New Bishop of Armidale appointed by Rome
Vacancy filled by Melbourne's Cathedral Administrator
On 17 March 1999, Pope John Paul II appointed as the new Bishop of the northern NSW Diocese of Armidale the Very Rev Luc Matthys, Administrator of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne.
The new Bishop was born in Drongen, Belgium, and ordained a priest in 1961 for the Diocese of Johannesburg in South Africa. He was later incardinated into the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1976 and served as assistant parish priest in two parishes before being appointed the parish priest of St Thomas the Apostle, Blackburn.
Since August 1998 the Very Rev Matthys has been the Dean and Administrator of the Cathedral in Melbourne. He is the first member of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy to be appointed a bishop.
Founder of the Marists to be canonised
Celebration plans announced
The canonisation of the founder of the Marist Institution, Marcelino Champagnat, took place on 18 April in Rome. According to Adolfo Varas, President of the Commission for the Promotion of Champagnat's cause in Spain, it was be a key event in the history of this religious congregation.
The theme of the celebrations that began in Rome on 16 April was "A Heart without Boundaries". Personal objects, letters, the first Marist Constitution and some pictures of Marcelino were exhibited in the Marist General House in Rome.
On 19 April, pilgrims participated in John Paul II's traditional Vatican audience, followed by Mass celebrated in the Roman Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls.
There will be celebrations for Marcelino's canonisation in Madrid on 18 June at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Almudena, while a pilgrimage of some 5,000 youths is planned this year to "The Hermitage," the French birthplace of the Marists, where the missionary activity began in 1836.
The Society of Mary was born in the Major Seminary of Lyon, France, around 1816, when Marcelino entered the Seminary with Jean Claude Colin and Jean Vianney. Following their ordination as priests, the first Marists consecrated themselves to Mary to work for the Church. The project gave birth to several religious congregations and a lay confraternity.
Zenit News Agency
"Reconciliation Weekend" in Philadelphia
Aimed at restoring a sense of sin
Throughout Friday, 19 March, and Saturday, 20 March, approximately 1,100 priests heard confessions in more than 80 different churches of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The initiative was part of the archdiocese's efforts on the way to the third Millennium, and aims to fight the loss of a sense of sin and relativism existing in today's culture. "Many people are confused today as to just what is right and what is wrong", said the archdiocesan newspaper. "Through the sacrament of confession, we are empowered to live as He did, to love as He loved, to reconcile as He reconciled. This means throwing off all vestiges of sin and forming that right relationship with self, others and God."
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, was one of those hearing confessions. "I'm asking everyone to pray that others who have been away from the Church for whatever reason may receive the grace that God is definitely giving to them and be filled with courage," said the Cardinal.
Lourdes miracle validated by Church
First to be officially recognised since 1976
Catholic authorities on 10 February issued an official ruling that declared a 12-year-old healing was an authentic miracle, only the 66th such declaration at the shrine.
According to the report a 51-year-old man with multiple sclerosis, who was unable to walk and talk, recovered just hours after bathing in the famous miraculous springs in 1987. Medical tests reported a "total, sudden, stable and lasting recovery" from a paralysing neurological disease which can sometimes go into remission, but frequently kills, the authorities said.
The last miracle officially recognised by the Church at Lourdes occurred in 1976. Many other miraculous claims have been made, but were either unsubstantiated or inconclusive.
EWTN News Brief
Philippines Bishops on sex education
Parental rights should come first
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has spoken out forcefully against the Government's use of "sex education modules" in primary and secondary schools. The bishops reiterated their position that "the responsibility for the sex education of children belongs first and foremost to their parents", in line with the Pope's teaching in Familiaris Consortio (36, 37).
According to a report in the Filipino family magazine Ugnayan, the CBCP said it would not get involved in any program that is "value-free" (devoid of Christian family values), that promotes situational morality, undertakes the sexual indoctrination of children during their formative years and violates the teachings of the Church.
The bishops of the Philippines state that they are guided in such matters by the Pontifical Council for the Family's document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, which underscores "the right of the child and the young person to be adequately informed by their own parents on moral and sexual questions in a way that complies with his or her desire to be chaste and to be formed in chastity" (119).
The bishops urged parents to take seriously their right and duty as the foremost educators of their children and to be vigilant in monitoring the initiatives undertaken to provide sexual education of their children outside the home. They also supported the right of parents to reject or withdraw their children from any form of sex education that is not subsidiary and subordinate to their guidance and control.
Dublin's Archbishop on contraception
Remarks on "family planning" attacked in Irish mass media
Archbishop Desmond Connell of Dublin prompted a storm of protest and criticism following his address early in March at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, in which he defended the teaching of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae while pointing out the negative effects of the widespread acceptance of contraception: "Approval of contraception logically extends the blessing of moral approval to the sexual revolution, which has resulted in the chaos of broken families, co-habitation, promiscuity, uncertainty about the limits that define the nature of the family. It has helped to shape a society of widespread divorce and encouraged such resentment against new life in the womb as to create blindness to the injustice of abortion ...".
However, what provoked the strongest reactions was his reference to a child "produced by the decision of the parents" as looking "more and more like a technological product." This, he said, was "clear in the case of in vitro fertilisation, surrogate motherhood, genetic engineering, cloning; but it may not be altogether absent in the practice of family planning." In such a situation, "the child is no longer welcomed as a gift but produced as it were to order."
Among the critics were the Irish Family Planning Association, the National Women's Council, various politicians and the mass media in general. However, The Irish Catholic defended the Archbishop's stance, with a front page headline, "New study supports Dr Connell." The study in question, published in the latest issue of the British Journal of Medical Psychology, showed that women who become pregnant without intending to have a greater chance of happiness than those who plan their pregnancies.
Researchers at Glasgow University, who conducted the study, found that women who did not plan their pregnancies greatly improved their chances of strengthening their relationships with their spouse (or partner), their family and friends, and of improving their work and their social life.
Ensuring Catholic universities are "Catholic"
Cardinal George of Chicago supports greater controls
It is almost nine years since Pope John Paul's apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae ("From the heart of the Church"), on the place of Catholic universities in the Church's life, was released on 15 August 1990.
The document's first part dealt with with the identity and mission of a Catholic university, the second part contained practical norms for implementing the terms of the document.
The Vatican had left it to the various national conferences of bishops to determine how to implement the terms of the document. In the case of the United States, with by far the largest number of Catholic institutes of higher education, the bishops had eventually approved a relatively mild application document in November 1996 by a large margin (224-6). But five months later, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education indicated that this response was inadequate and a stronger implementation document was needed.
The US bishops appointed a subcommittee to produce a new draft. Its chairman, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, had voted against the first draft. A new and stronger draft has now been forwarded to Rome, prompting criticisms from theologians and university authorities over possible threats to "academic freedom" and local autonomy.
The new draft puts "teeth" into canon 812, which requires theological mandates from the bishops for all those teaching theology in Catholic universities and colleges.
On 2 February 1999, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, in an address at the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Washington, welcomed the stronger draft. "No baptised person, no ecclesiastical institution," he said, "is completely autonomous, and no one is Catholic simply on his or her own terms."
The position of the new draft will be examined at the annual meeting of the US bishops in November 1999. The outcome will have ramifications for the rest of the Church, including Australia.
No 1999 priestly vocations for Adelaide
Clerical celibacy questioned in Adelaide
According to a report in The Advertiser (Adelaide), not one entrant for the diocesan priesthood has come forward in 1999 to study at the Adelaide College of Divinity. Forty years ago there were 100 Catholic seminarians in South Australia. Today there are ten.
Up until a few years ago, students from Western Australian dioceses were trained in Adelaide. Now they study in Perth's new seminary where, under Archbishop Hickey's leadership, numbers are rising.
In Adelaide, there were calls for change from some prominent clergy.
Fr Michael Trainor, who lectures at the Adelaide College of Divinity, was quoted in The Advertiser's report as questioning compulsory clerical celibacy and even a male-only priesthood: "There is a strong feeling among many people in the Church that ministry should be opened to married people and women. I totally agree."
The Vicar-General of the Adelaide Archdiocese, Monsignor Ian Dempsey, was also quoted in The Advertiser. He noted the concern expressed at the falling number of seminarians and commented that the Church's "restrictive understanding and interpretation of sex within the whole category of love and intimacy" followed a history of male supremacy and patriarchy.