Friday, July 31, 2009

Irish priest re-appointed to key Vatican committee

An influential Irish priest has been re-appointed to a high-profile Vatican committee that advises Pope Benedict XVI on sensitive issues in relation to theology and the Church's teaching.

Fr Tom Norris, a priest of the Ossory diocese who lectures in systematic theology at Maynooth has been re-appointed to serve a third consecutive term on the prestigious International Theological Commission (ITC).

Fr Norris, who worked closely with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when the latter was head of the Church's Doctrinal Congregation before his election to the papacy in 2005, has made a key contribution to many recent rulings of the ITC.

Lectured extensively

Fr Norris, a keen-follower of Kilkenny hurling, studied and obtained his doctorate in theology in Rome and has lectured extensively across the globe. He was first appointed to serve on the Commission by Pope John Paul II in 1998 and was subsequently re-appointed for a second term in 2004.

The commission is responsible for offering the Pope expert advice on theological issues that arise or potential new insights in to the Church's teaching on a particular issue.

Most recently, Fr Norris was a prominent member of the group that in 2007 called limbo an ''unduly restricted view of salvation''.

While never formal Church teaching, for centuries many Catholics believed, and some theologians taught, that children who died without baptism, while spared the damnation of hell, nonetheless suffered eternal separation from God in a state of Limbo.

Fr Norris was also a member of the ITC that in 2002 advised the Church to keep the prospect of ordaining women as deacons open.

While the commission concluded that women deacons in the early Church performed a role that was different from that of the ordained male diaconate, Fr Norris said: ''You can't make a simple equivalence between what was called diaconate in relation to women in the ancient Church and the diaconate of men.''

However, he said the question of whether women deacons could or should be allowed in the modern Church was left open ''It will remain a matter for the Magisterium of the Church to decide,'' he said.

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