The 2017 Assembly will consider seven goals and two resolutions at its meeting.
Goals Under Consideration
- CLERICALISM: Explore the impact of a negative clerical culture and assist in the development of positive initiatives for clerical growth.
Proposal: That the AUSCP support a group of its members, working with Friends and other interested persons, to determine:
A) What negative impact clericalism in the US Catholic Church (the clerical culture of the Catholic priesthood) has on persons outside as well as within that culture?
B) What are specific examples of that negative impact?
C) What can we do to help diminish if not totally eradicate that negative impact?
D) Develop a positive vision and understanding of the ordained priesthood for the betterment of the USA Church by placing the ministry of the ordained priesthood within the royal priesthood of the community of faith.
- SEMINARY FORMATION: Establish an AUSCP work group to contribute to the USCCB’s current project of reviewing the Program of Priestly Formation.
Rationale: Pope Francis has used various images to challenge priests to revitalize their ministry: to experience “the smell of the sheep,” to understand “the church as a field hospital,” to recognize that issues are “not black or white, but grey,” and to reject “clericalism.” He calls what we are going through now “not just an era of changes, but a change of era.” However, the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis (Third Edition), issued in December 2016 by the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome, does not appear to recognize the changes needed to bring about the goals enunciated by Pope Francis. It simply takes for granted a four-century-old model. As the USCCB begins the process of reviewing its Program of Priestly Formation, due for completion in 2020, it is incumbent on the AUSCP to share its collective pastoral wisdom with the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and to be part of the process as fully as possible. USCCB’s Chair of the project is Cardinal Joseph Tobin.
- ORDAINING MARRIED MEN: Encourage our Bishops and the USCCB to engage in an open discussion in considering the ordination of married men (viri probati).
Rationale: Our Church in the United States is on the brink of a drastic decline in the number of priests available to provide sacramental service to Catholic people, and a more drastic decline in the number of priests available to serve as pastors of our current 17,000 parishes. A healthy and vibrant church will bring forth from its members sufficient ministers and pastors for its people while also being enriched by the service of priests from other lands and cultures. We are not currently meeting that vital standard. There is no prospect of doing so within the next 15 years. This shortage is leading to the merging/closing of many parishes, damaging long developed communities of faith, and reducing the public presence of the Catholic Church across our land.
- IMMIGRATION: Assist in the development of support systems for comprehensive immigration reform.
To support comprehensive immigration reform and to support AUSCP members to encourage their parishioners, deanery groups and Diocesan agencies and personnel to study, pray and act to promote this reform. It is also important to encourage members to cooperate in study, prayer and action programs with our fellow Christians and with Muslim and Jews and other religions where this is relevant as well as to work together with pro-reform organizations in the community which are not affiliated with a religious body (e.g. lawyer groups, secular social service agencies etc.) It would be most helpful if we encourage our members to build broad coalitions to educate, advocate and lobby for reform.
Rationale: Those who are deportable because they “entered without inspection,” or overstayed their visas (and are thus “out of status”) are now in very great jeopardy although they are not criminals and may have children who are American citizens. Refugees seeking to be welcomed in the USA and those who have entered seeking asylum are finding the door closed.
- NON-VIOLENCE: Actively support, both as a national priest association and personally as priests, the re-commitment to Gospel non-violence proposed by the USCCB’s World Day of Peace 2017.
Rationale: The 2017 World Day of Peace theme highlights this priority of JUST PEACE, on the face-to-face level, on the church and societal level, and finally on the relationship among the world’s nations. The USCCB laid the foundations to implement this year’s Theme: “Lesser known is our Catholic commitment to active nonviolence and building a just peace. Gospel nonviolence is not passive. Rather, it entails active strategies such as peace-building, conflict transformation, restorative justice, and unarmed civilian protection. Seeking a just peace means preventing conflict by addressingits causes, building relationships, and facilitating healing and restoration. In his Message for the 50th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis urges families, faith communities, government leaders, and the international community to practice nonviolence and work to build a just peace.”
- YOUTH SYNOD: Develop AUSCP input for the up-coming Youth Synod.
Establish an ad-hoc Committee to develop AUSCP input to the 2018 Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocations. Rationale: The AUSCP consists of priests with vast pastoral experience, many directly with young people and others as pastors/superiors to whom Youth Ministers have been or are responsible. Through our network of priests across the country we can collect information, insights, and recommendations which can then be pastorally analyzed, organized and articulated as a contribution to the work of the 2018 Synod.
The value of such an effort was validated by the contribution of our Association to the 2015 Synod on the Family, delivered directly to Vatican Offices and to our episcopal representatives to that Synod. We can do the same again and better!
- LABOR: Protect and enhance the human dignity of Catholic ministers and workers in US Catholic institutions.
The Church & Labor Working Group (CLWG) has accomplished its initial goal of asking the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) to research church canons in finding whether any of them would be calling on the Catholic Church and its dioceses, parishes and institutions to implement Catholic Social Teaching with regard to its role as an employer of lay ecclesial ministers and other church workers. After this research is done, it is suggested that the CLSA submit recommendations for action to the USCCB. There continues to be the need to develop and implement working relationships between the AUSCP with the CLSA as it examines the proposal and considers further action. Over the past two years through the CLWG, communication and contact has developed with a number of other Catholic related organizations, i.e., the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, Unite Here, Service Employee International Union, Call to Action, National Federation of Priest Councils, National Association of Lay Ministry, and Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. The CLWG goal will work to maintain these working relationships.
Resolutions Under Consideration
The AUSCP will also be offering the following resolutions for discernment & approval:
- PRIEST-LESS PARISHES: Approve at the Assembly the letter to be sent to all US Bishops on Priest-less Parishes.
Rationale: To secure Assembly understanding and support of a letter to be sent to all US Bishop about the crisis of priestless parishes. This is an effort to seek USCCB action to ensure that Pastoral Leadership, Ordained or Lay, will be provided for the spiritual and temporal lives of the baptized. The People of God are entitled in every Diocese of the United States to receive pastoral care.
- DEACONS ANOINTING: Request the USCCB to petition the Holy See for Deacons to administer the Sacrament of Anointing.
Many dioceses do not have adequate Priest-Chaplain coverage for the hospitals. This is a common experience. Calls are regularly received for anointing at night and early morning. People are being denied the sacrament of anointing, especially during off-hours when the usual day staff is not present. The usual objection to having deacons administer the sacrament of anointing is that it also forgives sins which is reserved for priests alone. However, even lay people can administer the sacrament of baptism in emergency situations. Request that the Holy See make this change to better serve the people of God.