Pope's third visit to Australia planned
Scheduled for second half of 2001
According to recent newspaper reports, Pope John Paul II plans to make his third visit to Australia in the second half of 2001, with major functions to take place in capital cities, including Sydney and Melbourne.
While in Australia, the Holy Father will hand deliver the final document of the Synod of Oceania, held in Rome in 1998.
Precise timing for the tour of Oceania has not been finalised, but it is likely to follow closely John Paul II's visits to Russia and Ukraine in June.
It was following the Synod of Oceania that the Statement of Conclusions was released.
In his address to the bishops before they departed for home, John Paul II said regarding the Statement, "Your meetings with some of the Congregations of the Roman Curia have focused on questions of doctrine and morality, the liturgy, the role of the Bishop, evangelisation and mission, the priesthood, religious life, and Catholic education. In each of these areas, your own personal responsibility is vital ... Each individual bishop, then, is called to assume his full responsibility, setting his face resolutely against all that might harm the faith that has been handed down (cf 1 Cor 4:7)".
No doubt the Holy Father will be interested to learn first-hand of progress made by the bishops over the past two years.
"De facto" unions not equivalent to marriage
Vatican document published
The Pontifical Council for the Family has recently published a 79-page document titled "Family, Marriage and 'de facto' Unions", together with a communique signed by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo and Bishop Francisco Gil Hellin, respectively President and Secretary of the Council.
The communique states:
"In recent years we have witnessed repeated attempts to confer legal validity on 'de facto' unions. These unions ignore or even refuse the very institution of marriage, or at least defer it to an uncertain future. In doing so, these unions are not included in and protected by marriage law and, therefore, a pretended comparison involves a juridical hollowing out of the marriage institution. In fact, a number of times the same validity for unions of coexistence between two persons of the same sex has been requested, even with the possibility of being able to adopt children. One and the other ask to receive the same rights as the family founded on marriage.
"The Pope, on the occasion of the Jubilee of Families on 14 October, affirmed: 'No human society can run the risk of permissiveness on the basic questions concerning the essence of marriage and the family ... In the face of any law which attempts to give legal validity to unions among persons, even of the same sex, which asks to be a surrogate with the same rights as the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman ... Christian legislators may neither contribute to the formulation of such a law nor approve it in parliamentary assembly, although, where such a law already exists, it is licit for them to propose amendments which would diminish its adverse effects'."
Adelaide Archdiocese Parish Planning Process
"A new way of being Church" envisaged
Michael Brady of the Archdiocese of Adelaide Pastoral Planning Team circularised Parish Pastoral Councils on 30 November regarding progress with the Parish Planning Process. Things had gone smoothly, apart from "disruption in the early stages from a small vocal group" who launched "an attack on the process."
While it was natural that some were finding it "very difficult" to accept "the changes we are having to work through here", Mr Brady said he was confident "the Spirit is leading us to a new way of being Church ... as we follow and cut new paths towards a destination we are not even sure of."
The process was being pursued because of a shortfall in priests in Adelaide and involves the extensive promotion of Pastoral Associates to assume roles previously exercised by priests: 44 are currently in leadership positions, all bar one being women.
Meanwhile, a publication titled Voice of the Laity has criticised the process, contrasting the shortage of priestly vocations in Adelaide with other Australian dioceses. It calls for the "whole process to be put on hold until after the new Archbishop is installed."
New Archbishop of Washington, DC
Archbishop Hickey retires
Pope John Paul II has named Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark as the new Archbishop of Washington, DC. He will succeed Cardinal James Hickey, whose resignation was accepted after turning 80 last October. Archbishop McCarrick was appointed a New York auxiliary bishop in May 1977, Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981, and Archbishop of Newark in 1986. The Archdiocese has a population of 510,000 Catholics, about 25 percent of Washington's total population .
The newly appointed Archbishop indicated his top priority would be recruiting young men for the priesthood. There are 332 priests serving in the Archdiocese's 140 parishes with about 39 seminarians presently in training. Many priests are nearing retirement age, and the archdiocese estimates it needs about 70 seminarians to reach its present goals.
Cardinal George's advice to his priests
Facing up to sensitive pastoral questions
Cardinal Francis George has advice for priests who face the sensitive pastoral issues of cohabitation and contraception among their flocks: don't sweep the problems under the carpet. In a column in the 5 November issue of Chicago New World, the archdiocese's newspaper, the Cardinal addresses these and other issues.
"The change in sexual mores in the last 30 years complicates lives in ways that leave pastors sometimes stymied," he writes. "A case in point: more than 50 percent of all first marriages are now between couples already living together. How does the priest counsel them? Cohabitation is not a canonical impediment to marriage, but the evidence shows that the divorce rate is about 50 percent higher for couples who live together before marriage than for those who don't. There is a higher incidence of domestic violence.
"Living a false life is poor preparation for the kind of total self-giving demanded in Christian marriage. It would seem necessary, therefore, even apart from the pastoral need to encourage people to stop sinning, for the priest simply to tell a couple to stop living together before marrying."
In other sensitive pastoral situations, he says, "Again and again, in the case of people not married in the Church, in the case of people using artificial contraception, in the case of people who are petty but habitual embezzlers or involved in the corruption on a minor scale that can invade government departments, in the case of people caught in habits of sin, the pastor has to figure out how to be present and how to call people to a new life.
"There is no formula for this, and some of the best discussions among priests occur when different responses are given to similar cases. What is always clear is that the pastor has to be present with the Gospel in its integrity, with the power of the sacraments and with his own desire to bring people to Christ".
Melbourne priests form anti-defamation group
Attacks on the Catholic Church to be countered
Two Melbourne Catholic priests have formed an anti-defamation group to combat attacks on the Church. The group was formed after a TV program, South Park, defamed the Church, the Holy Father and the clergy.
Fathers Michael Shadbolt and Herman Hengel criticised the media's obsession with ridiculing or destroying the reputation of the Catholic Church.
Interviewed by The Age newspaper, they mentioned that they felt particularly disturbed by the excessive media coverage of sexual misdemeanour by Catholic clergy or the increasing presence of television programs showing Catholic priests in sexual and other degrading situations.
Also interviewed by The Age, the vicar general of the Melbourne Archdiocese, Bishop Denis Hart agreed that it has become "very fashionable to knock the Church." He added: "I want to emphasise that these priests have taken matters into their own hands and are acting as individuals. But I understand why this group has been set up.
Father Shadbolt, who says that his group has the support of many of Victoria's 600 Catholic priests, indicated he would take legal action against those who unfairly insult the Church.
Australian Catholic Women's League report
Differing views to bishops' Social Justice Statement on women expressed
A report titled Pathways Forward, commissioned by the Catholic Women's League of Australia, and based on a questionnaire answered by over 400 CWL members, indicates that around 80 percent prefer a body consisting of representatives of lay organisations to advise the bishops rather than individuals "who may push their own agenda." There was also strong support for this body to concern itself with a wide range of questions rather than just women's participation in the Church.
The report found that 80 percent of CWL members experienced no organisational barriers to women's participation in the Church, the main barriers being personal, such as lack of time, family situations, finances and distance. While the ordination of women aroused no interest, there was concern that "motherhood and parenting are still not promoted as a vocation within the Church."
The report concluded: "The CWL looks forward to a return of strength, courage and leadership from the bishops and hierarchy to both protect the deposit of faith and facilitate the return of Catholics to the practice of their faith."
Launching Pathways Forward, Lady Mary Scholtens, herself a member for over 50 years, said CWL members were disappointed the bishops had not invited them to be more closely involved in the study into women's participation in the Church.
US theology lecturers' 'mandatum'
University theologians' doctrinal orthodoxy to be monitored
The American Catholic bishops have drafted an eight-page special commitment statement that theologians would be expected to sign to show their doctrinal loyalty. It is their strongest step yet to ensure that theologians teaching at Catholic colleges and universities teach only authentic Church doctrine. It is for review and is expected to be adopted for use by mid-2001.
In one version of the draft, a signed statement is sent to the bishop in whose diocese the university is located. It states, "I am committed to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church's Magisterium."
By signing, the theologian would earn the bishop's approval, or mandatum, which the draft says would remain in effect "until it is withdrawn by competent ecclesiastical authority for just cause."
John Paul II's 1990 apostolic constitution on higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, required "a detailed procedure" for the mandatum.
Adelaide's seminary to close for 2001
Only two seminarians left
Adelaide's St Francis Xavier Seminary at Morphettville will not house seminarians this year. In a joint letter to all parishes, Adelaide's Archbishop Leonard Faulkner and Port Pirie's Bishop Eugene Hurley said the insufficient number of seminarians meant that as trustee bishops they had to "re-examine the current situation of the seminary".
With the pending ordination in the next few months of three seminarians, the bishops decided that having the remaining two seminarians living at Morphettville would be "an insufficient number to constitute a workable formation community."
With no firm new arrivals confirmed for 2002, this would have left two remaining seminarians - one in his final year and the other starting his second year - in the purpose-built seminary complex.