BAKER, July 30, 2004 ( – Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker Oregon has asked for a public affirmation of belief in basic Catholic teaching from lay people participating in liturgical and other ministries.

In his letter introducing the document, Affirmation of Faith, Bishop Vasa said that while he would like to be able to presume that all of his liturgical ministers believe in the substance of the Catholic religion, he would be shirking his responsibilities to do so. “A failure on my part to verify a person’s suitability for ministry would be judged as seriously negligent.”  The teachings he mentions include those on abortion, homosexuality, marital fidelity, chastity, papal infallibility, the legitimacy of Marian devotions, the uniqueness of the Catholic Church, the Church’s moral teaching authority and the existence of Hell and Purgatory.  One woman has publicly quit on being told that she must be a believing Catholic to serve as a ‘liturgical minister.’ Wilma Hens of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Bend said Thursday, “I happen to believe that many of the teachings on human sexuality are just plain faulty. I don’t want to be held to those teachings. I cannot give my full assent. I don’t want to pretend to do so in order to be a lay minister.”  This news will hearten pro-life activists who rarely find such leadership in the churches. Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition in Canada, was asked by what was the biggest problem facing the pro-life movement. He responded, “lack of spiritual leadership, except for those courageous individual pastors who speak up despite the silence and soft messages from church leaders.” One Canadian bishop told a reporter that his highest priority and the biggest problem in his diocese was to find catechists “who actually believe what the Church teaches.”

Speaking on the scandal of pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion, Bishop Vasa said, “Some suggest that the widespread legitimization of dissent from Catholic teaching plays a part in this scandal. This is an opinion with which I would agree.”  In his letter, Vasa also makes reference to the problem of giving communion to those who publicly dissent from the Church’s teaching in major areas like abortion. “While it is sufficient for me to ‘presume’ that Catholics who attend Mass and receive communion adhere to these teachings (unless the contrary is clearly evident) such a presumption is not sufficient for those whom I commission to teach and act in some official capacity.” He says that general statements like ‘practicing Catholic’ are not sufficiently specific given the current climate of dissent. “There are, for example, many pro-choice politicians who claim to be in full communion with the Catholic Church and who would subjectively apply these phrases to themselves.”  To read the bishop’s letter and the Affirmation of Faith:   To send a message to Bishop Vasa:  [email protected] (541) 388-4004   ph


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