Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bishops block foreign aid campaign for being too partisan

Ottawa Citizen
Sept. 25, 2012

OTTAWA — Canadian Catholic bishops have taken the unprecedented step of blocking an annual education campaign organized by the church’s foreign aid wing, Development and Peace, after deeming this year’s edition too partisan.

The bishops are reported to have been concerned that the campaign, targeting the Harper government’s controversial changes to Canadian international assistance, would divide parishioners and hurt the church’s work with the Conservatives on other issues.

Organizers say they can appreciate the bishops’ concerns and are toning down the campaign so it is less political.


Read more at the Ottawa Citizen

[So the Canadian bishops have blocked a church campaign because it would be too political and appear to be taking sides? Hmm.. I wonder if they ever talk to their US counterparts about how taking sides can "divide parishioners and hurt the church’s work"?]

Liturgical pioneers bring music to Frankenmuth

Sue White
Michigan Live
Sept. 30, 2012

FRANKENMUTH, MI -- As Martin Luther King Jr. led the fight for civil rights, protesters called for an end to the war in Vietnam and students stormed the universities, the Catholic church started a revolution of its own 50 years ago with the Second Vatican Council.

And contemporary composers Michael Joncas, Marty Haugen and Bridgeport native David Haas, who will perform again in Michigan for the first time in 27 years on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Frankenmuth, rocked the Catholic liturgy with their controversial departure from the traditional Gregorian chants and choir-sung hymns.

“Up until then, music was directed at the people rather than inviting them to participate,” Haas said, calling from his home in Minnesota. “We’d play Peter, Paul and Mary and Simon and Garfunkel at first because we didn’t have music of our own to play yet, but everything we did invited everyone to sing along.

“The church was redefining its identity and the Catholic experience; it was an interesting time.”

The music was controversial – “Was?” Haas said, giving a short laugh – but for millions of people, the songs that came out of that period are now mainstays of the church. Joncas, who entered the priesthood, penned “On Eagle’s Wings” and Haas was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1991 for “I Shall See God.”

Haugen, raised as a Lutheran and now active in the United Church of Christ, has a vast category of music used in Protestant services as well as the Catholic liturgy. His “Mass of Creation” is the most widely sung Mass in the English-speaking world, Haas said.

The three met in Minnesota in the ‘70s, when Haas headed there to study for the priesthood. While he did not become a priest, Haas soon put his degrees in music and theology to good use. While the musicians never formed a group, they performed together throughout the world and recorded a pair of albums.


And the controversy continues – “It’s been reignited,” Haas said, comparing it to a political debate.

“You have people on both sides very intolerant of those who don’t agree with them, and they’re all very emotional about it,” he said. “One side wants the so-called contemporary folk music and the others, who love the organ, consider that music the anti-Christ.

“The truth is that we’re all classically trained and we use that in our contemporary work. We appreciate all music.”


Read full article here

Raised Catholic,the church made me a spiritual refugee

Tom Moran
The Star Ledger (Newark, NJ)
Sept. 30, 2012

I was born into a devout Catholic family, the fifth of nine children. And one of my earliest memories is learning the catechism from my father, a sales executive who was in the habit of going to church every day before work.

He read me stories about the adventures of a boy who was nicknamed “Raggie” because his family was too poor to buy new clothes. Each story had the same basic lesson — good Catholics look after those in need, just as Jesus did. And there is no shame in being poor.

Sign me up. I memorized the prayers, received the sacraments and felt ecstatically cleansed after monthly confessions. I was all in.

In the decades since, I have fled a million miles from the church, and have never found a new religious home. I am a spiritual refugee.

One in three American adults was raised in a Catholic family, but fewer than one in four identify as Catholic today. No other church has shed so many followers, according to surveys by the Pew Charitable Trusts. So if I am a refugee, I am walking on a road that is crowded with others who feel the same way.

Which brings us to my recent conversation with Newark Archbishop John Myers, and his attempt to sway the election to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

He didn’t say that, of course. But he wrote a letter last week saying Catholics have a “duty” to cast their vote based on opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Gay sex, he wrote, is a purely “selfish enjoyment” because it “lacks openness to the procreative meaning of human sexuality.”


Finally, he (Bishop Meyers) said, all Catholic must embrace his views. And those who refuse should not take Holy Communion.

I’ve gone through stages when it comes to the church, bouncing between anger, estrangement and exasperation. It started when one of my six sisters, at age 10, wrote the Vatican a letter asking why she couldn’t be an altar girl. She never heard back. But the dinner discussions on that planted seeds of revolt in all of us. They flowered as I began to understand the church’s views on birth control and divorce, which put even my mother on the wrong side of the law, and taught us how Catholics cope with the hierarchy.

A decade after my father died, she married a divorced man, which should have barred her from receiving Holy Communion. Her local priest saw that she would be crushed by that and quietly told her that she was free to take Holy Communion in his church any time she wanted.

“That local priest was wrong,” Myers said when I told him the story last week. But my mother had no hesitation. Nor did she feel she was sinning by using birth control when she was knocked low by migraine headaches after bearing the nine of us. When she saw same-sex couples raising AIDS babies, she saw no threat to the moral order; she saw Christ’s love at work. She supported same-sex marriage before the New York Times did.

Her obedience to the church hierarchy was not blind, especially after it was exposed as complicit in the sexual abuse of so many children. She trusted her own compass, and in that way, she was a typical Catholic.

Most Catholics, like her, will never leave the church. They will sidestep the land mines and hope for change. They see the altar girls today and hope for female priests tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, men like Myers will drive millions more onto the refugee highway.


What’s shocking to me is that this 15-page letter, single-spaced, brushes by the problem of poverty and says nothing of Romney’s plan to savage the safety net. “Catholic citizens must exercise their right to be heard in the public square by defending marriage,” Myers wrote.

I doubt most Catholics will see this election in such pinched terms. They know how to sidestep this land mine, too.

Because if you visit any poor neighborhood in New Jersey, you can see a more vibrant Catholicism at work in schools, hospitals and food pantries. I’m pretty sure Raggie would see this election through their eyes.

His was the Catholicism I was taught. And it was all about love.

Read full piece at The Star Ledger

Friday, September 28, 2012

Catholic priest says Catholics should not be single issue voters

Phoenix New Times
Sept. 28, 2012

"Peace be with you," is a phrase often heard in Catholic churches. But it's election season, and not all Catholics are feeling at peace.

A New Times story about the conflict that anti-abortion, pro-immigration Catholics face when casting their vote for president ruffled the feathers of the faithful and faithless alike.

One blogger wrote that "there is no conundrum for the faithful Catholic ... if you want to be a Judas, vote for Obama." Another wrote that the issue was "about a religiously motivated group attempting to force their belief system upon everyone else..."

A Roman Catholic priest wanted to weigh in with words -- and valid church teaching -- to ease the minds of those conflicted by their faith and politics.

The anonymous Roman Catholic priest from Arizona wanted the message to speak for itself. He writes:

After reading the article online, I felt deeply for the two women, Cecilia Moreno and Edilia Gonzales, who are conflicted, do not participate fully in the Sunday Eucharist, i.e., do not go to Holy Communion, or do not go to Mass at all because of "their politics." Why should they have to "repent" because they may have decided to vote for President Obama? They have done nothing sinful. I believe these women might have pangs of guilt, feel sinful, or want to exclude themselves from the church they love, not because they have misinformed consciences, but because a priest from either the pulpit or some other parish setting, or well-intentioned pious lay person, has misinformed their consciences and have unknowingly perpetrated against these women moral and spiritual violence.

To say that you can not vote for President Obama from the pulpit is indeed misleading as we form our consciences. President Obama is not an abortionist, nor does he, or other Democrats, belong to the "party of death."

The priest offers the following excepts from direction handed down from church leaders as evidence that Catholics can be both faithful and independent voters.

First, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) in its document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2011) states, "As Catholics we are not single issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support (#42).

Secondly, this same point has been made by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI): "A political commitment to one aspect of the church's teaching does not exhaust a person's responsibility toward the common good" (Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, November 24, 2002. See No. 4.)

Is the person for whom we are going to vote standing in solidarity with and for the poor, defending the rights of the undocumented, supporting the DREAM Act, working to provide healthcare for all people, developing a national budget that will offer food stamps and housing assistance for the vulnerable?

If not, is this not an attack on human life? Not mentioned are issues of the environment, war, torture, capital punishment, etc. And so, voting is complex with many issues to think about.

Thirdly, the U.S. Bishops state that "A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position." (Forming Consciences, No. 34).

The last part of that statement is important. If the voter decides to support the candidate's position on abortion/euthanasia or racism then that cannot be tolerated. In such a case, a Catholic would be guilty of cooperating in that evil" (No. 34).

A well-informed Catholic, however, will not vote for a candidate for one reason only. It seems that Ms. Moreno and Ms. Gonzales do not support abortion, but they want to support a candidate who is working for the common good of all people on a wide range of issues. They want to support, not only the child in the womb, but the undocumented immigrants and the DREAMers whose rights are being abused.

As Cardinal Ratzinger stated when he was Perfect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith:

"When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons"
(See Memorandum from Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., July 2004).

Entire article at Phoenix New Times

Thursday, September 27, 2012

SSPX on religious freedom

It's important for all to realize what the extreme rightwing Catholics understand by "religious liberty". Here is an example from far right Mundabor's blog

Society of St. Pius X
as quoted by Mundabor
April 16, 2012

Certainly we must fight for the liberty of the Catholic Church – that is, the ability for her to fulfill her divine mission to save souls, promote the faith (particularly in society) and enact the corporal acts of mercy. However, this is a much different thing than defending religious liberty, a false notion that originated with the Protestants and condemned as an error under the generic title of “Liberalism”.

article here

Bishop Paprocki warns of 'intrinsic evils' in Democratic Platform

National Catholic Register
Sept. 27, 2012

SPRINGFIELD — Drawing particular attention to the Democratic Party platform’s support for “intrinsic evils” like abortion and same-sex “marriage,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., has said that Catholics need to “think and pray very carefully” about their votes in the upcoming election.

“My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues,” Bishop Paprocki said in his Sept. 23 column for the Catholic Times diocesan paper. “I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding ‘political’ and didn’t say anything about the morality of these issues.”

He said that voting for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are “intrinsically evil and gravely sinful” makes a voter “morally complicit” and places the eternal salvation of his or her soul in “serious jeopardy.”


Bishop Paprocki also examined the Republican Party platform and found that it has “nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin.”

Entire article at National Catholic Register

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Australian Catholic church admits child sex abuse

Sept. 22, 2012

The Roman Catholic Church in the Australian state of Victoria has confirmed that more than 600 children have been sexually abused by its priests since the 1930s.

The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, described the figures as "horrific and shameful".

They were released in a submission to a state parliamentary inquiry into the handling of abuse cases.

Campaigners say the true number of abuse victims could be up to 10,000.

In its submission, the church said the 620 cases went back 80 years with the majority taking place between the 1960s and the 1980s.

It says it is still investigating a further 45 cases.

In a statement, Archbishop Hart said it was important to be open "about the horrific abuse that has occurred in Victoria and elsewhere".


Full article at the BBC

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Germans risk church expulsion over tax

Derek Scally
Irish Times
Sept. 21, 2012

CATHOLIC BISHOPS in Germany have announced plans to effectively excommunicate believers who refuse to pay the country’s controversial church tax.

The “general decree”, effective from September 24th, excludes non-payers from Communion, Confirmation and Confession or belonging to a Catholic congregation. Catholic funerals will also not be possible “if the person who has left the church has not shown any sign of remorse before death”.

The church says non-payment violates an obligation on its members to make a “financial contribution that allows the church to fulfil its role”.

Germany’s church tax has its origins as compensation for church property seized by state authorities in the early 19th century. Two centuries on, the tax, calculated as up to 8 per cent of income tax, raises approximately €5 billion annually for the Catholic Church; the Lutheran church receives €4 billion. It is collected by the state tax authorities and forwarded on to churches for a handling fee.

Anyone unwilling to pay can fill in a form at a state office. German bishops interpret this as a conscious break with the church but the Vatican said this step was not evidence of a clear “schism” and grounds for excommunication.

In a compromise with the Vatican, bishops will ask priests to write to anyone planning to leave, warning of the consequences and inviting them to meet.

“If the reaction of the believer . . . can be attributed to a schismatical, heretical or apostatical act,” the bishops write, “appropriate measures will be taken.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Responding to clericalism and sex abuse

Tom Wright
US Catholic
Sept. 18, 2012


“In the church all are one in Christ; there is no Greek or Roman, no Jew or Gentile, no male or female”—and no hierarchy of privilege or status or honor conferred by ministerial office or rank alone. All baptized believers immersed in the sacramental life and apostolic works of the Catholic community are to be respected as equal inheritors of the ancient traditions and full participants in the work of redemption, a work accomplished by and through Christ alone. The church, catholic and apostolic, is a graced community of sinners and pilgrims, and those who receive holy orders must never set themselves apart from or above the faithful; to the contrary, the clergy must be subject, like the laity, to the correction and exhortations of all the faithful.

The sexual abuse of children and young adults by a tiny minority of Catholic priests is itself a terrible stain on the institutional church—but the repeated failure of the bishops and other priests to report and remove the perpetrators has magnified and deepened, beyond immediate repair, the erosion of trust and the crisis of faith within the Catholic community.

This moral blindness and outrageous complacency in the face of evil is all the more damning and damaging in that it arises from within a body of Catholic leaders, some of whose most prominent members have been harsh in their judgments of the moral failings of the laity.

Quick to perceive challenges to their authority in the exercise of theological exploration and spiritual creativity, especially among women, they have placed their own “class” of Catholics—the ordained—above recrimination while seldom hesitating to “prune” the church of “dissenters” to their increasingly authoritarian rule. Jealous of their prerogatives as “elites,” they have identified their own often narrow interests with the will of Christ and the good of the church.


At the heart of the sexual abuse crisis is the sin of clericalism—a constellation of ideas and practices rooted in the conviction that ordination to the priesthood confers a special and privileged status that places the priest above the nonordained baptized by virtue of the sacrament itself, unmoored from its proper setting within the moral life and spiritual pilgrimage of the individual priest. ...........

Mistrust is also at the root of the new and virulent clericalism. Some bishops are convinced that laypeople have become soft, gone over to the dark side, abandoned the faith. There is more than a grain of truth to this diagnosis, perhaps, but the pastoral response has too often been colored by fear and threat rather than by confidence and hope.

Circling the wagons against a hostile world and a laity that cannot be counted on, these enclave priests protect their own, no matter the cost. The non-ordained are once again relegated to coach class.

But this cannot be suffered. Roman Catholicism is a church, not a sect. No head can exist without its body. The faithful are not branches to be pruned but the root that gives life to the great oak.


Happily, the Catholic Church is big enough for sinners of all stripes, ordained and non-ordained. Blessed Pope John XXIII reminded us of this perennial truth when he wisely called for a suspension of excommunications and a renewal of collegiality and affirmation across “ranks” that had become too rigid and stultifying.

Let us pray fervently for a renewal of the church in this spirit of catholic collegiality, and for the recovery of the genuinely apostolic priesthood that must surely help inspire and accompany such a renewal.

Read full article at US Catholic

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pastoral planning commission proposal

Is this proposal from the Archdiocese of Boston the sign of the future in the American Church? This sounds like merging parishes in all but name.

Boston Catholic Insider
September 14, 2012

Today, the Boston Pilot published a summary of the proposal by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission, entitled, “Disciples in Mission.” This is the plan for a new parish staffing and pastoral leadership model in the Boston Archdiocese. The summary was released with a note stating, “each of the proposal’s recommendations involves detailed sub-recommendations that aren’t included below, so we encourage everyone to read the full proposal document.”

The full report is available online at BCI has read the full report and has plenty of comments to make, but we will hold back for this moment to just share the summary.

Part One: Recommendations for strengthening parishes for the work of the New Evangelization

1. That the 288 parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston be organized into approximately 135 Parish Collaboratives, these collaboratives consisting usually of two or three parishes, but sometimes only one, and, in rare occasion’s four parishes.

2. That the formation of the parish collaboratives be phased in, with appropriate flexibility, over a period of five years.

3. That the parishes of each collaborative be assigned one single Pastor.

4. That the pastor form the staff members serving the parishes of the collaborative into a Pastoral Team.

5. That the multiple Parish Pastoral Councils of the parishes in a collaborative become one parish council to assist the one pastor in fostering pastoral activity and in guiding the mission of the Church in each parish and in the parish collaborative.

6. That, if possible in accord with the norms of Canon Law, the benefits and advantages of collaboration be extended to Parish Finance Councils, such that one finance council serves the one pastor to assist him in the financial administration of the parishes and the parish collaborative.

Full article at Boston Catholic Insider

Catholic group calls for Bishop Finn to resign

Karen Dillon
Kansas City Star
Sept. 16, 2012

Members of a national Catholics organization on Sunday demanded the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn, who was convicted this month of failing to report child sexual abuse.

The National Survivor Advocates Coalition, which has its headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, held a press conference in Barney Allis Plaza — in the shadow of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception — to make its demand.

“A criminally convicted bishop cannot lead. Bishop Finn must resign or be removed by Pope Benedict,” said coalition chairwoman Kristine Ward. “Every hour he remains bishop revictimizes survivors and their families.”

Finn, who is head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, is the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic cleric to be convicted in the church’s decades-long child sexual abuse scandal.

Finn was convicted of one misdemeanor for failing to report child abuse suspicions against the Rev. Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan pleaded guilty in August to five federal counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography.

Jack Smith, a spokesman for the diocese, said there would be no comment about the call for Finn’s resignation.

....... Original article at the Kansas City Star

Colbert to Fordham students" "I love my church"

Sept 15, 2012

NEW YORK — In a rare public moment out of character, actor Stephen Colbert told students at the Jesuit Fordham University on Friday that he loves the Roman Catholic Church no matter its human flaws.

The host of "The Colbert Report" talked about his faith in a discussion on humor and spirituality with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Rev. James Martin, author of "Between Heaven and Mirth" and the official chaplain of Colbert's show.

Colbert, who has taught Sunday school classes to school-age children, said people in comedy often don't understand how he could remain Catholic. But he said he views the church as teaching joy, which he called the "infallible sign of the presence of God."

"I love my church — warts and all," he said, before an audience of about 3,000 cheering students, who posted his quotes on Twitter using the organizers' (hash)dolancolbert hashtag.

Colbert said people in comedy often make jokes at the expense of religion, but he makes jokes about what he called people's misuse of religion in politics and other arenas. Still, he said, "If Jesus doesn't have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble."

Colbert took the opportunity to needle Dolan about the new English-language translation of the Roman Missal, the text of prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass. The translation was introduced last fall in U.S. parishes to initial grumbling over what critics called stilted language. A focus of the complaints was the translation of the Nicene Creed, replacing the phrase "one in Being with the Father" to "consubstantial with the Father."

"Consubstantial?" Colbert said, as Dolan shook his head and laughed. "It's the Creed. It's not the SAT prep."

For his part, Dolan, who gave benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, told of his encounter with Clint Eastwood at the GOP event.

According to the cardinal, Eastwood said he had once played a preacher in a movie and said "I know that neck thing is really uncomfortable."

Read the full article here

Friday, September 14, 2012

40,000 call on Cardinal Dolan to keep partisan politics

Casey Schoenberger
Faith in Public Life
Sept. 14, 2012

In response to a New York diocesan priest who put a letter endorsing Mitt Romney for president in a weekly church bulletin, New York-area Catholics gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan yesterday to deliver 40,000 petition signatures calling on Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop of New York, to:

Immediately instruct the priests in [his] diocese to refrain from distributing partisan campaign materials and issue a pastoral letter clarifying that the church is not making any endorsements.

At the delivery, Tom Smyth, a petition signer and member of St. Christopher’s Catholic Church in Baldwin, New York, said:

I love my Church, but it should stay out of partisan politics, Cardinal Dolan needs to tell his pastors to stop telling people whom to vote for.

James Salt, a petition organizer and Executive Director of Catholics United added:

The incident at St. Catherine of Siena demonstrates why Catholics are increasingly disheartened by the politicization of the faith. Instead of ministering to the needs of the faithful, too many priests and bishops are engaging in overt partisan activity. This alienates the vast majority of Catholics who want our Church to be known for its spiritual leadership, not its right-wing politics.

And Director of Faithful America and petition organizer Michael Sherrard had this to say:

Faithful America members, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, are appalled at the shameless exploitation of church resources to campaign for a presidential candidate. This wouldn’t be happening without Cardinal Dolan’s constant vitriolic attacks on the Obama administration’s health care policies, and he needs to personally ensure that such partisan campaigning never happens again in his diocese.

Although it has been two weeks since the publication of the endorsement, neither Cardinal Dolan nor the Archdiocese of New York has publicly acknowledged the priest’s error or assured local Catholics that churches will not be exploited for future partisan political campaigning.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our prayer should be simple

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin
Diocese of Providence
Sept. 6, 2012

At a recent general audience Pope Benedict spoke about the nature of prayer and its place in the Christian life. He said that prayer is the only way to have a life-giving relationship with God. Even the simplest of prayer can give a person the power to resist evil and do good, the Pope said. “The grace to pray is given to all.”

I found the Pope’s direct and unassuming approach to prayer to be very refreshing, because prayer in the Church today has become terribly complex, especially the more formal, public liturgical prayer of the Church. This trend is apparent in the development of liturgical books in recent years. Consider the following examples. When I was ordained 40 years ago, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Divine Office that priests and deacons are bound to say everyday, was contained in one book with 1,668 pages. That in itself was formidable. Now, the Liturgy of the Hours has grown to four volumes with 8,140 pages.

And the format is complicated. My goodness, to say Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, especially at times like the Octave of Christmas or Easter Week, requires the dexterity of a brain surgeon and the simultaneous management of ribbons, holy cards, fingers and thumbs, as well as the constant flipping from one section to another. All of that with the simple goal of praising God and sanctifying the day.

Another, more contemporary example. The Sacramentary that was used at Mass for many years after the Second Vatican Council was 1,099 pages long. The new Roman Missal, just recently introduced, has 1,341 pages and is rife with long sentences, too many dependent clauses, and ineffable words like consubstantial, firstly, abasement and prevenient.

Finally, the Lectionary, the book containing the Scripture readings for Mass, used to be in one volume of 1,122 pages. That single book was all-inclusive with readings for Sundays, weekdays, feast days, ritual Masses and votive Masses. The current version of the Lectionary has also had a growth spurt and now has 5,424 pages in four multi-colored volumes, in three cycles for Sundays and two for weekdays.

I wonder if prayer was intended to be that complicated. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, did He give them a four volume set of texts, complete with ribbons and tabs?

Some have suggested that the digital age, with new electronic devices might come to the rescue. Recently I was introduced to an app for my iPhone, the iBreviary. Here you can find all the prayers of the Divine Office, listed everyday, in a very accessible format. No ribbons, holy cards or flipping required. Just click, scroll, and pray.

Now, as adverse as I am to electronics, I have to admit, it’s pretty cool. However, I don’t think that an electronic device is a suitable replacement for approved liturgical books which should possess a certain beauty and dignity, suitable for public worship in our churches. Sorry, I can’t envision an iPad replacing the Roman Missal on the altar, and the first deacon who carries an iPhone to me to be reverenced after reading the Gospel at Mass will be instantly defrocked!

...... Read the entire column at The Rhode Island Catholic

Monday, September 10, 2012

Editorial: Kansas City's Bishop Finn must resign or be removed

Editorial National Catholic Reporter
Sept. 10, 2012

If Bishop Robert W. Finn wanted today to volunteer at a parish in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese to teach a religious education class or chaperone a parish youth group to World Youth Day, he couldn't do it. Convicted of a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected child abuse, Finn wouldn't pass the background check necessary to work with young people in the Catholic church.

That is, he could not serve in those positions if he were just a layman, deacon or priest. But he is a bishop, and that makes all the difference. And he can, apparently, do anything he wants under church law.

There are two issues at play here: the governance of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and the integrity of the U.S. bishops as a national conference.

Finn cannot govern the diocese. It is clear to local Catholics he has been largely absent from the day-to-day life of the diocese for almost a year. The chancery offices are in disarray, diocesan personnel feel abandoned, and the clergy are either angry or dumbfounded. From the very first day of his tenure in this diocese, Finn has been a source of division and divisiveness. He does have supporters, but he has never won even a grudging respect from majority of active Catholics.


Some have said the criminal convictions of high chancery officials for covering up for clergy sex abusers -- Finn last week and Msgr. William Lynn in Philadelphia earlier this year -- signals a new chapter in the already-too-long tragedy of sex abuse of minors in the Catholic church. These cases, we've been told, send a new signal to the hierarchy that cover-ups and non-cooperation with civil authorities will no longer be tolerated. If that is true, and we sincerely hope that it is true, we applaud these cases and the public prosecutors who had the courage to pursue them. But if it is true that the force of civil law has been brought to bear from the outside, inside the church, the local bishop still reigns as an unchecked potentate. Robert Finn would not be allowed to teach Sunday morning bible study, but Bishop Finn remains spiritual leader of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese with exclusive and sole authority over all diocesan matters. (Editor's note: NCR's offices are in Kansas City.)


Last month, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, head of the bishops' committee on child protection, talked about why people remain skeptical of the bishops' efforts in the area of child protection. "Our credibility on the subject of child abuse is shredded," Conlon told a conference of lay staffers who oversee child safety programs in American dioceses.

Everywhere, the insight is apparent. Until there is some reason to believe bishops can and will be held accountable for their failings, the church's credibility remains in tatters. We urge Finn to take seriously the harm done to the church and the faithful -- especially the most vulnerable young children -- because he did not meet the moral requirements of the charter.

Finn, under any other circumstances, would not be permitted to publicly minister to children. The inescapable conclusion is that for the good of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and of the larger church, he must either resign or be removed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ireland: transferring paedophile priests was a mistake

Vatican Insider
Sept. 9, 2012

Moving the two priests on to another parish was “a grave mistake”. The decision was completely inadequate given the seriousness of the accusations against him – John Kirby (Bishop of Clonfert) now admits -. “I was not aware at the time of the sinister nature and repeat behaviour of the abuser or of the life-long damage caused to the child,” the Irish bishop said.


After a thousand-year-old history of loyalty to the Gospel, Ireland and the Irish Catholic Church have “recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care.”

The Pope denounced their actions, stating: “Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message.” Under Benedict XVI, the Holy See’s response to the plague of paedophilia in the Catholic Church of Ireland has been tough.

The Pope wrote a letter to the Catholic faithful in Ireland, expressing his “shame and remorse” for the Irish paedophilia scandal which he defined as an “egregious crime” and a “serious sin.” He also condemned the acts of abuse and the bishops’ poor handling of these cases, promising more checks, improved training for clergy and seminarians, reporting of guilty parties to the civil authorities and reconciliation with the victims.


But the “endemic” dimensions of the island’s decade-long paedophilia problem only became apparent on 20 May 2009, when the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, headed by the Judge Sean Ryan, launched a second inquiry known as the Ryan 2 report.

After the Ryan Report (on cases of sexual abuse and violence committed against minors in Catholic-run educational institutions across Ireland), two other government reports were also published: the Murphy Report on 26 November 2009 (drawn up by Judge Yvonne Murphy on paedophilia in the Diocese of Dublin) and the Cloyne Report on 13 July 2011 (on paedophilia in the Diocese of Dublin).

This strong documentation describes thousands of cases of sexual abuse committed by hundreds of priests against minors and goes as far back as the 1930’s (the latest cases recorded date back to a decade ago).

The Pope requires any bishops who have in good or bad faith concealed information about paedophile priests, hindering investigations, to resign. Seven bishops have already resigned and some Irish dioceses are being merged in order to reduce prelate numbers and improve the quality of their service.


Paedophilia spread in a similar way in the U.S. and other Catholic Churches across Europe, for example Germany, where yet another important bishop was placed under investigation just yesterday, on charges of covering up for seven paedophile priests. ..............

Read entire article at the Vatican Insider

Ireland predicted to have only 450 priests by 2042

Dara Kelly
Irish Central
Sept. 9, 2012

The Irish Catholic newspaper has predicted a 75 percent decrease in Ireland over the next 30 years, which means only 450 priests will be serving in Irish parishes by 2042.

According to, the figure was reached by examining imminent retirements and current ordination rates. Currently, there are 1,965 priests serving Ireland's 26 dioceses.

Just 12 men entered the national seminary in Maynooth last month. On average, 50 percent of these men would be expected to drop out of the program.

The president of Maynooth said "massive changes" will be necessary within the church due to the lack of priests.

Right now there are 32 priests under the age of 34 working in Ireland, which is just 1.6 percent of the total number of active priests.

The drop off in numbers will mean hundreds of parishes will be left without a priest according to The Irish Catholic's Deputy Editor Michael Kelly. Senior figures in the church have called the figures "very worrying."

Read more: here

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's next for Kansas City Bishop Finn?

Ultra-Conservative Catholics are trying to downplay the significance of yesterday's conviction of Bishop Finn in criminal court. See, for example, the Catholic League's Bill Donohue's claim that " The case did not involve child sexual abuse—no child was ever abused, or touched, in any way by Father Shawn Ratigan. Nor did this case involve child pornography" !! This despite the now agreed upon facts on record that the Bishop failed to notify authorities of pornographic photographs on Fr. Ratigan's computer, photographs that were only reported to authorities some months later against the Bishop's wishes according to court records. The cry that the hullabaloo is all the work of anti-Catholic enemies is repeated and seconded by folks like Fr. Zuhlsdorf

Meanwhile, back on this planet, legitimate news organizations like the AP and Catholics generally are discussing how to heal and restore credibildity to the hierarchy.For example, David Gibson in USA Today, under the headline "What's next for Bishop Robert Finn? reports

Finn, leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and an outspoken conservative in the American hierarchy, was convicted of a single misdemeanor count for not telling police that one of his priests, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, had taken hundreds of lewd images of children in Catholic schools and parishes.

But even as he became the first U.S. bishop ever convicted in criminal court for shielding an abusive priest, Finn's standing inside the church appears uncertain, and the subject of intense debate.

Should he stay or should he go? Finn has indicated that he wants to tough it out. "The Bishop looks forward to continuing to perform his duties, including carrying out the important obligations placed on him by the Court," Finn's spokesman, Jack Smith, said in a statement to Religion News Service on Friday.

Pope Benedict XVI is the only one with the authority to force a bishop from office, and the Vatican said nothing on Friday about Finn.

Meanwhile, the point man on the abuse crisis for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Ill., was circumspect about Finn's conviction.

Conlon, who recently acknowledged that the hierarchy's credibility on abuse was "shredded" in part because of cases like Finn's, said that he did not know the details of the trial. He instead stressed that the bishops stood by their policy of reporting all allegations to police and complying with all local laws on reporting.


But others directly called on Finn to step down.

"For the good of the diocese and the church, I think he should apologize and resign. Then a new bishop can begin the healing process," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center.

"The judge found him guilty," said Reese, a Jesuit priest. "There is no way he can lead the diocese after that."

Nicholas Cafardi, a canon and civil lawyer at the Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh, said that Finn could be dismissed under canon law. He also noted that in the past year Benedict removed a bishop suspected of financial improprieties and another who suggested that the church debate the issue of allowing women and married priests. In an email, Cafardi said that in Finn's case it shouldn't come to that.

"The best solution for the Church here … is not a canonical process or even Finn's forced removal," said Cafardi, a former head of the bishops' National Review Board that was established to ensure compliance with their own reforms. "It is that Finn put the good of his diocese above his personal ambitions and his need for power and resign immediately. After this, how can he face his people or his priests?"

In the long run, Finn's viability as a bishop may depend on how local Catholics react.

The case has left many of the faithful in the diocese discouraged and furious, and it is not clear Finn can reverse that negativity.


Until this week Finn had vigorously rejected the charges that he had done anything wrong, and had hired a high-priced defense team to make his case. The diocese revealed this week that Finn's legal bills have cost the diocese and its insurers nearly $1.4 million over the past year, and that parishes will have to kick in more money to cover the outlays. Finn and the diocese still face numerous civil suits resulting from the case.

"How can the diocese move forward after all this?" the Rev. Gerald Waris, a retired priest who was pastor of the church where Ratigan last served, told the Kansas City-based National Catholic Reporter. "Most of us who have worked in parishes and continue to work here, we'll have to find a way to rise above it all."


"Rome is not immune to public pressure," said Cafardi. "It's now up to the faithful and the clergy of the diocese to come forward."

Read the entire USA Today article.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kansas City bishop convicted of shielding pedophile priest

John Eligon and Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
Sept. 6, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Roman Catholic bishop, Robert W. Finn, was found guilty on Thursday of failing to report suspected child abuse, becoming the first American bishop in the decades-long sexual abuse scandal to be convicted of shielding a pedophile priest. In a hastily announced bench trial that lasted a little over an hour, a judge found Bishop Finn guilty on one misdemeanor charge and not guilty on a second charge, for failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls. The counts each carried a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation.

It was an abrupt ending to a case that has consumed the church in Kansas City and threatened to turn into a sensational, first-ever trial of a sitting prelate. The case had been scheduled for a jury trial later this month, but on Wednesday the prosecution said it would be decided in one afternoon by Judge John M. Torrence in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Before being sentenced, Bishop Finn, 59, his jaw quivering, rose in court and said: “I am pleased and grateful that the prosecution and the courts have allowed this matter to be completed. The protection of children is paramount.”

He added, “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt that these events have caused.”

The church managed to avoid a lengthy, highly public jury trial like the one that occurred this year in Philadelphia, where a high-ranking assistant to the archbishop was convicted of child endangerment and sentenced to prison for three to six years.

The Jackson County prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, said that the expedited trial spared the young victims and their parents from having to testify. She said it also meant that the disturbing photographs of children would not be shown in open court. Of the victims and their families, she said, “They were all ecstatic that this could end today.”


The judge dropped two charges against the diocese itself.

The case began when the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest who had previously attracted attention for inappropriate behavior with children, took his laptop computer in for repairs in December 2010. A technician immediately told church officials that the laptop contained what appeared to be pornographic photographs of young girls’ genitals, naked and clothed.


Ms. Peters Baker told the judge in opening arguments that Bishop Finn had been given ample warning that Father Ratigan was a danger to children. She said that the priest had even admitted to Bishop Finn that he had “a pornography problem.”

The prosecutor said, “Defendant Finn is the ultimate authority. The buck does stop with him.”

In May 2010, the principal of the Catholic elementary school where Father Ratigan was working sent a memo to the diocese raising alarm about the priest. The letter said he had put a girl on his lap on a bus ride, encouraged children to reach into his pockets for candy and parents discovered girl’s underwear in a planter outside his house. Bishop Finn has said he did not read the letter until a year later.

A computer technician discovered the photographs on Father Ratigan’s laptop in December 2010, and immediately reported it to the diocese. The prosecutor said they were “alarming photos,” among them a series taken on a playground in which the photographer moves in closer until the final shots show girls’ genitalia through their clothing.


The bishop is required as part of his sentence to initiate a training program for diocesan employees in detecting early signs of child abuse, and in what constitutes child pornography and obscenity. He must also create a fund of $10,000 to pay for victims’ counseling.

Bishop Finn and the diocese still face 25 civil suits, four of them involving Father Ratigan.

It is unclear whether Bishop Finn will come under pressure by the Vatican or his fellow bishops to resign. Asked at a news conference about Bishop Finn’s future, Ms. Peters Baker, demurred and said, “You’ll have to call Rome.”


Read the full article at the New York Times

Bishop: Catholic church's credibility on abuse 'shredded'

David Gibson
Religious News Service
Sept. 5, 2012

The U.S. Catholic bishops' point man on sexual abuse has said that the hierarchy's credibility on fixing the problem is "shredded" and that the situation is comparable to the Reformation, when "the episcopacy, the regular clergy, even the papacy were discredited."

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Ill., last month told a conference of staffers who oversee child safety programs in American dioceses that he had always assumed that consistently implementing the bishops' policies on child protection, "coupled with some decent publicity, would turn public opinion around."

"I now know this was an illusion," Conlon, chairman of the bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, said in an address on Aug. 13 to the National Safe Environment and Victim Assistance Coordinators Leadership Conference in Omaha, Neb.

His talk was published in the Aug. 30 edition of Origins, an affiliate of Catholic News Service.

Conlon said that the conviction of a high-ranking church official in Philadelphia for covering up clergy abuse and the upcoming trial of a bishop in Missouri on charges of failing to report a priest on suspicions of child abuse have contributed to a widespread impression that the bishops "have failed to keep their commitments."

The bishop disputed that view, but said even close friends "turned almost hostile" over dinner recently when he said the hierarchy has adopted "an entirely different spirit of openness and accountability."


Full article at USA Today

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kansas City Bishop Finn now to be tried by judge on Thursday

Joshua McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Sept. 5, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first Catholic bishop criminally charged in the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis will not go before a jury, instead facing judgment from a local judge Thursday, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The change indicates that Bishop Robert Finn, his Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese, and county prosecutors have negotiated a set of "stipulated facts" they will present to the judge, who could rule the same day, said Mike Mansur, a spokesperson for the Jackson County, Mo., prosecutor's office, where the bishop and diocese are charged.

Finn and the diocese had been set to go to trial by jury Sept. 24 on misdemeanor charges of failing to report suspicions of child abuse for their handling of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a Kansas City priest who pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal charges of producing and attempting to produce sexually graphic material of minor girls.

"The parties in the case have been negotiating stipulated facts and testimony that will be presented tomorrow to the judge," Mansur said. Following that presentation, he said, "we would expect then that the judge might rule in the case."

The trial Thursday will come before Jackson County, Mo., Circuit Court Judge John Torrence. The trial could bring an abrupt end of sorts to a 15-month ordeal that has rankled the local Catholic community [2] and has left many area Catholics questioning how the legal proceedings would affect them, their bishop and life in their parishes.

Jack Smith, the interim director of communications for the Kansas City diocese, said the diocese would have no comment on the matter while the case is pending.

Finn and the diocese each face two separate counts of failing to report suspicions of child abuse. Each charge against Finn carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The diocese faces a fine of up to $5,000 for each charge.

While Ratigan was arrested in May 2011 on the child pornography charges, prosecutors say both Finn and the diocese should have reported Ratigan to police as early as December 2010, when they acknowledge becoming aware of lewd images of children on his laptop.

Finn and the diocese have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A source inside the Kansas City diocesan chancery said Wednesday that Finn had been meeting with his lawyers for three days behind closed doors before the date change was announced.

That source, who asked not to be named, also said there has been anxiety at the chancery offices in the time leading to the trial.

"The general atmosphere is just one of anxiety," said the source. "The closer we get to the trial, the more anxious people are. It's just eating everybody up. It affects everything we do."

On Aug. 2, Ratigan pleaded guilty to five of 13 federal counts of producing and attempting to produce sexually graphic material of minor girls. He has yet to be sentenced, but each charge separately carries between 15 and 30 years in prison.

Ratigan still faces similar charges in an ongoing case in Clay County, Mo., where the parish he last served as pastor is located.

In a separate agreement with prosecutors in that county in November, prosecutors suspended misdemeanor charges against Finn in the case as long as the bishop agreed to give the prosecutors immediate oversight of the diocese's sex abuse reporting procedures in their county.

As part of the agreement, Finn agreed to monthly meetings with Clay County prosecutor Daniel White to discuss all reported suspicions of abuse in the county, one of 27 the diocese spans in western and northwestern Missouri.

A report commissioned by the diocese on its response to the Ratigan matter, released in August 2011 and conducted by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, found that "individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, school, and families."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pope Benedict is a "perfectly liberal pope"

Rome has spent considerable effort trying to bring the schismatic SSPX folks back into full communion with the church, starting with lifting the excommunications of four "bishops" including  anti-semitic Bishop Richard Williamson  (recently excluded  by the society for "continuous disobedience". Just in case one thinks Williamson is a radical exception, the following quote from the SSPX head on the occasion of the Pope's 2008 visit to the USA is instructive. These extremists are no friends of either Catholics or Americans. - Mike

The Superior-General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Bishop Bernard Fellay, pronounced some interesting words at his homily at Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet (Paris), last Sunday:

And now, we have a perfectly liberal Pope, my very dear brothers. As he goes to this country [the United States]which is founded upon Masonic principles, that is, of a revolution, of a rebellion against God. And, well, he expressed his admiration, his fascination before this country which has decided to grant liberty to all religions. He goes so far as to condemn the confessional State. And he is called traditional! And this is true, this is true: he is perfectly liberal, perfectly contradictory. He has some good sides, the sides which we hail, for which we rejoice, such as what he has done for the Traditional liturgy.

What a mystery, my very dear brothers, what a mystery!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cardinal Burke's sex abuse analysis woefully inadequate

Thomas C. Fox
National Catholic Reporter
Sept. 3, 2012

Cardinal Raymond Burke has reportedly expressed his profound sorrow that “the failure of knowledge and application of the canon law … contributed significantly to the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy in some parts of the world.”

His remarks, as far as they go, reveal a serious misunderstanding of the deeper nature of the clergy sex abuse crisis. Not to face its larger and, in the eyes of many, more troubling dimension, is to make it all the more unlikely we will ever get beyond it.

What makes the cardinal’s seemingly inadequate analysis all the more shocking is that he holds a critical position of authority within our church. As head of our church’s highest court, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, any inability – or unwillingness – to face, examine and respond to the scandal, now over a quarter century old, only adds to the crisis and feeds an already widespread pessimism that our church leaders are not up to the task.
Is it personality or structure? Is it the makeup of the leadership or the way that leadership carries out (or fails to carry out) its duties?

What is especially bothersome about Burke’s inadequate analysis of the abuse scandal [3]is it comes after decades of news coverage and studies, civil and ecclesial, which suggest far larger institutional challenges than wayward priests who have failed to live by canon law.
To start with let’s note here the obvious: preying sexually on children violates much more than canon law. More fundamentally it violates God’s laws and every notion of decent human conduct in cultures throughout the world. As one NCR commentator recently wrote: It violates “the laws of the heart and soul, laws of human love, consensual adult expressions of that love, secular laws, criminal laws, and every other law--even if canon law never existed.”
Now, to the next level. What the cardinal fails to mention in his assessment of the scandal is that from the very beginning it has been a two-step violation against the Catholic family. The first has been the abusive acts by the priest; the second has been a consistent pattern of episcopal denial and cover-up. This second violation has been especially troubling, as it has revealed a generation of episcopal leaders more concerned about institutional image than gospel witness.


From the start, we could see that in diocese after diocese priests who had been preying on the young were being protected by their bishops. It was shocking to see such denial. It was a pattern that sent not one but two destructive daggers into the souls of the victims who had first been abused and then later termed deceitful liars by major church authority figures. We could hardly believe so many bishops, acting independently, it seemed, would throw children under the proverbial bus to protect their fellow clerics.
The patterns of abuse and cover-up have not been limited to the United States. They have, of course, been reported worldwide. The only nations in which Catholic clergy sex abuse has not become public are those lacking a relatively free press and relatively free judicial system. The media and courts have been shown to be the only two institutional forces of accountability the aggrieved have had at their disposal – short of any reluctant to absent efforts by the institutional church.

Cardinal Burke would do us all a favor to examine the second component of the clergy sex abuse scandal, that component that deals with his episcopal colleagues. He might ask why canon law has not come to the aid of the children in a forthright and active manner. He might ask how church law has allowed his fellow bishops to cover up the scandal rather than bringing to public. He might examine how church law has played a role in driving many Catholics, disaffected by the scandal, from the church.

It has been the collective failure by our church leaders – a failure lasting to this day – that is so disturbing to so many. It has been a failure to adequately address the episcopal complicity and cover up in the quarter century old scandal. This absence of accountability was evident in the June 2002 declaration by the U.S. bishops of their “zero tolerance” law for priests. At that time, the bishops promulgated a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It pledged the Catholic Church in the U.S. to providing a "safe environment" for all children in church-sponsored activities. But the documents said virtually nothing at the time about the episcopal patterns of abusive behavior that allowed the scandal to flourish for so many years.

Read the full article at the National Catholic Reporter

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Late cardinal calls Catholic church 200 years out of date

Voice of America
Sept. 1, 2012

The former Archbishop of Milan, a one-time candidate for pope who died Friday, said in his last interview that the Catholic Church is “200 years out of date.”
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini died Friday in Milan at 85 after suffering from Parkinson's disease.
His last interview was published Saturday in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper, in which he had a regular column.
The cardinal noted that churches are “big and empty” while the church bureaucracy grows and the rituals become “pompous.” He accuses the church of failing to keep up with the times.
Cardinal Martiini says the recent child abuse scandal obliges the church to transform itself by admitting mistakes and beginning a radical change, starting with the pope and bishops.
Cardinal Martini was regarded as one of the most progressive voices in the church. He held relatively liberal views on such issues as contraception, celibacy for priests, and abortion.
Vatican liberals pushed the cardinal as a candidate to succeed Pope John Paul in 2005 before the more conservative wing prevailed with Pope Benedict.