Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Priests come to nun's defense

Carol Marin
Chicago Sun Times
May 29, 2012

Father Leonard Dubi, a priest of 44 years, was one of two dozen men in Roman collars at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church on Sunday night. They were there to honor and support the embattled nuns of this country.

Even though it was Memorial Day weekend, even though plenty of people had been to church once already, and even though it was hot and steamy inside that old, beautiful, non-air conditioned church, about 150 came that night.

Nuns. Priests. Lay people.

“We ran out of programs,” said Fr. Dubi by phone on Tuesday.

These gatherings are happening all over the country as Catholics react to Rome’s attempt to reel in the Leadership Council of Women Religious, the umbrella organization that represents most religious sisters in this country.

The Vatican, in a scathing rebuke in April, appointed three bishops to “oversee” the women of LCWR. The sisters, in the view of the men who run the church, are too concerned about the poor and disenfranchised.

Not concerned enough about birth control, abortion and gay marriage.

The orthodoxies that absorb the Curia.

Many of the people in the pews see this as the last straw. And are saying so. And priests are giving voice to their own deep concerns.

Fr. Dubi is the Chairman of the Association of Chicago Priests (ACP), which wrote a letter to the sisters. In it, the priests praise LCWR for being the living embodiment of the reforms of Vatican II. And commend the sisters for being fearless in service “to the poor, the powerless, the marginalized, the forgotten, the rejected . . . the sick, the abandoned. . . . Perhaps (your mission) is too frightening to people and institutions accustomed to moving more slowly.”

..... Full story at Chicago Sun Times

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pope shocked at Babel-like confusion in the the Vatican

Giacomo Galleazzi
Vatican Insider
May 28, 2012

The Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie was hard at work Sunday. The Vatican leak inquiry did not end with the arrest of the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele so the papal police offices are busy sifting through the “investigative material” that will help find the potential accomplices and individuals behind the leaks. There are no immediate plans for arrests but not one of the Curia’s members believed the Pope’s butler is the only one responsible. “The affair is not over yet. This is just the beginning,” they said. Behind the Vatican walls there is a growing belief that “Paoletto’s” arrest was not the finishing line but a starting point.

During his homily for Pentecost Sunday the Pope sent out a warning against any manoeuvres or clashes taking place behind his back in the Curia: the Holy See is plunging into a Babel-like chaos in which there is a growing “sense of mistrust, suspicion and mutual fear among men, to the point that they are becoming dangerous to one another.” There was a sense of distress in Benedict XVI’s words as he called for “unity, harmony and truth.” The three cardinals that direct the actions of the Vatican police (Herranz, Tomko and De Giorgi) seem convinced that that there is someone higher up, a “steering committee” that is polling the strings in the “Vatileaks” affair. If the outside world is given the impression that two different powers and double standards exist within the Holy See, this would be harmful to its image. That is, if tough measures are adopted against lay employees suspected of betraying their oath of secrecy but Church spies are simply removed and sent to carry out their ministry away from Rome instead of being placed behind bars. .........

read entire article at the Vatican Insider

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kansas City bishop delegates away diocesan legal authority

Joshua McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
May 26, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In what seems to be a sign that the first bishop criminally charged in the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis is acknowledging his legal defense may create a conflict of interest with his role as leader of his diocese, Bishop Robert Finn announced Friday creation of a new episcopal vicar with "decision-making" power over the diocese's own legal options.

Both Finn and his Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese face trial this September in Jackson County, Mo., over separate criminal charges of failure to report suspect child abuse concerning their actions regarding a priest arrested last year for possession of child pornography.

The new role, quietly announced Friday afternoon on the website of the diocesan paper, seems to indicate that the diocese and bishop are for the first time publicly recognizing that legal decisions made by one could negatively impact the other.

According to the announcement, diocesan priest Fr. Patrick Rush, a local pastor who had previously served as vicar general of the diocese, is now serving as "Episcopal Vicar with Special Mandate." In that role, the announcement says, Rush "will provide 'independent representation, deliberation, and decision-making with executive power' concerning the criminal charge against the Diocese."


read entire article at National Catholic Reporter

All Hell breaks loose in the Holy See

John L. Allen, Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
May 25, 2012

To say that the Vatican seems in turmoil would be putting things mildly, with two stunners in the arc of twenty-four hours: Yesterday’s announcement that the president of the Vatican Bank has been unceremoniously fired, and today’s revelation that a longtime personal servant of Benedict XVI has been identified as the alleged “deep throat” behind the torrid Vatican leaks scandal.

Perhaps it would be more accurate, albeit a bit crude, to say that all Hell is breaking loose in the Holy See.

Earlier today the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, announced that the Vatican’s security forces had identified an individual as a source for the recent avalanche of leaks, but didn’t provide the name. Various Italian news outlets, however, are reporting that the suspect is Paolo Gabriele, a layman who has worked for many years in the papal apartments as a butler and waiter for the pope.

According to reports, Gabriele is now being interrogated by the promoter of justice for the Vatican City-State, Nicola Picardi.

The accusation against Gabriele comes on the heels of release of a sensational new book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, titled His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, collecting recently leaked documents and adding some new ones.

Materials in the book include confidential information about Vatican finances, reports from the Vatican security services (including a write-up of an incident in which a car belonging to the security service was riddled with bullets outside a Roman restaurant), memoranda documenting internal power struggles, correspondence from prominent Italian personalities requesting personal favors, even the notes of a private meeting between the pope and the Italian president.

Already, some commentators are openly wondering if Gabriele is being served up as a “scapegoat” to disguise the complicity of more senior figures. Veteran Italian writer Andrea Tornielli wrote today that the leaks scandal seems to have been orchestrated by “a refined mind, who knows church politics,” casting doubt on whether a layman working as a papal butler truly fits that profile.

Meanwhile, the move against the president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, the so-called “Vatican Bank,” has raised new questions about the direction of Vatican efforts at financial reform and transparency.

When prominent Italian economist and banker Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was named the institute’s president in 2009, he was touted as the new captain of Benedict XVI’s financial glasnost. Among other things, Gotti Tedeschi had been a contributor to the pope’s 2009 encyclical on the economy, Caritas in Veritate, and an internationally popular speaker on ethics in the economy.

Yesterday, however, the Vatican announced that Gotti Tedeschi had been given a vote of no-confidence by the institute’s supervisory council. By the usual standards of Vatican communiqués, the statement was remarkable for its lack of face-saving finesse.


read entire article at National Catholic Reporter

Monday, May 21, 2012

All the cardinal's men: who are these guys?

Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia priest abuse trial blog
May 20, 2012

For the past eight weeks, as the prosecution presented its case against Monsignor William J. Lynn, district attorneys and defense lawyers kept mentioning three names: Cullen, Molloy and Cistone. The same three names appeared over and over again on documents marked "confidential" that were repeatedly displayed on courtroom computer screens, as evidence of a conspiracy from the secret archive files. Cullen, Molloy and Cistone were the three top guys in the archdiocese chain of command just below Cardinal Anthony J. Bevliacqua. All three outranked Msgr. Lynn, the lone man at the defense table left holding the bag for the sins of an entire corrupt organization. When the defense presents its case next week in the archdiocese sex abuse trial, expect to hear a lot more about Cullen, Molloy and Cistone. Defense lawyers are apt to invoke the trio as often as possible in their efforts to convince a jury that Lynn was just a lackey down at Archdiocese HQ, and not a guy who wielded any power.

So who are these guys, and why aren't they sitting at the defense table with Msgr. Lynn?

 Edward P. Cullen, 79, bishop emeritus of Allentown, Pa., formerly served as Cardinal Bevilacqua's vicar for administration from 1988 to 1998, while he functioned as the number two man in the archdiocese. Bevilacqua gave him the title vicar general in curia.

 Msgr. James E. Molloy was the former assistant vicar for administration under Cullen who testified before the 2005 grand jury that investigated sex abuse; the following year, Molloy was found dead, at age 60.

 Joseph R. Cistone, 63, now bishop of Saginaw, Mich, served in Philadelphia as the former assistant vicar for administration under Cullen from 1994 to 1998; he was subsequently promoted to vicar for administration, serving from 1998 to 2009.

Molloy is dead; Cullen and Cistone aren't talking, and nobody expects them to be called as witnesses this week.

 William R. Spade is a former assistant district attorney assigned to the 2005 grand jury that investigated sex abuse in the archdiocese; he's now a criminal defense lawyer. Spade got to know the cardinal's top aides, as well as the cardinal himself, while working as a grand jury prosecutor.

 Cullen, according to Spade, was "much more likable than Bevilacqua, he seemed more forthright. He seemed like he was trying to be of help, but looking back on it, I think he kind of played us a little bit," Spade said. "He came across as a better salesman than Bevilacqua," Spade said of Cullen. "He came across as being earnest. He acknowledged that the archdiocese had made mistakes in dealing with these priests."

 One such mistake was published last year in transcripts obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The grand jury questioned Cullen about an abuser priest, Father Robert L. Brennan. Brennan, accused of misconduct, had been shipped off for psychiatric evaluation to St. John Vianney, the archdiocese facility for sex addicted priests. But parishioners were told Father Brennan was off on a religious retreat.

 "It's not the truth," Cullen told the grand jury.

 "It was a lie, wasn't it?" a prosecutor asked. "You could call it that," Cullen said.

 Cullen, a former football and track star at West Catholic High "could be a charming guy, a man’s man, a little rough," Spade said. "You could picture him having a few beers and talking sports if he wasn’t a priest." Unlike the rest of the crew at the archdiocese, "Cullen was not cold, he laughed, he told jokes," Spade said.

 But to John Patullo, a financial analyst who worked for nearly a decade at the archdiocese, from 1985 to 1995, Cullen had a different image. Cullen was "a cigar chewing Main Line guy with a cell phone and a car phone in his Buick LeSabre Limited that had to have every option," Patullo said. "Be good to yourself," Cullen used to tell Patullo. When Cullen's new Buick arrived minus front-seat dual climate control, the only option Cullen didn't get, the vicar for administration reprimanded the archdiocese employee who ordered the Buick, Patullo recalled.

 Cullen dined at Yangming, the Bryn Mawr landmark voted the best Chinese restaurant in America, and turned in weekly expense receipts to the archdiocese, Patullo said. Every Friday, Cullen left archdiocese headquarters early to drive down to his ocean-front summer home in Avalon, valued at nearly $1 million, and every Monday, he showed up late for work, his cigar in hand.

 "This guy is a potentate," Patullo said.

"He's all about himself. He was like a corporate executive all dressed in black." Cullen didn't live in a rectory. As chaplain of St. Edmund's Home for Crippled Children in Rosemont, he had his own apartment in a wing of the building. "I was in there, it was beautiful," Patullo said. "He continued to use those private quarters even when he became the bishop of Allentown."

 As vicar for administration, Cullen had the power to sign the cardinal’s name, Patullo said. "He had all the administrative power of the cardinal over the diocese." Cullen was often seen walking with the cardinal outside archdiocese headquarters at 222 N. 17th St. The two men were usually deep in conversation, Patullo said. He had no doubts that Cullen knew everything that was going on in the archdiocese.


 read the full article at <a href="http://www.priestabusetrial.com/2012/05/all-cardinals-men-who-are-these-guys.html">Philadelphia priest abuse trial blog</a>

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Evidence in clergy abuse trial shows a culture of secrecy

John P. Martin
Philadelphia Inquirer
May 20, 2012

The charges against Msgr. William J. Lynn are narrow: that the former Archdiocese of Philadelphia official endangered children by letting two priests live or work in parishes despite signs they might abuse minors.
But the case prosecutors finished presenting Thursday stretched beyond those confines. Day after day in Courtroom 304 of the city's Criminal Justice Center, the church itself seemed to be on trial.
Over eight weeks, jurors saw a parade of witnesses and close to 2,000 documents, some decades old, that detailed what bishops, pastors priests, and church officials knew and did about Philadelphia-area priests suspected of abusing children.

Together, the evidence pointed to a long-standing culture in the hierarchy - and at times the ranks below - that chose secrecy over transparency and the welfare of the institution over victims.

"It was all about the good of Mother Church," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in arguments to the judge Thursday. "They cared about money, they cared about the business of the church, not the flock and not the parishioners."

read entire article at Philadelphia Inquirer

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Swiss clergy and laity disobey, and head of German bishops calls for change in discipline

Pray Tell
May 16, 2012

Kipa reports that 40 priests and pastoral ministers from the Diocese of St. Gall, Switzerland, have issued a statement that they will continue to offer communion to the divorced and remarried. They appeal to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council that the Church is the entire People of God; the People of God are taking responsibility for the Church. Furthermore, the Catholic Church recognizes the decision in conscience of each individual person.
Their statement says:
Therefore, as a Church of disciples of Jesus, we cannot exclude from the sacraments, for example, those divorced and remarried. This would contradict the praxis of Jesus in his manner of dealing with people. Thus we will continue to offer Communion to those divorced and remarried.
The signatories, who are from the deaneries of Uznach and Sargans, have studied the statements of the Second Vatican Council as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the council. They write that the Church opened itself to the world at that time, but many of the council’s decisions have not yet been put into practice.
In March Bishop Vitus Huonder of Chur wrote in a pastoral letter that according to Church teachings, those divorced and remarried are not to be admitted to the sacraments. The clergy and pastoral ministers from St. Gall state in an accompanying letter that they intend to offer spiritual support to their colleagues in the diocese of Chur, so that the spirit of the Council live on and be “supported in solidarity” by them.
Meanwhile, the president of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, continues to work for the admission to Communion of those divorced and remarried, Kathweb reports. “We are working on this subject, and you may rest assured that I am in conversation on the subject at widely varying levels.” He acknowledges that the topic requires “patience and slow breathing.”
Last year, similar comments from Zollitsch met with a strong rebuke from Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, who stressed the indissolubility of marriage with reference to the words of Jesus. Zollitsch had called for reconsideration of the Church’s manner of dealing with people “whose lives have developed unfortunately in important matters.” He said that, “when nearly 40% of marriages in Germany end in divorce, then we must consider how to alter our pastoral practice for these people,” which he considers “a question of mercy.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sampling of support for LCWR from women religious

The members of the Provincial Leadership Team of the American Province of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ are members of LCWR, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. As women religious we continue our daily response to faithfully living the Gospel.
We support LCWR as having served faithfully in their mission and role in the Church. We also continue our prayers and profound support for the LCWR Leadership and Board. The LCWR has asked that any contacts should be directed to its Director of Communications, Annmarie Sanders at asanders@lcwr.org
(Donaldson, IN)

Benedictine Sisters of Erie Support LCWR

The Benedictine Sisters of Erie stand in solidarity with women religious throughout the United States who are affected by the findings of the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that were released Thursday, April 19, by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). While the ramifications of this decree are yet to be known it brings dismay and causes great concern. At the same time, it strengthens our resolve to live our charism and corporate commitment throughministry carried out with integrity and reverent care for all creation. With the Gospel as our guide, we will continue to “run on the path of God’s commandments” (Rule of Benedict, Prologue).
As Benedictines, as religious women, as members of the LCWR, we offer our support to the leadership of LCWR as they review the mandate, prepare a response, and move forward with courage and dignity.
(Erie, PA)

Statement of Support

April 30, 2012 - The Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph respect the statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) stating their need for time to review a mandate from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and prepare a response. As members of LCWR, the Leadership Team of the Congregation of St. Joseph believe that the organization has remained faithful to its mission of service to leaders of congregations of women religious. We also want to express our gratitude to The Resource Center for Religious Institutes (RCRI) and to NETWORK for the invaluable services they provide.Our prayers and support are with them.

(Cleveland, OH)

In support of LCWR
The Racine Dominicans appreciate the dedication and deep commitment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). We understand and respect LCWR’s need for time to review the recent mandate issued from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before they respond.
As members of LCWR from inception, the Racine Dominican Executive Committee has consistently experienced faithful and courageous leadership from LCWR, always reflecting Gospel values in their mission of service to leaders of congregations of women religious. We support and pray for them during this challenging time.

(Racine, WI)

In support of LCWR
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart appreciate the statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)stating their need for time to review the recent mandate from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and prepare a response. As members of LCWR, the Leadership of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart believes that the organization has remained faithful to its mission of service to leaders of institutes of women religious. Our prayers and support are with its leaders and the members of its Board.
(Yardley, PA)


An organization of Australian women religious has sent a message of support to their American counterpart, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which has been the target of a Vatican investigation and a call for general reform.
In a message to LCWR leaders, Sister Anne Derwin, the president of Catholic Religious Australia, praised the LCWR for “conducting this discussion calmly, without judgment and in an atmosphere of prayer, contemplation and dialogue.” In her letter Sister Derwin acknowledged that the LCWR has not yet issued a public response to the Vatican’s call for reform. But she said that a calm and prayerful dialogue “is the norm for you.”

April 19, 2012 - The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas respect the statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) stating their need for time to review a mandate from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and prepare a response. As members of LCWR, the Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas believes that the organization has remained faithful to its mission of service to leaders of congregations of women religious. Our prayers and support are with them.
(Silver Spring, MD)

.....  etc

Church lawyer testifies Cullen, other clergy lied to him

Peter Hall
The Morning Call
Allentown, PA
May 14, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — A former attorney for the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese testified Monday that top church officials including retired Allentown Bishop Edward Cullen lied to him about a list of priests suspected of sexually abusing children.

Tim Coyne, who served as the church's general counsel, said a prosecutor asked him in 2004, in the midst of a grand jury investigation of sexual abuse by Philadelphia-area priests, to track down the list of 35 suspected child abusers Monsignor William Lynn had produced in 1994.

Coyne said he contacted five church leaders including Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua; Cullen, who was the cardinal's top aide; and Bishop Joseph Cistone, who is now head of the Saginaw, Mich. diocese, but the effort was unsuccessful.

Coyne testified that Cullen's attorney said Cullen had no recollection of the list. The others gave similar replies, Coyne told the court.

"Everyone I spoke to said they didn't know where it was," Coyne said, "and they didn't have a copy of it."

But when church officials earlier this year discovered a hand-written memo documenting instructions from Bevilacqua to shred the list, Coyne admitted under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington that he was left with one conclusion.

"Somebody lied to me, or a lot of people lied to me," Coyne said.

Blessington retorted: "More like everyone lied to you."

"That's fair," Coyne said.

Lynn, 61, is charged with covering up sexual abuse by priests. He is the highest-ranking church official in the nation to face such charges.

He is on trial in Philadelphia county court with Father James Brennan, who is accused of attempting to rape a teenage boy. A third clergyman, Father Edward Avery, pleaded guilty before the start of their trial to a count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old boy.

Cullen, head of the Allentown diocese from 1998 until his retirement in 2009, was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Germany seeks assurances on SSPX

The Tablet 
May 11, 2012
The vice-president of the Bundestag has visited the Holy See to convey German government concerns over negotiations between the Vatican and the Society of St Pius X (Lefebvrists).
German anxieties revolve around the fact that the SSPX refuses to accept Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council document which rejected all forms of anti-Semitism and prepared the ground for a new relationship between the Church and both Judaism and Israel.
Wolfgang Thierse, a committed Catholic, met Cardinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Cardinal Koch told him that the SSPX must accept the authority of the Church's Magisterium and must recognise the Second Vatican Council.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Prosecutor wants new charge against Bishop Finn

Mark Morris
 Kansas City Star
 May 7, 2012

 Jackson County prosecutors want to add additional misdemeanor criminal charges against Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese he serves. The charge, failure to report suspicions of child abuse, is the same as the bishop and diocese already face for their alleged mismanagement of a priest now facing state and federal child pornography charges.

 Prosecutors also have asked a judge to approve a massive request for records from the diocese’s so-called “secret archive” detailing the diocese’s responses to child abuse allegations both before and after Finn began serving in Kansas City in May 2004.

A spokeswoman for the diocese declined comment, saying the church’s lawyers have not yet seen paperwork.

Prosecutors also want the diocese to turn over a broad swath of records detailing how it has handled child abuse allegations received since Finn was ordained coadjutor bishop on May 3, 2004. Those records would include:
• All documents related to reports of child abuse received since May 2004, including records of the diocesan response team and Independent Review Board.
• Reports of prior concerns alleged against perpetrators mentioned in those post-2004 records.
• And all other relevant records kept in the diocese’s “secret archives,” as so described in canon law.

According to church law, the most sensitive documents of a diocese are to be kept in a secret archive, which can be as simple as a locked safe or a cabinet. According to church law, those records are to be reviewed, and some purged, annually.

The request for records — usually called “discovery” in legal parlance — demands specific information from diocesan records about possible child abuse allegations against 10 priests and monks, eight of whom already have been sued in civil actions against the diocese or their religious orders.

 ....... Read full article at The Kansas City Star

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An open letter to the CDF from Des Wilson (Association of Catholic Priests)

Fr.Desmond Wilson
 Association of Catholic Priests (Ireland)
 May 5, 2012

 Dear Friends in The Congregation for the Doctrine of theFaith,

 You may be aware that we in Ireland have a special reverence for our Saint Columbanus. He was one of our saints who disagreed with a Pope and said so. You may be more acquainted with Saint Catherine of Siena who did the same, although she had the disadvantage of having to disagree with three possible popes at one time.

 Some of us view with dismay then, but no great alarm, your decision to censor some of our fellow citizens and fellow members of the Catholic Church who have done nothing at all so serious.

 We are puzzled – naturally and supernaturally - by the fact that you and we preach the presence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and then you tell us, so inspired, to stop talking - as if we had nothing important to say. This is not a matter of doctrine, it is one of logic and we in Ireland are inclined to judge these things by logic as well as doctrine and not too often by emotion. We remember the Gamaliel principle – you remember it too, when forced to make a decision, he told his colleagues, If this be of God it’s useless to oppose it, if it be of human planning it will fade away in any case, so we should not take extraordinary measures for ordinary happenings.

 You may be aware that in recent years we in Ireland lost to the priesthood some of our best intellects because priests were disciplined sometimes for trivialities, sometimes for making people aware that the churchis a seeking church not a triumphant one. When the issues involved were trivial – like that of shirts and collars or just discussing what we believe – we rightly feared that some important people in our church were trying to drag us with them on a road which might well lead from mediocrity to obscurity. We Catholics in Ireland have a strong intellectual tradition, we founded the ancient equivalent of a university in Clonmacnois centuries before our colleagues in Britain founded Oxford and Cambridge, and we took our part in intellectual leadership in Europe even when the empire centred in Rome was collapsing, indeed especially when it was. So you can see we have some experience in intellectual and spiritual leadership. It would be sad and quite unworthy if you were to insist at this time that we be reduced to tearing pages out of monthly religious magazines and asking permission not just to change laws but even to write about them.

 As well as this we in Ireland are wary of anonymous messages to anonymous receivers , we believe Our Lord was serious when He said people sometimes worked in secret because their works were evil. That is disquieting anywhere but especially in the community of the People of God. And most especially to the priests and others whom you have told to be quiet. I am presuming that this title, The People of God , still officially applies to us, although I understand that even at the time of the Second Vatican Council there was a desire among some of you to avoid it. Most of us accept the title with pride and gratitude but find it impossible to accept that we have to be a Silent People of God any more than we would accept being a silenced people ofIreland.

 So for reasons of logic, theology, scripture , history and reason we know it is damaging to us all to try to solve problems by silencing speakers rather than fostering and freshening ideas. You may possibly agree that this is so, but in any case , censors tend to disappear into irrelevance while ideas tend to remain if they are interesting ones – all the more if they are good ones , which is highly likely given that those who have them rely on the Holy Spirit for their spiritual and intellectual vigour.

 So I do ask you to join us in our decision not to be afraidof each other but to talk to each other with courtesy , remembering that when you silence good people that is a shame for you – but if we allow it to happen that is a shame for us.

 Looking back on more than sixty years as a Catholic priest in Ireland I think I know the value of those who choose their own silence, but also the emptiness of those who enforce silence on others. With great hopes for blessing for you and for a church which enlightens the world,

 Desmond Wilson, 6 Springhill Close, Belfast BT 12 7SE.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

For a year now, Austrian Catholics debate obedience

Krista Pongratz-Lippett
National Catholic Reporter
April 30, 2012

VIENNA, AUSTRIA -- Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is an old hand by now at dealing with Austrian church crises. Appointed archbishop of Vienna in 1995 (at the age of 50), after the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër had to step down after being accused of sexually abusing a minor, Schönborn has had to cope with constant demands for church reform ever since -- demands that have now become a perennial issue and frequently hit world headlines. And although he makes no secret of the fact that he is a conservative at heart and an adamant advocate of both mandatory priestly celibacy and of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, for example, he has often surprised Austrian Catholics and others by the courageous way he has tackled seemingly insolvable dilemmas. He has, moreover, never hesitated to criticize the Vatican when to his mind it was at fault or shared in the blame for crises in the Austrian church.

In his chrism Mass sermon on April 2, the Monday of Holy Week, he offered his own Jesus-solution on how priests can cope with three of the most problematic situations confronting them in their pastoral work today:

The large number of people, including many young, conservative Catholics, who cohabit without being married; The large number of divorced people who remarry; The increasing number of same-sex partnerships. “We priests usually give up when we are faced with complete incomprehension at what the church teaches about marriage and abstinence, proliferation and indissolubility. ... There is only one way, the way his disciples learned: get to know Jesus himself better, grow into his friendship,” Schönborn told his priests. Priests should learn to walk the tightrope between canon law and true mercy as Jesus practiced it by asking themselves what Jesus would have done in each problematic situation and then following in his footsteps, the cardinal said.

 The sermon attracted much attention, especially in Austria, where the demands for church reform by the now 400-strong Austrian Priests’ Initiative, founded in 2006, culminated in an “Appeal to Disobedience” in June last year. In Msgr. Helmut Schüller, the founder of the initiative, Schönborn has met his match. Schönborn’s former vicar general and before that the director of Caritas Austria, Schüller is a well-known charismatic priest and media personality in Austria. And what is more, several of the reforms the initiative calls for, such as giving Communion to remarried divorced Catholics and to Catholics who have been excommunicated for not paying compulsory church tax, are widely practiced despite the fact that they disobey church law.

......... “Disobeying certain valid and strict church rulings and laws has for years been part of our life and work as priests,” Schüller told the press. The priests were fully aware that the word “disobedience” was inflammatory but “we do not mean general disobedience for contradiction’s sake, but graduated obedience, which we first owe to God, then to our consciences and, in the final instance, to church law,” he explained. “We priests at the grass roots in the church have to lead double lives as we have to cope with the problems the official church line forbids and in the long run that is wearing us out.” The word “disobedience” was not a “battle cry” but an expression of “impatience and clear grievances,” Schüller underlined.

For almost a year now the debate on what exactly obedience implies for Catholics has not died down in Austria, with prominent commentators quoting Cardinal John Henry Newman’s toast, “I shall drink to the pope, if you please, still, to conscience first, and to the pope afterwards,” and pointing out that Blessed Franz Jägerstätter was one of the very few Austrian Catholics to disobey the Austrian bishops when they called on Catholics to vote for the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany and signed their declaration with “Heil Hitler.” The church has since rehabilitated and beatified Jägerstätter, commentators noted.

........... In an interview on Austrian state television’s “Palm Sunday Press Hour,” Schönborn explained how he had arrived at his solution to this latest dilemma. “In all moral questions we must always first consider the individual human being. Jesus always considered the individual human person first and not the law,” he said, adding that he had been impressed by Stangl’s “deep Christianity” and active commitment to the church. The problem of allowing remarried divorced Catholics to receive the Eucharist is much the same, Schönborn said, and appealed to priests always to consider each individual case.
Conservative Catholic Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione forcefully defended Schönborn’s decision to allow Stangl to remain on the parish council. In an April 6 article in Il Foglio, Buttiglione said the cardinal’s decision was “an intelligent pastoral view of the church’s position on homosexuals and homosexuality.”


The next day, Good Friday, Schönborn publicly called on the Priests’ Initiative to take back the word “disobedience.”
The Austrian Priests’ Initiative has, however, refused to take back the word “disobedience.” Obedience without examining one’s conscience is dangerous, Schüller told the Austrian daily Die Presse on Holy Saturday. He recalled that the Second Vatican Council had begun with an act of disobedience on the part of those bishops who had refused to sign the documents prepared by the Vatican. “We would like to answer the questions the pope has put to us in person,” he said, adding he was “pleasantly surprised” that the pope had spoken of the “slow pace of institutions” and had not threatened the initiative with sanctions.

The Austrian group is now forging links with like-minded priests around the world, especially in Ireland, Germany and the United States.


Events in Stützenhofen refueled the priestly celibacy discussion and further damaged the church’s credibility. They have also strengthened the cause of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative.

Is Austria, led by Schönborn, perhaps becoming a testing ground on how to cope with some of the chief dilemmas facing Catholic priests in their pastoral work today?

Read the full article at The National Catholic Reporter

Berkeley parishoners continue to call for change

Judith Scherr
March 26, 2012

Some 50 St. Joseph the Worker parishioners gathered Friday night, but they weren’t at the century-old sanctuary on Berkeley’s Addison Street. Instead, they met at old Finn Hall on Tenth Street, because, they say, they can no longer freely gather at the church many attended for decades – and that some no longer frequent.
The group, which some refer to as Salvemos (save us), met to spell out concerns with the St. Joseph leadership – and to strategize on how to reform the church they loved when radical priest Fr. Bill O’Donnell and progressive successors and colleagues were at the helm of the church community.
“We now find ourselves confronted by challenges that test our faith,” said parishioner Raul Ramirez, who moderated the meeting in Spanish and English.
“We have heartfelt concerns… in three key areas of our parish,” he said. “The lack of vision, the lack of communication, and failed leadership.”
Tensions within the church community date back to July 2009 with the arrival at the parish of Fr. John Direen. The appointment was made by Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, a conservative bishop who had been one of the driving forces behind Prop. 8, California’s anti-gay-marriage law.

Raul Ramirez moderated the meeting: "We have heartfelt concerns." Photo: Judith Scherr
Critics say Direen doesn’t consult with the church community, and controls the parish councils through his appointments to them, but the Diocese said in a statement published last year that Fr. Direen appointed people to the parish council only after terms ran out.
Further, participants at the Friday evening meeting criticized Fr. Direen for turning what had been community space into a gift shop. The community room had been of particular significance, serving as a meeting space for the larger Berkeley community and giving birth to a number of initiatives that has empowered the Latino and other minority communities, they said. It’s also where the church councils met and where the Social Justice Committee hammered out plans over the years that led to its leadership in opposing U.S. arms shipments to Central American dictatorships, the death penalty and war.
Church leadership, however, has said that conversion of this space was to bring much-needed revenue into the church.
Friday night’s meeting was a preamble to a Palm Sunday event, some declined to call a protest, where parishioners and former parishioners will wear their St. Joseph the Worker shirts and stand on the sidewalk in front of the church to call for change. They say they believe a large turnout will make the church hierarchy listen.
They held a similar demonstration that drew around 150 people to the sidewalk in front of the church last June; 10-20 people have been outside every Sunday since then, holding placards such as “We need a pastor who resolves conflicts, not one who causes them,” and “Our voice counts too.”

Parishioners' grievances were noted at Friday's meeting. Photo: Judith Scherr

First on the grievance list was the question of Fr. George Crespin, a retired St. Joseph priest Direen removed last year and who spoke at Friday’s gathering.
There were many demands for a more democratic-minded leadership. “We need to return to the old fashioned idea of consulting with the people of God,” one woman said.
Mary O’Donnell, Fr. Bill O’Donnell’s sister, drew applause when she called for direct action. “Let our voice be heard and put pressure on the Bishop,” she said. “Let’s bring our protest to the Bishop’s office.”
The evening closed with words and prayer from Fr. Crespin: “There’s a lot of pain in the community; there’s a lot of pain in this room,” he said. “What we’re fighting for is to live in a community of faith. It’s not a personal conflict between me and Father Direen. If we’re fighting for our faith, we have to act according to our faith. Faith is essential; love is essential.”
He called for reconciliation and forgiveness and, he said, “the gift of hope.”
Read entire article at Berkeleyside