A reflection on the vocations crisis

In the latest online edition of Commonweal (April 17, 2017), Robert Mickens reflects on the priest vocation crisis in many parts of the world.  He states that the vocation crisis is not something new, but started appearing before Vatican II got underway.

Micken’s insights appear in his Letter from Rome column titled,  “Who Will Speak Out to Solve the Vocations Crisis?”

For the entire essay, click here.


Syracuse priests to relinquish parish administrative duties at age 80

The Syracuse Presbyteral Council and Council of Consultors proposed and Bishop Robert Cunningham approved a recommendation that priests in the diocese who are over 75 should conclude their role as administrator at a parish at the age of 80.

The report appearing on the syracuse.com (March 31, 2017) website notes that Bishop Cunningham wrote a letter in February to the priests involved in the decision and he is now having conversations with priests who are administering parishes and are over 80.

The report notes on March 23, Father John Finnegan of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Baldwinsville, who turned 86 in October, sent a letter to parishioners announcing his retirement as of June 30.

“Retirement has never been anything I ever thought would end my serving days,” he said in the letter provided to Syracuse.com. “However, there is a new rule in the Diocese which makes clear that when one celebrates an eightieth birthday retirement will be mandatory.”

For the entire posting, click here.


NLRB rules in favor of Catholic university workers

NLRB rules in favor of Catholic university workers

On April 10 in a 2-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board voted to support Catholic university workers in recognizing their right to form unions. In one of the cases with a Chicago connection, the Board ruled that housekeepers at St. Xavier University were eligible to unionize despite protests from the school.

The NLRB essentially rejected the argument from the school stating that their religious affiliation freed them from federal labor oversight.

In a case emanating from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, a group of adjunct faculty in 2012 voted to join the Adjuncts Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers. A regional director for the NLRB found that enough votes were cast in favor of joining the union, but the school resisted, arguing that its Catholic identity meant it was exempt from N.L.R.B. oversight. In the April 10 decision the Board ruled that the faculty taught secular material. It did make a distinction however ruling that theology professors are in a different category and are thus ineligible to join the union, writing that they perform “a specific role in maintaining the University’s religious educational environment.”

For the America magazine report by Michael O’Loughlin, click here.pastedGraphic.png

Convocation of Catholic Leaders to focus on unifying US church

This summer’s invitation-only Convocation of Catholic Leaders, which takes place from July 1-4 in Orlando, FL will zero in on Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the US bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development and a Convocation planner sees the gathering as a way for Catholics across the diverse spectrum of the church to unify in Christ. Evangelii Gaudium will be used as a template for this effort.

“The beauty of it for us as Catholics is it’s not just another trade meeting,” Reyes told Catholic News Service (April 17, 2017) “This is centered, as Pope Francis said again and again, in the encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s what holds us together. Even Catholics need a moment of unity these days. Not just our country, but we as Catholics need a moment of unity around Christ.”

For the entire CNS report, click here.

In Holy Thursday Chrism Mass homily pope tells priests to preach with truth, mercy and joy

In his Holy Thursday homily at the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis urged the world’s priests to “never be afraid to offer that truth just ‘one sip at a time.’”

He went on to say; the Gospel is truth, “brimming with joy and mercy. We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone.”

The truth of the good news can never be an abstract truth for those who do not let it fully and concretely shape people’s lives just “because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in book,” he said in the homily delivered in Italian.

“The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change,” Pope Francis said.

For the Catholic New Service (April 13, 2017) report, click here.

For the Crux (April 13, 2017) report by John Allen, Jr. click here.

For a transcript of Pope Francis’ Chrism Mass homily courtesy of Zenit News Agency, click here.

Franciscans request new model for leadership

Leaders of the four major Franciscan branches have asked Pope Francis to consider allowing a dispensation from the canon-law requirement that the head of a religious order must be an ordained priest.

According to Catholic World News (April 10, 2017) posting of a report by the Catholic News Service, at an April 10 meeting, the leaders of the four major Franciscan orders—the Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventual Franciscans, and Third Order Franciscans—asked the Pontiff to consider whether a brother could be elected as superior of a Franciscan order. St. Francis himself was not ordained as a priest, they observed. “With us, Pope Francis is looking at the possibilities for moving this project forward,” said Father Michael Perry, the minister general of the Friars Minor.

The report notes that at a Synod of Bishops on religious life in 1994 the issue was brought up and a special commission was set up in 1996 to study a proposal but the commission never produced an answer.

The CNS report further states, the rules governing eligibility for leadership in religious orders with a strong mix of brothers and priests – especially if those orders, like the Franciscans, were founded without distinction between lay and ordained – has been going on since the Second Vatican Council.

The council’s decree on religious life said, “Monasteries of men and communities which are not exclusively lay can, according to their nature and constitutions, admit clerics and lay persons on an equal footing and with equal rights and obligations, excepting those which flow from sacred orders.”

For the entire report, click here.

Pope Francis grants authorization of marriage faculties for Lefebvre priests 

Pope Francis has granted authorization for bishops to approve priests of the Society of St. Pius X, a group not full communion with Rome, to celebrate marriages of those who follow the pastoral activity of the traditionalist society.

According to the Catholic News Agency (April 4, 2017) in a letter dated March 27 and published April 4, the Pope has given diocesan bishops or other local ordinaries the authorization to grant priests of the SSPX the ability to celebrate licitly and validly the marriages of the faithful who follow the Society’s pastoral activity.

The letter, signed by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, indicates that “insofar as possible” a diocesan or other fully regular priest is to “receive the consent of the parties during the marriage rite, followed, in keeping with the liturgy of the Vetus ordo, by the celebration of Mass, which may be celebrated by a priest of the Society.”

For the Catholic News Service report published by the National Catholic Reporter (April 4, 2017), click here.

For the CNS (April 4, 2017) report, click here.

For the letter authorizing the action from the Holy See Press Office (April 4, 2017), click here.


Pope Francis responds to violence in Chicago

Cardinal Blase Cupich. Photo courtesy of CNS/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

In a letter to Chicago Archbishop, Cardinal Blase Cupich, Pope Francis told him to “…convey to the people of Chicago that they have been on my mind and in my prayers.

I know that many families have lost loved ones to violence. I am close to them, I share in their grief, and pray that they may experience healing and reconciliation through God’s grace.”

The cardinal read the letter during a news conference on April 4, the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to announce the archdiocese’s plans stem the tide of violence in some neighborhoods of the city.

Armed with $250,000 in seed money from archdiocesan charitable discretionary funds, the cardinal announced the creation of a new foundation to fund anti-violence programs throughout Chicago including a revitalized youth program, implementing “a robust anti-racism component” to religious education classes, the construction of a new job training center and the launch of a program for youth from around the city to dialogue about ways to combat violence in the city.

The news conference was held inside the gymnasium of the Catholic Charities-funded Peace Corner Youth Center, where Cardinal Cupich also announced that he will lead an interfaith march for peace on Good Friday through the city’s violence-plagued Englewood neighborhood.

“We want to inspire people to work together, giving them hope that we can do something even if we cannot do everything,” the cardinal said.

For the Religion News Service (April 4, 2017) report, religionnews.com/2017/04/04/chicago-cardinal-cupich-unveils-church-led-anti-violence-initiative/#.

For the pope’s letter, click here

For the America magazine (April 4, 2017) report, click here.

For a video of Cardinal Cupich’s news conference, [44mins.], click here.


Bishop Serratelli addresses mercy and repentance

As we enter Holy Week Catholics become more aware of our experience of the Paschal mystery – the process of dying and rising, death and new life. We see this all around us and in our own lives.

Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, NJ shares insights on the Paschal mystery in terms of mercy and repentance. He begins his remarks writing about a scientific study of near-death out of body experiences, stating most who report on near-death experience were overwhelming positive. But some “seem to have been a foretaste of what Christians would traditionally describe as hell. No light. Only darkness.”

He goes on to tie mercy and repentance together in terms of repentance being the response to God’s mercy.

“God’s mercy precedes our contrition and sorrow for sin. In the light of his love, we see the disorder of our lives.

“Second, in repentance, there is our response to God’s mercy. Our response begins with the mind. We acknowledge that we have sinned. “If we say, ‘we are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing” (1 Jn 1:8-9),” Bishop Serratelli writes.

For Bishop Serratelli’s entire column from the Catholic News Agency (April 6, 2017), click here.


Supreme Court to weigh in on religiously affiliated hospitals and pension exemption issue

Several religious media outlets reported this week that on March 27 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton, a case that involved legal challenges to the pension plans of several Catholic or Christian hospital systems.

According to Religion News Service (March 27, 2017), religious institutions are now exempt from federal law that protects pensions. The law is called the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

The employees who sued the hospitals, two with Catholic ties and one with a Lutheran affiliation, say they deserve the same pension protections afforded to other workers not employed by churches, which both defendants and plaintiffs agree are exempted by ERISA.

The case has implications for Catholic institutions in that if the hospitals lose they could face retroactive penalties totaling billions of dollars. Ultimately, the ruling would affect an estimated 1 million employees working in religious ministries.

According to the National Catholic Register (March 30, 2017), the case hinges on dueling interpretations of Congress’ intent when it passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which set standards for funding and insurance for corporate pensions. When a group of religious orders challenged the law, Congress approved a limited exemption for church plans.

The Register report goes on to note, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether ERISA’s “1974’s church-plan exemption applies so long as a pension plan is maintained by an otherwise-qualifying church-affiliated organization, or whether the exemption applies only if, in addition, a church initially established the plan.” The Catholic and Christian hospitals claim that ERISA’s religious exemption includes church pension plans initiated by houses of worship as well as those established by religious agencies.

For the RNS report, click here.

For the National Catholic Register report, click here.