New Ecclesial Movements changing the Church?

During the modern papacy, and especially since John Paul II, Pentecost Sunday has practically become the feast of new ecclesial movements like Focolare, Communion and Liberation, and the Community of Sant’Egidio. In the first week of June, Francis repeated the anti-sectarian message he has given to all the Catholic movements he’s met during his pontificate: embrace unity in diversity, and resist the temptation to focus on differences, to choose to be “(a) part over the whole, to belong to this or that group before belonging to the Church,” or to adopt “rigid and airtight positions.”

Jun 16, 2017

By Massimo Faggioli
During the modern papacy, and especially since John Paul II, Pentecost Sunday has practically become the feast of new ecclesial movements like Focolare, Communion and Liberation, and the Community of Sant’Egidio. In the first week of June, Francis repeated the anti-sectarian message he has given to all the Catholic movements he’s met during his pontificate: embrace unity in diversity, and resist the temptation to focus on differences, to choose to be “(a) part over the whole, to belong to this or that group before belonging to the Church,” or to adopt “rigid and airtight positions.”

This is very much in keeping with Vatican II’s implementation of the “universal call to holiness,” but Francis, nonetheless, differs from his immediate papal predecessors in dealing with the new ecclesial movements. Specifically, his “ecclesiology of the people” is sceptical of all possible forms of elitism in the Church, including the elitism of the groups that have become more prominently a part of Catholicism since the mid-20th century and especially after Vatican II.

Despite his relatively detached relationship with such movements, Francis knows well this new face of global Catholicism. These groups play an important role in his missionary ecclesiology.

Francis realises that even the Pope himself may not be able to stop new ecclesial movements from changing the Church — particularly in terms of the relationship between the laity and the clergy. A brief press release last week reported on a meeting between the Pope and the presidents of the curial dicasteries to discuss the issue of priests in the new ecclesial movements and, in particular, the possibility of “incardination” within their priestly fraternities. This would represent a significant change, because so far, only personal prelatures (like Opus Dei) and ordinariates have had this privilege.

These new priestly fraternities vary to some degree. Some are well-established parts of widely known groups like Sant’Egidio, Communion and Liberation and the Neo-Catechumenal Way. Others have been initiated by local bishops to create doctrinally and liturgically “orthodox” parishes, such as the Priestly Fraternity Familia Christi in the diocese of Ferrara, Italy.

This source of new priests could help alleviate the shortage of clergy but also introduce other problems

Priests incardinated within new ecclesial movements would not be subject to local ordinaries, that is, diocesan bishops. For the Vatican, this would mean acknowledging something about how these movements have evolved from around the time of Vatican II.

Originally, they were supposed to have helped renew the laity. But with the substantial reduction in the number of diocesan priests and the shrinking of religious orders worldwide over the last three decades, they, instead, now seem to be a source of new priests. While this could help alleviate the shortage of clergy in the short term, it might also introduce a new set of problems.

The issue is not ideological, as there is a great diversity among these fraternities: seminarians and priests from Sant’Egidio, for example, are more “conciliar” and ecumenical than those from Communion and Liberation or the Neo-Catechumenal Way.

The issue is not ideological but structural! In order to replace or replenish diocesan seminaries and diocesan parishes that are short on clergy, the “territorial Church” — the bishops, including the bishop of Rome — are making allowances for priestly vocations coming from “non-territorial” organisations: the movements. --Commonweal Magazine

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Sunday Reflection

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time: That woman is Ourselves

Mark calls her “a Greek” but Matthew uses the ancient name “Canaanite,” a reference to the original inhabitants of the Holy Land, who were conquered by the Israelites some twelve centuries before the time of Jesus. Matthew recognises that this encounter between the woman from the area of Tyre and Sidon and Jesus is about an outsider “wanting in.” So he heightens the drama by identifying her as a member of that group of pagans who were Israel’s first enemies (after the Egyptians, of course).