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Online Edition - Vol. IV, No. 9: February 1999

News Items

Australia: Bishops' Absolution Abuse Correctives Create Stir

The document recently released jointly by the Austrialian bishops' conference and Vatican dicasteries said, among other things, that abuses of the practice of general absolution must be corrected. But efforts of some Australian bishops to do just that have been met with protests and media accounts of accusations of "liturgical spying".

"Spying Leads to Anger in Aisles", said a February 20th headline in Australia's Courier Mail. The story said that violations of the order to curtail the practice of general absolution have been monitored by a group called the Australian Catholics Advocacy Centre. In one case, an angry priest reportedly ejected a member of the Centre from his church.

But a spokesman for the group, Paul Brazier, rejected the label of "spies", saying that members of the group first report abuses to the bishops. He said it would be irresponsible for lay people not to report liturgical abuses.

The Courier Mail also reported that Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane, in an address to Brisbane priests, said he is "hurt, distresed, depressed and above all angry" at the pope's "strong rebuke" of Australian practices, but that "trying to maintain the Third Rite [of Reconciliation] will only cause greater pain".

Rochester Endgame?

"EXCOMMUNICATED" was the one-word banner headline in the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, New York, on February 25th. It could be the last word on a conflict involving a dissident priest, Father James Callan, and Bishop Matthew Clark.

After a year of nationwide publicity about the persistently disobedient Callan and his disciples ­ especially Mary Ramerman, who illicitly performed priestly functions at Corpus Christi parish where Callan was pastor ­ the endgame seems at hand.

The excommunication was latae sententiae, meaning that it is automatically incurred on the performance of certain acts, in this case Callan's establishing an unauthorized church, and his continued defiance of the instructions of Bishop Clark to cease blessing homosexual unions, allowing women to perform priestly acts, and encouraging non-Catholics to receive Communion.

The excommunication, announced by diocesan chancellor Father Kevin McKenna, applies also to the Catholics among the estimated 1,000 of Callan's followers in his new church, which meets on Presbyterian church property.

Some of Callan's supporters who remained at Corpus Christi professed disappointment that he didn't stay in the Catholic Church to work for "change".

They are right to worry. The quickest and surest way for a dissenter to achieve oblivion is to be outside the Church.

***

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