In his regular Friday missive John L Allen, Jr., the nearly ubiquitous fair-minded correspondent for the dissenting NCR, reports on the content of an address given by the Archbishop of LA, His Eminence Roger Card. Mahony this week about ministry to a National Federation of Priests’ Councils convention in San Antonio.
Card. Mahony, according to Allen, "at one point he sketched 17 specific challenges facing the church, saying his aim was not to present definitive positions but to foster discussion."
The following summary is based on excerpts from Mahony’s San Antonio address.
Challenges cited by the cardinal include (my emphases and comments):
- 1. “Some really harsh generational divides” among priests, “with the younger generation often quite openly challenging the orthodoxy of older priests.” [And it's about time, too.]
- 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 think we can all harmonize with that!]
- 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”? [We still need a lot of work and thought on what the permanent diaconate is about in the face of a shortage of priests.]
- 4. Offering “proper theological and pastoral formation” for lay ministers, at a time when the economy is prompting greater reliance on volunteers and deacons. [I would settle for the basics in the Baltimore Catechism!]
- 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!”) [Aside from the unfortunate expression, I think we know what that seminarian meant.]
- 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’?") [Or maybe they aren't obsessed by it?]
- 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.” [How about just saying the black and doing the red?]
- 8. “A slowing down of ecumenical efforts at the local level, and at all levels.” [Or could it be that some people are rethinking what true ecumenism involves?]
- 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.”) [This may be more economic than political. I am suspicious when I social issues immediately politicized.]
- 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.” [Oh YAH? Well that can be healed from the head down. Don't get me started.]
- 11. How to articulate the church’s positions on sexuality “in a plausible and compelling way.” [I think the Church has more than mere "positions" on sexuality.]
- 12. “More parish retreats, to give people an inexpensive and parish-related quiet time.” [Instead of the constant dissonant noise of their parish Masses? No wait... this is serious. Actually, this is a good idea.]
- 13. A “poorly realized renewal of reconciliation ministry within parishes — especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” [Within all that gobbledygook is, I think, a statement that we need to get people to go to confession... we need priests to hear confessions. Was that it?]
- 14. Training laity to provide spiritual direction, “as part of a larger spiritual renewal ministry in the parish.” [I have a bad feeling about that idea.]
- 15. “The nagging problem of too many people getting children baptized, and getting married, outside their own parish.” [This is a practical reality: people will go where they choose.]
- 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.” [Grrr.... another iffy idea. I am all for parish support of the sick. But let's remember that the sacrament is not conferred by a community and we shouldn't give that impression. Let's start with catechism about the sacrament.]
- 17. Greater interaction among all the parishes in a diocese, especially “where there are many social classes and many cultural groups.” [Could be a good idea. Certainly that is the case with education. It could be a good idea also for helping the needy.]
I will leave the combox open.
But don’t think even for a second that that is an invitation to post knuckle-headed comments about the person of Card. Mahony. I will lock you out if you do.
Stick to the points…. they are fodder enough for discussion.
Discuss by number.