We are in a time of increased tensions, uncertainties and changes in the Catholic Church . Particularly troubling is the loss of moral authority resulting from the continuing sexual abuse crisis and evidence of institutional coverup. The purpose of this site is to examine what is happening by linking to worldwide news stories, particularly from the English speaking church and the new breath of fresh air blowing through the church with the pontificate of Pope Francis.
The brown brick building at 4860 15th Street is at the center of the next downsizing to hit this failing city: the restructuring of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
St. Leo Catholic Church was built more than 120 years ago as Detroit was developing into a manufacturing powerhouse - first in shipbuilding and later in car making.
Today its neighborhood is one of the most abandoned pockets in one of the nation's most desperate cities. Like many Catholic churches around urban America, it has been hit by a shortage of priests and a dwindling supply of parishioners.
The Church's woes are all the more acute in the Motor City, where St. Leo and the archdiocese are stark examples of the impact of the near-death of the U.S. auto industry. Detroit's population-and the parish's flock-have withered along with the car factories. The Christmas Eve Mass performed this past weekend by 81-year old Bishop Thomas Gumbleton may be among the last ever held here.
Last month, Archbishop Allen Vigneron released a preliminary draft of the Catholic Church's third downsizing in Detroit in little more than a decade. The archdiocese has cut its parish count in Detroit's city limits to 59, down from 79 in 2000.
St. Leo is among nine parishes earmarked for closure in the Detroit area within the next few years. In 2012, its congregation is due to be subsumed by the larger St. Cecilia, about three miles away.
There is still hope for a reprieve. Vigneron is considering a plan to save the charity work in the basement by potentially moving it to a new site, and the pastor currently running both St. Leo and St. Cecilia has proposed keeping it open as a worship center used only occasionally.
But both are prohibitively costly considerations for an archbishop looking to shore up finances. Vigneron will deliver his final plan for the region in February.
"Almost all of us recognize that this world in the 21st century is very different than the 1950s and 1960s," Vigneron said in an interview. "We have to not accept it, but to deal with it."
The cuts will hit Detroit particularly hard, however. The city is on the verge of insolvency and is already having a hard time providing basic services, such as functioning streetlights and removal of debris from demolished buildings.
In the absence of government, the Church is among the last institutions keeping neighborhoods afloat.
"Not unlike General Motors and Chrysler..., in order to be a vibrant player in the community, we have to do painful things," he said. "GM surely would have preferred to not discontinue Pontiac and GM surely would have preferred not to discontinue Oldsmobile, but they did what they had to do."
As for the Church, Vigneron said there is a point where the buildings and other property go from being assets to liabilities - no matter how sacred they may be.
"I have to make a discernment," he said. "It's never not about finances; we all have to pay our bills."
"If a building sits vacant for even a little while it's an excellent candidate for vandalism," said Kevin Messier, who runs Real Estate Professional Services in Southfield, Mich. Thieves often strip the building of copper or pluck out stained glass.
The abandoned Martyrs of Uganda church in Detroit, closed by the Archdiocese in 2006, is an example of this decay.
It is littered with rubble, collapsed confessionals, a broken organ. Moss grows on its floors. The windows are gone and support pillars are crumbling because stones have been removed.
Messier's firm sold about three Michigan churches per month in 2011. The firm currently lists 32 churches for sale in the city of Detroit alone with an average selling price of $337,000.
Opened in 1889 at the start of Detroit's shipping and manufacturing boom, St. Leo was built to serve a parish in excess of 1,000 families. It still shows signs of an opulent age: massive murals hanging on the ceiling above the alter, towering windows dressed in stained glass.
Now it serves about 170 families. The parish generates $1,800 in weekly giving - not enough to cover an annual budget of at least $100,000 required just for building maintenance, repairs and utilities.
The streetlights a block away are wrapped in black plastic bags. Several houses stand vacant and, on a street where new houses were recently built, piles of debris from recent demolitions are uncollected.
Last week, the Detroit Public Library system closed four branches libraries to save on utility bills and librarian salaries. The city recently shut several schools amid declining enrollment.
Another proposal calls for the sale of the entire church, with proceeds going to open a new building for the charitable operations.
But that might be a tough challenge, considering the glut of empty churches on the market.
Anti-Catholic bigotry was once widespread in this country. In 1959, nearly a quarter of Americans — 24 percent — said they would not vote for a Catholic for president, no matter how well-qualified.
John F. Kennedy overcame this prejudice in part by insisting that, if elected, he would not be a tool of the Vatican.
He said he believed in “an America where the separation of church and state is absolute . . . in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair . . . I am not the Catholic candidate for president, I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me.”
Pope John XXIII did not contradict him.
Such discretion, alas, is not the style of Cardinal Francis George, who over the weekend decreed that Gov. Pat Quinn isn’t using his own conscience correctly.
Quinn met with Cardinal George and nine other bishops Saturday. This being Christmas week, Quinn put a bright spin on the meeting, telling the Sun-Times that they mainly talked about aiding the poor.
A wiser man might have left it at that. The cardinal chose to respond, challenging Quinn, saying, basically: The hell we did!
“As Catholic pastors, we wanted to remind the Governor that conscience, while always free, is properly formed in harmony with the tradition of the Church, as defined by Scripture and authentic teaching authority. A personal conscience that is not consistent with authentic Catholic teaching is not a Catholic conscience. The Catholic faith cannot be used to justify positions contrary to the faith itself.”
Sure it can. The cardinal might not like it — I’m sure he doesn’t. But plenty of the faithful join the governor in considering themselves good Catholics while conducting parts of their lives in ways “not consistent” with church policy — just last week a survey showed 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control banned by the church. (We’re fortunate that the cardinal has not challenged the governor over which form he uses, at least not yet). Much Catholic doctrine isn’t even followed by Catholics, yet church leaders would dragoon government to force it upon the rest of the state anyway.
Some readers will complain that I am commenting upon their religion — a Jew bashing Catholics! — and I will observe that their leader is more than commenting, he is pressuring and berating the governor of my state, a state whose voters elected him based on his merits, not upon his faith.
If at election time I were to say, “You can’t vote for Pat Quinn — he’s a Catholic and will be bullied into strictly following church doctrine” — I’d be accused of bias and rightly so. Yet the cardinal is trying to do exactly that, to exercise an authority over public life he does not and should not possess.
Quinn attended 13 years of Catholic school — the church already had its chance to mold him. Now he is 63 and an adult. It is Quinn, and not Cardinal George, who gets to decide how his faith influences his life. I’m sorry to be the one to deliver the news.
MIKE CORDER Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands
December 16, 2011
Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions over the past 65 years, and church officials knew about the abuse but failed to adequately address it or help the victims, according to a long-awaited investigation released Friday.
Archbishop of Utrecht Wim Eijk apologized to victims on behalf of the entire Dutch Catholic organization and said the report "fills us with shame and sorrow."
The report said Catholic officials failed to tackle the widespread abuse, which ranged from "unwanted sexual advances" to serious sex abuse, in an attempt to prevent scandals. Abusers included priests, brothers, pastors and lay people who worked in religious orders and congregations, it said.
The investigation followed allegations of repeated incidents of abuse at one cloister that quickly spread to claims from Catholic institutions across the country, echoing similar church-related scandals around the world.
The suspected number of abuse victims who spent some of their youth in church institutions likely lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to a summary of the report investigating allegations of abuse dating back to 1945.
The commission was set up last year under the leadership of former government minister Wim Deetman, who said there could be no doubt church leaders knew of the problem.
"The idea that people did not know there was a risk ... is untenable," he said.
Archbishop Eijk said victims would be compensated by a commission the Dutch church set up last month and which has a scale starting at euro5,000 ($6,500) and rising to a maximum of euro100,000 ($130,000) depending on the nature of the abuse.
He said he felt personally ashamed of the abuse. "It is terrible," he said.
(The same pattern appears in country after country. Can there be any doubt that this was a deliberate conscious policy of the hierarchy of the Church?When found out, they apologize, but does it mean anyting other than embarassment at being publicly revealed.)
By David O'Reilly
December 10, 2011
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, in a pastoral letter to be read Sunday, is warning the region's Roman Catholics that 2012 could be a "painful" year for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, marked by school and parish closings, a bruising sex-abuse trial, and tough decisions on the status of dozens of priests accused of misconduct with minors.
A blue-ribbon panel appointed to study the needs of archdiocesan schools will issue its report in January and "likely counsel that some, and perhaps many, schools must close or combine," Chaput wrote in his two-page letter, which is to be read aloud at all parishes.
"The archdiocese remains strongly committed to the work of Catholic education," he continued, but "that mission is badly served by trying to sustain unsustainable schools."
He also said he expects to decide in "the first months" of the new year which of 27 priests under investigation for suspected misconduct with minors should be restored to ministry, and which will permanently removed.
The priests were suspended in March after a Philadelphia grand jury said 37 archdiocesan priests in active ministry had unresolved misconduct accusations against them. A team appointed by the archdiocese concluded that about 10 of the charges were frivolous, and is investigating the others.
"To whatever degree complacency and pride once had a home in our local church," Chaput wrote, "events in the coming year will burn them out. The process will be painful," he warned, but the goal is to "restore the joy and zeal of our discipleship."
The letter was dated Thursday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which also marked the third month since his installation as archbishop.
Chaput also touched on the impending trial of three current and former priests and a former parish schoolteacher on child sexual assault charges.
On trial with them will be Msgr. William Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy and one of the highest-ranking church officials charged to date in the priesthood sex abuse scandal. He is accused of child endangerment for his alleged role in assigning known sex abusers to parishes.
It was not clear if a later reference to his determination to "defend" the archdiocese's "limited resources" was a pledge to resist expanded right-to-sue legislation for adults molested as children.
The archdiocesan school system educates 49,000 youngsters at 156 parish schools and 16,000 students at 17 high schools.
There were 167 parish schools when Rigali appointed the panel a year ago, and 211 a decade ago. In 1965, a record 208,000 youngsters attended Catholic schools in the archdiocese.
Aftershocks of the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee's moves against theologian Sr. Elizabeth Johnson spread Monday as the College Theology Society issued a statement saying the bishops' moves represent a "fundamental breach" in the call for dialogue in the church and wounds the "entire community of Catholic theologians."
The Monday statement from the College Theology Society, which represents lay and religious undergraduate theology faculty, is the latest in a months-long saga over Johnson's book Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, which the bishops first blasted in March.
In late October, the bishops' Committee on Doctrine reconfirmed their condemnation, which touched off questions of why the bishops hadn't first attempted dialogue with the St. Joseph sister and what that might mean for the practice of theology.
The theology society's statement, signed by its seven board members and four officers and addressed to the society's membership, expresses "sadness and grave concern" over the bishops' October statement because the bishops went forward "without entering into a process of dialogue with [Johnson] about the issues being raised."
"The course of action taken by the Committee on Doctrine represents a fundamental breach in the call for dialogue within the church and in particular between theologians and bishops, a call that is one of the hallmarks of the documents of the Second Vatican Council," reads the statement, which was posted to the society's website .
Johnson's book, which the bishops said in their March statement was not in "accord with authentic Catholic teaching on essential points," was reaffirmed as "inadequate as a presentation of the Catholic understanding of God" in the committee's Oct. 28 statement.
Johnson responded to the bishops the same day, saying their statement "paints an incorrect picture of the fundamental line of thought the book develops." She also said she lamented the fact that her attempts to meet with members of the committee to discuss the book were rebuffed.
That response touched off a firestorm of controversy after a statement on the bishops' conference website claimed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the committee's chairman, had made several attempts to meet with Johnson that went unanswered.
Johnson responded in a letter to Wuerl that those claims were "demonstrably and blatantly false," and a series of letters between the two that were made public seemed to show that the theologian made several attempts to meet with the cardinal and had responded to each of his communications.
In its statement Monday, the College Theology Society said the doctrine committee's reluctance to meet with Johnson contradicts the U.S. bishops' own guidelines on how to handle doctrinal disputes with theologians, as laid out in a 1989 document titled "Doctrinal Responsibilities."
The society also writes that the committee's actions violate the Vatican's norms for examinations of theologians by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as outlined in a 1997 document titled Ratio Agendi, or "The Regulations for Doctrinal Investigation."
Asked whether the bishops' doctrine committee would still be open to meeting with Johnson to discuss her book, Weinandy told NCR on Wednesday that Johnson is free to "send a letter" to Wuerl.
"If she wants to get in touch with the committee she's free to -- anybody's free to get in touch with the committee if they want," Weinandy said.
Asked how the committee would answer Johnson's claims that her previous attempts at contact had been rebuffed, Weinandy said he had no comment.
The College Theology Society, which is made up of more than 600 college and university professors, represents lay and religious undergraduate theology teachers. Monday's statement by the society is its second on the Johnson situation. Its first, issued in April after the bishops' first condemnation of the theologian, said the doctrine committee's move "breeds disillusionment, fear, and mistrust among younger theologians in their relation to bishops."
Summing up its latest critique, the society writes that the U.S. bishops' move against Johnson harms the "entire community of Catholic theologians."
Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron said Thursday that he is likely to shutter about 48 churches in the next five years.
In doing so, Vigneron would be following the recommendations of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, which were released Wednesday night. The affected parishes, among the first to close as soon as next year, would be in Detroit, Livonia, Wyandotte, Roseville, Harper Woods, and River Rouge or Ecorse.
"I would need a pretty good reason to move away from the recommendations," said Vigneron, the spiritual leader of 1.4 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit. "It's not set in stone. New factors may emerge."
The proposed closings would affect nearly 20% of the parishes in the archdiocese, reducing the number from 270 to 222 across six counties in southeastern Michigan.
Critics of the reorganization said archdiocesan leaders didn't listen to them or value their work in small parishes, particularly in Detroit.
Longtime activist and retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton decried the proposed closings and mergers as "abandoning the city."
Gumbleton said that "it disappoints him greatly" to hear that his former longtime parish, St. Leo on Detroit's near-west side, is targeted for likely closure next year. The panel recommends merging it with St. Cecilia, then closing and selling St. Leo, while retaining a building there for community outreach. The building would be named after Gumbleton.
"To me, it looks like a disaster in a way," Gumbleton said. "The institutional presence of the Catholic Church is going to be gone from the city of Detroit in any way."
But Sister Jolene Van Handel, a parish minister at Nativity, said her parish sustains itself, has 200 families and is in a historic building that should be preserved.
"People say we have these beautiful, historical churches that need to be preserved, and you want to build a new one. That's stupidity," Van Handel said. "We have a lot of alumni who help keep our parishes going. If this is closed, they don't care about somebody else's building."
She urged Vigneron to think creatively about using lay leadership to keep parishes going, even when priests are in short supply.
"I think if they allowed lay leadership, we could manage to keep our parishes going. We could have communion services, even if we didn't have a priest for mass. These things can happen if they allow us to have creative planning," Van Handel said.
(same theme as the Austrians, Germans, Belgians - Mike)
More than 6,000 Belgian Catholics have signed a manifesto urging their bishops to let lay people celebrate Sunday services in parishes left without priests due to a severe shortage of vocations in the Church. More than 200 priests are among signatories of the manifesto launched two weeks ago in Flanders, the traditionally Catholic Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, one of the organisers told Reuters.
The initiative echoed a grass-roots movement in Austria, where 2,000 Catholics — including 361 priests — called in June for lay-led Masses and the ordination of married men and women to maintain parishes that no longer have a priest. “We Flemish believers urge our bishops to break through the impasse we have landed in,” declared the Dutch-language manifesto entitled “Believers have their say”.
“It’s time for the Church to open its functions to people who are not only celibate men,” Mark Deweerdt, a layman among the 12 priests and parishioners who drew up the document, told Reuters.
The steady fall in vocations in recent decades has left the Catholic Church with ever fewer priests in many developed countries, forcing it to merge small parishes into larger districts led by increasingly overworked clerics.
The manifesto said religiously trained men or women should be allowed to take over these unstaffed parishes. “We don’t understand why these fellow believers should not be able to preside over Sunday services,” it said. The Vatican opposes ordaining married men or women to the priesthood or allowing trained lay people to celebrate Mass in place of the priest, as the Austrians have suggested. It asks the faithful to pray to God for more vocations.
Deweerdt said the Belgian group had not asked for lay people to celebrate Mass in place of a priest, a reform proposed by Dutch Dominican theologians in 2007 and promptly rejected by the Vatican.
The Catholic church was aware of child abuse at orphanages and other institutions throughout the Netherlands as early as 1954, according to documents found by researchers in church archives.
Senior church officials have consistently claimed they were not aware of the abuse.
However, television current affairs show Altijd Wat reported on Monday night the church's council for child protection issued warnings about child abuse in church-run homes and boarding schools in 1959 and 1962.
The warnings were sent to the authorities at 112 homes and residential schools.
The letters urged institution managers to be aware of the dangers of employing people who are 'unsuitable' to give leadership to children.
The 1959 circular, for example, says the child protection group was aware of a number of cases, 'with sad and serious outcomes'.
RTL news has discovered a warning made by a senior cleric in Tilburg in 1954 in which monks in Tilburg were told: 'be careful in how you relate to children and do not make your lives unhappy. Keep your hands to yourself.'
The documents shed new light on the church's claim not to have known about the widespread abuse of children living in church institutions.
Lawyer Martin de Witte, who is representing a number of victims, said the letters showed the church could no longer say it was not aware of the abuse and claim that the cases are now too old.
'They knew exactly what was going on but decided to to nothing about it,' De Witte told the Volkskrant.
It is almost two years since the scandal broke in the Netherlands with revelations that three Catholic clerics from the Don Rua cloisters in 's Heerenberg, Gelderland, had abused at least three children in the 1960s and 1970s.
Since then, a government commission has received reports of almost 2,000 cases of abuse within religious institutions. A number of cases will be taken to court
The judge hearing private testimony today from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua about the alleged sexual abuse of children by clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has ruled that the retired cardinal was legally competent to be offering his testimony.
Cardinal Bevilacqua was questioned for several hours in the case, in private but on videotape, at his residence at St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. His testimony was scheduled to resume tomorrow.
Because of a gag order in the case, court officials said today that they could not disclose the substance of the cardinal’s testimony.
Four of the defendants, three priests and a lay teacher, allegedly sexually assaulted young boys. The final defendant, Monsignor William Lynn, allegedly endangered children by transferring predator priests to other assignments while not blocking their access to children .
National Survivor Advocates Coalition
Nov. 27, 2011
It takes hubris for Pope Benedict to tell his bishops that the Catholic Church has led in the fight against sexual abuse of children.
Issuing self satisfied pats on the back while children remain in danger, only further diminishes the Church’s credibility and deepens the laryngitis in its moral voice.
For the Pope to insinuate the Church is a leader and reformer in the movement to protect children from sexual abuse is counterfeit. We hope Catholics out of a false sense of respect and loyalty don’t buy this.
We feel for the Catholics who must be embarrassed by this papal approach and ask them to speak with their wallets and redirect their contributions until the Pope’s words and Catholic Church’s actions match up for the protection of children.
The Church to this day, while waving a moral flag, hasn’t even come close to the Penn State Board of Trustees response: no bishop has been fired.
We would like to see an investigation of bishops by a former FBI director or some one of the same rank and caliber as the one initiated by Penn State. Then we might be getting somewhere with the Church.
It is possible that if Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict had been morally outraged and acted accordingly when the Boston incarnation of the scandal broke children who became post 2002 victims of Jerry Sandusky and other perpetrators might have been saved.
But when massive news coverage outed both perpetrators and cover-up bishops we got a whitewash from the Church of how moving priests from parish to parish, and getting and following bad advice from psychiatrists was a good formula that only needed the tweaked with the addition of a fingerprinting program.
November 22, 2011
Weltbild publishing group is co-owned by 12 German dioceses which have now agreed to sell their share in the profitable enterprise as soon as possible. They decided on the move because Weltbild's book range includes steamy pulp novels with titles like "Boarding School for Sluts" and "The Lawyer's Whore" as well as books on esoteric practices.
Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meissner said there was no alternative to selling the publishing group.
"We can't make money all week long with something we condemn from the pulpit on Sunday," he said.
Pope Benedict XIV had also urged Catholics to "oppose the distribution of erotic and pornographic material."
Germany's bishops met this week and pressed the 12 bishops whose dioceses co-own Weltbild, based in the southern city of Augsburg, to end the investment after the company had defended its policy of publishing whatever books meet market demand.
With annual sales of 1.6 billion euros (2.1 billion dollars) and a workforce of 6,400, Weltbild is a major company that publishes books and operates book clubs and a national bookshop chain. Weltbild has denied that it lists "pornographic" literature, saying that the term is clearly defined. It said its erotic literature accounted for just 0.017 percent of its revenue, but church leaders fear a tarnished reputation.
VATICAN CITY - Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as Boston's archbishop in 2002 after the priest sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States, has retired from his subsequent job as head of a major Roman basilica.
The Vatican said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the 80-year-old Law's resignation as archpriest of St. Mary Major basilica and had named Spanish Monsignor Santos Abril y Castello to replace him.
Law's 2004 appointment as the archpriest of one of Rome's most important basilicas had been harshly criticized by victims of priestly sex abuse, who charged that bishops who covered up for pedophile priests should be punished, not rewarded.
Law turned 80 earlier this month. While the pope could have kept him on longer — the dean of the College of Cardinals will be 84 this week, for example — Benedict decided to replace him.
The Vatican announcement made no mention of Law's resignation, though, merely noting in a perfunctory, two-line statement that Benedict had named a new archpriest for the basilica.
Law became the first and so far only U.S. bishop to resign for mishandling cases of priests who sexually abused children.
The abuse crisis erupted in Law's Boston in 2002 after church records were made public showing that church officials had reports of priests molesting children, but kept the complaints secret and shuffled some priests from parish to parish rather than remove them or report them to police.
The crisis spread as similar sexual abuse complaints were uncovered in dioceses across the country. To date, U.S. dioceses have paid out nearly $3 billion in settlements to victims and other costs.
Law himself was named in hundreds of lawsuits accusing him of failing to protect children from known child molesters. After 18 years leading the nation's fourth-largest archdiocese, Law resigned in 2002, having asked Pope John Paul II twice before receiving permission to step down.
Ten months after he left office, Law's successor, now-Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley helped broker an $85 million settlement with more than 550 victims of pedophile priests.
Law remains a member of a half-dozen important Vatican congregations, including the office that helps the pope select bishops. Such appointments are for renewable five-year terms and it's not clear when each one expires or whether he'll seek to stay on.
While in Rome, Law has been a frequent presence at all major Vatican ceremonial and diplomatic events, a lifestyle that galled many abuse victims who have long insisted that the Vatican crack down on bishops who transfer abusive priests rather than report them to police.
Law's successor at St. Mary Major — one of the four basilicas under the direct jurisdiction of the Vatican — retired earlier this year as the Vatican's ambassador to Slovenia and Macedonia.
Abril y Castello, 76, is also the No. 2 prelate who helps take care of matters dealing with a papal death and runs the Vatican until a new pontiff is elected in a conclave.
Now that he is 80, Law can no longer vote in a conclave, but he remains a cardinal.
On Friday, the Irish branch of the international Catholic reform movement, We Are Church, launched a grassroots campaign for Church reform with a ‘Call for Holy Disobedience’.
At a press conference in Dublin, We Are Church Ireland (WACI) spokesman, Brendan Butler, said the group’s five reform aims include the removal of compulsory clerical celibacy; full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood; and the building of a more inclusive Church that would welcome gay Catholics and those in second relationships.
Calling on all committed Catholics to join the group in exercising ‘holy disobedience’, Brendan Butler said, “We will not be cowed down by threats of excommunication.” Phil Cullen told ciNews that the members are “not dissidents and will not be pushed out of the Church.”
WACI will hold its first public event, an Advent Assembly, on Sunday November 27. The “inclusive liturgy” will, according to Butler, “be an expression of the five aims, in the same way as the Austrian priests will use every occasion to promote their disobedience.”
However, he underlined that it would not be a Eucharist.
It coincides with the official introduction of the new translation of the missal, a move WACI described as a, “forced imposition,” and, “another example of how the Vatican operates as an ivory towered centralised authority.”
Describing the Church in Ireland as, “in a state of crisis,” Brendan Butler said Irish Catholics are appalled at the recent clerical sex abuse scandals and especially by the cover-ups by bishops and senior clergy. “We despair of any meaningful reform coming from the hierarchy in Ireland or the Vatican,” he continued and added that it was time for lay Catholics to organise themselves and demand the necessary structural changes to save the Church “from a slow death.”
Bishops and theologians, he claimed, are operating in a culture of, “endemic paralytic fear,” and, “absolute obedience to the Pope and even papal opinions.”
“This absolute obedience is not to God but to the preservation of an institution.”
Referring to retired bishop of Derry’s Dr Edward Daly’s call for an end to compulsory clerical celibacy in his autobiography, Brendan Butler said, “There are obviously a lot of people in the church, ordained and not ordained, who back this but are so afraid to say it.”
“It is a justifiable fear because look at what happened to the Bishop of Toowoomba and one theologian here whom I can’t name – he has been silenced in a most terrible way. Sisters and priests have lacked a support structure up to now. If anything happens to any of our sisters who are members of our group, we will certainly take a very active protest on that,” he warned.
WACI is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council. Members are seeking to bring about informed dialogue among the people of God on their five objectives:
Equality of all the baptised where decision making is actively shared by all, with appropriate structures for this;
Full participation of women in all aspects of church life, including priesthood;
Recognition of the primacy of an informed conscience;
Removal of the obligation of clerical celibacy and a positive attitude towards sexuality;
An inclusive Church, open and welcoming to all, which does not marginalise people who are divorced, in second relationships or gay.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is wrong when he comments that the present Penn State scandal “over a former football coach accused of sexually abusing young boys ‘reopens a wound’ for the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.”
The “wound” Archbishop Dolan refers to has never closed. It is a “wound” that has continued to fester since the Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts imploded in 2002.
Well for one thing the bishops of the United States have never really admitted, individually or collectively, to their part in covering up for clergymen known to be sexual predators of children and young people.
Yes, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has “a long way to go,” in making up for the egregious crimes that have been committed against children. “Failures” and “mistakes” are words that hardly begin to describe the agony thousands of children were left to go through while the few adults who dared to confront pastors or bishops over the behavior of rogue priests were bullied, harassed and intimidated into silence, often with threats of eternal damnation.
They were crimes and they were crimes against the very humanity of these innocent children.
Archbishop Dolan, you offered to work with “Penn State administrators on a national education campaign to stop abuse.”
Does your offer extend to working with advocacy groups in Pennsylvania whose goal is legislative reform? If it does there are several groups that were formed in response to the 2011 grand jury investigation on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who are now working for reform in Pennsylvania.
Sadly though, at this very moment, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, along with the bishops of Pennsylvania and the PA Catholic Conference are united in vicious opposition to any proposed legislation that would better protect children.
How do you explain that?
No, Archbishop Dolan, I’m afraid that neither you nor most of your fellow bishops has a clue as to the suffering that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church’s has caused and continues to inflict because it has never been truly accountable or transparent.
No one in the Catholic community has suffered more than the innocent children whose minds, hearts and souls were torn asunder by those who stood in the place of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Baltimore’s former archbishop, Cardinal William Keeler correctly described such horrific sexual abuse by a trusted minister of God when he used the term “soul murder” for it truly is that.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan should be at the head of the parade in supporting the removal of all criminal and civil statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children.
Anything less should be morally repugnant to all not just to all.
November 17 (ENInews)--Austria's Roman Catholic bishops have rejected a call by dissident church members for laypeople to begin presiding at Mass when parishes have no priests, but the bishops also pledged to maintain a dialogue over possible changes in church life.
In their 10 November declaration, the bishops rejected a 5 November call by Austria's We Are Church movement for laypeople to preside at Mass and celebrate the Eucharist. The bishops were also reacting to a July "Call to Disobedience" signed by 250 of Austria's 4,200 Roman Catholic priests, urging the ordination of women priests and distribution of Communion to non-Catholics and remarried divorcees.
The bishops said Austria's dioceses were "taking opportunities to innovate" in response to "real and serious problems," and were confident they would "find answers to the questions asked today." However they added that the summons to disobedience had "triggered alarm and sadness," and "left many Catholics shaking their heads."
"Some demands allied with this call for disobedience are simply unsustainable -- the call for a Eucharist without the Blessed Sacrament openly breaches the central truth of our Catholic faith," the bishops' conference said.
Josef Pumberger, news editor of a Vienna-based Catholic news service and a prominent lay expert, said some reforms are necessary and laypeople need to be involved. But the bishops are drawing a line, he said in an interview with ENInews on 17 November. "Certain things are against Catholic theology and church law and won be accepted by the church here -- such as celebration of the Eucharist by laity," he said.
The bishops also urged dissident priests and lay Catholics to "show goodwill and a sense of compromise" and avoid demands which "contradict the church's identity and put its unity seriously at risk."
Hans Peter Hurka, We Are Church's chairman, told ENInews that Austria's bishops had pledged to hold a dialogue with Catholic clergy, but had rejected calls for a discussion of New Testament guidelines.
He added that 505,000 Austrians had signed the movement's founding petition in 1995, adding that recent opinion surveys suggested 80 percent now backed its demands.
"All of this is seen as irrelevant by the bishops -- they don't seem to realize the train has already left and they're still standing on the platform," the lay Catholic said. "The situation is now beyond church control and the dangers of a schism are very real."
Formed in 1995, We Are Church is linked to similar groups in other countries, including Germany, Ireland and the United States, and calls on its website for a "fraternal church" and "full equality of women," as well as a "free choice of celibate or non-celibate lifestyle" and "positive evaluation of sexuality." Four-fifths of Austria's 8.1 million inhabitants identify as Roman Catholic.
KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - A priest accused of producing child pornography was welcomed into a young victim's home and included in numerous children's activities because a bishop kept evidence related to the priest a secret, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
The suit is one in a string of lawsuits and legal actions against Father Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn, the leader of the 134,000-member Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, alleging that Ratigan took advantage of his position as a priest to create pornographic photos of children in his parish.
The suits allege the bishop knew about the photos, and had received numerous warnings about Ratigan's behavior, but hid the information from police and families in the Diocese.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Clay County Circuit Court, parents allege they befriended Ratigan in early 2011 after he was sent by Finn to live in a convent in Independence, Missouri, and ordered to stay away from children.
Because families within the Catholic community there had not been warned about Ratigan, they invited him into their home and to parties and other activities where children were present, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit states Ratigan used a cell phone to take pictures surreptitiously while in the plaintiff's home for dinner.
And the suit alleges that during the course of an Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday of this year, Ratigan took sexually explicit photographs of one of the children present.
Ratigan was arrested May 16 after one of Finn's subordinates called police.
Ratigan and Finn face criminal charges as well. Ratigan has been charged with multiple counts of child pornography in federal court and in Clay and Jackson counties in Kansas City. The 46-year-old priest is in jail awaiting trial next summer.
Finn was indicted by a grand jury in Jackson County last month on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report Ratigan to police. He has pleaded not guilty.
As well, Finn reached a diversion agreement Tuesday with Clay County prosecutors allowing him to escape criminal charges as long as he complies with stipulations set by prosecutors, including regular monitoring.
Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official ever to face criminal charges in the United States in a child sexual abuse case.
Revelations that Ratigan was taking inappropriate pictures of young girls emerged last December after a church computer technician found photos on the priest's computer that became the basis for the pornography charges.
One photo showed a young girl on a bed with her panties pulled aside, exposing her genitals.
The allegations against the bishop are tied to evidence that even after Finn was made aware of the photos found on Ratigan's laptop, he did not report it to police or to the parents and children who interacted with Ratigan.
Joshua J. McElwee
November 15, 2011
National Catholic Reporter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bishop Robert W. Finn escaped a second criminal indictment for failing to report suspected child abuse by agreeing to give a county prosecutor near-total oversight of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese’s handling of sex abuse cases for the next five years.
Finn's agreement with Clay County, Mo., announced today, also requires him to report monthly to the prosecutor to "apprise [the prosecutor] of any and all reported suspicions or alleged abuse activities involving minors" in the diocese's facilities in the county.
Finn and the diocese were separately indicted last month in Jackson County, Mo., for failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a diocesan priest facing child pornography charges.
Today's agreement also waives the normal statute of limitations in the Ratigan case, allowing Clay County the option to press charges against Finn anytime in the next five years should the bishop fail to comply with the agreement's terms, according to a release this morning from Clay County prosecutor Daniel White.
Finn confirmed the agreement in a separate release, saying it "provides a structure for [the diocese] to maintain an open dialogue about any and all issues of abuse of minors."
As part of the agreement, Finn has also agreed to visit all of the parishes in Clay County with a yet to be hired diocesan director of child and youth protection and the diocesan ombudsman to outline the diocese's procedures for reporting suspected child abuse.
The new director of child and youth protection, Finn said in his release, will be designated "very soon" and will "coordinate the work" of the ombudsman, the diocesan victims' advocate, and the diocesan safe environment coordinator.
While the agreement between Finn and Clay County isn’t the first of its kind, it is rare. It is unique in that the diocese is obligated to notify the prosecutor's office of every report of potential abuse of a minor in the county.
White said in his release that Clay County's oversight of the diocese's reporting procedures ensures "there will be no layer of bureaucracy between a reporting party and the person making the investigation decisions."
“I believe this direct, independent and outside oversight coupled with the fact that we have the ability to file a misdemeanor charge in the next five years gives assurances to parents that the Diocese is serious about addressing this issue and continuing to enhance children protection efforts in Clay County,” said White.
Finn's agreement with Clay County, formally known as a "diversion compliance agreement," last from Nov. 15, 2011, to Nov. 15, 2016. The formal notice, which was obtained by NCR, bears the signatures of Finn, White, and Gerald Handley and James Hobbs, the bishop's attorneys.
White also announced today in a separate release that Ratigan had been indicted by a Clay County grand jury on three counts of possession of child pornography. The indictment supersedes a state criminal complaint that charged Ratigan on May 19. Each of the three counts is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Ratigan, 45, was also indicted in June by a federal grand jury and is in federal custody.
Ratigan, a diocesan priest, was arrested on charges of child pornography in May. The parish he was serving is in Clay County. The diocesan headquarters are in Jackson County.
While images of naked children on Ratigan's laptop were reported to and seen by the diocese last December, it did not report the incident to authorities, instead removing Ratigan from his parish, which is located in Clay County.
The agreement between Finn and Clay County comes after media reports that both the bishop and his vicar general, Msgr. Robert Murphy, had given testimony before a grand jury in the county regarding their handling of the Ratigan case in September.
Murphy has been at the center of allegations the diocese did not sufficiently respond to allegations that Raitgan's behavior around children were worrisome.
A diocesan-sponsored study of its handling of the Ratigan case released in September found that "individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, school, and families."
Specifically cited in the 138-page report, conducted by former U.S. attorney Todd Graves, is a letter given to Murphy by Julie Hess, the principal of the elementary school attached to the parish where Ratigan served.
A year before Ratigan's arrest, Hess hand-delivered to Murphy a letter warning that parents and staff members there were concerned about "significant red flags" about Ratigan's behavior and were worried he "fit the profile of a child predator."
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was quick to issue a negative reaction to news of the agreement between Finn and Clay County.
In their own press statement, the group wrote they were "disappointed" because "Finn has now done here what bishops have almost always done -- make any promises, payment or plea deal to avoid having to face tough questions in open court about their disgraceful and irresponsible deception."
"Catholics, citizens and children need and deserve the truth," writes Peter Isely, a member of the group's board of directors.
"The truth surfaces in court. That’s what bishops work overtime to avoid. And that’s what Finn has achieved here -- he’s taken the cheap, easy, convenient way out, avoiding real scrutiny and concealing damaging misdeeds."
Other cases of agreements between dioceses' and prosecutors include:
The Manchester, N.H., diocese's avoidance of criminal indictments in 2002 by agreeing to periodic audits by the state attorney general’s office. Those audits began in 2005 and were completed in 2009.
That agreement also provided for the publication of a report by the attorney general, as well as the release of nearly 10,000 pages of investigative files.
Former Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien of the Phoenix dioceses' escaping charges of obstruction of justice in 2003 by agreeing to hire an independent ombudsman to oversee sexual abuse allegations after a grand jury found that the bishop had allowed accused priests to continue work with children.
Among the provisions of that agreement, the diocese was required to put $300,000 in a victim compensation fund and pay $300,000 for counseling for abuse victims.
Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Santa Rosa, Calif., dioceses' enrollment in a counseling program in 2006 to avoid charges of failing to report abuse. In that case, Walsh was alleged to have failed to report a priest's abuse after the priest admitted the abuses to the bishop.
Give Penn State this much. They fired the men at the top — the university president and legendary football coach Joe Paterno — within days of the arrest of a former coach charged with molesting numerous boys over 15 years.
More than 10 years after the biggest child sex crime cover-up in American history, no one at the top of the Catholic Church has paid a big price. The cardinals protect the pope. The pope protects the cardinals. Joe Paterno’s horrible sin of omission — failure to make sure police investigated Jerry Sandusky’s alleged assault of a 10-year-old boy — cannot compare with hundreds of sins of omission by former Cardinal Bernard Law. Then there are Law’s sins of commission: shipping known pedophiles off to unsuspecting parishes and even writing these priests letters of recommendation.
Law, however, just celebrated his 80th birthday in style in Rome where Catholics, whether they want to or not, have paid for his tenure at one of the city’s most grand basilicas. Since being forced from Boston in 2002 and arriving there in 2004, Law amassed considerable power on numerous Vatican committees, including ones that choose bishops.
Not one American bishop has been “fired” either, although at least 22 have been accused of multiple molestations. Yet nearly all of those still alive retain the title of bishop emeritus and are, again, supported by Catholics’ donations. The first and only indictment of a bishop occurred just last month in Kansas City.
“No one in the hierarchy paid a price and Law got a promotion,” sums up Anne Barrett Doyle who, with Terence McKiernan, operates BishopsAccountability.org, the most comprehensive compendium of church crimes. The contrast between Penn State’s quick firings and Pennsylvania prosecutors’ aggressive investigation — and what happened here — could not be starker.
Yet there are obvious similarities between the church and Penn State football as well.
Both are all-male, powerful, tradition-heavy hierarchies devoted to maintaining image. Both tried to handle their scandals internally rather than give police and prosecutors control. Both preach righteousness. Paterno spoke constantly about character. The football team’s motto: “success with honor.”
Both coaches and priests (though less so now) are revered, trusted and admired. Parent after parent in the church mess said they were thrilled, even flattered, when a priest took special interest in their child. Coaches mentor boys and help them make the right teams. Jerry Sandusky allegedly gave at least one victim clothes, cash, a computer and access not just at Penn State but also to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Sandusky attack witnessed by assistant coach Mike McQueary happened in 2002, when the church scandal was huge news. Paterno, a practicing Catholic, must have known about it.
It makes you wonder if there’s something about sex crimes and children that powerful, male institutions just can’t handle. Instead of witnessing an alleged rape, had McQueary seen Sandusky beating up a young boy, would his and his bosses’ reactions been different?
Michael Clancy - Nov. 12, 2011
The Arizona Republic
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix has backed away from his ban on using consecrated wine for Communion at most Masses, a decision that was originally met with widespread outcry.
In an explanation of his decision in a letter to the priests of the diocese, Olmsted apologized for his own misunderstanding of church documents, including new guidelines and translations for the Catholic Mass, and for any confusion arising from his previous statement made at a priests' meeting in September.
Father Anthony Ruff, an expert on new translations for the Mass, who criticized the bishop's previous position as a "step backward," said he had never heard of a bishop "retracting so quickly."
"Anything I say could sound like gloating," Ruff said. "I think it's for local clergy and liturgical ministers to find the right way to express their goodwill and happiness with this."
Olmsted's decision comes just two months after he announced that Communion would no longer include wine, which Catholics consider the blood of Christ, on a regular basis. The decision received strong criticism within the diocese and nationwide.
Olmsted was not available for comment. But, in his letter, he said the diocese mishandled communication about the new rules.
He said stories in both secular and religious media "upset many of our people and left you, especially the priests in parishes and institutions, without all the tools needed to answer questions."
"I am sorry, too, that this mishandling has created tensions between some priests and parishes," he wrote.
Fran Clarida, a local Catholic who started a Facebook page called Keep the Cup at Mass, embraced the reversal.
"I am grateful that Bishop Olmsted took the time to review the facts regarding his decision and listened to the concerns and needs of his priests and parishioners," the Valley woman said. "The way he handled it in the beginning showed poor leadership and resulted in hurting some of his priests and parishioners. Church documents were misread or misinterpreted, and a decision was made without consultation or research. But I am happy with the bishop's final decision."
I’ve seen the story of the elderly priest who has been ordered to cease living with his girlfriend or be removed from the priesthood pop up in several international media, and while I usually don’t comment on such private matters, this fact is a reason to do so.
The priest, Father Jan Peijnenburg (who is not the emeritus archivist of the diocese, who has the same name), is 81 years old and has been living with his female friend for the past 46 years. Both are pictured to the left. Newspapers make of this friend his girlfriend, which would seem likely, because Fr. Peijnenburg is also the author of several recent leaflets in which he agitates against priestly celibacy, leaflets which he mailed to numerous people, the diocese claims.
Fr. Peijnenburg seems fairly resigned. If it’s a choice between his living with a woman or the priesthood, the priesthood will loose, he has said.
I can understand both parties in this case. The diocese is right when they say they can’t allow one priest to do what other priests are forbidden to do, even more so when this priest publically agitates against Church law. On the other hand, Fr. Peijnenburg has been ordered to make a change in a life that he has led for 46 years. That’s half a lifetime in any reckoning. Has the diocese truly been aware only since the leaflets have been mailed round? If so, it points to a pretty weak awareness of what its priests are up to. If not, why wait almost five decades before doing something?
Personally, without knowing the details, I think it would suit the diocese to be a little less rigorous in this matter. They are essentially right, but they have left it until virtually the very last minute to do something. But, the same goes for Fr. Peijnenburg. I can’t imagine he didn’t know what the laws of celibacy for priests entail. And if he disagrees with them, he should have drawn conclusions from that opinion. He has no reason to act all defiant when the diocese finally figures out what’s going on.
The Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch seems to be cracking down hard on all sorts of errors and abuses, and it is about time it did. But since the diocese took a long time to do so, and thus allowed the errors and abuses to develop and continue (I’m also looking at San Salvator, for example), it would do well to get on a slightly smaller high horse and adopt a more pastoral attitude in dealing with these cases. But then again, the very same goes for the people who commit the errors and abuses…
The closure of the Irish embassy to the Holy See in Rome is a major setback for the Vatican. The decision by Ireland's government brings to life a number of Vatican nightmares. First of all, it was made for "economic reasons", which means that keeping a diplomatic mission at the papal court is supposed to be expensive (implicitly, uselessly expensive). Worse, the costs just seem to be a pragmatic and neutral explanation to cover up a hot political struggle: the sex abuse scandals involving Irish Catholic priests.
But in a period of financial turmoil, economy might be a perfect reason, or excuse, for other governments to take similar steps. This has happened before. In 1867, the United States wanted to retaliate for Pius IX's alleged support to the Confederates, and the Union government simply cut off funds for the then Vatican legation (there wasn't yet an embassy). Here is the second nightmare: a potential "domino effect", underlining the failure of the Vatican in handling the sex abuse cases.
There is still a disconnect between western public opinion and Catholic episcopates on this thorny issue. The Holy See last year made Charles Scicluna a kind of "top prosecutor". Scicluna admitted at long last that paedophilia was a crime that required the church to collaborate with the civil judiciary. But Scicluna's assessment, although backed by the pope himself and aimed at the whole Catholic world, may have come too late.
The Irish action appears to confirm this suspicion. It exploded after a long and tough dispute between the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, and the Holy See. In Anglo-Saxon countries around the world and in northern Europe, the role of the Catholic church and its approach to individual rights has been harshly criticised. As a consequence, a third nightmare might come true: the shrinking of the international profile of the Vatican. If even a "Catholic" country, as Ireland is, can decide to forgo its diplomatic mission at the papal court, what about nations in which Catholics are a minority?
So far, economic concerns have been kept out of this discussion. Some governments have repeatedly but confidentially remarked that the costs of their embassies to the Holy See are hardly justified; and the tensions stemming from sex abuse scandals have kindled the fire. Nevertheless, Catholic lobbies and prestige have up to now prevented these states from taking drastic decisions. But the spread of the "Irish syndrome" could change this attitude.
What is viewed today as poor diplomatic management of a divisive issue both by Dublin and by Rome could create a historic rupture. Dublin was also moved by domestic political calculations. It wanted to give a signal that the country had changed even in its relations with the Catholic church, mirroring a broader anti-clerical mood. Ireland has announced the closure of its embassies in Iran and East Timor as well.
Some people also wonder whether the downgrading of these relations could be advantageous for Britain: the Holy See, in fact, always supported Ireland as a united state.
But the result is in any case a paradoxical one. "Catholic" Ireland could prove to be the pathfinder of a worrying development for the Vatican, whose diplomatic and moral weight is openly and badly challenged. If it doesn't move on rapidly, the echo of the scandals combined with the effects of the financial crisis could weaken its voice and international presence. And the closure of the Irish embassy could turn to be just a bitter appetiser: the first in a series.
November 7, 2011 Dear Fathers, Deacons and Parish Liturgists, In light of recent statements by the bishops of the Dioceses of Phoenix and Madison regarding the limited use of Holy Communion under both kinds, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify our normative practice in our own local Church. In the Diocese of San Jose, Communion under both kinds is permitted whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priest to whom a community has been entrusted, provided that the conditions set in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 283, have been satisfied, namely: The faithful have been well instructed; There is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament; and There is no danger of the rite becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or some other reason. Because I firmly believe that all of our parishes and worshipping communities have met the above conditions, I want to reiterate that in the Diocese of San Jose, Communion under both kinds is not only permitted but also encouraged and is expected to be the norm at every Sunday and feast day Mass. As I said in my June, 2003, letter establishing this as a norm for our diocese, I echo the Church's encouragement of the laity's sharing in the Precious Blood at Mass:?"Since, however, by reason of the sign value, sharing in both eucharistic species reflects more fully the sacred realities that the Liturgy signifies, the Church in her wisdom has made provisions in recent years so that more frequent eucharistic participation from both the sacred host and the chalice of salvation might be made possible for the laity in the Latin Church" (Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States, 11). Furthermore, I firmly believe the Church's teaching that:"Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Kingdom of the Father" (GIRM, 281). As we prepare to implement the new English translation of the Roman Missal and continue the work of renewing the liturgy in our diocese, I ask you to ensure the availability of the Precious Blood to the laity at all Sunday and holy day Masses. I am grateful for your continued attention to this and catechesis of the faithful regarding this significant teaching of the Church. With every best wish and kind regard, I remain, Sincerely yours, Patrick J. McGrath Bishop of San Jose
Sr. Joan Chittister had been invited to be one of the main speakers at the international Conference in Dublin of Women's Ordination Worldwide, 29-31 June 2001. However, the Vatican Congregation for Religious began to exert pressure on her Superior General to prevent her from taking part in this important event. Here is the Superior’s reply.
Sr. Christine Vladimiroff, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie from 1998 to 2010
For the past three months I have been in deliberations with Vatican officials regarding Sister Joan Chittister¹s participation in the Women¹s Ordination Worldwide Conference, June 29 to 31, Dublin, Ireland. The Vatican believed her participation to be in opposition to its decree (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis) that priestly ordination will never be conferred on women in the Roman Catholic Church and must therefore not be discussed. The Vatican ordered me to prohibit Sister Joan from attending the conference where she is a main speaker.
I spent many hours discussing the issue with Sister Joan and traveled to Rome to dialogue about it with Vatican officials . I sought the advice of bishops, religious leaders, canonists, other prioresses, and most importantly with my religious community, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. I spent many hours in communal and personal prayer on this matter.
After much deliberation and prayer, I concluded that I would decline the request of the Vatican. It is out of the Benedictine , or monastic, tradition of obedience that I formed my decision. There is a fundamental difference in the understanding of obedience in the monastic tradition and that which is being used by the Vatican to exert power and control and prompt a false sense of unity inspired by fear. Benedictine authority and obedience are achieved through dialogue between a community member and her prioress in a spirit of co-responsibility. The role of the prioress in a Benedictine community is to be a guide in the seeking of God. While lived in community, it is the individual member who does the seeking.
Sister Joan Chittister, who has lived the monastic life with faith and fidelity for fifty years, must make her own decision based on her sense of Church, her monastic profession and her own personal integrity. I cannot be used by the Vatican to deliver an order of silencing.
I do not see her participation in this conference as a "source of scandal to the faithful" as the Vatican alleges. I think the faithful can be scandalized when honest attempts to discuss questions of import to the church are forbidden.
I presented my decision to the community and read the letter that I was sending to the Vatican. 127 members of the 128 eligible members of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie freely supported this decision by signing her name to that letter. Sister Joan addressed the Dublin conference with the blessing of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie.
My decision should in no way indicate a lack of communion with the Church. I am trying to remain faithful to the role of the 1500 -year-old monastic tradition within the larger Church. We trace our tradition to the early Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th century who lived on the margin of society in order to be a prayerful and questioning presence to both church and society. Benedictine communities of men and women were never intended to be part of the hierarchical or clerical status of the Church, but to stand apart from this structure and offer a different voice. Only if we do this can we live the gift that we are for the Church. Only in this way can we be faithful to the gift that women have within the Church.