The Vatican has taken the extraordinary step of warning all Australian bishops that they face punishment under Canon law if they defy a Papal message to abandon communal confession this Easter, according to a report in The Australia. The paper speculates that the unusually stern language of the new Vatican decree will further heighten tensions within the Australian Catholic community, many progressive Catholics, priests and bishops dismayed at overt pressure to drop the widespread practice of offering communal confession to large congregations at Easter and Christmas.
    It says the decree to all Australian faithful, issued under the seal of the Holy See's Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 19, warns against "deviations from the authentic practice" of offering confession. It warns that any deviations are "punishable in accordance with the sacred Canons".
    A senior church source said on Monday that one progressive bishop, Rockhampton's Brian Heenan, had to abandon plans to allow communal confession this Easter after a parish priest leaked to Rome a confidential letter explaining his stand. Bishop Heenan received a response from Rome within 48 hours and had to change his decision, the source said. After a meeting with Australian bishops late last year, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter expressing concern about the relaxed nature of Australian Catholicism. He formally urged bishops to eliminate the "illegitimate use" of communal confession and urged Catholics to use individual confession with a priest as "the sole ordinary means" of confession.
    The clamp-down on communal confession, which is permitted under Canon law in cases of "grave necessity", follows a long, internecine campaign waged by the Australian Catholics Advocacy Centre.

30/03/99 11:33:38 / The Australian


Catholic Telecommunications Home Page The people of Catholic Telecommunications Online Catholic News continuously updated Discounted Internet and Telephony products available to our clients How to contact us Search the Net