A Church Divided: The Vatican Versus American Catholics

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Prometheus Books, 1992 - Religion - 229 pages
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Is the Roman Catholic Church heading toward an irrevocable schism? Two factors that have been traditionally regarded as signs of unity and inspiration now threaten the very life of the Church: papal authority and eligibility requirements for the priesthood. Many American Catholics today are seriously questioning the authority of the Church, whose leaders claim absolute power over their faith and morals. Priests are leaving the Church and marrying publicly without dispensation from Rome; in fact, since 1965, more than 19,000 priests in the United States and 100,000 priests worldwide have married. Catholics in increasing numbers are supporting the idea of female clergy and rejecting celibacy as a requirement of the priestly office. In A Church Divided: The Vatican versus American Catholics, priest and ex-Jesuit Terrance Sweeney explores in great detail the issues of Church authority and the priesthood. Part One of this volume describes the results of two recent polls conducted by Sweeney, which reveal that a significant number of North American bishops think the mission of the Church and the pastoral needs of the faithful would be better served by a priesthood that includes marriage and celibacy, women and men. The complete results of Sweeney's poll, which was ordered suppressed by the Superior-General of the Jesuit Order under Vatican pressure, are published here for the first time. Part Two examines Church canons mandating celibacy for priests and "maleness" for ordination. Exploring these canons from biblical, historical, and ethical perspectives, Sweeney concludes that Church laws imposing continence on priests violate human nature and contravene divine law by denying to clergy theGod-given right to marry. Part Two also describes how exclusion of women from the priesthood based on gender alone is an insult to the dignity of Christian women, as well as a direct contradiction of the image of God and Christ revealed in women living lives of faith and love. Confronted with the division between Church policy and the attitudes of the faithful, and with the conflict between Church authority and divine authority, Sweeney presents in Part Three the beginnings of an entirely new concept of authority--one rooted not in hierarchy, infallibility, and fear, but in the most radical human instincts toward freedom, wisdom, and love. In the maelstrom of demands and complaints surrounding the current exercise of authority in the Church, Sweeney asserts that fundamental questions must be answered: What is authority? Who has it? How is it verified? A Church Divided offers a compelling critique of current Vatican policies, and issues an urgently needed call for the Church to enter into a greater dialogue with the millions of sincere Catholics who are feeling increasingly disenfranchised and alienated by a Church they see as out of touch with the real world.

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A church divided: The Vatican versus American Catholics

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Sweeney provides a thoroughly researched sociological analysis of issues dividing many American Catholics from Vatican teaching, especially regarding ordination of women and optional celibacy for ... Read full review


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