Archive of March 15, 2008

Diocesan priest community established in Denver

Denver, Colo., Mar 15, 2008 (CNA) - In response to a call from Vatican II for priests to share a common life, four seminarians for the Archdiocese of Denver have decided to begin a priestly community that will eventually be opened up to any priest or seminarian in the archdiocese.

Currently, the Companions of Christ is an association of seminarians established in the Archdiocese of Denver.  Once the four founding men are ordained, they will live together as priests in a rectory close to their pastoral assignments in the Archdiocese of Denver.

The priests will strive to live with three emphases: “Observance of the evangelical counsels in the context of the diocesan priesthood, commitment to a common life of prayer and fraternity, and dedication to the New Evangelization, including catechesis, spiritual renewal, and the fostering of vocations,” according to their website.

The Companions of Christ have already received the blessing of the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput who established the fraternity “canonically” on December 12, 2007, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“Our priests today face immense challenges: larger parishes, fewer priests to assist them, and a more secular culture that is at times hostile to both the Gospel and the priesthood,” said the archbishop.  “Grouped in rectories in various parts of the Archdiocese, they strive together for the ideal of the priesthood, giving mutual support and holding each other to a strict accountability.”

Noting the difficulties priests face, Father Michael Glenn, Rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary added, “All priests want to live a committed and zealous life, but the demands of ministry, human weakness and the difficulty of their work can often discourage them, revealing a life far different than what he expected while in the seminary.”

The Companions of Christ will directly address the problems priests are currently facing and will offer encouragement.  “Fraternal life offers unity in prayer and identity, as well as strength and support for Christ’s mission.  God has truly blessed us with a model of life that will help Companion Priests and many others to be holy, joyful, and healthy shepherds in their service and leadership of God’s people.  Nothing promotes vocations, invites to prayer, or enlivens a parish more than dynamic, fulfilled priests who love the life they live.  Strengthened as brothers in Christ, priests are ready to step forward in leadership for the New Evangelization.”

Companions of Christ is comprised of four Denver seminarians: John Nepil, Matt Book, Brian Larkin, and Mike Rapp who will be ordained in the next two or three years. 

Plans for the group began after one seminarian learned about a similar community in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The seminarians there “insisted that it wasn’t a new idea, just something that had been lost, that the Church was seeking to recover.”

After years of prayer, three other seminarians were drawn to the idea of the fraternity.  “The four men spent the next year together quietly praying and sharing meals, all the while fully immersed in the life of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.”

Since the announcement of the community, the Companions of Christ have been received with support and encouragement.

More information can be found at

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Episcopal Church deposes bishop, claims he broke from church teaching

Fresno, Calif., Mar 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Episcopal Church has deposed one of its Californian bishops after he affiliated his diocese with a conservative Anglican province based in South America, the California Catholic Daily reports.

In December Bishop John-David Schofield of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, with lay representatives and clergy, decided to change their ecclesial affiliation from the U.S. Episcopal Church to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.  The diocese decided to change affiliation because of the Episcopal Church’s toleration and promotion of homosexuality and other disputes about Biblical orthodoxy.   The Fresno-based diocese, which has over 8,000 members, no longer calls itself Episcopal but Anglican.

Episcopal presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori in January placed an “inhibition” on Bishop Schofield, forbidding him from performing religious rites until an Episcopal Church meeting could make a decision.

At a Texas meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops on March 12, the bishops voted to depose Bishop Schofield from ordained ministry because he had “repudiated the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.”  They also voted to depose a retired bishop from Maryland, William Cox, because he also continued to perform religious rites after affiliating with the Province of the Southern Cone.

The deposition of Schofield means that the Episcopal Church can establish a rival bishop over his diocese.  Lawsuits over the diocesan property of the Diocese of San Joaquin are likely to follow.

On the day of the deposition vote, Bishop Schofield received a letter from Bishop Gregory J. Venables, the primate of the Southern Cone.  Bishop Venables said in the letter, “God has called us to faithfully represent Christ in a difficult time in history…  To bear faithful witness to Christ, however costly for us, is less of a price than that which must be paid by those who deny His saving grace.

“We are deeply honored to have you as Bishop and your Diocese as full members of the Southern Cone.”

Bishop Schofield responded to the Episcopal bishops’ decision to depose him by saying their disciplinary procedures were intended for those who had abandoned the faith and were leading people away from orthodox Christianity.

“I have not abandoned the Faith,” said Bishop Schofield. “The question that begs to be answered by the House of Bishops is, why bishops who continue to teach and publish books that deny the most basic Christian beliefs are not disciplined while those of us who uphold the Christian Faith are?”

According to the California Catholic Daily, Bishop Schofield said he still belongs to the Anglican Communion as a member of the Southern Cone’s House of Bishops.  He accused the leadership of the Episcopal Church of treating itself as a separate and unique church. 

“They may do so,” he said, “but they ought not expect everyone to follow teaching that serves only to undermine the authority of the Bible and ultimately leads to lifestyles that are destructive.”


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St. Louis archbishop excommunicates three for attempted women’s ordination

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 15, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Burke of the Archdiocese of St. Louis has excommunicated three women for taking part in an attempted ordination of women to the priesthood.  The archbishop said the excommunication was part of his “solemn duty” to protect the faith and unity of the Church.

On November 11, 2007 a German woman named Patricia Fresen conducted a would-be ordination ceremony at a St. Louis synagogue.  The ceremony, which used the formula and rite of a Catholic ordination, attempted to ordain as priests two St. Louis-area women, Rose Hudson and Elsie McGrath.  On August 12, 2007, they had taken part in a ceremony claiming to ordain them to the deaconate.

In a March 12 Declaration of Excommunication, Archbishop Burke declared the three women to be excommunicated.  He outlined several reasons for the excommunication. 

The purpose of the Declaration of Excommunication was, in Archbishop Burke’s words, “to protect the members of the flock of Christ, placed in my pastoral care, who are in growing danger of being led astray from the One True Faith and Church of Christ.”

Archbishop Burke, who is regarded as one of the foremost experts on canon law, explained that this type of situation has been addressed before. In August 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also excommunicated two women who had taken part in an invalid ordination ceremony, he said. 

Patricia Fresen, the archbishop said, had “formally and directly engaged” in founding a “new and separate sect” called Roman Catholic WomenPriests USA.

The archbishop’s Declaration also noted that, “the three women have publicly affirmed, by word and by deed, the validity of the ordination of women to the priesthood, in contradiction to the perennial, constant, and infallible teaching of the Catholic Church.”

The declaration said that the women had been notified of their right to defend themselves from the accusations, but they had failed to present themselves when their date for trial arrived.

The “most grave accusations” made against Patricia Fresen included schism, the persistent rejection of Church doctrine coupled with a refusal to retract that rejection, and the simulation of the administration of a Sacrament.   The accusations against the two attempted women ordinands, Hudson and McGrath, were the same except they were not accused of simulating the administration of a Sacrament.

Archbishop Burke declared all three women guilty of the accusations, saying, “by the commission of the most grave delict of schism, all three of the guilty parties have lost membership in, good standing in, and full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, which bond each and every baptized Catholic is obliged to maintain.”

The excommunications were announced by archbishop “in the most sincere hope and with the prayer that the application of the due canonical penalties will lead the guilty parties to seek the cure of their most grievous sins and canonical crimes.”

The consequences for the three women include being barred from all parishes and institutions of the archdiocese, being forbidden to take “ministerial part” in the celebration of Mass and being unable to administer or receive any sacraments.  They also may not receive absolution from their sins, and they are forbidden to be buried in consecrated ground.

The archbishop wrote that any sacraments attempted to be celebrated by the women are “utterly null and void,” saying that “any assistance or attendance at, and direct or indirect participation in their supposed sacramental rites or rites of prayers” was strictly forbidden.

A “Question and Answer” article on the website of the Archdiocese of St. Louis explained some of the basics of the declaration.  The article explained excommunication as “knowingly and willingly placing oneself outside the full communion of the Catholic Church. A person excommunicates himself/herself.”  It continued, “When the archbishop declares an excommunication, its purpose is meant to be healing, and a call for the person to reconsider the action and reconcile with the Catholic Church.”

The article said that Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis had reaffirmed that the Church has no authority to ordain women, saying “This teaching is to be held definitively by all the faithful as belonging to the deposit of faith.”

The article also said that Fresen, though she lives in Germany, had been excommunicated by the Archdiocese of St. Louis because she committed her offense and caused scandal and harm to the faithful in that archdiocese.

In a separate statement, Archbishop Burke called for prayer for the three excommunicated women.

“The situation is sad for the whole Church,” he said.  “It is cause of great concern for me as archbishop. Please join me in praying that both will be reconciled with the Church and that the great harm which has been caused to the Church, with the help of God's grace, will be healed.”

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