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Church Reform Wishlist: Open Letter of Introduction

Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa;
Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, governor of Vatican City;
Francisco Javier Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa of Santiago;
Oswald Cardinal Gracias of Mumbai;
Reinhard Cardinal Marx of Munich;
Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa;
Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston;
George Cardinal Pell of Sydney.G8Cardinals

Your Eminences,

Know that the Church is with you in prayer during these first days of dialogue, discussion and deliberation on how the people of God can be best served by the college of Bishops and its structures of universal governance, including those particular to the bishop of Rome.

[Know also that the Beards for Bishops Campaign applauds Pope Francis for including two of our most beloved members, Cardinals Marx and O’Malley, in your number. Clearly, His Holiness knows bearded men are wise men!]

It seems that you have consulted broadly among your episcopal peers in your respective regions. It is not clear to what extent, if any, consultation was extended to deacons, presbyters, lay ecclesial ministers, theologians, religious and the lay faithful. Perhaps you devoted a day to reading Catholic blogs from around the world – and if you did, you simultaneously have my gratitude and my pity.

It seems as if everyone is working on their reform wishlist! Some that I found interesting including John Allen, and the interview with Cardinal Maradiaga on Salt and Light was encouraging. I found Tom Reese to be a little skeptical when he warns that

if the press release says that [you] had a wonderful discussion with the pope and [you] agreed that collegiality and subsidiarity should be the guiding principles for curial reform, you can be assured no one has a plan and they wasted six months.

Personally, I expect your work to take some time. However, after a generation of waiting on some questions, it would be reassuring to see some indication of movement. I trust in the Holy Spirit and in your good will, but as a theologian, a minister, and a member of Christ’s church, have the duty to share my hopes and concerns (cf. CIC 212).

I admit, it does seem a little like sending a Christmas wish list to Santa Claus. I would need a book to spell out the rationale behind each of these suggestions. In many cases there are incompatible alternatives, but either choice would be an improvement. Most of these are small things, tinkering with structures even, that need only to reflect the more important principles and ought to serve the conversion of heart and change of mind. Some are obvious to me based on my study, that i forget they are not so obvious to the public, or even to theologians not studied in ecclesiology or ecumenism. These are, in fact, some of the effects of change, the signs that reform in the more important areas is trickling down to the practical, nitty-gritty. It is also just a list! But before i get to it, I can assert that this list intends to adhere to the following ideals and principles, and is not exhaustive:

Each change is rooted in the tradition of the church – historically, and/or ecumenically (or, apostolic and catholic tradition). We do not really need brand new structures, so much as looking to our past and to the current practice of other apostolic and catholic churches, and adapting those practices for our current needs.

Neither I nor most people I know are much interested in reforms of dogma and doctrine, though the development of doctrine, of the articulation and understanding of unchangeable truth, is always welcome; the focus is on discipline, custom, culture, and administrative practice.

Ecumenically, we should formally commit to the Lund Principle: “churches should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately.” In other words, that which can be done together should be done together. Too often we only seem to do the minimum, not all that is allowed or encouraged, but only what is required.

Let him be anathema who says, “Tinkering with structures is not sufficient, all we need is prayer, or holier priests.” Whatever virtue there may have once been present in such pietism is usually overshadowed by this being used as a cop out by people afraid of change, transparency, and the light of day. I agree it is not enough to merely tinker with some structures; they must be overhauled from the ground up. However, prayer without action is merely words, like the letter without the spirit, or the dead kind of faith James warns us about. Pray and Act, rather than Pray not Act, should be your watchword.

Any changes which have been approved in principle, or recommended by various authorities in the church, including official ecumenical dialogues, should be enacted – most have been delayed too long already (e.g., Paul VI and married Eastern presbyters in the US; or the Synod of Bishops on women as instituted readers).

Likewise, some policies already on the books should be more clearly enforced (e.g., only clerics should wear clerical clothing – not seminarians; or the requirement that everyone engaged in formation for pastoral work take a required course in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue).

A healing of memories should take place, perhaps the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission at various levels. There have been many wrongs, some lesser and some greater, committed because of the wrong attitudes of clericalism, careerism, triumphalism. this has happened at the parish level and at the highest levels of the curia. I know pastoral associates and former presidents of pontifical councils treated poorly or fired just for being ‘too pastoral’ and not buying in to the system of clericalism.

Finally, take to heart Pope Francis’ admonishment that all of these are secondary to the need for a conversion of heart, a change of attitude – always the first step in both ecclesial reform and ecumenical reconciliation, two goals which are inseparable from the Gospel.

His Holiness is right, of course, “the people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.” Presbyters especially have a vocation to parish ministry and to advising the bishop in the care of the diocese; it is deacons who have a particular vocation to assisting the bishop in his ministry of governance and administration at the deanery, diocesan, and supra-diocesan levels.

Thank you for your prayer, your humility, your leadership, and your dedication to the Church. Accept these suggestions from a loyal son of the Church in the spirit in which they are given, out of love for the Church and frustration in its failings and imperfections. And of course, out of humility: this is a work in progress, and the work of many is better than that of one, so I hope friends and colleagues will add their voices to mine, even in disagreement.

I am, as ever, your servant…

FrancisCards

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Church Reform Wishlist: The Eastern Catholic Churches

The Eastern Catholic Churches

  • The notion of national or proper ritual territory is archaic. Most churches have a diaspora larger than members living in their original countries. Eliminate any discrepancies between the authority of the synod and heads of the churches for their members worldwide (e.g., in the selection of bishops).
  • Eastern Catholic presbyters have not been allowed to be married in the U.S. since the late 19th century because of certain overanxious (celibate) Latin bishops at the time. This caused schism and scandal, and has lead to the current situation where there are now more married Roman Catholic priests than Eastern Catholic priests in the U.S. That ought to be corrected. [Done!: 14 November 2014]
  • All other rights of the Eastern Churches that have been impinged upon by the Latin Church should be fully restored.
  • A clarifying directive and definition from the competent ecclesial authority that the name of our communion is The Catholic Church and not the Roman Catholic Church should help in a number of confusing venues. It is already in fact the practice[1], but needs to be clearly articulated.

Vatican Pope Middle East


[1] Search the Vatican website: “Roman Catholic Church” gets 125 hits, “Catholic Church” gets over 4400. And most of the uses of “Roman Catholic” are concessions to ecumenical partners, which could be done away with now after years of growth in understanding.

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Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Bishops

The College of Bishops:

  • Zero tolerance for bishops who covered up sex abuse. Remove them.
  • Bishops are diocesan ordinaries. No more titular bishops for dicasteries. Even the practice of auxiliary bishops should be reconsidered. Ordaining a personal secretary or a bureaucrat as a bishop diminishes the office of bishop, even if the individual is worthy of the office.
  • Smaller dioceses: Dioceses in Italy are about the same geography and population of a deanery/vicariate in the US. The ratio of Eastern (Catholic and Orthodox) bishops to faithful seems to hover at around 1:10,000. In the Latin church it is about 1:250,000.
  • Restore the ancient practice of elected bishops. “Election” need not mean simple democracy, but a clear participation of the clergy (both diaconate and presbyterate), the lay ecclesial ministry, any resident theologians, and the leadership of the laity.
  • Only after the above reform, restore the ancient practice of bishops being ‘wed’ to a  single diocese – no more moving on up and out. This makes no sense if a bishop is appointed, but an election makes it possible.
  • We need to make better use of the archbishops/metropolitans, including an increased role in the election of bishops from their province. If there were smaller dioceses, and more bishops, the metropolitan would take on some of the load currently at the diocesan level.
  • Titular patriarchates (Venice, Lisbon, East Indies) should be eliminated. Despite their historical origin, they only serve to confuse.
  • The synod of bishops and the conferences of bishops need to be strengthened. There needs to be a regular standing structure in place to balance the primacy of the papacy. Primacy and synodality belong together, neither one without the other, at every level of the church.

nave-vaticanii

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Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Cardinals

The College of Cardinals

[Alternative to many of these ideas, of course, is that the college could be disbanded entirely, and certain offices designated electors ex officio. There is a certain appeal in this, but perhaps it is not prudent at this time.]

  • Zero tolerance for cardinals found to be implicated in the cover up of sex abuse cases. They should be removed from the college of cardinals, not just from ministry.
  • Patriarchs and major archbishops should not be created cardinal, which is proper to the Latin Church (indeed, to the Roman clergy!), though they should be included in conclave, ex officio.
  • The heads of a number of the largest religious orders, male and female, as well as the largest ecclesial lay movements should be either made cardinals, or at least included in the conclave, ex officio.
  • The presidents of the bishops’ conferences could be made cardinals, ex officio.
  • Cardinals should not be ordained bishops unless they are going to serve as bishops (diocesan ordinaries).
  • Cardinal-deacons should not be “promoted” to cardinal-presbyters after 10 years, but retain the dignity of their diaconal office – which ought to be considered equal to that of the cardinal-presbyters.
  • Cardinal-deacons should  be deacons, chosen from the ranks of deacons, who serve in diaconal posts such as the dicasteries of the Roman curia, the diplomatic corps, etc.
  • As a sign of gratitude for their leadership in the last half-century, all the surviving Council Fathers (about 19 in number*) should be named cardinal. The only exception being if they have been found complicit in the sex abuse crisis, or left communion with the church. [*63 at the time of original publication]
  • Lay men or women, whether theologians, religious, or lay ecclesial ministers, who are appointed to top offices in the curia could be made cardinals. Preferably after being ordained to the diaconate.
  • Women cardinals? If women deacons, or deaconesses, then yes. Maybe better not to make it about being cardinal, but by virtue of the office being given the same rights and responsibilities, same access, and same dignity – and taken as seriously.
  • Lay cardinals? The pope could do it, though with the historical connection of the cardinals to the clergy of Rome, perhaps that would take a more monumental shift – like eliminating the college, or eliminating the canonical distinction between cleric and lay states (NOT eliminating the ministries, holy orders, priesthood, etc!)

Cardinals

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Church Reform Wishlist: Precedence and Papal Honors

Of Precedence and Papal Honors (Or, “Monsignors, medals, and more!”)

Full disclosure: i helped get some acquaintances a papal knightood for their commendable service to the Church, i know some others. I know several monsignori, most quite deserving of recognition. If we have these things, we should use them, but first ask whether we should have them at all.

  • The presbyterate and diaconate are equal in ‘rank and dignity’. We really should not even be talking about ‘rank’ with regard to the life of the Church anyway. Are not all equal in Christ?
  • I am not sure we should, but as long as we do  still care about an order of  precedence, patriarchs precede cardinals, and major archbishops ought to be considered equal to cardinal-bishops. .
  • On one hand I think we should eliminate the vestiges of the renaissance court – the three grades of monsignori, the five grades of papal knights, the two medals, and perhaps even the college of cardinals, honorary canons, etc.
  • On the other hand, I believe that if we do have these things – and there are reasons to have the means of recognizing good and faithful service to the church – they ought to be exercised more equitably and transparently, to whit:
    • Clear qualifications or requirements for each honor should be widely available, clearly understandable, and published on the Vatican website.
    • There should be universal consistency, too. A parish organist of fifty years and a Swiss Guard of two can both receive the Benemerenti medal. Likewise some dioceses do not have monsignori at all, some award it after a set number of years of service, and if you work in the curia, it was, until quite recently, all but guaranteed after five years (one term) of service.
    • Nominations should have an open process that allows at least initial proposals to come from all corners of the Church. There are many deserving people who will never be recognized simply because nobody knows how to get it done.
    • Generous donors should either not be so awarded, or only granted the lowest category of  particular order. The higher levels reserved for those who have given of their time and talent.
    • We should make broader use of the awards as appropriate for ecumenical, interreligious, and even non-believing leaders who have contributed in someway to the Church and to the world.
      • e.g., the diplomats accredited to the Holy See are frequently made Knights of the Order of Pope Pius IX. Maybe it would be appropriate to make the outgoing Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See an honorary canon of St. Peter’s, or of St. Paul’s without the Walls? Or at least a Pian Knight, too!
    • If the papal knighthoods are for the laity, and the monsignori for the clergy, then deacons should be able to be awarded with all the levels of monsignor. Alternatively, restrict the highest (protonotary apostolic) to the diaconate (which is the historic origin of this role anyway), the middle (honorary prelate) to the presbyterate, and the lowest (chaplain of his holiness) to lay ecclesial ministers, or to both presbyters and deacons.
    • Publish a report each year, and a sum total of all awards given, which includes clarification of who was awarded, for what reason, and where they are. I would be happy to help with the research!
    • Gentlemen of His Holiness are, basically, finely dressed ushers. Is it really an honorific? Why not just have the ushers do this job? If it is an honorific, let it become more systematic like the rest.

Pontifice-Cross-Honorees.jp

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Church Reform Wishlist: Catholic Education and Pastoral Formation

Education

  • All candidates for pastoral ministry, whether presbyterate, diaconate, or lay ecclesial ministry, are required to take an introductory course in ecumenism, and in interreligious dialogue. At last count, only about 1/3 of seminaries were in compliance. Enforce this.
  • No minor seminaries!
  • Seminarians should not be isolated in their formation, but prepare for a life of ministry with deacons and lay ecclesial ministers alongside candidates for the diaconate and lay ecclesial ministry
  • There should be an accreditation system for pontifical universities that utilizes Catholic higher education leaders from around the world and from outside the pontifical/ecclesiastical system
  • The clericalism contained in the Congregation for Education’s governing documents on the distinction between “theology” (only for priests) and “religious studies” (for religious and laity) should be rooted out completely.
  • A commitment to consultation and collaboration, and an understanding of the difference, should be inculcated in all called to pastoral ministry.
  • Formation for ministry in the U.S. means, generally, a BA in philosophy and theology or a BA in something else with some prerequisite work, and then a Master of Divinity or similar. In Rome, the degree for ordination is a Baccalaureate in THeology, after a partial degree in Philosophy. What about psychology, leadership, non-profit administration, etc? Why a seven year program in one system, and a five year program in another?
  • The Roman pontifical system needs a desperate overhaul. It needs to accept that there have been lay students earning theology degrees for a century and adapt accordingly. There is so much overlap and repetition between the universities and institutes, a lack of funding, a surplus faculty and a deficiency of staff, and a tendency to be isolated from the broader theological and academic world. Do there really need to be seven faculties of canon law, and two dozen faculties of theology? All the universities, athenae, and institutes combined probably only have 10,000 students in residence. Perhaps it is time to have an actual system in place here, to which all the participating universities belong. This would take an extensive blog in itself….

Russell Berrie Fellows with Angelica Berrie, Rome Islamic Leadership and Angelicum staff

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Church Reform Wishlist: Liturgy

Liturgy

  • Actually, i do not have too much to say. So much has been said, and liturgy is probably the best case of successful, ongoing reform, despite the bumps. So just a couple small things: put into law that which theology and history holds to be evident. Or, where we have two practices that go back centuries, the older one should be the norm,  for example:
    • The most ancient form of receiving communion is in the hand. Make this the norm, and receiving in the tongue, a later practice, an accepted alternative.
    • Communion under both species as the norm, with exceptions as appropriate
    • Translate the universal version of the GIRM into each language on the Vatican website – currently the English is actually the adaptations for the USCCB and does not reflect the original, universal, Latin version. It leads to some confusion.
    • The Eucharist is the Sunday Liturgy, it should be more or less limited to Sundays. The rest of the week should have the liturgy of the hours publicly celebrated in parishes.
    • The Creed should be recited without the Filioque, as a norm, in all liturgies.
    • The portions of Liturgicam Autenticam which violate previous ecumenical agreements  should be abrogated.

xmas7

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