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Monday, July 23, 2012

Important Topics Discussed with Cardinal at Recent Archdiocesan Pastoral Council Meeting

This is the final in a series of four blogs that chronicle the main issues on which the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council provided recommendations at the request of Cardinal George.

Traditionally each year, members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, with input from Parish Pastoral Councils and Deanery discussions, respond to four questions posed to them by Cardinal George.  The Cardinal’s traditional final directive to the APC is, “Tell me about other issues/concerns you have been hearing about in your parishes/deaneries, or other communities.”  These were the main concerns the APC shared with the Cardinal last month.

Selection and Appointment Process for Priests

One topic was the selection and appointment process for priests and pastors and the enculturation of foreign born priests.  Some members reported a level of dissatisfaction among parishioners with the degree to which they were able to influence the process by which a priest was appointed to their parish.  The Cardinal explained the development of the current process and how the Archdiocese works to try to match up a particular parish with a pastor that will fit their needs.  The Cardinal responded that it might be possible to make the process more transparent.  Parishioners, however, need to realize that priests and pastors are “sent” to a parish, they are not “hired” by the parish.  Consequently, if there is a move for the laity to be more involved in the process, it can’t be such that they would be interviewing prospective candidates.  The Cardinal also explained that in the fifty five parishes controlled by religious orders, the Archdiocese is not involved in the selection process.  He also stated that enculturation is going on in the seminaries.

Confusion About HHS Mandate

Another topic discussed was the recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that forces private health plans to provide coverage of sterilization and contraceptives – including abortion-inducing drugs – with limited exceptions for organizations defined by the regulation as “religious.” Through this mandate, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching as well as purport to define which religious institutions are "religious enough" to merit protection of their religious liberty. The Cardinal believes that there is confusion among the laity about what exactly is at stake if this law stands.  The focus in many discussions is on contraception and not on religious liberty.  The Cardinal voiced strong concerns about this issue and the implications of having the government define what constitutes a Catholic institution.  He stated that if the law stands as currently written it will severely impact the church’s mission and outreach to those most in need, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.  He counseled that it is the role of the laity to be actively involved in the effort to overturn this mandate.  The secular media has framed the debate as the bishops against women, rather than a first amendment issue which is what it truly is.   He is careful in speaking publicly about the issue so that the secular media cannot personalize the issue and avoid the constitutional liberty concern.  A lawsuit was filed recently by several Catholic institutions which got very little attention from the secular media.  He anticipates that the Archdiocese will be involved in the next wave of this ongoing litigation. Regarding the threat posed by the HHS regulations, the Cardinal urged us to get the facts out to our various constituencies and to stay informed by reading the materials that have been provided by the USCCB and others.  Groups such as the Knights of Columbus have taken up the issue also and need our support.

“Vatican Leaks” Scandal

The third issue discussed was the crisis of trust caused by the “Vatican leaks” scandal. People very close to the Pope have removed papers from his desk and made them available to the press in Italy.  The Cardinal considered these actions to be a very serious violation of the trust and confidence that the Pope placed in persons very close to him, particularly because the operations of the Vatican are based upon personal relationships and trust.

LCWR Doctrinal Assessment

Also discussed was the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Council of Women Religious (LCWR) conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome, which some have characterized as the Vatican “picking on nuns.”  The Cardinal explained that the assessment related to doctrinal problems with some of the positions of the LCWR, and was not a criticism of the important contributions made by women religious in education, healthcare, social services and other endeavors.  The Cardinal said he could recall each of the nuns who were his teachers as a child and reflected upon the significant impact they had on his life.  He said he spoke with LCWR leadership shortly after the assessment was released to inquire how this issue should be addressed.  The LCWR, as appropriate for an organization governed directly by the Vatican and not by the American bishops, informed the Cardinal of its intentions to work directly with CDF on this matter.   The Archdiocese is not involved in any way in the process.

Other topics included gang violence and domestic violence and how the archdiocese might provide greater assistance in these areas. There are many programs in place now through various agencies.  The Cardinal promised to look into this further and encourage more to get involved.

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Comments

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 5:04 AM

“It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.” (Christifidelis Laici) I remember reading the 1988 Apostolic Exhortation of our late John Paul II stating in one of its paragraphs that the lay faithful is to be stirred and promoted into a deeper awareness of the gift and responsibility, both as a group and as individuals, in the communion and mission of the church. Yes! We have a responsibility, which is a gift in itself: “to take an active, conscientious and responsible part in the mission of the Church.” The concern voiced out by some parishioners throughout the Archdiocese as far as their dissatisfaction in not having been allowed “enough” or none participation at all in the process by which a priest is appointed to their parish is indeed a prove of our valuable contribution and qualified representation in what concerns the life of the Church. Nonetheless, the report lacks of providing “enough” information to the bloggers so we can comment on the reasons why “some parishioners” are dissatisfied. Also, with the same desire to truthfully interpreting the remarks, I understand and agree with the terminology used by His Eminence of being “sent” and not “hired” but must quote too the semantics by paraphrasing the Gospel of Matthew when the Lord himself hired people to work on his vineyard. "For the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard" (Mt 20:1-2). Dear Rita, I must suggest for you to consider reporting more in detail those grounds or reasons why “some parishioners” are dissatisfied. This would be helpful and beneficial for us, Catholics living up to what this word truly means: universal, not culturally bounded. With the same token, and with much reverence and admiration, I would also ask His Eminence to elaborate more on how he expects transparency in the process of selection and placement of priests in our parishes so they, we, the lay people can better serve the mission of the Church.

Giuseppe D.

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