Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s daily newsletter.
I’m Luke Coppen and I seek to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.
😇 Today’s feast: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
📜 Today’s readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20 ▪ Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4 ▪ Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 ▪ Lk 1:26-38.
🗞 Starting seven
4: Fr. Hans Zollner has said that the Jesuits’ statement on the Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik scandal “raised questions that, as far as I see, can only be answered by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith” (Mateo González Alonso).
5: New U.S. bishops’ conference president Archbishop Timothy Broglio says that Catholics should not ignore disagreement, but “handle it in an evangelical fashion.”
6: Former Anglican bishop Msgr. Michael Nazir-Ali reflects on his first year as a Catholic priest.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Resignation accepted of Archbishop Darío de Jesús Monsalve Mejía of Cali, Colombia, who is succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Luis Fernando Rodríguez Velásquez.
🧐 Look closer
Speaking at a community meeting in Ostercappeln last Sunday, the deputy chairman of the German bishops’ conference said that the training would be offered especially to women working full-time and in a voluntary capacity in parishes.
He explained that the extraordinary baptismal ministers would begin their service in 2025, not long before the controversial bishop reaches the typical episcopal retirement age of 75.
A rising trend Bishop Bode’s announcement is part of a growing trend in Germany. A new decree came into force in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart on Nov. 1 permitting lay pastoral and parish workers to preside at baptisms. They are expected to be commissioned in fall 2023.
“The bishop’s motivation was, for the sake of gender equality in the Church, to do everything in his power to promote that gender equality,” Bishop Karrer said.
The report also quoted parish worker Ursula Renner, who said the decision made the Church “a bit more authentic.”
“And at the same time, it’s just a first step combined with the hope that further steps will follow in the area of administering the sacraments,” she said, possibly alluding to a resolution adopted by Germany’s “synodal way” in September challenging “the exclusion of women from the sacramental ministry.”
The dioceses of Osnabrück and Rottenburg-Stuttgart are not the first to make the move. They are following a trail blazed by the Diocese of Essen, led by Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, which commissioned lay people in March to administer baptisms for an experimental three-year period.
Announcing the appointment of 18 lay pastoral and parish workers — 17 women and one man — as extraordinary baptismal ministers, the Essen diocese said that the measure was a “nationwide first.”
“With this step, the diocese is responding to the shortage of priests and the high demand for baptismal celebrations that are as personal and individual as possible,” it noted.
The German diocese was not the first in Europe to permit lay people to administer baptisms on a long-term basis. It was following the path taken in November 2019 by Switzerland’s Diocese of Basel (as well as by other Swiss dioceses).
What does Church law say? The Code of Canon Law says that when an “ordinary minister” — a bishop, priest, or deacon — is “absent or impeded,” a catechist or other person designated by the local bishop confers baptism licitly. Any person “with the right intention” can also do so “in a case of necessity.”
The provision was emphasized in a 2020 Instruction issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.
What’s next The recent moves are not without controversy in Germany. Writing at CNA Deutsch, Fr. Joachim Heimerl suggested that “it is not about securing the administration of the sacraments, but about Church politics and about the Church becoming more laical.”
“One after the other, the German dioceses say goodbye to the baptismal practice of the universal Church and thus to their communion: the schism that the ‘synodal way’ has conjured up is solidifying,” he argued.
It’s highly likely that more of Germany’s 20 dioceses and seven archdioceses will adopt the practice in the coming years.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇸 A Catholic parish is suing the state of Michigan over its right to hire staff committed to Church teachings.
📅 Coming soon
Dec. 14 Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Peter Collins of East Anglia.
Dec. 16 Anniversary of Naples’ preservation from the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, associated with the liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood.
Dec. 17 Pope Francis’ 86th birthday.
Dec. 18 FIFA World Cup in Qatar ends.
Dec. 25 Pope gives Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at noon.
Dec. 26 St. Stephen.
Dec. 29 Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga turns 80.
Dec. 30 Feast of the Holy Family.
Dec. 31 Pope presides at Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Have a happy feast of the Immaculate Conception.
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