Thursday, December 27, 2007

Zambia: Splinter Catholic Church Launched

NOTE: I'm personally not inclined to focus on the splinter groups too much but this is just so we know who's out there -- RG

The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
26 December 2007

A splinter Catholic Church called the Catholic Apostolic National Church of Zambia has been launched with Archbishop-elect, Luciano Mbewe, calling for more priests to join the church and fulfill their God-given role by marrying.

Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) spokesperson, Paul Samasumo, said in reaction that he did not have much information about the newly formed church but was aware that the Catholic bishops in Zambia would preside over the matter next month.

Father Samasumo said in an interview in Lusaka that the newly formed church had created parallel structures in the Roman Catholic Church and could not claim to be part of the Church.

Archbishop Mbewe said during the launch of the new church which has strong links with excommunicated prelate Emmanuel Milingo that the hour had come for priests in the Roman Catholic Church to start marrying and taking care of their forsaken children.

Archbishop Mbewe who is also the apostolic administrator of the new church said over the years most priests had laboured quietly and prudently to advocate for the restoration of married priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

Archbishop Mbewe said during the ceremony held at Peace Embassy that there were moments that the priests hoped the restoration of married priests would be made possible.

Other church leaders who had since been co-opted in the church attended the lunch.

"We feel duty bound now to found our own Catholic church, an independent Catholic church where we can truly enjoy the freedom enjoyed by children of God. It should surprise no one to hear of yet another Catholic church," he said.

Archbishop Mbewe said there were other independent churches that came into existence especially in the 1870 AD when some bishops broke away from Rome over the issue of Papal infallibility.

He said freedom of worship as enshrined in the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) charters stipulated that it was an inalienable right to found churches and worship God without any interference from any quarter.

Archbishop Mbewe who served as a Roman Catholic priest for over 17 years said the problem of mandatory and compulsory celibacy for priests in the Roman Catholic Church was crucial.

He said profound pain and suffering had been caused to priests as a result of celibacy and that most of this pain and suffering was uncalled for.

He said the celibacy found in the Bible was not compulsory but optional. Archbishop Mbewe said Jesus Christ refused to make celibacy compulsory but left it optional.

"The majority of these priests and bishops do not have this gift, they are like the majority of humanity and they deserve to marry and still continue to minister to God's people," he said.

Archbishop Mbewe said it was a known fact that nearly all the apostles to Jesus and the first Pope, Peter were married and so were the other 28 Popes as the Holy Bible stated that being accompanied by a wife in the ministry was not a minus but a great asset.

He said celibacy was made compulsory in the 12th Century for dubious reasons but it was never accepted in practice.

He said the priests and bishops resisted the man-made law and they appeared celibate in public yet privately they were going out with women, a scenario, which he said even prevailed today.

Archbishop Mbewe said the celibacy issue had led to some priests contracting HIV/AIDs.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Mbewe said the church should work with the Government of the day. He said days are gone when the Church was the enemy of the State.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mexico's Catholic Church faces priest shortage

By Anahi Rama
December 24, 2007

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Believers this holiday season are filling church pews across Mexico, but a shortage of priests in one of the world's most Roman Catholic nations threatens to leave many of the faithful without pastors.

In a country where more than 85 percent of the population is Catholic, one priest is expected to serve some 7,000 followers.

By comparison, the United States, where only 22 percent of the population belongs to the Church, has one priest per 1,500 Catholics.

"This is a real crisis of vocation," said Elio Masferrer, a religion expert at Mexico's National School of Anthropology and History.

Some blame the rise of a secular Mexico, where young men have improving job opportunities and increasingly reject celibacy.

"These days there are a lot of distractions and temptations, like drugs," said Guadalupe Conde, an 84-year-old priest at the Spanish colonial San Francisco Church in the center of Mexico City. "Young people aren't thinking about faith."

An average of 240 priests entered service in Mexico each year between 2000 and 2005, down from around 280 annually in the previous decade, even as the population grew.

"There are some dioceses where only one new priest is ordained each year," said Jose de Jesus Aguilar, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City.


How to deal with the shortage of priests and the closing of parishes in many parts of the world has vexed the Vatican for decades.

It has consistently reaffirmed that only ordained male priests can say Mass and has rejected calls to extend the priesthood to married men or women in order to solve the crisis.

To compensate for the lack of new blood, older priests are putting off retirement. In Mexico's capital, the average age of priests is now 66, and at one downtown church, a 93-year-old cleric celebrates Mass in the morning and hears confession in the afternoon.

"Old priests have to work until they keel over," Aguilar said.

As the number of priests dwindles, the Church faces growing competition from evangelical churches that have sprung up in rural parts of Mexico and Central America. They usually have one minister or pastor attending just several hundred followers.

"The evangelical churches have a charismatic 'feel good' message that reaches young people," said Rafael Ramirez, a young Catholic priest who came to Mexico for a year from a parish in Houston, Texas.

But faith remains strong for many people in the world's second-biggest Catholic country after Brazil.

Several million people are believed to have visited the capital's Virgin of Guadalupe basilica this month on an annual pilgrimage.

(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Married priests? Some musings from England

In a December 21st interview in the Financial Times, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the 10th Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, offers his perspective on the possibilities of a married priesthood.

From the Financial Times:
...Murphy-O’Connor is gently subversive in making a case for the ordination of married men: “We have a number of married men in this diocese who are former Anglicans who are already married. If you say to me, ‘Do you think the church could change and ordain many married men?’ the answer is, ‘Yes, it could.’ ”...
While this is noteworthy because of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's stature and his relative conservatism on most church issues, it is not the first time the cardinal has spoken about this issue. When he was installed as Archbishop of Westminster in 2000, Murphy-O'Connor gave an interview to The Guardian in which he said:

"Disciplines can change. When a priest accepts celibacy when he is ordained that rule should be kept. But is it (marriage) incompatible with priesthood? The answer is obviously no. I would not rule it out. The matter will come up again."
Seven years later, he — and we — are still waiting...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Married Priests Available for Christmas Services

BRUNSWICK, Maine, Dec. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Married Roman Catholic priests affiliated with are making themselves available for the many Catholic Churches who will not have full Eucharist services this holiday season because of a shortage of priests. CITI Ministries (Celibacy Is the Issue) has spent 15 years locating and recruiting priests of integrity and promotes them through its website for anyone with spiritual needs.

In the last few years, married priests have provided ministry to over a quarter of a million people. Weddings on a beach, interfaith marriages, baptisms that were otherwise refused by a local pastor, anointing of the sick and funerals are just some of the ministerial services that have been requested by Catholics and others. Married priests are priests forever according to the church's Code of Canon Law which states, "once validly received, sacred ordination never becomes invalid." While the church refuses to accept the ministry of these priests, it has church laws that allow the faithful to request these services -- in fact, a priest cannot refuse according to Canon 843.

Anyone within CITI's 42 state coverage who is without a priest for Midnight Mass or Christmas Day services can, without permission from anyone, contact a priest at CITI's website or call 1-800-PRIEST 9 and request Christmas Liturgy for their group, whether it is inside a church building or in a private home. A partial listing of Home and public venue Masses already appears on the rentapriest website under "Faith Communities." Priests are also available for Lenten retreats and other spiritual services.

CITI is a 501.c3 nonprofit lay-based organization. Donations appreciated to assist us in locating and recruiting priests who have married, and promoting their availability to the general public. A special technology fundraising drive is currently taking place to help us update our internal systems and procedures. CITI Ministries, 14 Middle Street, Suite 2, Brunswick, ME 04011.

Bishops discuss married priests petition

December 6, 2007

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Philip Wilson has responded to a petition calling for married priests.

He gave an assurance that the Bishops had a discussion at last week's plenary meeting on the need to make "adequate pastoral and sacramental provision for the Church in Australia".

Catholica Australia reports the petition raised interest among the bishops and more than three hours were devoted to discussing the issue.

Dr Paul Collins, on behalf of the petition organisers, says he was “more than happy” with the formal letter response from Archbishop Wilson and general feedback from individual bishops.

“We were more than surprised with the level of interest the petition generated within the Church,” Dr Collins said.

“Our original hope had been to try and generate a response of around 10,000 signatures and to receive over 16,700, including over 160 responses from priests, exceeded their expectation by a long way,” he said.


Bishops Conference responds to Petition Signatories (Catholica Australia 4/12/07)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Desejo Proibido: a clerical telenovela from Brazil

Fr. Rich and I often remark on the soap opera quality that these clerical relationships can take on when couples are forced by Church regulations to lead a double life. Now, from Brazil, we have an actual telenovela clerical romance playing out in "Desejo Proibido" ("Forbidden Desire") on Globo.

Padre Miguel (Murilo Rosa) is a priest divided about his vocation and generally not seen in clerical garb in this soap opera. He has been sent by the Church to the town of Passaperto to investigate the alleged miracles attributed to the Virgem de Pedra. He meets a student, Laura (Fernanda Vasconcellos), and falls in love with her. As he tries to get out of his vows, he tells Laura that there is a "problem" but does not reveal his true identity. She assumes that he is married to someone else and so when he proposes to her, she rejects him and says she will marry Henrique. P. Miguel is heartbroken and asks his mentor, P. Inacio, to help him withdraw his request for dispensation. When Laura enters the church on her wedding day to be united with Henrique, there is P. Miguel at the altar ready to celebrate their marriage. Laura realizes that she loves Miguel and cannot marry Henrique and flees from the church. Stay tuned....

And if you read Portuguese and want to know more about the Brazilian Church's (cautious) response to this telenovela, see Padres da igreja católica supervisionam 'Desejo Proibido' in Bem Paraná.

Henrique (left) and Laura (right) on the
wedding day that didn't happen

Padre Miguel yearning for Laura

NOTE: We shamelessly stole these photos from the soap opera's Web site...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Editorial: From Holland, a refreshing notion

National Catholic Reporter, December 14, 2007

American Catholics should take note of what is happening in the Netherlands. Not that it will result in sudden, dramatic change in the church, or that it needs to, but because it reveals a different, much freer way of being church than American Catholics are normally used to. Dutch Catholics have been facing all the same church issues we find here: a priest shortage, a leadership vacuum, an official preference for the temple priesthood over the pastoral, while the world races toward an unknown future like a crowded bus without brakes or headlights. They have some ideas.

Ah, those postmodern Dutch, so far ahead of us, with their eclectic and chaotic social liberalism, their blunt talk, bold experiments, utopian impatience with rules and tradition. What a refreshing notion they have: that because the Eucharist is the essence of Christian community, that community therefore has a right to it. And if the hierarchy fails to bestow that right from above, local communities can claim it from below: “Where two or three gather in my name,” share scripture, break bread, pass the cup, there is Real Presence, holy Communion, the freedom of the Holy Spirit to give charisms with or without official permission.

How generous and even true this all seems, yet how different for us, loyal American Catholics, waiting patiently for the hierarchy to give us Communion and the other sacraments only they can bestow. The logic goes like this: “No male, celibate priests -- no Eucharist; no Eucharist -- no church.” The vocation crisis threatens the existence of the church, we are told: Give us your sons or we will be forced to close or merge your parishes, substitute Communion services for Mass, crowd you into regional megachurches.

The Dutch aren’t buying it. There is no vocations crisis and no priest shortage if you count married men, women, former priests willing to serve. There is ample historical and theological precedent for models of ministry other than the one tied to clerical celibacy. Even the Vatican’s emphasis on the original Twelve as the only template for priesthood edits out the fact that most were probably married, that Jesus included women in his inner circle, and that Paul’s house church Eucharists were presided over by women.

If it is true that without Eucharist there can be no church, then how does Rome justify making preservation of the current clerical model more important than the survival of thousands of otherwise viable parishes? Where is the crisis of conscience among individual bishops, vicars of Christ and shepherds? How will they give an account of their stewardship of a church in which the baptized were increasingly denied the Eucharist, except on their rigidly limited and theologically unjustifiable terms, why the faithful died without confession and anointing because there was no priest who could come, and why other sacraments were by appointment only and often unavailable to the flock? What were they thinking?

Our Dutch Catholic brothers and sisters have been thinking long and hard about these questions. They know that for our church to be relevant, it must exist in the real world, the modern world it is committed to engage and serve. Serious problems challenge us: rapidly changing technologies, global demographic patterns and economic shifts that both enrich and despoil, wars and rumors of war, generational rifts that are fueling both religious fundamentalism and rootless secularism.

They are seeing the future with courage and welcoming it as eucharistic people. And we can learn from them about how to be church from below, with or without permission from above.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Even the happiest of men flaunt their woes

Another article offered in the spirit of occasionally offering dissenting views from reliable sources...

Albany Times Union
First published: Friday, December 7, 2007

It is time that certain Catholic liberals give up their knee-jerk response to the sexual abuse problem. "Let priests marry, let them have legitimate sexual pleasures and then they won't become pederasts," they say. This argument, heard usually from those who would claim to be feminists, reduces the wife in a marriage to the role of satisfying a man's sexual needs so he won't have to victimize young boys.

A recent study of schoolteachers as pederasts leaves little doubt that some married men and women will prey on their students whenever they think they can get away with it. They might just be the kind of people who enjoy variety in their sexual partners.

I never have been able to understand these layfolk who are obsessed with the abolition of celibacy. It may well be an appropriate modification of the structures of the Catholic Church in a time when most American young men do not find the priesthood attractive. However, a cursory reading of the literature on the personal and professional satisfaction among the clergy and reports from the spouses and children of Protestant (and Greek Orthodox and rabbinical) clergy seems to indicate that family relations are an enormous problem for many of them.

In addition to the usual problems of spouse and children, married clergy are subjected to the pressures from their parishioners, who often assume the spouse is an unpaid member of the parish team, and ecclesiastical authority, who often assume ministerial families must be like Caesar's wife -- beyond reproach in every way.

Those crusading Catholic lay leaders might consider the distinct possibility they would make the priest's life even more difficult. Survey data gathered at the National Opinion Research Center indicate that clergy score higher on measures of personal and professional satisfaction than any other professional group. While there are problems for the professional cleric (not enough money to raise an upper-middle-class family), there are rewards and satisfactions that seem on balance to be better than in any other profession.

Moreover, another NORC project found that Catholic priests had higher scores on measures of personal and professional satisfaction. They are, on the average, the happiest men in America. Priests don't want to admit this because it deprives them of their self-pity. There's nothing more satisfying than feeling sorry for yourself, whether you're a doctor, lawyer, accountant or priest.

I see in the newspapers that priests in Milwaukee are sending a delegation to meet with their archbishop about the terrible state of their morale. Their plight may in fact be worse than the average American priests, but I kind of doubt it. We live in a veil of tears where things routinely go wrong. There is no immunity from aggravations and heartache. Otherwise, why would so many priests seem to think a wife would solve all their problems?

The myth of a morale problem, combined with the shame of the sexual abuse crisis, probably explains why so many priests do not try to recruit young men to walk in their footsteps. The so-called vocation crisis may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-pity does not attract others to walk your path. Most priests are happy in their work. It is time they reveal this dirty little secret.

Andrew Greeley's e-mail address is