Pope's Apostolic Letter on Sacrament of Penance
Misuse of general absolution addressed
On 2 May, in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez and Archbishop Julian Herranz presented John Paul II's Apostolic Letter In The Form Of Motu Proprio, Misericordia Dei: On Certain Aspects of the Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance.
Cardinal Ratzinger noted the document's insistence that both guilt and pardon "must be entirely personal." This aspect, he said, had become confused over the last few decades as recourse to collective absolution "came ever more frequently to be considered as a normal form of the Sacrament of Penance: an abuse that has contributed to the progressive disappearance of this Sacrament in some parts of the Church."
He added: "So-called 'collective' or 'general' absolutions are to be considered as extraordinary and exceptional, to be used only and exclusively when threatened by death or when it is physically or morally impossible to celebrate the Sacrament in the ordinary way."
Misericordia Dei makes clear that judgement as to these grounds is not up to the local priest, but the diocesan bishop "who can determine cases of such necessity in the light of criteria agreed upon with other members of the Episcopal Conference."
It further requests that bishops' conferences, "observing Can. 455 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law, shall send as soon as possible to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments the text of the norms which they intend to issue or update in the light of this Motu Proprio on the application of Can. 961 [on general absolution]."
Two dimensions are highlighted in the document: "The fundamental right of the faithful to receive from their pastors the Sacraments instituted by Christ," and the duty of the latter to "establish and secure the unfailing application of canonical and liturgical laws that ensure the valid and legal celebration of the Sacraments."
Archbishop Herranz affirmed that the norms of this document concern "the only ordinary way" to receive divine forgiveness for grave sins, in other words "individual confession," and, secondly, the "extraordinary way to administer the Sacrament, in other words, the absolution of a number of penitents together without prior individual confession," which must happen in only two cases: "imminent danger of death and cases of dire necessity."
Vatican Information Service
Putting 'Dominus Iesus' in perspective
New guide published in Italian
The Vatican Press has just published a book to enrich readers' understanding of Dominus Iesus - the August 2000 declaration on the unique and universal character of the salvation brought by Jesus and his Church.
The book, 'Dominus Iesus' Declaration: Documents and Studies, which is only available in Italian for now, includes the declaration's full text as well as a series of articles. Its introduction is by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which published the declaration, while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the congregation's prefect, has written a prologue on the context and meaning of Dominis Iesus.
The introduction explains that the doctrinal relevance and ecclesial importance of Dominus Iesus are "certainly undebatable, not only because of the subjects analysed, which constitute the principal nucleus of the Catholic faith," but also because of their importance in the current theological debate.
"Unfortunately", it adds, "there are widespread ideas and erroneous or confused opinions regarding the doctrine on the unique and universal character of the salvific event of Jesus Christ, and on the unity and indivisibility of the Church, which tend to play down the revelation of Christ."
Zenit News Service
Australian bishop critical of Vatican documents
"Deliberate regression from the teaching and spirit of Vatican II"
In an article titled "Joy, Hope and Some Anxiety", published in the April 2002 issue of The Mix, Catalyst for Renewal's periodical, Canberra-Goulburn auxiliary Bishop Pat Power described several recent Vatican documents as a "deliberate regression from the teaching and spirit of Vatican II."
Bishop Power writes: "In his opening speech to the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII warned of the 'prophets of gloom'. I believe his warning is just as timely today. The 1997 Vatican Instruction on the Relationship of the non-ordained with the Ordained, the 1998 Statement of Conclusions, Dominus Iesus (2000) and most recently Liturgiam Authenticam, all, to my mind, represent a deliberate regression from the teaching and spirit of Vatican II."
He blames the content of the Statement of Conclusions on "quite a distorted picture of life in the Church in Australia" which was "relayed to the Vatican in a way that has damaged our reputation with the Holy See."
Bishop Power found it "significant" that none of the documents he identified were "papal writings". He claims "their spirit and letter are in sharp contrast to Pope John Paul's 1995 Encyclical on Christian unity (Ut unum sint) and his apostolic letters for the opening and closing of the year of great jubilee (Tertio millennio adveniente and Novo millennio ineunte) which consistently call upon the teaching of Vatican II. One can only hope that Pope John Paul's vision will prevail."
Earlier in his article, Bishop Power remarked: "New moral dilemmas began to emerge in the wake of Humanae Vitae in 1968 and the outbreak of the Vietnam War (or at least Australia's involvement in it). The right to question and even dissent, the sanctity of conscience and the whole notion of religious freedom all found justification in the documents of Vatican II. Suddenly a Church, which previously seemed to have had all the answers, now appeared to accept that there were lots of gray areas. Good and faithful Catholics often found themselves on opposite sides of a debate."
More canonisations and beatifications due
Decrees promulgated in presence of John Paul II
Four canonisations and 12 beatifications - almost all of people who lived in the 20th century - are on the way. Decrees clearing the way for the proclamation of four saints and 12 blessed were promulgated on 23 April in the presence of John Paul II. All except three lived in the last century.
Among those to be canonised is Blessed Maria Maravillas de Jesus (1891-1974), who played a key role in the Order of Discalced Carmelites. She founded 10 convents in Spain and one in India.
The miracle that opened the way to canonisation for her is the case of Manuel Vilar, now 5, who lives in Nogoya, Argentina. Doctors say the boy died, scientifically speaking, on 19 July 1998, after falling into a swimming pool. He was not breathing when pulled from the water. Today he enjoys an ordinary life without any consequences.
Also among the future saints is Blessed Genoveva Torres Morales (1870-1956), an orphan who as a child lost a leg through amputation. Despite these difficulties, she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Holy Angels, called "The Angelicas," who are dedicated to helping the elderly.
John Paul II also approved a miracle that occurred in 1989, which makes canonisation possible for Jesuit Father José Maria Rubio (1864-1929), apostle of Madrid's poorest neighborhoods.
Among the 12 future blessed, five are martyrs; their process does not require the approval of a miracle.
Three are Bulgarians who were killed in Sofia by the Communist regime in 1952. The other two martyrs who will be beatified are Ugandan lay catechists who were killed in 1918.
Zenit News Service
North American Congress on Vocations
Pope's letter sent to participants
In a letter sent to the 1,200 delegates at the North American Congress on Vocations, held in Montreal in April, Pope John Paul II said the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life is a priority and urgent mission for the Church.
The Pope emphasised that the priesthood "cannot be considered as a call among many others, because the realisation and development of other vocations depend on it ... From this perspective, the promotion of vocations to the priestly ministry, a ministry that is one of the constitutive elements of the Church, acquires a character of total priority."
The congress, held at the invitation of John Paul II, was the third such congress, following those for Latin America (Sao Paulo, 1994), and Europe (Rome, 1997). The Canadian and US bishops' conferences had the principal responsibility for the event, working in collaboration with the Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations, in Rome, and with the religious leadership of diocesan and religious vocation directors' associations in Canada and the United States.
In his letter, the Pope says: "The Lord continues to call numerous youths to this ministry, but his voice is often asphyxiated by other calls that, unfortunately, distract the spirit of youth, with ideas of the priesthood and priestly ministry that are not in keeping with faith and the ecclesial tradition."
He mentions that vocations to the priesthood have been increasing in recent years. In fact, there are seminaries that are full of youths, "thanks, among other things, to the vocational fruitfulness of ecclesial communities and movements that have recently arisen."
Anglican group ready to leave over female bishops
Move likely within next decade
An Anglican group says its members will leave the Church of England if, as is expected within the next decade, it consecrates women bishops. Forward in Faith, a group for clergy who do not accept women priests, is demanding a "free province," or separate church within the Anglican Communion, and also a hefty share of church property and investments, the Telegraph newspaper reported last April.
"If they consecrate women, that's it - the end," Stephen Parkinson, the group's director, was quoted as saying. "If the Church fails to deliver the free province we want, then vast numbers of traditionalists will be freed to leave for Rome, the Orthodox Church or some form of 'continuing Anglicanism'."
Forward in Faith represents about 1,000 Anglican clergy and has the backing of up to 6,000 lay churchgoers. Some estimates say membership in the Church of England has fallen below a million. However, Christina Rees, chairman of the group Women in the Church, said: "The overwhelming majority of people in the [Anglican] church have welcomed and are accepting women's ministry. If people cannot accept the decisions of every decision-making body in the Church, then perhaps they are in the wrong Church."
Zenit News Service
Communion under both kinds
New norms authorised by Rome
Newly revised norms for the distribution and reception of Holy Communion under both species by Catholics in the United States have been authorised by the Vatican and decreed by the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The norms were approved by the members of the bishops' conference in June 2001 and confirmed by the Holy See on 22 March 2002.
The General Instruction of the recently revised Roman Missal permits bishops' conferences to provide norms for distribution of Communion under both kinds, meaning under the outward signs of both bread and wine. The new norms replace the US bishops' 1984 directory on the matter, titled This Holy and Living Sacrifice.
The first section of the new norms provides a theological summary of the Church's teaching on Communion under both kinds, while the following section describes the authorised procedures by which such distribution can be accomplished at Mass.
Specific directives are given regarding liturgical roles, sacred vessels and the rites to be followed in distributing Communion under both kinds. Included among the norms is an indult from the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments permitting the cleansing of sacred vessels by extraordinary ministers of Communion.
Zenit News Service