Archive for the ‘News’ Category


April 21, 2012

  Joseph F. O’Callaghan 

The right of the clergy and people of the diocese to choose their bishops is hallowed by usage from the earliest times, by canons enacted by Church Councils, and by repeated papal affirmation. Today, however, the pope appoints bishops without significant input from the faithful of the diocese.

 Since the Second Vatican Council theologians, canonists, and church historians have argued that the process of choosing bishops must be reformed. In 1971 The Second Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, convened by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, declared: “The basic Christian principles of co-responsibility, the dignity and freedom of persons, and the rights of Christians have traditionally dictated broad participation in the process of selecting bishops. With this in mind the Diocese of Bridgeport will work to develop means whereby priests and laity may have a voice in nominations of candidates for the Episcopal Office” (2:26). However, nothing further seems to have been done to implement that decision.

 Today bishops are usually strangers to the diocese over which they preside and are often transferred to other wealthier and more prestigious dioceses. As a result, bishops are often viewed as agents of an international corporation inRomeand as careerists anxious to move up the ecclesiastical ladder. Even Cardinal Ratzinger decried any sense of careerism among bishops.

 The time has come to acknowledge that the People of God, particularly the clergy and people of the diocese, should have the primary role in choosing their bishop, whose leadership will significantly affect their spiritual well-being. All the faithful, clergy and laity alike, are best suited to evaluate the challenges facing the diocese, to indicate the qualities of pastoral and spiritual leadership desirable in a bishop, and to propose candidates whom they believe to be worthy of the episcopal office.

 In doing so, the clergy and people will be observing the age-old tradition of the Church expressed by Pope Celestine I (422-32) who said: “the one who is to be head over all should be elected by all.” He added: “No one who is unwanted should be made a bishop; the desire and consent of the clergy, the people, and the order is required.”

Our Statements in Support of Theologian Elizabeth Johnson and Rev. Roy Bourgeois

April 28, 2011

The recent statement by the Doctrinal Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that Professor Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Quest for the LivingGod: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, does not reflect authentic Catholic teaching about God and that it should not be used as a textbook in college classrooms is troubling.
            Faithful Catholics are right to call the Doctrinal Committee to task for several reasons. Whereas the Committee is very much within its rights to criticize the book, it apparently neglected to follow its own established procedures for such matters. At no time did the Committee notify Professor Johnson that her book was under review, but opted rather to carry out its investigation in secret. Only after publication of the Committee ‘s statement did she know that the review had been undertaken. She pointed out that the Committee attributed views to her that she did not hold nor express in her book. 
What is most disquieting about this affair is that it seems to be a heavy-handed attempt at censorship. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, chairman of the Committee, suggested that Professor Johnson could have requested an imprimatur before publishing her book. Imprimatur (“let it be printed”) is a censorship word used by a diocesan bishop to declare that, in his opinion, a particular book conformed to Catholic teaching. The bishop usually entrusted the review of such a book to one of his priests, who had the title Censor Librorum, Censor of Books. 
 The Committee’s action and Cardinal Wuerl’s statement suggest a desire to restore the arbitrary censorship of the writings of theologians. Perhaps they believe that Professor Johnson’s book and others of which they disapprove should be placed on the discredited Index of Prohibited Books abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1966. Perhaps the Committee believes that such forbidden books should be kept, as they once were, under lock and key in university libraries, lest the students read them. What are the bishops afraid of? Are they not the prophets of doom that Pope John XXIII mentioned in his opening address to the Second Vatican Council?   
This is not the first time that the Committee has blundered. In response to Jewish protests, the Committee in 2009 issued a clarification of its “Statement of Principles for Jewish-Catholic Dialogue.”
Canon Law (cc.220, 1390.2) stipulates that no one should harm the reputation of another, but the Committee has done just that. Inasmuch as Professor Johnson is recognized by her peers as one of the leading American theologians, we believe that the Doctrinal Committee owes her a public apology for mischaracterizing her work and wrongfully injuring her reputation. 
Signed: Jamie Dance, Jim Alvord, Joanne Bray, Kathleen Clement, Marge Hickey, Marilyn Kirchner, John Lee,  Dick Maiberger, Joe O’Callaghan, Anne Pollack, Marie Rose, Dick Vicenzi, Tony Wiggins

 Letter to Maryknoll Fathers

Rev. Edward M. Dougherty, M.M.Superior General, Maryknoll Fathers
P.O. Box304

Dear Father Dougherty:

             We are writing to exhort you to stand firm, shoulder to shoulder with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, one of your priests, who has been threatened with excommunication by theVaticanfor his outspoken stance in favor of the ordination of women. On that account, theVaticanis demanding that you expel Fr. Bourgeois from your community.

 As women, like men, are made in the image and likeness of God, we believe that they should be invited to preside at the eucharistic celebration. To continue to deny them ordination is unjust and an affront to those women, who, from the very time of Jesus, have carried out the essential task of transmitting the faith to our children.

 Rather than be complicit in theVatican’s abusive condemnation of Fr. Bourgeois, this is the time to stand up for what is right. Rather than turn your back on one of your own, a long-time member of the Maryknoll family, and thus bring everlasting shame on Maryknoll’s name, we urge you and your community to rise up in his defense.  When an injustice is committed, all good men and women, responding to the promptings of their conscience, will cry out in protest. Now is the time to do that. We know that you will.

 May God always bless your work!
Jamie Dance and the following members of the Board of Directors: J. Alvord, J. Bray, K. Clement, M. Hickey, M. Kirchner, J. Lee, D. Maiberger, J. O’Callaghan, M. Rose, R. Vicenzi, T. Wiggins



April 8, 2011

Support the Victims, Not the Bishops

April 28, 2010

Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Former Chair
Daniel B. Sullivan, Co-Chair
Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport

The bishops of the Catholic Church in Connecticut have once again raised a hue and cry against legislation pending in the Connecticut legislature that they perceive as an attack on the Catholic Church. Perhaps they perceive it that way because of their guilty consciences.

House Bill 5473 would eliminate the statute of limitations pertaining to sexual abuse of a minor in a very limited number of cases. It permits a victim who is older than 48 to sue ONLY if another action has already been filed within the period permitted by the existing statute, and that alleges substantially similar abuse by the same person and liability by the same defendant. The victim’s attorney must also have a good faith belief, after reasonable inquiry, that his client was abused as a minor.

While attempting to portray themselves as compassionate defenders of the victims of priestly sexual abuse, the bishops simultaneously are using all their resources to defeat this legislation in an effort to protect their temporal power and authority much like any corporate CEO.

But it is not this legislation that threatens the Church; rather, it is the acts of the priests who abused and the bishops who covered up that imperil the billions of dollars of assets controlled by Connecticut’s bishops. In the Diocese of Bridgeport Bishops Walter W. Curtis and Edward M. Egan routinely ignored charges of priestly sexual abuse and allowed priest predators to continue in service. Bishop Curtis destroyed documents containing evidence of abuse. Only when lawsuits were brought against the Diocese did the bishops remove the offenders from ministry. Bishop William E. Lori expended untold sums of money over nearly eight years to prevent the release of court documents that reveal the complicity of the bishops and their subordinates in the crime of sexual abuse of children.

Rather than accept responsibility for their actions, the bishops attempt to scapegoat attorneys who, in accordance with the principles of the American judicial system, present the claims of victims for adjudication in the courts. However, it is only after a jury has heard the evidence and found not just that a priest abused, but that the diocese was complicit because of its actions or failure to act, that the dioceses will face liability.

The bishops also argue that claims could be made that might be 50, 60, or 70 or more years old, as if the sexual abuse of an innocent child by a priest is something to be forgotten. In the opinion of the bishops, that child’s demand for justice should be dismissed as if it doesn’t matter anymore.

In view of the mounting evidence throughout the world of priestly sexual abuse and the subsequent cover-up by the bishops, Catholics have good reason to ask whether the present structure of church governance accords with the concept of the Church as the People of God. At present the laity is entirely excluded from any substantive role in church governance, as Canon Law reserves to the ordained all decision-making authority. It is the way the Catholic Church has chosen to structure most dioceses, to ensure maximum control by the bishop, which puts the assets of all parishes at risks for acts occurring anywhere within the diocese. If the bishops did not seek to maintain absolute control over every aspect of life within the diocese, but instead allowed individual parishes more autonomy, the liability of those parishes could be limited. If pastors and the laity had some say about the priests assigned to their parish and whether they could be removed, this would perhaps also lead to a better vetting of the priests in each parish.

Lest anyone be in doubt about the ultimate responsibility for the terrible abuse of children by men whom they were taught from earliest childhood to trust and revere, one may read Canon 391.1 of the Code of Canon Law: “The diocesan bishop is to rule the particular church committed to him with legislative, executive and judicial power in accord with the norm of law.” That means that the bishops have absolute power over all the faithful, clergy and people alike, without any checks or balances. That also means that despite the efforts of the bishops to shift the responsibility to the shoulders of the faithful, the bishops alone and their subordinates are responsible for the terrible tragedy that has occurred. The bishops and the clerical caste are not above the law and must be held accountable for crimes committed and for covering up crimes.

It is a sad day when those who profess to have the moral authority to lead a major religious institution encompassing about half of Connecticut’s population seek to mislead, mischaracterize and spin the facts in an effort to preserve their temporal, rather than spiritual, authority.