The Church - what should it be like?

The ship is on fire, but most officers are only  concerned about preserving their authority, keeping up  the separation of crew and passengers,  not allowing discussion of any burning issues. Official church meetings/newspapers/internet sites are ...concerned groups of passengers and crew are speaking out....on topics such as the sheer craziness of the latest liturgical language changes which will just cause confusion  for the few remaining people who attend church
Future Church The Tablet Catalyst for Renewal
National Catholic Reporter         NCR Cafe On Line Catholics The Election of Bishops


2011-10-02   History the key to understanding Vatican policy...and what's happening in Austria today

2007-05-14  re vow of "poverty" word to use instead of "poverty" is "Aparigraha", the Indian philosophy of non-hoarding, of limiting possessions to what is necessary or important.  (Try "Aparigraha" in )

September 2006:  In many countries, for security reasons, churches are no longer open, except for Mass or other services.  Some communities have overcome this security problem by having an adoration/prayer roster to make sure someone (besides God) is in the church whenever it is open.  
How good to see something like this

November 25, 2005: The Disappearing Bishops (NCR)

24 April 2005   Eliseo "Jun" Mercado, OMI        (

With the assumption of Benedict XVI as head of the Catholic Church, we invite everyone to pray...  that the new Pontiff  would be full of fire for the poor, the marginalized and the excluded. May he take the lead in the reconstruction of a new world social order that has remained, thus far, slogan in many of our congregational and institutional drawing boards

March 18, 2004 - Pope John Paul III - Letter No. 1: "Ten Courageous Decisions" (from Zenith)
( c.f. April 8, 2004  Martini says Church should be more democratic)

The time has come for courageous decisions to help the Catholic Church continue its service of the human family. In young Christian countries the Church is in a fairly healthy state. But in older Christian countries the Church is heamorrhaging - losing clergy, religious, lay people...and relevance. As Pope John Paul II said in 2003, Christianity in some older Christian countries is not only not practised, it's in danger of not even being remembered. Christian customs and values are being forgotten, churches are becoming museums. To reverse this trend in older Christian countries, and to prevent it in younger Christian countries, I humbly announce the following measures:

1. I ask bishops and priests to do all in their power to stop the practice of closing or combining parishes and Mass centres. The people have a right to the Eucharist in their own area. Because there are currently some 100,000 parishes without a priest, and because a huge number of dioceses are heading inexorably towards a priestless future, therefore I authorise the ordination to priesthood of married men, in accordance with St. Paul's words re the appointment of elders (1 Timothy 3,1-7 and Titus 1.5-9). I envisage that many married men could continue their present professions as teachers, doctors etc...and also carry out priestly duties of Masses, baptisms, weddings and funerals

2. I also authorise the re-entry to priestly ministry of the tens of thousands of good men who have left the priesthood and married in recent decades. National Bishops' Conferences are asked to draw up guidelines for the re-entry of "ex-priests" and for the ordination of married men

3. To provide Mass for the people in their own area I encourage the establishing of small basic communities - having Eucharist and fellowship in homes, schools and community centres.....rather than the building of huge and expensive structures that make a sense of belonging difficult. I especially hope that these basic communities will foster weekly Bible study groups that most people will want to belong to. One of the present sad realities is that the vast majority of Catholics rarely if ever open a Bible. Most Catholics are seriously undernourished, as Pope John Paul II often pointed out. I appeal to all Catholics: open the letter that God has written to us. How can we go on having three hours a day for newspapers, magazines, TV, the internet, movies etc, but "no time" to read the most important of all information: our Creator's love letter?

4. After long and serious reflection, and after consultation with all Bishops' Conferences, I now decree that all priests and bishops, both diocesan and religious, now in priestly ministry, are free to marry or continue in the celibate lifestyle. In making this decision, I am painfully aware that for the majority of priests, both diocesan and religious, celibacy has been not so much a free choice as a compulsory condition for priesthood. I hereby acknowledge that the gift of priesthood does not necessarily include the gift of celibacy. What Jesus made optional I do not wish to make compulsory. I am also most painfully aware that many good priests have been involved in damaging relationships with women. I hope that cases of this nature will be drastically reduced in future. I encourage religious congregations to broaden their membership to include married priests and their families.

5. In recent decades many Bishops' Conferences and individuals have discussed the problem of Catholics in irregular marriage situations. Jesus' words should be understood carefully: when he says "no divorce" he is speaking of someone who has walked out on their partner. He is not speaking of someone who has been walked out on. In the same way that Saint Paul made allowance for special cases (I Corinthians 7.12) I also now make allowance for the partner who has been walked out on. With the consent of the local bishop, that walked-out-on party may remarry in the Church. Each Bishop's Conference is to draw up guidelines for this and other complex marriage issues. Marriage cases no longer require Vatican approval. All cases shall be decided by the local Bishop following his Conference's guidelines.

6. I am establishing a special commission to study the Biblical and historical basis for the restoration of the ministry of deaconesses in the Church. I encourage the participation of more women in all Church agencies at all levels

7. I ask all Bishops' Conferences to give more importance to the work of Christian unity. Lack of unity is one of the main reasons why Christian values are often ignored by decision makers in government and in the media. Let us do all we can to make friends with, meet with, pray with and work with Christians of other denominations. I now give Bishops' Conferences the authority to issue guidelines for Inter-Communion in their own countries. I encourage the sharing of Catholic Church facilities with other denominations. In new areas I encourage the building of inter-denominational chapels and churches, as well as inter-denominational schools

8. I wish to put the principle of subsidiarity into practice by giving more responsibility to Bishops' Conferences. From now on Bishops' Conferences are responsible for and do not need Vatican approval for:
a) The appointment of bishops in their own country, to be done after full and public consultation with the clergy, religious and lay representatives of the diocese concerned.
b) The election, every five years, of the president of the Bishops' Conference
c) All liturgical decisions (feast days, texts, translations, songs, prayers, even Eucharistic Prayers)
d) All church laws that are special to their own country
d) All dispensations (priesthood, religious life, marriage)

From now on the official Vatican representative in each country will be the president of each country's Bishops' Conference. I recognize all countries  that are members of the United Nations. All UN member countries are welcome to have a representative at the Vatican.
I shall not appoint new cardinals. The conclave to elect my successor shall be made up of the presidents of all the Bishops' Conferences together with the president (man or woman) of each country's  National Laity Association. 
I shall appoint an advisory council to help me in the pastoral guidance of the Church - with representatives of various regions, together with experts in the field of Scripture, history, church law, liturgy etc. This advisory council will replace the Roman Curia.

9. From now on, the official language of the Church shall be English, not Latin.
Seminaries are encouraged to continue offering Latin as a subject, but I hope all seminaries and Catholic schools in every country will make the learning of English a normal subject.

10. Last but not least, in fact this item has number one place in my heart, I ask all Catholics to give more time to help the poor people of this world. One in six people of the human family now live in slums. Unless action is taken, that figure will become one in five in a decade or so. I ask every bishop, priest, religious, every man, woman, boy and girl to give time each week to helping the less fortunate members of society. Let every Catholic school arrange for its students and staff regularly to visit old people's homes, poor families, refugees, new arrivals etc.
Let every seminary and higher Catholic institution have a program for students and staff to spend time in poorer parts of the world.
Let every Catholic parish sponsor a team, especially married couples, to work as teachers, nurses, doctors, lay missionaries in a poorer part of the world.
Let us do all in our power to wage war on poverty and injustice. Then we will not need to be so concerned about a war on terrorism. Let's remove the air that terrorism breathes to survive: poverty and injustice.
I call on world leaders to form a new economic union - REFT: R(espect)  E(arth),  F(air) T(rade) - to promote care for the planet and to promote fair trade

I am confident that people who pray and read the Bible each day will put the above 10 measures into practice.

Dear Lord Jesus, please increase the influence of your Holy Spirit in our hearts, that your Church, your Body, may be healthy, united, and committed to serving the poor.
May this century be remembered in history as a time when the human family made giant strides to replace poverty and war with justice and peace

John Paul III

Priesthood file

2004-01-31 Fasting – our lost rite - The Tablet - Eamon Duffy

 Not eating meat on Fridays used to be synonymous with being Catholic. Restoring abstinence would not only revive tradition but signal solidarity with the poor

2003-12-07 Opus Dei, the most controversial group in the Catholic Church issue of growing concern for middle-of-the-road Catholics

For Against  Neutral???
Opus Dei USA Homepage ODAN
 Media Summary
America MagazineEl Salvador Experience
Group Watch

From  page 72-73 of "Never Alone" (1994) by Joseph Girzone (one of my favorite and most trusted authors).  I'm 99% sure  the following words have Opus Dei in mind:
"I am presently reading a book about an organisation within the Catholic Church that demands total obedience of its members. They must obtain permission from their leader for everything they do. He lays down for them guidelines even for their change of underwear. They are told they must break contact with their families and not share the work of their organisation with any of their family members. When young people are recruited they are ordered not to tell their parents about their joining the society. Members are obligated to lay bare the state of their souls to their leader. Any new ideas about their spiritual lives they must share with their leader for his approval. He has total control over their souls. This has the ring of the diabolical about it. It is frightening...
The overall purpose of the group is to gain power in the Church and in society. To this end they befriend the wealthy, the well educated, and the powerful. The poor are not of great interest."

More info: put "opus"+"dei" into a search engine like . Some websites are not reliable (like that of Ian Paisley and other extremists).  Try "opus"+"dei"+"jesuits"  and "opus"+"dei"+"power".

2003-11-22   Violence in the Church   Camilo Macisse  (The Tablet)

 A Mexican Carmelite priest has close experience of what he calls the ‘violence’ of the Vatican. He pleads for a change in the culture of the Roman Curia

TO SPEAK of violence in the Church might seem nonsensical. Violence is the application of physical, moral or psychological force to impose or coerce, and this should be unthinkable in the community of believers founded by Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who came to free us from all slavery and oppression, built his Church on love of God and neighbour, and commanded us to love even our enemies.

But the Church is a pilgrim, a poor and imperfect sign on earth of the Kingdom of God. Violence has been used by the Church both inside its own ranks and outside, to resolve conflicts which inevitably arise between the hierarchy and the grass roots, between the institutional and charismatic dimensions of the Church, between traditional and novel understandings of the faith, theologians and the teaching authority, and Church and society. Violence has not been exercised in exceptional, isolated cases, but has been part of the culture of church authority down the ages, a culture which has fallen well short of the Gospel way of exercising authority (Mt 20: 24-28). These days, the Church no longer employs physical coercion. But the other forms of violence – moral and psychological – continue, in an exercise of power which ignores both legitimate diversity in the Church and the Gospel insistence on dialogue. I have had intimate knowledge of this violence, above all as exercised by a number of Roman departments. It comes in many forms.

One of those forms is centralism, which seeks to concentrate decision-making powers in a church bureaucracy distant from the life of believers in different circumstances. Incapable of accepting pluralism, it is a way of treating believers at all levels, from bishops’ conferences to groups of lay people, as children in need of protection who must be disciplined according to short-sighted criteria.

Since the Second Vatican Council the shift towards decentralisation by enhancing episcopal collegiality – the government of the Church by the college of bishops with and under the pope – has gradually been undermined. Even the bishops’ synods called together every few years are heavily controlled by the Roman Curia, which determines both the process of discussion and the documents which result. In most of these synods there have been bishops who have deplored the violence of this control applied by neo-conservatives steeped in an abstract and anachronistic theology. When some dare to criticise these authorities out of love of the Church and always in communion with it, they are threatened and condemned, accused of practising a parallel teaching authority, a parallel pastoral action, or even of trying to create a parallel Church.

Such centralism results in large part from distrust and fear. How else to account for the delay of three or more years in approving translations of liturgical texts carried out by experts and unanimously approved by local bishops’ conferences?

This same fear of losing control lay behind the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s proposal – first made at the Synod on Consecrated Life – that the Vatican should confirm the election of general superiors elected by their respective congregations. Faced with an overwhelmingly negative response, the CDF wrote to theologians it trusted asking them to support this idea in their articles, so as to create a climate receptive to the idea.

The Curia’s centralism also blocks groups entitled to direct communication with the Pope. The heads of the Union of (Male) Superiors General (USG) and the International Union of (Female) Religious Superiors (UISG) have been trying, without success, to have an audience with John Paul II since 1995. While other, lesser groups, including many individuals outside the faith and the Church have been granted this access, the representatives of more than 1 million consecrated religious, engaged in the most varied pastoral work on the frontiers of evangelism, have been consistently blocked.

Another form of violence is patriarchal authoritarianism which excludes women from participation at all levels of the Church. It is astonishing, for example, that contemplative women religious were never consulted during the preparation of the document on enclosure, Verbi Sponsa. Not one of the 49 associations or federations of Discalced Carmelites – which bring together 755 convents and more than 11,000 nuns – was consulted, and other large contemplative orders were similarly excluded; only the opinion of a small number of traditionalist convents was sought. The resulting legislation, drawn up by men whose knowledge of female religious life is entirely theoretical, demands of women what it does not demand of men, and is an example of the discriminatory violence directed at consecrated contemplative women. As in former times, they are viewed as children incapable of fidelity to their cloistered identity without male supervision.

Other forms of authoritarian violence have become habitual. For example, those who send delations to Rome are guaranteed anonymity, because they are generally people of conservative temperament. When the accused is called to the tribunals of a number of Roman dicasteries, he is not allowed witnesses who can speak on his behalf. Letters are written by accusers who have never first sought dialogue with the accused. When the accused defends himself, and shows that the accusations are false, he never receives a letter absolving him of the calumnies directed against him.

The curial officials who act in this way cloak themselves in a sacred power. They cannot be accused of slander and defamation. They demand blind obedience, and insist that such matters fall under the “exclusive competence of the Holy See”.

Another kind of church violence is a dogmatism which refuses to admit that in a pluralist world it is not possible to continue to assume just one religious, cultural and theological standpoint. Failing to distinguish between what is essential in Christian faith and its relative theological expressions, dogmatism insists on a single theological perspective, that of traditionalism, which starts from philosophical and cultural assumptions which belong to a previous age. The Church often seeks to impose these views without taking into account the pluralism of today’s societies.

Since the Second Vatican Council, violent repression has been unleashed against modern exegesis of Scripture, against new European theological perspectives, against liberation theology, against Asian and African theology, and against indigenous theology. The actions against theologians almost always proceed violently: the CDF first receives accusations from conservative or ultraconservative people or from personal enemies who know that they will enjoy the protection, confidentiality, and unconditional support of its staff. The CDF then hands the texts of the accused over to “experts” who also enjoy anonymity and will at no point need to face the accused, who must then respond to the accusations and attempt to prove their orthodoxy. The “experts” often base their accusations on phrases taken out of context – a few pages are enough to prove the suspicion of unorthodoxy. When the accused has responded by making clear his position, he almost never receives a letter acknowledging that the “expert” is wrong. Nor does the accuser receive a rebuke or canonical penalty for having lied. This violent dogmatism has the effect of stultifying legitimate research and study by exegetes and theologians, many of whom impose self-censorship out of fear.

The tensions and conflicts in the Church cannot be eliminated by centralist or dogmatic violence any more than they can be eliminated by rejecting church authority and the fundamental truths of Catholic faith and morality. Rather, the need is to overcome the neo-conservative model of Christianity which has gained ground in the Church at the beginning of the third millennium, and to move towards the acceptance in practice of the model of the Church recovered by the Second Vatican Council – a Church of communion, a Church defined as the People of God and the sacrament of the Kingdom. In this model there must be room for dialogue and communication, for unity in diversity, and for a climate of liberty which expresses a loving acceptance of others, which in turn fosters communion both inside and outside the Church.

Above all, the Church needs an attitude of dialogue, one which seeks to listen and discern the truth in the light of the Gospel, both within the Church and in conversation with other Christian confessions, other religions, and society in general. This is what the Second Vatican Council calls for in its pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes (92), which speaks of the Church’s mission to shed the light of the Gospel on all humanity as “a sign of that brotherliness which allows honest dialogue and invigorates it”. The pastoral constitution insists that “such a mission requires in the first place that we foster within the Church herself mutual esteem, reverence and harmony, through the full recognition of lawful diversity”. And it quotes St Augustine: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

Along with dialogue we need a decentralisation of authority to allow for the challenges and problems both inside and outside the Church to be known directly. This will foster a sense of mutual responsibility and the practice of episcopal collegiality and will give less space to inquisitorial attitudes fed by cowardly accusers who throw stones while hiding their hands, who believe themselves to be in possession of “objective” truth, and who are afraid of direct confrontation. This fear is at bottom a fear of truth and authentic freedom, the truth that will make us free (Jn 8:32).

John Paul II in his 1995 ecumenical encyclical Ut Unum Sint refers to “the whole body of bishops” as “also ‘vicars and ambassadors of Christ’.” He goes on to affirm that “the Bishop of Rome is a member of the ‘college’ and the bishops are his brothers in the ministry”.

These new forms in the structure of services in the Church are not just necessary in the ecumenical field but are also urgently needed within the Catholic Church. The Pope should be assisted in his ministry more directly by the bishops’ conferences than by the Roman Curia, whose decision-making powers have become excessive. This is why leaders in the Church are calling ever more strongly for the Pope’s advisers to be the presidents of the bishops’ conferences. Dialogue with them would give the Pope a clearer idea of the challenges which the Church faces in diverse ecclesial, social and cultural spheres.

This dialogue would serve to counteract the centralism and legalism of the Roman Curia, which is creating tensions and conflicts in an attempt to impose a rigid uniformity in the name of a false idea of unity. This violence must be overcome.

Fr Camilo Macisse was president of the Union of Superiors General for six years until 2000, and until recently superior general of the Discalced Carmelites. This is an abridged translation of an article published in the 15 November issue of Testimonio, the magazine of the Chilean Conference of Religious.