Friday, August 31, 2012

Testimony about bishop 'misspoken' in priest sexual abuse

Judy Thomas and Mark Morris
Kansas City Star
August 31, 2012
In sworn testimony made public Thursday, an employee of Kansas City’s Roman Catholic diocese reported that Bishop Robert Finn said that “boys will be boys” when told of lewd images on a priest’s laptop.
But late Thursday night the employee backed away from that testimony.
John Gromowsky, an attorney representing Julie Creech, the computer systems manager for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said that she had “misspoken” in deposition testimony taken in a civil case and hoped to correct it.
In the Aug. 17 deposition, Creech said that Finn had said, “Sometimes boys will be boys,” when she raised concerns about how the diocese was handling the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, on whose laptop computer she had seen lewd photos of young girls.
“The statement Julie Creech attributed to Bishop Finn during her deposition that ‘boys will be boys’ is not consistent with her recollection of any conversations she had with the bishop concerning the Shawn Ratigan matter,” a statement released by Gromowsky said. “Following the deposition, Julie realized she had misspoken.”
The statement gave no explanation for why Creech’s testimony differed from her recollections.
Creech’s testimony was included in a court filing Thursday morning in a civil case against Ratigan, Finn and the diocese. The Star first reported the remarks on its website Thursday afternoon.
Creech’s written statement Thursday evening did not contest that she made the comment under oath. It said only that she was mistaken.
The Creech deposition comments came at a sensitive time for Finn and the diocese. Both will go to trial Sept. 24 on misdemeanor charges of failing to report to government authorities suspected child abuse related to Ratigan. The statement appeared to reveal a hitherto unknown meeting between Creech and Finn on the issue.

The full article can be read here.

Citizens press Saginaw bishop about abuse case

Bill Walsh
WNEM TV5 news
Aug. 30, 2012

A group of concerned citizens is pressing Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone about his role in covering up a case of sex abuse in Philadelphia. 
A Philadelphia attorney representing an altar boy who claims he was molested in 1992, plans to name Cistone in a civil lawsuit. It's alleged Cistone witnessed the destruction of documents naming priests suspected of child abuse, and then lied about it to a grand jury.  
Monsignor William Lynn, who was convicted in June of child endangerment in this same case, had reported to Cistone in church hierarchy, and claims Cistone witnessed the shredding of documents that described the alleged abuse.
Today representatives from two children's advocate groups presented a letter to the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw. The letter requests full transparency from Cistone on his role in the cover up, and they are asking if funds from the diocese are being used for the bishop's legal defense.
The Saginaw Catholic Diocese declined an interview, but did express their concern for all abuse victims, and promised that the bishop would receive the letter.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Boys will be boys, Bishop Finn purportedly said

Judy Thomas and Mark Morris
Kansas City Star
August 30, 2012

When confronted by the diocese’s computer director about her concerns over lewd images found on a priest’s laptop, Bishop Robert Finn replied that, “Sometimes priests do things they shouldn’t,” court papers filed Thursday alleged.
“Sometimes, boys will be boys,” the bishop is purported to have said, court records show.
Julie Creech, the director of management and information systems for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, described her meeting with the bishop during an Aug. 17 deposition in a Jackson County civil case. According to that lawsuit, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan abused a 9-year-old girl months after the diocese learned of the photos on his computer.
Finn and the diocese are scheduled for a criminal trial starting Sept. 24 on misdemeanor counts of failing to report Ratigan’s suspected abuse of children. Ratigan is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in federal court earlier this month to producing and attempting to produce child pornography.
State prosecutors have identified Creech as a witness in their case against Finn and the diocese. A prosecutor’s spokesman declined comment on the Creech deposition Thursday.

Read more here:
Full article at the Kansas City Star

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Cordileone case and the American elections

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
Aug. 29, 2012

It is still too early to tell whether the new archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone’s run in with the police last Friday night will have any consequences for his upcoming mission and what these may be. The archbishop was stopped near the San Diego campus and found to have a blood-alcohol level higher than the legal limit in California.

The prelate - a representative of the American Episcopal conference’s new conservative guard who was promoted to the position of Archbishop of San Francisco last 27 July after just three years as leader of the Diocese of Oakland and a standard-bearer in the battle against same-sex marriage – was apparently accompanying his 80 year old mother home after a meal at a friend’s house.

Cordileone apologised and said he felt “shame for the disgrace” he brought upon the church and himself, adding that he wanted to repay his “debt to society.” He is due to start his work in the new diocese on 4 October. Five days later, the archbishop who spent nine hours in a county prison cell and was released on bail, will be required to appear in court.

American public opinion is particularly sensitive to infractions committed by individuals with public roles. According to statements given by a police official who had stopped the newly elected archbishop of San Francisco (and another ten people who were caught drink driving), Cordileone was not drunk, he was polite to police officers, didn’t cause any problems and issued a statement admitting responsibility for his state.

But the incident comes at a delicate time, just as the prelate is about to begin his role in the new diocese. This, together with certain controversies in the media regarding his position on same-sex marriage show a carelessness which has given rise to whispers among American bishops about a potential resignation.
This speculation, which has been discarded by a number of commentators like David Gibson, who in an article in theWashington Post recalled that “in the past other bishops have been caught drunk driving but they only resigned if the incident involved another crime, like leaving the scene of an accident, or if it indicated a deeper problem like alcoholism.”

The Jesuit Thomas Reese tried to defend the archbishop and down play the incident, by recalling Cordileone’s ten years as bishop of Oakland and auxiliary bishop in San Diego, stressing that the prelate was not a crazy alcoholic. He concluded by saying that there is no real need for Cordileone to resign and suggested that the archbishop speak to his faithful. The incident could make him look more human in the eyes of others, he said.

The prelate gave a prompt apology and for now it seems efforts are being made to throw water on the fire. Nothing has been published about the incident on the homepages of the Dioceses of Oakland and San Francisco.
Although on some blogs and websites certain anonymous commentators have suggested this could be a conspiracy to set a trap for the archbishop in order to take revenge for certain stances he has taken, nothing particularly controversial has been said, despite the fact that the news has been widely reported on by media in the U.S.

The presidential election campaign could work in Cordileone’s favour: this would not be the right time to make an enemy of the Church given that it is in the interests of the two big American parties to court Catholics for their votes. This is proven by the “blessings” which the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been asked to give at the Republican and Democratic conventions.
The drink driving incident should also raise questions as to the way in which certain ecclesiastical figures and nominations are presented to the public, emphasising the existence of a proven doctrinal orthodoxy and a break with the past. There is sometimes the risk of presenting new bishops as “floggers” whose job it is to “straighten out” dioceses: the greater the insistence on this interpretation, the harsher the reaction of certain groups and in some cases sections of public opinion will be when a bishop commits an offence.

original article here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Women cardinals could help ease vocations crisis

Sarah Mac Donald
Catholic Ireland News
August 25, 2012

If the church is serious about addressing its, “catastrophic,” shortage of clergy, it should appoint loyal Catholic women as Cardinals, a spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests has said. 

In his new book, Where Do We Go From Here: The Crisis in Irish Catholicism, Fr Brendan Hoban argues that women such as Sr Stan Kennedy, founder of the homeless agency Focus Ireland, or Dame Nuala O’Loan, or former Irish president, Mary McAleese, would be ideal to hold such an office in the Church.

“If the Church wants to be creative and prophetic and give a message of solidarity to women around the world it needs to do something dramatic to show women that they are at the heart of the Church,” he said.

Speaking to ciNews, Fr Hoban said he believes a development such as women Cardinals would help those women hanging on to their faith by their fingertips and it would also stem some of the, “ferocious criticism,” levelled at the Church over its refusal to ordain women as priests.

According to Fr Hoban, there is no reason why women should not be made Cardinals and participate in a consistory.  He also believes women could bring huge experience to the Church and some could run Vatican departments, freeing up prelates for pastoral work.

So far the reaction to his suggestion has been, “one of surprise as most people think you have to be a bishop or archbishop in order to be appointed as a Cardinal,” he said.

Fr Hoban has warned that the Irish Church is facing, “a Eucharistic famine,” unless it realistically addresses the shortage of priests that is starting to make itself felt and will be particularly noticeable over the next ten to fifteen years.  If current trends continue, the diocese of Killala, where he serves, will have just eight priests in 2032, all of whom will be in their 60s or 70s.


Read entire article at Catholic Ireland News

Liverpool commissions lay men and women to lead funerals

The Tablet (UK)

24 August 2012

Lay people will start to conduct funeral services in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, The Tablet can reveal. 
Twenty-two Lay Funeral Ministers, men and women, have been commissioned to lead funeral services where there is no Requiem Mass and no priest available.
The move, which comes into effect in the autumn, is due to the declining number of priests and the large number of funerals that take place in parts of the archdiocese.
A leaflet issued by the archdiocese, "Planning a Catholic Funeral", explains that a lay funeral minister can lead the prayer vigil service before a funeral, a funeral service, and the committal, the prayers at the graveside. Lay ministers will only lead a funeral service if there is no priest available.
A spokesman for the archdiocese said the lay ministers were "specifically trained to lead funeral services with an appropriate liturgy of the word, readings and prayers."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Catholics should be wary of supporting the Russian Orthodox Church against Pussy Riot

The UK's Catholic Herald ran an article suggesting caution in supporting the Russian Orthodox Church's outrage at the Pussy Riot punk group demonstrators recently sentenced to prison. You can read the entire article Catholic Herald.  But I was especially struck by the final few paragraphs which could be read as a warning  to the American church about the apparent growing identification of many of our bishops with the Republican party.

Fr. Alexander Lucie Smith
Catholic Herald (UK)
Aug. 20, 2012
I disapprove of political demonstrations in churches, but, and it is a huge but – when the Church itself turns political, party political, then it opens itself up to precisely this sort of behaviour. The Russian Orthodox Church has compromised its integrity by allying itself with Mr Putin’s regime – an alliance which results, incidentally, in state-sponsored persecution of Catholics in Russia.  Pussy Riot were not wrong to protest at the way the Church has behaved. Remember, their demonstration was not aimed at Putin, per se, it was aimed at the Church. And the Church responded to the Pussy Rioters by invoking the power of the state against them
It cannot be the job of a Catholic such as myself to tell the Orthodox Church what to do. But let us remember, that when the Church is married to the spirit of the age, she will be a widow in the next. What will come after Putin? And what will the Patriarch do then?

Dolan's GOP prayer causes stir

Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
Aug. 23, 2012

Word broke Thursday that New York archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan has accepted an offer to lead the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention, in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 27-30.
Dolan will lead the benediction on the convention's final night, just after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney officially accepts his party's nomination.
The news has stirred debate as to whether Dolan's appearance would be seen as supporting Romney and his running mate Wis. Rep. Paul Ryan, who has a long-standing friendship with the cardinal.
New York archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said it was made clear to GOP convention organizers "that the Cardinal was coming only to pray not to endorse, and that he would be willing to accept a similar offer from the Democratic Party as well."
Zwilling acknowledged that the usual church protocol is for convention organizers to invite the local bishop to offer such a prayer, but the GOP chose instead to invite Dolan, who accepted only after contacting Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lawyers for Kansas City bishop want some evidence kept out of trial

The Kansas City Star

Evidence that led to a Catholic priest’s child pornography conviction should not be allowed in the trial of the diocese and the bishop who supervised him, defense attorneys argue in a pre-trial motion.
Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are scheduled for a trial starting Sept. 24 in Jackson County on misdemeanor charges of failing to report suspected child abuse by the Rev. Shawn Ratigan.
In their pre-trial motion, attorneys for Finn and the diocese ask a judge to exclude eight pieces of evidence they believe prosecutors intend to introduce at trial, including the contents of Ratigan’s computer hard drive that were turned over to the diocese in December 2010 and to police in May 2011.
The defense maintains that neither Finn nor another high diocesan official saw or reviewed the hard drive’s contents.
They also seek the exclusion of images found in Ratigan’s possession about the time of his arrest. Again, they maintain that those items were never seen by the bishop or other diocesan officials.
Even if a judge rules that the material is admissible, the defense says its evidentiary value is outweighed by the prejudicial effect it would have on the defendants.
Federal prosecutors used the material in question to charge Ratigan with multiple counts of producing child pornography. He recently pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Attorneys for the bishop and the diocese also want excluded from trial a memo from the diocese’s head of information technology that outlined what she found on Ratigan’s computer after the diocese received it.
Finn never was shown that memo, according to the defense motion.
“Further, even if the evidence establishes that other diocesan employees described images discovered on the Ratigan computer to Bishop Finn, there is still no evidence to indicate that Bishop Finn read the memo or saw the images,” the motion states.
And in the case of the diocese, the evidence would be relevant only if it could be shown that the diocesan official in charge of investigating complaints against priests had “actual knowledge” of the memo “during the scope and course of his employment.”
The motion also seeks to exclude another memo, written in May 2010 by the school principal at the Northland parish where Ratigan was pastor, that raised concerns about Ratigan’s behavior toward children. The memo predates the alleged criminal conduct for which the bishop and diocese are being tried, and Finn never saw or read the memo, the defense says.
The motion also asks that the prosecution not be allowed to present evidence it has sought regarding “previous knowledge of concerns regarding Father Ratigan and children” unless it specifically identifies those concerns and can show the high diocesan officials knew of them.
The defense also believes the judge should disallow evidence related to other priests and testimony about a 2008 civil lawsuit settlement between the diocese and several plaintiffs who alleged sexual abuse by priests.
A spokesman for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said prosecutors will respond in writing to the motion, probably later this week.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The archbishop of Dublin challenges the church

Bob Simon
60 minutes CBS news
August 19, 2012

(CBS News) An Irishman named Diarmuid Martin says the Catholic Church in Ireland has reached a breaking point, a crisis that he says results from the sexual abuse of children by priests and the cover-up by the Church. Martin has provided tens of thousands of pages of evidence against specific priests, and his words and actions carry extraordinary weight. That's because Diarmuid Martin is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin.

The following script is from "The Archbishop of Dublin" which aired on March 4, 2012 and was rebroadcast on August 19, 2012. Bob Simon is the correspondent. Tom Anderson, producer.

The head of the Catholic Church may be in Rome, but its heart has always been in Ireland. From the early fifth century, when Saint Patrick was named a bishop and started converting the Irish, Catholicism has been more than a religion. It's been a culture and a way of life.

But in recent years, the faith of the Irish has been sorely tested, not their faith in God necessarily, but their faith in the Church after several damning investigations provided appalling detail on the sexual abuse of children by priests.

For decades, the outrage was covered up and the priests were largely protected. An Irishman named Diarmuid Martin would not disagree with any of this. As we first reported earlier this year, he has dared to publicly criticize the Church and his words carry a lot of clout because Diarmuid Martin is the archbishop of Dublin.

Bob Simon: You have said that the Church in Ireland has reached its breaking point.

Archbishop Martin: It has. It has reached a breaking point. It's at a very difficult stage.

Simon: To what extent, archbishop, do you think this crisis in the church is due to the sexual scandals?

Martin: Oh, enormously.

There's overwhelming evidence that the Church hierarchy was not only aware of the sexual abuse, but did little about it. The Dublin Archdiocese knew who the predator priests were, even wrote reports about them but then locked up the files. Investigators on a state panel, the Murphy Commission, asked for the files, but the Church refused until Diarmuid Martin became archbishop.

Martin: I provided the Murphy Commission investigation into Dublin Diocese over 65,000 documents. And the material was there. It was in my archives.

The documents revealed that one priest admitted abusing over a hundred children. Another said he abused children twice a month for 25 years. Archbishop Martin believes thousands of children suffered similar fates.

Martin: Abuse isn't-- it isn't-- it isn't just the, you know, the actual sexual acts, which are horrendous, but sexual abuse of a child is-- it's a total abuse of power. It's actually saying to a child, "I control you." And that is saying to the child, "You're worthless."


Read the transcript and view the segment at CBS news

Cardinal Dolan's challenge

Vatican Insider
August 19, 2012

The pulpit works well, as do meetings with journalists, but if Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, wants to reach the greatest number of people, he usually communicates through the web. This time, however, he was forced to do so by the avalanche of criticism following his invitation to both candidates for the White House to a charity dinner on 18 October - an invitation that conservative Catholics were not pleased with.

Building on the recent meeting with the Knights of Columbus (headed by Carl Anderson, the American who helped oust Gotti Tedeschi), and their indomitable will "not be timid in bringing the values ​​of faith to the public square,” Dolan spoke of the duty of Catholics and the loyalty of citizens. He explained the history of the famous dinner in honour of Al Smith, and expressed gratitude to President Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney for accepting his invitation. He received an unprecedented amount of mail against his choice ("some" also protested against Romney), but "an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church.” On the contrary, it represents a bit of a calling card for our country and our Church: to bring people of faith together at the same table, in a spirit of friendship and patriotism, the spirit of those who established the dinner 67 years ago, that is, the spirit of Vatican II: an opening of the Church toward the culture, society, and politics, with a desire for dialogue. “It is more productive,” Dolan writes, “to open a door rather than shut one."

“Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States. And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences. […] An invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defence of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom.”

To all who have accused him of creating a scandal, his response is: "I apologize.” But, he adds: "Would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?" He concludes: "In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners." Not missing a chance to make a joke, he also said: "If I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone."

Many people wonder why, given the reference to current Obama administration policy, the Cardinal did not mention the recent intervention of the bishops against poverty, which could become dramatic in the event of a Republican victory (final dismantling of the already precarious and insufficient American welfare state and the abolition of the entire U.S. healthcare reform law that extends health coverage). This theme was also raised by the religious sisters of the LCWR, who organized a bus tour across America to raise awareness, and the Franciscans with a very critical document.

But there are also those like law professor Nicholas Cafardi, who asked in the National Catholic Reporter: which of the two candidates is really pro-life? "Certainly none of them is pro-abortion, because the law that legalizes it does not impose it on anyone. Of course Obama is pro-choice, for the free choice of each person according to their conscience. But in fact, the Romney-Ryan pairing that would cut the welfare state will increase the number of abortions in America, especially among poor families. And Romney also profited from abortion, having invested in Stericycle, the industry that sells aborted foetuses mostly for cosmetic purposes. He also received funding of dubious origin from El Salvador, and it is assumed they are from the right-wing groups associated with the death squads that murdered Archbishop Romero. And that would be pro-life?” concludes Cafardi.

An unholy mess

Heidi Schlumpf
National Catholic Reporter
August 17, 2012

That's what an in-depth, investigative piece in the Economist [3]called the state of finances in the Catholic Church in America: an unholy mess.
It's hard to decide what is most horrifying in this report [4] of financial mismanagement, which looks at data made public through bankruptcy proceedings in several dioceses:
  • Some dioceses have raided priests' pension funds to pay for sexual abuse damages and other costs. Under Cardinal Bernard Law, the archdiocese of Boston contributed nothing to its clergy retirement fund between 1986 and 2002, despite receiving an estimated $70 million to $90 million in Easter and Christmas offerings that many parishioners believed would benefit retired priests.
  • The same is true for parish savings. A parish in Wilmington, Del., sent $1 million to be deposited in what it thought was a separate account, but was really a pooled, general cash account for the diocese. The parish lost the money when the diocese struck a sexual-abuse settlement.
  • Cardinal Dolan and other New York bishops are spending an estimated $100,000 a year to well over $1 million, sources say, on lobbying the state assembly to prevent an extension of the statute of limitations on sexual abuse, which would result in more lawsuits and more dioceses declaring bankruptcy.
  • Creditors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case have questioned the motives behind a $35 million transfer to a trust and a $55.6 million transfer from archdiocese coffers to a fund for cemeteries, alleging the movement of such large amounts was a fraudulent attempt to shield cash from sexual-abuse victims.
  • Dioceses in bankruptcy are required to enlarge their assets to satisfy their creditors, yet some have tried to shrink the size of their assets, by closing parishes or undervaluing property. The Diocese of San Diego listed the value of a whole city block in downtown San Diego at $40,000, the price at which it had been acquired in the 1940s, rather than the the current market value, as required.
  • The church is going into debt to pay its bills, with tax-free municipal bonds, a subsidy more commonly associated with local governments and public-sector projects. State and local authorities have issued municipal bonds for the benefit of at least 50 dioceses in almost 30 states. In California, at least $12 billion has been raised through municipal bonds over the past decade, $9 billion of which went to hospitals.
  • Estimated spending by the church and entities owned by the church was around $170 billion in 2010, only 6% of that for parish and diocesan operations and 2.7% of it for charitable activities. The majority, 57%, is on health care networks, followed by 28% on colleges.
  • Catholic Charities USA and its subsidiaries employ distributed $4.7 billion to the poor in 2010, of which 62% came from local, state and federal government agencies.
Similar financial mismanagement was reported in "Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church [5]" by Jason Berry, who was quoted in the Economist article. It's why more and more Catholics are considering whether this is an institution worthy of their donations.

Friday, August 17, 2012

US bishops quiety adopt protocols for theological investigations

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
August 17, 2012

The membership of the Catholic Theological Society of America votes overwhelmingly to approve a resolution recommending the U.S. bishops establish a committee to evaluate its procedures for investigating theologians during a meeting at its 2011 convention in San Jose, Calif. (NCR photo/Tom Fox)

The U.S. bishops’ committee tasked with enforcing church doctrine quietly adopted new procedures for investigating theologians a year ago, apparently unbeknownst to the theologians whose teachings and writings would be subject to the protocols.

The procedures seem to indicate that the committee is eschewing dialogue with theologians when concerns over their adherence to church doctrine are reported, instead preferring a private in-house review process.

The procedures, which are dated Aug. 19, 2011, would have been formulated and approved at a time when the bishops and their committee were being questioned about their treatment of St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a distinguished theologian whose work they sharply criticized in March 2011.

In various statements last year following the Johnson critique, the two primary U.S. theological membership societies faulted the bishops for not following a set of procedures promulgated in 1989 for dealing with doctrinal questions.

Those procedures were the result of deliberations between a group of bishops and theologians over a period of years, and were approved by the full body of U.S. bishops and endorsed by the Vatican.

The existence of new procedures came to light this summer in two academic journal articles by noted canon lawyer Fr. James Coriden. In the latest issue of the theological journal Concilium [2], Coriden writes that he had received a copy of the protocols from the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee, but their existence came as a surprise to several prominent theologians NCR called for comment.

The protocols state that while theologians being investigated by the committee “may be invited to respond to the Committee’s observations in writing,” the committee “reserves the right” to publish criticism without consultation “if it judges that intervention is needed for the pastoral guidance of the Catholic faithful.”

Terrence Tilley, head of the theology department at Fordham University, said he was unaware of the new procedures. After reviewing a copy provided by NCR, Tilley said he wondered why they do not make reference to protections found in canon law for those under investigation to defend themselves in a “competent ecclesiastical forum.”

Canon 221, specifically, “is not being observed,” Tilley said.

“I would hope that that is incorrect, but the omission of that canon from the canons cited gives one concern,” he continued. “The process on the whole permits the committee to take appropriate actions, but the process does not permit theologians whose works are examined to respond in a timely manner in a way that canon 221 seems to require.”

read entire article at National Catholic Reporter

Who will claim the Catholic vote?

Timothy Stanley
Aug. 17, 2012

(CNN) -- This year has provided something of a bumper crop of Catholic candidates. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in the general election. Given the endless cycle of sin and guilt that we have to live with, sometimes it feels like it's easier for a Catholic to get elected president than it is to get into heaven.

But political strength doesn't necessarily mean political unity. Today's Catholic vote is divided by intensity of faith. According to Gallup, the "very religious" lean toward Romney and the "nonreligious" prefer Obama, by significant margins. This reflects an internal story of conflict between liberal and conservative perspectives on what it means to be a Catholic. Biden and Ryan stand on either side of that debate, and their selections as running mates signal vastly different approaches to winning the Catholic vote.

Joe Biden is part of the Vatican II generation of Catholics, reared on the lofty ambitions of the 1960s. After the Vatican II council, the church reformed its liturgy to encourage greater participation of the laity and make the Mass more accessible. For many Catholics, evangelization and catechism became less important than charity and social activism. Some, like Biden, have even accepted homosexuality and abortion as part of society's slow evolution toward justice for all.

"The animating principle of my faith," he said in 2008, "as taught to me by church and home, was that the cardinal sin was abuse of power." This commitment to egalitarian democracy could even make him a critic of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Although he carries his rosary everywhere and attends Mass on Sunday, Biden struggles with the concept of obedience. "There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church," he told an interviewer. "I think the church is bigger than that."

On the campaign trail, Biden's Catholicism expresses itself in public attendance at ethnic Catholic events like the St Patrick's Day parade in Pittsburgh. But he also recently took time out to eat ice cream with the nuns of Dubuque. Some interpreted this as a private "thank you" for the support many sisters have shown for Obamacare, contradicting the public position of their bishops. It's also notable that Biden's Catholicism was invoked by many commentators after his embrace of same-sex marriage, as if he spoke for a generation of Catholics who have come to terms with social change. When it comes to the culture war, Biden enjoys a certain amount of soft power.

By contrast, Paul Ryan's engagement with the Catholic power is all hard power. His rhetoric is steeped in conservative historicism and theology. He explained his legislative philosophy to Townhall Magazine this way, "As a congressman and Catholic layman, I really feel that Catholic social truths are in accord with the 'self-evident truths' our Founders bequeathed to us at our nation's founding: independence, limited government and the dignity and freedom of every human person." Ergo, his budget proposals aren't just good bookkeeping, he says. They are both American and Christian.

When Paul Ryan was growing up, the charismatic, anti-communist John Paul II was Pope. His traditionalist ethos has been continued and expanded under Benedict XVI, who has talked seriously of the church becoming smaller but purer. In this context, Republicanism and Catholicism find synergy -- and Ryan is its embodiment. He has a large family, boasts a 100% percent prolife voting record, and supported the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Ryan also is happy to lend his Catholic moral theology credentials to his new boss, who sometimes struggles to strike a chord with religious voters.

During his Norfolk speech accepting Mitt Romney's nod, Ryan got big applause for his promise to help "save the American dream." But he got much bigger applause for this statement: "Our rights come from nature and God, not government." It's a neat appropriation of the Catholic belief that dignity is a gift from God, for the sake of rallying conservatives of all backgrounds. For those who like their state small, it suggests contempt for the civil rights-guaranteeing federal leviathan. For those who want it just large enough to outlaw same-sex marriage and abortion, it promises a Christian approach to governance.

Whereas Biden meets privately with nuns and emphasizes a private faithfulness, Ryan puts his Catholicism right out in the open -- and he attracts some evangelical support for doing it.


Read full article at CNN

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Whatever the butler's role, Vatican has questions to answer

Catherine Pepinster
The Guardian (UK)
August 15, 2012

It has all the makings of a Hollywood adaptation of a Dan Brown novel. Secrets of the Vatican exposed, documents stolen from the pope's desk, rows and rivalries between cardinals, vast sums of money, the involvement of the cultish organisation Opus Dei. And then the so-called Vatileaks scandal, which has had Rome agog for months, went a bit Da Vinci Code meets Cluedo: the butler allegedly did it.

Paolo Gabriele, who has worked for Pope Benedict XVI as one of his most personal aides for six years, has now been charged and sent to trial by a Vatican judge for leaking papal documents, including papers containing allegations of corruption and other financial problems.

The Vatileaks scandal has been a deeply embarrassing saga for the most senior echelons of the Catholic church, and it is surprising that it has attracted so little attention in Britain. The plight of 46-year-old Gabriele himself, for instance, has shocked Catholic observers. After his arrest he was incarcerated for 50 days, initially in solitary confinement in a cell deep inside the Vatican; then under house arrest in his apartment within the Vatican City State. Despite the Catholic church still using Latin as an official language, it didn't appear to understand habeas corpus. Yet human rights experts barely reacted to what was happening: when my publication, the Tablet, contacted Amnesty International about the butler's situation, it had nothing to say.

Only the LSE's Prof Conor Gearty, writing in the Tablet, pointed out the scandal of it, particularly given how vocal Rome usually is about human rights. But Vatileaks is a much more disturbing episode than just the treatment of one individual. First a television programme, then leaks in the press and eventually a book by the investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuuzi exposed thwarted efforts to deal with corruption within the Vatican City State, which the Catholic church runs.

Letters taken from Pope Benedict's desk are filled with complaints made to him by senior clerics about the hopeless bureaucracy of the church, comments that it is out of touch, and the frustrations of those working in the corridors of power. There were also revelations of infighting among Vatican officials, including those involved in the so-called Vatican Bank, otherwise known as the Institute for the Works of Religion. One series of papers revealed that the bank had found loopholes to exonerate it from full compliance with newly adopted international money laundering regulations. A bitter feud was exposed between those who want the Vatican admitted to the OECD's list of financially virtuous states and those who consider that this would compromise its Institute for the Works of Religion.

Also adding spice to the mix has been the role of Opus Dei. Greg Burke, a member of the secretive Catholic organisation, has moved from Fox News's Rome bureau to help the Vatican with PR, and Pope Benedict has appointed Cardinal Julian Herranz, the former right-hand man of Opus Dei's late founder, to run the investigation into the leaks. And then there has been evidence of deep jealousies within the Vatican court, particularly of the pope's closest aide, his trusted secretary Monsignor Georg Ganswein, and his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. That has caused many people to be sceptical that the butler acted alone, and to suggest that enemies of Ganswein and Bertone, as well as those who believe there is something rotten in the state of the Vatican City, were involved. Nuzzi himself says his source represents a group of people "fed up with crooks and power games".

What Catholics need to see now is not only a group of clerics and the Vatican police, or gendarmerie, investigating the butler, but an investigation into the truth of the allegations in the leaked documents. The Catholic church's reputation is on the line, as it was over child abuse and evidence of cover-ups over that scandal.

The extraordinary work it does across the world with the poor, with migrants, in education and in running hospitals is in danger of being ignored if it remains so reluctant to admit scrutiny of its internal workings. The world, though, will nevertheless turn its focus to the petty intrigues of a medieval court. And that factional wrangling risks undermining the papacy itself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New gung-ho archbishops known for agressive style

John L. Allen,Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
Aug. 13, 2012

Marine Capt. Lloyd W. Williams famously demurred when advised to pull back during a skirmish with numerically superior German forces in June 1918, at the peak of the First World War. His immortal reply, which became the motto of the Marines' Second Battalion, was: "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!"

If he were around today, the feisty Williams might well appreciate the way the Catholic church seems to be picking its bishops.

In the teeth of a perceived war on religion in America, the church is sending clear signals that it has no intention of backing down. Over the last six months, three of the country's most important dioceses have been entrusted to prelates known for aggressively defending church positions on hot-button issues such as gay marriage and abortion, with the July 27 nomination of Salvatore Cordileone as the new archbishop of San Francisco as the latest example.

Archbishop William E. Lori (CNS/Catholic Review/Tom McCarthy Jr.) Cordileone joins fellow Archbishops William Lori of Baltimore, appointed in March, and Samuel Aquila of Denver, named in May, as the most recent picks to head one of America's 33 archdioceses. A San Diego native, Cordileone will be installed Oct. 4.

An archbishop typically sets the tone for the church in his region, and all three of these new leaders have a reputation as anything but bashful.

As head of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, Lori has been the field general for the U.S. bishops in their struggle with the Obama administration over contraception mandates. While serving as the bishop of Fargo, N.D., Aquila penned a strong critique of the Obama administration's health care reform, and he was also outspokenly opposed to Obama receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of Notre Dame in 2009.

For his part, Cordileone is known as a proponent of California's Proposition 8, banning gay marriage. In an Aug. 4 opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, Brian Cahill, a former executive director for Catholic Charities in the San Francisco archdiocese, described Cordileone as "the major Catholic cheerleader" for the initiative.

Though the appointments likely augur a strong voice for the bishops heading into the 2012 elections, their impact should have a much longer shelf life. Both Lori and Aquila are just 61, and Cordileone is even younger, at 56. Since bishops don't traditionally step down until 75, all three seem destined to play leadership roles for at least the next decade and a half.

As things stand, none of the newly minted archbishops seem poised to join the church's most exclusive club, the College of Cardinals, at least in their present posts. Neither Denver nor San Francisco is traditionally a "red hat" diocese, and many observers believe that day may have passed for Baltimore as well.

Yet even without the prestige of being a cardinal, these prelates wield influence, including major roles within the national bishops' conference. While Lori heads the body on religious liberty, Cordileone chairs the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. Cordileone also has good Roman connections, having served from 1995 to 2002 as an official of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court.

Cordileone probably also represents the most notable departure from the status quo.

Read entire article at National Catholic Reporter

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cardinal Burke: "If it can't be reformed, then it doesn't have a right to exist

Patrick B. Craine
 LifeSite New
s Aug. 10, 2012

 WASHINGTON, D.C., August 10, 2012 ( – A senior Vatican prelate has fired a fresh salvo in the Vatican’s effort to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, with a warning that the rogue organization could be shut down if they fail to implement the reforms demanded by the Vatican.

 “If it can’t be reformed, then it doesn’t have a right to continue,” Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo in a Thursday interview for The World Over.

 “How in the world can these consecrated religious who have professed to follow Christ more closely … be opposed to what the Vicar of Christ is asking? This is a contradiction,” he said.

The full article is at LifeSite news

Friday, August 10, 2012

LCWR will continue dialogue, but not compromise mission

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Aug. 10, 2012

The organization which represents the majority of U.S. Catholic sisters said Friday afternoon it would continue discussions with church officials regarding a Vatican-ordered takeover, but “will reconsider” if it “is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.”

The statement by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents some 80 percent of U.S. sisters, came at the end of the group’s annual assembly, held this week in St. Louis.

The sisters were responding to an April 18 mandate by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that ordered the group to revise and place itself under the authority of three U.S. bishops.

Reading aloud from a prepared statement, which came after approval from the 900 sisters gathered at the assembly, LCWR’s president, Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell, said LCWR membership wanted to use the occasion of the Vatican order “to explain to church leaders LCWR’s mission, values and operating principles.”

As part of the Vatican’s mandate, LCWR has been ordered to place itself under the authority of an “archbishop delegate,” Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Sartain.

LCWR national board is expected to meet with Sartain in St. Louis Sunday for about two hours. The focus of that meeting “will be on beginning to process with him and see how that unfolds,” Farrell said at a press conference.

The LCWR expect “open and honest dialogue” with Sartain that “may lead not only to increasing understanding between the church leadership and women religious, but also to creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the church,” the statement said.

“Religious life, as it is lived by the women religious who comprise LCWR, is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised,” it said.


At the last executive session, held Friday afternoon, “99.9 percent” of the members present stood and clapped in approval when a final draft of the release was read aloud, said Sr. Nancy Corcoran, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondolet of St. Louis who represents her order as an LCWR member.


LCWR members, the statement reads, recognize that many lay people had urged the group to help “reconcile the differences that exist within the Catholic church” and create “spaces for honest and open conversation on the critical moral and ethical questions that face the global community.”

LCWR’s members also urged their officers “not to allow the work with CDF to absorb the time, energy and resources of the conference nor to let it distract the conference from the work its mission requires,” reads the statement.


Asked what she hopes to receive in dialogue with Sartain, Farrell said LCWR wants “to be recognized and be understood as equal in the church.”

“And really we do want to come to the point of having an environment … for the entire Catholic church to search for truth together, to talk about issues that are very complicated. And there is not the environment right now.”


Farrell said during questioning from the press that “dialogue on doctrine is not going to be our starting point.”

“Our starting point will be about our own life and about our understanding of religious life,” Farrell continued. “And the documents, in our view, misrepresent that.”


entire article at National Catholic Reporter

LCWR sisters discuss complexity of dialogue

Jennifer Brinker

St. Louis Review

Aug. 9, 2012

When two entities are in conflict, engaging in a dialogue about it means more than just a presentation of both parties’ sides.
True dialogue begins with recognizing that we are first human and even owning up to mistakes of the past in order to move forward. Conflict is then best resolved in the context of forming relationships with one another, said Sister Donna Markham, an Adrian Dominican from Cincinnati, Ohio, who spoke to members of the press at the annual Leadership Conference of Women Religious assembly Aug. 9.
Sister Donna and two other women religious spoke at the press conference to explain the importance of dialogue as the sisters consider the recent Vatican assessment that calls for a reform of the LCWR.
In April, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced a major reform of the LCWR. The announcement was made at the end of a four-year doctrinal assessment and included an eight-page report [1], detailing the need to remedy significant doctrinal problems associated with the group’s activities and programs. The Vatican said the reform also was warranted to ensure LCWR’s fidelity to Church teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.
The word dialogue itself has proven to be tricky to understand by many, especially in light of all the media attention surrounding the conflict between the Vatican and the LCWR, which has 1,500 leaders of religious communities as members. They represent about 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States.
Just a few weeks before the opening of the sisters' assembly, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo appeared on National Public Radio, during which he said there is no "middle ground" when it comes to faith and morals, referring to some of the serious errors with the LCWR's activities. Bishop Blair conducted the Vatican-ordered doctrinal assessment.
"If by dialogue they mean that the doctrines of the Church are negotiable and the bishops represent one position and the LCWR presents another position, and somehow we find a middle ground about basic Church teaching on faith and morals, then no," he said. "I don't think that is the kind of dialogue that the Holy See would envision.
"But if it's a dialogue about how to have the LCWR really educate and help the sisters to appreciate and accept Church teaching and to implement it in their discussions and try to hear some of the questions or concerns they have about these issues, then that would be the dialogue," he added.
After just one day of discerning the Vatican assessment as an assembly, it was clear that emotions were becoming visibly raw. A number of sisters, on this full second day of the meeting, could be seen at times with tears in their eyes and solemn faces. At the press conference, Sister Mary Waskowiak, a Sister of Mercy of the Americas, became tearful when she reflected before the press on what it means to surrender one's self. She said she considered that after watching the movie " Of Gods and Men," in which a group of Trappist monks in Algeria experience an internal conflict during the civil war there.
"It's deeper and bigger than the mandate," said the former LCWR president and director of development and fundraising for the Mercy International Association in Burlingame, Calif. "What am I willing to die for? What will this cost?"
"The mandate is the mandate, but how are we going to get through this together?" asked Sister Donna. She said the Church cannot risk splitting any further than it already has. But there has to be respect the integrity of both groups, she said. And "we can't change what's already been written."
"Neither one of us is being self-righteous in this," said Sister Donna, who was later seen teary-eyed after the press conference. "There are men and women of good will" who want a positive result.
The sisters continue their discernment this evening in closed-door sessions. 
Original article at St. Louis Review

Thursday, August 9, 2012

US: Rebel nuns gather to respond to the Vatican

Vatican Insider
Aug. 9, 2012

The American nuns have so far kept a low profile. Yesterday their yearly assembly began. In the opening address to her 900 fellow sisters, the Franciscan sister Pat Farrell made an allusion to the strong disagreement with the Vatican by saying: "This is a very historic moment for the life of this organization, like no other we have ever had". But then silence dropped over St. Louis where the yearly assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (Lcwr), which represents 60 thousand American nuns, is taking place. Closed meetings are being held to discuss the Vatican's request to change the status and the criticism to the sisters' opinions that are deemed too open.

At the end of the assembly, on Saturday, the leadership of the LCWR will gather for the whole of Sunday and they have scheduled the first meeting with the archbishop of Seattle Peter Sartain, who has been given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the responsibility of negotiating an agreement with the nuns.

Each of these private meetings behind closed doors will follow a strict routine, explained sister Farrell in her opening address. They will start with songs and prayers, to aid the attainment of a meditative state before exchanging any opinion as the situation is delicate.

Before the opening, sister Joan Chittister, renowned Benedictine theologian, who was president of the LCWR in the 80s, expressed confrontational opinions. She recalled that back when she was president the Holy See showed itself to be very closed off towards the more open views of the American sisters who saw peace, human rights and social action as privileged pathways to leave the safety of convents and meet people of all races, cultures and religions.

The disagreement with the Holy See, which is now being discussed, was made official by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a document released in April which stigmatized "certain radical feminist themes”(found in many initiatives of the LCWR) “incompatible with the Catholic faith". This led to instructing Mgr. Sartain to meet the nuns and check which is the most appropriate of the two current options: modify their views or, if that was not possible, change their statue. Whatever the outcome, this is a time of transition for the nuns, a delicate and important time. Since April, the initiatives to show support to the LCWR have multiplied and they culminated in a demonstration of a group of nuns and lay women in front of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington where they were met by the Nuncio, archbishop Viganò, to whom they talked about their motivations. Now, however, the assembly of the LCWR has come to a decisive point, they need to find an answer to the clear position of the Holy See.

Tomorrow there will be a handover of responsibilities. The LCWR is lead by a “troika” (trio) that operates in a specific way, the current president will end her term and hand over the presidency to sister Florence Deacon who from elected president will become effective president, but sister Farrell will remain within the governing body to ensure continuity. The assembly will also elect the next president who will join and thus “complete” the management board which will remain in charge up until the next gathering in August 2013.

Report offers hope for real world thinking at Kansas City diocese

Mary Sanchez Kansas City Star
 Aug. 9, 2012

 Today, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese takes another step toward transparency and common sense. The first report by the Catholic diocese’s new ombudsman will be released. Jenifer Valenti’s two-page report will outline allegations of sexual misconduct or suspicious behavior she has received in her first year, her assessments and the status of each case. Less encouraging are filings in some of the legal proceedings against the diocese and Bishop Robert Finn. There, officials appear to be clinging to the excuse-making that helped create this horrible situation — the Rev. Shawn Ratigan guilty of child pornography charges and the diocese and Finn facing further legal troubles. Understandably, the bishop’s legal team will use any viable argument to defend Finn in the civil suits and on the criminal misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspicions of child abuse. No one is accusing Finn of abusing children. Yet holding the hierarchy accountable at some level is necessary to changing the institutional culture of the church. Only then can Valenti and the diocese do a better job of working together to protect children. Yet in motions to dismiss a civil suit, the diocese argues that the photographs Ratigan possessed are not “child pornography” or “obscenity.” That’s a shallow contention now that Ratigan has pleaded guilty to using five girls to produce or attempt to produce child pornography. Finn’s attorneys also point out “there is a sharp distinction between inappropriate or even disturbing photographs and legally actionable photographs.” And they note the difficulty of matching plaintiffs to the photos because many did not show children’s faces. In another argument, attorneys say that only a child victim, not the parents, has standing to bring a civil suit. OK. But parishioners live in a less legally specific world. Where context and common sense matter. In his independent review, former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves criticized the diocese for not taking action because no identifiable victim came forward: “Subjects such as the two- to three-year-old child in the nude photo were in no position to make a complaint.” And one question has never thoroughly been answered: In what world were diocesan officials living that they could discover dozens of lewd photos of young girls on a priest’s computer and not notify authorities? How could such images be rationalized away? The court filings give an indication. But Valenti’s report offers hope that the days of convoluted thinking may be numbered. Read more here: Kansas City Star

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Of church and state

You can't make this stuff up. Here from the super conservative Mundabor is his take on the ideal relationship between church and state. How does this fit in Western democracies?

The whole article is at his blog.

 Of church and state
Aug. 8, 2012

11 Feb 1929:  Mussolini and Cardinal Gasparri sign the Patti Lateranensi

Let us be clear that I am very much in favour of Catholicism as State Religion; that I consider it very good that priests have a (modest) wage from the taxpayer; and that I consider, in general, a duty of the State to contribute to the material welfare of the Church as the Church works toward the spiritual welfare of the citizen. The ideal model is in my eyes the one the Duce and Cardinal Gasparri (the then Secretary of State) put together with the Patti Lateranensi, the Concordato of 1929. With the Concordato, the Church became State Religion, and the State took among its duties the one of caring for both the clergy and the infrastructure for a rapidly growing population. Priests had a salary which, if modest, was universally considered fitting to the position of a priest, who should be a witness of simple living even if he did not take a vow of poverty. There was no problem anymore of maintenance of churches, or of monasteries etc; the money problems which had afflicted the Church in Italy for decades were suddenly out of the door, but without generalised corruption and decadent lifestyle getting in from the window. .....etc