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Patrick Edgar, ARCC President
John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D. April 25, 2016
At a dinner party a couple nights ago, a good friend commented that, with Pope Francis, Catholics could now stop arguing about church reform, stop criticizing recalcitrant bishops, and let the "Francis effect" do its work. I respectfully disagreed....
The issue is far more complex than just wanting Francis to reform the church.
First of all, if one wants to speak of the "Francis effect" as a positive solution for a number of contemporary church problems, there is still much unfinished work. And the Vatican is a good place to start.
The clerical sexual abuse crisis is not over and the Pope Francis Vatican remains sexual-abuse-schizophrenic. It refuses to remove abuse-cover-up bishops, like Bishop Juan Barros, defended by Pope Francis and assigned last year to Osorno, Chile, despite allegations that he covered up clergy sex abuse by a priest in the 1980s and 1990s. Victim testimony also indicated that Barros was present and witnessed sexual abuse by the abusive priest Fernando Karadima.
Perhaps the self-defensive old boys club mentality still prevails behind Vatican walls? In February 2016, at an instructional presentation for newly appointed bishops, Tony Anatrella, a psychtherapist and consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, stressed that bishops DO NOT have a duty to report clerical sexual abuse to civil authorities, because going to the police is the responsibility of victims and their families.
More recently, as we consider contemporary Vatican behavior, there is the strange case of Father Joseph Jeyapaul, a priest from India who admitted to raping two adolescent girls in Minnesota, when he served in the Crookston diocese from 2004 to 2005.
After being charged with sexual abuse, which included rape and forcing one of the girls to perform fellatio on him, Jeyapaul fled to India, where he was arrested. Extradited back to Minnesota, he admitted his crimes. The man was then suspended from the priesthood and served a year and a day in prison in Minnesota. After his release in July, he was deported back to India. Then came an interesting turn of events.
In February, the Vatican approved lifting Father Jeyapaul's suspension from the priesthood and agreed that he could be reassigned to a new parish in India. Later he was even appointed head of a diocesan education commission.
Pope Francis has focused appropriate attention on caring for the environment and continues to get positive acclamations for his encyclical Laudatio si. Perhaps, however, one could suggest that he has been less attentive to the spiritual and ministerial environment in our Catholic parishes. The priesthood is in crisis. Morale is low and priests are getting older and older. Calls for dropping clerical celibacy are routinely ignored; and bishops continue to shut down parishes. Not a very positive scenario.
Contributing to the ordained ministry problem is an antiquated priestly formation process in our seminaries that, sorry to say, no longer attracts some of our best and brightest young people. Even the pope has complained about a new group of overly conservative young presets; but there has been no major overhaul of the seminary structure. It is time to stop closing parishes and start ordaining zealous and pastorally-minded young men, who are or would like to be married. We need more - not fewer - sacramental communities in our church. We need to re-think and re-make creative structures for pastoral ministry. A major complaint from millennial believers is that the church is out of touch, impersonal, and out of date. To date, 33 million Americans have dropped out of the Catholic Church.
And there is nothing positive about the still enshrined, hard-nosed old boys club structural mysogynism in our church. It is wrong; and there are absolutely no valid theological or historical reasons why women cannot be ordained as deacons and priests. For your summer reading I strongly recommend an excellent study: Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future by Gary Macy, William Ditewig, and Phyllis Zagano.
Looking at Catholic belief and practice these days, too many church leaders, including the Bishop of Rome, continue to bemoan the "tyranny of relativism." They miss a nuanced understanding of what is happening. As theologians Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler noted, in their April 19th article in the National Catholic Reporter: "Concern about relativism is undoubtedly warranted in the 21st century, but the magisterium fails to discern the difference between relativism, which rejects objective, universal moral truth, and what we shall call perspectivism, which acknowledges objective, universal moral truth, but also insists that truth is partial and always in need of further clarification."
Yes contemporary church leadership needs help comprehending that truth is developmental; and a good place to benign remedial education would be the entire range of issues involving human sexuality and gender. A lot of our bishops need to go back to school. It might help as well if some of them would just get married, and others come out of the closet.
In this week's reflection, I have no desire to denigrate Pope Francis. I am not ready to pre-canonize him either. The old gentleman can only do so much. He only wants to do so much. Frankly (no pun intended) I think Francis knows exactly what he is doing with his warm remarks followed by minimal institutional change. But do we know what we are doing? Perhaps there is too much focus on the pope? After all, it is Jesus Christ - not the Pope of Rome - who is "the way, the truth, and the life."
It is time for all of us to realize that when it comes to church reform, in the days of the "Francis effect," the major task belongs to you and me.
Church history is clear. Church reform is always from the bottom-up and only secondarily from the top-down. The voice of the people is where it begins and gets its energy. Popes come and go, but the institutional church remains.....continually in need of reform.
Let's start to really think, talk, organize, and get on with the project.
Jack Dick is ARCC Vice President
Some things we have been reading
Fr. Hans Kung says Francis responded to request for free discussion on infallibility dogma
On March 9, my appeal to Pope Francis to give room to a free, unprejudiced and open-ended discussion on the problem of infallibility appeared in the leading journals of several countries. I was thus overjoyed to receive a personal reply from Francis immediately after Easter. Dated March 20, it was forwarded to me from the nunciature in Berlin.
In the pope's reply, the following points are significant for me:
- The fact that Francis answered at all and did not let my appeal fall on deaf ears, so to speak;
- The fact that he replied himself and not via his private secretary or the secretary of state;
- That he emphasizes the fraternal manner of his Spanish reply by addressing me as Lieber Mitbruder ("Dear Brother") in German and puts this personal address in italics;
- That he clearly read the appeal, to which I had attached a Spanish translation, most attentively;
- That he is highly appreciative of the considerations that had led me to write Volume 5 of my complete works, in which I suggest theologically discussing the different issues that the infallibility dogma raises in the light of holy Scripture and tradition with the aim of deepening the constructive dialogue between the "semper reformanda" 21st-century church and the other Christian churches and postmodern society.
Francis has set no restrictions. He has thus responded to my request to give room to a free discussion on the dogma of infallibility. I think it is now imperative to use this new freedom to push ahead with the clarification of the dogmatic definitions, which are a ground for controversy within the Catholic church and in its relationship to the other Christian churches.
I could not have foreseen then quite how much new freedom Francis would open up in his post-synodal exhortation,
Amoris Laetitia. Already in the introduction, he declares, "Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium."
He takes issue with "cold bureaucratic morality" and does not want bishops to continue behaving as if they were "arbiters of grace." He sees the Eucharist not as a reward for the perfect but as "nourishment for the weak."
. . . .
I am deeply grateful to Francis for this new freedom and combine my heartfelt thanks with the expectation that the bishops and theologians will unreservedly adopt this new spirit and join in this task in accordance with the Scriptures and with our great church tradition.
Silence descends on Catholic press after editor's firing
It appears, however, that none of those issues will be aired in a public way any time soon.
Spence was forced to resign by
Msgr. J. BrianÂ Bransfield
, secretary general of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
, following a series of attacks by bloggers for far-right websites objecting to the editor's recent tweets in opposition to proposed and recent legislation in a number of states designed to limit LGBT rights.
. . . .
Spence has a long and distinguished career in Catholic journalism, and was widely acknowledged as a strong leader of the news service. The Catholic Press Association recognized his stature in 2010 by bestowing on him its highest honor, the St. Francis de Sales Award.
A request to interview Bransfield brought the response from a conference spokesperson: "The Conference isn't adding to what's already public around Tony's departure." Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, referred NCR to James L. Rogers, chief communications officer for the conference, who told NCR the day of the resignation that Spence had "stepped down" and that he did not know what had precipitated the resignation.
Tim Walter, executive director of the Catholic Press Association, explained in a phone interview the day after Spence resigned that he had not received any notification from the USCCB. He said he had seen and heard of a lot of interest and conversation on social media "among people wondering what is happening," but had not received any inquiries from any of the member organizations.
Nondiscrimination laws merit church support
On June 26, 2015, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage throughout the nation. Same-sex marriage was already legal in a number of individual states before that ruling, and a similar move toward equality is found in the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, federal legislation that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. More recently, in 2015, the Equality Act was introduced by two members of Congress. If passed, it would provide comprehensive legal protection for members of the LGBT community by extending the prohibition of discrimination to include housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and serving on juries.
Meanwhile, this spring, three Southern states have been embroiled in controversy over legislation involving the rights of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people. On March 23, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law barring local governments from passing anti-discrimination measures intended to protect LGBT people. Lawmakers in Georgia and Mississippi passed legislation allowing discrimination against LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs; Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed Georgia's bill on March 28, while Gov. Phil Bryant signed Mississippi's bill into law on April 5. Similar legislation in Missouri passed out of committee April 12, setting the stage for floor votes in late April.
Despite such state legislative moves, a 2015 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals overwhelming support for laws that would protect LGBT people against discrimination -- 71 percent of all Americans and 73 percent of U.S. Catholics.
Many states have passed nondiscrimination laws, but there is a growing resistance from Catholic bishops who believe those laws are a violation of religious freedom.
. . . .
These statements are drawn from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' backgrounder,
"Questions and Answers about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,"
which argues against that federal legislation, though the bishops have not yet issued a formal statement on the more recent Equality Act.
The bishops' backgrounder gives a brief nod to the Catholic teaching that all people "possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected by other persons and by the law." But this is quickly qualified by fearmongering language that claims nondiscrimination legislation protecting LGBT people promotes immoral sexual behavior, endangers our children, and threatens religious liberty.
The fundamental question surrounding religious freedom and nondiscrimination legislation, which we explore in this essay, is how to balance one's civil right to religious freedom with the civil rights of others when the two rights conflict. The U.S. bishops' claims for religious freedom have evolved from seeking to protect the
practice of religious institutions to seeking to protect also its
practice in a pluralist society.
. . . .
In April 2012, the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty issued a statement on religious freedom,
"Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,"
which contains alarmist language that "religious liberty is under attack."
There are three issues in the statement that have a bearing on the bishops' stance against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:
- Reductive secularism and relativism;
- The common good;
- Just and unjust laws.
We consider each in turn and conclude that legislation protecting LGBT people from discrimination is a civil rights imperative that the Catholic church is obligated to support in a pluralist society.
Secularism and relativism
Although secularism receives only a brief mention in "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," concern about it is the basis for both the bishops' claims that religious freedom is under attack and for their resistance to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
. . . .
To present official Catholic teaching on sexual ethical issues as if it were the only morally legitimate perspective, to use that teaching to claim violation of religious liberty if and when legislation conflicts with it, and to discount those Catholic perspectives that disagree with official teaching as manifestations of relativism discount also the rich diversity of the Catholic tradition and the contemporary sensus fidelium.
The manifest divide between the teaching of the magisterium and the beliefs of Catholics, we suggest, undermines the claims to ad extra religious exemption from nondiscrimination legislation.
It also threatens the maintenance of both ecclesial and societal peace, a long-standing Catholic component of the common good. Both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas argued against the banning of "harlotry" because if it were banned "the world will be convulsed with lust."
The common good
The U.S. bishops' religious freedom statement proclaims: "What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society -- or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it."
. . . .
Which should take priority as the higher value, universal health care or preventing access to contraceptives? Which is a higher value, respecting human dignity and ensuring nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, or attempting to block or repeal legislation that might allow homosexual actions the church deems immoral?
There is an ongoing debate in the church whether the moral issues surrounding homosexuality and gender are public or private morality. If they are about private morality, the church can both teach the possibility of just discrimination based on homosexual orientation and gender identity and can also support laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of homosexual orientation and gender identity.
If they are about public morality, the church needs to balance its sexual teachings with teachings on nondiscrimination, and grasp the impact of pluralism on definitions of public morality.
The Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage in every state is a good example of how those definitions have changed. What was once considered public morality, and was legislated against in laws prohibiting sodomy, is now considered private morality. What was once illegal, same-sex marriage, is now legal. With these shifts in the social and legal definition of morally and legally acceptable relationships, there needs to be a corresponding shift in the perception of religious freedom in relation to this evolution.
Just and unjust law
With its opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the bishops' conference has shifted its religious liberty claims from exemptions from a just law on the basis of conscience to prevention or repeal of an unjust law. The bishops explain in "Our First, Most Cherished Belief": "An unjust law is 'no law at all.' It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal."
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the bishops maintain, would be an unjust law and should be blocked. The justification for the bishops' claim is an inadequate "treatment" of sexual orientation and gender identity.
. . . .
Two long-standing Catholic moral principles are relevant here.
The first is that a perceived moral end does not justify immoral means: The moral ends of promoting "the good of the person or society" and protecting religious freedom do not justify the immoral means of discrimination against accepted human rights.
The second is the double-effect principle that distinguishes between the direct and indirect consequences of an act. The direct consequence of the federal legislation is the protection of LGBT individuals against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. An indirect consequence is that homosexual persons might engage in what the bishops deem immoral homosexual acts.
Both of these moral principles support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
German cardinal tarred as 'Antichrist' for defending Muslims
A German Catholic leader's defense of religious freedom has triggered a backlash after anti-Muslim state
ments by far-right politicians in the country.
Editor-in-Chief Ingo Brueggenjuergen of the Catholic broadcaster Dom Radio, which ran the interview with Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne earlier this week, said in a
Wednesday (April 27) that some critics are claiming the cardinal is out to destroy the Catholic Church.
. . . .
In an online video earlier this week, Woelki tarred the far-right Alternative for Germany party as fearmongers.
"Anyone who denigrates Muslims as the AfD leadership does should realize prayer rooms and mosques are equally protected by our constitution as our churches and chapels," he
said, according to a
of his remarks.
"Whoever says 'yes' to church towers must also say 'yes' to minarets," he added. "Never again must people in this country be marginalized or persecuted for their race, ethnicity or religion."
Landmark Vatican conference rejects just war theory, asks for encyclical on nonviolence
The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church's long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus' teachings on nonviolence.
Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other "major teaching document," reorienting the church's teachings on violence.
"There is no 'just war,'" the some 80 participants of the conference state in an appeal they released Thursday morning.
. . . .
At a press event launching the conference's final appeal document -- given the title "An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence" -- several of the event's participants said the church should simply no longer teach the just war theory.
. . . .
The April conference on just war theory
had been discussed for months
and was the first cohosted by the Vatican's pontifical council and Pax Christi, an international Catholic coalition akin to Amnesty International that maintains separate national groups in many countries.
The conference was organized around four sessions allowing participants to dialogue and share experiences with one another. The only scheduled talk at the event was given by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the pontifical council, who also
read a letter sent to the participants by Francis.
Vatican financial watchdog registers three-fold increase in suspicious activity in 2015
The Vatican's financial watchdog agency registered a three-fold increase in suspicious transactions undertaken in the city state's financial institutions in 2015, marking 544 activities as questionable and freezing or halting movement of a total of some $2.4 million and 15.3 million Euros.
The Financial Information Authority, or AIF, says it also made 17 reports to the Vatican's Office of the Promoter of Justice, for possible review of crimes such as fraud, tax avoidance, tax evasion, and "more serious financial crimes ... such as market disruption in foreign states."
. . . .
Thursday's release comes as the city state's financial dealings have again been in the spotlight, with news in recent weeks that the Vatican had suspended an external audit it had contracted with the international firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Francis also made the unusual and previously unannounced step of personally visiting two of the Vatican's main financial entities Thursday morning, heading both to the new Secretariat for the Economy, headed by Cardinal George Pell, and to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See.
Parents shocked as priest compares adultery to paedophilia
A Catholic priest has offended parents at a Malvern East school by comparing paedophile priests to adulterous women in a school newsletter.
St Mary's Primary School parish priest Father Bill Edebohls also took aim at lawyers and the media for not showing enough mercy during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.
. . . .
One parent said it was abhorrent to compare a crime like paedophilia with a moral issue like adultery.
"To have that sort of attitude is shocking," they said.
Bernard Barrett, a researcher at victims support group Broken Rites, said Father Edebohls' comments downplayed serious crimes.
"The Royal Commission is investigating crimes, not sins," Dr Barrett said.
"It is also investigating how these crimes have been tolerated or concealed in some organisations such as churches - and Father Edebohls' down-playing of these crimes is an example of this problem."
Sex-abuse bill lobbying in Catholic churches is over the top
"We were dismayed to find this letter inserted in our church bulletin this past Sunday," wrote a local Catholic who contacted me last week about a letter from Allentown Diocese Bishop John Barres.
Barres' letter outlined the diocese's child sex-abuse prevention efforts - and then lobbied against state legislation that would change the statutes of limitations for such cases, asking parishioners to contact their legislators about its "detrimental effects."
This appeal to a captive audience fits right in with the church's furious lobbying effort, largely focused on blocking bills that would open a two-year window for civil suits by victims who are blocked by the state's restrictive statutes. Such a window has been recommended by the Pennsylvania grand juries that exposed decades of rampant child sex abuse and official cover-ups within the church.
. . . .
Interestingly, a letter distributed that same day in church bulletins in the Harrisburg Diocese and signed by Bishop Ronald Gainer (formerly of the Allentown Diocese) expressed sorrow at the new abuse revelations and outlined diocese efforts to prevent child abuse, as Barres did. But there was no lobbying.
. . . .
By the way, the vast majority of child sex-abuse cases have nothing to do with clergy, so the idea that these proposals are all about suing the Catholic Church is just not true, as the results of statute-of-limitations windows in other states have demonstrated. Most of the victims I've spoken to were abused by family members or family friends. They want to expose the abusers.
Nonetheless, Barres warned, "Diocesan and parish resources that now support our school programs that educate and ministries that feed the hungry and serve those in need would instead be diverted to satisfy costly civil judgments. The very existence of some ministries would be threatened, and parishes and schools might be forced to defend themselves against claims that are many decades old."
Scare tactics aside, the claims are decades old because the church covered them up when they happened.
Pope Appoints French-Born Archbishop Christophe Pierre as New Nuncio to the United States
Pope Francis has appointed the French-born Archbishop Christophe Pierre, one of the Holy See's most distinguished and respected diplomats, as the new apostolic nuncio to the United States.
The Vatican made the announcement, April 12, after the Holy See received the formal agreement from the Obama administration. He succeeds Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò who served as nuncio to the United States since October 10, 2011. The Italian archbishop now ends his long years of service to the Holy See, and will retire to his homeland.
At the time of his new assignment, Archbishop Pierre was nuncio to Mexico, a position he has held with considerable distinction for the past nine years, since March 22, 2007. He comes to Washington, D.C. as an experienced diplomat, with first-hand knowledge of the dramatic plight of migrants from Central America and Mexico to the United States, and will be able to give voice to Pope Francis' concern for them.
. . . .
Archbishop Pierre, 70, is the first Frenchman to be appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. A polyglot, he speaks English and Spanish fluently. He is "a pastor", known for his "humility and simplicity" and is "excellent on all fronts," a source who knows him well confided. A fellow nuncio described him as "a thoughtful, hardworking man", and "good listener" with "a great sense of fairness and balanced judgment."
. . . .
Before going to Mexico, Archbishop Pierre had served with distinction as nuncio to Uganda (1999-2007) and Haiti (1995-1999). While in Uganda, St. John Paul II sent him to Burundi to oversee the Holy's See's diplomatic mission there following the assassination of the papal nuncio to that country, the Irish-born archbishop Michael Courtney, on December 29, 2004. He celebrated the funeral mass for the former nuncio at the Regina Mundi Cathedral in Bujumbura on December 30, attended by thousands of people. He remained in the country until the pope appointed Archbishop Paul Gallagher (now Secretary for Relations with the United States) as the new nuncio there.
USCCB among religious organizations urging Congress to support $750 million contribution to Green Climate Fund
On the heels of the White House's announcement that the United States has made its first $500 million contribution to the
Green Climate Fund
more than 120 faith-based organizations called on Congress to continue to support the effort in the fiscal year 2017 federal budget.
letter to members of Congress
April 11, the organizations - including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - urged Congress to approve an allocation of $750 million in President Barack Obama's budget plan submitted in February.
The groups urged congressional action because rising sea levels, caused by a changing climate, threaten small island nations and that extreme weather is occurring more frequently around the world, endangering food security and the political stability of least developed countries.
Council of Cardinals discusses new org. chart for the Vatican
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said on Wednesday that the Cardinals are now putting together their thoughts after doing an office-by-office review of the Vatican bureaucracy in hopes of creating a new general constitution outlining a reimagined Curial organisational structure.
They are working "to construct the advice the Council will give to the Pope in view of the new constitution," said Fr Lombardi.
The Council was meeting with the Pope in Rome, from Monday to Wednesday, for the 14th of its in-person meetings.
Fr Lombardi said the group had finalised pending plans for the creation of two new Vatican offices, and had also discussed the way in which bishops are chosen for positions leading dioceses around the world.
Italy Uncovers Plot to Attack Vatican, Israeli Embassy
Italian authorities arrested four people suspected of extremism on Thursday and issued arrest warrants for two more operating in Syria, according to the Milan prosecutor.
Authorities said one of the suspects is a Moroccan-born national living in Italy who had received orders from the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) to conduct an attack in Rome during the Holy Year, a period announced by Pope Francis that lasts from December 2015 to November 2016.
. . . .
has regularly used
the symbolism of Rome and the Roman Empire to outline its aims to conquer Europe and attack the continent's "crusaders" in a bid to recruit foreign fighters.
Catholic church must apologise for ignoring the role of women, synod hears
The Catholic Church must apologise for failing to recognise the role and contribution of women in the church, Ireland's first diocesan synod in 50 years has heard.
Some 400 delegates representing 60 parishes are attending the event in Limerick, where they will consider 100 proposals to help map out the future of the church and how it serves the local community.
A proposal to reach out to those hurt by the church including women who have had abortions, members of the LGBT community and people who have spent time in church institutions was overwhelmingly supported on the first day of the synod.
Some 52 per cent of the delegates "strongly supported" the proposal with 38 per cent expressing more general support.
Speaking after the vote, synod director
said he was not surprised by the result and said reaching out to those who had been hurt by the church was a "reality that must be addressed".
"We are all too well aware of people who have been hurt by the church in the past. I suppose even most recently with the marriage equality referendum, a lot of people voiced hurt and concern, for example with how the LGBT community might have felt alienated," Fr Fitzgibbon said.
"We have heard women expressing their particular pain and hurt as well, so I wasn't a bit surprised that that received such an overwhelming strong vote as a priority issue among delegates."
The diocesan synod is the first to take place in Limerick in 80 years, and it features an unprecedented level of participation of lay women and men.
Irish prelates to look at issue of Vatican-censured priests
Four Irish prelates are to meet a priests' group to discuss calls for restoration to full ministry of priests disciplined by the Vatican.
This is one of the topics likely to be on the agenda of a proposed meeting between the prelates and representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests.
Other matters to be discussed include the "grave disquiet" felt by some priests at how bishops are currently being appointed in Ireland.
The association wrote to the Irish episcopal conference expressing concern about such matters last year.
In a reply to the ACP this week, Msgr Gearóid Dullea, executive secretary to the Irish episcopal conference, said the ACP correspondence "was circulated to all bishops at the March 2016 plenary meeting of the Irish episcopal conference".
"In order to discuss matters of mutual interest, the bishops have recommended that a group comprising the bishops from the Council for Clergy (Bishops Browne, Boyce and Nulty) along with Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, meet with representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests.
"It is envisaged that the meeting would take place some time in the near future. I will be in contact again to arrange a date."
Norway's Church to seek Vatican permission to stop officiating at civil weddings
A Norwegian bishop has said the country's clergy will no longer officiate at civil weddings, after the predominant Lutheran Church's governing synod voted to conduct gay marriages in Norway.
Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo told Catholic News Service that he would have to seek permission from the Vatican, saying: "It's clear we must distinguish our own Church marriages from others.
"This is a matter of liturgy, so it doesn't necessarily reflect broader change in our society's moral values. But politicians may now get aggressive toward churches who resist these weddings, so the best option is for us to stop conducting marriages on the state's behalf."
Cardinal and Longtime Catholic Leader in Cuba to Step Down
Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, the longtime leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba and a savvy political operator who aided the Vatican's secret efforts to broker détente between Washington and Havana, is stepping down, closing an era in which the church became the only institution outside the government with any sway on the island.
His successor as archbishop of Havana will be Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez, the archbishop of the central city of Camaguey, according to a
from the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops released Tuesday.
Cardinal Ortega, 79, will leave behind a Cuban church whose reach is greater than at any point since Fidel Castro swept to power in 1959. Far from the days when Catholics were marginalized and the cardinal - as a young priest - spent time in a labor camp, the church is building new places of worship, tending to the poor, offering courses for aspiring entrepreneurs and prodding the government to speed up economic reforms.
That's always been the jokey answer to a dumb question, but it's now a serious issue for Catholic intellectuals who have been criticizing, and defending, the Catholic bona fides of Pope Francis, especially since the pontiff released a landmark document on family life earlier this month that some say calls into question the church's teachings on the permanence of marriage.
. . . .
The unusual debate - after all, it's not often that a pope is accused of heterodoxy - has grown so serious, in fact, that on April 19, the Jesuit-run Fordham University hosted a panel of Catholic experts titled: "Is the Pope Catholic?"
Among the four participants was
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who has been one of Francis' leading critics on the Catholic right, openly wondering about the pontiff's doctrinal purity and whether he is leading the Catholic Church into schism.
Also on the panel was former
New York Times religion writer and
Commonweal magazine editor Peter Steinfels; Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theologian at Manhattan College; and Alice Kearney Alwin, director of mission and ministry at Marymount School, a Catholic girls school in Manhattan. John Sexton, the polymath president emeritus of New York University and a Fordham theology alum, moderated.
While none of the panelists directly challenged Francis' faith, Douthat was most outspoken in criticizing Francis' approach in general, and in "Amoris Laetitia" specifically, a document that Douthat said was "designed to introduce a level of ambiguity into church teaching that had been absent."
. . . .
Steinfels took up that argument, saying that "what Ross might call ambiguity I might call 'complexity.'"
But he added that did not change what Steinfels said was his basic pessimism about the future of the church, at least in North America.
Alwin, on the other hand, said she was much more positive about the kind of effect Francis has had, especially on the children she deals with.
She described herself as "joy-filled" about this papacy and the more merciful aspect of the faith that, whatever the doctrinal disputes, she says is having an impact on the next generation.
Imperatori-Lee was also relatively upbeat - at one point she noted to laughter that it was odd the two women were more hopeful about the future of Catholicism than the three men - and she said it was important to see the exhortation as "a global document" and not just about U.S. concerns.
. . . .
What Douthat and the panelists seemed to agree on was that change, or "development," as theologians like to put it, does happen in church - a fact that traditionalists do not often like to recognize - but that the real debate is about how change happens, and what can change and what is essential.
. . . .
In the end, then, it seemed that the question was not so much whether the pope is Catholic, but what Catholicism is.
St. Louis Auxiliary Named New Bishop of Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Bishop Edward Rice of St. Louis has been tapped by Pope Francis to take charge of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese in Missouri.
. . . .
He will take over for Bishop James Johnston, who was installed as the new bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., on Nov. 4, 2015.
In letter to CDF, theologians and bishops call for reform of Vatican doctrinal investigations
A group of prominent global Catholic theologians, priests and bishops who have been criticized by the Vatican's chief doctrinal office have come together to call for a new process for theological investigations in the church that would be marked by openness and transparency instead of deep secrecy.
In a letter sent to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last month, the theologians argue that current procedures for investigations -- characterized often by a lack of adequate defense or possibility of appeal -- are "contrary to natural justice and in need of reform."
. . . .
Among the signatories to the new document, a copy of which was obtained by NCR, are some of the highest profile names known to have suffered investigations in recent years: Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, and Australian Bishop William Morris.
Organized by two others who have also faced investigations --
Irish Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery
and Australian former priest
-- the letter proposes new guiding principles for the doctrinal office and a new possible procedure for investigations, moving final responsibility for the matter to the Vatican's office for the Synod of Bishops.
Francis: Spirit works in laypeople, 'is not property of the hierarchy'
Pope Francis has again sharply denounced the culture of clericalism among priests in the Catholic church, calling it "one of the greatest deformations" that must be confronted by the global faith community and saying it helps "diminish and undervalue" the contributions that laypeople make.
The pontiff has also strongly reaffirmed the right of laypeople to make decisions in their lives, saying that priests must trust that the Holy Spirit is working in them and that the Spirit "is not only the 'property' of the ecclesial hierarchy."
Pope Francis may be on verge of deal with traditionalists
Pope Francis may soon offer the Society of Saint Pius X regular canonical status within the Catholic Church without requiring acceptance of certain texts of the Second Vatican Council with which they disagree, a prerequisite that heretofore had been seen as a deal-breaker for the traditionalists.
It also appears the society may itself be poised to take such a historic step, urging that "perhaps only Pope Francis is able to take this step, given his unpredictability and improvisation", according to an internal Society of St. Pius X document that was leaked to the press in recent weeks.
. . . .
The memo, titled "Considerations on the Church and the position of the Society of Saint Pius X in it", outlines six reasons why the group should accept an offer of regularization by Pope Francis, provided "an appropriate ecclesial structure" is ensured. It also addresses possible objections raised against such a move.
Blow for Pope's reforms as audit into Vatican finances forced to halt
The first external audit of Vatican finances by an internationally respected accountancy firm has been halted.
In what will be seen as a blow to Pope Francis' reforms, a letter on 12 April was sent to Holy See departments informing them the work of PricewaterhouseCoopers has been "suspended immediately"
. . . .
Australian Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, had commissioned PwC to review the Vatican accounts, work which had previously been done by an Italian firm.
The audit by PwC was the first of its kind and was going to provide a complete picture of Holy See finances, including a valuation of all its assets.
But in his letter Archbishop Becciu said that Cardinal Pell's instruction for Vatican bodies to co-operate with the firm had been overruled by "superior provision". A spokesman for Pell said he was "surprised" by the suspension of the audit and expects it to resume shortly.
It leaves open the question as to whether this came from the Pope, his advisory body of cardinals or the 15-body council for the economy, led by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, which oversees the work of Cardinal Pell's department.
. . . .
Some of the strongest opposition to Pell's work has come from within the Holy See's Secretariat of State, traditionally the most powerful body in the Vatican, and APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See), which manages Vatican assets. Both are believed to have resisted attempts to come under the oversight of Pell's department.
The position of the cardinal, who reaches retirement age of 75 in June, is under pressure - things were made worse for him following four days of uncomfortable cross-examination by an Australian inquiry into clerical sexual abuse.
Joe Biden Speaks About Faith and Curing Cancer at the Vatican
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. came to this tiny city-state to talk about two of his favorite things - curing cancer and his Roman Catholic faith.
At the Third International Regenerative Medicine Conference at the Vatican, Mr. Biden spoke about the urgent need to come up with new cures for cancer - a subject that has come to define his final year in office.
The conference is intended to highlight the extraordinary research advances being made with adult
while largely sidestepping the issue of research using fetal tissue or embryonic stem cells.
. . . .
Pope Francis then addressed the conference, encouraging participants to seek cures for cancers that affect few people and whose treatments might not be profitable, and to fight for access to treatment for all.
"This is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization of empathy," the pope said.
France abandons bid to name gay official as Vatican envoy
France's government has named a respected diplomat who is said to be gay as the country's new ambassador to UNESCO, more than a year after he was nominated to become the ambassador to the Vatican - a job he never started, because the Vatican withheld its approval.
Laurent Stefanini was confirmed Wednesday by France's council of ministers as the country's top diplomat at the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Sanders at Vatican says rich-poor gap worse than 100 years ago
U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, addressing a Vatican conference on social justice on Friday, decried the "immoral" gap between the world's rich and poor that he said was worse than a century ago.
The Democratic hopeful from Vermont has campaigned on a vow to rein in corporate power and level the economic playing field for working and lower-income Americans who he says have been left behind, a message echoing that of Pope Francis.
. . . .
Sanders said in his speech to the Pontifical Academy of Social Science that the Roman Catholic Church's first encyclical on social justice, written in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, lamented the enormous gap between the rich and the poor.
"That situation is worse today. In the year 2016, the top 1 percent of the people on this planet own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent," the self-described democratic socialist said.
Church officials deny George Pell claims of sex abuse cover-up
Cardinal George Pell's claims to have been deceived by Catholic officials over pedophile abuse in the church have been rebutted in new evidence to the sex abuse royal commission.
The inquiry today will hold a public hearing to decide how to deal with new material in witness statements from four former Catholic Education Office staff.
The commission sought the statements after Cardinal Pell, now a senior Vatican official, testified last month, accusing the office of keeping from him reports of violent and sexual misconduct by the late Peter Searson. Searson sexually abused children, threatened parishioners with a gun and is alleged to have stabbed a bird to death with a screwdriver, the inquiry heard.
Cardinal Pell told the commission he had been "deceived" by the CEO, which did not "adequately brief" him about Searson and "told me there was insufficient evidence to remove him" during the late 1980s and early 90s. Dr Pell then was an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne, overseeing Searson's Doveton parish in the city's east.
Who will bring forth Pope Francis' vision?
Pope Francis, with the publication of
Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), has offered a broad and deep reflection on the myriad (and often messy) issues concerning marriage, the family and human sexuality.
And in doing so, the 79-year-old pope has also put forth a clear vision of Christian discipleship. It is one based more on personal responsibility and prayerful discernment than on the mere following of church rules.
Furthermore, in this same document he has sketched out a profile of the ordained minister. Both priests and bishops are to be servant-leaders who, with mercy and patience, humbly accompany, dialogue and collaborate with their people as fellow disciples. The pope doesn't want pastors who harangue Catholics who fall short of the mark with rules and moral laws "as if they were stones to throw at people's lives."
In essence, he is re-proposing the model of discipleship and servant-leadership that emerged from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). He is attempting to pick up the journey that the church had embarked upon in the first decade or so following Vatican II, but one that John Paul II halted and began to "correct" and recalibrate early on in his long pontificate (1978-2005).
. . . .
But there is a serious challenge here. The vast majority of the world's bishops, younger clergy (under the age of 45 or so) and seminarians are squarely on the road that St. John Paul II and his German successor built. Too many find themselves greatly conflicted by Francis and all that he is doing to shake up and renew the church.
A good number of them are rigid personalities obsessed with the "clarity" of doctrine, who find their identity in a churchy world of black and white (like the uniform they wear) and exude confidence in being the recognized and unchallenged upholders of the Truth that they believe is possessed by the church alone.
This type of cleric (and the enabling clericalist lay people that continue to put priests on a pedestal) will be of little help in implementing the vision Pope Francis has unveiled in
And by the looks and sounds of things it doesn't seem like the seminaries -- at least here in Rome and in most places in the United States -- offer much hope of changing that any time soon.
The Pontifical North American College here in the Eternal City is but one example. I have some familiarity with the place, since I was a seminarian there from 1986 to 1988 before discontinuing studies for the priesthood. Friendships I made with some very fine people -- some who are now ordained (several as bishops), others who have left the active ministry -- does not alter my strong conviction that, like most other seminaries, it is built on an inadequate model and mentality for preparing parish priests for today.
. . . .
But by the early 1980s something changed. A new generation of more conservative U.S. bishops increasingly began sending seminarians to NAC who self-identified as being conservative or traditional. Emboldened by their bishops, they were unabashedly critical of the college's "liberal" faculty.
. . . .
A major shift occurred at the college in 1990 and the stars began to align again when Msgr. Edwin O'Brien of New York was appointed rector. A favored son of Cardinal John O'Connor, he immediately tightened up discipline and the seminary dress code. Those who have described NAC as the West Point of U.S. Catholic seminaries take their cue from the now-Cardinal O'Brien, currently the Rome-based Patron of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher.
Known for insisting that his seminarians keep their shoes shined, hair neatly combed and shirts pressed, he actively courted wealthy Catholics to help fund the college. Among other initiatives he began what has become the annual Rector's Dinner, a gala evening to entertain the benefactors and wine and dine U.S. bishops and Vatican cardinals.
. . . .
This, too, has been part of an effort by the U.S. bishops to convince their Vatican minders that priestly vocations in America are dramatically on the rise -- which is patently false. In reality, the more powerful leaders in the American hierarchy encourage bishops to send more students to Rome, depleting other seminaries even to the point that some of them -- like American College in Louvain, Belgium, which was founded before NAC -- have been forced to close or merge.
. . . .
Bad institutions can sometimes do great harm to good people. And it's hard to see how places like NAC are preparing future priests to have the "smell of the sheep" or helping them embrace Pope Francis' dream of "a poor Church for the poor.
Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94
The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94.
. . . .
The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic "new left," articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.
It was an essentially
, based on a stringent reading of the Scriptures that some called pure and others radical. But it would have explosive political consequences as Father Berrigan; his brother
, a Josephite priest; and their allies took their case to the streets with rising disregard for the law or their personal fortunes.
A defining point was the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., and the subsequent trial of the so-called
, a sequence of events that inspired an escalation of protests across the country; there were marches, sit-ins, the public burning of draft cards and other acts of civil disobedience.
. . . .
In the years to come, well into his 80s, Daniel Berrigan was arrested time and again, for greater or lesser offenses: in 1980, for taking part in the Plowshares raid on a General Electric missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa., where the Berrigan brothers and others rained hammer blows on missile warheads; in 2006, for blocking the entrance to the Intrepid naval museum in Manhattan.
. . . .
In the withering of the pacifist movement and the country's general support for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, he saw proof that it was folly to expect lasting results.
"This is the worst time of my long life," he said in an interview with
The Nation in 2008. "I have never had such meager expectations of the system."
What made it bearable, he wrote elsewhere, was a disciplined, implicitly difficult belief in God as the key to sanity and survival.
Remembering Terry Dosh, 1930-2016
It is with great sadness that the
editorial team shares news of the death of local theologian and church historian Terry Dosh.
Terry died earlier today, Thursday, April 7, 2016, after a long struggle with Parkinson's Disease.
A married priest and a well-respected church historian and theologian, Terry was a dedicated advocate for church reform for close to half-a-century.
Inspired by the vision of church launched by Vatican II, Terry began research on mandatory celibacy in 1962.
This led him to significant involvement over the next four decades with numerous church reform organizations, including CORPUS, the International Federation of Married Priests, Call to Action Minnesota, and various other Catholic organizations for renewal. He also helped found the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC) in 1980, serving on its board for 24 years.
From 1975 until just a few years ago, Terry edited and published four church reform newsletters, the last being Bread Rising. He also taught church history, scripture, and justice and peace topics extensively in parishes and other forums throughout the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
Author, artist Father Ed Hays brought Eastern travels home
Father Edward M. Hays was, to many who knew and loved him, one of the most remarkable persons they'd ever had the privilege to know.
As an author, artist and storyteller, Father Hays was a gushing spring of creativity. As a priest, he was known for his deep and contemplative spirituality, and as a spiritual guide and adviser.
. . . .
Father Hays, 85, died on April 3, Divine Mercy Sunday, at St. Luke Hospice Care in Kansas City, Missouri. He had fallen at his Leavenworth home on the day after Easter Sunday.
Margaret Brennan, religious leader, respected mentor, dies at 92
Margaret R. Brennan, one-time president of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 1972, died this morning at the motherhouse of her community in Monroe, Mich. She was 92.
Brennan, whose religious name was Sister Benedicta, was born in Detroit on Feb. 13, 1924. She entered the IHM Congregation in 1945, shortly after receiving her bachelor's degree from Marygrove College. Brennan later earned a doctorate in religion from St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1953, and a Master of Sacred Theology from Regis College, Toronto, in 1976. She served as professor of theology at Marygrove from 1953 through 1962, and then as novice director of her congregation, until her election as its president in 1966, a position she held for the next decade: she served as president of LCWR in 1972.
After her time in leadership, Brennan served for 25 years as professor of pastoral theology at Regis College in Toronto -- the first woman to hold that position. There, she became one of the institution's most distinguished and celebrated faculty members. She received numerous honors in her career, including four honorary doctorates and the 2010 Distinguished Leadership Award from LCWR.
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