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Patrick Edgar, ARCC President
Some things we have been reading
Infallibility - Hans Küng appeals to Pope Francis
Hans Küng, the Catholic priest and Swiss theologian, marked his 88th birthday. The fifth volume of his complete works, titled Infallibility, has just become available from the German publishing house Herder. In connection with the release of Infallibility, Küng has written the following "urgent appeal to Pope Francis to permit an open and impartial discussion on infallibility of pope and bishops." The text of his urgent appeal is being released simultaneously by National Catholic Reporter and The Tablet.
It is hardly conceivable that Pope Francis would strive to define papal infallibility as Pius IX did with all the means at hand, whether good or less good, in the 19th century. It is also inconceivable that Francis would be interested in infallibly defining Marian dogmas as Pius XII did. It would, however, be far easier to imagine Pope Francis smilingly telling students, "Io non sono infallibile" - "I am not infallible" - as Pope John XXIII did in his time. When he saw how surprised the students were, John added, "I am only infallible when I speak ex cathedra, but that is something I will never do."
I became acquainted with the subject very early in my life. Here are a few important historical dates as I personally experienced them and have faithfully documented in Volume 5 of my complete works:
1950: On Nov. 1, facing huge crowds in St. Peter's Square and supported by numerous high church and political dignitaries, Pope Pius XII definitively proclaimed the Assumption of Mary as a dogma. "The immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." I was there in St. Peter's Square at the time and must admit that I enthusiastically hailed the pope's declaration.
That was the first infallible ex cathedra proclamation by the church's senior shepherd and highest teaching authority, who had invoked the special support of the Holy Spirit, all according to the definition of papal infallibility laid down at the First Vatican Council of 1870. And it was to remain the last ex cathedra proclamation to date, as even John Paul II, who restored papal centralism and was always happy to seek publicity, did not dare to play to the gallery by proclaiming a new dogma. As it was, the 1950 dogma proclamation had been made despite protests from the Protestant and Orthodox churches and from many Catholics, who simply could not find any evidence in the Bible for this "truth of faith revealed by God."
I remember German theology students, who were our guests in the Collegium Germanicum
(German College) in Rome, discussing the problems they had with the dogma in the refectory at the time. Only a few weeks previously, an article by the then leading German patrologist
, Professor Berthold
, a highly regarded Catholic specialist in the theology of the Church Fathers, had been published in which Althaner
, listing many examples, had shown that this dogma had did not even have a historical basis in the first centuries of the early church. It goes back to a legend in an apocryphal writing from the fifth century that is brimful of miracles.
We seminarians at the German College at the time thought that the students' "rationalist" university teachers had kept the Pontifical Gregorian University's general perception regarding this dogma from them. The general perception at the Gregorian was that the Assumption dogma had "developed" slowly and, as it were, "organically" in the course of dogma history, but that it was already ascertained in Bible passages such as "Hail (Mary) full of grace (blessed art thou)," "the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28), and although not "explicitly" expressed, it was nevertheless "implicitly" incorporated.
1958: Pius XII's death marked the end of a century of excessive Marian cults by the Pius popes that had begun with the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. Pius XII's successor, John XXIII
, was disinclined toward new dogmas. At the Second Vatican Council, in a crucial vote, the majority of the council fathers rejected a special Marian decree and in fact cautioned against exaggerated Marian piety.
1965: Chapter III of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church is devoted to the hierarchy but, oddly enough, Paragraph 25, which is on infallibility, in no way actually goes into it. What is all the more surprising is that in actual fact the Second Vatican Council took a fatal step. Without giving reasons, it expressly extended infallibility, which was confined to the pope alone at the First Vatican Council, to the episcopacy. The council attributed infallibility not only to the assembled episcopacy at an ecumenical council (magisterium extraordinarium
), but from then on also to the world episcopacy (magisterium ordinarium
), that is, to bishops all over the world if they were agreed and decreed that a church teaching on faith or morals should permanently become mandatory.
1968: the year the encyclical Humanae Vitae
on birth control was published. That the encyclical was released on July 25 of all times, which was not only during the summer holidays but, on top of that, in the middle of the Czechoslovak people's fight for freedom, is generally interpreted as Roman tactics so that there would be less opposition to it. Perhaps, however, it was quite simply because work on this sensitive document had only just been finished. Whatever the reason for the timing, the encyclical hit the world "like a bomb." The pope had obviously greatly underestimated the resistance to this teaching. Isolated as he was in the Vatican, he had not envisaged that the world public would react quite so negatively.
The encyclical Humanae Vitae
, which not only forbade as grave sins the pill and all mechanical means of contraception but also the withdrawal method to avoid pregnancy, was universally regarded as an incredible challenge. Invoking the infallibility of papal, respectively episcopal teaching, the pope pitted himself against the entire civilized world. This alarmed me as a Catholic theologian. I had by then been professor of theology at the Catholic theological faculty of Tübingen
University for eight years. Of course, formal protests and substantive objections were important, but had the time not now come to examine this claim to the infallibility of papal teaching in principle? I was convinced that theology - or, to be more precise, critical fundamental theological research - was called for.
In 1970, I put the subject up for discussion in my book
Infallible?: An Inquiry
. I could not have foreseen at the time that this book and with it the problem of infallibility would crucially affect my personal destiny and would present theology and the church with key challenges. In the 1970s
, my life and my work were more than ever intertwined with theology and the church.
1979-80: the withdrawal of my license to teach. In Volume 2 of my memoirs,
, I have described in detail how this was a secret campaign carried out with military precision, which has proved to be theologically unfounded and politically counterproductive. At the time, the debate about the withdrawal of my missio canonica
and infallibility continued for a long time. It proved impossible to harm my standing with believers, however, and as I had prophesied, the controversies regarding large-scale church reform have not ceased. On the contrary, during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI they increased on a massive scale. That was when I went into the necessity of promoting understanding between the different denominations, of mutual recognition of church offices and celebrating the Lord's Supper, the question of divorce, of women's ordination, mandatory celibacy and the catastrophic lack of priests, but above all of the leadership of the Catholic church. My question was: "Where are you leading this church of ours?"
These questions are as relevant today as they were then. The decisive reason for this incapacity for reform at all levels is still the doctrine of infallibility of church teaching, which has bequeathed a long winter on our Catholic church. Like John XXIII
, Francis is doing his utmost to blow fresh wind into the church today and is meeting with massive opposition as at the last episcopal synod in October 2015. But, make no mistake, without a constructive "re-vision" of the infallibility dogma, real renewal will hardly be possible.
What is all the more astonishing is that the discussion (of infallibility) has disappeared from the scene. Many Catholic theologians have no longer critically examined the infallibility ideology for fear of ominous sanctions as in my case, and the hierarchy tries as far as possible to avoid the subject, which is unpopular in the church and in society. When he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger
only expressly referred to it very few times. Despite the fact that it was left unsaid, the taboo of infallibility has blocked all reforms since the Second Vatican Council that would have required revising previous dogmatic definitions. That not only applies to the encyclical Humanae Vitae
against contraception, but also to the sacraments and monopolized "authentic" church teaching, to the relationship between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of all the faithful. And it applies likewise to a synodal
church structure and the claim to absolute papal power, the relationship to other denominations and religions, and to the secular world in general. That is why the following question is more urgent than ever: Where is the church - which is still fixated on the infallibility dogma - heading at the beginning of the third millennium? The anti-modernist epoch that rang in the First Vatican Council has ended.
2016: I am in my 88th
year and I may say that I have spared no effort to collect the relevant texts, order them factually and chronologically according to the various phases of the altercation and elucidate them by putting them in a biographical context for Volume 5 of my complete works. With his book in my hand, I would now like to repeat an appeal to the pope that I repeatedly made in vain several times during the decadelong
theological and church-political altercation. I beg of Pope Francis - who has always replied to me in a brotherly manner:
"Receive this comprehensive documentation and allow a free, unprejudiced and open-ended discussion
in our church of the all the unresolved and suppressed questions connected with the infallibility dogma. In this way, the problematic Vatican heritage of the past 150 years could be come to terms with honestly and adjusted in accordance with holy Scripture and ecumenical tradition. It is not a case of trivial relativism that undermines the ethical foundation of church and society. But it is also not about an unmerciful, mind-numbing dogmatism, which swears by the letter, prevents thorough renewal of the church's life and teaching, and obstructs serious progress in ecumenism. It is certainly not the case of me personally wanting to be right. The well-being of the church and of ecumenism is at stake.
"I am very well aware of the fact that my appeal to you, who 'lives among wolves,' as a good Vatican connoisseur recently remarked, may possibly not be opportune. In your Christmas address of Dec. 21, 2015, however, confronted with curial
ailments and even scandals, you confirmed your will for reform: 'It seems necessary to state what has been - and ever shall be - the object of sincere reflection and decisive provisions. The reform will move forward with determination, clarity and firm resolve, since Ecclesia semper reformanda
"I would not like to raise the hopes of many in our church unrealistically. The question of infallibility cannot be solved overnight in our church.
Fortunately, you (Pope Francis) are almost 10 years younger than I am and will hopefully survive me. You will, moreover, surely understand that as a theologian at the end of his days, buoyed by deep affection for you and your pastoral work, I wanted to convey this request to you in time for a free and serious discussion of infallibility that is well-substantiated in the volume at hand: non in destructionem, sed in aedificationem ecclesiae, 'not in order to destroy but to build up the church.' For me personally, this would be the fulfillment of a hope I have never given up."
Pope Francis' Exhortation on the Family Will Be Published on April 8
Pope Francis' long-awaited apostolic exhortation on the family will be published on April 8, and will be known by its Latin name, "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), on love in the family.
The Vatican announced this today and said it will be presented at a press conference in Rome on that date by Cardinals Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Christoph Schönborn, O.P., the archbishop of Vienna. An Italian married couple will also be on the panel: Professor Francesco Miano, lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and Professor Giuseppina De Simone in Miano, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.
. . . .
The exhortation is expected to address the wide range of issues discussed at the two synods and carried in the final report, including the challenges families face from the socioeconomic, cultural, religious and interreligious contexts in which they live. Among these are challenges that arise from extreme poverty, armed conflict, migration, secularization and ideological colonization, as well as from young people's fear of entering lifelong commitments, polygamy, cohabitation, openness to having children, single-parent families, the breakup of marriages and the consequences of this for children and the passing on of the faith.
. . . .
The papal text is still secret. There have been no leaks so far. It is clear, however, from all that Francis has said, both at the synod and in his 2015 catechesis on the family, that there will not be any change in church doctrine. One can expect therefore that he will reaffirm marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman, open to having children. He is also likely to restate traditional church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and emphasize the importance of solid preparation of couples for marriage and of ongoing pastoral accompaniment of married couples and the family.
On the other hand, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Francis is expected to open doors in the church's pastoral approach to couples who are living together, to divorced and remarried Catholics and to homosexuality in the family. We have to wait for the text to see how he will do this, but it is likely to be along the lines that he outlined in his homily at Mass to new cardinals on Feb. 15, 2015, when he reminded them that "the church's way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.... The way of the church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; [it is] to pour out the balm of God's mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart."
Vatican confirms investigation into financing of Cardinal Bertone's apartment
The Vatican has opened an investigation into the financing of the restoration of former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's large apartment, targeting two former executives at a children's hospital owned by the city-state for possible redirection of funds towards the project.
Gregory Burke, the deputy director of the Vatican press office, told reporters in a short briefing Thursday that the cardinal himself was not under investigation but that two former officials of the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome are.
Both Giuseppe Profiti, a former president of the hospital, and Massimo Spina, a former treasurer, are subject to an ongoing investigation, Burke said.
Thursday's confirmation follows reports in Italian press that the two executives were being investigated for the use of some 400,000 Euro towards restoration of Bertone's apartment, based on reporting done by journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi in his November 2015 book
While Bertone has not admitted any guilt in the matter, he made a large donation of 150,000 Euro to the hospital last December after the book's publishing in a bid to make amends.
The cardinal, who essentially served as the Vatican's number two official after the pope from 2006 through October 2013, has been criticized for combining two previous apartments inside the Vatican into one reportedly 6,500 square foot residence.
. . . .
"The apartment is spacious, as is normal for the residences in the ancient palaces of the Vatican, and dutifully restored (at my expense)," Bertone wrote then in a posting on the website of the Italian archdiocese of Genoa, which the cardinal led from 2002-06.
Catholic bishop calls for resignation of bishops who failed to address child sexual abuse
An Australian bishop has called on Pope Francis to request the resignation of every bishop who has failed to properly address cases of child sexual abuse.
Roman Catholic Bishop Geoffrey Robinson said there needed to be "death and resurrection" in the church this Easter to restore trust and credibility.
"Every bishop who has ever been responsible for the abuse of a child, because he did not do what he should have done, should be asked to resign," Bishop Robinson, now retired, said in an interview with ABC Radio religion specialist Noel Debien.
His suggestion would mean the resignation of hundreds of bishops worldwide.
"The church has lost almost all credibility," he said.
"It has got to be seen to be confronting anything and everything which has contributed."
Bishop Robinson also said the church must "get rid of obligatory celibacy" and called for a shift in the role of women in the church.
"Women must be brought into every level of the church in a far, far greater way than they are," he said.
He also said Catholic teaching on sexuality must be "looked at again from the beginning" - including homosexuality.
"They must look at gay people, and that concept of what's natural," he said.
Bishop Robinson was a key player in the Catholic Church's response to child sexual abuse by members of the clergy between 1994 and 2003.
Bishop: Irish hierarchy should reach out to priests like Fr. Tony Flannery
NCR at a conference on mercy in Dublin, Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry admitted that unless the bishops are seen to be "willing to go way beyond our comfort zone then people will say you are just a group looking after yourselves."
Asked about the plight of Flannery and other Irish priests censured by the Vatican, he responded, "We have to be constantly reaching out -- that is the job of followers of Christ. What form that will take as regards to the individuals you talk about is another thing."
He also referred to Pope Francis' comments that the church must be seen to be building bridges rather than building walls.
. . . .
The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, of which Flannery is a co-founder, has, on a number of occasions, raised the fact that the Irish bishops have not intervened in the case of Flannery and has failed to meet with ACP leadership, which represents over 1,000 Irish priest members.
Responding to the comments, Flannery told
NCR he was pleased to see that McKeown has called on the church authorities to "reach out" to him and other Irish priests who have been censored in various ways by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"With the exception of a letter of support I received from the Priests Council in Killala diocese, this is the first time in the four years, since being forbidden to minister publicly, that a bishop has called for some action from the Irish hierarchy," the 69-year-old related.
There is no confirmation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified on Good Friday
Reports claiming that a kidnapped priest in Yemen was crucified over the weekend are likely false and irresponsible, the local bishop told CNA Monday.
Several blogs and media outlets are reporting that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday. However, there has been no confirmation of the event by friends, family or Fr. Uzhunnalil's community.
The original reports were based on a statement Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna allegedly made during Easter vigil services.
On March 4, four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people including four Missionary of Charity sisters. Fr. Uzhunnalil was kidnapped by the gunman during the attacks, which are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, though no specific group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
Priest Who Denied Communion to Same-Gender Couple Now Disrupts Parishioner's Funeral
A Montana priest's disruption of a parishioner's funeral recently has its roots in his denial of communion to a same-gender couple in the parish in 2014.
Almost two years ago,
Fr. Samuel Spiering
denied Communion to Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick
because the two men had recently married. The pastor expelled them from parish ministries in which they had been active. Fellow parishioners at St. Leo's Catholic Church in Lewistown protested the priest's act at the time, including resignations by the church choir's director and several members.
Fr. Dan O'Rourke, the parish's former pastor who was invited to celebrate the funeral, defended Shupe's right to lead singing. After he argued with Spiering about the decision, Spiering threatened to prevent O'Rourke from presiding at the funeral, and threatened to ban him from the parish. The family, however, refused to let their mother's funeral be tarnished by Spiering's continued exclusion. When Spiering informed Valach's widower, Frank Valach, that the he would now celebrate the funeral Mass, the family rejected that offering and demanded Fr. O'Rourke.
Earlier this month, at least three of those former choir members and director Janie Shupe were invited by the Valach family to sing at the funeral of Pearl Valach, a parishioner at the church for all of her 92 years. Ms. Valach had disagreed at the time with the priest's decision to deny Communion to Huff and Wojtowick but remained in the church. Her daughter-in-law, Susan Valach, explained to the
Great Falls Tribune:
"She was upset when the decision was made. . .She continued to be faithful to the church, but with pain in her heart."
Greg Clark, partner of Pearl's son Frank Valach Jr. for twenty-plus years, said Pearl was so pained by the priest's actions that she never spoke about it. But Greg, Frank, and other members of the Valach family left the parish after the communion denial. They said the decision to hold the funeral at St. Leo's was painful, but did so to respect Pearl's wishes.
When Valach's loved ones and parishioners - more than 300 people - gathered for the funeral on the morning of March 8, he told Shupe she could not join the singers, but she could only participate at the funeral from her pew.
. . . .
. . . .
Fr. Jay Peterson, vicar general for the Great Falls-Billings Diocese who was in attendance, presided at the funeral Mass. Peterson invited the women, including Janie Shupe, to lead the singing. Greg Clark said all involved were able to put aside the pre-funeral antics of Spiering for a "reverent, celebratory, and beautiful" liturgy.
. . . .
But the incident - and the harm done - has not ended. This controversy continued to play out in the following weeks. Spiering commented on the incident before his homily at Mass on March 22, stating the he does not regret the decision he made but only the manner in which he made it. He attacked Fr. O'Rourke in his statement and promised St. Leo's parishioners a new funeral policy to "prevent such problems" in the future. Spiering apologized to the Valach family in a one-liner at the end, but the family said neither the priest nor Bishop Michael Warfel had reached out to them since the funeral.
Fr. O'Rourke released his own statement, explaining that Spiering would not let the matter drop even though the funeral was set to begin in fifteen minutes and had threatened to ban him from the parish. The former pastor's statement ended positively: "The singer/musician sang her heart out."
Merged Parishes Make Their Voices Heard
Vatican restores some protections to congregations that lost churches
During the weekend, an annual feast honoring St. Joseph took on added significance for members of the Roman Catholic parish by that name in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The parish was among those effectively closed last summer by the Archdiocese of New York, part of 2015's sweeping reorganization of some 360 parishes across the region. Dozens of parishes merged, resulting in many closing or cutting back on services.
St. Joseph parishioners took their appeal to the Vatican, and last week, they got their answer in the form of an eight-page, 28-point response from the Congregation for the Clergy, a Vatican office that handles issues concerning priests and parishes.
While it didn't reverse the archdiocese's merger of St. Joseph with St. Mary's, a nearby parish also in Poughkeepsie, the Vatican office provided amendments that restore some protections to parishioners who lost their houses of worship.
"The Congregation is telling the archdiocese that you just can't arbitrarily close churches and not allow the people to use it," said Charles Shaw, a parishioner of St. Joseph who has helped to lead the appeals process. "The Congregation was very clear that the Polish nature of our church-and the personal nature of our church as a Polish-ethnic church-the cardinal needs to give us the right to carry on our worship in that fashion, and we've been doing it since the church was established in 1901."
The amendments, which include details on when unused churches may be open and how membership is defined for newly merged parishes, apply to formal decrees created by the Archdiocese of New York when it announced the mergers in November 2014. Decrees are critical documents in canon law.
In the case of St. Joseph, the amendment says, the building may be used for public and private worship. In addition, it is to be open for the feast celebration of the parish's patron saint and its anniversary.
Finally, an amendment allows for all St. Joseph parishioners to formally become members of the newly merged entity. St. Joseph is a so-called personal parish, meaning its membership isn't defined by geography but instead by the particular population-in this case, Polish Catholics-that it serves.
Without the amendment concerning membership, according to Sister Kate Kuenstler, a canon lawyer advising St. Joseph and other parishes in the region, parishioners of St. Joseph were effectively locked out of having much say in what happens in the newly merged parish entity. The amendments can aid them in preserving their church buildings and community, she said.
Vatican diplomacy zeros-in on human rights in Africa
In a region fraught with political, ethnic and religious divisions, the Central African Republic's motto of "Unity, Dignity, and Work" can serve as a foundation for healing and progress in Africa's Great Lakes Region, a Vatican representative told the United Nations.
"No solutions to the Region's many problems would be possible if there are divisions instead of unity, grave violations of human rights instead of respecting the dignity of all, and extreme poverty instead of dignified work for all," Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said March 21.
Archbishop Auza's remarks came as part of the U.N. Security Council Debate on "The Prevention and Resolution of Conflicts in the Great Lakes Region."
. . . .
In an area plagued by extreme poverty, "(d)ecent work for all would greatly improve the lives of all in the region," Archbishop Auza said, recalling Pope Francis' call for all countries of the Great Lakes Region to "improve themselves by wisely exploiting their many resources."
Unfortunately, the natural resources are "being exploited in favor of a privileged few" rather than for "the common good" as a result of political corruption and armed groups fighting in the area, making these resources seem more like a curse than a blessing.
"Governments and all stakeholders in the Region must be helped to negotiate and deal with the various issues at stake in the most impartial way possible, having in mind only the common good of all the citizens," he said.
Vatican: Pope Benedict is frail, but his mind remains 'perfectly lucid'
Although retired Pope Benedict XVI is growing more frail, there are no particular concerns or worries regarding his health, a Vatican spokesman said.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, issued a statement March 25 following an interview with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope's personal secretary, in which the archbishop said Pope Benedict was slowly "fading."
"In April, Pope Benedict XVI turns 89 years old. He is like a candle that is slowly, serenely fading, as it happens with many of us. He is calm, in peace with God, with himself and the world," Archbishop Ganswein told the Italian magazine
The retired pope's personal secretary added that Pope Benedict still retains "his refined, subtle sense of humor" and remains fond of cats.
"Contessa and Zorro, two cats that live in our gardens, come often to say hello to the pope emeritus," he said.
After questions were raised regarding the aging pontiff's health, Father Lombardi said his condition "does not raise any particular concerns."
Arson fears prompt Catholic Church security warning ahead of Easter
The Catholic Church is bracing for possible arson attacks on Melbourne parishes linked to paedophile priests, 12 months after vandals torched three suburban churches.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has told its parishes to be vigilant following an attempted arson attack on St Bede's Church in Balwyn North earlier this month. An intruder broke into the church and poured accelerant onto the altar, but is believed to have fled before lighting the fire because an alarm went off.
In an email to the 214 churches in the Melbourne Archdiocese, vicar-general Monsignor Greg Bennet warned of the risk of arson, saying the Balwyn church's alarm system was all that foiled "what would have been another catastrophic fire". It coincides with the one-year anniversary of three as-yet-unsolved fires at churches where paedophile priests worked.
Francis appoints Hebda to replace Nienstedt in St. Paul-Minneapolis
Pope Francis has appointed a new leader for a Catholic archdiocese in the American Midwest where mismanagement of clergy sexual abuse cases led to the dual early resignations of the former archbishop and an auxiliary bishop last June.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda will now lead the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota, canceling his former appointment to take over the archdiocese of Newark, N.J., in July.
Hebda, a Pennsylvania native, had been serving as the apostolic administrator of the Minnesota archdiocese since Archbishop John Nienstedt's resignation in June 2015.
Hebda's new appointment comes as a bit of a surprise. He had previously been appointed as the coadjutor archbishop in Newark, meaning he would have automatically replaced current Newark Archbishop John Myers as head of the archdiocese at his retirement, expected to come when he turns 75 in July.
I finally watched the Oscar-winning movie Spotlight tonight, and I had three strong emotional reactions: admiration for
The Boston Globe's investigative team, pride in the profession I labored in for more than four decades, and . . . guilt.
One day in the 1970's, I fielded a phone call in the newsroom of
The Providence Journal. The caller was a local woman who told me that her ten-year-old son had been repeatedly molested by a Roman Catholic priest in one of the city's parishes.
Later that week, I sat down with her and her son across from their kitchen table and listened to their story. It was both chilling and hard to accept.
Her son said he wasn't the only one-that two of his friends also had been abused. I asked the woman if she or the other parents had reported this to the Providence Police. She said they'd tried but that the police just scoffed and warned them that it was a crime to file a false police report.
As a journalist, I was skeptical by nature; but by the time I left them that evening, I believed what they'd told me was true. The next day, I consulted with an editor, one of the top guys who ran the paper. He labeled the story rubbish before I could even finish relating it.
I told him I understood why he was incredulous but that I thought it was worth looking into. He forbade it. No way the paper was going to slander a priest, he said. Besides, he added, even if the story were true, no one in Rhode Island (the most heavily Roman Catholic state in the union at the time) would believe it.
I argued. He got mad. If I didn't let this go, he warned, I'd be looking for another line of work.
I was just a young reporter, eight years or so into a profession he'd been engaged in for a couple of decades; but I was not very good at respecting my elders or following their orders. Still, there was something else to consider. I had a wife, kids, and a mortgage I could barely afford. I needed that job. I loved it, too. And when that editor threatened to take it away, he was so red-faced and angry that I knew he meant it.
This all transpired about 25 years before The Globe blew the lid off the pedophile scandal and the unconscionable cover-up by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Since the story broke, I've often thought about all the kids who were molested during the years when nobody, including me, was doing anything about it.
It seems unlikely that I was the only journalist who got a lead about a pedophile priest in the decades before Marty Baron walked into the top job at
The Globe and began to set things right. There were so many damaged kids, so many angry parents. Surely some of them must have called their local papers and gotten the brush-off. That I probably wasn't the only one who failed to follow up doesn't make me feel even a teeny bit better.
The Providence Journal have tugged on the lead I got and unraveled the whole ugly mess in the 1970s? No way to know for sure, but I'm betting yes. We were good - the best small-city metro in the country in the '70s and '80s.
. . . .
So, yeah, maybe we could have done it. But we didn't. I didn't, to my everlasting regret.
I guess that's why one line in the movie, delivered by Stanley Tucci in the role of a crusading Boston attorney named Mitchell Garabedian, hit me especially hard:
"It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to abuse one."
Josephinum proposes admission changes after former seminarian child sex crime charges
Leaders at the Pontifical College Josephinum (Columbus, Ohio) say they hope to have new admissions screening procedures in place in time for the 2016-2017 school year. The proposed changes come two months after a former Josephenium seminarian was arrested on federal charges that he was attempting to travel to Mexico to sexually abuse young girls.
French Prime Minister Urges Cardinal To 'Take Responsibility' In Abuse Scandal
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday urged a cardinal, accused of covering up the sexual abuse of young boys by a priest, to "take responsibility" in a case which has deeply embarrassed the French Church.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin hit back, insisting at a press conference: "I have never covered up paedophilia."
The latest abuse scandal to hit the Catholic Church erupted when priest Bernard Preynat was charged in January, after victims came forward with claims he had sexually abused Scouts between 1986 and 1991.
Prosecutors say he has admitted the charges.
The victims have filed complaints against several senior officials in the Lyon diocese in eastern France, including Lyon archbishop Barbarin, accusing them of being aware of the abuse but failing to report the priest.
Valls told BFM TV that without seeking to take the place of the Church or judges looking at the case, "The only message I have... is that (Barbarin) must take responsibility, speak and act."
Vatican monsignor confesses to church court he leaked documents
A Spanish priest has confessed to leaking secret Vatican information to journalists, telling a Holy See court he felt trapped and in danger, especially from an Italian co-worker he had fallen for.
Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda told the court on Monday (March 14) that he passed information to two Italian journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who in November published books featuring the confidential documents on Vatican financial misfeasance and Pope Francis' efforts to overhaul the system.
"Yes, I passed documents," said Vallejo, who was appointed to a commission tasked with advising the pope on reforming the Vatican administration. "I did it spontaneously, probably not fully lucid," the Associated Press reported.
Included in the information he gave to Nuzzi was a five-page document containing 87 passwords which gave the reporter access to the committee's work.
The Spanish priest said he handed over information because he felt scared and in a situation he couldn't get out of.
During the three-hour testimony, he spoke critically of one of the other five defendants in the unprecedented trial, Francesca Chaouqui, an Italian PR consultant he said he was attracted to. Vallejo said Chaouqui introduced him to both journalists.
Vallejo's lawyer said Chaouqui had a "seductive personality." But Vallejo said he grew increasingly fearful of her and her husband, and said the couple began sending him
increasingly threatening text messages
Chaouqui, a fellow committee member, allegedly told the priest she was the "number two" of the Italian secret services. Vallejo said she was angry at not being given a Vatican post after the conclusion of the committee's work in 2015, and told him "the mafia" was the only way to get help.
. . . .
Vallejo's testimony will continue on Tuesday and he will meanwhile remain in a Holy See jail, where he was moved after breaking the terms of his bail, the Vatican said.
The high-profile trial resumed this week following a three-month break while investigators gathered deleted computer and cell phone evidence.
The Boston Globe Bails on Crux and Religion Journalism
Eighteen months ago,
The Boston Globe
announced a radical experiment
: The newspaper would launch a vertical specifically dedicated to coverage of the Catholic Church, betting that it could support this coverage with ad sales.
was born, led by the veteran reporter John L. Allen Jr. and staffed by a handful of experienced writers and editors. The section consistently broke news related to Pope Francis and the Vatican, but it also ran stories from across the U.S. and around the globe, covering everything from religious-freedom conflicts in the American Midwest to poverty in Africa.
Eighteen months later, The Boston Globe
has bailed. In a letter to staffers, the Globe
's editor Brian McGrory announced that the paper is shutting down the vertical on April 1st, a move which will involve two to three editorial layoffs and one business layoff, according to a spokesperson. In an email, McGrory wrote, "I loved Crux. We all did. It was a terrific idea, a noble mission, and very well executed by a small, deeply experienced, hard-working staff. We made the words work, but not the numbers. They simply didn't add up. So we decided, quite literally, to cut our losses and focus on the core of our business." In a few weeks, the paper plans to turn the site over to Allen, who says he is "determined to make sure that Crux continues. How exactly we're going to engineer that remains to be seen."
Globe's Catholic site rescued by Knights of Columbus
The Catholic news site Crux will continue to publish under a new arrangement with the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus after the
Boston Globe said it would cut ties with the operation last week.
Crux will merge with Catholic Pulse, the news and commentary site run by the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization. Crux associate editor John L. Allen Jr. and Inés San Martín, the publication's Vatican correspondent, will continue with the site, though national reporter Michael O'Loughlin and columnist Margery Eagan will not. Crux's top editor,Teresa Hanafin, is staying with the
. . . .
The Catholic Pulse article announcing the partnership said that "[t]he Knights will respect the editorial freedom of Crux, trusting it to present news and commentary in a way that serves the good of the Church." Allen said he is hopeful the switch from a secular publisher to a Catholic organization will not threaten the site's editorial independence. "That is very much part of our deal," he said. "As with anything else, we're going to have to see how it works out."
Lay preachers in Rochester diocese want to be at the pulpit again
The sounds of lay preachers -- often women -- echoed from pulpits in the Diocese of Rochester over decades. But those sounds have been silenced for the past two years, and former lay preachers say the church is losing out.
Ever since the 1970s, the upstate New York diocese had permitted lay preachers under Bishops Joseph Lloyd Hogan and his successor, Matthew Clark. That changed two years ago, soon after Clark's retirement and the installation of Bishop Salvatore R. Matano.
Lay preaching is no longer allowed in the diocese, according to diocesan spokesman Doug Mandelaro, because church law prohibits it.
Bishop Matano, in a letter sent in 2014, soon after coming to the diocese from Burlington, Vt., wrote that preaching at Mass "is an extension of Holy Orders," and that canon law affirms that "the diocesan Bishop may never dispense from the norm which reserves the homily to the sacred minister,'' the ordained priest or deacon.
That argument does not sit well with many of the former lay preachers in the diocese. Around 40 of them have collected their stories on a website called
God's Word, Many Voices
They are among the 150 or so lay preachers who once regularly proclaimed the Word at Sunday Mass around the diocese's 125 parishes.
One of them is Gloria Ulterino, who started preaching in 1986. She told NCR that, at the time, the U.S. bishops had established norms for lay preachers and that Vatican II opened up the possibility.
Ulterino preached once a month and was trained, like other lay preachers, at the diocesan-run St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry, a facility that used to be a seminary.
Lay preachers are important, said Ulterino, because it is the only way available for Catholics to hear a women's perspective from the altar.
. . . .
Fr. William Spilly, a priest of the diocese and pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Hamlin, N.Y., worked with lay preachers in the past and would like to do so in the future.
"The Spirit speaks to us in a variety of ways," he said, echoing the idea that a woman's voice in particular from the pulpit offers a different perspective. And, in a time when parishes are frequently led by a single priest, splitting homily duties "is a break not only for me but for the people" who might appreciate hearing a different take on the Sunday Mass readings.
. . . .
Meanwhile, the lay preachers of Rochester will share the texts of their homilies, quietly, in written form, through their
. And, according to diocesan spokesman Mandelaro, lay people will be invited to share their spiritual insights at diocesan gatherings, just not at Mass.
Editorial: Francis must target Roman Curia
Pope Francis' election three years ago has transformed the mood inside the Catholic Church. There is hope where there was confusion; mercy and compassion where there was judgement and condemnation. But the change still falls short of the cultural revolution he envisaged in 2013, in the fundamental policy document setting out the programme of his papacy, Evangelii Gaudium. He is finding that moods are easier to shift than structures. His reform of the Roman Curia has met with internal resistance, which is why the Pope has chosen to bypass it by the creation of a council of cardinals to advise him.
The Council of Cardinals' proposals, as far as they are known, seem to be to bring together under one administrative unit various sections of the Curia which do similar things, such as dealing with social justice issues, or laity and family matters - a juxtaposition which may have worrying implications. This is more like tidying up than revolution. The real problems with the Curia are to do with the semi-autonomy of major departments which act in the Pope's name but are hard for him to supervise. As opaque from above as from below, some have developed financial practices that are near to corrupt if not actually so. The Pope's new rules requiring transparency regarding the canonisation process are virtually an admission that sainthood could be "bought" by paying the right fee to the right person.
. . . .
Pope Francis may have more success with his efforts to switch the emphasis in church teaching from the importance of keeping to the rules to reliance on God's mercy, which is close to the core message of the Gospels. But his method - convening two international synods with an implicitly reformist agenda regarding sex, marriage and family life - was partly frustrated by the reaction from traditionalist bishops who were mainly appointed as "safe pairs of hands" by St Pope John Paul II. But he has gained enough freedom of manoeuvre to pass to local Bishops' Conferences such critical decisions as, for instance, when and whether to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion.
This move may gradually resolve a neuralgic issue which has divided the global Catholic hierarchy. Indeed, if this dispersal of power to national and local hierarchies can be applied to many other issues, the centralisation of power in the hands of the Curia will diminish. This would be a historic Franciscan reform that would long outlast the present papacy.
Nun recounts rape, abuse by priest in memoir backed by Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, under scrutiny for its response to clergy sex abuse scandals, is backing the publication of an Italian nun's shocking account of her rape as a teenager and years of subsequent abuse by her parish priest in Milan.
The 40-year-old nun, who has not been identified, claims the unnamed priest raped her when she was 14 and continued to abuse her for another seven years.
The sensational book is titled, "
Giulia and the Wolf: A Story of Sexual Abuse in the Church," and it is due to be published in Italy on March 31 by Ancora, a Catholic publishing house.
The memoir is also being published with the backing of the Archdiocese of Milan, one of the largest and most influential in Italy, and a priest, the Rev. Hans Zollner, who is a member of Pope Francis' panel on fighting clergy sexual abuse, has written the preface.
The Vatican daily newspaper,
L'Osservatore Romano, also re-published Zollner's preface in its Wednesday (March 23) edition.
French Archbishop Christophe Pierre Expected to Be the New Nuncio to the United States
The French-born Archbishop Christophe Pierre appears to be on track to become the new Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, exactly nine years after his appointment as nuncio to Mexico.
. . . .
The Vatican had no comment to make. As is normal practice, the Holy See will not make any announcement before it has received the agreement of the Obama administration.
. . . .
If the news is confirmed, as expected, Archbishop Pierre will succeed the Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who reached the statutory retirement age on Jan. 16. Archbishop Viganò has been the papal representative to the United States since Oct. 10, 2011.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, 70, is widely recognized as one of the Holy See's most accomplished diplomats. A polyglot, who speaks English fluently, he has served as nuncio in Mexico since March 22, 2007, and excelled as advisor and host to Pope Francis during his recent visit there. Before going to Mexico he served with distinction as nuncio to Uganda (1999-2007) and Haiti (1995-99). He entered the Holy See's diplomatic corps in 1977, and has also served in its missions to New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil and to the U.N. Office in Geneva.
Catholic TV pioneer Mother Angelica dead at 92
Mother Angelica, the conservative nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network, died on Easter Sunday, March 27, 15 years after a debilitating stroke on Christmas Eve. She was 92.
Although she was only able to communicate with a squeeze of her hand for many years, she retained a devoted admirers nationwide who followed the Catholic cable channel she started in 1981. She personified EWTN, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw said in a news release Sunday, according to The Associated Press.
. . . .
She began her broadcasting career with commercial television spots, created in the monastery garage. When those were pre-empted, she launched EWTN. It became a beacon of conservative orthodoxy thanks in large part to the regular - and distinctive - on-air presence of Mother Angelica herself.
Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, who died in apparent suicide, mourned
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio has released a statement mourning the death of one of his priests, Father Virgilio Elizondo, who was found dead on Monday of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
. . . .
Fr. Elizondo, a leader among Hispanic Catholics well-known for his promotion of liberation theology in the United States, was a professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology at the University of Notre Dame. He was found dead at the age of 80 in San Antonio.
A lawsuit had been filed against Fr. Elizondo in May 2015 accusing him of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s. The priest had denied the allegation and reportedly intended to fight it in court.
Archbishop Garcia-Siller noted that "at this devastatingly sad time for Father Virgil's family - especially his sister - as well as his brother clergy, co-workers and friends, we offer our most profound sympathies. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all. I pray for all those who mourn Father Virgil and for the repose of his soul."
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"Ready to Serve"
April 13th (8pm EST)
This teleconference features three women ready to serve as deacons. Connie Walsh
has always felt a particular call to the permanent diaconate, not priesthood or religious life. Cynthia (Sam) Bowns
recognized her desire to serve as a deacon as she accompanied her husband through his diaconal formation program. Natalie Terry
is engaged in and feels called to greater ministerial leadership, and would seriously consider the diaconate if opened to women. After each speaker shares her story, Luke Hansen, S.J.
, will facilitate questions and discussion.
Inspired by Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher's intervention at the Synod of Bishops on the family this past fall, the Faculty of Theology is hosting a study day on May 7, 2016 to examine the question of Women,The Diaconate, and the Future of Ministry. Details
All are invited to attend the free keynote speech on May 6 at 7 p.m.
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