that the Rosary be prayed particularly for the causes of world peace and strengthened family life.
The Pope recommends the addition of five "luminous mysteries," or "mysteries of light," to be recited on Thursdays. These are drawn from the life of Christ, and his public revelation of his divine nature and mission: 1) the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan; 2) the wedding feast at Cana; 3) the announcement of the Kingdom; 4) the Transfiguration, and 5) the institution of the Eucharist.
Making numerous references to the teachings of Vatican II, John Paul insists that it is a mistake to believe that the Church has lost enthusiasm for the Rosary. On the contrary, he says, the Rosary is a natural complement to the liturgical life of the Church. While the Mass is the Church's public act of worship, the Rosary encourages private devotion and a quiet encounter with Christ.
Catholic World News
US Bishops' sex-abuse policy revised
Vatican insists on due process for accused clergy
On 18 October the Holy See announced the creation of a Mixed Commission of the Holy See and of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose job was to revise the "Essential Norms for Diocesan/ Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests, Deacons or Other Personnel". The Mixed Commission consisted of four Vatican officials and four US bishops.
The Mixed Commission met on 28-29 October and its revisions were then brought to the general meeting of the US episcopal conference in Washington from 11-14 November. The document it approved was then to be sent to Rome for approval.
Earlier, despite the strenuous lobbying efforts of American bishops, the Vatican reached a final decision in October not to approve the sex-abuse policy adopted by the US bishops at their June meeting in Dallas.
While the Vatican praised the bishops for their commitment to end the sex-abuse scandal, it withheld the recognitio necessary to make the "Dallas policy" authoritative.
Canon-law experts in Rome viewed the American bishops' policy as defective because the proposed norms did not provide "due process" safeguards for priests accused of sexual misconduct. Vatican experts also noted that the Dallas policy used a vague and imprecise definition of sexual abuse.
This stance gained force as numerous American priests have complained that they have been falsely accused, or denied an adequate opportunity to prove their innocence, after being hit with sex-abuse charges.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, head of the American delegation that negotiated the changes in Rome, said the policy adopted by the bishops in Dallas in June would be strengthened, not weakened, by the Vatican officials' insistence on spelling out procedures to ensure the due process rights of accused priests.
Vatican Information Service
No women deacons
International Theological Commission clarifies Church's stance
The secretary of the International Theological Commission (ITC) issued a statement in October indicating that, contrary to earlier reports, the group had not left the door open for the ordination of women as deacons.
On the contrary, Father Georges Cottier reports, the work of the ITC, which recently completed a study on the topic, led to the conclusion women could not be ordained to the diaconate.
In an interview with the Roman news agency I Media, Msgr Roland Minnerath, a member of the Commission, had said that the group's report "does not exclude that we could have some future development" in the Church's position regarding women and the diaconate. The French theologian had observed that any new development would have to come from the teaching Magisterium rather than from theologians.
However, Father Cottier - who is the theologian of the pontifical household as well as secretary to the Commission - emphasised that the group "had not concluded that any opening is possible regarding the ordination of female deacons." On the contrary, he said, the theologians' work had led towards the conclusion that women are not eligible for the diaconate.
Father Cottier acknowledged that the Commission did not reach a final verdict on the issue and agreed with Msgr Minnerath that "the Magisterium must give the authoritative judgment" on the issue.
The Commission, having concluded its in-depth study of the diaconate, will use its report as the basis for a new document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Catholic World News
Archbishop Chaput's election statement
Responsibilities of Catholic voters made clear
In an unusually clear and forthright statement of Catholic political responsibilities during the US Congressional elections, Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput urged Colorado voters to judge political candidates by their stand on legislation regarding abortion.
In a column published on 23 October in his archdiocesan newspaper, Archbishop Chaput wrote: "Catholics have a very clear, very specific piece of pending federal legislation by which we can measure every Congressional candidate."
He explained that the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), which would "protect the conscience rights of Catholics and other health-care providers," is an essential measure, protecting freedom of conscience.
"Any candidate - Republican or Democrat - unwilling to protect that freedom through practical legislation like ANDA is unworthy of Catholic support." The Archbishop concluded his column: "The candidates who oppose ANDA won't get my vote."
He charged that abortion proponents had "fought the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act with a fog of misleading arguments" and predicted that if they were not checked, "pro-abortion groups will continue to bend the Constitution and attack health-care providers until Catholics and other people of conscience are forced out of this vital public ministry."
The Archbishop's column listed several of the candidates for Congressional seats in Colorado, and gave their responses to a survey, submitted by the Colorado Catholic Conference, asking candidates for their views on the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act. He also noted that several candidates did not answer the survey, and called on them to make a clear statement of their position on the issue.
The Archbishop issued a second blunt message the following week dismissing the argument that abortion is only one among many issues to be considered in an election year: "Abortion is separated from other important social issues like affordable housing by a difference in kind, not a difference in degree. Every abortion kills an unborn human life - every time. No matter what kind of mental gymnastics we use, elective killing has no excuse. We only implicate ourselves by trying to provide one ... Every abortion is a grave act of violence."
Catholic World News
Re-evangelisation proposals to bishops
"Forming parents and children in Catholic faith and morals"
Eleven proposals under the heading of "Forming Parents And Children in Catholic Faith and Morals" for a "comprehensive re-evangelisation" have been submitted to the Australian Conference of Catholic Bishops by twenty groups of Brisbane Catholics.
Their stated objective is "to renew and strengthen the formation of parents and children in Catholic faith and morals taught and led by the bishops of Australia through their priests, and through all of the avenues available within the Church today, especially in view of the calamitous decline in Mass attendance."
These proposals focus on "a comprehensive re-evangelisation based on the Catechism whose tenth anniversary of publication falls this year."
The groups concerned have requested their proposals be brought to the attention of the Bishops' Committees For Education, For Doctrine and Morals and For the Family and For Life, and for "consideration of adoption" at the Episcopal Conference in November 2002.
Full details of these proposals can be obtained from Peter D. Howard, President of the Association of Catholic Parents, P.O. Box 1411, Springwood, Qld 4127, tel (07) 3388 6535, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Divorce debate in Chile
Pope supports Chile's Bishops on indissolubility of marriage
John Paul II publicly supported the Chilean bishops' call for a law in their country that recognises the indissoluble character of marriage.
The 32 Chilean bishops, on their ad limina visit to Rome, had published a document in October urging that "any future legislation on civil marriage recognise the definitive character that matrimonial union has" for the man and woman involved, "especially those who are united by the sacramental bond."
The Chilean Parliament has been debating whether to legalise divorce.
When meeting with the bishops, the Pope said: "I know and appreciate all you are doing in favour of the family, which faces so many difficulties of different kinds and is exposed to snares that attack essential aspects of God's plan, such as the indissoluble character of marriage."
He continued: "These efforts, which are a precious service to your homeland, must also be accompanied by an integral program of family pastoral care, which includes the adequate preparation" of couples "before marriage", and assistance later, "especially when difficulties appear, guiding them in the education of their children."
Nothing, he said, could "replace a real culture of life, a profound experience of fidelity, and a deep-rooted spirit of selflessness, with which the Word of God and the ecclesial magisterium especially enlighten human existence."
Zenit News Service