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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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Problematic Propositions from Eucharistic Synod

PROBLEMATIC PROPOSITIONS FROM THE EUCHARISTIC SYNOD
by Ray Grosswirth, M.A., M.Div

October 25, 2005

The Vatican Information Service (VIS) has released what it considers to be the most important propositions from the Eucharistic Synod. I have concerns with a few of them, and have highlighted these concerns in CAPITAL LETTERS following the actual propositions:

EUCHARIST AND THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE (Proposition no. 7)

"It is of vital pastoral importance that bishops in their dioceses promote a decisive revival in teaching the conversion that arises from the Eucharist, and that to this end they favor frequent individual Confession."
"The Synod strongly recommends bishops not to allow the practice of collective absolution in their dioceses, save in the objectively exceptional circumstances laid down in John Paul II's Motu Proprio, 'Misericordia Dei'."

A LOGICAL QUESTION TO ASK IS: CONSIDERING THE SEVERE CLERGY SHORTAGE IN THE UNITED STATES AND ELSEWHERE, HOW MANY PRIESTS HAVE THE TIME TO DEVOTE PERHAPS AN ENTIRE DAY TO FACILITATE MULTIPLE INDIVIDUAL CONFESSIONS? WHILE THE VATICAN MAY NOT APPROVE OF THE PRACTICE OF COLLECTIVE ABSOLUTION (COMMUNAL PENANCE SERVICES), WHAT DO CARDINALS RECOMMEND WHEN A PARISH PRIEST CAN EXPECT TO HAVE WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS ON ANY GIVEN SATURDAY (TRADITIONAL DAY FOR INDIVIDUAL CONFESSIONS)?

SHORTAGE OF PRIESTS (Proposition no. 11)

"The centrality of the Eucharist for the life of the Church means that the problem of the great shortage of priests in some parts of the world is felt very acutely. Many faithful are thus deprived of the Bread of life. In order to meet the Eucharistic hunger of the people of God, who are often forced to go without the Eucharistic celebration for considerable periods, it is necessary to implement effective pastoral initiatives.
"In this context, the Synod Fathers affirmed the importance of the inestimable gift of ecclesiastical celibacy in the Latin Church. With reference to the Magisterium, especially to Vatican Council II and to recent Pontiffs, the Fathers requested that the faithful be given adequate explanation of the reasons for the link between celibacy and priestly ordination, in full respect for the tradition of the Eastern Churches. Some reference was made to 'viri probati,' but it was decided that this was an untenable hypothesis.
"Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that, in offering the Eucharistic gift to all the faithful, the Christian quality of the community and its force of attraction have a decisive influence. It is particularly important to encourage pastors to promote priestly vocations, ... raise awareness among families, ... ensure (by bishops, with the involvement of religious families and maintaining respect for their charism) a more even distribution of the clergy, encouraging the clergy itself to a greater readiness to serve the Church wherever the need arises."

I FIND IT RATHER PARADOXICAL THAT ON ONE HAND, THE VATICAN ACKNOWLEDGES THE PRIESTHOOD SHORTAGE. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE VATICAN ALSO DISMISSES A VIABLE SOLUTION - NAMELY, THE IMPLEMENTATION OF MARRIED PRIESTS. THE SYNOD HAD A FLAWED EXPLANATION OF CELIBACY AS A GIFT. THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT IF A POTENTIAL CANDIDATE FOR THE PRIESTHOOD IS CALLED TO A LIFE OF CELIBACY, THIS GIFT SHOULD BE AFFIRMED AND ENCOURAGED. HOWEVER, THE VATICAN FAILS TO RECOGNIZE THAT IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE TO BE CALLED TO BOTH THE PRIESTHOOD AND MARRIAGE. (MARRIAGE IS ALSO A GIFT.) THERE IS THEREFORE ROOM IN THE PRIESTHOOD FOR BOTH CELIBATES AND MARRIED MEN. (THIS, IN FACT, IS THE TRUE TRADITION OF THE EARLY CHURCH, AS OPPOSED TO THE PRESENT POLICY OF MANDATORY CELIBACY.)

THE USE OF LATIN IN LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS (Proposition no. 36)

"In celebrating the Eucharist during international meetings, which are becoming ever more frequent today, in order better to express the unity and universality of the Church it is proposed: that the (con)celebration of Mass be in Latin (except the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful), the prayers of the tradition of the Church should also be recited in Latin and, where appropriate, Gregorian chants be sung; that priests, beginning in the seminary, be trained to understand and celebrate Mass in Latin, as well as to use Latin prayers and to appreciate the Gregorian chant; that the possibility of educating the faithful in this way not be overlooked."

THERE IS A DANGER IN OVEREMPHASIZING LATIN. IT IS INDEED A BEAUTIFUL LANGUAGE. (I STUDIED IT AND HAVE AN APPRECIATION FOR ITS USE IN ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL, ROMANTIC AND CLASSICAL MUSICAL TEXTS.) YET, FOR THOSE WHO HAVE STUDIED SCRIPTURE EXTENSIVELY, FLAWS HAVE BEEN FOUND IN THE LATIN TRANSLATION (ST. JEROME'S) FROM THE ORIGINAL GREEK AND ARAMAIC TEXTS. WHILE LATIN SERVED THE CHURCH VERY WELL IN THE PRE-VATICAN II CHURCH AS A UNIVERSAL LITURGICAL LANGUAGE, AN EXPECTATION OF THE RE-LEARNING OF THE LANGUAGE IN TODAY'S MULT-CULTURAL SETTINGS IS UNREALISTIC AT BEST. RATHER THAN AN INTENSIVE EFFORT AT BRINGING LATIN BACK AS A SEMINARY EDUCATION COMPONENT, SEMINARIANS WOULD BE BETTER SERVED BY HAVING TOOLS NECESSARY FOR THE REALITIES OF CONTEMPORARY PARISH LIFE.

DIVORCED AND RE-MARRIED CATHOLICS AND THE EUCHARIST (Proposition no. 40)

"In keeping with the numerous pronouncements of the Church's Magisterium, and sharing the anxious concern expressed by many Fathers, the Synod of Bishops reaffirms the importance of attitudes and a pastoral actions that express attention and welcome towards divorced and re-married faithful.

"According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, they cannot be admitted to holy communion, being in a position of objective contrast with the Word of the Lord which conferred on marriage the original value of indissolubility. ... Nevertheless, people who have divorced and re-married still belong to the Church, which welcomes them and follows them with special attention that they may cultivate a Christian lifestyle through participation in Mass (though without receiving communion), listening to the Word of God, adoring the Eucharist, prayer, participating in community life, confidential dialogue with a priest or a master of spiritual life, dedication to living charity, works of penance, and educational commitment to their children. If, then, the nullity of the matrimonial bond is not recognized and objective conditions arise that render cohabitation irreversible, the Church encourages them to commit themselves to live their relationship in accordance with the law of God, transforming it into a firm and faithful friendship; thus they will be able to return to the Eucharistic table, receiving the attention laid down by time- honored ecclesial practice. But such relationships should not be blessed, so as not to create confusion among the faithful concerning the value of marriage.

"At the same time, the Synod hopes that all possible efforts be made both to ensure the presence, pastoral character, and correct and swift activity of ecclesiastical tribunals for causes of the nullity of marriage, and to dedicate further study to the essential elements of the validity of marriage, also bearing in mind the problems emerging from the profound anthropological transformations of our times, by which the faithful themselves risk being conditioned, especially given the lack of solid Christian formation."

I SHARE THE VIEW OF CARDINAL KASPER, IN THAT THIS ISSUE NEEDS INTENSE STUDY AND FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS. IT CAN BE RIGHTLY ARGUED THAT THE ANNULMENT PROCESS HAS POSITIVE ASPECTS - MOST NOTABLY, THE PROCESS ALLOWS APPLICANTS TIME FOR REFLECTION ON THE REASONS THEIR PRIOR UNIONS FAILED, AND FOR REFLECTION ON THE SACRAMENTAL UNIONS THEY WISH TO PURSUE. HOWEVER, ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE, TRIBUNALS ARE NOT CONSISTENT FROM DIOCESE TO DIOCESE. (IN SOME DIOCESES, ANNULMENTS ARE GRANTED RATHER LIBERALLY, WHEREAS ANNULMENTS ARE DIFFICULT TO SECURE IN OTHER DIOCESES.) FURTHERMORE, THERE ARE VALID REASONS WHY SOME PERSONS CHOOSE TO REMARRY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH. (SOME OF THESE PERSONS LATER SEEK FULL COMMUNION WITH THE CHURCH, EITHER THROUGH THE PROCESS OF 'INTERNAL FORUM' OR BY SIMPLY SEARCHING FOR A PARISH WHERE THE RECEPTION OF COMMUNION IS NOT PROBLEMATIC.)

ONE OF THE LARGEST COMPLAINTS I CONTINUE TO HEAR IS THAT DECISIONS ON THE VALIDITY/NON-VALIDITY OF PRIOR BONDS ARE BEING MADE BY THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN MARRIED (CELIBATE PRIESTS). OPINIONS VARY AS TO WHETHER OR NOT THIS IS A VALID CRITICISM.

AT A TIME WHEN MASS ATTENDANCE IN THE UNITED STATES IS APPROXIMATELY 30%, AND MASS ATTENDANCE IN EUROPE RANGES BETWEEN 10-20%, I THINK THE CHURCH NEEDS TO RE-EXAMINE ITS POLICY OF DENYING COMMUNION TO CATHOLICS WHO REMARRY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH WITHOUT AN ANNULMENT. (PERHAPS A BETTER STRUCTURED/MORE INTENSIVE PRE-CANA PERIOD MAY BE A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO THE ANNULMENT PROCESS.)

ADMISSION OF NON-CATHOLIC FAITHFUL TO COMMUNION (Proposition no. 41)

"On the basis of the communion of all Christians, which the single Baptism already accomplishes though not yet completely, their separation at the Lord's table is rightly felt as being a source of pain. As a consequence, from both within the Catholic Church and from our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, the urgent request often arises for the possibility of Eucharistic communion between Catholic Christians and others. It must be made clear that the Eucharist does not designate and effect only our personal communion with Jesus Christ, but above all the full 'communio' of the Church. We ask, therefore, that non-Catholic Christians understand and respect the fact that for us, in accordance with the whole of biblically-founded tradition, Eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are intimately connected, and thus that Eucharistic communion with non-Catholic Christians is not generally speaking possible. Even more so is ecumenical concelebration to be excluded. However, it should be made clear that, with a view to personal salvation, admitting non-Catholic Christians to the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, in certain particular situations and under specific conditions, is possible and even to be recommended."

THE MOST VALID POINT THAT CAN BE MADE IS THAT JESUS DIDN'T EXCLUDE ANYONE FROM THE TABLE. WHILE THERE ARE CERTAINLY THEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES IN THE VARIOUS CHURCHES AS TO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS DURING THE CONSECRATION, THERE ARE NEVERTHELESS CIRCUMSTANCES THAT WOULD ALLOW FOR JOINT EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATIONS. THESE CIRCUMSTANCES MUST BE FULLY EXPLORED BEFORE BENEDICT XVI RELEASES A SYNOD RESPONSE THAT COULD BE POTENTIALLY DIVISIVE IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY.

EUCHARISTIC COHERENCE OF CATHOLIC POLITICIANS AND LAWMAKERS (Proposition no. 46)

"Catholic politicians and lawmakers must feel their consciences particularly aroused ... by the heavy social responsibility of presenting and supporting iniquitous laws. There is no Eucharistic coherence when legislation is promoted that goes against the integral good of man, against justice and natural law. The private sphere and the public sphere cannot be separated, placing oneself in a position of contrast with the law of God and the teaching of the Church, and this must also be considered in Eucharistic terms. In applying this guidance, bishops should exercise the virtues of courage and wisdom, bearing in mind actual local situations."

AS SOON AS WE BEGIN DENYING COMMUNION TO CATHOLIC POLITICIANS WHO STRAY FROM CHURCH TEACHINGS, WE CROSS INTO DANGEROUS TERRITORY. WE SAW THE RAMIFICATIONS OF 'COMMUNION AS A WEAPON' DURING LAST YEAR'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. JOHN KERRY WAS CHASTISED BY BISHOPS FOR HIS PRO-CHOICE STAND, WHILE BISHOPS READILY WELCOMED GEORGE BUSH AT THEIR DOORSTEPS, DESPITE BUSH'S QUESTIONABLE RATIONALE FOR OUR WAR WITH IRAQ.

IN CONCLUSION, I BELIEVE THE EUCHARISTIC SYNOD WAS A DISMAL FAILURE. THERE WAS NO NEW GROUND BROKEN. RATHER THAN USING THE OCCASION FOR POSITIVE DIALOGUE ON THE EUCHARIST AND VIABLE SOLUTIONS FOR THE PRIESTHOOD SHORTAGE, THE SYNOD WAS RATHER A VEHICLE FOR SIMPLY AFFIRMING THE STATUS QUO. IN SHORT, IT WAS AN OCCASION FOR MISSED OPPORTUNITIES.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Misguided Appointment for Archbishop Myers

A MISGUIDED APPOINTMENT FOR ARCHBISHOP MYERS
by Ray Grosswirth, CORPUS Media Liaison

During the same week that our esteemed bishops in Rome voted down a proposal to allow for the ordaining of married men to the priesthood, the Vatican nevertheless appointed Newark's Archbishop Myers to the task of overseeing the process of bringing married Episcopalian priests into the Roman Catholic priesthood. (This sounds like a double-standard to me.)

While I certainly want to welcome our Episcopalian brothers to the Roman Catholic Church when they convert for the right reasons, I am also alarmed when we bring some of these men into the RC priesthood for the WRONG reasons. Two of the WRONG reasons are when Episcopalian priests state they are converting because a.) they were opposed to the ordination of Gene Robinson, because of his being openly gay; b.) they are opposed to the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church.

I will be the first to welcome a married Episcopalian priest, when he states that he is converting on the basis of faith. For example, if such a priest is drawn to the Roman Catholic Church because of our tradition, because of our manner of celebrating the sacraments, or because of simply being called by God, such a conversion should be celebrated. Perhaps an Episcopalian in such circumstances could help prove to the Roman Catholic hierarchy that marriage can indeed be compatible with ordained ministry.

As we know, the Anglican/Episcopalian church is in danger of schism. The scenario often depicted is that of conservative Episcopalians moving to the Roman Catholic Church and liberal Roman Catholics moving to the remaining Episcopalian Church. While this could certainly happen, it is not likely.

I continue to pray for the day when there is inter-Communion between our Roman Catholic and Episcopalian brothers and sisters. Until that day arrives, we should at least be praying for tranquility within our individual houses of worship. The road to such tranqulity must be paved with inclusivity.

Anyone who knows Archbishop Myers will immediately relate that he is one of the more conservative members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Therefore, if an Episcopalian priest should approach him, and announce he wants to become a RC priest on the basis of his opposition to women priests or gay bishops, I can see an immediate welcome by Myers. This would be very sad indeed.

Our bishops at the Vatican synod had a wonderful opportunity to embrace the ideal of optional celibacy. Sadly, they instead embraced the status quo. Having given marriage a second-place status to Holy Orders, our bishops further added insult to injury by stating that women or married Catholic men should not seek ordination. However, married Episcopalian priests are welcome to apply.

Let us pray for common sense amongst our hierarchy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Fantasy Debate with Cardinal Pell

MY FANTASY DEBATE WITH CARDINAL PELL
by RAY GROSSWIRTH, CORPUS NATIONAL SECRETARY

October 13, 2005
Dear Friends:

While I am encouraged over the fact that a few courageous bishops brought the topic of married priests to the synod table, we should not be surprised that Cardinal Pell is trying (in a very forceful way) to keep the policy of mandatory celibacy intact.

I often wonder what it would be like to debate someone like Cardinal Pell. Since the opportunity will probably never present itself, I interjected my own thoughts in the following article that contains quotes from the cardinal. (My comments are in capital letters.)

Cardinal calls for keeping celibacy rule
NICOLE WINFIELD
Associated PressOctober 13, 2005

VATICAN CITY - A senior cardinal warned Wednesday that relaxing the Roman Catholic Church's rule on celibacy for priests would be a "serious error," countering calls by reformers that allowing them to marry would help resolve a shortage of clergymen.

WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE, CARDINAL PELL? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT OUSTING GAYS FROM SEMINARIES WILL CREATE AN AVALANCHE OF HETEROSEXUAL MEN WILLING TO PLEDGE LIVES OF MANDATORY CELIBACY? DO YOU THINK THE CURRENT WORLDWIDE AVERAGE RATIO OF ONE PRIEST PER 3,500 CATHOLICS MAKES SENSE? ARE YOU MORE CONCERNED WITH PRESERVING THE 'OLD BOY'S CLUB' THAN WITH HAVING INTELLIGENT CONVERSATIONS ABOUT INCLUSIVITY IN THE PRIESTHOOD?

Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia, delivered the strongest defense of celibacy yet to the Synod of Bishops, a meeting that gives Pope Benedict XVI recommendations on running the church.

Pell praised what he called the "ancient tradition and life-giving discipline of mandatory celibacy.""To loosen this tradition now would be a serious error, which would provoke confusion in the mission areas and would not strengthen spiritual vitality" in the developed world, Pell said.

EXCUSE ME, CARDINAL PELL, WHILE I PROVIDE AN IMPORTANT PIECE OF HISTORY. IF YOU ENROLL IN CATHOLIC HISTORY 101, YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT THE "ANCIENT TRADITION" IS ACTUALLY THAT OF A MARRIED PRIESTHOOD. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR EXPLANATION OF WHY YOU FEEL THE IMPLEMENTATION OF MARRIED PRIESTS WOULD CAUSE "CONFUSION." HEAVEN FORBID IF WE SHOULD "CONFUSE THE FAITHFUL" (A COMMON EXCUSE USED BY MEMBERS OF THE HIERARCHY).

"It would be a departure from the practice of the Lord himself, bring significant practical disadvantages to the work of the church," he said in remarks from the closed-door meeting distributed to reporters.

The priest shortage has been a major topic at the synod, but there have been no explicit recommendations to relax the celibacy requirement for priests to combat it, the Rev. John Bartunek, a synod spokesman, said Wednesday.

I AM A LITTLE PUZZLED, CARDINAL PELL. "DEPARTURE FROM THE PRACTICE OF THE LORD HIMSELF?" COME ON, CARDINAL PELL, GIVE ME A BREAK! DO YOU KNOW, WITHOUT QUESTION, THAT JESUS WAS CELIBATE? IF HE WAS CELIBATE, WAS THIS HIS GREATEST GIFT TO THE CHURCH? I THINK NOT! SPEND SOME TIME WITH SCRIPTURE, CARDINAL PELL. (JESUS TAUGHT US HOW TO MINISTER, AND DID NOT DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF GENDER OR MARITAL STATUS.)

Some liberal Catholics and church reform groups say removing the celibacy rule for priests would encourage more men to join the priesthood and alleviate the shortage, which has forced the closure of hundreds of churches and clustering together of others.

I FULLY AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT. IT IS NOT ONLY LIBERAL CATHOLICS OR REFORM GROUPS ADVOCATING FOR INCLUSIVITY IN THE PRIESTHOOD. SOME POLLS INDICATE THAT AS MANY AS 80% OF CATHOLICS WORLDWIDE WOULD SUPPORT AN END TO MANDATORY CELIBACY FOR PRIESTS.

At the synod, most of the bishops who have raised the shortage have suggested that the church better redistribute the priests it has.

REDISTRIBUTING PRIESTS? OUR FEW REMAINING CELIBATE PRIESTS ARE ALREADY STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT! CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT THERE ARE MORE PRIESTS OVER THE AGE OF 90 THAN PRIESTS UNDER THE AGE OF 30, DO WE WANT TO SEND ELDERLY PRIESTS TO AN EARLY GRAVE BY ASSIGNING THEM TO PARISH CLUSTERS AND ASKING THEM TO EMBARK UPON EXTENSIVE TRAVEL?

Some Eastern rite Catholic prelates - who are allowed to marry - have told the synod that a married priesthood introduced different problems, such as the financial strain on dioceses providing for a priests' family.

THE PROTESTANTS ARE ABLE TO MANAGE. WHY CAN'T CATHOLICS?

In another major issue, ecumenical delegates to the meeting of bishops urged the church to more readily allow non-Catholic Christians to receive Holy Communion, saying it could help foster unity.

Catholic teaching says Communion can only be given to non-Catholic Christians under certain circumstances, primarily because of differing interpretations of the sacrament. They can receive Communion if they desire it, request it and "manifest the faith" that Catholics profess toward the sacrament.

WHAT WOULD JESUS THINK ABOUT THE RESTRICTIVE NATURE OF HOLY COMMUNION IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH? (THIS IS THE IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR THE SYNOD TO ADDRESS.) JESUS WAS ABOUT INCLUSIVITY AT THE TABLE. HE EVEN WELCOMED TAX COLLECTORS AND SINNERS, AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EXCLUDES NON-CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS?

Per Lonning, the bishop emeritus of the Lutheran Church in Norway, criticized the synod's working document, which scolded non-Catholic Christians for erroneously seeking Communion in Catholic churches.

Lonning said the reference made him "very sad" and suggested that if the document's references to the issue are published as the "official voice" of the Roman Catholic Church, ecumenical progress could be set back.

IN CONCLUSION, CARDINAL PELL, I LOOK FORWARD TO A TELEVISED DEBATE WITH YOU ON EWTN. (OOPS! I ALMOST FORGOT THAT EWTN CONSIDERS ME TO BE A HERETIC, BECAUSE I PROPOSE SOMETHING RADICAL - NAMELY, INCLUSIVITY.)