Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ring Kissing....

There used to be a time when you were only expected to kiss a bishop’s ring. Now, with renewed emphasis on “obedience” above and beyond all else, one wonders….

Several years back, in implementing Pope John Paul II’s document “Ex Corde”, many US bishops championed the idea of a “mandatum” for theology professors in Catholic Universities. It was seen as a chance for the local bishop to control the teachings, if not the thoughts, of theologians in Catholic institutions. Not all universities toed the line on this one, though apparently it has been accepted by most. This promise of fidelity starts with the Nicene Creed (traditional enough) and then is followed by three statements.

With firm faith I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

Locally, Cardinal George has been a stickler about obedience from his clergy. Dick Westley, a Chicago area theologian, recently asked:

“Would it surprise you to know that currently in the Archdiocese of Chicago at the installation of new pastors, the new pastor recites the Creed at the proper place at the Mass, and then standing at the altar in front of the whole congregation is required to profess the final three paragraphs - and then sign the “Profession of Faith” right there at the altar?

In the past, such things were done in the privacy of the rectory before the installation.

Would it surprise you to know that in the Joliet Diocese ALL THE PASTORS were recently required to sign the Profession of Faith anew?

To be consistent, soon they will be requiring ALL THE PRIESTS (be they pastors or not) to profess anew. I suppose that eventually, on the Sunday each year when the laity renew their baptismal vow, they will be asked to employ the new ‘Profession of Faith’.”

Now you might ask, why stop there? Perhaps the promises of fealty will soon be required of Sunday school catechists, lectors, choir members, sacristans and altar servers… maybe even parishioners at large to prove they are worthy Catholics? Maybe they should oaths of obedience to their pastors?

To think that at one time we only had to kiss a bishop’s ring…..

Monday, November 22, 2010

WEORC Gala Dinner Re-Cap

On October 17th, 165 guests, including well over 70 former priests and religious, together with their families, friends, and even a half-dozen canonical priests, celebrated at a gala banquet on the Northside of Chicago. The occasion was the 40th Anniversary of the founding of WEORC. The tone of the evening was festive… like a reunion of old friends, classmates and comrades who had not gotten together for too long a period of time.

WEORC essentially started as an out-placement group for priests and religious men and women. It currently maintains a network of some 2,200 members covering every state in the US and several countries around the world.

WEORC traces its roots to the 1960’s and 70’s when great numbers of men and women were leaving full-time ministry in the Catholic Church for a myriad of reasons – celibacy, authority, lack of change, too much change, etc. Transitioning to a new independence and secular life, meant that they needed basic help in writing resumes, preparing for interviews, and networking with potential employers. About 1970, Monsignor Jack Egan, then president of the Association of Chicago Priests, asked Marty Hegarty (Class of ‘54) to talk to the ACP board about how they could assist priests in transition. An initial workshop was followed by a “Career Day for Priests”. Eighty people paid to attend the conference. There was $225 left after the bills were paid. It became the seed money for the formal organization called WEORC (old English for “work”).

Marty and Jim Wilbur (‘56) became the backbone of the network that has endured to this day. Jim’s particular gift was an aptitude for lists, and he compiled long lists of resigned priests, sisters, and brothers. For those who were interested in participating, directories were published to assist in networking and mutual support. The final printed directory contained the names, addresses, and occupations of over 1,850 individuals. A free periodic newsletter, “The Word From WEORC”, kept members informed and in touch.

As the Hebrews were poised to cross the Jordan River into the land of Israel after 40 years in the wilderness, Moses passed the burden of leadership to Joshua and a new generation. Like Moses, Marty and Jim passed on the burden of leadership in 2001. In this case, Joshua’s name was John Horan (’81), and he pulled together a steering committee of “young” members. Then in the past year the point-person designation for the steering group went to Bob Motycka (’79).

In the program following the fabulous dinner, all four had a chance to speak to the history of WEORC, as well as to its present and future.

Currently not as many priests and religious are leaving ministry, though there is still a steady stream. This isn’t surprising since there aren’t that many young men going into the priesthood anymore. Also, the total number of priests in Chicago (for example) is down a third since 1980, and many of those who remain are now retired (about 27% of Chicago priests). While remaining true to its charter to help those in transition, WEORC continues to offer a forum for discussion and information for the hundreds that had made the transition years ago. Besides the traditional newsletter, WEORC maintains an online blog (http://www.weorc.blogspot.com/) as well as a Facebook page.

WEORC’s focus has grown to include support for brothers and sisters of integrity who remain in active ministry, and who face the burdens of the ongoing pedophilia scandal, the growing shortage of priests, the dismantling of the reforms initiated by Vatican II, and the culture wars within the institutional Church. We have sent some pastoral letters to all the clergy in the Chicago Archdiocese. While some resented our input, others have been truly appreciative. One wrote back – “Continue speaking the truth. We hear very little truth from the Diocese these days.”

WEORC continues our support for women religious who have been badly treated by the hierarchy, and to support them when they run into conflict with the powers that be. We support a more inclusive priesthood.

WEORC will continue to celebrate the many ways in which resigned priests and religious men and women have brought the spirit of the Gospels into their parishes, their workplaces, and into the quest for social justice both within the Church, and in the wider society.

Finally, WEORC continues to be deeply concerned about this Catholic Church, which we love despite its flaws and frustrations. Recently, a Vatican official was dismissive to the representative of an Irish group, saying “you are a nobody leading a bunch of nobodies.” We may also be “nobodies”, but we can connect with other groups of “nobodies” to create a climate in which the Holy Spirit might initiate a surprise for the Church. It happened when Nelson Mandela emerged from prison to end apartheid in South Africa. It happened in the old Soviet Union when Michail Gorbachev emerged to bring down the Iron Curtain. And it happened when John XXIII was elected Pope and threw open the windows of a moribund church. We hope that WEORC can be a small, but significant part of that effort to heal our dysfunctional church.

The evening concluded with awards of appreciation for Marty and Jim, and a rousing chorus of “Ad multos annos”.

You can check WEORC out on-line, or drop us an email at weorc@comcast.net .

Friday, November 19, 2010

Evangelization, or Catholic Jingoism???

Jingoism is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy". In practice, it refers to the advocation of the use of threats or actual force against others in order to safeguard what they perceive as their own country’s interests, and colloquially to excessive bias in judging one's own country as superior to others – an extreme type of nationalism. It is captured in phrases like “My country, right or wrong” and “Might makes right.”

Replace the political references with “Catholic”, and you virtually have the definition of the “new” Evangelization in the JPII worldview, or Catholic Jingoism. Fr. Pat Brennan recently wrote a reflection on a similar point….

This past spring, one of the books I used in teaching at the Institute of Pastoral Studies, was The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church by John Allen. John Allen mentions influences in the 21st century that are going to have an impact on the future of the Catholic Church… One trend that I was eager to read about was a chapter entitled Evangelical Catholicism.

Based on my background in evangelization work, I was enthused that Allen was seeing in the church a renewed interest in evangelization as called for by Paul VI in 1975. As I understand it, evangelization has to do with calling people to a personal and communal relationship with Jesus Christ, conversion, and a growing experience of life in the Reign of God.

I was disappointed when I read Allen's description of the church's renewed interest in evangelization. The new Catholic evangelization is one that is promoting the institution of the church, Catholic culture, Catholic norms, and Catholic expectations. It is more a restoration movement than it is refounding the church according to the mission and vision of Jesus. This new Catholic evangelization sets black and white standards of what it means to be Catholic. If you do not meet the standards, you are not needed or wanted. Some Catholic leaders have said perhaps we are in a purification process and that what we need are fewer Catholics who abide more rigorously to Catholic norms and expectations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Purging the Priesthood II

The Vatican’s “clarification” this summer that pedophilia and women desirous of becoming priests were “delicta graviora” amused some, angered others, was ignored by many more. However, it drew a response from the Pastor of Ascension Parish in Oak Park (near Chicago) and over 600 parishioners that signed a letter about the Church’s apparent callousness in dealing with women in general, and then making the incredulous comparison between the "sin" of women priests and pedophilia. The petition took aim at that notion, saying "we take great offense that good faith struggles for gender equality could be misunderstood as a sacrilege and placed on a par with the sexual abuse of children."

The Pastor, Rev. Larry McNally, brought the petition personally to Cardinal George while the Cardinal was preparing for another trip to Rome. The Cardinal graciously invited McNally into the Cardinal residence for lunch and said he would bring the petition to Rome. George only took McNally to task for his complaints about Cardinal Law getting off easy in the Abuse Scandal - being “punished” with a plum Vatican assignment.

Of course, a month or so after the dust-up, the other shoe has now fallen. Cardinal George, seeking to distance himself from the issue personally, delegated Auxiliary Bishop John Manz to crackdown on Father McNally. McNally was ordered to apologize to his congregation for causing “confusion” about Church doctrine and had to read sections of the Catholic Catechism to his congregation from the pulpit. The alternative was to resign.

More details are available at: http://www.chicagocatholicnews.com/2010/11/suburban-priest-muzzled-over-remarks-on.html and http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-02-2010/Ascension_walks_afoul_of_Catholic_establishment

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Purging the Priesthood

A few weeks ago the Chicago Archdiocese announced that having asked inactive priests to seek laicization voluntarily last year, it is going ahead to start laicizing hundreds of inactive priests forcibly. This activity caught the attention of the secular press with an article in Today’s Tribune.

The article tries to make some sense of the nonsensical situation, and sometimes gets caught up in the confusion of talking about pedophiles and married priests (two distinct, unrelated issues) in almost the same breath. You would think that the institution is intentially trying to link unrelated issues – like elsewhere, the “delicta graviora” of pedophiles and (gasp) women priests.

Law laid down on lapsed clergy

Under new norms 'indirectly' triggered by sex abuse scandal, Chicago Archdiocese moves to defrock priests with inactive ministries

By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporterNovember 8, 2010

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has begun to implement new norms that for the first time allow the church to start permanently removing men from the priesthood without their consent in certain cases.

Church officials say they aren't sure they will use their new powers granted by the Vatican to permanently oust all of the men removed from public ministry for substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor. Doing so would mean removing the church's oversight of at least 11 of the men, freeing them to live on their own.

But without delay, church officials are seeking to permanently remove 240 men — priests and deacons — who have walked away from ministry in the last 40 years. In many situations, the men left to marry or pursue other careers but never sealed the deal with Rome. In others, the men have been absent for at least five years.

In still other cases, church officials say some men purport to be Catholic ministers, potentially misleading faithful couples who seek a priest to officiate at weddings, a sacrament that is not recognized by the church if conducted by a cleric no longer in active ministry.

"We see this as a matter of justice for everyone," said Dan Welter, a deacon charged with processing their termination papers.

Welter clarified that spiritually speaking, once a priest, always a priest. "Priesthood is … a sacrament that is there forever. What we're doing is regularizing their relationship with the church in terms of active ministry," he said.

Historically, the church has never forcibly laicized, or defrocked (as it's commonly called), priests or deacons. They have been expected to make the request for laicization themselves. The 240 cases represent men who never petitioned Rome. The pope must sign off on each case.

Welter said many men have not responded to the letters informing them of the involuntary laicization. Some have protested, saying they support a married priesthood."

Others feel a great sadness because it seems to be ending something they didn't necessarily want to end at that point in time," Welter said.

Bob Motycka said he never requested the formal process when he left in 1997 because it contradicted his dual calling to both vocations of marriage and priesthood.

"If you apply for the process, you have to say, 'I made a mistake and please forgive me,'" said Motycka, the former associate pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Orland Park, adding that his 1979 ordination was no mistake."

I think they could be putting efforts toward other things besides circling the wagons," Motycka said.

Welter said the new norms were triggered indirectly by the sex abuse scandal. They were crafted in order for the church to sever ties with former priests and ensure they don't commit crimes under the auspices of the church.

"We want to clarify their status within the church because all deacons and priests are assigned a bishop," he said. "There is a concern on the part of everyone out there about vicarious liability … the bishop maintains that responsibility until it ends."

Motycka said many men have remained under the radar to avoid the embarrassment and restrictions that often accompany laicization. Despite intense theological training, a laicized priest is forbidden to teach theology or to serve any role on a parish altar.

In the cases of the 13 priests linked to sexual misconduct who have not resigned but were removed from public ministry, a move to defrock would evict six from the Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein, where they are closely monitored. It also would remove the monitors assigned to three priests now living in private homes. Two of the 13 must await the conclusions of canonical trials.

In addition to room and board, health benefits aside from Medicare also would cease. Laicization would not affect pensions, church officials said.

In Milwaukee, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, originally from Chicago, has moved to laicize nine men removed from ministry, saving $90,000 a year. The Chicago Archdiocese declined to say how much it costs to support the men still under the church's watch