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

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

The Bishops, 'the Message' 
and the Church
Sean O'Conaill                                           May 25, 2015

"The church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board." So said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, in the wake of the 'Yes' vote on same-sex marriage, on Saturday May 24th.  His honesty is refreshing.  However, he unfortunately repeated this equation of 'the church' with its bishops in another sentence: "The church has a huge task in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and to get its message across to young people."


There is wisdom in what the archbishop is saying about a reality check, but why does he equate 'the church' here with its designated leaders - and imply that 'young people' are somehow outside of it -  when the marriage referendum proved that much of the Irish church, and not just its young people, had voted - for well-considered reasons - in opposition to the advice of its bishops?


Must not a 'reality check' involve consideration of the possibility that Irish Catholicism's real problem is the failure of its designated leaders, over many decades, to keep pace with the developing mind of the rest of the Irish church - especially on issues relating to sexuality?


The archbishop's approach implies that he believes that bishops must always be the true possessors of 'the message', that somehow they have failed to transmit that message, but that, once they discover how to do that, the problem will be solved and effective transmission from bishop to non-bishop will resume.


What if instead this referendum result is a wake-up call from the people of God to the bishops - to tell them that it is they - the bishops - who do not properly understand the essence of 'the message', and that it is now their people who have taken hold of that, and applied it correctly?


God for all of his people? And surely this message has been compromised for centuries by an utterly bankrupt association of original sin - and therefore sin in general - with human sexuality? More recently - since Vatican II in the early 1960s - this fixation seized complete hold of the church's episcopal magisterium, which then sought to prevent all exploration of a credible and respectable - and life-affirming - theology of sexuality. St Augustine of Hippo's preposterous teaching - that original sin is transmitted by sexual intercourse - is centuries overdue for revision, so why is it still dangerous for Catholic theologians to say so?


This self-positioning by the magisterium - their failure to face squarely the deficiencies of the clerical church's historical understanding of sexuality - was supinely acceded to by generations of Irish bishops.  This inertia paralysed and demoralised our Irish clergy and left them tongue-tied on all sex-related issues in the wake of the clerical sex abuse scandals. Bunkered quarterly in Maynooth, Irish bishops effectively ceased two-way communication with their people from 1968 - while the country was meanwhile experiencing a storm of social change.


We know the consequence: there is now on average a half-century age difference between Irish priests and every fourteen-year-old. Typically, weekend homilies avoid all acute observation of the social reality of those fourteen-year-olds - and bore them utterly. By that age nowadays many have already rebelled - and there is wisdom in that too.


Many of their parents will be well able to explain to an Irish bishop what now needs to happen. 'The Church' is not coterminous with bishops - or something separate from its young people.  It is a learning, living community that has for decades been denied - by those who call themselves a teaching magisterium - the opportunity of open dialogue, and therefore of genuine communion also.   No 'reality check' will happen until our bishops have ended that embargo and allowed the Irish Catholic Church to breathe at last.


It is our bishops who need to catch up with 'the message', not most of their people. 
Some things we have been reading  
Stationary and Pilgrimage Christians
John A. Dick      May 29, 2015

. . . .

Polarization between church leaders and church members, as well as between ideological groups within the church, is now approaching a point of no return. I expect ongoing explosions, confrontations, and further division of the church into smaller and independent churches. I think it is unavoidable.


Regardless what's happening to the earth's polar ice caps, ecclesiastical climate change is a fact of life; and it will shape and reconfigure Christian identity and behavior in the coming decade.


First of all we have the melting-away of the church due to departures. Not so much a storm. More a low pressure dissipation. Whether out of frustration, ignorance, or just plain spiritual laziness, large numbers of people will continue to walk away from institutional churches. Especially young people.


Those who remain "Christian" will be either "Stationary Christians" or "Pilgrimage Christians."

Simply put, "stationary Christians" are those who see change as either a great disruption, a great distortion, or downright evil. They have age-old answers for every age-old question. Even if no one is really asking those questions anymore. 


In the contemporary Roman Catholic world, the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is a clear example of the stationary Christian, incapable of understanding Christianity in the light of ongoing human growth and development. Commenting this week about the Irish same-sex marriage referendum, Cardinal Parolin stressed "I believe that we are talking about not just a defeat for Christian principles but about a defeat for humanity."

. . . . 

"Pilgrimage Christians" are believers who experience human life, and therefore Christian life, as an open-ended journey with the Divine. They don't have ready-made answers for every question. They see Christian life as a process of individual and communal discernment. Tomorrow may bring new and exciting discoveries. It may bring disappointments and misery as well. The cross is part of Christian life. Throughout it all, we make progress. We move forward. Life is stronger than death. We mature. We are not abandoned. We move ahead, more humble and a bit wiser.....


In the coming decade I expect major clashes between the "stationary" and "pilgrimage" people at all levels in our churches. While the Vatican's Cardinal Parolin sees approval of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as a defeat for Christian principles as well as a defeat for humanity, Germany's Cardinal Reinhard Marx has called for a "welcoming culture" in the church for homosexuals, saying it's "not the differences that count, but what unites us."


Today Vatican authority is being challenged in yet another way as Roman Catholic women act upon their vocations to ordained ministry. Since 2002-when seven women were ordained by male Roman Catholic bishops-more than 190 women have been ordained to the priesthood, including at least a dozen women bishops; and all have served or are serving their faith communities very effectively.


Reiterating the teaching of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis, remains steadfastly opposed to the ordination of women, stressing that "The church has spoken and says 'No.'" Not everyone in the hierarchy is in agreement with Pope Francis however. The head of the Swiss bishops, Bishop Markus B?chel of St. Gallen, has spoken out quite openly in favor of women's ordination, saying that the church should "pray that the Holy Spirit enables us to read the signs of the times." Hierarchical polarization for sure. (How I would love to hear the head of the U.S. Catholic bishops echoing the voice of Bishop B?chel.)


Polarization is strong and "stationary" and "pilgrimage" groups are going to clash and collide many times and in many places, over the next few years. They will contribute to a further dissolution of large institutional churches into smaller and independent churches. Open to women. Open to all. With no hierarchical distinction between ordained and non-ordained. A variety of roles and responsibilities within genuine communities of faith. Prophetic church movements....Small Christian communities are less capable of exerting the kind of demeaning power over people that one sometimes sees in large institutions.


Because of this further break-up into smaller groups, I see major financial problems for the once affluent institutional church, which will be unable to maintain its large buildings, institutions and services. In the Roman Catholic Church there will be even more dioceses going bankrupt. I don't necessarily rejoice in this; but acknowledge it as a fact of life.


I see as well major and ongoing explosions about human sexuality and gender issues, coming from more honesty about what is going on and has been going on in the church. Clerical sexual abuse is not over. In addition, one has not yet seen major reports from India and Africa, where my contacts tell me it is a major problem.  , , , ,


On the positive side, in the coming decade, I expect to see - in all areas and forms of church life - stronger prophetic action and I expect to to hear more courageous prophetic voices. More prophets like the Vicar General of the Diocese of Essen in Germany, Klaus Pfeffer, who commented about Cardinal Parolin's recent anti-homosexuality remarks, in this way: "'Defeat(s) for humanity' are things like violence, terror, war, and inhumanity." Gospel challenges to contemporary values and behavior....


All in all I am optimistic in my ecclesiastical realism. The Spirit has not abandoned us. And we must not abandon the Spirit.

Read more


Jack Dick is ARCC Vice President.

Irish Church accepts its teaching jars with the faithful
Gerry O'Hanlon SJ      May 27, 2015


Last Saturday evening there was an explosion of joy among the crowd at Dublin Castle when the result of the Irish Referendum on gay marriage was officially announced.

. . . .

The atmosphere among the crowd in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland was carnival like - rainbow flags flying, people smiling and embracing, a sense of delight. This, on the Vigil of the Feast of the Holy Spirit, was a kind of secular Pentecost, a communal experience of movement from fear to peace and joy. There was a sense of consolation. And many avoided the temptation of moving from delight to triumphalism.

. . . .

In any discernment of spirits, there is a need for a process of 'confirmation', a time of reflection and weighing up, a sifting of feelings and reasons. This is what the Irish people are embarking on now. 

. . . .

In particular, of course, there is need for an already demoralised Irish Catholic Church to take stock. The Bishops, for the most part, were restrained in their approach to campaigning, unable to support the Referendum, advising serious reflection, and yet basically, without using the terms, leaving it up to people's consciences to vote.


Archbishop Martin said very clearly that he was voting 'no', and explained why in terms of faith-informed reasons that were accessible. Now, in response to the result, he acknowledges that the Church needs 'a reality check across the board', that it has to find a new language to get its message across, particularly to young people, and that if teaching isn't expressed in terms of love then the Church has got it wrong.


But one senses that it is more than a new language that is required. When the teaching on male/female complementarity is invoked as part of the argument to bar women from office; when the teaching on natural law forbids contraception and describes homosexual relations as intrinsically disordered in a way that jars with the 'sense of the faithful' of so many of the baptised, then the Church, despite the many wise things it has to say on sexuality and parenthood, loses credibility.


Archbishop Martin and his colleagues here in Ireland - and further afield - need to take up with energy and enthusiasm the challenge of Pope Francis for a more collegial and dialogical church, in which the voice of all is heard. Then perhaps we can hope for an ecclesial Pentecost to correspond to the secular celebration last Saturday in Dublin, a joyful re-birth of our badly damaged church.

Read more

Are Francis and Parolin playing good cop-bad cop on gay marriage?
Jamie Manson        May 28, 2015

Those under the impression that the Vatican is softening its stance on same-sex marriage may have been taken aback by Cardinal Pietro Parolin's  comments during a press conference in Vatican City on Tuesday night.


When asked to respond to Ireland's popular vote to legalize same-sex marriage, Parolin said:

"I was deeply saddened by the result. The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelization. I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity."


Parolin is the Vatican's secretary of state and is widely considered Pope Francis' top aide.

. . . .

While Francis himself has not spoken directly about the vote, the morning after Parolin's press conference, the pope offered poetic exhortations on the divine beauty of marriage between one man and one woman.


At his weekly general audience Wednesday, Francis focused on the relationship between engagement and marriage.


According to a Catholic News Service article (which was cross-posted by NCR), Francis said:

"The covenant of love between a man and a woman, a covenant for life, cannot be improvised; it cannot be done from one day to the next," he said. ... While it is "beautiful" that people today can choose whom to marry, the "freedom of this bond" cannot be based simply on physical attraction or feelings, he said.

. . . .  

Parolin is taking on the old-fashioned role of Vatican scold while Francis takes the new, more merciful, catechetical approach. But ultimately, both men agree with the institutional church's opposition to marriage equality. Both men believe same-sex relationships violate the traditional understanding of natural law and gender complementary.


Most importantly, both men believe these church teachings on marriage are correct and should not change. The problem, they believe, is that the institutional church hasn't done a good job of communicating the church's truths effectively and pastorally. As Parolin himself said in his statement on Ireland, the church "must strengthen its commitment to evangelization." Francis attempted to do just that in his audience the following day.


If the vote in Ireland proves anything, it is that both Francis, the good cop, and Parolin, the bad cop, will fail in their efforts. Ireland demonstrates that the pope's understanding of acting mercifully toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will not be adequate to bring them into the pews.

Read more

What's the biblical definition of marriage?
Ronald A. Simkins     May 27, 2015

. . . .

Often behind the traditional definition of marriage is the biblical tradition where, it is claimed, marriage was created by God between one male and one female, citing Genesis 2:24. Although this is not a definition of marriage per se but rather an explanation for why men and women join together in the social union we call marriage, the text may serve to justify heterosexual marriage. But what is the status of the partners and the character of the marriage? The immediate biblical context of this passage only gives a few indications: marriage is presented as the alternative to the man being alone; the woman is created to help the man; and the husband will rule over his wife. (Ephesians 5:22 simply says, "wives, be subject to your husbands.") Elsewhere in the biblical tradition, marriage should be within the extended family, tribe, or people; is arranged by the fathers; and is the result of an economic exchange. 


Is this the traditional marriage that the justices are concerned to defend? It is marriage between one man and one woman, but the wife is subordinate to her husband, has little or no choice to whom she marries, and certainly does not marry for love.


But this understanding of marriage is not the only definition endorsed by the biblical tradition. There are numerous examples of marriages between one man and two or more women (Jacob, Elkanah, David, Solomon, and others). Polygyny was widely practiced in the biblical world, as it is today in the Middle East, among those who can afford it. The biblical tradition endorses such polygynous unions and only expresses concern regarding marriage to foreign women and the possible favoritism toward one son based on favoritism toward one wife.


Related to polygynous marriages are marriages that involve concubines or slave-wives. Abram takes Sarai's slave-girl Hagar for a wife, and Jacob takes Rachel's slave Bilhah and Leah's slave Zilpah for wives. David had at least ten concubines. These wives are tantamount to the man's property; they are used for sexual and procreative purposes, and may be discarded at will.


The Levirate marriage also treats the wife like property. If a man dies before he produces a child, his wife, who belongs to her husband's family because of the economic exchange that resulted in the marriage, is given to one of her husband's kinsmen. Although the Levirate marriage provides some measure of economic and social security for the widow, she is forced into a marriage to fulfill a marital obligation (to have children).

 . . . .

These examples of marriage in the biblical tradition illustrate the fluidity of the institution. To 21st-century Americans, these biblical understandings or definitions of marriage are strange and oppressive, but they are expressions of the culture and values of the biblical world. And as the culture and values of the society changed, so did its understanding of marriage. Society continues to change. In 2004, when gay marriage first became legal in Massachusetts, 61 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage. Today, gay marriage is legal in 37 states, and public opinion polls have ranged as high as 63 percent in favor. With such changing values, should we not expect the definition of marriage to also change? It always has. 

Read more

Ireland is worse than the pagans for legalising gay marriage, says senior cardinal
Katherine Backler, Liz Dodd     May 28, 2015


Burke Ireland has gone further than paganism and "defied God" by legalising gay marriage, one of the Church's most senior cardinals has said.


Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was recently moved from a senior role in the Vatican to be patron of the Order of Malta, told the Newman Society, Oxford University's Catholic Society, last night that he struggled to understand "any nation redefining marriage".


Visibly moved, he went on: "I mean, this is a defiance of God. It's just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage."

Read more

Did Ireland just bury the Catholic Church?
Mary E. Hunt      May 26, 2015


Indeed, when the ballots were counted more than 60% of Irish voters agreed that "marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex." Many people think the vote heralds the end of the Roman Catholic Church as we know it-but I think the reality might be more complicated.

. . . .

We do know for sure that good Irish Catholics followed their faith in the direction of inclusion, compassion, equality, justice, and a host of other Catholic values when they voted with the majority despite some clergymen's efforts to lead them astray. The hard sell for "no" from a group of bishops was all but ignored. Some clergy were public about their "yes" vote, and my guess is that more than a few gay priests (and some straight ones, too) voted for their own self-interest. Generations of Irish Catholics showed what they are made of.


. . . .  While the institutional church lost miserably, the enduring message of post-Vatican II Catholicism-that all persons are equal with corresponding rights and responsibilities-had a good day. The fact that this message was distilled from the rubble of sexual abuse, clergy cover-up, heterosexism, disdain for women, and the rest of the clerically-constructed system is a miracle in itself. The pulpits are still in the hands of the priests, though, and they do not show many signs of sharing.

. . . .

It is for lay Catholics around the world to be clear, as Irish voters were, that we can and will make our own decisions.


Much remains to be done to dismantle deeply entrenched structures. But the Irish referendum means that a top-down, clergy-heavy model of church heard its death knell in Dublin. As it reverberates around the world the Gospel message might get a little more airtime. As the Irish say, it will make a glass eye cry-with joy.

Read more

Americans Continue to Shift Left on Key Moral Issues
Frank Newport       May 26, 2015


Americans are more likely now than in the early 2000s to find a variety of behaviors morally acceptable, including gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage and sex between an unmarried man and woman. Moral acceptability of many of these issues is now at a record-high level.


Gallup chart
. . . .

Americans are becoming more liberal on social issues, as evidenced not only by the uptick in the percentage describing themselves as socially liberal, but also by their increasing willingness to say that a number of previously frowned-upon behaviors are morally acceptable. The biggest leftward shift over the past 14 years has been in attitudes toward gay and lesbian relations, from only a minority of Americans finding it morally acceptable to a clear majority finding it acceptable.


The moral acceptability of issues related to sexual relations has also increased, including having a baby outside of wedlock -- something that in previous eras was a social taboo. Americans are more likely to find divorce morally acceptable, and have also loosened up on their views of polygamy, although this latter behavior is still seen as acceptable by only a small minority.


This liberalization of attitudes toward moral issues is part of a complex set of factors affecting the social and cultural fabric of the U.S. Regardless of the factors causing the shifts, the trend toward a more liberal view on moral behaviors will certainly have implications for such fundamental social institutions as marriage, the environment in which children are raised and the economy. The shifts could also have a significant effect on politics, with candidates whose positioning is based on holding firm views on certain issues having to grapple with a voting population that, as a whole, is significantly less likely to agree with conservative positions than it might have been in the past.

Read more

On Same-Sex Marriage, Catholics Are Leading the Way
Frank Bruni      May 27, 2015


Take a look at this list of countries: Belgium, Canada, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Brazil, France, Uruguay, Luxembourg and Ireland. Name two things that they have in common.


They don't share a continent, obviously. Or a language.


But in all of them, the Roman Catholic Church has more adherents, at least nominally, than any other religious denomination does


And all of them belong to the vanguard of 20 nations that have decided to make same-sex marriage legal.


In fact, countries with a Catholic majority or plurality make up half of those where two men or two women can now wed or will soon be able to.


Ireland, obviously, is the freshest addition to the list. It's also, in some ways, the most remarkable one. It's the first country to approve same-sex marriage by a popular referendum. The margin wasn't even close. About 62 percent of voters embraced marriage equality.

. . . .

But in falling out of line with the Vatican, Irish people are actually falling in line with their Catholic counterparts in other Western countries, including the United States.


They aren't sloughing off their Catholicism - not exactly, not entirely. An overwhelming majority of them still identify as Catholic. But they're incorporating religion into their lives in a manner less rooted in Rome.


We journalists too often use "the Catholic Church" as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican's stamp of approval.


But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others.

Read more

Parishioners given seven days to leave closed Scituate church

 Patrick Ronan       May 29 2015

A judge has ordered the parishioners who have been holding vigil at the closed St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in Scituate for the past 10 years to vacate the church by next Friday.

Norfolk County Superior Court Judge Edward Leibensperger on Friday denied the emergency motion filed by the Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini to suspend the injunction barring the parishioners from entering the church by May 29 pending an appeal.

In his denial of the Friends' motion, Leibensperger pushed back the order to vacate the Hood Street church by a week to 5 p.m. June 5.

"I can't even comment on that," Maryellen Rogers, one of the leaders of the Friends of St. Frances, said Friday when asked if the group will leave the church by the deadline.

Rogers said the Friends' attorney will ask the Appeals Court early next week for an emergency suspension of the injunction.

Leibensperger on Friday also denied the Friends' requests for injunctions against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston to try to stop the archdiocese from "conveying, dismantling, developing or otherwise encumbering the (church) property" and from interfering with the parishioner group's "use and enjoyment" of the church premises.

Leibensperger, in his ruling, wrote that the Friends' motions "demonstrate a misapprehension of legal process and a stubborn refusal to accept the reality of final decisions of the courts."
American nun group questions whether LCWR oversight is truly over
Dawn Cherie Araujo      May 20, 2015

When the Leadership Conference of Women Religious broke its silence Friday regarding the end of the controversial Vatican oversight of the group, many Catholic sisters in the U.S. were, well, thrilled. They appreciated the LCWR leadership team's written statement for its frank acknowledgement of how painful the doctrinal assessment had been, and they were genuinely proud of the team for their grace and humility.


But some sisters also still had lingering questions.

For the National Coalition of American Nuns, a progressive 300-member grassroots organization focused on church and social justice issues, the major question is this: At what price has this resolution been achieved?


"The potential bad news - and maybe I'm being a pessimist," said Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a Sister of Loretto and one of the executive coordinators of the National Coalition of American Nuns, "is that while the oversight by the Vatican maybe has ceased, the self-silencing will continue."

Self -silencing because, as Loretto Sr. Anna Koop, a member of the National Coalition of American Nuns and a Catholic Worker in Denver, puts it, the Vatican is not done watching LCWR. Koop was a member of the conference from 1996 to 2001, and while she commends the current LCWR leadership for the persistent dialogue that brought the mandate to an end, she says she's under no illusion that anything is truly finished.

. . . .

The second-wave of self-censorship within LCWR, Gramick says, is perhaps yet to come. Based on the language of their joint statement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in the LCWR statement last week, Gramick is concerned that LCWR may begin stripping both its publications and annual assembly of anything that could be deemed too provocative by the Vatican.


Specifically, Gramick is worried that LCWR's promise in April's joint statement to avoid publishing anything "ambiguous with regard to church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it" bodes ill for the conference's ability to help the church grow.

. . . . 

"I think there's great hope that things might loosen up," she said, noting that the Vatican still doesn't have the tight control over LCWR that she believes it wanted. "We can work together as long as they assume we are speaking our truth and we assume they are speaking their truth."


LCWR declined to comment on the coalition's statement.

Read more
Archbishop Paglia, key planner of families meeting, faces criminal charge
Marrhew Gambino       May 29, 2015


Paglia Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family and lead Vatican organizer of September's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, is under investigation by Italian prosecutors into charges of embezzlement.


Published reports in European media outlets say the investigation stems from 2011 when the archbishop led the Diocese of Terni in Italy, and diocesan funds may have been used improperly in a scheme to purchase then resell at a profit a 14th century Italian castle.


A diocesan financial officer at the time was also the head of an Italian firm that purchased the property, which today remains undeveloped.


In Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput said in a statement May 29 that he was saddened to learn the news of Archbishop Paglia, "and will pray for him."


"At the same time," Archbishop Chaput said, "I assure everyone that matters facing him do not impact our plans for September. We continue to work without interruption and joyfully anticipate welcoming our Holy Father and the world to Philadelphia later this year."

. . . .
More details on the investigation of Archbishop Paglia may be read on the website of the  Telegraph , a newspaper in the United Kingdom. 

Read more

Vatican Financial Watchdog Registers 147 Suspicious Transactions in 2014
Francis X. Rocca       May 29.dd, 2015


The Vatican's financial watchdog registered 147 suspicious transactions in 2014, down by more than a quarter from the previous year, reflecting progress by the Holy See in detecting and preventing financial crime, officials said Friday.


The Financial Information Authority, or AIF, said it turned over seven of those cases, mostly involving potential fraud or tax evasion, to Vatican prosecutors. In three of the seven cases, the AIF froze suspicious transactions with a total value of ?562 million.


Friday's annual report was the third published by the regulator, which Pope Benedict XVI established in 2010 to work toward compliance with international standards on financial crimes. That move was the start of a series of financial reforms at the Vatican, which have been continued by Pope Francis.

In 2013, the European money-laundering watchdog Moneyval praised the Vatican for its efforts on financial transparency but said regulatory oversight needed tightening at the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, or IOR. That same year, Pope Francis named a special panel to reform the bank.

Read more

Francis wants a hierarchy that listens to 'sensus fidei'
Joshua J. McElwee     May 27, 2015


Kasper Pope Francis wants to retool the Catholic hierarchy so that it not only defines and enforces church teachings, but also listens and responds to how laypeople understand God's will, German Cardinal Walter Kasper said.

. . . .

Kasper said one concept important to the pope is that of the sensus fidei, or the capacity of individual believers and the church as a whole to discern the truths of faith.


That concept, Kasper said, "was emphasized by the council ... [but] Francis now wishes to give it complete meaning.

. . . .

"Catholicity includes ... all," Kasper said. "Women and men, young and old, clergy and laity. The laity are not only recipients, but also actors. Not only objects, but much more, subjects in the church."

Kasper, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral as part of a landmark theological conference on the Second Vatican Council co-hosted by the cathedral, Georgetown University, and Marymount University in Arlington, Va.

Among other speakers at the May 21-24 conference were Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Cardinal Luis Tagle, the archbishop of Manila and new president of Caritas Internationalis.


The conference was titled: "Vatican II, Remembering the Future: Ecumenical, Interfaith and Secular Perspectives on the Council's Impact and Promise." A gathering of the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, the event saw an estimated 140 academics reflect on the meaning and import of the council and how its vision might be carried forward.

Read more
Cardinal Tagle: Church should not look to 'idealized past' with nostalgia
Joshua J. McElwee      May 22, 2015


Philippines Cardinal Luis Tagle -- often cited as a possible successor to Pope Francis -- has called on Catholics to avoid looking to the pre-Second Vatican Council church with a sense of nostalgia, but to embrace and live out the council's sense of openness to the modern world.


Speaking at a landmark theological conference focused on carrying the vision of the council forward, Tagle said Vatican II rediscovered the church's understanding of mystery, mission and communion -- and that, from there, "the understanding of church changed radically."


One of the key changes of the council, he said, was the move from a church that focused on itself to one that focused on the needs of humanity.


"Many people want to witness to Christ in some idealized past that they long for with nostalgia," said Tagle, who spoke Friday morning at Georgetown University. "No, we witness to Christ now, here, where we are in our world."


"The church is being asked to retrieve its deepest identity as a communion, but a communion that is not focused on itself," he continued. "Not self-focused, not self-referential."

Read more

Cardinal George Pell FINALLY agrees to give evidence at Royal Commission into child sexual abuse
Lucy Thackray  & John Carney     May 26, 2015

Pell Cardinal George Pell has told the chair of the royal commission he's prepared to give evidence in person 'if needed'.


'I want to make it absolutely clear that I am willing to give evidence should the commission request this, be it by statement, appearance by video link, or by attending personally,' he said in the letter to Justice Peter McClellan on Tuesday night.


He also said he'd been horrified by the allegations of abuse in Ballarat and was 'deeply saddened' by the way church authorities dealt with reports of abuse.


Abuse victims have given evidence Pell bribed them to keep quiet, ignored complaints and was complicit in moving Australia's worst pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale to a different parish. 

. . . .

Phillip Nagle was the first witness to appear last week at the opening of the commission into a paedophile ring involving Catholic clergy in Ballarat in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.   


During his evidence he produced a photograph of his 1973 Grade 4 class at St Alipius' Christian Brothers School in Ballarat. He claims that 12 out of 33 pupils that appeared in it were dead after committing suicide because of the child abuse they endured.  

Read more

Milwaukee Archdiocese - hypocrisy at its worst
Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.      May 26, 2015


Recently a prominent psychologist with over two decades of intense experience helping clergy abuse victims said that the most morally compromised group of people he knew of were the attorneys who represent the Catholic Church in the abuse cases. The recent pronouncement of Francis LoCoco, lead lawyer for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, confirms this opinion. "Let's spend the money" he is quoted as saying, in reference to the 56 million dollars that Cardinal Dolan illegally and immorally tried to divert in the notorious Milwaukee bankruptcy proceedings. Lest the lawyers bear the brunt of the blame, the main culprits are the present archbishop, Listecki, and his predecessor, Dolan. The squadron of attorneys work for them and not the other way around.


When abuse survivors call attention to the stonewalling tactics and often-vicious attitudes of the Church's lawyers, its not uncommon for the bishops to plead innocence, claiming that it's the lawyers doing their job. But the lawyers are hired by and work for the bishop and not vice versa. 


The disgusting charade going on in Milwaukee was cooked up by and has been sustained by Dolan and Listecki. Thus far the Milwaukee lawyers have spent over $20 million dollars to stonewall the victims. Some bishops and church cheerleaders in this case and others have regularly tried to blame the victims and their lawyers, claiming they are only in it for the money. This is nonsense. The Church lawyers get paid by the hour, win or lose. Victims' lawyers are paid on the contingency that the case will end in favor of the victim. I have known lawyers who represented victims who took major cuts so that their clients would end up with some respectable compensation. How many of the Church lawyers work sex abuse cases pro bono? The money the archbishop is encouraging his lawyers to squander comes from the People of God of the archdiocese.


The bankruptcy process was initiated over four years ago, on January 4, 2011 to be exact, two days before the archbishop was scheduled to be deposed. The church's lawyers are challenging each and every claim of the 570 victims who have come forward. Many of the claimants were among the 200 deaf boys sexually violated by Fr. Lawrence Murphy at St. John's School for the Deaf. These victims have been fighting for decades for some form of justice and what they have received instead has been vicious, dishonest and certainly unchristian revictimization.


The archbishops of Milwaukee going back to Cardinal Albert Meyer have all played a key role in making the Milwaukee Church unique in its hypocritical and narcissistic response to the havoc caused by its priests. Meyer was told about Lawrence Murphy way back in the mid fifties and sent him on retreat for a month. The Redemptorist priest who reported Murphy to Cardinal Meyer also reported his behavior to the Apostolic delegate in Washington so the Holy See effectively knew about Murphy way back then.

Archbishop Cousins, whose tenure lasted from 1958 to 1977, knew about Murphy and not only did nothing, but he threatened one of the deaf boys who reported Murphy and forced him to sign a letter of retraction.


Rembert Weakland was archbishop from 1977 to 2002. He was faced with reports not only about Murphy but several other Milwaukee priests. Weakland's track record in responding to victims is far from stellar but at least he tried to get Murphy laicized with no success, thanks to former Pope Benedict and his cohort, Cardinal Bertone who refused Weakland's request and allowed Murphy to live out his days in the dignity of his priesthood while his victims lived out their days in the agony of his abuse. Then came Dolan in 2002.

Dolan tried to deal with the sex abuse nightmare primarily with his "hail fellow well met" personality but his rhetoric and back-slapping fell flat in the face of what he was really up to. Bankruptcy was being used by some bishops as a way to avoid trials and the revelation of the truth that comes with them, as well as a way to limit the compensation given to victims. Although he would be gone when the bankruptcy process started Dolan obviously knew where it was all going. He diverted approximately $56 million dollars into a cemetery trust in 2007. When accused of trying to hide the money in 2011, he lashed out at victims' attorney Jeff Anderson and accused him of spreading "groundless gossip." Dolan's lie was discovered when a letter he wrote to the Vatican in 2007 came to light....a letter in which he sought permission to transfer the $56 million to a restricted trust. Why? To quote his own words "I foresee an improved protection of these funds from and legal claim and liability." 

A local judge, Rudolph Randa, ruled that the transfer was protected by the first amendment and that "removing some or all of these funds from the trust and placing them in the bankruptcy estate would undoubtedly put substantial pressure on Archbishop Listecki to modify his behavior and violate his beliefs." Over two years later a federal appeals court ruled that Randa was not only wrong but should have removed himself from the case. The $56 million was back on the table. Now LoCoco and his fellow lawyers have declared that they plan on spending it all in litigation. Is this protracted and obscenely expensive process about achieving justice and assuring fair compensation for victims, as Archbishop Listecki has claimed in attempting to justify it? Not by a long shot! 

In his narcissistic arrogance Listecki openly invited all who were sexually abused to step forward: "nothing will prevent me from making every possible effort at moving forward toward healing and resolution with those who have been harmed." His real plan was to get them all to step up so that he could have his lawyers do everything possible to have their cases thrown out of court. The best comment on this comes from one of the victims: "These victims have already been betrayed by the Church in the most damaging ways imaginable. How could the archbishop, a man of God, then proceed to try to throw each and every one of their cases out of court? This action in effect re-abused and betrayed these fragile victims yet again."


Judge Randa said that putting the cemetery trust millions back on the table would put pressure on Listecki to violate his beliefs. What beliefs? There is nothing even remotely Christian or even Catholic about the travesty he is presiding over. He's a civil lawyer himself so he knows well that the millions spent thus far represent countless billable hours for the lawyers defending his strategy. This is tons of money they will take home whether they win or lose. The only belief that seems to be in danger of violation is the belief that the victims whose lives have already been severely damaged by the negligence of his predecessor, must now be pounded into the ground and defeated once and for all.


The Milwaukee bankruptcy has been a mockery of the American judicial process. It is an unconscionable abuse and subversion of the legal process, using it as a weapon to punish and further traumatize the victims. It has surely justified the pessimistic and negative image of civil attorneys and it has also made a mockery of the office of bishop. It is an example of the virus of clericalism at its virulent worst. What Dolan, Listecki and the phalanx of attorneys have completely lost sight of, in addition to the objective meaning if justice, is what this is really all about: several hundred young boys and girls who were believing and trusting Catholics and who were betrayed and violated in the worst imaginable ways by the very men they trusted. As their lives unfolded they had the courage to take the risk of confronting the Archdiocese. Rather than act like the Body of Christ, the leaders of this Church have come at the victims with every resource available to punish them for having had the audacity to demand that which their Church incessantly preaches about, justice and charity. 

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The hypocrisy of the archbishop
Star-Ledger Editorial Board      May 28, 2015


When Newark Archbishop John Myers removed a popular priest at Seton Hall, he insisted through a spokesman that it had nothing to do with his Facebook posts supporting a group promoting gay marriage. 

"That could not be farther from the truth," said Jim Goodness, whose unenviable job it is to come up with excuses for Myers. 

The reassignment, he said, was part of the "normal transfer cycle that involves scores of priests each June." Only when pressed did he concede the posting "was a factor." 

Now, Fr. Warren Hall has decided to come out as gay, and open up about his removal to a gay magazine. He said he received a note to call the archbishop five months after the Facebook issue was already resolved.


It's unclear whether Myers knew he was gay at the time. But Hall says the archbishop told him: "None of us want bullying, but you have a further agenda here, and I can't have you at Seton Hall because of that." 

In response to his revelation, here's what the archdiocese said today: It would not comment on Hall's specific case. But there is nothing in church teachings that says a gay man can't remain a priest, having taken a vow of celibacy. And "every person is to be accepted with respect, compassion and dignity," Goodness said. 

So where is that respect, compassion and dignity? Why remove Hall from his post, against the will of his parishioners? Who really has the agenda here?  

. . . .

So why remove this priest from his position? Myers is the one who should go. 

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Catholic bishop tells women to abstain from yoga
Erin Andersen      May 22, 2015

"Good Christians" shouldn't do yoga.


That's not a new stance, but when retired Catholic Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz issued a statement telling Catholics to abstain from yoga -- all hell broke loose on Facebook this past week.


Especially, in the Lincoln area, where Bruskewitz ruled the Catholic Diocese for 20 years, often taking hardline ultra-conservative stands on issues even the church had softened on.


Bruskewitz's statements were included in a May 18 blog on the Women of Grace website, a Catholic organization for women of which Bruskewitz is on the board of directors.


In his letter, he urged women to find other forms of exercise that do not jeopardize their faith. The issue with yoga is that it is based in Hinduism -- a religion the Catholic church has called "incompatible to Christianity."

. . . .

Indeed, Bruskewitz encourages physical exercise -- so long as it is "morally neutral and would not, in itself involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith," he wrote in his letter to Women of Grace.


And Bruskewitz does not have faith that Catholics can resist yoga's draw to anti-Christian beliefs.

" ... The practice of yoga, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters that are distant from Catholic truth and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation," Bruskewitz wrote.

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5 quick pastoral reasons why we should restore infant communion
Kimberly Hope Belcher       May 18, 2015

. . . .

1. They're more able to recognize the real presence than their parents. Since young children haven't demythologized their world, they are still much more sensitive to the awe-inspiring presence of God in the Eucharist and elsewhere. It's those of us that have reached the age of reason, and thus need to be able to explain it to ourselves, that find this faith difficult to maintain.  . . . .


2. An "age of reason" theology of communion greatly impedes our ministry to the developmentally disabled as well as to young children and their families. And the church did ministry without it for centuries, so we probably don't need it that badly.


3. The "age of reason" theology also misleads people into believing that the Eucharist is the reward for a proper amount of knowledge and piety, rather than the absolutely free gift of God's grace that elicits our response of ecstatic thanksgiving.


4. By giving communion to the newly baptized, we would be standing ecumenically not only with the Eastern Orthodox churches, but also with many of our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters. At the same time, putting the priority on God's grace rather than our preparation is a theological solidarity with Protestant sensibilities.


5. Then Catholics wouldn't think that "First Communion" was one of the seven sacraments, instead of the Eucharist.

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