Signs of the Times

John Long, Leading Ecumenist, Dies at 80

John F. Long, S.J., a leading ecumenist and one of the world’s foremost Catholic experts on Eastern Orthodox churches and theology, died in New York on Sept. 20 following hospitalization for emergency cardiac surgery. He was 80 years old. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, a friend for five decades, presided at the funeral Mass celebrated on Sept. 24 at the Fordham University Church in New York. In the 1960’s, as a member of the Vatican Secretariat (now Pontifical Council) for Promoting Christian Unity, Father Long participated in the drafting of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, Declaration on Religious Liberty and Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. From 1969 to 1980 he headed the secretariat’s section for relations with the Orthodox churches, and from 1981 until his death he was a consultor to the secretariat and the subsequent council. He was a member of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church from 1981, shortly after it was formed, until his death.

Vatican Ready for Dialogue With Chinese

A longtime Vatican diplomat who specialized in relations with reluctant Asian governments said the Vatican is ready to begin a constructive dialogue with Chinese authorities tomorrow, or rather, this very night. Archbishop Claudio Celli, secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and a former top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State, spoke on Sept. 20 in Rome. The archbishop made his remarks after receiving the Freinademetz Award from the Divine Word Missionaries for his contributions to improving understanding between the peoples of China and Europe. Archbishop Celli said that although the process of rapprochement between the Vatican and China has not reached an official, formal level, contacts have existed for several years. While the Catholic Church wants to normalize its relations with China and ensure full religious freedom for its faithful there, the church is not alone in having a responsibility to forge stronger ties with the country, he said. Development and a commitment to peace require a great new relationship with China, he said.


March Signals More Unified Opposition to War

With all major faith groups represented, the protest march in Washington on Sept. 24 against the war in Iraq marked a new step in the effort to bring a more unified religious voice to the antiwar movement, according to a representative of Pax Christi USA. Michael Jones, director of communications for the Catholic peace movement based in Erie, Pa., said at least 500 Pax Christi members and thousands of other Catholics participated in the demonstration, which drew an estimated 100,000 people for a march past the White House to the National Mall. Other Catholic participants included members of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Catholic Worker movement, as well as notable individual Catholics.

Sharp Criticism From and for Philadelphia Grand Jury

Sharp criticism of Philadelphia archdiocesan leaders in a grand jury report on sexual abuse of children by members of the local Catholic clergy drew an equally sharp response from the archdiocese. After a three-year investigation, the grand jury issued a 423-page report on Sept. 21 that said retired Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, his predecessor, the late Cardinal John J. Krol, and their top aides all abdicated their duty to protect children. They concealed priests’ sexual abuses instead of exposing them.... There is no doubt that these officials engaged in a continuous, concerted campaign of cover-up over the priests’ sexual offenses. In a 76-page response, archdiocesan attorneys described the report as a vile, mean-spirited diatribe against the church and a sensationalized, lurid and tabloidlike presentation of events that transpired years ago, which is neither fair nor accurate. Philadelphia’s current archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, said that the church has deep regrets and sorrow over the abuse of children by priests. Outlining extraordinary steps taken by the archdiocese since 2002 to protect children, assist victims and remove abusive priests from ministry, Cardinal Rigali said, In the end the grand jury affirms the actions already taken by the archdiocese to report any instances of abuse to the proper legal authorities and to safeguard young people.

Summit Sidestepped Nuclear Disarmament

The Vatican nuncio at the United Nations criticized world leaders for sidestepping the issues of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation at their summit meeting in mid-September. The final document on U.N. reform measures and efforts to alleviate world poverty was silent regarding disarmament and nonproliferation, said Archbishop Celestino Migliore. Nuclear armament is simply devastating for peoples and the environment, he said in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 23. Such weapons also drain economic resources that could be better used for peaceful purposes, he added. We must insist on complete nuclear disarmament and a stronger system to verify it, he said. The day before, in a talk at a U.N. conference promoting compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the archbishop criticized governments whose failure to sign the treaty is keeping the ban on nuclear testing from taking effect.

Lay Leader Donna M. Hanson Dies of Cancer

Donna M. Hanson, 65, a nationally known lay leader, died on Sept. 23 of cancer. Until her recent retirement she had been Spokane diocesan director of social ministries and Catholic Charities for more than a quarter-century. Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, who was to celebrate Hanson’s funeral Mass on Sept. 28 at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in Spokane, called her a tremendous leader, not only here in our own diocese, but around the country as well. If we look at the growth of Catholic Charities, all the way from...farmworker housing to institutions like the House of Charity and St. Margaret Shelter, to the more recent building of the new St. Anne Children and Family Center, it’s just a remarkable, remarkable legacy, said the bishop. In 1987 Hanson addressed Pope John Paul II on behalf of the laity during his visit to San Francisco. The chairwoman of the U.S. bishops’ National Advisory Council at the time, she described U.S. Catholic laity as among the best educated and most highly theologically trained in the world and asked the pope to help make the church more inclusive and collaborative.

Pope, Küng Have Friendly’ Meeting

Pope Benedict XVI and the Swiss theologian the Rev. Hans Küng, who have known each other for almost 50 years, met on Sept. 24 at Castel Gandolfo in what the Vatican described as a friendly encounter. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman, said on Sept. 26 that the pope and Father Küng agreed that in the space of this meeting it made no sense to enter into an argument about the doctrinal questions remaining between Hans Küng and the magisterium of the church. Father Küng served as a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council, but in 1979 the Vatican withdrew permission for him to teach as a Catholic theologian, but did not restrict his ministry as a Catholic priest. The priest, a professor at the University of Tübingen, Germany, has challenged official church positions on papal infallibility, birth control, priestly celibacy and the all-male priesthood. Navarro-Valls said the meeting focused on two topics of Father Küng’s recent work: the possibility of developing a global ethic drawing from all religious traditions and the dialogue between Christian faith and science.

Church Must Be More Conciliar, Ecumenists Say

If the papacy is to be exercised in a way that serves Christian unity better, the Catholic Church must become more conciliar, with broader participation at all levels in church governance, several ecumenists said at a forum on Sept. 26 at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Hierarchy without conciliarity is tyranny.... Conciliarity without hierarchy is anarchy, said Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, a veteran ecumenist and dean emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. The forum, convened by the Woodstock Theological Center to mark the 30th anniversary of its founding at Georgetown, was titled Re-envisioning the Papacy. The ecumenical scholars were responding to the 1995 invitation of the late Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical on Christian unity, asking church leaders and theologians to engage in a patient and fraternal dialogue about new ways papal primacy could be exercised that would make the pope’s ministry more effective in advancing Christian unity.

Vatican-Israeli Relations Clear Sign of Respect

For many Jews, the clearest sign of a new Catholic respect for Judaism was the launching in 1993 of full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel. Oded Ben-Hur, Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, said, When God promised the land to Israel, it was an irrevocable promise, which means that discussions about the land are not strictly political. The ambassador spoke on Sept. 26 at Rome’s Gregorian University during a conference on the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s document on interreligious dialogue, Nostra Aetate. Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interfaith Consultations, said most Jews felt that the lack of diplomatic ties was a continued sign that Catholics did not recognize the right of Jews to a homeland, that they still believed the Jewish people are condemned to wander the earth because they did not believe in Christ. The establishment of full relations was seen as a confirmation of a changed attitude, Rabbi Rosen said.

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13 years 4 months ago
I have read of Cardinal Justin Rigali's response to the grand jury report in the Philadelphia papers, and note the usual accusations of sensation-seeking, anti-Catholicism, and so forth, against the jury's findings. Just one question, however. Cardinal Rigali claims the report makes no mention of the great efforts made "since 2002" to ensure the safety of children. But did the archdiocese of Philadelphia wait until such a late date to take action? Are we seriously asked to believe that no one was aware of the problem until then?

Sancta simplicitas.

Nicholas Clifford

12 years ago
I am noticing a change in the material treated in America. I have been very disappointed in the coverage, or lack of it, regarding the pedophilia exposure in Philadelphia (Signs of the Times, 10/10; Letters, 10/31). Our people are so angry, so hurt and disillusioned and we need to have this attended to in print by Catholic magazines. Good analysis is needed.

I do understand that the editors of America are in a delicate position, but I call on you to be as courageous as possible in editorials and articles regarding this horrible event in our church.

12 years ago
Reading the obituary of the esteemed, recently deceased John F. Long, S.J., (Signs of the Times, 10/10) and the tribute to him in a recent address by Brian E. Daley, S.J., reported in America (Signs of the Times, 11/7), I began to wonder what the results might be of the decades of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. Little is reported about this.

The few differences in doctrine and practice between the two halves of the church do not appear to a layman to be major obstacles. If the filioque matter is even being discussed, it seems totally irrelevant to the religious lives of ordinary people, and theologians who are concerned with it could do more useful work elsewhere. The Orthodox provisions for married clergy and a second shot at marriage seem far more sensible than Roman Catholic practices and should be adopted by Rome.

I fear the obstacle is power and authority. As Father Daley delicately puts it, “For the Catholic Church, growth toward ecumenical unity must unquestionably involve the readiness to accept new forms of synodal decision-making and teaching that will be more complex, more mutual, more inclusive and less centralized than is conceivable within the classical modern model of papal primacy.”

In other words, the papacy, which will not even allow a national bishops’ conference to decide the wording of a Bible translation into its national language, has to accept substantial independent decision-making by patriarchs and autocephalous churches! Whoowee! And how is the pope to be elected? The Orthodox have no College of Cardinals, a Roman invention not found in the early church.

Such details could be worked out, of course, given the necessary flexibility on all sides. But the apparent lack of any real progress after decades of work is striking and dismaying.

12 years ago
You did your readers a disservice by scant mention in Signs of the Times (10/10) of the report of the three-year investigation by a grand jury in Philadelphia into sexual abuse and its coverup in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. You gave no specifics about this report; more space was given to the archdiocese’s pathetic response.

The public deserves to know the shocking facts uncovered in this extensive investigation, which lead to the clear conclusion that the handling of sexual abuse by the hierarchy and the archdiocese was at least as immoral as the abuse itself. That is a most serious allegation.

An informed church will come to demand a restructuring of church leadership that will function appropriately in today’s world without secrecy, arrogance and the vestiges and privileges of royalty.

13 years 4 months ago
I have read of Cardinal Justin Rigali's response to the grand jury report in the Philadelphia papers, and note the usual accusations of sensation-seeking, anti-Catholicism, and so forth, against the jury's findings. Just one question, however. Cardinal Rigali claims the report makes no mention of the great efforts made "since 2002" to ensure the safety of children. But did the archdiocese of Philadelphia wait until such a late date to take action? Are we seriously asked to believe that no one was aware of the problem until then?

Sancta simplicitas.

Nicholas Clifford


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