Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Swiss Jesuit chooses love

This article was originally published in French as "L'Eglise catholique devient une secte" by Patricia Briel in the Swiss newspaper Le Temps on July 25, 2007. Discussion about this case is lighting up the conservative Catholic blogs. English translation provided by Rebel Girl.

It's the geographical proximity that's amusing. Menzingen and Edlibach are two villages in the canton of Zoug, slightly more than one kilometer apart. The first includes the general house of the Catholics who are part of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X. In the second, one finds an important Jesuit spiritual formation center, Lassalle-Haus. Whereas at Menzingen nostalgia for a pre-Vatican II Catholic Church is cultivated, in Edlibach it's only a matter of spirituality and dialogue between religions and cultures.

But the freedom of speech and thought of the Jesuits was not enough to hold Father Lukas Niederberger. This young 43-year old priest, director of the Lasalle Center, has announced that he quit his order on July 7th. The same day as the publication of the motu proprio liberalizing the Latin Mass. A few days later, the Vatican would publish a document affirming that only the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ. An act which could only have made Lukas Niederberger more comfortable about his decision. Because the Jesuit was tired. Tired of defending a Church ever more folded in upon itself, and which showed worrisome signs of becoming closed in. And then, he fell in love. He could no longer respect the celibacy rule for priests and he didn't want to live a double life. So he preferred to leave.

"I was a happy Jesuit", he said right away in a calm tone that would last throughout our meeting. "I have never been disappointed in the Company. It has always been a place where one can think, speak and act very freely within the Church." Lukas Niederberger entered the order of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1985 at age 20. He had dreamed of becoming a film-maker, diplomat or journalist. But a brief retreat at Lassalle-Haus with his graduating class changed his mind. "They talked to us about the Jesuits and their involvement in the world. I wanted to become one of them." Novitiate in the Austrian Tyrol region, theological studies in Paris, Philosophy in Munich. Travelling, meeting other cultures and other religions."I was influenced by the theology of Hans Küng, especially in the area of interfaith dialogue, " Lukas Niederberger said. A dangerous area that regularly earns those who venture into it the wrath of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Under the reign of Joseph Ratzinger, several Jesuits were severely reprimanded. If he were to write a book about interfaith dialogue, Lukas Niederberger would certainly also be condemned. He doesn't see Christianity as a superior religion to others. "I like the image that the Baha'i have of other religions. For them, each religion forms a chapter in a book. And each chapter has its value. Therefore it makes no sense to say that one chapter is better than another. Each one is necessary for the cohesion of the whole book. For me, religious pluralism in the world is part of God's plan. It's His will."

Lukas Niederberger has directed the Lassalle Center for twelve years. He must give up his position but he will stay on as administrator for a few months, the time needed for a successor to take over and for the ex-Jesuit to find work. He hopes that it will be in the social or humanitarian field. His decision has been ripening for a long time. "For several years I have been asking myself what I want to do with the second half of my life. But there has been almost no sign of opening in the Catholic Church for the last twenty years," he says."John Paul II has made it into a monolith that tolerates no diversity. And I don't see any hope of change with the present pope, nor in the future. Progressive Catholics are generally over 65 years old. And the next generation is that of John Paul II. The young priests are very clerical and not at all critical of the hierarchy."

And worse: according to the ex-Jesuit, the Catholic church no longer responds to the spiritual needs of men and women of this age. "It's tragic", he says. "The Church has a message to transmit but it no longer knows how to speak to contemporary people, especially in Western Europe. I received about 400 reactions of support when my decision was announced. Many Catholics who wrote to me can no longer identify with the institution." By wanting too much to reinforce the identity of the Church in a traditional sense, the pope is risking making moderate Catholics flee. "One can ask oneself if a Church that turns so much in on itself is not losing its Christian identity," Lukas Niederberger adds. "I'm not saying that the Church should follow the latest trends. But by its inability to adapt to the modern world and take into account the demands being made of it, it becomes a sect. It seems content with the fact that only a minority follow its program. The Church has marginalized itself in society; it no longer has an impact on public life."

Lukas Niederberger fell in love at the right moment. He admits that his meeting a woman helped him make his decision. "We have known each other for a year, and I didn't want to hide my relationship. That would be hurtful for my companion, and there would be no prospect for our relationship as a couple. I don't have any choice, I have to leave. Celibacy is difficult to live out in an order like the Jesuits. We live in the world like laypeople, and that creates constant tensions."

The order of Saint Ignatius is losing an important member. Lukas Niederberger was one of the four Jesuits who advised the Swiss Provincial, Albert Longchamp. A voice that was respected and listened to.

No-no in Ohio

I found this article interesting because it touches on an issue which we have not previously raised on this blog -- the legal implications of priests getting involved with consenting adult women. The laws alluded to at the end of the article are state fiduciary duty laws that have been interpreted to include members of the clergy. Peggy Warren of Educating to End Abuse, who raises this issue, lists a number of such cases on her Web site.

Bishop Blair knew of priest's sexual sin
He would not violate confessional seal
By David Yonke,
Toledo Blade,
July 25, 2007

In a meeting earlier this month with members of St. Rose Parish, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo did not acknowledge awareness of their new pastor's sexual sins because doing so would violate the confessional's holy seal, a diocesan spokesman said last night.

"He knew about it, but he treated it as you would treat a sin in a confessional manner," said Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Toledo Catholic Diocese. "We don't publish people's sins."

Catholic canon law forbids clerics from disclosing anything told to them during confession, with violations punishable by excommunication.

The Rev. David Nuss, 41, told the bishop in January that he had been involved in a "consensual but inappropriate relationship the previous fall with a woman his age outside the diocese of Toledo," according to a statement released Sunday by the diocese.

In April, Bishop Blair announced he was appointing Father Nuss pastor of St. Rose effective July 2, succeeding the Rev. Thomas Leyland, who was retiring July 1.

Father Leyland in May appealed to the Vatican, saying he was being forced to retire against his will for criticizing the bishop. More than 1,500 people signed a petition asking Bishop Blair to change his mind and keep Father Leyland at the 8,100-member Perrysburg parish.

Then on July 2, three parishioners and Father Leyland met with Bishop Blair and expressed "concern" about allegations circulating that Father Nuss had been involved in a sexual affair with a woman.

The bishop acted as though he had never heard such charges against Father Nuss, according to Joan Foster and James Schaller II, two of the parishioners at the meeting.

Mrs. Foster said the bishop "played dumb" about the allegations, and Mr. Schaller said Bishop Blair responded with "a funny choice of words" that seemed to sidestep the real issues.

Three days later, Bishop Blair issued a statement saying Father Nuss "has decided not to accept that pastorate … for personal reasons."

The diocese issued its statement on Sunday about the priest's "inappropriate relationship" because "we felt it was the best time to put the truth out there," Ms. Oberski said last night.

She said Father Nuss' relationship with the anonymous woman, reported to be 37 years old, "didn't violate the charter," referring to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by U.S. bishops in Dallas in 2002.

"It cannot be equated with any form of clergy sexual abuse of a minor," Ms. Oberski said.

Sexual relationships, however, violate the priest's vow of celibacy as well as diocesan guidelines, titled "Diocese of Toledo: Code of Pastoral Conduct," which state in Chapter 4, Paragraph 1, that "clergy, religious, staff, and volunteers who are vowed or committed to a celibate lifestyle are called to be examples of celibate chastity in all relationships at all times."

Ms. Oberski acknowledged that Father Nuss' "actions were not along the lines of 4.1."

A native of Adrian, who served as the diocese's director of vocations from 2002 until earlier this year, Father Nuss is currently on sabbatical and was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Unlike the Dallas Charter's "zero tolerance" rules for sexual abuse of minors, bishops are given discretion in dealing with priests who violate their vow of celibacy when it involves a consenting adult.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of communications for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the first step toward restoration for a priest in such a situation is to seek forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation.

The bishop will then decide if counseling or other steps are necessary, and where and when the cleric can serve again, she said.

"It's a serious failing. The bishop has to look at it and decide what the appropriate thing to do is," Sister Mary Ann said.

Although sexual relations between a priest and an adult is not a crime in Michigan or Ohio, it is illegal in nine states, according to Peggy Warren, founder of an advocacy group called Educating To End Abuse.

Mrs. Warren, of Wichita, Kan., said priests hold positions of trust and authority in society, and she wants more states to enact laws making it a crime for a Catholic priest or other clerics to have sex with a church member.

"As Catholics, we hold these men of God on pedestals and we lay people can never be on the same playing field as a celibate, called by God, Roman Catholic priest," she said.

Mrs. Warren said the same laws that criminalize sex between counselor and patient, or teacher and student, should apply to priests and lay Catholics.

"There is automatic trust; the trust doesn't have to be earned," Mrs. Warren said. "The minute you walk into a church, walk into a doctor's office, or walk into a schoolroom, you trust that minister, doctor, teacher."

An attorney who is a friend of the woman involved with Father Nuss wrote an e-mail to the bishop stating that the relationship began shortly after Father Nuss had presided at the funeral of the woman's husband in April, 2006.

"Her emotional state, to say the least, was extremely weak and fragile," the friend stated in the e-mail. "From approximately the date of the funeral through mid-February, Father David Nuss decided that it would be in his best interest to sexually exploit my girlfriend, over and over again with her."

"It's an unequal relationship. It's an abuse of power," said John Moynihan, spokesman for the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful.

"Obviously, it's a violation of the vow of celibacy. If the relationship started after he presided at her husband's funeral, this is just the pattern you've seen in the church abuse crisis. Who does these things? Those who have power," Mr. Moynihan said.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Priests Wedded to Their Humanity

In Des Prêtres Épousent Leur Humanité: 24 témoignages de prêtres mariés (L'Harmattan, March 2007), author Philippe Brand has collected the testimonies of 24 married priests about their journeys. Fr. Brand, a married Catholic priest himself, was ordained in 1966. He served in Annemasse and Thonon — two communities in Haute-Savoie, France — from 1966 until 1972 when he left the priesthood to get married. He has two children and is now retired.

Fr. Brand granted an interview to Jérome Anciberro at Témoignage Chrétien magazine and we have translated it into English.

According to your book, there's a typical journey for a married priest, isn't there?

I stuck to one generation, mine, which has retired forever. The experiences lived by the twenty-six [sic] laicized priests whom I interviewed are different, of course. But most were very touched, even before the Second Vatican Council, by this idea that one could no longer proclaim the Gospel to people without being near them. One had to share their lives as fully as possible, in the community, in the workplace, in the way of life. One of my witnesses was particularly challenged by his unionized colleagues who told him that his commitment was less risky because he didn't have a wife or children. It seemed to us that by wanting to be a man apart [from the world] the priest remained on the margins. From the 1970s onward, things changed. The hierarchy has especially been sensitive to the risks of this presence in the world.

What risks?

Mainly that of losing focus by melting into the currents of thought that have gotten away from the Church or are perceived to be hostile to it, for example communism...

Isn't that what did happen occasionally?

I don't think so. Faithfulness to the original priestly vocation remained intact for the vast majority of those who testified in my book. It is the Gospel that pushed and pushes us to become involved in the world. Most of us have remained very socially, and even politically, active. We detached ourselves from the Church that dictates behavior, but we certainly did not detach from the spirit of the Gospel.

Is the issue of celibacy the determining factor in the choice to leave the priesthood?

Not always, obviously. But of course there are priests who left because they met a woman with whom they wanted to live or because they could no longer bear to be alone. Others never really believed in celibacy in any case and some even became priests while telling themselves that the post-Conciliar Church would allow them to marry. But relatively few lived life as a couple while serving as priests, even though that existed and continues to, as the example of Léon Laclau shows.

Are there numbers that allow us to measure these phenomena?

We are no longer seeing the massive departures that we saw from 1960 to 1970, but it is very difficult to get relevant numbers. The Church's statistics only take into account laicization, an imprecise legal category for this subject, since most married priests have not sought laicization. Officially, it comes down to individual issues. There is not a collective view of the problem. In the end, this has been fairly comfortable for the institution.

Aren't there organizations of married priests?

Yes, but they often remain local. The only organization that has greater coverage is the Association pour une retraite convenable (APRC) which has a specific goal — the retirement security of former religious personnel, including priests. Because the Church, in spite of a few recent legal victories, has still not accepted the principle that its religious personnel have a right to pensions pro-rated according to the number of years worked, regardless of future of the person involved...There are also groups for the [female] companions of priests such as the Plein Jour association.

What do you think about the Catholic Magisterium's justification for mandatory celibacy for priests?

It's an issue to which the institution gives way too much importance. Some priests come to consider celibacy to be a sort of performance. Then it becomes serious...Perhaps it's a remnant from the Counter-Reformation of the 17th century. One had to differentiate from the Protestants. There are plenty of absurd things in the Catholic Church that can be explained like that...

Commentary: Catholic Church needs change to cope with decline

by Molly Metzig
Oshkosh Northwestern
July 19, 2007

A few weeks ago my grandfather came to visit from Chicago. We got to talking about my freshman year of college, and it didn’t take long for him to ask me if I had gone to church while I was there. After debating whether to respond with a casual “yeah, once in a while,” or get into what I knew from experience would be a futile debate, I just said “no.”

He then told me with great sincerity about how much his religion enhanced his life, and posed another question: “When this life is over and God asks you why you never went to Mass, what are you going to say?”

No one had ever asked me this before, and I had a hard time coming up with a response. Not only did the question presuppose the very existence of a Judgment Day, but I doubted my old-school Catholic grandpa would understand my feelings of alienation. So I feigned guilt, indicated that I would make more of an effort to attend church next year, and quickly changed the subject.

I went to Mass the following Sunday. My reason for going had less to do with my grandpa and more to do with the consolidation of Oshkosh’s six parishes into two.

I’ve been wary of this consolidation plan from the start. With church attendance dwindling and a generation of priests looking to retire with no one to take their places, I think it’s time for the Church to look for a solution more permanent than consolidation.

It’s neither a surprise nor a coincidence that those Christian denominations which allow for married pastors are not suffering the kind of clergy shortage that the Catholic Church currently faces. And while Americans generally practice Western Rite Catholicism, Eastern Rite priests are permitted to marry if they so choose.

Does this make Eastern Rite priests any less effective than their celibate Western Rite counterparts? Doubtful.

Ordaining female priests is another option, though probably less favorable as church authorities hold fast to the notion of male superiority. Last summer, Philadelphia archbishop Justin Rigali dubbed eight women “a threat to church unity” for attempting to participate in a priest ordination ceremony. While such a misogynist attitude might appeal to the more orthodox set, it estranges women as well as liberal Catholics — something the Church really can’t afford to do at this point.

In my mind, a religious leader is a spiritual teacher. And from my experience, good teachers recognize when it’s appropriate to steer away from the curriculum. It follows that the most effective priests are not the ones that stick hardest to the doctrine, but those who are personable, and open-minded while upholding their basic values of their faith: love, hope, humility, and charity.

But I guess the qualifications for clergy are strict for a reason. If the priesthood was not so exclusive, people would question the very need for a middleman.

And when people are spiritually self-sufficient, organized religion loses much of its influence.

The Catholic Church’s influence is waning at a crucial point in history. Global concern for nuclear warfare, economic collapse and international conflict grows, yet church leaders are too busy covering up scandals, subordinating women, and trying to rid the world of homosexuality to guide the faithful through the challenges that lie ahead. Closing down parish buildings doesn’t get to the root of the problem any more than does sending a pedophilic priest to another diocese. The Church has a decision to make: either waive the vow of celibacy, allow the ordination of women, or consolidate — and let the alienation continue indefinitely.

Oshkosh Northwestern Community Columnist Molly Metzig is an Oshkosh native studying journalism at the University of Oregon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wanted: More Priests

CBS Evening News
July 17, 2007

Hers may be the new face of the Catholic Church. Meet Sister Dorothy Pawlus of Pittsburgh.

"When I entered religious life, I didn't really know where God would use me," Pawlus told CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace.

As the first parish life coordinator in Pittsburgh, Pawlus does just about everything a pastor would do — except for administering the sacraments and celebrating Mass.

"This will free up some of the priests to do more of the administrative roles in the diocese or not to have to take on two parishes," Pawlus said.

There were 784 priests in Pittsburgh in 1960. Now there are just 514, and their median age is 61. Nationwide, every year, 1,200 priests retire or die, while only about 450 are ordained to take their place.

What role do experts think the church scandal has played?

"I think we would be naïve to say that the scandals have not played a role," said Monsignor Tom Nydegger, vice rector of Seton Hall's Immaculate Conception Seminary. "I think in the 1960s, we saw dramatic changes in the way people thought, the way people thought about government, about authority, about themselves."

A major challenge for the Church is finding more men like 41-year-old Father Jim Ferry, who left the corporate world and became a priest last year.

"I thought about how I would live a life of service that we're all called to," Ferry said.

The shortage has led to renewed debate about whether the Catholic Church needs to change its ways by removing the celibacy requirement or allowing women to become priests.

"I don't want to be a priest, but I think the people of the parish deserve a pastoral presence," Pawlus said.

A presence that, given the stark numbers, will have to be filled by more non-traditional faces.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Catholic priest in Ark. parish comes with wife, kids

The pastoral provision at work in Arkansas. (AP)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A fundamental feature of Catholic priesthood is celibacy.

So why does the Rev. Bradley Barber of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Fayetteville have a wife and four children?

Since 1980, priests who converted to Catholicism have been allowed to remain with their families.

"It's a little known thing," Barber says. "It's not blasted and trumpeted around the nation that there are married priests in the Latin rite, but there are. And I'm living proof of it."

Barber and his family are new to the parish. He was on the pastoral staff at a Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, for nine years and before that was an Episcopalian minister.

St. Joseph's church members say they will adjust.

"Catholic churches don't vote. It's not a democracy and we accept whatever appointment is made," says church member Paul Warren. "Now, Father Barber was appointed to be at St. Joe's in Fayetteville, and I think that people are always curious to understand who their next priest is and he came with some things that are new to us, a wife and children."

Barber says that in his first two weeks, he and the congregation have been getting along well.

"People are just glad to have a pastor. They're glad to have somebody who truly wants to be here, and who wants to minister to their needs and serve them," he says.

The parish of roughly 1,200 families had been served by an interim priest since August. Their longtime priest, the Rev. Paul Worm, was removed as pastor for alleged misconduct.

Barber says he doesn't want to be the "poster child" for the married priesthood and wasn't pushing for an end to celibacy for priests.

"I just want to be a faithful Catholic," he says.

His ordination was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1994. The Barbers moved to Fayetteville last month from Corpus Christi. His wife, Jody, is a native of Little Rock and Barber is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, where he majored in music.

Barber isn't the first married priest in Arkansas. The Rev. Alan Rosenau serves as a chaplain at St. Joseph Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs, and is on the staff at St. John the Baptist and St. Mary of the Springs.

Archdiocese facing priest shortage

By Michael Paulson,
Boston Globe
July 15, 2007

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston is facing a sharp reduction in the number of active priests over the next several years and will have to dramatically change the way it staffs parishes or face another round of church closings, a committee appointed by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley has declared.

In a 13-page report recently delivered to priests, the committee said that the number of active priests -- those who are not retired or sick -- will drop to 292, from 500, within eight years. That is primarily because nearly 30 percent of the priests now working in parishes are over age 65.

"If no proactive diocesan-wide planning approach, guided by the archbishop [O'Malley], is undertaken, the archdiocese faces a continuing series of parish closings resulting especially from staffing limitations and financial problems," the report says. "It will also face the hurt and anger accompanying such closings."

O'Malley has already closed 62 parishes, starting in 2004, in an effort to address a decline in the number of priests and worshipers and a financial crunch, and many of those closings were controversial; a handful of the closed parishes are still occupied by protesters, and several civil suits and canon law challenges prompted by the closings are pending.

O'Malley's predecessor, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, had closed 42 parishes between 1994 and 2003.

The committee, made up of priests and laypeople, declares in urgent tones that the archdiocese must consider steps already taken by many other dioceses around the country, including greater collaboration between priests in neighboring parishes and a greater use of deacons and lay ministers for pastoral care and business managers for financial matters. And the document sug gests some measures that are sure to be controversial, such as allowing parishes to declare that there will be no funerals on certain days of the week, or allowing parishes to hold Communion services, rather than Masses, because the church's rules do not require a priest for Communion services.

The report encourages O'Malley to embrace a "culture of planning" in the archdiocese, and to get Catholics talking about the implications of the clergy shortage.

The document does not mention two solutions advocated by some liberals, but barred by the Vatican: eliminating the requirement for priest celibacy or allowing the ordination of women.

The report also does not address the possibility that the number of priests ordained under the current rules might increase, either as result of prayer and recruitment, as O'Malley has suggested, or as a result of importing more seminarians and priests from foreign countries.

The document notes that instead of closing parishes, other dioceses facing clergy shortages have assigned pastors to more than one parish.

Others have used lay "pastoral administrators" to oversee parishes, or have attempted some form of "coordinated ministry" in which worship services and other programs are shared by several parishes.

A spokesman for the archdiocese, Terrence C. Donilon , praised the committee but noted that none of its recommendations has been endorsed by O'Malley.

The committee is one of three established by the cardinal to examine challenges facing the archdiocese; the others are examining the state of marriage in the archdiocese, and the transmission of faith.

"The study that has been prepared is merely a draft report with a long-term eye towards the future care of the archdiocese," Donilon said. "Its findings and recommendations are under review. No decisions have been made with regards to the recommendations in this report and none are imminent."

Donilon said the "interest in vocations" in the archdiocese is increasing, but "we know we are faced with dwindling numbers of clergy and we are addressing that."
"We would be acting irresponsibly if we did not take an aggressive -- but thoughtful -- look at the issues before us," Donilon said. "But I want to stress, we are not operating from the same playbook as years past. We are not planning Reconfiguration 2. It is not in the game plan."

A priest who has read the plan said there is no appetite among diocesan priests for another round of church closings, but there is a recognition that the archdiocese must do something to address the dwindling number of clergy.

"The most recent closing experience was one that made people feel as though parishes were being voted off the island -- it was a very sobering experience and it caused so much unrest, it would be crazy to think about that as a solution going forward," said Monsignor Paul V. Garrity , pastor of St. Mary parish in Lynn. "If we adopt that notion that we're going to close parishes because we don't have priests, we ought to just close the whole operation down."

But Garrity also praised the report, saying it calls attention to trends that have been widely known but little discussed.

"This is the first time the archdiocese officially has put down on paper what a lot of people have been talking about for years -- the number of priests has been declining for decades," Garrity said. "Boston is slow to change and recognize the realities, but other parts of the country people have already experienced these things. At some point, we have to say, what do we want to be doing, what are the priorities, and who do we have to do that with?"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Concilium Vaticanum IIum, vale!

This is also not about celibacy but about the dangerously regressive slide our Church seems to be in right now, also characterized by the latest document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which dealt a blow to interdenominational dialogue by reasserting that Christian communities born of the Reformation (i.e. Protestant churches) "do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense." Oh, really??? Statements like this are what inspire people like Nobel laureate and author José Saramago to remark that "Si todos fueran ateos el mundo sería mucho más pacífico." ("If everyone were atheist, the world would be much more peaceful", interview with El Tiempo, 7/10/2007)

By Frank K. Flinn
The Boston Globe
July 10, 2007

Catholics around the world should now have no illusions. Pope Benedict XVI's recent decision to encourage wider use of the traditional Tridentine Mass in Latin is the latest move in his long campaign to undo liberal reforms in church practices popular with Catholics since the 1960s.

The move may well trigger liturgical schisms in dioceses throughout the world.

The form of the Mass was promulgated by Pope Paul V in the Roman Missal in 1570. In this rite the priest stands on an elevated altar, facing away from the people and mumbling the most sacred parts of the liturgy in Latin.

The Tridentine Mass lasted until the new form promulgated in 1969 by Pope Paul VI at Vatican Council II (1962-65). While drawing on some of the most ancient Christian forms of worship, the new Eucharist was translated into local languages. The priest now faced the congregation. Around the world liturgical music expanded to include gospel music, African chants and drumming, Mexican mariachi bands, folk music, and even pop rhythms. Immediately conservative Catholics attacked the new rite, but Paul VI warned that the gospel would be lost to the modern world if it were not addressed to people in their language and their customs.

Criticism continued unabated by a traditionalist minority. In 1988 former French Archbishop Marcel LeFebvre led a small minority of Catholics into schism over what he and his followers labeled the heretical "Mass of Paul VI." The Lefebvrists not only rejected the new liturgy, they rejected key doctrines of Vatican II on ecumenism, religious liberty, and collegiality. Collegiality was the central ecclesiastical concept that shaped Vatican II. The depth of the traditionalists' hatred of Vatican II teachings was and remains astounding.

On the other edge of the church, progressives wanted to advance the openings begun at Vatican II, not only in the liturgy but also in ecumenism, lay involvement, Christian social action (liberation theology, feminism, ecology), and ethical theory (priestly celibacy, birth control). Paul VI started to apply the brakes, but Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, his new prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , went in for a whole new brake job.

They set out to thwart the progressive side of the church. In the 1980s they silenced the liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, removed Swiss Hans Küng and American Charles Curran from their teaching posts, and unscrupulously oversaw the unlawful excommunication of the Indian Tissa Balasuriya. (That act was reversed.) Just this year the pope censured Salvadoran Jesuit liberation theologian Jon Sobrino by using the old Vatican tactic of stringing together quotations out of context.

In contrast, the papacy remained inexplicably lenient toward the schismatic Lefebvrists despite the scorn they continued to heap in the direction of the Vatican itself. Indeed, in the 1980s Cardinal Ratzinger gave them free ammunition. In the preface to a liturgical treatise he accused modern Masses of being faddish "showpieces" and "fabrications." He went on to praise the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Eucharist as exemplars of an "eternal liturgy." One can detect a Eurocentric prejudice in his remarks.

The pope has not been evenhanded in his dealings with the many branches of the Catholic church. He has simply capitulated to the Lefebvrists, who continue to look down contemptuously on average Catholic parishioners who like to worship in their own tongue and see their priest face-to-face. The appeal to an "eternal liturgy" is false. The liturgies of the earliest churches were both multiform and multilingual within the first generation going from Aramaic to Greek and Syriac in short order. The earliest known church, recently excavated at Megiddo in Israel, has the altar not elevated and apart but at the very center of the worshiping community. A true traditionalist would gladly embrace the many languages and cultures of the world as did the early church.

Why do I say farewell to Vatican II? One of the roots of that council was the liturgical movement that preceded it by half a century. The liturgical reformers were convinced that the liturgy was of, by, and for the whole people of God, clergy, and lay alike. The very word liturgia in Greek means "the work of the people." This notion embodies at its fullest the principle of collegiality, the key theological idea that shaped Vatican II. The Tridentine Mass is the work of the priest. By turning back the liturgical clock not to the creative multiplicity of the early Christian communities but to the heyday of the Inquisition and papal monarchism at Trent, Pope Benedict XVI is abandoning the principle of collegiality that embraces all bishops, all priests, all deacons, and all lay people as the worshiping community of the beloved faithful. That says to Vatican II, "Farewell!"

Frank K. Flinn, adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis, is author of "Encyclopedia of Catholicism."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Does celibacy still serve Catholicism?

By Phyllis Zagano
Religion News Service
Salt Lake Tribune

Catholic priest pederasty may be on the wane, but it has not stopped. Voice of the Faithful, the Catholic lay group formed in response to the crisis, thinks celibacy is part of the problem. It's gearing up to ask the Vatican to restore an ancient church tradition: married priests.

Church tradition? Well, yes. Married men can be ordained - bear with me for a moment - as Catholic priests and as deacons. Laws have overlaid the tradition, but the early church's determination stands: Married men can be ordained, while ordained men cannot get married. Bishops must be unmarried, but widowers qualify.

The largest cadre of married Catholic priests serve in one of the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches. The next largest group comprises former Protestant and Anglican ministers who have converted - in some cases with their entire parishes - to Catholicism. Since the 1950s, the Vatican has approved priestly ordination for convert ministers, a process regularized by Pope John Paul II for members of the Anglican Communion. There are about 75 former Episcopal - now Catholic - married priests in the United States; more than 600 Anglican priests (about 150 married) have converted in Great Britain. There are even a few married convert priests in Spain.

Catholicism has plenty of good experience with happily married priests, and plenty of bad experience with unhappily celibate priests. Voice of the Faithful is not calling for an end to celibacy, just for a closer look at things.

VOTF President Mary Pat Fox says research supports the common-sense understanding that celibacy "plays a role in the abuse crisis." Fox told The New York Times that celibacy does not cause pederasty, but "it plays a role in creating this culture of secrecy that then caused the bishops to handle the crisis the way they did." The system closes ranks, and celibacy remains the be-all and end-all of priesthood.

Don't get me wrong. Celibacy is fine - for those who are called to it. But married priests are also part of the Catholic tradition.

The U.S. bishops' spokeswoman, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, argues the celibate system will not change: "Don't waste the bishops' time on it - they can't do anything about it. You might as well have a great discussion on what goes on on Mars."

Hello? Let's review. The Catholic Church can ordain married men. Most Eastern Catholic Churches ordain married men as deacons and priests. The Western (Roman) Catholic Church ordains married men as deacons and, with special Vatican permission, as priests. There remains a huge problem with priest pederasty in the U.S., fed by a culture of secrecy and supported by ordained celibate men who just don't get it.

Sometimes some of them really don't get it.

At a public session of the Catholic Theological Society of America in Los Angeles in June, Catholic priest-writer Donald Cozzens argued that zero tolerance for priestly sexual offenses should not apply to an otherwise good priest who was credibly accused of, say, once being a flasher, or of making one pornographic telephone call. I questioned him, and he restated his belief that once-a-flasher should not disqualify a Catholic priest forever.

That is just plain nuts. Would a one-time flasher physician keep his license? How about a teacher? Who else - besides a priest - gets a free pass for one pornographic phone call?

I know there are married oddballs out there, and there have been some sad situations with the married priests we have today. But the predominantly celibate clerical culture is not yet cleansed of concepts that are both silly and dangerous. What father of children would say a flasher can be a priest? What priest's wife would let her husband say it?

Walsh says talking to bishops about celibacy is the same as talking to bishops about life on Mars. I think she may be right. The celibate clerical culture remains in trouble. There are still some clerics out there who are not living on this planet.

* PHYLLIS ZAGANO is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of several books in Catholic studies.