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Jean Vanier

[From the archives of half finished posts]

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, spoke to a crowded aula magna at the Pontifical Gregorian University in mid-November [2012].

Advertised on the university homepage only three days in advance, perhaps it is not a surprise that the organizers at the Greg initially put us into a smaller aula across the hall. And arriving twenty minutes early, it seemed they might be right – there were so few people in the aula we felt we had time to get coffee. At just five minutes to starting time, however, the place was packed to overflowing, and we were moved to the largest room at the Jesuit university, and still had standing room only, when the towering 84-year old arrived a few minutes later.

L’Arche is one of the “new movements” in the Church that is particularly characteristic of the Italian and Latin American churches, but originated with Vanier in French Canada. A philosopher and author of at least 30 books, he co-founded L’Arche in 1964, which is now present in 40 countries and 150 different communities.

The purpose of the community is friendship with people with disabilities – much like the commitment of Sant’Egidio to befriend the poor. The idea is about relationship more than about service. Of the people without disabilities who enter into the community and its projects, Vanier said,

“The mystery is that many people come to L’Arche, assistants, wanting to do good. But then they discover something, that they are not there just to do good to people, but to enter into relationship with them. And then many of them discover their difficulty in relating, They don’t know how to love. They have difficulty in accepting their difficulties.”

L’Arche, he says, “is a place of transformation for people with disabilities, but also a place of transformation for the assistants, who become more human. And many of them really discover the whole mystery of the Gospels.”

Few people could have earned such a response from the Roman university crowd: An ovation on arrival, rapt attention, and a room-busting crowd on short notice and minimal advertising.

Image

Students listen attentively to Jean Vanier’s presentation (in French)

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Eastern Catholics explain tradition, value of married priests

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) — In Eastern Christianity — among both Catholics and Orthodox — a dual vocation to marriage and priesthood are seen as a call “to love more” and to broaden the boundaries of what a priest considers to be his family, said Russian Catholic Father Lawrence Cross.

Father Cross, a professor at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, was one of the speakers at the Chrysostom Seminar in Rome Nov. 13, a seminar focused on the history and present practice of married priests in the Eastern churches.

The Code of Canons of the Eastern (Catholic) Churches insist that “in the way they lead their family life and educate their children, married clergy are to show an outstanding example to other Christian faithful.”

Speakers at the Rome conference — sponsored by the Australian Catholic University and the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa — insisted the vocation of married priests in the Eastern churches cannot be understood apart from an understanding of the sacramental vocation of married couples.

“Those who are called to the married priesthood are, in reality, called to a spiritual path that in the first place is characterized by a conjugal, family form of life,” he said, and priestly ordination builds on the vocation they have as married men.

Father Cross and other speakers at the conference urged participants to understand the dignity of the vocation of marriage in the way Blessed John Paul II did: as a sacramental expression of God’s love and as a path to holiness made up of daily acts of self-giving and sacrifices made for the good of the other.

“Married life and family life are not in contradiction with the priestly ministry,” Father Cross said. A married man who is ordained is called “to love more, to widen his capacity to love, and the boundaries of his family are widened, his paternity is widened as he acquires more sons and daughters; the community becomes his family.”

Father Basilio Petra, an expert in Eastern Christianity and professor of theology in Florence, told the conference, “God does not give one person two competing calls.”

If the church teaches — as it does — that marriage is more than a natural institution aimed at procreation because it is “a sign and continuation of God’s love in the world,” then the vocations of marriage and priesthood “have an internal harmony,” he said.

Father Petra, who is a celibate priest, told the conference that in the last 30 or 40 years some theologians and researchers have been making a big push to “elaborate the idea that celibacy is the only way to fully configure oneself to Christ,” but such a position denies the tradition of married priests, configured to Christ, who have served the church since the time of the apostles.

Father Thomas J. Loya, a Byzantine Catholic priest and member of the Tabor Life Institute in Chicago, told the conference it would be a betrayal of Eastern tradition and spirituality to support the married priesthood simply as a practical solution to a priest shortage or to try to expand the married priesthood without, at the same time, trying to strengthen Eastern monasticism, which traditionally was the source of the celibate clergy.

He called for a renewed look at what the creation of human beings as male and female and their vocations says about God to the world.

Father Peter Galadza of the Sheptytsky Institute told conference participants that the problem of “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose which church teachings they accept is found not just among Catholics who reject the authority of the church’s leaders; “those who believe they are faithful to the magisterium” also seem to pick and choose when it comes to the church’s official recognition of and respect for the Eastern tradition of married priests.

“We know we are only 1 percent of the world’s Catholics, but Eastern Catholics have a right to be themselves,” he said.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we hope the same Holy Spirit who guided the authors of its decrees would guide us in implementing them,” he said, referring specifically to Vatican II’s affirmation of the equality of the Latin and Eastern churches and its call that Eastern churches recover their traditions.

“There has been a long history of confusing ‘Latin’ and ‘Catholic,'” he said, and that confusion has extended to an assumption that the Latin church’s general discipline of having celibate priests is better or holier than the Eastern tradition of having both married and celibate priests.

The speakers unanimously called for the universal revocation of a 1929 Vatican directive that banned the ordination and ministry of married Eastern Catholic priests outside the traditional territories of their churches. The directive, still technically in force, generally is upheld only when requested by local Latin-rite bishops.

Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
http://www.uscatholic.org/news/2012/11/eastern-catholics-explain-tradition-value-married-priests

Married Priests: Optional Celibacy among Eastern Catholics – Past and Present

Report on the Chrysostom Seminar at the Domus Australia, Rome

November 2012

Presentation Panelists with their host

Presentation Panelists with their host

Did you know that there are now more married Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. than Eastern Catholic priests?

I do not actually remember a time when I did not know that there were married Catholic presbyters, so it has always been amusing to encounter people who find this a scandal in some way. The real scandal is that Catholic Churches with a right (and a rite!) to ordain married men are not allowed to do so, basically because of 19th and 20th century anti-immigrant sentiment, in the U.S.

That was not a main theme of the conference this morning, but it was certainly an interesting fact that was new to me.

Of the varied and lively discussion, probably the main take-away theme was this: The Gospel does not coerce, but offers conversion.

In other words, conversion is a response of the heart, whereas coercion is an exercise of power. Any relationship of supposedly sister churches, say, of Rome and of Constantinople – or of New York and Parma, for that matter – which is experienced as a relationship of coercion, becomes a church-dividing issue. This came up repeatedly regarding the imposition of a Latin discipline – mandatory celibacy for diocesan presbyterate – on non-Latin churches.

Speakers for the day included:

  • Archpriest Lawrence Cross, Archpriest, Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University
  • Rev. Prof. Basilio Petrà, Facoltà Teologica dell’Italia Centrale (Firenze)
  • Rev. Thomas Loya, Tabor Life Institute, Chicago:
  • Protopresbyter James Dutko, Emeritus Dean of the Orthodox Seminary of Christ the Savior, PA
  • Archpriest Peter Galazda, Sheptytsky Institute, Saint Paul University, Ottawa

Archpriest Dr. Lawrence Cross spoke on “Married Clergy: At the Heart of Tradition.” Father Cross opened by stating for the record that the conference here was not a critique on the Latin practice, internally, but a protest against what he described as ‘bullying’ in some parts of the Latin Church against Eastern sister churches in communion with Rome: namely, the requirements in some places (such as the U.S.) that Eastern Catholic churches not allow married clergy because of pressure from the Latin (Roman) Catholic bishops.

Both married and celibate clergy belong to the deep tradition of the church. Though some try to point to the origins of mandatory celibacy as far back as the Council of Trullo in Spain, it is really from the 11th century Gregorian reforms – based on monasticism and coincident with a resurgence of manichaeism in the Church.

One of the results of this, much later, is the novelty, he says, of speaking of an ontological change in ordination, or an ontological configuration to Christ, as in Pastores Dabo Vobis 20, which sees married priesthood as secondary. One US Cardinal, he did not name, has referred to the ontological change of priesthood as analogous to the Incarnation or transubstantiation.  The problem with the analogy is that the humanity of Christ is unchanged!  Trying to assert an essential link between priesthood and celibacy, something which has been relatively recent in its effort, is problematic.

Indeed, there is no celibacy per se, in the Eastern tradition, just married or monastic life. Both require community, and vows to commit one to that community. The Code of Canons of the Eastern Church 374-5 highlights to mutual blessing that marriage and ordination offer to each other. He wonder why Pope John Paul II, who seemed to have such a high respect for the “primordial sacrament” did not see fit to apply it to the presbyterate.

Professor Basilio Petrà of the Theological Faculty of Central Italy (in Firenze), spoke on the topic of “Married Priests: A Divine Vocation.” Two immediate thoughts he shared were that the Catholic Church has always, officially at least, affirmed married priesthood, and to consider that vocation is always a call of the community and not of the individual. Marriage and priesthood are two separate callings, but both sacraments and therefore complementary not competitive.

Fr. Petrà drew attention to the recent apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, which included this paragraph:

48. Priestly celibacy is a priceless gift of God to his Church, one which ought to be received with appreciation in East and West alike, for it represents an ever timely prophetic sign. Mention must also be made of the ministry of married priests, who are an ancient part of the Eastern tradition. I would like to encourage those priests who, along with their families, are called to holiness in the faithful exercise of their ministry and in sometimes difficult living conditions. To all I repeat that the excellence of your priestly life will doubtless raise up new vocations which you are called to cultivate.

While he emphasized the positive nature of the bishop of Rome including the married priesthood as a respected and ancient tradition in the east, it is interesting to note that while celibacy is a priceless gift of God” which “ought to be received in East and West alike,” married priesthood is not categorized as a gift of god but “a part of the tradition” and only in “the East.”

Father Thomas Loya of the Tabor Life Institute in Chicago, and a regular part of EWTN programming, presented on the topic,  “Celibacy and the Married Priesthood: Rediscovering the Spousal Mystery.” Married priesthood witnesses to the Catholic tradition of a life that is ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or.’ We need a more integrated approach to monasticism and marriage, and relocating celibacy in its proper monastic context. But the continued practice of requiring eastern Catholic churches to defer to the Latin church hierarchy with respect to married clergy is to act as though the Latin Church is the real Catholic Church and the eastern churches are add-ons – fodder for accusations of uniatism if ever there was.

One of the clear problems of this was that when, in 1929, celibacy was imposed upon eastern churches in the US and elsewhere, married priesthood was part of the strength of these churches. Since then vocations have disappeared, evangelization has all but ceased, and the general life of the churches has withered. After “kicking this pillar of ecclesial life out from under the churches” it offered nothing to hold them up in its place, and the Church is still suffering.

Can you imagine a better seedbed for presbyteral vocations than a presbyteral family? What better way for a woman to know what it would be like to marry a priest than to be the daughter of a priest?

Married priesthood is part of the structure of the Church, but celibacy always belonged to the monasteries. Without a monastic connection, a celibate priest is in a dangerous situation, lacking the vowed relationship of either marriage or monastic life to balance the call to work. Every celibate must be connected to a monastery in some way.

Just as a celibate monastic must be a good husband to the church and community, so too must a married couple be good monastics. The relationship of monasticism and marriage ought to be two sides of the same coin and mutually enriching. The call to service in ordained ministry comes from these two relationships to serve. This would be a sign of an integrated and healthy church.

Protopresbyter James Dutko is retired academic dean and rector of the Orthodox Seminary of Christ the Savior in Johnstown, PA. His topic was “Mandatory Celibacy among Eastern Catholics: A Church-Dividing Issue.” Father Dutko was the only Orthodox presenter on the panel (and the only one without a beard, incidentally…) The bottom line? As long as the Latin Church (that is the Roman Catholic Church) imposes its particular practice on other Churches even within its own communion, there will be no ecumenical unity. Stop the Latinization, and the Eastern Orthodox may be more inclined to restore full communion.

Christians in the Middle East, with Dr. Habib Malik

On Monday, Nov 5, the Social Sciences Faculty of the Angelicum hosted a lecture on Christians in the Middle East, as a kickoff event for their new Al Liqa’ Project.

History Prof. Habib Charles Malik of the Lebanese American university offered his reflections and recommendations on the Christians of the Middle East focused on the events between the Arab Spring, and the release of the Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, which was delivered during Pope Benedict’s Apostolic visit to Lebanon in September.

Prof. Malik began with the state of the question. There are about 12 million Christians in the middle East he estimates, not counting Latin immigrants, which include about 8 million Copts in Egypt, another 3 million in the Levant – Melkites, Maronite, Syriac, Greeks, Armenians, Latins and Protestants – and the Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq, a population that has been decimated since the U.S.-lead invasion of 2003. There remain less than a million.

Emigration out of the region has been going on since the advent of the 21st century, due laregely to attacks on the communities. During the raging civil war in Syria, he describes both sides – the Alawite Shi’a administration and the Salfist Sunni insurgents (and others) – as targeting Christians and attempting to pin the attacks on the opposing forces. They have become the primary targets of opportunity.

Malik was critical of the Arab Spring as a misnomer – the so-called Facebook generation of young democracy-minded types had not held together beyond the revolutions, and instead we have what he suggested to be called a ‘Salafi Spring.’ Tunisia is one of the few places he sees a genuine road to democracy, though throughout the region, the moderate Sunni voices are too often weak and unheard – and often in just as much danger as the Christians of the region, if they speak up against extremism.

Middle Eastern Christians are caught in the middle of several conflicting and potentially destructive polarities in the region:

  • Sunni vs. Shiite: With a rough north-south border running through Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the most explosive region of volatility around this divide is in Syria, with a small Alawite (Shi’a) administration and a larger Salafi (Sunni) insurgency.
  • Arab vs. Persian: Centered around Saudi Arabia and Qatar on one side and Iran on the other, with corollary polarities between Turkish and Israeli interests.
  • Salafi and Jihadist vs. Despotic Regimes – The false sense of security under a ruthless dictator should not be preferred over the uncertain volatility of the powers emerging from the revolutions.
  • Sino-Russian vs. Euro-American interests in the region, often complicated by western neglect or ignorance of culture, religion, and society in the area couple with agendas more concerned with petroleum and other natural resources than with human rights and religious freedom.

Given this, many of the region’s Christians have trepidations about the Arab Spring, fearing that it will bring not a transition to greater democracy, but simply create an extended power vacuum that could be manipulated by militant extremists.

But not all of Prof. Malik’s talk painted such a gloomy picture. There was an enthusiastic and grateful welcome of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, which Pope Benedict delivered in Beirut six weeks ago. There is, as always, a desire to be better understood by the west in general, the Latin Church, and by the Holy See. Many see Pope Benedict has grasping many of the complexities and delicacies of Christianity in its birthplace, and see in the exhortation recognition of the historic, current and eschatological dimension of the predicament of indigenous Christians, while outlining their unique responsibilities as Christians in the midst of the world of Islam.

He did suggest a few critiques, or observations for improvement, in the exhortation:

  • The frequent use of Lebanon as a role model, he says, seems to be putting the cart before the horse. The potential is there, certainly, but there is still a long way to go.
  • The high praise of the Middle East Council of Churches ignores the record of nearly exclusive focus on Palestine and missed opportunities in other areas
  • Interreligious dialogue needs to be a dialogue of truth and charitable but honest witness, not of the common platitudes he sees throughout
  • Finally, the pleas for a healthy secularity may resonate with a Eurocentric West, but make no sense in Islam where there is no differentiation between the realms of sacred and secular authority. This kind of language might just push Christians out of the area to seek the kind of healthy secularity to be found in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“How can the Christians navigate between the depressing realities of the Arab upheavals and the hope offered to them in the Apostolic Exhortation? How can they internalize and employ the latter to overcome the anticipated negative fallout from the former?” Some thoughts and recommendations presented by Prof. Malik:

  • The Church and the world press need to continue to put pressure by shining light on even the smallest abuses. Even dictators don’t like bad press.
  • The international community must insist that new states’ constitutions include religious liberty and hold them accountable.
  • The litmus test of the Arab Spring is and will be the treatment of religious minorities. Need to consider a ‘federalism’ option.
  • People of the region must actively promote rights and ’universal liberal values’
  • They need the encouragement and support of the Christian World
  • Inspiration from the Year of Faith and the carefully selected opening mass reading of Mark 8-27-35, with its focus on ecumenism as a witness of unity in the face of interreligious dialogue and as a prerequisite for survival and evangelization.
  • Let Maronites take a lead, from their relative stability, but open more to the Anglo-Saxon world, as they have been to the Francophone
  • Unhindered pilgrimage access to the Holy Places is still not guaranteed for the Christians of the middle east, as it is for those from anywhere else. This ought to change

 

 

October ends, rendiamo grazie a Dio!

What a month! I finished my license just in time to enjoy one of those kinds of incredible months that only Rome can offer.

Synod, canonizations, Vatican II celebrations and conferences, patriarchs and primates, friends, new Fellows, community and work. The next few days I really will catch up some of the experiences.

In the mean time prayers for those in the wake of Sandy, and thanks for the many friends I have been able to see and speak to in these days! 

Cantaur comes to the Lay Centre

The voicemail was indistinct there almost too much distortion to hear the speaker at the other end. Only after a third attempt could I recognize the familiar Australian accent of Dr. Margie Richardson, wife of Canon David Richardson of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

So I resorted to checking my personal email at work to see if there was news:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury may want to stop by tomorrow morning to see the garden and say hello. A.J., would you please welcome him and show him around?”

Even in Rome, that does not happen every day! How could I say no?

His Grace started this morning at San Gregorio Magno, the point from which Gregory the Great sent Augustine to Canterbury to evangelize more of the British Isles, and where the Archbishop and the Pope Benedict celebrated a solemn vespers together earlier this year to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Camaldoli community there.

Then, with the Richardsons, Msgr. Mark Langham of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Canon Jonathan Goodall, theologian-ecumenist of Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop toured the Passionist-operated Basilica of San Giovanni e Paolo, and received a brief tour of the Lay Centre and Passionist gardens, including the remains of the Temple of Divine Claudius.

After admiring our view and a few moments of gracious conversation, they were whisked away in Vatican state cars to the Anglican Centre for lunch and preparation for the Archbishop’s address to the Synod of Bishops this evening.

Lectio Coram or bust

Friends, my lectio coram – my comprehensive exams – have been scheduled for this Friday at 16.50 Rome time.

The thesis was submitted two weeks ago and is being evaluated, though as soon as i got the printed version back i even noticed a spelling error on the front page. The first word, no less. Still, after this weekend, i hope to have my License in hand and be on the final stage of the doctorate: all research and writing, all the time.

The thesis title was “The Diaconate in Ecumenical Context” and my major presentation for the lectio coram is on “Ecumenical Development on the theme of Apostolicity” followed by questions covering the whole range of my studies here. Prayers are appreciated!

Then, i hope, i will be back to my normal volume of posts: this is going to be an exciting year!

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