Friday, November 30, 2012

"Cold war" between rebel priests and the vatican

Allesandro Speciale
Vatican Insider
Nov. 30, 2012

The decision to revoke Mgr. Helmut Schueller’s title comes just as the Austrian rebel priest movement prepares for a big international event

This punishment, which is more symbolic that anything, is nevertheless the sign of a certain cooling towards the activity of Austria’s rebel priests, just as they prepare for a big international event in 2013, which is aimed at creating links between priests across the world who are becoming restless with the Vatican’s ultra-conservatism and are seeking deep reforms in the Catholic Church.

Yesterday, the Vatican announced it was stripping Helmut Schueller, former vicar general of the Archdiocese of Vienna who has led the Pfarrer Initiative for some years now, of title “monsignor”. The Pharrer Initiative is a movement of Austrian priests that is asking for ecclesiastical reforms in areas such as obligatory celibacy and the administration of communion to divorcees and same-sex couples. Scheuller remains a priest to all effects and purposes but is not longer the “Chaplain of His Holiness”, an honorary title he received when he was president of Caritas Austria.


The news comes just days after Schueller’s interview with Austrian news agency APA, in which he announced an international meeting of movements that have sprung up across the world in recent years, either following in the footsteps of the Austrian rebel priests or presenting their own requests.

The meeting is expected to take place in 2013 and groups of priests from Germany, Ireland, France, the U.S. and Australia who have links with the Pfarrer Initiative, have apparently already expressed their interest in attending. 2013, Schueller explained, is going to be “a year of internationalisation for the movement and a congress will probably be held in Germany.”

A tenth of the entire Austrian clergy, that is, more than 500 priests and deacons, are members of the “rebel parish priest” movement. The Austrian initiative, which was launched in 2005, attracted worldwide interest in 2011 with the publication of its “Call to Disobedience”. In this manifesto, priests called for radical changes in the Church on issues such as the administration of communion to remarried divorcees, women’s ordination, ordination and married priests, giving more power to faithful and the local clergy to choose bishops. They also called for lay people to be given a more active role in the celebration of the liturgy, in preaching and in the Eucharist in cases where there is a shortage of priests. This would take some weight off the shoulders of priests, preventing them from becoming officials overloaded with work and making mass a bureaucratic affair; it would also prevent them from having to run up and down the country to administer the sacraments in different dioceses.

Although Austrian bishops have always sought to keep the doors of dialogue with “rebel” priests open, in a recent speech he gave in the Vatican, the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mgr. Gerhard Ludwig Müeller, responded directly to one of the ideas carried forward by the Pfarrer Initiative: giving faithful the possibility to choose their own “pastor” is a “Protestant idea”, Müeller said.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rome clamps down on rebel priest

The Tablet
29 November 2012

The Vatican has stripped a prominent Austrian priest who has spear-heading calls for church reform of his right to use the title monsignor.

Rome also said today that Helmut Schüller was no longer a "Chaplain of His Holiness", Reuters reported. However he remains a priest.

Fr Schüller, a former vicar-general to Vienna's archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, had been given the honorary title in his capacity as head of the Austrian branch of the Catholic charity Caritas.

Last year he founded the Austrian Priests' Initiative, which in its "Call to Disobedience" favours the ordination of women and married men and communion for remarried divorcees, and has inspired the establishment of similar groups in Germany, Ireland, France, the US and Australia.

Church puts clout on the line with drive against reproductive health bill

Vito Barcelo
Manila Standard Today
Nov. 29, 2012

A Catholic official said Wednesday the bishops for the first time would be urging the faithful to vote as a bloc to defeat the Reproductive Health bill that the bishops say is anti-life and the candidates favoring passing it.

Analysts, however, said the move was a risky one because it would be putting the Church’s influence on the line.

“It would be okay if the faithful followed the clerics and rejected the candidates favoring the RH bill, but what if they didn’t and voted according to their conscience?” one said.

Isabela de Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said the advocates of the RH bill should not underestimate the bishops’ campaign against those favoring the measure.

“I think we can come up with a Catholic vote,” Jumoad said.

“The Church’s moral responsibility to uphold the sanctity of life will be our code of belief.”

But Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said whether or not a Catholic vote existed, what was certain is that they would be intensifying their campaign against the bill and its proponents and supporters.

“What they think of as a myth today may be a reality tomorrow,” Arguelles said.

“We are trying to encourage the good Catholics, and there are already those who are responding to our call.”

Still, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops conference of the Philippines, on Wednesday said “it’s up to the people to make their own decisions” when asked about the so-called Catholic vote.

“There is no official statement from the CBCP” on whether or not the Catholics would be urged to reject the political candidates supporting the RH bill, Palma said, adding the Catholics had the freedom to choose their government leaders.


The CBCP said every diocesan bishop would be issuing his own pastoral letter to local priests that will be read during Mass starting on Sunday.


In South Cotabato, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said efforts were under way in his diocese to campaign against the pro-RH bill candidates.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said they had already intensified their campaign to urge voters to reject the pro-RH bill candidates.


At the House of Representatives, the RH bill’s principal author on Wednesday expressed hope that the period of amendments for the measure would push through next week.


“Fear has always been used by the clergy as an instrument of repression and reprisal like fear of eternal damnation, fear of excommunication, fear of offending religious ministers, fear of contraceptives as abortifacients and carcinogenic, and fear of a demographic winter.”


Full article at the Manila Standard Today

[After the mostly unsuccessful episcopal attempts to influence voters in the USA, it will be interesting to see how well such attempts fare in the UK and Phillipines]

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How other Catholic countries in Europe deal with abortion

By Graham Clifford
Irish Independent
Saturday November 24 2012

No other subject provokes such intense debate in Ireland as abortion, as we have witnessed in recent days following the Savita Halappanavar tragedy. But how do other predominately Catholic countries in Europe deal with this divisive issue?

In Poland, where 87pc of the population classify themselves as Catholics, it's legal to have an abortion when the woman's life or health is endangered by the pregnancy, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act such as rape or when the foetus is seriously malformed.

Indeed, despite its Catholic stance, in 1932 Poland became the first country in Europe to allow terminations when the pregnancy resulted from a criminal act.


In Italy, where 87.8pc of the population say they are Catholics, the law is completely at odds with the church itself.

Since 1978 women are allowed terminate a pregnancy on demand during the first 90 days.

Abortions are legal if they are carried out for health, economic or social reasons, including the circumstances under which conception occurred.

The procedure can be carried out free-of-charge in public hospitals and termination in the second trimester is permitted if the mother's life or health is at risk.


Spain too, with its 94pc Catholic population, has liberal laws on abortion. In 2006 the country's then-socialist government changed the law, allowing any woman to get an abortion up until 14 weeks.

The Socialist prime minister at the time, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, also legalised gay marriage and let same-sex couples adopt children. Now ruling conservatives want to restrict the right to terminations, though the electorate appears to be split on the issue.


Malta is the most similar country to Ireland in Europe in terms of its lack of clarity on the abortion issue. It too is a hub of Catholicism with 98pc of the island's people considering themselves as such.

And, like Ireland, it traditionally has shied away from giving clear legal direction on when terminations can and can't be allowed.

While the law states abortion is illegal under any and all circumstances, they have been carried out when the life of the mother has been threatened without any charge being brought by the police.

In Savita Halappanavar's home country of India over 2.5 million abortions have been reported so far this year though the number of 'unreported' abortions is expected to bring the total for 2012 to 11 million.

Under law enacted in 1971, abortions can be granted if there is a danger to the woman's physical or mental health, if the baby will be handicapped or malformed or if the conception occurred as a result of rape.


A study in the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that four to 12 million selective abortions of girls have occurred in India in the past three decades.

Full article at the Irish Independent News

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pope determined to revamp (Irish) church with new posts

Ralph Riegel
Irish Independent
Monday November 26 2012

POPE Benedict is to reshape the church here, with two more bishops to be appointed within weeks after the Diocese of Cloyne finally got its new bishop.


Significantly, he chose a senior cleric noted for his outstanding parish abilities rather than a Vatican-based academic.

Church officials stressed that the emphasis on pastoral ability reflects the Pope's determination to "reshape and renew the Irish Church".

Six other Irish dioceses either have no bishop or have prelates serving beyond their retirement age.


church sources confirmed to the Irish Independent that lists of recommended candidates for the vacant bishoprics are being considered by the Vatican.

Priority is set to be given to the dioceses of Limerick and Kildare & Leighlin, both of whom have been without bishops for over three years.


Canon Crean will be installed early in the New Year. A native of Tralee and Parish Priest of Cahirciveen for the past six years, he admitted he was "apprehensive" about the new role, given the trauma in Cloyne over clerical child abuse.

The diocese is still reeling from Judge Yvonne Murphy's devastating report, which revealed that children had been left at risk by the failure to implement the church's own child protection guidelines.


Cloyne has been without a bishop for almost four years after Dr John Magee, a private secretary to three Popes, first stepped aside and then resigned over the controversy.


Cloyne has a Catholic population of more than 150,000 people and comprises 46 parishes. However, the diocese is struggling with the fall-out from the abuse scandals, with multiple compensation settlements for victims.

Full article at the Irish Independent

Friday, November 23, 2012

George Pell showed little empathy for victims, inquiry hears

Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Nov. 24, 2012

Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, had tried to compel victims into silence when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing by parish priests when he was the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse was told.

Anthony Foster recalled meeting Cardinal Pell to discuss a priest who had repeatedly raped two of his daughters when they were at primary school.

He told the inquiry that Cardinal Pell said: "If you don't like what we're doing, take us to court," and did not appear distressed by the incidents.

"In our interactions with the now-Cardinal Archbishop Pell, we experienced a sociopathic lack of empathy, typifying the attitude and responses of the church hierarchy," Mr Foster said.

Meanwhile the detective whose claims of a church cover-up of child sex abuse led to the announcement of the federal royal commission is seeking special whistleblower legislation protection from threats.

NSW Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox said yesterday he and his wife had received hate mail and other threats.

His lawyer last week wrote to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione seeking his support for Insp Fox to be registered as a whistleblower under the Public Interest Disclosures Act.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sexual abuse crisis threatens the very foundation of Catholicism

Andrew West
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
November 23, 2012 (Cardinal) George Pell is an easy target for both liberal critics in the Catholic Church and secularist tormentors in the media.

In his recent, defensive press conference, he suggested the church was being singled out as the only institutional offender in the child sex abuse crisis. It was grist to the mill of those who are convinced the cardinal Archbishop of Sydney is making excuses for clerical crime.

His insistence that the rite of confession must remain a secret between confessor and penitent - no matter how evil the offence that is revealed - was seemingly more evidence that he was putting the church's reputation and customs ahead of abuse victims. As his brother bishop Geoffrey Robinson conceded, it was painful. Dr Pell is an old-fashioned prelate. He not only toes the Vatican line but, as a key adviser on education, ministry and doctrine, he has helped shape it. One of Dr Pell's long-standing - but not unquestioning - friends calls him "a company man". RMIT University professor Des Cahill has known the cardinal for 50 years. Professor Cahill left the Catholic priesthood in the 1970s to marry and begin a distinguished career as an academic psychologist.

It's his feeling that for most of Dr Pell's career as a priest, he has been torn by two currents within Catholicism. One current flowed from Vatican II, which began in 1962, towards modernisation and openness. The other current flowed from Dr Pell's conservative teachers at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, who, in the 1960s, were trying to uphold Vatican authority and doctrinal purity. In the struggle for Dr Pell's heart, the conservatives probably eked out a narrow victory.


Next week the archbishops of the Australian church will meet in Sydney. With the Royal Commission impending, their meeting could be fork-in-the-road stuff. They have already pledged support for the national inquiry. But do they view it as some sort of cleansing fire from which the church will emerge free of deviant people and practices but essentially unreformed? That will be the hope of many traditionalists. But while paedophilia is an act of individual evil, there is a body of scholarship - from people such as Professor Cahill and the psychotherapist Marie Keenan in her landmark study, Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church - that suggests cloistered and repressed environments can magnify the problem. Professor Cahill even fears that without serious structural reform, the Catholic Church is vulnerable to a repeat of the sexual abuse scandal.

No matter how much Dr Pell insists otherwise, this crisis is more pronounced in the Catholic Church than other religious institutions.

Professor Cahill's study suggests that between 5 and 7 per cent of Catholic priests who passed through Melbourne's Corpus Christi College between the mid 1940s and the mid 1970s have become sex offenders. The child protection expert, Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney law school, says abuse within the Catholic Church is six to seven times that of abuse within the other churches combined. The Victoria police numbers suggest it is 10 times the level of abuse among the Anglicans and Salvation Army.

These figures cannot be coincidental. They suggest a structural and cultural problem within Catholicism.

[similar percentages in America according to the Jay report]

Bishop Robinson, himself a victim of childhood abuse, wrote in his recent book that the church needed to revisit the question of compulsory clerical celibacy. In its most benign form, it leads to loneliness for often isolated priests. In its worst form, it creates "an unhealthy psychology" that has led to child abuse.

The words of people like Des Cahill, Geoffrey Robinson and Marie Keenan - voices from within Catholicism - should focus the minds of Catholic leaders next week.

Full article at Sydney Morning Herald Read more:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Former Maryknoll head decries Vatican interference in Bourgeois case

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 20, 2012

A former head of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers has expressed support for Roy Bourgeois, saying the longtime peace activist and priest has a "deep love for the church" and his dismissal from the order by the Vatican represents meddling in Maryknoll's affairs.

In his first statement since the dismissal, Bourgeois said Tuesday, "The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church."

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has "interfered with the integrity of the society," said Maryknoll Fr. John Sivalon, who served as the order's superior general from 2002 to 2008.

"It makes it very hard to consider how we talk about mission and visioning for the future and being open to the Spirit, when in fact we're being dictated to that this is what we need to follow," Sivalon told NCR Tuesday. "And so I think there is a question about the society itself and how the integrity of the society has been affected by this."

The Vatican congregation dismissed Bourgeois, a member of Maryknoll for 45 years who had come under scrutiny for his support of women's ordination, from the order in October, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers announced in a press release Monday.

In his statement responding to his dismissal, Bourgeois said his expulsion from Maryknoll "is very difficult and painful."


Requests for comment on the matter Tuesday were not immediately returned by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Bourgeois first learned of the news Monday afternoon in a phone call from a Maryknoll priest who had called to ask Bourgeois to come up to the order's New York headquarters for a meeting, Doyle said.

Bourgeois asked the priest the purpose of the meeting, and Doyle said the priest replied that the order had received a letter from the Vatican congregation dismissing Bourgeois both from the order and the priesthood.

Bourgeois then asked if the society would hold off on making an announcement about the matter until he could meet with them and see a copy of the letter, Doyle said. They refused.

"Roy did not see the content of this news release until I printed a copy up and sent it to him by fax," Doyle said.

The Vatican's removal of Bourgeois, Sivalon said, "raises questions about how open the society can be to explain avenues of being in mission in different ways."

Prior to the congregation's dismissal of the priest, "the society was moving toward a much more Kingdom-centered, Reign of God-centered kind of understanding of its mission and service to that, and this raises questions about it," said the former superior general.

"My own position would be of support for women's ordination and opening up ministry to others," Sivalon said, "and I think it would be the position of probably many in leadership in Maryknoll."

"I think all of us, looking at what's happening in the church today, think that it's just becoming less and less relevant and less and less open to the possibility that the Spirit is speaking through the world and speaking through others," Sivalon said. "I think people that know Roy would still look upon him as a priest and respect him as a priest, no matter what the congregation has done."


Doyle said he and Bourgeois would discuss the possibilities for appeal of the decision once they are able to see a copy of the letter from the Vatican congregation.

"As Catholics, we profess that God created men and women of equal worth and dignity," Bourgeois wrote in his statement Tuesday.

"As priests, we profess that the call to the priesthood comes from God, only God. Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God's call to women is not? The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, our Church and our loving God who calls both men and women to be priests."

Full article at the National Catholic Reporter
See previous story here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roy Bourgeois: they finally got him

Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 20, 2012

Ah, they finally got him, as we all knew they probably would. Eventually. And with a press release it was done: Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest for 45 years, was told that the Vatican “dispenses” him “from his sacred bonds.”

And the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, caught in the culture that finds advocating for women’s ordination such a grievous and unpardonable offense, “warmly thanks” Roy “for his service to mission and all members wish him well in his personal life.”

And so it goes, as Vonnegut would say. So it goes.

Bourgeois’ case is a prime illustration of what, today, the institution can and can’t tolerate. Bourgeois’ major offense, the sin that is unforgiveable in the eyes of the church, for which penalty is removal from the order which he has served for nearly half a century and dismissal from the community, was advocating for women’s ordination.

It’s a clear case: the priest attended a woman’s ordination ceremony and, as the release noted, his “disobedience and preaching against the teaching of the Catholic Church about women’s ordination led to his excommunication, dismissal and laicization.”

The three biggies, all at once, all wrapped up in less than four years’ time.

In fact, the Vatican reaction initially occurred far more swiftly. Soon after he attended the Womanpriest service in August 2008, Bourgeois received a Vatican notice that he had incurred an automatic, or latae sententiae, excommunication.


Bourgeois is out. He persisted in what was intolerable.

The point has by now been made by countless readers and others who see the gaping discrepancy in what church leaders finds tolerable and intolerable. But it is worth stating once more, in public and for the record.


But worst of all, he began speaking to women and he allowed himself to be convinced. They should be permitted to become priests, he said. Not quietly, as do lots of priests and some bishops, but openly. The question of women and their place in the church should be open to discussion, he kept saying.

The Cardinals Who Nearly Destroyed the Church

The point to be made, now that Bourgeois is out, is an obvious one. There are cardinals who have had as much to do as any individual might with the near destruction of once grand Catholic communities in places like Boston and Philadelphia, who have been permitted to remain priests and go quietly into retirement.

Not a word has been said by Rome or by his successors about Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua who had a large space in Philadelphia’s chancery office that was filled with files recounting sexual abuse of children.

Bevilacqua oversaw priests who were involved in nothing short of sexual torture of youngsters. And he hid their deeds until the statutes of limitation kicked in and the priests could no longer be prosecuted. They would retire, and he would escape the law and any Vatican sanction until he could retire.

His successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, ignored the charter that the bishops themselves had been forced to construct in the course of the scandal. He violated the church’s rules and likely violated civil law by not reporting alleged abusers. And off he quietly went, as a middle manager in the chancery office headed to jail.

Cardinal Bernard Law, everyone knows, had to leave Boston because of the enormous public pressure and the outrage of his priests, but he took a cushy job in Rome and retained his seats on at least six powerful Vatican congregations, including the Congregation for Bishops, until he was allowed to quietly retire.

In Kansas City, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn, convicted in September of one count of failing to notify police that one of his priests had taken hundreds of lewd photographs of children, is still a bishop.

Finn recently attended a national meeting of bishops, and not one of them publicly raised the issue. The body of bishops, which has repeatedly apologized for unspecified “mistakes” in the handling of the abuse crisis and repeatedly promised transparency and accountability, couldn’t bring itself to mention the glaring contradiction and hypocrisy in its midst.

Not a word from the Vatican. Not a word from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the conference. All were silent. And not a word from Finn about the damage and expense he has already cost the diocese.

What’s glaringly clear is what’s tolerable and what’s not tolerable to the all-male, celibate culture of hierarchy.

Roy Bourgeois wanted to talk about the rights of women in the church. That’s the ecclesial crime that will get you kicked out.

Full article at the National Catholic Reporter

San Jose parish pastor resigns in wake of scandal over child molester volunteer

Julia Prodis Sulek and Mark Gomez
Mercury News
Nov. 20, 2012

SAN JOSE -- The pastor of the Saint Frances Cabrini School and Parish resigned Monday, weeks after his defense of a convicted child molester at a parish festival infuriated parents and scandalized the Diocese of San Jose.

In announcing the resignation of the Rev. Lieu Vu, the diocese also released a letter written by a former diocese human resources employee permitting convicted pedophile Mark Gurries to participate and volunteer at parish and school events.

Gurries unveiled a copy of the letter Oct. 6 when a 19-year-old former student recognized him working the sound system at a parish festival, setting off a heated exchange between a group of parents and the Rev. Vu.

When parents expressed outrage and demanded Gurries be removed from campus, the pastor reportedly defended Gurries, saying he had a right to be there and should be forgiven.

The heated confrontation continued for five hours, ending when a Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy, who was working the festival as security, escorted Gurries off campus.

The letter on Diocese of San Jose letterhead is dated Nov. 15, 2010, and was not authorized or approved by Bishop Patrick McGrath or his top deputies, the diocese said Monday in a news release.

It wasn't clear how often Gurries volunteered at parish events in the two years since the letter was written.

The 51-year-old engineer, married to a former teacher at Saint Frances Cabrini, was convicted of "lewd and lascivious conduct" on a minor under 14 years old and sentenced on May 17, 2010, to a year in county jail. It wasn't clear Monday when he was released from jail, but he remains on probation.

Also unclear Monday was the identity of the employee who wrote and signed the letter and when that person left the diocese. Gurries directly requested the letter from that employee to "inform his probation officer of the Diocesan policies regarding volunteers," the statement said. He said he occasionally volunteered at the Saint Frances Cabrini school and parish and had a child who attended a local Catholic high school.

The letter informs Gurries that he could "continue to participate in parent functions" and "volunteer in parish and school activities that do not involve regular, unsupervised contact with children, youth or vulnerable adults." But he was told he "would not be permitted to volunteer" in unsupervised activities with children.


"There's probably 200 people out there who want to know who signed it from the diocese, and who knew," said Vickie Devincenzi, a parish parent. "That's what I don't understand. Who said it was OK?"

John Borrelli, whose daughter Melanie was the one who spotted Gurries working at the festival, said the parish should have been more forthright from the start. "If they would have been more forthcoming, or notified parents in 2010, or turned down his request ..." he said. "I'm sorry, there's no need to volunteer at our school. Why couldn't somebody have said that?"

On Sunday, Bishop McGrath apologized for "a failure at the diocese level" that allowed Gurries to be a volunteer.

In its statement Monday, the diocese said that McGrath is "taking immediate steps to adopt and implement the policies that registered sex offenders will not be able to volunteer under any circumstances."

A spokeswoman with the diocese said the Gurries letter was the only known letter written by the diocese on behalf of a sex offender.

Vu steps down after three years leading the San Jose church and will not be reassigned as pastor within the diocese, according to a diocese statement Monday evening. .........

"It's sad because here was a pastor that me and my kids listened to him preach. I didn't want this to happen," Borrelli said. "Kids look up to the pastors. It's sad that it all came to this."

Full article at Mercury News

Monday, November 19, 2012

In defense of academic freedom

Editorial Board LA Loyolan (Loyola Marymount)
Nov. 19, 2012

Are “Catholic university” and “academic freedom” contradictory terms? It’s certainly starting to seem that some people want it that way, both here at LMU and at other Catholic institutions.

We’ve written Board Editorials on the topic of academic freedom before, related to the reading of the marriage equality play “8” on campus and Dr. Christopher Kaczor’s talk on his pro-life book (see the Sept. 6 and Oct. 18 issues of the Loyolan, respectively). LMU attracted the attention of Catholic bloggers (like the Cardinal Newman Society) when our president chose to uphold academic freedom and let the marriage equality discussion occur. And consequently, we as an institution have had our dedication to our Catholic identity called into question.

This struggle of balancing Catholic identity and academic freedom is not unique to LMU. University of San Diego’s (USD) president, Mary Lyons, recently rescinded an offer to a scholar to serve as an honorary fellow at the university. The scholar, British theologian Tina Beattie, co-signed a letter with dozens of other prominent Catholics in which they voiced their support for marriage equality. Lyons then uninvited Beattie to USD’s campus.

In a post on her personal blog, Marginal Musings, Beattie explains, “The cancellation of my visit is not the most important issue in all this. The real issues are academic freedom … and the power of a hostile minority of bloggers.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Fordham University, a Jesuit institution in New York, recently cancelled outspoken conservative Ann Coulter’s visit to campus. A petition calling for Coulter to be banned from campus said, “There is no room at a university whose motto is ‘men and women for and with others’” for Coulter to speak. The president of Fordham, Fr. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., wrote a letter expressing his disappointment that she was being brought to campus. Although he did not call for the organization to cancel Coulter’s appearance on campus, the group announced shortly after that Coulter would no longer be speaking. In response to the cancellation of Coulter’s appearance, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Greg Lukianoff is quoted in an post as saying that in issues like this, “when you talk to the students themselves [who scheduled the event], it’s pretty clear that they understood they did not have much choice in the matter.”

As the issue of what academic freedom is on a Catholic campus becomes national, we again have to ask why there’s seemingly a push to censor discourse “in the name of” Catholic identity. Abortion, marriage equality and extreme conservatism – and how all of these relate to religion – are topical and important to discuss. Hearing speakers with strong opinions on any such topic, regardless of listeners’ personal stances, will hopefully generate a debate to help students form their own perspectives. Why, then, shouldn’t they be talked about in an academic setting? We’re proud to say LMU stood its ground in its defense of academic freedom this semester. We’re proud to say LMU upheld the Jesuit ideal of teaching how to think, not what to think. But it’s disappointing to witness the pressure Catholic universities face to self-censor, and it’s even more upsetting to know other Catholic schools have succumbed to that pressure.

See previous reports here and here

Sunday, November 18, 2012

San Jose Bishop appears at Cabrini Mass for personal apology

Julia Prodis Sulek and Mark Gomez
Contra Costa Times
Nov. 18, 2012

SAN JOSE -- Bishop Patrick McGrath apologized during a family Mass on Sunday for "a failure at the diocese level" that gave permission to a convicted child molester to volunteer at the Saint Frances Cabrini parish festival last month.

"I take full responsibility," McGrath told the congregation from the podium moments before the service began at Cabrini, located on Camden Avenue in San Jose. "I pledge to you I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn't happen again." Although the bishop said he hoped his remarks and a letter he included in the parish bulletin would "answer some of your questions," neither explained how or why a letter was written and signed by someone at the diocese vouching for pedophile Mark Gurries. The 51-year-old engineer, married to a former teacher at Saint Frances Cabrini, was convicted just two years ago of "lewd and lascivious conduct" on a minor under 14 years old. He served nearly a year in county jail and remains on probation. The victim was a relative.

"As a matter of record, it was a mistake

[mistake? negligence? betrayal of trust?]

that allowed Mr. Gurries to be a parish volunteer and to be present at the festival," the bishop wrote in the letter included in the bulletin. "Our policy is clear: No one who has been found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult can be hired or allowed to be a volunteer that involves children, young people or vulnerable adults."

McGrath, 67, the bishop of the San Jose Diocese since 1998, said he was "deeply troubled, and I apologize to you that this policy was not followed." In the letter, McGrath also offered special commendation to the group of parents who recognized Gurries at the parish festival and argued vehemently with the parish priest until Gurries was escorted off campus by a sheriff's deputy.

"How this happened is still a matter of continuing investigation on the diocesan level," the bishop's letter said. "Even before that investigation is concluded, I want to assure you that we will never knowingly allow such an occurrence to be repeated in the Diocese of San Jose."

John Borrelli, a parent at Saint Frances Cabrini who confronted the parish pastor about Gurries on the night of the festival and spoke on the record to this newspaper about what happened, said "it made me feel very good for the bishop to see what we tried to do that night was correct."

Mystery letter


According to the California Penal Code, registered sex offenders may be allowed on school grounds if they have written permission from the chief administrative official of that school. Without such permission, a registered sex offender can be convicted of a misdemeanor for being on school grounds.

The school principal told parents in a letter last week that no one from the school administration had given permission. However, the parish priest, the Rev. Lieu Vu, told angry parents at the festival that Gurries had a letter giving him permission, that he had a right to be there and should be forgiven. That letter came from the diocese but has not been made public. It remains unclear who signed it and who authorized it.

The incident resonated throughout the Catholic community, especially in light of years of priest sex abuse scandals and cover-ups by church officials locally and across the country.

It is unclear why Gurries, whose wife no longer works at the school nor has any children there, would request to be a volunteer, although he may have been a member of the parish. He worked the sound system at the festival on Oct. 6.

[Should this have been a screaming alarm signal or what?]

"There's still questions as to why this person wrote the letter," Borrelli said. "Who wrote this mysterious letter. Who approved such a thing. These people have to be held responsible for what happened."


Borrelli firmly believes the diocese still must publicly answer questions about the letter, including who authorized it and who knew a sex offender had clearance to volunteer on campus.

"They need to come forth and tell the parents what happened and why and that it's never going to happen again," Borrelli said. "The parents that believe in the school, we all deserve this. I'm not going to leave and go elsewhere. I'm trying to clean up the problems at that school."

Full article at Contra Costa Times

What to think of the Catholic bishops?

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Pray Tell
Nov. 17, 2012

Lots of opinions about episcopal leadership in the Roman Catholic Church – did you know that? Wow, some of the opinions are pretty sharp.

Even from bishops themselves. Over in Australia this week, retired bishop Geoffrey Robinson said that Cardinal George Pell is an “embarrassment” to “a lot of good Catholic people” and should no longer be the voice of Australian bishops in the wake of his comments about child sex abuse within the church. Restoring faith won’t be easy. The Catholic Church in Australia is in meltdown just now over you-know-what. Cardinal Pell is saying the requisite things about transparency and welcoming a government inquiry into the Church’s handling of…etc.etc. But also saying the Church has been unfairly targeted due to “anti-Catholic prejudice.”


Over at Religious News Service, Mark Silk weighs in on the US bishops’ meeting this week:
“The Catholic bishops embarrassed themselves in Baltimore.” His issue is that the bishops did and said nothing about the presence among them of convicted Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City. And that their letter on the economy veered so sharply from the views of their 1986 letter – after sharp criticism it was voted down, leaving the bishops saying nothing about the economy. And that the bishops are moving forward with the canonization of Dorothy Day – while pretty much ignoring everything she had to say.

Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan takes up the HBO documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.” (H/T Eric Bugyis at Commonweal.) The documentary is about the handling of you-know-what by the Church, especially by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. Sullivan thinks it “will one day surely bring the whole house of cards down, so that the church can be rebuilt amid the ruins created by deeply sick and psychologically crippled men at its core.” Ouch. Sullivan talks about the implications for the hierarchy’s credibility: now there are “two Catholic churches in America: those few in the pews who still listen to the bishops and those who exist almost in a parallel church, focused on their own parish, their own priest, and their own faith, which remains, for many of us, undimmed.” Sullivan is in the latter category, as Bugyis seems to be also. Sullivan doesn’t mince words about the hierarchy: “This is where we are. It feels like the last days of the Soviet Union.


For my money, one of the most perceptive commentaries on the daunting challenges facing the Catholic bishops was penned by Fr. Thomas Reese SJ., “Is There a Political Plan B for the Bishops?” Do give it a serious read. It’s a funny time we’re in. There seems to be lots of ferment around issues of authority, power structures, and credibility. Where’s it all going? Is the Holy Spirit up to something? What is it? I have no idea.

Let’s all pray for the bishops.

Original article at Pray Tell

How to fry an egg in liturgical English

Fr. David Bird, OSB
Monks and Mermaids

Nov. 15, 2012

As we become familiar with the new translation of the Roman Missal, those who have responsibility for these matters have obviously decided that the translation has been such a great success that other Catholic literature is also to be re-translated.

I have been lucky enough to see a preview of one of these changes to the Catholic Cookbook:

Graciously pour thine unctuous oil into a singular and worthy vessel until the fullness of heat without smoke-filled aroma ascends to the heavens; and with thy worthy and venerable hands take one egg and gently and delicately break into the warmed fruit of the olive, being careful that the yoke and albumin do not become consubstantial; when, in the fullness of time, this product which you have already begun to make has fulfilled its purpose, ensure that this produce, this spotless produce, this delightful produce, this tasty produce, has become acceptable in God's sight, pleasingly remove it from the pan, sprinkle condiments on it like the dewfall, that it may make manifest his goodness that is vouchsafed to it; may it be found acceptable in his sight and be borne to a place of refreshment at thy table where it may nourish thy spirit; for extra manifestations, please use prevenient oil.

And because it is good to compare with the 1970's translation:

Heat oil in a pan. Break an egg into the oil. Fry until cooked. Remove the egg from the pan and serve.

I am sure you'll agree that the new translation is much better than the old!!!!???

We received the above in manuscript, and I don't know where it comes from. I agree that the old translation needed corrections, and in some ways, it was a bit flat and uninspiring. I also agree that sometimes the new translation is better. However, it is not without mistakes, mistranslations and, above all, with its clumsy attempt to be poetic, its lack of simplicity and clarity. It is the inevitable result of leaving the ultimate judgement on its fittingness for worship to people who scarcely speak English and have no real feel for the language.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Stale cheese on Fridays!

Fr. Dwight Longenecker
Nov. 13, 2012
Gossip has it that Cardinal Dolan is thinking of bringing back a more specific rule for Catholics: abstinence from meat on Fridays. The usual grumble about this is that it is not a penance to eat fish. Seafood is not only delicious, it’s can also be more of a luxury than meat. Where’s the penance in dining out at some high class seafood restaurant instead of the high class chophouse?
The point is well made that the penance is not in eating fish, but in the abstinence from eating meat. I think it’s a fine point. The general idea is still that one is engaged in some sort of penance, and eating lobster somehow doesn’t ring true.
I thought I’d get a petition going to the cardinal to suggest that everyone eat cheese on Fridays, but then what about the cheese connoisseurs? We dined out with friends on Sunday evening and the cheese board offered the most wonderful delicacies. Perhaps the only solution is for the Cardinal to stipulate that it has to be stale cheese.
I’ve developed this little ceremony for the consumption of stale cheese on Fridays: Remember to “Say the black and do the red”.
A Penitential Rite of the Stale Cheese
This rite is authorized for use on Fridays outside of Lent.
The congregation shall gather in the kitchen where a candle shall be lighted. The dog (if there be one) shall get excited at the prospect of food being consumed.
The chief penitent shall approach the refrigerator with head bowed solemnly. He (or she if it is female) shall open the door.
V: O Lord open thou my lips
R: And my mouth shall consume thy cheese.
The penitent shall search the back of the refrigerator for a morsel of cheese which has been placed there six weeks ago. The cheese shall be placed on the kitchen counter with the fuzzy moldy bits exposed for veneration. The dog (if there be one) shall be sent empty away.
A first reading may be read from the Old Testament. I Kings 22. The story of Elijah being fed by ravens.
Reader: Quoth the Raven
Response: Nevermore
 A second reading is taken from the writings of St.Elizabeth of Hungry. 
Reader: And all God’s people said:
Response: We’re hungry.
The penitent takes the scraping knife and removes the blue fuzzy mold from the morsel of cheese. This is put to one side to be disposed of in a seemly manner. The congregation bow their heads in prayer.
Prayer: O Lord, take thy sharp knife of discipline and scrape from us all the mold of sin. Leave not one fuzzy blue bit remaining so that our cheeses may be pure again. AMEN
The blue fuzzy mold is then put into the garbage disposal unit (or if there be not one it shall be disposed of in a handy ziplock bag)
Prayer: O Lord, may the blue fuzzy mold of my sin be disposed of in your eternal garbage disposal. AMEN
The penitents may then consume a morsel of stale cheese. For those who are sick or infirm it may be consumed on an old Ritz cracker. This is done in silence.
All shall then recite the Cheeses Prayer.
Let us pray to Almighty Gouda:
Our Feta, who art in Emmenthal, Quesadilla Brie Thy Name…
After cleansing the cheese dish all may wish to retire to the den to relax and enjoy an episode of the vintage television show The Munsters.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bishops embarassed themselves in Baltimore

Mark Silk
Religion News Service
Nov. 14, 2012

You've got to feel a little sorry for the Catholic bishops.

They declared that the Obama administration was making war on religion and not only was the president reelected but Catholics were the only Christian religious body to vote for him. To make matters worse, after devoting much talk and treasure to combatting the rising tide of same-sex marriage, they got their butts kicked from coast to coast by a populace that voted the other way.

No wonder Cardinal Dolan made penance the theme of his presidential address to the USCCB during their semi-annual fling in Baltimore this week. The problem was, no one was prepared to point the penitential finger at Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, whose continuance in office after being convicted of failing to report a sexually abusive priest makes a mockery of the USCCB's claims to have addressed the cover-up scandal.

Equally embarrassing was the fate of a letter on poverty that +Dolan pushed to at least get the bishops on the record in re: the recession that started four years ago. The letter did everything in its power to skate over the tradition of advocacy embedded in Catholic social teaching, failing even to mention American bishops' own 1986 pastoral letter, "Economic Justice for All."

It was a document more in tune with Rep. Paul Ryan than Pope Leo XIII--one that sought to fulfill the church's preferential option for the poor via such subsidiary institutions as one-man-one-woman marriage and voucherized schooling. After being roundly denounced by retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston and some other episcopal old-timers, the letter failed to garner the necessary two-thirds vote and was pronounced DOA by +Dolan.

The bishops then unanimously decided that this would be a good time to proceed with the canonization of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement who famously declared, "Do not call me a saint." As a devout anarchist, Day was not a fan of big government social programs--but she had no use whatsoever for the kind of laissez-faire subsidiarity advocated by Ryan & Co. She loved organized labor, bosses not so much. As she wrote after a visit to the farm workers in California:

What I saw when I visited Stockton in December was the problem of the land. How much land does a man need? Surely not the tens of thousands of acres owned by the California Packing Company, the Southern Pacific, the Pacific Gas and Electric, the Bank of America, in addition to some individuals whose families administer their holdings like medieval barons, ruling over vast territories and treating their laborers like serfs. These corporations and individuals make up the Associated Farmers.

Reflecting on Los Angeles Cardinal McIntyre's efforts to squelch the civil rights movement in his city, Day had this comment about the relationship of the laity to episcopal authority:

The way I have felt about Los Angeles is that the lay people had to go ahead and form their groups, "Catholics for interracial justice," form their picket lines, as they are only now doing, and make their complaints directly, to priest and cardinal, demanding the leadership, the moral example they are entitled to.

You figure Day would have preferred it if the USCCB spent less time promoting her cause and more time paying attention to what she had to say.

Time to heal in dioceses

Letter to the editor
Kansas City Star
Nov. 14, 2012

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting this week. Our convicted Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn is attending.

A local church spokesman said: “Bishop Finn did not intend to address the bishops either in their public or closed-door sessions. USCCB officials also said there were no plans by conference leaders to raise the issue of Bishop Finn’s status.”

Bishop Finn’s status isn’t a subject the bishops are eager to discuss. The church spokesman said in the two months since Bishop Finn’s conviction, no bishop or church authority has addressed his case and no one has spoken to him privately. Doesn’t this just deepen the scandal?

I wonder whether by their silence, the bishops are condoning Bishop Finn’s actions. Or is membership in their hierarchical ranks of such importance to them that they will not risk speaking their consciences?

Surely, they don’t all condone what took place. Is there a voice of courage among them?

We know Bishop Finn isn’t a voice of courage. If he were, he would resign so the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph could begin to heal and move forward with renewed life.

Sister Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Kansas City

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

USD faculty declare no confidence in university president after fellowship cancellation

Joshua McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 13, 2012

Almost 100 faculty members at the University of San Diego have declared a loss of confidence in their president's leadership, saying her cancellation of a British theologian's visiting fellowship and her response to criticism of the move have shown her to be "ethically bankrupt."

The vote of no confidence by the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, one of seven colleges at the Catholic university, is the latest response to president Mary Lyons' rescission of a fellowship for Tina Beattie, a theologian known for her work in contemporary ethical issues.

Beattie had been scheduled to begin a fellowship at the university's Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture on Nov. 6. Lyons, who says the theologian publicly dissented from church teaching by suggesting Catholics could support civil same-sex marriage, canceled the appointment in an Oct. 27 letter.

"The president has shown herself to be ethically bankrupt, for which reason the motion is placed that this body declare a loss of confidence in her leadership," read the motion approved in a meeting Tuesday of the academic assembly of the university's College of Arts and Sciences .

The vote was 99 in support of the measure, 16 against, and 19 abstaining.

Carlton Floyd, chair of the assembly's executive committee, told NCR that while the vote was "largely symbolic," "it is hugely important as a symbolic gesture."

"It lets the world know ... that faculty here do in fact support and believe strongly in academic freedom, believe strongly and support the leadership of its directors ... and that the reasons and explanations that have come to us [for the cancellation], we consider largely invalid," said Floyd, an associate professor of English at the university.

Calls to university representatives for comment were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

The faculty's action follows wide criticism of Lyons' cancellation of Beattie's fellowship from prominent academics in both the U.S. and the U.K.

The 47,000-member American Association of University Professors, which rates universities on their protection of academic freedom, said in a letter Nov. 5 that the situation raises "serious issues."

Lyons' cancellation came after an influential university alumnus and a conservative watchdog group backed by a high-ranking Vatican official protested the appointment to the university's board of trustees.


While Beattie said she was "amazed" at the response she had seen in her case from others worried about academic freedom and freedom of conscience, she also said her experience has made her believe there are "real problems" with U.S. Catholicism.

"One thing I think that your bishops there need to be aware of, and your funders, is that from this side of the pond, why on earth would any British intellectual want to go through this?" she asked.

"I can't see why anyone in my position would subject themselves to this in order to speak in America. Part of me thinks that you have a real problem with the politics of American Catholicism at the moment. And it's really a disincentive to people wanting to get involved."


Among other theologians who have publicly questioned Lyons' move are Eamon Duffy, a professor of Christian history at the University of Cambridge and a former member of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, and Paul D. Murray, the president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain and a consulter to the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.


Full article at the National Catholic Reporter

See previous report here

Possible social justice battle looms at bishops' meeting

Jerry Filteau
National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 13, 2012

Portents of a major social justice conflict among the U.S. bishops rose on the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall meeting Monday when retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, Texas, denounced a proposed pastoral statement on workers, poverty and the economy as a betrayal of Catholic social teaching.

If approved in its draft form, the statement would be "lampooned" in the Catholic academic world, he said.

Fiorenza, a former USCCB president, said the proposed statement devotes only one short sentence to the long history of Catholic social teaching on workers' rights to organize in unions, to bargain collectively with their employers and to go on strike if their demands for just wages and working conditions are not met.

He noted that the proposed statement, "The Hope of the Gospel in Difficult Economic Times: A pastoral message on work, poverty and the economy," did not have a single reference, even in a footnote, to the bishops' landmark 1986 pastoral letter, "Economic Justice for All," which the bishops developed after years of consultation with economists and other experts. The letter addressed a full range of applications of Catholic social teaching to economic policy and practice in the United States.

"Where's the continuity?" Fiorenza asked.

"I am very disappointed, and I fear that this draft, if not changed in a major way," will harm the U.S. bishops' record on Catholic social teaching, he said.


He added that some conservative Catholic institutions, like the Acton Institute in Michigan, have tried to argue that Pope Leo XIII's landmark 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, which spelled out workers' and private property rights and marks the start of modern Catholic social teaching, is a dated document that is "no longer applicable today."


"I fear that this will not be an effective instrument" for the bishops to address the current woes in the U.S. economy or the people suffering from those problems, Fiorenza said.

The statement, written by a special drafting committee headed by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, was due for a vote Tuesday at the bishops' meeting in Baltimore, which runs through Thursday.

Vigneron said some of Fiorenza's points and those raised by other bishops might be addressed through the amendment process.

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza of Hartford, Conn., asked whether the drafting committee had consulted with an economist, which he said was one of the recommendations of the bishops in June.

Vigneron answered that they had not.

Retired Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn, N.Y., said the document "doesn't address in any way the major shift in the American economy." He also said it ought to reference the 1986 document "to show the continuity of what we said then."

Full article at National Catholic Reporter

Archbishop Cordileone says US church must 'redouble' efforts on marriage

Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service
Nov. 13, 2012

BALTIMORE Just shy of a week after laws permitting same-sex marriage passed in three states and voters in a fourth rejected an amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said Election Day "was a disappointing day for marriage."

The chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage told the U.S. bishops Monday at their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore that traditional marriage also faces probable challenges on the judicial front.

Voters in Maine, Washington state and Maryland approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage Nov. 6, while Minnesota voters rejected a state constitutional amendment to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, opening the door for the Legislature and the courts to consider legalizing same-sex marriage there. Maine's referendum to authorize same-sex marriage reversed a 2009 referendum that banned such marriages.

The election results are "a symptom of a much larger problem," basically that "people don't understand what marriage is," Cordileone said at a news conference following the session where he presented his report.

In delivering his report, he praised the work of the bishops in those four states to defend the traditional definition of marriage, drawing applause from the bishops in the assembly meeting room.

"In all these states where we did not succeed, we were outspent," he said. In Washington, for example, supporters of the legalization measure outspent opponents by 12 to 1, said the archbishop.


Cordileone noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is thought likely to take up one of several cases challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

The Obama administration has stopped defending the law in court and several federal courts have found its definition unconstitutional.

Those cases or any of several other pending cases related to marriage could redefine marriage throughout the country, he said, warning they could have implications for religious liberty "in serious and unforeseen ways."

A ruling that redefines marriage nationwide would be "the Roe decision for marriage," he said, in a reference to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion virtually on demand in every state.

But Cordileone offered words of encouragement, saying, "This work is not in vain." He noted that the same-sex marriages measures approved by voters in those states where the issue was on the ballot passed by a small margin.

"This is not a time to give up, but rather a time to redouble our efforts," he said.

Full article at National Catholic Reporter

Friday, November 9, 2012

Univ. of San Diego faculty demands reversal of theologian's disinvite

Joshua McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 8, 2012

More than 100 faculty members at the University of San Diego have presented their president with an ultimatum: Reinstate a canceled visiting fellowship for a British theologian or face potential public questioning of your capability to lead. The faculty of the Catholic university's College of Arts and Sciences made the move Tuesday in response to president Mary Lyons' cancellation of a fellowship for Tina Beattie, a theologian known for her work in contemporary ethical issues.

Beattie was scheduled to begin a fellowship at the university's Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture on Tuesday. Lyons, who alleges the theologian publicly dissented from church teaching by suggesting Catholics could support civil same-sex marriage, canceled the appointment in an Oct. 27 letter.

In a meeting of their academic assembly Tuesday, the University of San Diego faculty agreed to ask Lyons to reinstate Beattie's appointment immediately or face a possible vote of no confidence in her leadership.

Carlton Floyd, the chair of the assembly's executive committee, said in an interview Wednesday that the move was "exceptionally important."

"The will of the faculty has made it very clear that they consider this matter a matter of extreme importance and a matter that requires our immediate attention," said Floyd, an associate professor of English at the university.

While Floyd said the official count of the vote was not yet available, he said the vote was "overwhelmingly" in favor of the move. Another faculty member present at the meeting put the tally at 117 in favor, two against and three abstaining.


Lyons' move, which came after pressure from a conservative watchdog group backed by a high-ranking Vatican official, sparked wide-ranging criticism from academics in the U.S. and the U.K. who say the cancellation of Beattie's fellowship represents a stifling of academic freedom.

The 47,000-member American Association of University Professors, which rates universities on their protection of academic freedom, said in a letter Monday that the situation raises "serious issues."


The faculty vote Tuesday came hours after about 170 faculty and students protested the cancellation of Beattie's fellowship outside the university's main administration building.

One visiting faculty member has resigned his position at the university in a sign of solidarity with the theologian.


"There's little to be said" about the resignation, Davis wrote in his email forgoing the post. "It's obvious that the University has been put under excruciating pressure by clerical reactionaries."

Terrence Tilley, the chair of the theology department at Fordham University, said in an interview Wednesday he thought Lyons might be "confused" about the relevance of Beattie's signature on the August letter regarding same-sex marriage.


In its letter on the matter, the American Association of University Professors referenced similar concerns it raised about the university in 2009, when USD revoked an offer of an honorary chair position to Rosemary Radford Ruether, a prominent U.S. Catholic feminism scholar and theologian.

Referencing Beattie and Ruether's rescissions, Tilley said that "the only conclusion I can draw is that the University of San Diego has again showed its disdain for serious academic theological scholarship, at least if it's done by women."

Floyd also portrayed Lyons' decision as opposed to allowing a diversity of viewpoints on campus.

"Diversity is the hallmark of education," he said. "If you can’t have opposing viewpoints, what exactly are you looking at if you can’t engage in dialog about those matters? What exactly does a university do?”

Full article at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Convicted bishop is Catholic hierarchy's elephant in the room

David Gibson
Religion News Service
Nov. 8, 2012

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gathers for its annual fall meeting in Baltimore next week (Nov. 12-15), one of the biggest issues confronting the prelates won’t be on the formal agenda: how to cope with the re-election of a president whose policies many bishops denounced as unprecedented attacks on the Catholic Church.

But another topic not on the agenda may loom just as large for a hierarchy hoping to wield influence in the public square. In September, Bishop Robert Finn of Missouri became the first bishop to be found guilty of covering up for a priest suspected of child abuse.

Unlike President Barack Obama’s election, however, Finn’s status isn’t a subject the churchmen are eager to discuss.

The verdict against Finn, leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and an outspoken conservative, initially prompted widespread calls for his resignation, a Vatican suspension or discipline from his fellow bishops.

Yet in the two months since Finn’s conviction no bishop or church authority has addressed his case, nor has anyone spoken to Finn privately, according to Jack Smith, Finn’s spokesman.


By remaining silent on the issue, critics say the bishops are not only undermining their own policies — Finn heads a diocese yet would not be allowed to teach Sunday school in an American parish under the USCCB’s rules — but they are undermining their credibility and their claims to have learned from the devastating scandal.

“Nothing has changed over the past 10 years,” said Anne Burke, an Illinois state Supreme Court justice and an original leader of the National Review Board, a blue-ribbon panel of lay Catholics that the USCCB set up in 2002 to hold the bishops accountable.

Burke said the yawning hole in those policies is the lack of any mechanism for disciplining bishops who violate the charter, as the collection of child safety measures is known. While the bishops pledged to “apply the requirements of the charter also to ourselves,” they have shown no willingness to do so, she said.

“They’ve never done anything before so why should we expect them to do anything now?”

David Clohessy of SNAP, the leading victims advocacy group, agreed. “Our secular justice system has punished his wrongdoing, but the full Catholic hierarchy has ignored his wrongdoing,” he said of Finn. Clohessy said that SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — was writing to Finn asking him to stay away from the Baltimore meeting as a sign of contrition.


Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent who was the first head of the USCCB’s Office of Child and Youth Protection, agreed that the bishops have to discuss what happened and why in the “egregious” Ratigan case. And she said the best bishop to start that discussion would be Finn himself.

“The greatest gift he could give other bishops and the children is to come forward and talk about what happened,” said McChesney, who now works as a consultant on child safety issues and often advises church groups and religious orders.

“What’s at stake is continued disgruntlement, despair, and a lack of confidence and faith in the bishops,” she said.

Full article at the Washington Post

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Morbid symptoms: the Catholic right's false nostalgia

Eugene McCarraher (Associate Professor of Humanities, Villanova University)
Nov. 5, 2012

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms occur.”

—Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

On April 14, 2012, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Illinois, speaking from a pulpit surrounded by flowers, a cross, and the American flag, issued a “Call to Catholic Men of Faith” to defend their faith and country. To the congregation he recounted how “the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best” to destroy the church over the centuries: Roman oppression, barbarian invasions, “wave after wave of jihads,” the modern, homicidal tyrannies of Nazism and communism. Catholics today who believed the church was secure in the United States were mistaken; indeed, Jenky roared, a legion of malevolence had gathered against the faithful, armed with “the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.” This army of Satan was led by none other than President Barack Obama, demonically imposing the “radical, proabortion, and extreme secularist agenda” exemplified in the Health and Human Services mandate requiring insurance-subsidized contraception for employees of religious institutions.

It’s worth noting that Bishop Jenky left the church that day unmolested—no police or National Guardsmen burst in to cart him off to Guantánamo. No churches have been invaded, locked, or razed; no priest has been forced to bless same-sex unions, nor have Catholic hospitals been compelled to perform abortions, or even to dispense a single condom. The only inconvenience Jenky has suffered—protected by a First Amendment that has yet to be suspended by executive order—is ridicule.

And not enough of it. Far from pointing out the absurdity of comparing Obama to Attila, Hitler, and Stalin, other prominent Catholics have piled on. Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has warned of Obama’s impending “despotism.” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has equated our Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of worship with that of the former Soviet Union. Others have compared the mandate to the persecution of priests in Mexico in the 1920s under left-wing general Plutarco Calles. The Evangelical author Eric Metaxas—whose fine biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer indicates that he ought to know better—invoked the rise of the Nazis. Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, both encapsulated and stirred up the prevailing hysteria in asserting that “never in the life of anyone present here has the religious liberty of the American people been threatened as it is today.”

Why are shepherds of the American flock and their allies saying such preposterous things? It sometimes appears that the ancien régime of the American Church is fighting its impending senescence. Having lost much of their moral authority in the sexual-abuse scandal, the bishops have staked what remains on fighting perceived threats to religious liberty. Caught in a great historical transition in which church authority has eroded on every front, many conservative prelates and lay Catholics exhibit an array of morbid symptoms: lurid fantasies of sexual pandemonium; paranoid delusions of cultural conspiracy and government persecution; and ugly outbursts of rage at a world they no longer understand, control, or can persuade. Ashamed of the ecclesial present, the bishops seem transfixed by venerable memories of power and eminence.


Of course many laity are dissenting from the magisterium, and doing so in part because the bishops’ credibility has been so drastically diminished. We all know why; there’s no need to belabor the sexual-abuse scandal with its record of episcopal obfuscation and self-pity, or before that the damage done by Humanae vitae. Although Dolan acknowledges the disenchantment in the pews, he’s clearly impatient with the subject. Bishops, he tells John L. Allen Jr., have to “get over this sense of being gun-shy” in the wake of all the revelations. Conceding that he and his colleagues must speak with “graciousness, and a sense of contrition,” he adds that “we have to mean it.” But do they really mean it? The impression of many attentive Catholics is that they’d rather pound the crosier on the floor. Dolan himself insists on “the uniquely normative value of the magisterium of the bishops,” as though that “value” remains self-evident.

There are excellent reasons to find the bishops’ recent dudgeon unconvincing. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed plenty of outrages to human dignity in this country: the official legitimation of torture and assassination; the prosecution of a war condemned by not one but two popes; the growing attacks on governmental support and compassion for the destitute, often under cover of “subsidiarity.” The bishops’ responses to these outrages have been muted at best. Why so little prophetic ardor to battle these iniquities? Why no “fortnights for dignity” to rally the faithful against state-sponsored violence abroad? Or haven’t the bishops noticed that the United States has been at war for the better part of the past twenty years?


As for Anderson, like many a tribune for the Hard-Workin’ Folks, he turns out to be no ordinary guy. In addition to presiding over the Knights of Columbus—long a nexus of petty-bourgeois moral economy and American nationalism—he’s a board member of the Vatican Bank, sits on several Pontifical Councils, and is a knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, an enclave of papal chivalry devoted to “faith, family, and property.” This knight-errant of the church is also no stranger to the Beltway: Anderson served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, worked as a public liaison for the Reagan Administration, and was a legislative assistant to Senator Jesse Helms, notorious race-baiter, gay-basher, and defender of Latin American fascists. In short, he’s a player, and during his tenure the Knights have marched more frequently and aggressively into public affairs than ever before, including spending tens of millions to assist the bishops in opposing gay marriage in both the United States and Canada.


Read the full article at Commonweal

Status of separation of church and state in Boulder

One of my favorite places is Boulder, CO. Two stories came from there today. The first concerned a polling place in Boulder, Sacred Heart of Mary church where a massive anti-abortion display was at the polling place. The registrar of voters stated the church wouldn't be used in the future. The second was a letter to the editor of a local paper regarding a full-page ad by the Denver Archbishop (see below). The level of public irritation with church based political activity seems higher now than any time I can remember.


Sacred Heart Of Mary Church In Boulder Leaves Anti-Abortion Display Up In Front Of Polling Place

Eric Melzer
Boulder Daily Camera
Nov. 5, 2012

Boulder County voters whose polling place is Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church on South Boulder Road can expect to walk past an anti-abortion display -- including thousands of crosses representing aborted fetuses -- when they go to cast their ballots Tuesday.

County election officials said the display does not appear to violate any rules for polling places, but they will allow voters assigned to Sacred Heart of Mary to vote elsewhere Tuesday -- and the county will no longer use the church as a polling place in future elections.

"Our concern is that people are going to feel a sense of conflict with regard to voting at this church," said Molly Tayer, Boulder County's deputy clerk and election coordinator.

Tayer said a church representative initially told the clerk's office that the display, erected in October for Respect Life Month, would be taken down the first weekend in November. According to Tayer, that person called back on Friday to say that, "Father has elected to keep it up."

The Rev. Marcus Mallick is the priest at Sacred Heart of Mary. Church representatives on Monday referred questions to the Archdiocese of Denver, where a spokeswoman said the display is not meant to influence voters, but to continue a ministry that reaches out to women considering abortion and those who have undergone abortions in the past.

----- Full article here

Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)

Nov. 6, 2012

I was surprised at the full-page letter from Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila (Daily Camera, Nov. 4) threatening to pull Catholic charities out of our community should the election not go their way.

Eight years ago, I left the Catholic Church after a personal meeting with then Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput. I was a very active Catholic and Eucharistic minister. But he gave me a personal ultimatum: Vote for Sen. John Kerry (who was pro-choice but anti-war) and you're out. My vote should be for George W. Bush (who was anti-choice and pro-war). The Archbishop made it clear I could not vote pro-choice and continue to receive communion. I am proud to say I voted Kerry and my conscious, although sad that I am no longer part of the Catholic community. I could not in good conscious vote to continue an immoral war. I could not in good conscious vote to take away another woman's private right to choose.

There must be a clear separation of church and state. That is what our Founding Fathers intended. Although I would bet Archbishop Aquila and the Archdiocese of Denver's letter was carefully reviewed by a team of attorneys, there are tax laws that forbid nonprofits from promoting political views. ACLU where are you? I understand and respect the Catholic position on the sanctity of life, but an employer cannot impose his/her/its belief system on employees. GLBT, divorcees, those living outside of the Catholic version of marriage, all those people are being disenfranchised by a Catholic employer.

Using a slippery-slope argument, think of the consequences if a contract nurse worked for a Catholic organization, a Jewish organization and a Buddhist organization. Holy cow! (Sorry, that precluded a Hindu organization.)



Editorial: extreme voices lead to politicized church

National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 6, 2012

When the bishops of the United States gather later this month in Baltimore for their fall meeting, they ought to take some time to ponder a simple question: Were their words and actions during the recent election season the kind of discourse that informs and persuades or did they contribute to the partisan shrillness that we hope our teachers are educating youngsters to rise above as they mature into voting citizens?

We do not yet know the outcome of the national election, but the results for the church are already well-known -- no polls necessary here. The activity of the loudest and most extreme voices in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have left us the most politicized and divided church in recent memory. They have not only done a disservice to the cause of unity, they haven't done much to advance the causes they so stridently champion.

Those members of the hierarchy -- and we're led to believe they are in the majority -- who bristle when the conference is characterized by its most extreme elements need to overcome their reticence and the unspoken rule that bishops don't argue in public. They need to let their brother bishops know that outlandish pronouncements and empty threats further diminish the hierarchy's already compromised authority.

Not one episcopal voice was raised in objection to the slanderous and absurd claims of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, who last April compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Not one openly questioned the wisdom of the extreme partisan fight against health care reform, a fight, as it turns out, that was waged on the false claim that the reform would lead to federal dollars used to procure abortion. It didn't and it won't. Not one episcopal voice questioned the validity of trumped-up threats to religious liberty or of the ill-conceived "Fortnight for Freedom," which turned out to be a fortnight-long seminar on how not to organize a campaign.

The bishops are so beholden to the huge sums of money dumped on them by the Knights of Columbus that they can't imagine pushing back against the political agenda of an organization led by a longtime, high-level Republican operative. And who will raise a voice asking for some prudence when the likes of Bishop Thomas Paprocki threatens "the eternal salvation" of a person's soul over a decision to vote for a given candidate who may not conform to all of the church's positions? Bishop David Ricken is another who has neatly carved out the nonnegotiables of political decision-making along thinly disguised partisan lines with a similar threat that a vote for the wrong candidate could "put your soul in jeopardy."


The results of the recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (see story) tell us that the majority of Catholics -- even those coveted weekly-Mass-attending Catholics -- want the bishops to broaden their political focus to a wider range of social justice issues.

The bishops have become adjuncts to and enablers of those who politically benefit from the grinding polarities surrounding the abortion issue. They have been complicit in narrowing "life issues" politics to a single approach to a single issue. Experience should inform them by this point that their efforts are largely wasted. Election cycle after election cycle they've had their pockets picked of political capital only to arrive home empty-handed.

During the recent Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization in Rome, several bishops (none from this country) spoke of the need for a new sense of humility if the church hoped to engage the wider cultures. If the recent data gathered in the United States showing increasing numbers of people walking away from organized religion is at all instructive, then it is clear that fewer and fewer people are listening to religious leaders in general and bishops in particular. The Catholic church, while maintaining a stable membership number thanks to immigrants, was the biggest loser of adherents among mainline denominations. The old pomposity, the decrees from on high and threats intended to induce fear no longer work. It is time to ask what kind of evangelization, as well as political discourse, might work.

Full article at National Catholic Reporter

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bishops give priests' plea for reform kiss of death

Colum Kenney
Irish Independent
Nov. 4, 2012

THE Irish Bishops Conference has refused to meet the Association of Catholic Priests. The hierarchy will not dignify them with a high-level meeting.

'Cardinal snubs plea by liberal priests for meeting,' shouted one headline. But the Association of Catholic Priests is no fringe group of lax priests. It represents more than 1,000 members. The laity may be surprised to learn that there are still that many priests in Ireland.

The behaviour of the Irish hierarchy since Vatican II has driven committed priests and nuns out of office. And it has driven many other Catholics to despair. Its recent censoring of outspoken priests to placate the Vatican now means that even a priest as mainstream as Fr Brian D'Arcy has to submit his newspaper columns for approval in advance of publication.

Last week, D'Arcy appeared on a special documentary made by BBC Northern Ireland about his life and thoughts. He asked, "How can I stay in a Church which I've served for 50 years and which now doesn't trust me to speak my mind about religion?".


Fr Tony Flannery of the Association of Catholic Priests said last week that, "Our indication is that the church is in very serious difficulty and we believe that it is of crucial importance that all sections of the church in Ireland begin to face this reality and that a dialogue is created among us all."

The failure of church authorities to engage in dialogue and to embark on a radical journey of change led Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini to say in his last interview before he died this year that his Catholic Church is 200 years behind the times.


Not content to leave well enough alone, they have been pursuing nuns in the USA, academics in Latin America and priests who write in Ireland. There is no space for serious disagreement or for effective consultation within the church.


Bishops continue to play the kind of hair-splitting, legalistic games that have brought Ireland to its knees both in the civil and religious sphere, as powerful elites guard their rights and privileges. In this instance, the hierarchy is telling the Association of Catholic Priests that any engagement with it "would best take place at local level".


It is not surprising that the Irish hierarchy cannot share power with priests, never mind nuns or the laity. It has been supine in its acceptance of Vatican authority as Rome edges ever further away from the spirit of Vatican II.

In her new book on how the second Vatican Council's teachings on collegiality were sidetracked or ignored, Ireland's former president Mary McAleese writes that, "A quiescent episcopacy failed to carry forward the conciliar agenda on Episcopal collegiality with any enthusiasm."

Mary McAleese's new book, Quo Vadis, is a good gift for anyone who cares about the future of Christianity in Europe. It is balanced and fair, its title being the Latin translation of an urgent question that Jesus once asked Peter: "Where are you going?"

McAleese, now studying in Rome for a doctorate in church law, identifies ways in which both critics and defenders of the current status quo within the Catholic Church may yet find common ground in Christ. That is, of course, if they actually want to share power in a way that is appropriate to democratic societies rather than to the Roman Empire.

The Catholic Church in Ireland is increasingly absent for lay people, its presence in their communities withering and its evident priorities irrelevant. The continuing exercise of absolute power with the church is not inspiring, especially when many Irish people currently feel oppressed by circumstances.

In his final interview, Cardinal Martini, who himself once might have been Pope, said: "I advise the Pope and the bishops to look for 12 people outside the lines for administrative posts -- people who are close to the poorest and who are surrounded by young people and are trying out new things. We need that comparison with people who are on fire so that the spirit can spread everywhere."

But the present Pope and many of his most obedient bishops seem to have closed the door. Allying themselves with some of the most reactionary political and social elements, they rebuff nuns and priests who have devoted their lives to their church -- and offer the Irish people a stone when what is needed is bread.

Full article at the Irish Independent