The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

Archbishop Chaput: moral values key to US election

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said the 2004 elections demonstrated the importance of religion for most Americans, even though pollsters and the news media "don't take faith seriously, and if they do, they tend to fear and deride it."

In an interview with the Denver Post, the Archbishop said religion and religious issues were at the forefront throughout the year, including the release of Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, abortion and same-sex marriage.

"Huge numbers of Americans take their faith very seriously," he said. "They don't need a panel of experts to explain what 'moral values' mean. They root their interaction with the world in their faith.

"Issues like the economy, Iraq, terrorism - these are all very important. But for most people, they come second to the really intimate issues like marriage, family and sexuality, which is why abortion continues to be a such a highly-charged battleground despite every media attempt to sideline it," he said.

The Archbishop recalled that he grew up "in a time when being Catholic and being a Democrat almost always went together.

"The fact that nearly two-thirds of regular, Mass-going Catholics voted against the Democrats in Florida and Ohio this election is just lethal," he continued. "One party ignored its historic constituency on some vital issues, and the other scooped them up."

When asked if the election results were an important indication in the national debates over abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem-cell research, the Archbishop replied: "A core of committed people of faith are awake ... [and] political parties would be wise to pay better attention to their concerns."

Catholic News Agency

Irish priests survey

A recently published survey of Catholic priests in Ireland, conducted by The Irish Catholic, received responses from 1,307 priests in the country's 26 dioceses, representing 44 percent of the total number of clergy. It found that the largest proportion of conservative (read orthodox) responses came from the younger clergy. The lowest number of such responses came from "among older and middle-aged priests".

This finding matches that of a similar survey of American priests and confirms a worldwide trend to greater orthodoxy among younger clergy.

However, since most Irish priests are in the middle-aged to older age brackets, the predominant responses reflected the views of those formed in the period from the late 1960s through the 1970s. For example:

* 58 percent thought the Church had not changed enough in keeping with the times.

* 57 percent wanted the compulsory celibacy rule for priests to be changed.

* 56 percent favoured greater use of General Absolution.

* 85 percent would not refuse the Eucharist to those whose "life-style or their public opinions are clearly contrary to the Church's teaching."

Canadian Catholic colleges and universities

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has received approval from the Holy See for the ordinances that will implement the Vatican document Ex Corde Ecclesiae in Canada.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae sets out the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities. It was issued by Pope John Paul II on 15 August 1990, and provides general norms to assist Catholic colleges and universities in fulfilling the Church's requirements.

The document had been issued to address the problem of widespread dissent in the Church's institutions of higher education, but practical responses from the world's bishops have been slow in coming.

The on-going problem was highlighted in March 2004, when Toronto's Cardinal Ambrozic refused to confer a degree at St Michael's College at the University of Toronto on a nun whose thesis was titled, "Listening for the Echo: Contribution of Lesbians' Journeys to Spiritual Direction and Theological Reflection."

This is the first time the Canadian bishops have responded to the continuing problem of widespread rejection of Catholic teachings in Catholic educational institutions.

The Canadian ordinances, which were approved by the Bishops of Canada at their Plenary Assembly in October 2003, received the Holy See's agreement on 18 August 2004.

The ordinances are due to be officially promulgated by the CCCB "in the near future". Once this occurs, Canada's 20 or so Catholic colleges and universities will have until 18 August 2005, one year following Vatican approval, to put them into effect.

The text of the ordinances is not yet available and it remains to be seen whether they have any real teeth.

Mel Gibson on embryonic stem-cell research

Mel Gibson came out strongly against a California ballot measure (subsequently carried) permitting state funding for embryonic stem-cell research. He urged California's citizens to vote no on 2 November.

He said he had an "ethical problem" with Proposition 71, the $3- billion bond measure to fund human embryonic stem-cell research.

The director of one of this year's box office successes, The Passion of the Christ, appeared on ABC's Good Morning America on 28 October and said he shouldn't have to pay taxes to help fund the cloning of human embryos.

Gibson told Good Morning America that he had called California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the previous evening to talk about the issue and that the Governor told him he had to make a speech and would call him back.

Speaking on camera, Gibson said: "Well, Arnold, I'm still waiting for your call."

The Christian Coalition of America commended Gibson for publicly expressing his strong stand against the ballot.

Catholic News Agency

New Mass translation: progress report

At the end of its 9-11 November meeting at the Vatican the Vox Clara Committee issued a statement indicating its priority was a new Catholic translation of the Mass rather than a common text for use by all English- speaking Christians.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Cardinal George Pell, Chairman of the Vox Clara Committee, said that as a universal Church "steeped in tradition", the Catholic Church "must be faithful to the prayers it has used for centuries and to the Latin texts that ensure that every Catholic in every place is praying the same prayer".

The first draft of the new Mass translation was sent to the world's English-speaking bishops in early 2004 prompting thousands of specific suggestions for changes, including 800 from the US bishops.

Cardinal Pell said that in light of these comments the text had been "significantly improved" and made "more pastorally sensitive". This meant keeping "changes to the minimum necessary for fidelity to the Latin, especially in the prayers of the people", while having language that "stretches toward the transcendent without being quaint."

At the same time, Cardinal Pell emphasised, "we do not want the liturgy to be banal and commonplace because we are addressing the omnipotent God."

The ICEL board is due to meet in January to complete the translation and offer the English-speaking bishops a "final revision". Each national bishops' conference which accepts the final revision or accepts it with their own modifications would then submit it to the Vatican, asking for approval to use it in their country.

Cardinal Pell said a finalised translation was about two years away.

Catholic News Service

Compendium of Catholic social doctrine

Saying that the Church's social doctrine must be "known, lived and propagated," Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, presented the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church in the Holy See Press Office on 25 October.

Work on the volume began at the Council five years ago under the presidency of the late Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.

Cardinal Martino said that the book is dedicated to the Holy Father who, in the 1999 Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, recommended that "it would be very useful to have a compendium or approved synthesis of Catholic social doctrine, including a catechism which would show the connection between it and the new evangelisation."

The volume, over 500 pages in length, is, said the Cardinal, made available to all - Catholics, other Christians, people of good will." It is "an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that mark our time, a guide to inspire ... and an aid to the faithful concerning the Church's teaching in the area of social morality."

Cardinal Martino then listed "certain decisive challenges of great relevance and importance" to which it is hoped the Compendium will respond: "First is the cultural challenge, which social doctrine deals with by keeping in mind its constitutive interdisciplinary dimension ... The second challenge arises from ethical and religious indifference and the need for renewed inter-religious co-operation ... The third challenge is a properly pastoral challenge."

Vatican Information Service

Latest worldwide Catholic statistics

The world's Catholic population grew by 9.47 million in 2003 to reach a total of 1.07 billion, according to a report released by the Vatican on 24 October.

The number of Catholics rose fastest in the Americas, where the Church added 6.2 million members - North and South America being treated as a single continent for statistical purposes - with the vast bulk of that growth coming in South America.

These figures came from an annual report submitted by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelisation. That Congregation, which monitors the work of the Church in the missionary territories, has supervisory jurisdiction over 40 percent of Catholic world.

There are 1,081 ecclesiastical jurisdictions - dioceses and archdioceses, apostolic administrations and vicariates - that report to the Congregation for Evangelisation. Of these, 153 lie within the "zone of silence" in which the Church cannot operate openly: in China, Cambodia, and North Korea.

The number of active priests in the world held almost perfectly steady, but the ranks of men in the priesthood swelled in the missionary territories, and in both Africa and Asia the ratio of priests to laymen improved markedly.

The number of women religious dropped significantly, by 9,385. The number of nuns in Europe and America (in practice, North America) fell by more than 15,000; increases in Asia (3,954) and Africa (1,285) were not enough to overcome that attrition.

The report from the Congregation for Evangelisation showed a total of nearly 200,000 schools operating under Church auspices and serving more than 52 million students. The Church also runs more than 5,000 hospitals, 16,000 clinics, 14,000 homes for the aged and disabled, 8,000 orphanages, 11,000 nurseries, and 25,000 other social agencies.

Catholic World News

"Serious drought" of priests in Brisbane

The Mass bulletin for the Parishes of Indooroopilly-St Lucia of 3 October carried the following extract from Archbishop John Bathersby's letter to priests of his Brisbane Archdiocese:

"Expressions of interest are invited for the positions of Parish Priest of Goodna, Parish Priest of Stanley River, Administrator of Herston/ Ashgrove/Newmarket, Administrator of Bardon/Red Hill/Rosalie. Expressions of interest should be lodged at this office, in writing, by 5.00pm on Friday, 15th October 2004.

"While the positions are advertised as Parish Priest and Administrator, applicants must realise that other possibilities may eventuate by necessity, including a new form of pastoring these communities, such as a Pastoral Director with a Priest in Residence."

One parishioner's reaction: "Serious drought."

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