UPDATE: German court: Catholics who don’t pay religious tax must leave church | National Catholic Reporter

UPDATE: German court: Catholics who don’t pay religious tax must leave church | National Catholic Reporter.

The above article on NCR adds more details to the story coming out of Germany about Catholics being refused the sacraments if they opt out of paying the Church Tax. As with all news stories, one must be cautious about believing sensational head lines. And this head-line, to our North American sensibilities, is sensational indeed. It raised my ire when I first read about it, but I kept hoping that perhaps there was some miscommunication…some cultural nuance that we were missing.

Well, recent statements by Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German Bishop’s Conference, leave no room for nuance…

Clearly, someone withdrawing from the church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member,

The church is a ‘system’ that we ‘take advantage’ of? What happened to graces freely given and freely received? What about the institutional church taking advantage of the people she is called to serve?

“We are grateful Rome has given completely clear approval to our stance.”

What??? This kind of bullying tactic has the approval of the Vatican? This does not bode well for the “New Evangelization”. While bishops from around the world prepare to gather next month to discuss how to draw souls back to the the faith, some are intentionally alienating those who are struggling to stay in the midst of this mess. They just don’t get it!!!

The archbishop said each departure was “painful for the church,” …and “The Catholic church is committed to seeking out every lost person.”

OK, call me a skeptic…but is the pain coming from lost souls, or lost income?

“At issue, however, is the credibility of the church’s sacramental nature. One cannot be half a member or only partly a member. Either one belongs and commits, or one renounces this,”

I respectfully disagree – vehemently – with the good bishop. There are many good souls in our church who struggle with certain teachings or issues. In the midst of their struggles, some stay. Some need to take a voluntary exile to ponder and rethink their faith. Some just cannot afford to give large donations to the church. Some choose not to give financial support as a protest. Through it all, many still identify themselves as Catholics. After all, the sacrament of baptism is indelible. Do not judge our faith or our commitment based on the money we give. It is not only unfair. It is offensive.

In his opening address Monday to the bishops’ meeting, Zollitsch said the church needed “a long perspective, deep breath and patience” to cope with current challenges, as well as a capacity for dialogue with “social groups and circles alienated from the church.”

This really does have to be the kicker! Spot the hypocrisy anyone? This comment screams a lack of understanding. Yes, WE need to take a long, deep breath and have patience with these church leaders. Their actions and tone reflect an authoritative need for control and power, not a desire for dialogue. They need to take a closer look at the cause of the alienation of so many from our church. Perhaps a mirror would help in this regard.

Sigh….. Please forgive my own tone in this rant. Anger does little for dialogue. But sometimes I just need to let off some steam…

LCWR, Cardinal Levada and the dialogue of the deaf

For all who have been following the tale of the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), today was a big day. LCWR president Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell and executive director St. Joseph Sr. Janet Mock met in Rome with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, the Vatican delegate appointed to oversee the assessment in the US.

The official press releases following the meeting were anti-climactic. The Vatican Press gave an official announcement that reiterated the authority of the Holy See over the sister’s conference, and the role of the CDF in ensuring that the LCWR is in union with the Magisterium. The press release from the LCWR was simple. The sisters were returning to the US to discuss the results of the meeting on regional levels and at their annual assembly in August. No interviews were going to be given.

I was musing on this all day, wondering if there was anything worth writing about. Perhaps all had been said to this point. But something still didn’t seem right. Did any actual dialogue take place? I wrote a blog post for NCR Today, but hesitated sending it in. I kept checking the National Catholic Reporter web-site for more news, and there was nothing. So, I sent off my wee piece. Almost simultaneously, John Allen Jr. posted an interview with Cardinal Levada, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Faith. Now here is a story!

The Cardinal describes a `dialogue of the deaf“ with the women of the LCWR. The deafness, he believes, comes from not wholeheartedly embracing the doctrinal assessment of the CDF and accepting the proposals for reform that are being presented to them.

In the short term, Levada said he would take as evidence that things are moving in the right direction if LCWR enters into “a sincere, cordial and open dialogue” with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, tapped by the Vatican to oversee the reform envisioned in the doctrinal assessment.

To date, Levada said, that hasn’t happened. 

Cardinal Levada also spoke openly about the possibility of the LCWR cutting their official ties with the Vatican.

So, the LCWR has chosen silence in order to pray, ponder, and dialogue among their membership before any statements or actions are taken. Theirs is a dignified approach. Cardinal Levada, meanwhile, has already put his opinions and musings into the limelight for all to see as if it was a fait accompli. And he has taken a very undignified dig at the sisters with his ‘dialogue of the deaf’ comment.

The story is far from over. My prayers and hopes are with the sisters that they will continue to face this challenge with grace, dignity, and faith in their communal wisdom. As to the deafness in the dialogue…may all ears and hearts be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Today in church history – John XXIII drops Vatican II bombshell

I was born on January 9, 1959. I am as old as Madonna (the singer, not the Blessed Virgin),Donny Osmond (my teenage crush) and Barbie (the doll). I also consider myself a Vatican II baby. On January 25, a couple of weeks after I was born, Blessed John XXIII announced to a shocked group of Curial Cardinals that he was going to summon an Ecumenical Council. The announcement was made at the grand Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The great Pope describes his inspiration as a great light, well in tune with the scripture readings of this feast day. The reaction of those present was reminiscent of the great saint’s tumble off his horse.

On October 11, 2012, the Church will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The National Catholic Reporter will be publishing various articles on this great historical event. Today’s essay, Curial horror greeted John XXIII’s announcement of ecumenical council, gives a great description of the announcement made 53 years ago, today.