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If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Monday, February 28, 2005

MY PROPOSALS FOR VATICAN III

When we look at the history of Catholicism, it becomes immediately apparent that Church councils have been rather infrequent. Perhaps most striking in this regard was the long duration between the Council of Trent and Vatican I. The span between Vatican I and Vatican II was certainly small in comparison, but nevertheles long overdue.

While it has only been forty years since the close of Vatican II, much has transpired since 1965. My position is simply that existing conditions dictate the convening of Vatican III as soon as possible.To list all the issues that necessitate a Council would result in a rather lengthy article. I have therefore decided to focus on six issues that demand inmediate attention:

1) The Crisis in the Priesthood;
2) Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick;
3) Sacrament of Reconciliation;
4) Annulments;
5) Inclusive Language;
6) The Role of Women.

THE CRISIS IN THE PRIESTHOOD

While mandatory celibacy had its place in the history of our church, it has frankly run its course. This is not to deny that celibacy is a charism. I do indeed believe that some are called to a life of celibacy. However, as I have tried to emphasize in prior writings, I don´t believe that a call to celibacy and a call to the priesthood are necessarily one in the same. Therefore, I believe I am being reasonable by stating that a primary agenda item for Vatican III needs to be the reinstatement of married priest. This in turn would create optional celibacy for those who choose, as opposed to the current required state.

Our history informs us that married priests were in abundance until the year 1139. Even after 1139, secret marriages were common, until the unfortunate circumstances of the Inquisition enforced the celibacy rule. While celibacy worked to some extent through the 1960s, there has been a steady decline in seminary enrollment ever since.

If Vatican III should convene and continue to enforce the celibacy directive, I would be convinced that the only purpose would be to enforce the will of the hierarchy, so as to discourage dissent. Sole authority of the pope on the issue of mandatory celibacy needs to be challenged. At the very least. Vatican III participants will need to discuss the viability of autonomous decisions by bishops, based on the needs of their particular dioceses. Common sense dictates that the availability of the Eucharist should always take priority over a policy such as mandatory celibacy. A council has the potentital of emphasizing this point.

SACRAMENT OF ANOINTING THE SICK

Having an M.A. in Theology and an M. Div (Master of Divinity), I try to the best of my ability to be a good lay minister. (I am married and therefore cannot be ordained to the priesthood.) As a lay person, I found myself at a great disadvantage during the year I served as a chaplaincy intern in a hospice setting. While I like to feel I was a healing presence to the dying, I was not allowed to administer the Sacrament of Anointing, since its administration is reserved for priests. Considering the current priesthood shortage, I often wonder how many seriously ill or dying patients have to go without this important Sacrament. I therefore propose that Vatican III extend anointing privileges to the diaconate and properly trained lay ministers.

One of the instructions given to us by Jesus was to "heal the sick." While the implementation of married priests and the ordination of women would andd to the ranks of the clergy available for anointing, the aging baby-boomer generation will pose particular challenges to those who minister in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. Therefore, Vatican III will need to deal with the fact that priests, regardless of how many there are, could not handle the expected patients-load alone. Therefore, discussions on who can anoint must take place.

SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

The Sacrament of Reconciliation / Penance was instituted as weekly confession came into disuse/misuse. In addition, the motion picture industry had much to do with the imagery that implied that the "Last Rites" was the proper setting for one to reconcile past sins. Current indications are that there is a lot of confusion over the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Vatican III will need to redefine what it means to:a) reconcile with others;b) reconcile with God. I propose that the Catholic Church take a close look at the Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur. On this holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the faithfull seek forgiveness from God for sins committed during the previous year. In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, Jews seek forgiveness from individuals they have wronged during the privious year -the idea being that human belings must reconcile with each other before turning to God for forgiveness. I believe that it will be hatlthy for Vatican III to reflect on the Yom Kippur traditions.

ANNULMENTS

Admittedly, some Roman Catholics have related positive experiences with the annulment process. It allowed them to revisit the mistakes of their first unions, which in turn prepared them for their second marriages. Once relevant issues are examined by tribunals, successful couples are informed that their prior unions were invalid under the definitions of Canon Law. However, despite positive experiences some have with the annulment process, the process has caused much pain to others.

Obviously, annulments are not always granted. Furthermore, I can´t begin to relate how many persons I have encountered who are totally confused by tne process. For example, I am often in a position of having to correct people who have incorrectly deduced that they have been excommunicated by the Church due to a divorce. (A person is not excommunicatd because of divorce. However, if a divorced person remarries without an annulment, the Church can deny such a person the Sacraments.) I have also encountered divorced women wiht children who fear the Church will declare their children to be invalid if an annulment is granted. (The Church never declares children to be invalid.)

Vatican III either needs to simplify the annulment process or get rid of it altogether. We need to be a welcoming Church -not one that scares members away. Perhaps in place of the annulment process, we can instead create a better structured pre-cana program, whereby prospective marriage partners are properly prepared for the duties of sacramental unions. Priests and couples could then decide together whether enough maturity exists for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE

Just when it seemed we were on the verge of having an inclusive-language Sacramentary, it was sent back to the drawing boards. If we are to both maintain current Church memberships, as well as attract new members, we must have liturgical language that is all-embracing. I was deeply distressed when the powers-that-be rejected proposals for an NRSV (Vew Revised Standard Version) Lectionary. The currently used NAB is flawed in terms of translations from the Greek. As we now know, Latin translations of the Greek were not faithful to the original intent. The NRSV has taken the accepted Greek translations and modified them somewhat so that men and women alike can be embraced by the Word of God and therefore put the words into Christ-like actions.

When one gazes at a typical assembly in a catholic sanctuary, missing age groups seem to be teens and young adults. If we are to attract them, and thereby preserve the Church for future generations, we need to be inclusive in both our practices and our language. I therefore urge Vatican II to carefully examine this important issue.

THE ROLE OF WOMEN

My support of women extends all the way to ordination. Perhaps the largest sin of the Church in previous centuries was that of the exclusion and persecution of women. While some significant advances have been made since Vatican II, Vatican III can go a much greater distance. As I often state, Jesus could have chosen anyone to spread the news about his Resurrection. The fact that he chose a woman is highly significant. Women were also highly significant in the churches under Paul´s guidance. Therefore, if Vatican III does not elevate the sature of women, I will once again be convinced that if will be an attempt to reinforce hierarchical rules over the inclusivity exhibited by Jesus Christ.We can no longer sit back and allow bishops to give us the all-too-familiar line: "The Pope has already spoken on this, and we therefore can´t discuss it." After all, our pontififf never declared the banning of women from ordination infalibly. For him to do so would be a huge mistake, and I think be realizes this.

CONCLUSION

I have put forth what I consider to be pressing issues for the next Vatican council. Critics will continue to emphasize that not enough time has passed since Vatican II to convene another council. My argument is simply that our Church cannot continue on its present course. If it does, it will be doomed to self-destruction. At the very least, Vatican II opened the door to a wider understanding of what it means to be disciples of Christ. It is now time for Vatican III, so the dialogue can continue.

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