Friday, May 16, 2003

The May 9 issue of Commonweal has two very good articles debating opposite sides of the case for the sanctity of Pope Pius XII. (See below for other items of interest in this issue).

Colin Powell to meet the Pope

Pope Calls for Nuclear Disarmament and Reduction of Threats of War

The May 9, 2003 issue of the Catholic review, Commonweal, has an article by John Garvey entitled Intelligent Design suggesting that the any scientific argument to prove an intelligent designer leads to deism (and therefore idolatry). There is also a good article by E.J. Dionne Jr. entitled An Idea Whose Time Has Come praising Congressman Dick Gephardt for putting health care back on the table with a viable plan that is a real alternative to Bush’s tax cut proposals.

The Catholic Legislative Network of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC is calling on Catholics to support the Collins-Nelson Amendment which will designate $20 billion in state fiscal aid with $10 billion of it going for Medicaid assistance.

The May 19, 2003 issue of Newsweek, p. 11 Periscope section has a blurb about the Holy Father entitled Religion: Impolitic Timing by Suzanne Smalley and Barbie Nadeau.

The blurb, only a couple of paragraphs long, criticizes the Holy Father for the recent beatification of Father Marco D'Aviano, O.F.M., Capuchin. The seventeenth century Franciscan led the Viennese army to victory against Muslim Turks in 1683. The capture of the Turkish coffee is supposedly how the name cappuccino was given to the brew. The Holy Father stated that D'Aviano is a symbol of that Europe's "unity will be more stable if it is based on its common Christian roots."

The same issue of Newsweek has an article by Kenneth L. Woodward on p. 76 entitled A Tale of Four Catholics: Their Lives, Work and Sin which reviews Paul Elie’s The Soul You Save May be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. The book is covers the lives of four great American Catholic writers: Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Walker Percy and Flannery O'Conner.

Today's Washington Post quoted Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus as stating that his role in Iraq is "a combination of being the president and the pope."

The following article is from the May 16 issue of The National Catholic Reporter by Vatican Correspondent, John L. Allen Jr.

Thinking Catholics generally try to hold two values in healthy tension: fidelity and criticism. Fidelity without critical thought is hollow, while criticism without fidelity becomes dissent for its own sake. How far in either direction is too far is a constant matter of debate.

A fresh example comes from Bavaria, where the Bishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Müller, has removed a layman named Johannes Grabmeier from parish, regional and diocesan councils to which he had been elected. His offense was belonging to the reform group We Are Church. (His wife is one of six national co-chairs of the organization).

We Are Church was founded in Austria in 1995 during upheaval related to a sex abuse scandal, and quickly spread to Germany. The group garnered 2.3 million signatures on a petition demanding five reforms:

1. A loving church … where the People of God participate in selecting bishops and pastors;

2. A church with equal rights for women, where women … are welcomed in all ministries, including the ministerial priesthood;

3. A church where priests may choose either a celibate or non-celibate way of life;

4. A church that affirms … a positive presentation of sexuality and the primacy of conscience in sexual morality;

5. A church that offers good tidings rather than threats … that embraces and welcomes divorced and remarried, married priests, theologians and others who exercise freedom of speech.

I reached Grabmeier by phone on May 13, and he affirmed his agreement with all five of these principles. He said he has written to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, arguing that Müller did not observe the procedures outlined in the Code of Canon Law before removing him.

His position has drawn support from Hans Joachim Meyer, president of the powerful Central Committee of German Catholics, the most important lay Catholic organization in Germany. The governing board of the Central Committee recently declared that "church loyalty and church criticism are not mutually exclusive, but rather church loyalty is the basis and condition of church criticism."

Muller is by conventional standards a theological conservative (he was a professor of dogmatics at the University of Munich before becoming a bishop, a member of the International Theological Commission and a friend of Ratzinger), but he does not seem a blind authoritarian. Just 10 days before Grabmeier was fired, Müller told his diocesan council that he would be willing to consider allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics under certain conditions to return to the sacraments, without calling into question the general prohibition.

Grabmeier for his part told me he did not intend to challenge Catholic discipline. "I am in the middle of the church, of the Second Vatican Council, and of Jesus Christ," he said.

The heart of the debate shapes up as whether a bishop is within his rights to insist that a Catholic in good standing cannot hold the views implied in the "We Are Church" petition. In that sense, this is more than a local German story, and it will be interesting to see if, and how, Re responds to Grabmeier's appeal.

A footnote: We Are Church is back in the news for another reason. Despite John Paul's reaffirmation of church discipline on inter-communion in his recent encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, We Are Church is planning to sponsor three liturgies featuring "Eucharistic hospitality" during the May 28-June 1 ecumenical Kirchentag, or "Church Day," festival in Berlin. In conjunction with another reform group called Initiative Church from Below and a Protestant parish, We Are Church has organized a Catholic and a Protestant service in which all Christians will be invited to receive communion, plus a "meal of solidarity" with the poor and people on the fringes. Though the liturgies are not part of the official program, they are sure to make a splash.


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