Archive for category Future of the Church

Now is the time for married priests / National Catholic Reporter

“At the Last Supper, Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ not ‘have a celibate priesthood.’ The need for the Eucharist trumps having a celibate priesthood.”

It is time for the Catholic bishops to stop hoping for an increase in vocations to the celibate priesthood and to acknowledge that the church needs married priests to serve the people of God. We cannot have a Catholic Church without sacraments, and a priest is needed for the Eucharist, confession, and anointing.

“At the Last Supper, Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ not ‘have a celibate priesthood.’ The need for the Eucharist trumps having a celibate priesthood.

“For at least 50 years, the Catholic Church in the United States has seen a drop in the number of priests. According to CARA reports, in 1970, there were 59,192 priests in the U.S.; by 2016, there were only 37,192. Meanwhile, the number of Catholics increased to 74.2 million from 51 million. That means the people/priest ratio grew from 861 Catholics per priest in 1970 to 1,995 per priest in 2016. These numbers include all priests both religious and diocesan, as well as retired priests. When the priests currently over 65 years of age die, these numbers will be even worse.”

By Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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An opportunity for deep reform in the church / La Croix International

‘Sad to admit, the evidence is clear that the church in Australia is sick to its institutional core. It has a nasty, though treatable cancer that is being fed by a pervasive clericalism.’

Australia is often used as a controlled market to test new technology products. With an educated, tech-savvy, multicultural society, it has representative features that appeal as a laboratory for commercial researchers.

“But now Australia might also become a test bed for what needs repair and how it can be done in the Catholic Church. The facts are friendly. Those reported in La Croix International by Frank Brennan on Feb 14 are staggering statistics. Some of them are new and some are have been in the public domain for some years.

“Widely and well known or not, the statistics shine a light on a deeper and systemic illness that needs root and branch reform. Without such reform, the church will continue to be fertile ground for the abuse of power – of which sexual abuse is a catastrophic symptom.”

By Peter Day, La Croix International — Read more …

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Stem parish closures and mergers pleads U.S. priests group / National Catholic Reporter

An association of nearly 1,200 U.S. priests is in the final development stages of issuing an urgent ‘plea’ to the U.S. bishops to ‘formulate a plan now to meet this emerging crisis’ of parish closings and consolidations.

“In a working draft it calls a ‘Proposal for Pastoral Care In & Thru Priestless Parishes,’ the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests exhorts the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and ‘dioceses nationwide’ to quickly address the issue.

“Core to the plan is ‘new and more specific exploration’ of lay ecclesial ministers to oversee non-sacramental aspects of parish life and administration, according to a proposed plan cover letter contained in an email to NCR.”

By Dan Morris-Young, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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North Carolina ‘Church in Exile’ battles restorationists / National Catholic Reporter

“The clericalism has been canonized,” said a religious sister active in parish ministry in the diocese who also did not want to be named for fear of incurring the wrath of the bishop.

It’s a few nights after a January snowstorm, and the mountain pathways around Waynesville are treacherous. Still, some 30 Catholics arrive for a meeting to talk about their parish.

“Or perhaps their former parish. These are the people of St. John the Evangelist Church in Waynesville who, soon after the arrival of Fr. Christopher Riehl as parish administrator in July 2014, formed what they call a Church in Exile.

“They described why they left: Their de facto pastor told the mostly cradle Catholics they had been doing everything all wrong. The liturgy — overwhelmed with popular contemporary hymns and such standbys as “Amazing Grace” — was not deemed Catholic enough. Veteran catechists were told they weren’t teaching traditional Catholicism. A blind parishioner, holding her guide dog with one hand and seeking Communion with the other, was told she lacked proper reverence. The host was stuck into her mouth …

“It is not a unique situation. Across the country, some young pastors, inspired by their seminary training or informal networks with other young priests, are determined to push the clock back before the church’s liturgical and governance practices of the post-Vatican II era. They have what some perceive as a fetish for elaborate liturgical vestments and other externals, such as the routine wearing of cassocks and birettas. Some of these priests call themselves, and sometimes others call them, restorationists.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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How will future change occur in the Church?

As recent guidelines show, ‘Amoris’ argument is far from over

The fact that guidelines from bishops for the pastoral application of chapter 8 of Pope Francis’s ‘Amoris Laetitia’ present opposite interpretations on the issue of access to the sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics confirms one truth: the argument is not yet settled.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Following up on this theme: ‘Amoris’ a murky document on wonderful and messy experiences, By Fr. Michael J. Rogers, S.J., Cruxnow.com; ‘Amoris Laetitia’: Are we seeing change by stealth, By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Cruxnow.com

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Our Faithful Revolution

churchfacadewebshadowIn this first week of a new year, Voice of the Faithful reflects.

Voice of the Faithful, a community of Roman Catholics committed to service and reform, has always sought to “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.” We are faithful Catholics seeking to change those Church structures and processes that impede lay voices and change Church cultures that exhibit a clericalism that separates the clerical from the lay rather than binding them pastorally and collegially.

Such clericalism often stifles the people of God. Pope Francis has said as much and condemned clericalism repeatedly, recently saying that “the spirit of clericalism is an evil that is present in the Church today, and the victim of this spirit is the people, who feel discarded and abused.”

The story of Voice of the Faithful’s founding is well documented. The movement exploded onto the scene in 2002 along with the burgeoning visibility of Church scandal, specifically clergy sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Boston, chronicled most effectively by The Boston Globe in 2002 and 2003.

The movement spawned a frenzy of activity at the beginning, fueled by anger at and frustration with a Church that had, euphemistically, let us down. If you were to review the Globe stories, other media coverage of the crisis from that era, and books about Voice of the Faithful written since, you would discover that Voice of the Faithful could be credited with much of the rhetoric calling the Church to task.

By 2017 Voice of the Faithful, with commitment and tenacity, has settled into a long struggle in which we use our voices to help change Church structure and culture so that scandal has no fertile ground in which to grow. Progress has been slow, but steady.

We offer Catholics a community within the community of the Church where, as the people of God, we find a way to remain faithfully Catholic without giving up our baptismal right and responsibility to offer opinions and foster dialogue on issues important to the Church.

This is a post-Vatican II point of view well expressed recently by Fr. Louis Cameli, author of more than a dozen books and the Chicago archbishop’s Delegate for Formation and Mission. In an interview about post-Vatican II pontiffs in National Catholic Reporter Cameli said he “sees underlying, foundational points of continuity in the post-conciliar era.” Two of the points he made are especially pertinent to Voice of the Faithful:

  • “Communion: The Church is a set of interlocking and dynamic relationships among people and with the Triune God (in contrast to a primarily organizational-institutional-structural model of the Church).
  • “Dialogue: The Church is the place where believers speak and listen to each other, and it is the community of faith that speaks with and listens to the world. (This is the ecclesia discens et docens (Church teaching and learning) and, therefore, is a dynamic community instead of a static “container of truth.”)”

Communion and dialogue could be Voice of the Faithful watchwords. We are a community concerned with providing a voice for the voiceless and have introduced the language of clericalism, accountability, and transparency into the language of Church reform, language that is being reiterated by no less than the present occupant of St. Peter’s chair. While we have always supported victims/survivors and promoted programs that better protect children, we have focused most directly on finding, naming, and publicizing the underlying causes of scandal which must be addressed to stop and prevent scandal.

Kathleen McPhillips, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle, has succinctly framed the challenge Voice of the Faithful seeks to meet. In an article in the Newcastle Herald called “The royal commission has exposed a Catholic Church in desperate need of change,” she said:

“It is imperative [that] current religious groups undertake research into why this happened, as well as resourcing for the healing of survivors … Understanding how this happened is essential to the health of our community, and to the creation of new Church structures which are transparent, inclusive, accountable and respectful of women and children. The Church needs to show it is serious about cultural change – this is yet to be effectively demonstrated.”


More information about Voice of the Faithful is at www.votf.org.

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Letter to Pope Francis Urging Lay Preaching

Catholic faithful of the dioceses of Rochester, New York, have posted an open letter to Pope Francis on their website, “God’s Word, Many Voices,” urging the pontiff to expand lay preaching. The letter advocates for well informed and inspired lay preaching at Mass, which the authors believe can be encouraged in a manner consistent with canon law. You may click here to read the letter and add your signature, and you may read the letter in full below:

November 28, 2016

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Your Holiness:

We, the undersigned, understand and believe that you have the authority to offer your interpretations of the 1983 Code of Canon Law to the universal Church.  Specifically, we are requesting that you urge the bishops to take a pastoral and expansive view on lay preaching during the Eucharist.

We make this request for the following reasons.

(1) People come to church hungering for a word of inspiration that will get them through the week.

(2) Lay preaching is rooted in Scripture and Tradition.  Jesus, in his encounters with people, often empowered them to proclaim the Good News.  Take the Samaritan Woman at the Well and Mary of Magdala, for example.  Leaders of house churches in the first century, men and women alike, preached the Good News during their Eucharistic gatherings.  Hildegard of Bingen – outstanding twelfth century abbess, poet, prophet, and more – was invited on preaching tours by Rhineland bishops.  The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy found the presence of Christ in the worshiping community, as well as in Scripture, priest, and Eucharist; indeed, “all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations” to which all the baptized “have a right and obligation” (paragraph 14).  Furthermore, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church assures us that “the holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office” (paragraph 12).

(3) Preaching is a sacred responsibility, one to which lay people are called and for which they are gifted.  Indeed, lay preaching has mushroomed over the last 40 years, and a number of U.S. dioceses have schools to prepare people for this ministry.

(4) The 1983 Code of Canon Law confirms that “lay people, like all Christ’s faithful, are deputed to the apostolate by baptism and confirmation” so that God’s salvation might be made known (#225.1).  “They can also be called upon to cooperate with Bishops and priests in the exercise of the ministry of the word” (#759).  Importantly, lay preaching is possible in circumstances of “necessity” or where “advantageous” (#766), as long as the homily – a unique form of preaching – remains with the ordained (#767.1).

So it is that we advocate for informed lay preaching in today’s Church.  We believe

(1) that the experience of a gifted and well prepared lay person can often more readily connect with the folks sitting in the pews,

(2) that many of our priests are stretched because of fewer numbers, and they no longer have adequate time to prepare a thoughtful homily,

(3) and that a priest from another country can be difficult to understand.

But this remains: everyone needs to hear a word of inspiration.

So, then, how might we envision a pastoral and expansive approach to canon law?  The local bishop could commission a gifted and well prepared lay person to preach.  In such a case, the ordained person could deliver a brief homily before calling upon the lay person to thoughtfully fill out the thrust of the homily.  Thus, there would be a continued reflection, but not at exactly the same time as the homily.  The ultimate purpose of the homily would be respected and enhanced, all the while calling upon the Spirit-filled gifts of the lay person.

With prayers for your continued good health and courageous leadership,

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