Monday, January 22, 2007

Prison chaplain devotes herself to work that 'can't be measured'

Did anyone notice anything wrong with the above headline from an article from Catholic News Service?

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At first glance, it wouldn't seem like a 64-year-old woman religious would possibly be able to relate to inmates at a women's prison. But that's not the case for Mercy Sister Natalie Rossi, a petite, gray-haired woman who works at the women's prison facility outside Erie, Pa.
. . .
For the past 12 years she has been a full-time chaplain at the State Correctional Institution for Women in Cambridge Springs, Pa., a minimum-security facility primarily for women nearing their prison release. (my emphasis)
While there is no judgment being made regarding the work she does or has done, it is possible to make a judgment on the use of the title of "chaplain", whether assumed by Sister Natalie on her own accord, or conferred upon her by someone else.

The 1997 "Instruction Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest" could not be clearer when it states, in Article 1, § 3:
It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as "pastor", "chaplain", "coordinator", " moderator" or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.

Assuming such a title as "chaplain" blurs the distinction between the ordained and the non-ordained, which this Instruction sought to remedy.

Though being born in very difficult and emergency situations and even initiated by those who sought to be genuinely helpful in the pastoral moment, certain practices have often been developed which have had very serious negative consequences and have caused the correct understanding of true ecclesial communion to be damaged. These practices tend to predominate in certain areas of the world and even within these, a great deal of variation can be found.

I'm not surprised to see this article in Catholic News Service. Numerous dioceses post articles from CNS in the diocesan newspapers or websites, and it seems from experience, that few review the information or stories coming from CNS for problems. This article in particular will reinforce among the faithful who read it, the idea that the non-ordained can indeed be chaplains - that they can assume titles which cause further confusion (much like the recent article of glowing praise for pro-abort Nancy Pelosi).

One would think that all humble, obedient servants of the Lord and His Church would follow the directives of his/her ecclesiastical superiors. After nearly 10 years of the publication of the Instruction, we still witness, in many places, a failure to implement it. One would hope that the failure to implement directives from the Holy See is not due to disobedience and pride. Likewise one would hope that it is not due ignorance. Maybe CNS will run a correction?

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