Signs of the Times

Dutch Proposal for Priestless Masses

The general curia of the Dominicans expressed surprise over a booklet published by members of the order in the Netherlands recommending that laypeople be allowed to celebrate Mass when no ordained priests are available. In a written statement released by the Vatican Sept. 18, the Dominicans’ Rome-based leaders said that while they “laud the concern of our brothers” over the shortage of priests, they did not believe “the solutions that they have proposed are beneficial to the church nor in harmony with its tradition.” The statement, dated Sept. 4, acknowledged the concerns of some Dutch Dominicans about the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and the difficulty in offering the faithful in the Netherlands a wider celebration of the Eucharist. But while the statement said Dominican leaders shared those same concerns, it said they did “not believe that the method they [the Dutch Dominicans] have used in disseminating” a booklet to all 1,300 parishes in the Netherlands was an appropriate way to discuss the issue.

Vatican Clarifies Position on Artificial Nutrition

Catholic health care and ethics groups thanked the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for clarifying its stand on artificial nutrition and hydration for patients in a persistent vegetative state in a pair of Sept. 14 documents. “The Catholic health ministry is grateful for the clarification provided today,” said Carol Keehan, a member of the Daughters of Charity who is president and C.E.O. of the Catholic Health Association.


“Patients in a persistent vegetative state, while making up a very small percent of all patients, pose some of the most challenging and heart-wrenching situations for families and caregivers,” she added. “This clarification affirms the church’s belief in the value of their lives in spite of the circumstances of their condition.”

The congregation reasoned that “the artificial administration of water and food generally does not impose a heavy burden either on the patient or on his or her relatives. It does not involve excessive expense; it is within the capacity of an average health care system, does not of itself require hospitalization, and is proportionate to accomplishing its purpose, which is to keep the patient from dying of starvation and dehydration. It is not, nor is it meant to be, a treatment that cures the patient, but is rather ordinary care aimed at the preservation of life.”

Exceptions may occur when patients are unable to assimilate food and water or in rare cases when nutrition and hydration become excessively burdensome for the patient, the Vatican document said.

U.N. Prize for Refugee Service Lawyer

A U.N. prize for outstanding service to refugees has been awarded to a Jesuit Refugee Services lawyer who aids boat people in Malta. Katrine Camilleri, who has helped detainees and asylum seekers in Malta since 1997, will receive this year’s Nansen Refugee Award, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees announced Sept. 18. The office said it chose Camilleri because of her “exceptional dedication to the refugee cause and her outstanding contribution through Jesuit Refugee Services in the protection and assistance to refugees.” It said Camilleri has shown political courage in her tireless lobbying and advocacy for the growing number of refugees in Malta, even in the face of threats. Last April, arsonists set fire to Camilleri’s car and front door.

U.S.C.C.B. Urges Resettlement of Iraqi Refugees

That the U.S. government should provide resettlement aid for 25,000 Iraqi refugees in the next fiscal year, 10 times the number expected to arrive by the end of the year, is one recommendation in a new report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Iraqi refugee crisis in the Middle East. “Iraqi refugees with relatives in the United States should be considered for U.S. resettlement on the basis of family reunification, dropping the requirement that they enter as refugees or migrants,” said the report, titled Escaping Mayhem and Murder: Iraqi Refugees in the Middle East. The report, issued Sept. 10 in Washington, D.C., was based on a seven-member U.S.C.C.B. fact-finding mission undertaken on July 2-13. Among the seven participants were Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee. The delegation visited Istanbul, Turkey; Beirut, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan; and Damascus, Syria. These countries currently host an estimated two million Iraqi refugees.

Bishops Dismayed at Amnesty Pro-Choice Stand

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has expressed dismay at the failure of the human rights group Amnesty International to reverse its new pro-abortion policy, describing the move away from neutrality on abortion as “deeply regrettable.” Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, president of the bishops’ conference, said the new policy put at jeopardy Catholics’ long association with Amnesty in “fighting injustice, ending human rights abuses and standing in solidarity with the imprisoned and the oppressed.” The Amnesty policy was changed in mid-August by the group’s International Council—made up of more than 400 delegates from 75 countries—which approved proposals to abandon the group’s neutral policy on abortion as part of its Stop Violence Against Women campaign. The council voted to “support the decriminalization of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion, and to defend women’s access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger.”

Book by Theologian Peter Phan Examined

Church officials are examining a book written by the Rev. Peter Phan for possible ambiguities on the unique role of the Catholic Church in the framework of religious pluralism. “There has been correspondence and dialogue” between Father Phan and the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, according to Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan priest who is executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices. Father Phan, a Vietnamese-American theologian, is a member of the theology department at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Father Weinandy told Catholic News Service Sept. 13 he could not comment on the private dialogue, in order to “respect the privacy of Father Phan and the work of the committee.” A story in The National Catholic Reporter of Sept. 12 said the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has voiced concerns about Father Phan’s book, Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, published in 2004 by Orbis.

Catholic Iraqi Refugees Eager to Work

Their family home in Fallujah, Iraq, was shelled, burned and looted. They languished for two years in Istanbul, Turkey, within the cultural and vocational limbo accorded refugees who are waiting to be permanently resettled somewhere, sometime. Now that Hana, Wafa and Sana Toma have found a permanent home in the Diocese of Oakland with the help of Catholic Charities, they speak with a single voice: “We want to work. Now.”

The three sisters arrived at the Oakland airport in late August with their 71-year-old mother, Samiya Bashir. Waiting to welcome them were their brother, Shamil Toma, his wife, Suha Yosif, and Elisabeth Lang, a Dominican sister who is director of Catholic Charities of the East Bay’s refugee resettlement program, which is serving as the family’s sponsor.

Volunteer Keeps Blog as Resource

“You leave your family, you leave your friends, and you know that you’re going to be gone for two years,” said Patrick Furlong. “A lot changes. When I get back, I don’t know what it’s going to be like.” Leaving the United States for two years, living on $60 a month and washing his laundry by hand was not where Furlong expected to find himself five years after graduating from high school in Albuquerque, N.M.

But Furlong’s experiences at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles led him down a path of service that continues to inspire and amaze not just him, but anyone who reads the weblog, or blog, he writes as a witness to his life. Furlong had been serving with the Holy Cross Associates for the last 12 months in Santiago, Chile. He keeps his blog on the World Wide Web at—with the hope that college students considering volunteer work after graduation might catch a glimpse of what it is like in the trenches.

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