Posts Tagged church

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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Summarizing the Questions

The editorial staff of National Catholic Reporter has questions, like many of us, about the details of the new universal law in the motu proprio recently issued by Pope Francis. Does it replace the tribunal announced last year? Who is committed to making the new policy work? Will the process devolve like diocesan review boards into window-dressing appendages controlled entirely by the bishops themselves? As the NCR editors state, let a priest or bishop stray the slightest from “the narrowest orthodoxy” and removal is swift, but let a bishop cover up clergy sex abuse, and nothing happens to the bishop–for more than 30 years, the Church still has not held such bishops accountable. We all are waiting to see whether this new approach will. If at all.

Here’s the full editorial.

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Tracing the bishops’ culpability in the child abuse scandal / The New York Times

Pope Francis’ commission on the clergy’s sexual violation of children had a timely private screening in Rome last week of “Spotlight,” the Oscar-nominated film about the pedophilia scandal in Boston. The film offers the Vatican, if it will listen, an emphatic lesson in accountability …

“Hierarchical accountability remains a pressing issue that the Vatican has not fully confronted in the numerous dioceses of the world where the scandal was suppressed.”

By The New York Times Editorial Board — Click here to read the rest of this editorial.

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Costs of sex abuse crisis to U.S. church underestimated / National Catholic Reporter

The U.S. Catholic church has incurred nearly $4 billion in costs related to the priest sex abuse crisis during the past 65 years, according to an extensive NCR (National Catholic Reporter) investigation of media reports, databases and church documents.

“In addition, separate research recently published calculates that other scandal-related consequences such as lost membership and diverted giving has cost the church more than $2.3 billion annually for the past 30 years.

“Between 1950 and August of this year, the church has paid out $3,994,797,060.10, NCR found.”

By Jack Ruhl and Diane Ruhl, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story. NCR also has editorialized on this topic, and the editorial, “The deep, lasting financial cost of sex abuse,” can be read by clicking here.

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Synod offers striking softening to remarried, proposing individual discernment / National Catholic Reporter

A worldwide gathering of some 270 Catholic bishops has recommended softening the church’s practice towards those who have divorced and remarried, saying such persons should discern decisions about their spiritual lives individually in concert with the guidance of priests.

“Pope Francis also closed the meeting with a strong renewal of his continual emphasis of the boundless nature of divine mercy, saying: ‘The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy.’

“Although the final document from the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops says discernment for remarried persons can ‘never overlook the demands of truth and love in the Gospel,’ it seems to significantly move decision-making for how they can participate in the church to private conversations in dioceses around the world.”

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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High-ranking U.S. Jesuit: Married priests would be healthy for the Church / Cruxnow.com

A high-ranking US Jesuit says he wouldn’t be surprised if Pope Francis ushers in an era of married priests in the Roman Catholic Church, and says the move would be healthy for the Church.

“‘I used to say, ‘Well, it will change but probably not in my lifetime.’ And then Pope Francis came along, and what I see him doing is opening the avenues for discussion,’ the Rev. Michael Garanzini, chancellor of Loyola University Chicago and the secretary for higher education for the worldwide Jesuits, told Crain’s Chicago Business on Monday (Aug. 18).

“He told the paper that the clergy abuse scandal spurred discussion of married priests and led to an ‘openness to a priest’s physical and psychological health.’

“Garanzini noted that the Catholic Church already has some married priests, most notably when married Anglican priests convert to Catholicism.”

By Michael O’Loughlin, Cruxnow.com — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Voice of the Faithful hopes Nienstedt resignation is a signal for the Church

Voice of the Faithful Statement, June 15, 2015

The Roman Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful hopes the resignation today of St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt signals the Church is continuing to turn the corner on holding bishops accountable for covering up clergy sexual abuse.

His resignation comes just 10 days after St. Paul-Minneapolis prosecutors brought criminal charges against the archdiocese for failing to protect children; five days after Pope Francis set up a Vatican tribunal to judge allegations against bishops involved in the clergy sexual abuse; less than two months after the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, who was convicted of covering up abuse; and the same day the Vatican announced former papal nuncio Jozef Wesolowski would stand trial at the Vatican for sexual abuse of children.

Pope Francis already has accepted Nienstedt’s resignation and the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche and appointed another archbishop there to administer the diocese.

VOTF has long called for accountability for bishops who have covered up abuse, and for Nienstedt in particular, given longstanding revelations of his mishandling local clergy sexual abuse.

We only wish Nienstedt would have admitted his wrongdoing instead of standing by his previous actions, but his resignation no doubt is for the good of the Church and the faithful of his diocese, which he said in his statement was the reason for his resignation.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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