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Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates.
                                          _   Patrick Edgar, ARCC President

 
John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D.                                          Dec.9, 2016
 
The first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures this week end reminds us:

Strengthen the hands that are feeble, 
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Those thoughts are in the back of my head as I read news stories about the new Vatican document,  The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, issued on Wednesday, December 7th and signed by Pope Francis. Most surprising in this new document is not just that it reaffirms celibacy for priests but that it reiterates the narrow teaching of a document issued in 2005 by the Congregation for Catholic Education. That Vatican directive had been issued in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis; and it was seen by many as way to (unfairly) blame sex abuse on gay priests. 

I quote from  The Gift of the Priestly Vocation:
"The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'. Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women." 

When I first read about this most recent document, signed by the pope, my thoughts went back immediately to his famous July 22, 2013 airplane interview, when he said: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis spoke to reporters in Italian but used the English word "gay." 

What does this latest Vatican document mean? I really don't know. Will it force more gay men to lie about their sexual orientation if they want to be ordained? Will it encourage more Catholic institutions to fire gay and lesbian employees? Will it encourage more priests to simply move on? Commenting about this document in the National Catholic Reporter (8 December 2016), the Jesuit journalist Thomas Reese observed: "I sometimes think that it would be good for the church if 1,000 priests came out of the closet on the same Sunday and simply said, 'We're here!' I don't think the church is ready for that yet, but someday it should be." 

Like many of you, I know more than a few very fine Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Protestant ordained ministers and seminarians who are gay. Over many years I have helped educate a great many gay seminarians, most of whom were healthy and well-balanced men of faith and Christian zeal. Thinking about these men, I never thought about "don't ask, don't tell." My concern has always been "does it really make a difference?" 

One of my homophobic friends said not so long ago: "I thank Almighty God that Jesus was not gay." With a chuckle, and wanting to edge him on a bit, I replied "I guess we really don't know. The historical Jesus did seem to have a thing about the 'beloved' young fellow John." We will never know. It is all hypothetical. To me it makes no difference.  
One thing we do know about Jesus of Nazareth, of course, is that he was not a white, male, supremacist. These Trumpian racist days, I find that important to emphasize. 
URL
 Jack Dick is ARCC  Vice President and Treasurer   
Some things we have been reading  
Vatican reiterates that homosexuals shouldn't be priests
Inés San Martín      Dec.7, 2016

In a new document on the priesthood, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy has reiterated that men with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" shouldn't be admitted into Catholic seminaries and, therefore, shouldn't become Catholic priests.

That position was initially stated by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2005, but it was re-stated in a document released on Wednesday.

The new document, however, is hardly restricted to the question of gay priests. It deals with much more, from the value of indigenous and immigrant vocations to the importance of inoculating future priests against infection by "clericalism."

The new text, titled  The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, was dated Thursday, December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception, and a public holiday in Italy. The full text   can be found here.

The section regarding accepting men who experience same-sex attraction draws most of its content from an  Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders , released by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2005 shortly after the election of emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis' 2016 Christmas Card
Edward Pentin         Dec.6, 2016
Pope_s Christmas card

Pope Francis has chosen Giotto's 14th century fresco of the Nativity in Assisi for his Christmas card this year, accompanied by a verse from Isaiah on its reverse.

The 1313 masterpiece, located in the lower basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, is the only one of its kind in the world where a nativity scene has two baby Jesuses to express the human and divine nature of Christ.

Giotto interprets the divine aspect through the blue that shines in the night of Bethlehem, and the painting itself "broadens and expands" his narration of the scene "to tell a true story, not a fairy tale," according to Enzo Fortunato, press officer of the Sacred Convent of Assisi.

He added that the use of blue "moves and captures everyone, pilgrim or tourist. Those who enter the basilica remain fascinated. A deep, luminous color, above all royal and real."
. . . .
The verse from Isaiah on the Pope's Christmas card is an abridged version of 9:5, and reads: "For a child will be born to us, Prince of Peace."
San Diego's Bishop McElroy strongly encourages Communion for divorced/remarried
Catholic World News       Nov.29, 2016

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, California, has asked his priests to encourage Catholics who are divorced and remarried to consider whether "God is calling them to return to the Eucharist."
Following up on recommendations from a diocesan Synod held in October, Bishop McElroy instructed his pastors to post notices in parish bulletins, inviting divorced and remarried Catholics to "utilize the internal forum of conscience" in making their decisions whether they should receive Communion.

Citing the deliberations of the diocesan Synod, the bishop also said that parishes should welcome gay and lesbian couples, and couples cohabitating before marriage. "The Synod pointed to the need to invite young couples lovingly, non-judgmentally and energetically into Catholic marriage and to provide mentors for them," he said.

The Synod, in its final statement, had said that cohabitating couples should be "welcomed and guided patiently and discretely (sic)." The Synod suggested that parishes provide a supportive environment for these couples, and said that this attitude might require reconsideration of "practices which, while they have a certain legitimacy, alienate young couples and leave them feeling that they are unwanted in the life of the Church."

ARCC Charter of Rights No. 30 (5th edition 1993): 
All married Catholics have the right to withdraw from a marriage which has irretrievably broken down. All such Catholics retain the radical right to remarry. 
Pope insists suggestion on remarried has church backing
Nicole Winfield         Dec.7, 2016

Pope Francis says the majority of the world's bishops back his suggestion that civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion, adding fuel to the debate that has riled some conservative Catholics.

In an interview Wednesday with the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio, Francis said his 2016 document "The Joy of Love" - which contains the suggestion - was the fruit of two meetings of bishops over two years.

"It is interesting that all that (the document) contains, it was approved in the Synod by more than two thirds of the fathers. And this is a guarantee," he said.

Some conservatives have voiced increasing concern that Francis' opening on the divisive issue of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is sowing confusion among the faithful about the church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. The debate has been stoked by the recent publication of a letter from four conservative cardinals asking Francis to clarify his position.

Francis hasn't directly responded to them, but he has sent signals, including Wednesday's comments. He was responding to a question about the decentralized, "synodal" church he favors, where the pope listens to his church, "lets her grow," harmonizes that growth and returns it to the local churches - such as in the form of a teaching document.

"It is unity in diversity," he said.
Four cardinals do not make a schism
Thomas Reese      Dec.8, 2016

I was asked by a journalist last week if I thought the Catholic church was in danger of schism over the question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. This controversy has received renewed attention because of the  letter from four cardinals challenging the pope's teaching in Amoris Laetitia. The controversy has received repeated attention from  New York Times  columnist Ross Douthat.

My short answer was "no."

To have a schism, you need a bishop to break with the pope and ordain priests and other bishops for the schismatic church. You also need people to follow the bishop into schism.
. . . .
I doubt that any bishop, including these four cardinals, would be willing to lead a schism over the question of Communion for divorced Catholics. And even if they did, very few people would follow them into schism.

Pope Francis is very popular with Catholics. In 2015, 81 to 90 percent of U.S. Catholics had a  favorable view of the pope. His unfavorable ratings ran between 4 and 8 percent. Politicians would kill for these kinds of ratings. None of his opponents has this kind of support among Catholics.

In addition,  two out of three Catholics would like to see a change in the church's teaching on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Only 31 percent of Catholics say that the church should not allow those remarried without an annulment to receive Communion.

In fact, Pope Francis has never said that all divorced and remarried Catholics should go to Communion. He objects to both the literalists, who say Communion is impossible for such people, and the unthinking liberals, who want to welcome everyone to Communion.

Francis would be sympathetic to the woman who put her husband through law school waiting tables but then got dumped for a pretty, younger associate. She is now married to a loving plumber who is a good father to the children from both marriages. Telling her to abandon her new husband or live as brother and sister is not only absurd, it is unjust. 

On the other hand, I doubt Francis would offer Communion to a billionaire, married for the third time, who has a history of philandering and says he has nothing for which to be sorry.

The right and the left want easy answers. Francis refuses to give answers, rather he wants us to learn how to think, how to discern in complex situations.
Martin Scorsese discusses his faith, his struggles, his films and "Silence."
America Media         Dec.8, 2016


URL
Catholic college leaders pledge solidarity with undocumented students
Nick Anderson      Nov.30, 2016

More than 70 leaders in Catholic higher education have signed a statement of solidarity with undocumented students, urging protection for those who arrived in the United States as children at a time when the incoming Trump administration is pledging to crack down on illegal immigration.

Among the signers of the statement made public Wednesday by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities were the presidents of Villanova University, DePaul University, Boston College and Catholic University in the nation's capital.

In the statement, the leaders took note of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the Obama administration launched in 2012. DACA shields from deportation certain undocumented immigrants who arrived before their 16th birthday and enables them to obtain a work permit. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to rescind executive actions on immigration that he considers overreach, and his transition team says DACA is an example.
Special Moment From Charlie Brown Christmas
Jason Soroski       Dec.6, 2016
Charlie Brown Christmas

. . . .
I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized   Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since.

But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn't notice then. And didn't notice until now.
 
Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

Charlie Brown is best known for his uniquely striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.

Until this moment. When he simply drops it.
In that climactic scene when Linus shares "what Christmas is all about," he drops his security blanket. And I am now convinced that this is intentional.  Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, "fear not" (at :38 seconds).

Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it's so simple it's brilliant.


Norway's Catholic Church fined for fraud over membership
AFP     Nov.30, 2016

The Norwegian Catholic Church was fined on million kroner (more than €110,000) on Monday for exaggerating the number of members it has to receive more state aid.

 
Oslo prosecutors slapped the fine on the Diocese of Oslo, responsible for keeping national records of Catholics living in the Scandinavian country, according to the ruling seen by AFP.
 
The diocese is accused of having gone through telephone directories looking for immigrants with names suggesting that they were from Catholic countries and adding them to the list of members of the church between 2011 and 2014, sometimes without their knowledge.
 
In Norway, a predominantly Protestant country, the state finances the various religious minorities in proportion to the number of church members. 
 
By exaggerating the list of its members, the diocese was able to obtain undue government subsidies. Its chief administrative officer, Thuan cong Pham, has been charged with aggravated fraud, the prosecution said.
Women & Deacons | Segment 1: History of the Diaconate
America Media      Nov.28, 2016


Pope's possible deal with China would 'betray Christ', says Hong Kong cardinal
Benjamin Haas &Tom Phillips       Nov.27, 2016

T he most senior Chinese Catholic has slammed a potential rapprochement between the  Vatican  and Beijing, saying it would be "betraying Jesus Christ", amid a thaw in more than six decades of bitter relations.

Talk of a deal between the two sides has been building for months, with some saying the diplomatic coup for Pope Francis would be resolving the highly controversial issue of allowing China's Communist government to have a hand in selecting bishops.

But  Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 84-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong, has been an outspoken critic, saying any agreement where Beijing would have a hand in approving clergy would be "a surrender".

"Maybe the pope is a little naive, he doesn't have the background to know the Communists in China," Zen said at the Salesian school in  Hong Kong  where he still teaches. "The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands."
. . . .
With "fake freedom" under a proposed deal, priests could more easily preach and more churches would open, Zen predicted, but "it's only the impression of freedom, it's not real freedom, the people sooner or later will see the bishops are puppets of the government and not really the shepherds of the flock."
"The official bishops are not really preaching the gospel," Zen added "They are preaching obedience to Communist authority."


 

John Glenn qute

 

 

Pope mourns death of Fr Kolvenbach, former head of Jesuits
Elise Harris      Nov.28, 2016

After the death of Jesuit Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, former head of the order, over the weekend, Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Society praising the priest's fidelity and offering prayers for the repose of his soul.

"Learning of the news of the holy death of Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, I wish to express to you and to the entire Jesuit family my most sincere condolences," the Pope said in a Nov. 28 letter.
. . . .
At the 33rd General Congregation of the Jesuits in 1983, he was elected General Superior after the resignation of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, who had suffered a stroke two years earlier. Fr. Kolvenbach became the 29th Superior General of the Jesuits, and the first from an Eastern rite.

His resignation was accepted and formalized during the 2008 General Congregation, when Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon was elected as his replacement.
Call to Action is hiring an Executive Director  

Call To Action is pleased to announce a full-time position opening for Executive Director. The Executive Director will lead a dedicated team working for greater inclusion, equality, and justice in the Catholic Church.


Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume, and three professional references to  marian@cta-usa.org by  January 13, 2017.
Upcoming Event

FutureChurch Launches 
3-Part Teleconference Series Focusing on 
Complementarity in the Catholic Church


While the spousal relationship is now described in terms of self-gift and mutuality, there is still a power imbalance in this relationship. My point here is that maintaining the primacy of the spousal model serves to support a hierarchical conception of church that works against the very equality and mutuality that the Vatican says is basic to its anthropology (p.113, Extravagant Affections).

To what extent do notions of complementarity run through the writings and teachings of Pope Francis?  Although the language of complementarity can be traced to earlier popes, Pope John Paul II was the master architect of our modern day conception. Learn how recent papal thought and writings have both promoted notions of greater equality for women while qualifying that equality from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI through the papacy of Francis. 
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