"Bear witness to the faith", Pope tells bishops
On 5 November Benedict XVI received Austrian bishops who had just concluded their ad limina visit. In his address to them, he said that secularisation was "a painful fact that is becoming ever more present in Europe and that has not failed to penetrate Catholic Austria."
The Pope continued: "People no longer identify themselves with the teachings of the Church, and this is accompanied by a decline in the certainty of the faith and in reverence for the law of God ... I know this situation worries you, and I share your disquiet. With you, I ask myself what can we do? ...
"There can be no doubt that what is needed is clear, courageous and enthusiastic witness to faith in Jesus Christ ... At the same time, we must adopt 'missionary measures,' both great and small, in order to invert the current negative tendency.
"Remember that it is the bishop's primary duty to bear witness to the faith ... It is true that we must act delicately, but this must not prevent us from presenting the divine message clearly, even on those subjects that do not enjoy widespread approval, or that give rise to protest or even derision, especially in the field of the truth of faith and moral teaching.
"At times, those who direct this mission fear that people may move away if they are spoken to clearly. However, experience has generally shown that the opposite happens ... Catholic teaching presented incompletely is self-contradictory and cannot be fruitful in the long term."
Benedict invited the Austrian bishops to intensify their pastoral care of youth and, in their catechesis, to use both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recently published Compendium of the Catechism.
Vatican Information Service
Priests' journal article disparages John Paul II
An article in the Spring 2005 issue of The Swag, official journal of the National Council of Priests of Australia, presents a dismissive assessment of the pontificate of the late John Paul II.
The anonymous priest author ("Pastor Ignotus") describes the late Pontiff as a "mixed blessing" for failing to listen "to the many voices within and without the Church" and for preferring "edicts" to "embraces". John Paul II, the writer claimed, had a "siege" mentality, "neutralised or dismantled ... most of the momentous spirit of Vatican II" and arguably resembled "an obstinate European Monarch struggling to hold to his powerful influence" rather than a so- called "Suffering Servant".
Other criticisms included the late Pope's alleged ignorance of Scripture scholarship and his "Theology of the Body". According to the writer:
"One sad thing about our late Holy Father, while he frequently read Scripture he seemed unaware of the great advances in biblical scholarship that throw new light on sacred texts. Often his preaching was ponderous and his fundamentalist citing of Scripture embarrassing ...
"An obsessive interest in what is benignly named 'A Theology of the Body' and the Church looks as preoccupied as ever with sexual matters. From the high moral ground of these utterances, it is hard to see what disruption these noises make for people struggling to make human partnerships work.
"It's just silly to tell educated people that not only are women ineligible for Orders but that it's almost a sin to even think about it. Theological arguments are very thin defending the status quo, and Scripture scholars tell [us] that they find nothing in the New Testament to prevent women being admitted to Orders. The Spirit works through the social sciences and culture too."
Likely Papal policy on Catholic identity
The Church, under the papacy of Benedict XVI, will likely refuse to support and maintain ties with institutions that have weakened or lost their Catholic identity, according to Archbishop Michael Miller, Secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education.
The Archbishop made this prediction during his speech on 31 October at the 2005 Terrence Keeley Vatican Lecture at Notre Dame University, reported the Notre Dame University Observer.
The lecture reportedly drew some of Notre Dame's most prominent leaders, including the university's president emeritus, Fr Theodore Hesburgh, and the dean of arts and letters, Mark Roche.
Archbishop Miller based his prediction on the writings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He said the writings indicate that the new Pope believes it is a mistake to uphold institutions that lack a solid Catholic identity.
"[He has] argued that it might be better for the Church not to expend its resources trying to preserve institutions if their Catholic identity has been seriously compromised," the Archbishop said. "His writings show that a time of purification lies ahead, and this undoubtedly will have some ramifications for Catholic institutions."
Archbishop Miller added that the Pope believes the "measure of an institution can be judged by its Catholic integrity ... Benedict and others may believe that if a Catholic institution is no longer motivated by a Catholic identity, it is better to let it go".
Catholic News Agency
Youth Eucharistic Congress for Brisbane
A Youth Eucharistic Congress, titled ADORE 2006 and with the theme "Come let us adore Him in spirit and truth", is being held in the Brisbane City Hall, Brisbane, from 19-22 January 2006, with the endorsement of Archbishop John Bathersby. It is the third such Congress, following the highly successful ADORE 2004 in Melbourne and ADORE 2005 in Sydney. Those who attended have said their faith was greatly enhanced.
The four-day congress will focus on a re-awakening of belief in, and devotion to, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Hundreds of young people from across Australia attended the previous two congresses, with guest speakers, dramas, workshops, Masses and Eucharistic adoration. On these occasions, young Catholics took part in Eucharistic Processions through the main streets of Melbourne and Sydney.
In Brisbane presentations will be given by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney, auxiliary Bishop Joseph Oudeman OFM Cap of Brisbane, Fr Edgardo Arellano and Doug Barry.
Details about ADORE 2006 can be obtained from Brother Stephen (03) 9266 2830/0422 602 232) or Brendon (0432 788 086).
Communion for divorced and remarried: no change
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo denies that there is any uncertainty on whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive Communion.
In a rare public disagreement between Vatican prelates, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family spoke to the Italian daily La Repubblica just four days after Cardinal Walter Kasper made the claim that the proper pastoral policy toward divorced and remarried Catholics remained an open question.
The October meeting of the Synod of Bishops endorsed the existing Church teaching, which bars Catholics from Communion if they are involved in "illicit marital situations". But just after the conclusion of the Synod, Cardinal Kasper - the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity - told a Rome press conference, "I cannot imagine that the discussion is closed."
The German prelate had, in 1993, endorsed a policy of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion in the Rottenberg Diocese. That policy was rejected by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a statement signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Nevertheless, Cardinal Kasper hinted that Pope Benedict XVI might now choose to set aside the Synod's recommendation on the same issue.
Cardinal Lopez Trujillo emphatically disagreed, in his interview with La Repubblica in late October. "The Synod," he said, "did not leave any doubt about the Church's doctrine. This is not a case in which there is an open question."
He added that from a doctrinal perspective, the reason for the Church policy is evident - "the very Word of God regarding the indissolubility of marriage is sufficient" - and the Catechism is equally clear.
Cardinal Lopez Trujillo called attention to the fact that the question of Communion for divorced Catholics had already been raised by then- Bishop Kasper, along with two other German bishops, in the 1990s. The German bishops' policy was overturned, he observed, by Cardinal Ratzinger, with the explicit approval of Pope John Paul II. "You cannot put the current Pope in contradiction with Cardinal Ratzinger," he said.
However, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo noted that it is possible for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion "if they are living as brother and sister, without sexual relations."
Catholic World News
Rockhampton Diocese environmental conference
A "River of Life" conference was held recently under the auspices of the Rockhampton Diocese in Queensland. At the opening ritual, conference goers were invited to bring water from their local parishes to add to the central symbol. The guest speakers contributed water from Kiama and several parts of Brisbane.
The conference was the initiative of the Diocesan Commission for Environmental Awareness, set up by Bishop Brian Heenan of Rockhampton in 2003. Its aim was to increase awareness of the dangers of environmental degradation. This was to be achieved by education, by example, and conferences and workshops.
The commission selected the title "River of Life" as it considered this related to both the physical and spiritual nature of water.
Thirty-three people attended and thanks to Open Space Technology, the facilitators were able to produce a three thousand word summary of conversations and recommendations.
Addresses were given by the three facilitators, Dermot Dorgan, a social activist and musician from Brisbane, Coralie Kingston, a former coordinator with the social action office of CLRIQ and Col Brown from Catholic Earthcare Australia. To bring these to Rockhampton the commission received very generous support from the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Joseph, as well as from various diocesan bodies.
Vatican process for Anglican clergy converts
Archbishop John Myers of Newark has been appointed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to work with all US bishops and oversee the process by which Anglican/Episcopalian clergy, who wish to convert to Catholicism, can be ordained as Catholic priests.
The archdiocese announced the news in the 19 October edition of The Catholic Advocate. In his new role as Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, Archbishop Myers will report to Archbishop William Levada, formerly of San Francisco, who succeeded Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the CDF.
In 1980, Pope John Paul II made possible the ordination of married Episcopal priests, who were seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. He also authorised the establishment of personal parishes, which retain certain liturgical elements proper to the Anglican tradition, yet they are Catholic, and submit to the authority of the local bishop.
Since 1983, 78 former Episcopalian priests have been ordained for Catholic ministry in the US, and seven personal parishes - five in Texas, and one each in Massachusetts and South Carolina - have been formed.
Catholic News Agency
Lay ministers in Queensland
Judging by his parish newsletter of 16 October, the parish priest of Star of the Sea Catholic Parish at Cleveland, near Moreton Bay, in Brisbane, was less than impressed with Cardinal Pell's intervention at the Synod on the Eucharist, which focussed on the subject of so-called lay-led liturgies.
The same newsletter also announced that the Parish Council had appointed an "extra-ordinary minister for funerals" who, in exceptional cases, will "lead prayers at the crematorium or cemetery when a priest is unavailable."
It also said that a sub-committee of the Parish Council had been formed to "research greater lay leadership, wider use of married men as priests and the possibility of women as ordained ministers."