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Friday, 1 May 2009


(I would like to ... challenge the assertion that some of these ARE "challenges." Some are blessings, some are neutral, and some, the only challenge seems to be for the speaker, not to deal with a situation, but to come to a better understanding of the situation.)

John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter summarizes a talk given by Cdl Mahony to a National Federation of Priests’ Councils convention in which he sketched 17 specific challenges (and my comments,) facing the church as an attempt at "fostering discussion":

1. “Some really harsh generational divides” among priests, “with the younger generation often quite openly challenging the orthodoxy of older priests.”
If he had noted the analogous challenge of an fading generation often quite openly trying to lead new priests into disobedience, heterodoxy, and dysliturgy, his complaint would have more credibility.
As it is, it may be a cause for celebration.

2. A need for “welcome and hospitality” in parishes. (Mahony offered a practical example: “On several occasions I have called parish offices and got entangled in the web of voicemail menu choices, trying to extract myself from the non-stop options without ever being able to speak to a real, live person.”)
I don't see how sloppily used technology is a major problem for the Church. The paucity of
warm bodies to man the phones and the front door, on the other hand... And as a symptom of the headlong rush of our society at large into a sort of autism, it is worrying.

3. In light of the priest shortage, deacons are increasingly being formed to administer priestless parishes. Does that risk “undermining the integrity of the diaconate as a ministry distinct from the ministerial priesthood”?
Does he also worry that lay administrators, (my apologies, if his diocese does not appoint such,)
undermine the integrity of the priesthood, as a ministry distinct from the laity?

4. Offering “proper theological and pastoral formation” for lay ministers, at a time when the economy is prompting greater reliance on volunteers and deacons.

5. How to foster a strong identity among young priests, without making them “less collaborative, less flexible,” and more inclined to throw their weight around. (Mahony appended what he said is a true story: “One of our seminary professors asked a first year seminarian: Why have you asked your bishop to transfer you to another seminary? Answer: Because the priests, sisters and professors at Saint John’s Seminary want to give the church to the laity!”)
I don't know St Johns -- but is this not a diocese where a spokesperson suggested that the "vocations crisis" was the work of the Holy Spirit to empower the laity? and does he deny that there has been systematic denigration of, and attempted erosion
of the concept of an ontologically unique ORDAINED priesthood from some protestantized erstwhile Catholics (those loopy Dominicans in the Netherlands, for instance? So isn't there at least a possibility this is a legitimate complaint? I mean, if I were the bishop where that seminary was located, i'd want to at least look into it.

6. Taking a “hard look” at the changing face of seminarians in terms of age, culture, and language. (“Do we realize,” Mahony asked, “that some of our seminarians from diverse cultures have little or no interest in what many of us think of as ‘multiculturalism’?")
So a genuinely multi-cultural group is telling you you have it wrong? Good to know.

7. “Too many liturgies and homilies are not what they might be, often because of a lack of a good grasp of Scripture as the basis for homilies and for liturgy planning.”
And often, if my experience in LA and other places around the country is indicative, from lack of concern for adhering to the rubrics, to the text of the Sacramentary, to the Lectionary, to any real vetting of the texts fo hymns, to....

8. “A slowing down of ecumenical efforts at the local level, and at all levels.”

At all levels?
Hmm... I think real progress is being made under Ratz, for the first time in decades. One cannot share what one does not have, one cannot bring our seprated bretheren back inot the Faith if one does not know what the Faith

9. A “weakening” of social concern among parishioners, driven in some cases by moral and political disagreement. (Mahony cited an example: “The church’s current efforts at comprehensive immigration reform have often been met with outright denunciation as the anti-immigrant mood takes deeper root.”)
I think that is a particularly bad "example," since I believe many pronouncemnts from bishops lose any chance of getting a hearing from many PIPs because the statements refuse to acknowledge that there have been violations for the law, and that lack of respect for the rule of law is a legitimate concern, particularly from those members of the Church who don't live in the safety and security wealthier or better connected citizens might... say, like most bishops.

10. Threats to parish unity from “the re-introduction of the Latin Mass and more ‘sacred’ liturgies, which have the effect of creating two parallel communities.”
Is that the real problem, or is it the animosity toward the EF and the contempt for the concerns and legitimate desires of its devotees shown by some prelates? And I suspect there are vastly more examples of parishes that are in effect, "two parallel communities" because of TP'sTB animosity toward using the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical language as an alternative to the English Mass, and the Spanish Mass, and the Korean Mass, and the Polish Mass and....

11. How to articulate the church’s positions on sexuality “in a plausible and compelling way.” Less equivocation might increase the plausibility and credibilty of what the Church teaches.

12. “More parish retreats, to give people an inexpensive and parish-related quiet time.”
How about more Masses as "inexpensive and parish-related quiet time"? Why is Mass a noisy time? (LA is the only place I have ever sat through Mass with my hands over my ears.)

13. A “poorly realized renewal of reconciliation ministry within parishes -- especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” Not sure what is meant, but if it's n enough confessions being heard and made? Agreed.

14. Training laity to provide spiritual direction, “as part of a larger spiritual renewal ministry in the parish.”

15. “The nagging problem of too many people getting children baptized, and getting married, outside their own parish.”
I should admit right here that while I agree in principle and know that this can be a problem, if I had a child in need of baptism, I would walk over to the font after Mass and do it myself in front of anyone, clerical or lay, who happened to be present, rather than go through my parish's rigmarole.

16. “Not enough attention to a communal approach to the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, as an integral part of a community’s care for the sick.”

17. Greater interaction among all the parishes in a diocese, especially “where there are many social classes and many cultural groups.” Amen, and amen, and amen! And the first step in this should be an end to kiddies liturgies, and teen liturgies, and bi-and tri-lingual liturgies with multiple vernaculars, which actively PROMOTE this fragmentation.

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