Priests’ reform group charts middle course

Before convening its second annual meeting last month, a fledgling organization of U.S. priests that wants to reform the Catholic … Continued

Before convening its second annual meeting last month, a fledgling organization of U.S. priests that wants to reform the Catholic Church was tweaked by critics as the last gasp of a dying liberal Catholicism.

But when the members the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests gathered in Seattle on June 24, they wound up adopting fewer than half of the proposals on their agenda and voted down the most controversial item: a call for the church to examine opening the priesthood to women and married men.

The Rev. Dave Cooper, a priest from Milwaukee who heads the 1,000-member AUSCP, said Tuesday (July 2) that the middle course charted by the 140 delegates reflected a goal of promoting dialogue, not laying down markers for a confrontation with the hierarchy.

“We realized that if we hope to dialogue with bishops we have to find bridges to do that,” Cooper said. If the group had adopted the resolution on ordaining women priests — a ban that the Vatican has said is not open for discussion — “it would have become an obstacle, a barrier, rather than a bridge.”

On the other hand, he said, now the group is being criticized by some “who accuse us of a lack of courage.”

“No, it’s not a lack of courage,” he said. “It’s wisdom. We need to know how to move forward.”

Among the six proposals passed by the priests at the three-day AUSCP convention was a resolution urging the church to “exercise … authority in a collegial manner through consensus decision-making processes.” Another expressed support for Pope Francis in his own effort to reform the church, and called for the participation of laity and clergy in the selection of bishops.

Those are hardly cries for revolution. In fact, the most controversial resolutions the priests voted for were a call to ordain women as deacons — an order that ranks below that of the priesthood — and for reintroducing general absolution for forgiving sins rather than restricting the rite of confession to a private one-on-one conversation with a priest. Those proposals have also been supported by a number of bishops.

Besides voting down the proposal to open a discussion about ordaining women and married men as priests, the delegates rejected six other resolutions. One would have asked the U.S. bishops “to work to resolve the problem of (the) precipitous decline” in the number of active priests. Another sought permission to use the 1974 version of the Mass that was recently supplanted by a new translation that has been widely criticized for its stilted language.

The decision not to call for wider use of the 1974 Mass may have been the biggest surprise of the voting.

One of the featured speakers at the gathering was recently retired Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., who was a vocal opponent of the new translation during the many years it took for Rome to convince the U.S. hierarchy to adopt the new missal.

Trautman, who received the group’s Pope John XXIII Award, blasted the new language of the rites as “flawed, awkward and clumsy,” according to a report in National Catholic Reporter.

“Our Lord did not speak above the heads of his hearers. He used the language of the people,” Trautman said. But he also said he was “a pragmatist” and doubted that a call to reinstate the old Mass would have much impact even if the AUSCP passed it.

In his remarks, Trautman reflected the hopes of many in the AUSCP that Francis’ election might signal a return to the values of collegiality and a pastoral approach to ministry that were raised by the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago.

“We have witnessed and endured turning the clock back. We have experienced a lessening of collaboration and dialogue,” Trautman said in a homily at Mass with the delegates.

“Yes, Holy Father, your brothers and co-workers . stand with you and pray that the clocks not be turned back, but ahead. We pray that the church would read the signs of our times and implement the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

More on:
Comments are closed.

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.