Two interesting items coming out of Australia this week...
Australian bishop backs reconsideration of celibacy, women's ordination
Canberra, Aug. 23, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Bishop Pat Power, an auxiliary of the Canberra, Australia diocese, has indicated his support for an end to mandatory clerical celibacy, and suggested a new discussion of the possibility of ordaining women.
In a public response to a campaign by Australian Catholic activists to end the celibacy discipline, Bishop Power said that while Vatican leaders are unwilling to reconsider the issue, among "ordinary Catholics" he has found both support and "a sense of urgency" about the need for change.
"Where there is the conviction that the Eucharist is at the heart of Catholic belief and practice, there must be questions asked about disciplinary laws in the Church which have the net effect of denying many Catholics regular access to the Eucharist," the Australian bishop wrote. He said that by limiting priestly ministry to celibate men the Church was in effect restricting access to the Eucharist "because of the scarcity of priests."
Bishop Power went on the praise Australian activists for raising the question of ordination for women. The bishop said that he recognized "the sensitivity to the question at the level of the Vatican," but called for "a more open and thorough examination of the issues around the ordination of women and the whole structure of the priesthood."
Pope John Paul II closed the discussion of women's ordination with his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (doc). Pope John Paul wrote: "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
The Australian bishop said that he had often suggested changes in Church teaching and discipline regarding the priesthood, but found little support for his proposals. He blamed the problem on the opposition of Vatican officials-- whose attitudes, he said, have produced "a greater encroachment on the life of the local Church" in recent years.
Pope has too much power, says bishop
Linda Morris, Religious Affairs Reporter
Sydney Morning Herald
August 25, 2007
The Sydney bishop who helped write the Catholic Church's sex abuse policy in Australia has urged a fundamental reshaping of the church's power structures, warning papal authority has gone too far and calling for a review of compulsory celibacy for priests and the church's teachings on sex.
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, who retired three years ago and who was once touted as a possible candidate for the job of archbishop of Sydney, says the church has to get more serious about confronting clerical abuse and change must start at the top.
In an explosive critique of the church to be published tomorrow, he has directly criticised both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for Rome's reluctance to take stronger action to tackle sexual abuse.
The breadth and scope of his stance is extremely unusual in the Catholic Church, where bishops usually observe an oath of silence in retirement.
Bishop Robertson said he did not expect immediate change but wanted to start a robust "conversation" in the church about the need for reform of power structures and sexual ethics.
He also says in his book that he was the victim of an abusive stranger, not a priest, as an adolescent. The experience shaped his response to abuse victims and led to significant disenchantment with the church.
In the book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Bishop Robinson says papal authority has gone too far, local bishops have been marginalised and the faithful of the church rendered powerless.
John Paul II had left the church to deal with "one of the ugliest stories to emerge from the Catholic Church" without appropriate levels of direction or guidance.
Pope Benedict's failure to even consider a review of priestly celibacy was to "lose credibility even before the discussion has begun".
There was a need for the church to review its commitment to priestly celibacy and its "extreme" teachings on sexual ethics, in which the church treats as a sin sex before marriage between committed couples.
And the attire of bishops and priests needed to be modernised - the bishop's mitre abandoned because of its "bad body language" and the priestly collar replaced in some circumstances with a distinctive tie.
Priests and bishops should be appraised every five or six years, as was normal in every workplace, and parishes would get a say in the priests appointed.
Specifically, Bishop Robinson has called for an elected parliament of bishops to be established, from which properly representative church leaders would elect future popes.
The tradition in the Eastern Catholic Church of appointing patriarchs to lead national churches could be adopted by the Roman Catholic church to remove hierarchical confusion.
But Bishop Robinson's powerful case for reform was likely to be resisted by those with a vested interest in not seeing any radical change within the church, said Father Michael Whelan, the principal of the Aquinas Academy and a founding member of the group Catalyst for Renewal. The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, declined to comment.