Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tension brewing between religion and health care mandates

The Kansas City Star
Jan. 30, 2013

Bystanders love a good brawl. Make it between people not normally viewed as combative and the crowd gathers, primed for the rumble.

No surprise then when people jumped at the animosity between Bishop Robert Finn and the Kansas City-based National Catholic Reporter. Finn unleashed on the liberal leanings of the well-established newspaper in a column. He called the paper out for “lionizing dissident theologies” on issues like the ordination of women and church teachings on contraception.

But realize that Finn alienated portions of the Catholic community within months of his arrival in 2005. He has ruffled liberal/progressives about Catholic life and activism.

Those tensions are the tip of this iceberg. Faith-based pushback to health care reform is where eyes and ears should focus. That’s the building battle that will affect people far beyond the Catholic faith.

The fact is many bishops are out of step with their flocks when it comes to contraception.

But others are being drawn in through lawsuits, many filed on behalf of the Catholic faith. The suits question government mandates to provide coverage for birth control, including morning after pills, in prescription coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Religious employers can already claim exemption based on religious freedom. What’s challenged is how wide the exemptions will be cast. Some religious-affiliated universities, hospitals and social service agencies that employ people outside their faiths and aid the general public also want to opt out.

Even more problematic are the arguments of private businesses. Consider the challenge filed by the owner of Hobby Lobby craft stores, which asks for his personal beliefs to dictate which drugs and procedures will be covered.

The government is due to clarify the exemptions by mid-February. But the issue will probably land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

........ the group will remind them of recent polling showing 68 percent of Catholics object to a university denying birth control coverage in their employee health care plans. And 77 percent of Catholics object to pharmacies refusing to fill birth control prescriptions, the same rate of Americans overall.

The views aren’t surprising considering Catholic women of child-bearing age use birth control at rates equal to other women, despite the church’s stand against such family planning.

For church leaders such as Finn, the polling highlights a crisis in the faith. Consider that a private family spat.

The secular dilemma is how far religious hierarchy will reach to influence the lives of non-Catholics. A contentious fight is brewing.

Read more here: Kansas City Star

Prosecutors: priest trial verdict a victory

Joseph A. Slobodzian
Philadelphia Inquirer
January 30, 2013

In a verdict prosecutors hailed as another victory for the victims of child sexual abuse, a Philadelphia jury has returned guilty verdicts against a Philadelphia priest and a former Catholic schoolteacher charged with the serially sexual assault of a 10-year-old Northeast altar boy in 1998 and 1999.

The Common Pleas Court jury deliberated about 20 hours since getting the case Friday afternoon before returning the verdicts today in the trial of the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero.

Engelhardt, 66, a priest for more than four decades, was found guilty of four of the five charges against him: child endangerment, corruption of a minor, indecent assault and criminal conspiracy.

The jury, however, said it was deadlocked on a count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Shero, 49, a former elementary English teacher in the parochial schools, was found guilty of all five charges against him: rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, child endangerment, corruption of a minor and indecent assault.

Both men reacted stoically to the verdicts, which were announced at 3:30 p.m. before a courtroom packed with relatives of both men and the mother and father of the victim.

Defense attorneys Michael McGovern, for Engelhardt, and Burton A. Rose, for Shero, seemed stunned by the verdicts - and when Judge Ellen Ceisler ordered both men immediately taken into custody.

McGovern embraced Engelhardt and clapped him on the back before the priest was led from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.

Afterward, McGovern said that "I've been present for trial jury verdicts for 37 years now and this is the most disappointing, shocking verdict I've ever experienced."


Both defense lawyers said they will appeal. In a news conference after the verdict, District Attorney Seth Williams praised the verdict and noted that one out of four women and one out six men under the age of 18 have been sexually abused.

"The message for me is that we have to listen to children," Williams added.

Engelhardt and Shero were charged in February 2011 with serial rape of the boy while he was in the fifth and sixth grades in the St. Jerome's parish school.

The victim - named "Billy Doe" in the 2011 grand jury report about sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests - alleged that Engelhardt, the Rev. Edward V. Avery, 70, and Shero serially raped him when he was in fifth and sixth grades at St. Jerome's.

Avery, since defrocked, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison. But he returned to testify as a prosecution witness at this trial and promptly through the case into turmoil by recanting his guilty plea, saying he did not know Billy.

The three men were among five charged after the 2011 grand jury report. Last June, a first trial ended with the landmark child endangerment verdict against Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Lynn, 62, was the first Catholic church administrator in the United States convicted of a crime for covering up or enabling the sexual abuse of children by priests.

The fifth defendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan, 49, is accused in an unrelated incident with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996. Last year's jury was unable to reach a decision in the case against Brennan.

Brennan is to be retried on March 6.

Original story at Philadelphia Inquirer

Gay marriage debate: agressive posturing by Church serves no one

Fr Martin Boland, Dean of Brentwood Cathedral
The Tablet (UK)
18 January 2013

Although I am opposed to the coalition Government's plan to recognise same-sex marriage in law, I have, nevertheless, been left feeling uneasy about some aspects of the debate surrounding this subject, and in particular by the manner and terms in which the problem has been discussed.


However, there have been those within the Church who have chosen to employ intellectually blunt and confrontational arguments when discussing this matter. As the temperature of the debate rises, so there is a danger that their voices will become more strident. I wonder how helpful this is?

Although the polemical sound bite may capture the attention of the media, I wonder if it helps us address the complexity of the issues raised in a mature and informed way? Is an adversarial approach to those who disagree with us, the correct way to appeal to the reason and consciences of men and women? Whether this Government finally succeeds in introducing this legislation, what many people both within and outside the Church will remember is the language and demeanour which was used to present our arguments.

These questions are also of more general concern and are particularly pertinent to those who hold any teaching position or claim any theological competence within the Church. Responding to the issues of our age with a militant defensiveness, or a prescriptiveness that oversimplifies issues will not serve us well. The frustration the Church might feel in the face of liberal modernity should not be used as an excuse for a kind of latent ecclesiastical aggression. Sabre-rattling may make us feel manly, but it also deafens us both to the truth of people's lives and God's will for us. If those who teach in the Church choose to communicate in an idiom which alienates significant numbers of people then the liberating message of Christ risks being either treated with suspicion, received selectively or completely rejected. Seeking to patronise or infantilise the laity in this area can only serve to weaken the teaching authority of the Church.

Good teaching depends on a profound humility. None of us possesses a complete, final knowledge of all things. For example, our understanding, as many commentators have made clear, of the nature and meaning of the homosexual orientation is, at this point in time, incomplete. We may have a greater understanding of this sexual orientation than a century ago, but there is still more for us to know, to question and to understand. We should therefore hesitate to offer lapidary judgements about those who possess this orientation and humbly recognise that simplistic readings of natural law in this regard may not be entirely helpful.


Full article at the Tablet Blog

Monday, January 28, 2013

Catholicism's curse

New York Times
Jan. 27, 2013

“I HAVE nothing against priests,” writes Garry Wills in his provocative new book, “Why Priests? A Failed Tradition,” and I’d like at the outset to say the same......

LET’S start with Los Angeles. Last week, as a result of lawsuits filed against the archdiocese of Los Angeles by hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by priests, internal church personnel files were made public. They showed that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony’s impulse, when confronted with priests who had molested children, was to hush it up and keep law enforcement officials at bay. While responses like this by Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals have been extensively chronicled and are no longer shocking, they remain infuriating. At one point Cardinal Mahony instructed a priest whom he’d dispatched to New Mexico for counseling not to return to California, lest he risk being criminally prosecuted. That sort of shielding of priests from accountability allowed them, in many cases across the United States, to continue their abusive behavior and claim more young victims.

Cardinal Mahony, who led the Los Angeles archdiocese from 1985 to 2011, released a statement last week in which he said that until 2006, when he began to meet with dozens of victims, he didn’t grasp “the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have” on the children subjected to them. I find that assertion incredible and appalling. It takes no particular sophistication about matters of mental health to intuit that a child molested by an adult — in these cases, by an adult who is supposed to be a moral exemplar and tutor, even a conduit to the divine — would be grievously damaged. The failure to recognize that and to make sure that abusive priests’ access to children was eliminated, even if that meant trials and jail sentences, suggests a greater concern for the stature of clergymen than for the souls of children.

Church officials and defenders note that Cardinal Mahony’s gravest misdeeds occurred in the 1980s, before church leaders were properly educated about recidivism among pedophiles and before the dimensions of the child sexual abuse crisis in the church became clear. They point out that the church’s response improved over time. That’s true, but what hasn’t changed is the church’s hubris. This hubris abetted the crisis: the particular sway that abusers held over their victims and the special trust they received from those children’s parents were tied into the church’s presentation of priests as paragons.

And this hubris also survives the crisis, manifest in the way that the Vatican, a gilded enclave so far removed and so frequently out of step with the rest of the world, clamps down on Catholics who challenge its rituals and rules. Much of what these dissenters raise questions about — the all-male priesthood, for example, or the commitment to celibacy that priests are required to make — aren’t indisputable edicts from God. They’re inventions of the mortals who took charge of the faith.

And yet with imperious regularity, Vatican officials issue their relished condemnations. These officials are reliably riled by nuns, a favorite target of their wrath. And they’ve been none too pleased with an Irish priest, the Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended from his ministry by the Vatican last year and informed, he recently said, that he could return to it on the condition that he publicly express his endorsement of a range of official positions that he had questioned, including the exclusion of women from the priesthood. Last Sunday he broke a long silence to say that the Vatican had threatened him with excommunication and to call its approach toward him “reminiscent of the Inquisition.”

Among the Vatican’s issues with him was his stated belief in a 2010 article that the priesthood, rather than originating with Jesus and a specially selected group of followers, was selfishly created later by a “privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves.”

That may sound like an extreme assertion, but the new book by Wills, a Pulitzer Prize winner who has written extensively about Christianity and the church, says that at the start, Christianity not only didn’t have priests but opposed them. The priesthood was a subsequent tweak, and the same goes for the all-male, celibate nature of the Roman Catholic clergy and the autocratic hierarchy that this clergy inhabits, an unresponsive government whose subjects — the laity — have limited say.

“It can’t admit to error, the church hierarchy,” Wills told me on the phone on Thursday. “Any challenge to their prerogative is, in their eyes, a challenge to God. You can’t be any more arrogant than that.”


That’s an awfully puffed-up position, and there’s a corresponding haughtiness in the fact that bishops can assign priests to parishes without any real obligation to get input or feedback from the parishioners those priests serve. This way of doing business in fact enabled church leaders to shuttle priests accused of molestation around, keeping them one step ahead of their crimes.

It has also helped to turn many Catholics away from the church, while prompting others to regard its leaders as ornamental and somewhat irrelevant distractions. They cherish the essence and beauty of their religion. They just can’t abide the arrogance of many of its appointed caretakers.

Original article at New York Times

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bishop Finn airs frustration over KC based
National Catholic Reporter

The Kansas City Star
January 27, 2013

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is expressing public frustration with the editorial stances of the National Catholic Reporter, a Kansas City-based independent newspaper that has called for the bishop to resign over his handling of sex scandals in the church.

In a column posted Friday in the online edition of the official diocesan newspaper, Bishop Robert Finn said the National Catholic Reporter was “undermining” church teaching on contraception and the ordination of women, while praising “dissident theologies.” Finn also raised questions about whether the newspaper should call itself “Catholic.”

“I have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful about the problematic nature of this media source which bears the name ‘Catholic,’ ” Finn wrote.

“Bishop Finn clearly feels our voice is not a Catholic voice,” said National Catholic Reporter publisher and former editor Tom Fox. “We are a Catholic publication, but independent of the church structure. That’s one of the keys to our credibility.”

Fox said the National Catholic Reporter is a member of the Catholic Press Association, which is sanctioned by U.S. bishops. The newspaper has consistently won awards for general excellence and investigative reporting.

Its investigative reporting has included coverage of allegations of sex abuse by members of the clergy, an issue the newspaper had been addressing since 1985, Fox said. The issue took on a high profile in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in recent years, leading to further coverage.

The diocese has been hit by a raft of lawsuits. And in September, a Jackson County circuit judge found Finn guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse involving a local priest and sentenced the bishop to two years’ probation. At that time, the National Catholic Reporter published an editorial calling on Finn to either resign or be removed from his position.

“He’s obviously been through some very difficult times,” Fox said. “He’s hurting. I know he thinks he’s doing his job.”

In his column in The Catholic Key, the diocese newspaper, Finn said he had been “deluged” in recent months by correspondence from Catholics who were concerned about the editorial stances of the National Catholic Reporter.

“When early in my tenure I requested that the paper submit their bona fides as a Catholic media outlet in accord with the expectations of Church law, they declined to participate indicating that they considered themselves an ‘independent newspaper which commented on ‘things Catholic,’ ” Finn wrote. “At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a dead end.”

Fox said he was not publisher of the newspaper when Finn became bishop in 2005, but the publisher at that time said relations with the diocese were cordial.

Bishop: votes for Obama deepened the culture of death

Paul Moses
January 25, 2013

This bishops’ battle against President Barack Obama continues in the new administration – or at least it does in the Diocese of Brooklyn, where I live. That is one of the messages to be drawn from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s strongly worded column, in which he writes, among other things, that “In my view, those who voted for President Obama bear the responsibility for a step deeper in the culture of death.”


He later adds: “Some may think my tone a bit strident and even un-nuanced. Maybe the time has come for more direct conversation on these matters, if we hope to preserve what is left of our God-given and Constitutionally-protected rights.”

The bishop has shown a certain determination by writing in such terms about Obama just as the president returns to office after winning about 80 percent of the votes cast within his diocese. Since he indicates that more is to come, I thought it worth looking at what he’s already said.


The bishop’s remark that those who voted for Obama “bear the responsibility for a step deeper in the culture of death” would be more persuasive had he not publicly supported pro-choice candidates himself. As reported earlier, he made robo-calls expressing his thanks to Brooklyn politician Vito Lopez, then the county Democratic leader. And he was pictured with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a full-page campaign advertisement in the diocesan newspaper, for which he is the publisher.

Of course, the bishop did not do this out of support for the pro-choice policies of these two politicians. He was providing political payback to Lopez for opposing a bill to change the statute of limitations on lawsuits over sexual abuse, and to Bloomberg for his involvement in private fundraising for Catholic schools. Since then, Lopez has come under investigation on charges of sexually harassing women on his staff. Bloomberg bankrolled the movement to legalize same-sex marriage.

It’s to be expected that a bishop would weigh the pluses and minuses of the candidates in light of church teaching. Members of his flock are entitled to do the same.

Original article at Commonweal

Saturday, January 26, 2013

German Catholics vent their dissatisfaction with the Church

Allesandro Alviandi
Vatican Insider
Jan. 25, 2013

Berlin-The Pope’s ecclesiastical policies are “backward-looking” and suspected of trying to take the Church back to the pre-Second Vatican Council period. As for the Church’s leaders, they are “cut off from reality, reactionary and obstructionist.”

This is the opinion German faithful have of Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church according to a study by Sinus Institute and consulting agency MDG (which the German Church controls). In-depth interviews were conducted with 100 Catholics from different social backgrounds. According to the study, which picks up on a similar one carried out in 2005, German faithful are convinced that today’s Church finds itself in a “desolate situation” and the most obvious manifestation of this is the sex abuse scandal.

The authors of the study wrote that the scandal seriously damaged the image of the Church, even in the eyes of the most fervent Catholics, whose faith was deeply shaken. The scandal was seen as confirmation of the Church’s “modernization deficit”. The Church lost a great deal of credibility not just as a result of the accusations of paedophilia made against it but also because many believe it dealt with the abuse issue inadequately.

Internal dogma and rules that had been tacitly accepted until about a year ago are now openly criticised by faithful. Criticisms range from complaints about “discrimination against women” and celibacy, to the condemnation of homosexuality, contraception and sex outside wedlock, to the marginalisation of lay people involved in Church life.

Another factor that is creating animosity, is the organisational restructuring that is taking place in Germany, with a number of parishes being merged because of the shortage in parish priests, for example.


So what do German faithful expect from the Church? They want lay people involved in the Church to play a greater role; they want more women in leadership roles; the possibility for women to be ordained priests; the elimination of celibacy; a different attitude towards sexuality and contraception; the sacraments to be administrated to all Christians, regardless of their denomination or sexual identity; less ostentation and less abuse of power and a greater focus on God’s love and love for one’s neighbour.

Original article at Vatican Insider

Friday, January 25, 2013

Canadian bishops denounce anti-semitic talk by SSPX leader

Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
Jan. 25, 2013

OTTAWA - Canada’s Catholic bishops have denounced recent statements made in Canada by the Society of St. Pius X superior that “the Jews” are the “enemies of the Church.” Bishop Bernard Fellay made the remarks Dec. 28 in New Hamburg, Ont., at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy. His speech was uploaded to YouTube shortly after Fellay made the comments.

“The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that such remarks are not in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church,” said the bishops’ conference in a Jan. 18 statement.

The bishops quoted Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombadi, S.J., who said in response to Fellay’s remarks: “It is absolutely unacceptable, impossible, to define the Jews as enemies of the Church.”

“The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops denounces all forms of anti-Semitism, and rejects assertions such as those reported to have been made by the superior of the Society of St. Pius X, which is a schismatic group not in communion with the Catholic Church,” the bishops’ statement said.

The traditionalist society has been in talks with Rome to bring the schismatic group back into communion with the Holy See. However, the society rejects the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which the group must accept to have its broken relationship with the Holy See regularized. Fellay also blamed the Jews for the Second Vatican Council in his Canadian talk. The society rejects the new order of the Mass, teachings on religious freedom and ecumenism.


Original article at Catholic Register

Church and state: where Catholic beliefs and public needs collide

Frank Hornig, Barbara Schmid, Fidelius Schmid and Peter Wensierski
der Spiegel (Germany)
Jan. 24, 2013

The origins of the Cellitine sisters and their beneficial ministry date back to late 13th-century Cologne, when the nuns devoted themselves to the "care of the sick, the weak and the poor."

Their original mission has expanded into a corporation encompassing 16 nursing homes and 10 hospitals. The only problem is that care is precisely what has been lacking there recently. Wanting nothing to do with a possible early termination of a pregnancy, doctors working for the Cellitines turned away a woman who was seeking help shortly before Christmas, despite the strong suspicion that she had been raped.

Last week, the order publicly downplayed the case when it made national news, calling it "very regrettable" and "a misunderstanding."

Turning away rape victims can hardly be called a misunderstanding. On January 10, Sylvia Klauser, the order's chief ethics officer, explained to an emergency doctor the hospitals' procedures for handling rape victims. The notes the doctor made on the conversation reveal an astonishing aspect of the order's policy: As long as patients who have been raped are "responsive and capable of being moved," they are to be transferred "to a city facility." The apparent goal of the policy is to ensure that the nuns and doctors will not be confronted with a possible abortion.

The case reveals how far the Roman Catholic Church has distanced itself from German society, especially -- but not only -- in the area of sexuality.

Catholic facilities are increasingly sealing themselves off, often behaving as if they were part of a state within a state; a cosmos subject to its own rules, which are monitored by the pope and his bishops; and a world in which federal, state and local governments have little say.

Every year, Catholic dioceses receive billions in funds from obligatory taxes paid by church members. But when it comes to scandals, such as when sexual abuse is systematically covered up and remains uninvestigated for years, citizens have little influence and are left to experience how the church energetically defends its special rights.

The process of alienation is well advanced, and it would be a mistake to treat it as merely a problem for Germany's few remaining churchgoers. In fact, it potentially affects millions of Germans. The church is involved in many areas of society, including kindergartens, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. It is the second-largest employer in the country, after the government. It dictates the kind of life its doctors, educators, teachers and cleaning women are allowed to lead. It determines how children are raised. And it also decides -- on its own authority -- how patients are to be treated or, in some cases, turned away.

"The scandalous incidents in Cologne sharply contradict the Christian social mission," says Sylvia Löhrmann, deputy governor of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Green Party politician is a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics, a forum in which she wants to see the incident addressed. "Not helping a woman who has been raped is a violation of human decency. In doing so, the church harms itself more than anything," says Löhrmann, who is also the state's education minister.

The so-called "morning-after pill," a drug that can be administered to rape victims to prevent pregnancy, lies at the center of the controversy.

On December 15, a 25-year-old woman came to an emergency medical facility in the Nippes neighborhood of Cologne, claiming that she had been raped. The doctor on duty, Irmgard Maiworm, treated the victim. She notified the police and prescribed the morning after pill.

Maiworm then informed the nearby St. Vincent Hospital, which is run by the Cellitine order, that she was transferring her patient there for evidence-gathering purposes. But her Catholic counterparts refused to help. The Hospital of the Holy Spirit, also run by the nuns, likewise turned down Maiworm's request. The doctors at the church-run hospitals told her that their ethical guidelines required them to reject the patients. "I could hardly believe it," Maiworm says.

The Catholic doctors' reluctance is in keeping with the policies of Joachim Meisner, the conservative archbishop of Cologne. "Rape victims are transferred to other facilities," says his spokesman, "if the intention to take the 'morning-after pill' is evident."


Catholic organizations run some 420 hospitals throughout Germany. In their employment contracts, their roughly 165,000 employees are generally required to comply with the guidelines of bishops and the heads of religious orders. In fact, in some areas, the Catholic Church exerts a strong influence on the social welfare state. The church even has a monopoly in some rural areas, where it controls many facilities, from kindergartens to hospitals to nursing homes.

This complicates things for church employees. Since doctors, educators and caregivers often have no alternative to working for Catholic organizations, they are forced to comply with their guidelines.

Paradoxically, although the number of churchgoers has been shrinking for decades, the influence of bishops has been rising. In 1950, excluding ministers and members of religious orders, both the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany had 130,000 civilian employees, a number that has jumped to over a million today. What's more, Germany has gradually entrusted the churches with large parts of its social welfare system.


The consequences are often enormous for church employees. For instance, an employee who gets a divorce can quickly lose his or her job. And you don't have to be gay to be fired; sometimes all it takes is to express sympathetic views toward homosexuality. Couples who try artificial insemination also have no place in the church's employment.

Courts have repeatedly upheld the historical special status of religious orders. But are there no limits to the special rights the church enjoys? According to the Catholic belief, the catalogue of vices includes not only fornication and other "works of the flesh," but also envy, resentment, drunkenness, gluttony, and similar vices. If it were to be consistent, the church would also have to punish such infringements.

Between 90 and 100 percent of the funding for most of the Catholic Church's social facilities comes from the government. Nevertheless, politicians and citizens have rarely tried to exert their influence.

This changed in Königswinter, a city near Bonn in western Germany, where the director of a Catholic kindergarten was dismissed when her marriage fell apart. Local parents protested until the woman was given back her job. In fact, the Catholic Church was relieved of its position as manager of the kindergarten.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Full article at der Spiegel

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fr. Tony Flannery: emblematic of our era

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Pray Tell
Jan. 22, 2013

Redemptorist priest Fr. Tony Flannery in Ireland, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, is in trouble with the Roman authorities. He was silenced a year ago for his writings, and he complied. He has been threatened with excommunication and ordered to sign a statement that women can never be ordained Catholic priests and the he agrees with church teachings on homosexuality and contraception. Now he is breaking his silence: he writes in the Irish Times that silence is “too high a price” when obeying his conscience is at stake.


The statement of the Irish Redemptorists is here. It says in part: It is of immense regret that some structures or processes of dialogue have not yet been found in the Church which have a greater capacity to engage with challenging voices from among God’s people, while respecting the key responsibility and central role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This is what bothers me, and I think should bother anyone, whatever their position on disputed Church teachings: one person is punished for saying what lots of others also think.

We all know that many, many priests would be open to the ordination of women and don’t believe that the Church has no authority to ordain women. We all know that many theologians, perhaps most among those with earned doctorates, would dispute that Jesus explicitly instituted an ordained priesthood and that this was the understanding of the first generations of the Church, as there is no indication of this in the New Testament or the earliest patristic sources. We all know that many priests, many or most theologians, and most laypeople by far reject the official teaching on artificial contraception.

It seems that the authorities, knowing full well of this diversity of views among priests, theologians, and laypeople, are willing to single out one person as a way of pressuring the others to remain silent. It seems that the authorities are willing to make lots of people take oaths they obviously don’t fully believe in, and thus be complicit in pressuring them to violate their conscience, as a way of making people say what they don’t believe or not say what they do believe. The Church becomes, then, a place where one cannot be honest. This is a problem.

My point here is not that women should be ordained or homosexual relations should be approved or the teaching on contraception should be changed. I didn’t say that, though I expect some commenters will assume I did. My point is that, even if one agrees with official teachings in these areas, the actions of church authorities are highly problematic in disrespecting conscience and forcing dishonesty.


Here’s the reality: the Catholic Church is divided about many issues. Authorities are working mightily to impose from above positions not held by many priests, theologians, and lay people. It will be interesting to observe how this works for the authorities. It will be interesting to observe what form resistance will take. Expect many skirmishes ahead.


History shows that Church authorities have a rather mixed track record the last couple centuries when it comes to responding to issues raised by a changing world– think of mistaken or unfortunate statements on slavery, or religious liberty, or separation of Church and state, or the legitimacy of democratically elected government, or Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, or use of the vernacular in the liturgy. Church authorities would have good reason to show more humility and more respect for others’ views.

That’s what I’m praying for. But as I say, expect more skirmishes ahead.

Full article at Pray Tell

Signs of the times?

The following two stories follow a recent trend.

Diocese of Sagninaw to reduce services at 53 of 109 churchs across mid-Michigan

Justin Engel
Michigan Live
Jan. 20, 2013

BAY CITY, MI — While Diocese of Saginaw officials are saying a reorganization plan doesn’t call for closing any churches yet, about half of the 11-county Catholic organization’s 109 places of worship will see many services end or decrease over the next three years.

The Most Bishop Joseph Cistone, the diocese’s leader, announced the plans during an afternoon press conference in Bay City’s St. Joseph, one of the churches whose regularly-scheduled masses will end in July 2014.

Cistone said the reorganization plan, which will merge parishes, categorizes churches in three categories. Those include:

Parish church: This facility will serve as “the main church” where regularly-scheduled services and sacraments take place for members.

Church “for additional use:” These buildings will continue to celebrate mass on weekends in most cases. “Daily mass, weddings, funerals, holy days and other parish liturgies may be celebrated in these churches at the discretion of the pastor and pastoral administrator,” Cistone said.

Church “for occasional use:” These structures won’t technically be closed, but any service there would be provided only “at the discretion of the pastor or pastoral administrator,” the bishop said.

Of the diocese’s 109 churches, 56 will be classified as parish churches, 24 as churches for additional use, and 29 as churches for occasional use, Cistone said.


Full article at Michigan Live

Berlin Archdiocese undergoing significant restructuring

Estefania Aguirre
Catholic News Agency
Jan. 21, 2013

Berlin, Germany, Jan 21, 2013 / 09:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has finalized plans to cut the number of churches in the Archdiocese of Berlin by over 70 percent in seven years.

The archdiocese's 105 churches will be reduced to 30 parishes by 2020, he told Katholische Nachrichten Agentur in a Jan. 16 interview.

This decision, originally unveiled in a pastoral letter on Dec. 2, will affect 400,000 Catholics in northeast Germany.

This means an average reduction of 11 churches a year in an area that includes Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenberg-Vorpommern.

"This isn't just an administrative reform, it's also a spiritual one," said archdiocesan spokesman Stefan Forner.


Full article at Catholic News Agency

Also noted in above article-
In September, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn also decided to slash 510 churches in his Vienna archdiocese, reducing its number of parishes from 660 to 150.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Files show how Catholic church leaders in LA controlled damage

Gillian Flaccus
Associated Press
Jan. 21, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark, according to church personnel files.

The confidential records filed in a lawsuit against the archdiocese disclose how the church handled abuse allegations for decades and also reveal dissent from a top Mahony aide who criticized his superiors for covering up allegations of abuse rather than protecting children.

Notes inked by Cardinal Mahony demonstrate he was disturbed about abuse and sent problem priests for treatment, but there also were lengthy delays or oversights in some cases. Cardinal Mahony received psychological reports on some priests that mentioned the possibility of many other victims, for example, but there is no indication that he or other church leaders investigated further.

“This is all intolerable and unacceptable to me,” Cardinal Mahony wrote in 1991 on a file of the Rev. Lynn Caffoe, a priest suspected of locking boys in his room, videotaping their crotches and running up a $100 phone-sex bill while with a boy. Caffoe was sent for therapy and removed from ministry, but Cardinal Mahony didn’t move to defrock him until 2004, a decade after the archdiocese lost track of him. ........

Cardinal Mahony was out of town but issued a statement Monday apologizing for his mistakes and saying he had been “naive” about the lasting impacts of abuse. He has since met with 90 abuse victims privately and keeps an index card with each victim’s name in his private chapel, where he prays for them daily, he said. The card also includes the name of the molesting priest, “lest I forget that real priests created this appalling harm.”

....... Priests were sent out of state for psychological treatment because they revealed more when their therapists were not required to report child abuse to law enforcement, as they were in California, he said. At the time, clergy were not mandated sex-abuse reporters, and the church let the victims’ families decide whether to contact police, he added.

In at least one case, a priest victimized the children of illegal immigrants and threatened to have them deported if they told, the files show. The files are attached to a motion seeking punitive damages in a case involving a Mexican priest sent to Los Angeles in 1987 after he was brutally beaten in his parish south of Mexico City.

When parents complained that the Rev. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera molested in Los Angeles, church officials told the priest but waited two days to call police — allowing him to flee to Mexico, court papers allege. At least 26 children told police they were abused during his 10 months in Los Angeles. The now-defrocked priest is believed to be in Mexico and remains a fugitive.

They echo similar releases from other dioceses nationwide that have shown how church leaders for decades shuffled problem priests from parish to parish, covered up reports of abuse and didn’t contact law enforcement. Top church officials in Missouri and Pennsylvania were criminally convicted last year for their roles in covering up abuse, more than a decade after the clergy sex-abuse scandal began to unfold in Boston.

Cardinal Mahony, who retired in 2011 after 26 years at the helm of the 4.3-million-person archdiocese, has been particularly hounded by the case of the Rev. Michael Baker, who was sentenced to prison in 2007 for molestation — two decades after the priest confessed his abuse to Cardinal Mahony.

Cardinal Mahony noted the “extremely grave and serious situation” when he sent Baker for psychological treatment after the priest told him in 1986 that he had molested two brothers over seven years.

Baker returned to ministry the next year with a doctor’s recommendation that he be defrocked immediately if he spent any time with minors. Despite several documented instances of being alone with boys, the priest wasn’t removed from ministry until 2000. Around the same time, the church learned he was conducting baptisms without permission.

Church officials discussed announcing Baker’s abuse in churches where he had worked, but Cardinal Mahony rejected the idea.

“We could open up another firestorm — and it takes us years to recover from those,” Mahony wrote in an Oct. 6, 2000, memo. “Is there no alternative to public announcements at all the Masses in 15 parishes??? Wow — that really scares the daylights out of me!!”

The aide, Monsignor Richard Loomis, noted his dismay over the matter when he retired in 2001 as vicar for clergy, the top church official who handled priestly discipline. In a memo to his successor, Monsignor Loomis said Baker’s attorney disclosed the priest had at least 10 other victims. “We’ve stepped back 20 years and are being driven by the need to cover-up and to keep the presbyteriate & public happily ignorant rather than the need to protect children,” Monsignor Loomis wrote.


Full article at the Washington Times

Vatican's demand for silence too high a price

Fr. Tony Flannery
Irish Times
Jan. 21, 2013

Three days after my 66th birthday I find myself forbidden to minister as a priest, with a threat of excommunication and dismissal from my congregation hanging over me. How did I find myself in this situation?

I joined the Redemptorist congregation in 1964 and was ordained 10 years later. That was the era of great openness in the Catholic Church. We believed in freedom of thought and of conscience, and that church teaching was not something to be imposed rigidly on the people we served – they were intelligent and educated, and could take responsibility for their lives.

As preachers we must try to present the message of Christ in a way and a language that spoke to the reality of people’s lives. This necessitated a willingness to listen to the people, to understand their hopes and joys, their struggles and fears.

Helping people to deal with the teaching on contraception during the 1970s was a great training ground. Just repeating the official line of Humanae Vitae was no help. During those years priests and people alike learned a lot about how to form their consciences and make mature decisions about all areas of their lives. As priests we learned more from people than they learned from us.

As the years went by we could all see that the teaching authority within the church was reverting to the more authoritarian style of ministry practised in the past. As authority became centralised in the Vatican once again, pressure came on priests of my generation to be more explicit and decisive in presenting church teaching: orthodoxy was now the imperative, and allowing people to think for themselves was seen as dangerous. There was no room for grey areas.

We became aware that there were people around the country who reported any slight deviation from the official stance by a priest, for example allowing a woman to read the gospel at Mass. Throughout the world, priests were being sanctioned, silenced and even dismissed because they would not toe the line.

In autumn 2010, I was one of a small group who set up the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP). This association was unique in that it was an independent body of clergy, a new phenomenon in the church, and one with which the authorities, in Ireland and the Vatican, were uncomfortable and didn’t know how to handle. The growth of the movement served to catapult me into a more prominent position, which brought me to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). I had been writing for various religious magazines for more than 20 years without any problem. But suddenly last February I was informed by my Redemptorist superiors that I was in serious trouble over some things I had written. I was summoned to Rome, not to the Vatican, which to this day has not communicated with me directly, but to the head of the Redemptorists.

This was the beginning of what is now almost a year of tension, stress and difficult decision-making in my life. Initially my policy was to see if some compromise was possible, and it seemed in early summer this was a real possibility.

But I gradually became aware that the CDF continually raised the bar, until it got to the point where I could no longer negotiate. I was faced with a choice. Either I sign a statement, for publication, stating that I accepted teachings that I could not accept, or I would remain permanently banned from priestly ministry, and maybe face more serious sanctions. It is important to state clearly that these issues were not matters of fundamental teaching, but rather of church governance.

So now, at this hour of my life, I either put my name to a document that would be a lie, and would impugn my integrity and my conscience, or I face the reality of never again ministering as a priest. I have always believed in the church as the community of believers and as an essential element in promoting and nourishing the faith. I have enjoyed my years of preaching, the main work of Redemptorists, and never had any doubt that Christ’s message was one worth proclaiming.

But to give up on freedom of thought, freedom of speech and most especially freedom of conscience is too high a price for me to pay to be allowed minister in today’s church.

Catholic identity

There are people who will say I should leave the Catholic Church and join another Christian church – one more suitable to my stance. Being a Catholic is central to my personal identity. I have tried to preach the gospel. No matter what sanctions the Vatican imposes on me I will continue, in whatever way I can, to try to bring about reform in the church and to make it again a place where all who want to follow Christ will be welcome. He made friends with the outcasts of society, and I will do whatever I can in my own small way to oppose the current Vatican trend of creating a church of condemnation rather than one of compassion.

I believe that the real aim of the CDF is to suppress the ACP – attempts have been made to clip the wings of the Austrian association. I hope and pray it will not succeed.

While I am dealing with these issues in my own life I believe it is appropriate for me to temporarily stand down from my position of leadership in the association. I will, however, remain an active member, and will be available to help in every way possible for the work of the ACP, which is bigger than any one person.

Finally, it could be asked why I am going public now having remained silent for a year. I need to take back my voice.

original article at the Irish Times

Letter of Archbishop di Noia to SSPX

The full text in English of the letter from Archbishop di Noia to the SSPX has now been released on the Il Sismografo website. The flavor is a bit different from that implied in the Vatican Insider report quoted here yesterday. The link below goes to the full text. Some excerpts give an idea of the content.

Recent assertions by persons holding significant positions of authority within the Fraternity cannot but cause concern about the realistic prospects for reconciliation. One thinks in particular of interviews given by the District Superior for Germany, formerly General Superior of the Fraternity (18 September 2012) and by the First Assistant General of the Fraternity (16 October 2012), and a recent sermon of the General Superior (1 November 2012). The tone and content of these interventions have given rise to a certain perplexity about the seriousness and, indeed, the very possibility of straightforward conversation between us. While the Holy See patiently awaits an official response from the Fraternity, some of its superiors employ language, in unofficial communications, that to all the world appears to reject the very provisions, assumed to be still under study, that are required for the reconciliation and for the canonical regularization of the Fraternity within the Catholic Church.

........... is clear that something new must be injected into our conversations if we are not to appear to the Church, to the general public, and indeed to ourselves, to be engaged in a well-meaning but unending and fruitless exchange

......... Pope Benedict XVI, in his magnanimous exercise of the munus Petrinum, is striving to overcome the tensions that have existed between the Church and your Fraternity. Would a full ecclesial reconciliation bring about an immediate end to the suspicion and bad feeling we have experienced? Perhaps not so readily.

. ........

Our souls need first to be healed, to be cleansed of the bitterness and resentment that comes from thirty years of suspicion and anguish on both sides. We need to pray that the Lord may heal us of any imperfections that have come about precisely because of the difficulties, especially the desire for an autonomy that is in fact outside the traditional forms of governance of the Church.

Full text of letter here

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lefebvrians: Church extends a hand to the SSPX in an eight-page letter

[ In light of rejection by the SSPX of legitimacy of Vatican II liturgy and reforms and recent statements by SSPX leader Fellay that Jews are "enemies of the Church" (see denouncement by Vatican Cardinal Kurt Koch here who asked if SSPX could really be considered Catholic at all ), how should this new olive branch, apparently taken at the Pope's instigation, be interpreted? If only this much effort had been taken to maintain unity with, say, Bishop William Morris (Austrailia) ) or Fr. Roy Bourgeois (USA), or Fr. Tony Flannery (Ireland) who dared entertain the notion that females might be called to the priesthood ]

Vatican Insider
Jan. 20, 2013

ROME- The Holy See has made another reconciliatory gesture toward the Society of St. Pius X; the Vice President of Ecclesia Dei, Augustin Di Noia, to whom Benedict XVI entrusted the Church’s scorching dossier on the Lefebvrians, has written to Bernard Fellay. The letter was addressed to all priests in the Fraternity and pointed out a path towards resuming a dialogue which had been interrupted last June.

........ The Holy See was expecting a response within weeks. But a response never came. The Lefebvrians examined the Vatican proposal and there were pre-existing internal tensions which led to the expulsion of Richard Williamson, one of the four bishops ordained by Mgr. Lefebvre in 1988. Williamson had unfortunately become famous for his denial of the Holocaust and the killing of Jews in gas chambers. ..... the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard Müller, strongly criticised the Lefebvrian position, while the debate is still going over Fellay’s controversial statements regarding “the Church’s enemies,” who apparently opposed an agreement with Rome – the Lefebvrian bishop included the “Jews” among them

Di Noia’s gesture is new. ..... According to authoritative French Vatican correspondent Jean Marie Guenois, it was Benedict XVI’s idea to send the letter which he apparently re-read and authorised. The letter, Guenois informs, speaks of the strong need to “overcome” existing “tensions”. .... In terms of the interpretation of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, one of the most controversial points in the dialogue, Di Noia considers relations still “open” and “full of hope”, despite some recent declarations by the Lefebvrians. This is probably the first time the Vice President of Ecclesia Dei officially and with such authority recognised the existence of a fundamental impasse in relations with the SSPX and the lack of progress made regarding the interpretation of the Council.

The second part of the document underlines the importance of unity in the Church and therefore of the need to steer clear of “pride, anger and impatience.”


Rome is now waiting for a response, in the hope that it will be a positive one this time.

Full article at the Vatican Insider

Cleric fears excommunication threat

The Corkman (Ireland)
Jan. 20, 2013

An outspoken cleric has claimed he has been threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church for suggesting that women might become priests in the future.

Fr Tony Flannery said he is being forced to chose between Rome and his conscience and revealed he is taking legal advice under canon and civil law to help defend his rights as a member of the church and as an Irish citizen.

The 66-year-old, who joined the Redemptorists in 1964, said he has been told by the Vatican that if he wants to remain in the church and in his congregation he must stop any involvement with the liberal Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which he founded.

The author, who was stopped ministering as a priest for most of the past year, said he has also been ordered not to engage with the media or publish any books or articles.

"I have served the church, the Redemptorists and the people of God for two thirds of my life," said Fr Flannery.

"Throughout that time, I have in good conscience raised issues I believed important for the future of the church in books and essays largely read by practising Catholics, rather than raising them in mainstream media.

"I'm hardly a major and subversive figure within the church deserving excommunication and expulsion from the religious community within which I have lived since my teens."

The priest maintains the actions were instructed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and described them as "frightening, disproportionate and reminiscent of the Inquisition".

Fr Flannery claimed he will be allowed back into ministry only if he writes, signs and publishes an article - to be pre-approved by the CDF - accepting the Catholic Church can never ordain women to the priesthood and accepting all church stances on contraception, homosexuality, and the refusal of the sacraments to people in second relationships.

"I could not possibly put my name to such an article without impugning my own integrity and conscience," Fr Flannery said at a press conference he called in Dublin.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Priest planning to defy vatican's orders to stay quiet

New York Times
January 19, 2013

DUBLIN — A well-known Irish Catholic priest plans to defy Vatican authorities on Sunday by breaking his silence about what he says is a campaign against him by the church over his advocacy of more open discussion on church teachings.

The Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would adhere to church orthodoxy on matters like contraception and homosexuality.

“How can I put my name to such a document when it goes against everything I believe in,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “If I signed this, it would be a betrayal not only of myself but of my fellow priests and lay Catholics who want change. I refuse to be terrified into submission.”

Father Flannery, a regular contributor to religious publications, said he planned to make his case public at a news conference here on Sunday.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to Father Flannery’s religious superior, the Rev. Michael Brehl, last year instructing him to remove Father Flannery from his ministry in County Galway, to ensure he did not publish any more articles in religious or other publications, and to tell him not to give interviews to the news media.


He believes the church’s treatment of him, which he described as a “Spanish Inquisition-style campaign,” is symptomatic of a definite conservative shift under Pope Benedict XVI.

“I have been writing thought-provoking articles and books for decades without hindrance,” he said. “This campaign is being orchestrated by a secretive body that refuses to meet me. Surely I should at least be allowed to explain my views to my accusers.”

His superior was also told to order Father Flannery to withdraw from his leadership role in the Association of Catholic Priests, a group formed in 2009 to articulate the views of rank-and-file members of the clergy.


This month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to an American priest, Roy Bourgeois, notifying him of his laicization, following his excommunication in 2008 over his support for the ordination of women.

Full article at the New York Times

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reneged guilty plea in latest Philadelphia trial could impact Lynn's fate

Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
Jan. 17, 2013

In March, former Philadelphia priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty to conspiracy and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy; he was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years in prison.

On Thursday, Avery recanted that guilty plea, a development that could have ramifications for the landmark conviction of Philadelphia archdiocesan Msgr. William Lynn, the first U.S. church official to serve jail time for his handling of abuse claims.

The revelation came in testimony in the first week of the trial of Fr. Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero, both alleged to have abused the same altar boy Avery had previously admitted to assaulting.

According to multiple reports from the courtroom, Avery took the stand and testified that he pleaded guilty only to avoid a longer sentence. The defrocked priest has been in prison since that plea March 22, four days before he was scheduled to stand trial alongside Lynn and Fr. James Brennan.

Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the archdiocese, has been in prison since June 22, serving a three- to six-year sentence after he was found guilty on one charge of child endangerment. His lawyers pushed for bail and for him to be placed under house arrest while they pursued a retrial, and Thursday afternoon indicated to reporters they intend to again pursue Lynn's removal from prison.

"If there's a question about [Avery's] guilt, then there's no way you convict Lynn, because Lynn was only convicted as a derivative of Avery," Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn's lawyers, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Full article at National Catholic Reporter

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bishop echoes vatican spokesman's comments on Catholic-Jewish relations

Catholic News Service
US Catholic
January 16, 2013

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs agreed with the Vatican spokesman that derogatory comments about Jews by the head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X were "unacceptable" in a letter to members of the USCCB Catholic-Jewish dialogues.

Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore said in his letter Jan. 15 that comments by Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society, who called Jews "the enemies of the church," were contrary to church teaching.

"I wish to assure you as both colleagues and friends that the Holy See and the USCCB find the statements of Bishop Fellay both false and deeply regrettable. His remarks are not only prejudiced, but also hurtful. Comments that cause pain to our Jewish partners are painful to us as well," Bishop Madden wrote.

Bishop Fellay's comments were posted on YouTube Dec. 30. They were made during a nearly two-hour talk Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario.

Bishop Fellay said that Jewish leaders' support of the Second Vatican Council "shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the church's."

The Society of St. Pius X has rejected the Catholic Church reforms that emerged from Vatican II including the document "Nostra Aetate," which described Christians and Jews as having a common heritage and a profound spiritual bond, and denounced any form of contempt of the Jews.

In his letter, Bishop Madden cited comments by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, who said, "It is absolutely unacceptable, impossible to define Jews as enemies of the church." Bishop Madden also pointed to the work of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to extend the teachings of "Nostra Aetate throughout the Catholic Church and to condemn anti-Semitism.


The society's U.S. district published a press release on its website Jan. 5 saying Bishop Fellay's characterization of "enemies" was "a religious concept .....

"By referring to the Jews, Bishop Fellay's comment was aimed at the leaders of Jewish organizations, and not the Jewish people," the statement said, adding that any accusations of the society being anti-Semitic were false and an example of "hate speech made in an attempt to silence its message."

original article at US Catholic

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vatican cardinal castigates SSPX

The Tablet (UK)
Jan. 15, 2013

A curia cardinal has questioned how the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) could claim to call itself "Catholic" given its rejection of key teachings from the Second Vatican Council.

In some of the bluntest language to date from the Roman curia on relations with the SSPX, said Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican's ecumenical section, said: "It is only the group of Lefebvrists that doesn't accept ... ecumenical dialogue, relations with the Jews and religious liberty ... One must ask how it can present itself as Catholic."

Asked if there were any danger the Catholic Church, under pressure from the SSPX, could backtrack on its post-Vatican II position on the Jews, the cardinal said: "Absolutely not; because the Church cannot throw into discussion the Council."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Germany's Catholic church suddenly halts major study on priest sexual abuse

By Roland Preuss

MUNICH - A major research project set up to shed light on sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Germany has been shelved, according to information obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Germany’s Catholic Church has cancelled the project, and a letter to that effect has been sent by the German Bishops’ Conference to the Criminal Research Institute of Lower Saxony, which had been mandated by the Church to handle the project.

Project director Christian Pfeiffer told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the project failed because of the Church’s "wish to censor and control." Contrary to the original agreement, Church authorities were insisting on a right to choose researchers and determine how and if results would be published.

An agreement had been signed to proceed with the study in July 2011. According to the Criminial Research Institute, the project was to be the most thorough investigation into the subject ever conducted anywhere in the world. The files of all dioceses in Germany – some of them going back to the end of World War II -- were to be examined. In-depth interviews with abusers and victims had also been planned.

However criticisms from clerics led to the Bishops’ Conference legal offices asking for changes in the agreement. Pfeiffer also said he had sent a letter to the Bishops stating that in some dioceses files of abuse cases had been destroyed, and that the letter had never been answered.

Church official Hans Langendörfer presented a different picture. "I don’t have any indication of destroyed files,” he said, adding that the project had failed for data protection reasons among others. The Church had been open to compromise on the issue of publication, he said, but now its confidence in Pfeiffer had been "shattered."

Original article Süddeutscher Zeitung

Monday, January 7, 2013

Vatican reaffirms dialogue with Jews after SSPX denouncement

Alessandro Speciale
 Religion News Service
 Jan. 7, 2013

 The Vatican reaffirmed its commitment to dialogue with Jews on Monday after the head of a traditionalist breakaway group called them "enemies of the Church."

 The Vatican chief spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, said it was "meaningless" and "unacceptable" to label Jews as "enemies" of the Catholic church.

 "Both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II personally engaged in dialogue with Jews," he said. As a sign of their commitment, Lombardi noted the two popes' visits to Jerusalem's Western Wall, Judaism's most sacred site, and to synagogues in Rome and elsewhere.

 The Vatican reassurance came after Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, said Dec. 28 that "the enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists" were opposing the group's reconciliation with the church

. Fellay assessed the status of relations between the SSPX and the Vatican in a long speech at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario. The audio of the speech was posted on YouTube on Dec. 30.

 At Benedict's prompting, the Vatican in 2009 opened talks to repair the decades-long breach with the SSPX, focusing on the group's rejection of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which revolutionized the church's relations with Judaism.

 Anti-Semitic strains within the SSPX have been a major headache for the Vatican; shortly after Benedict lifted the 1988 excommunications of four SSPX bishops, it emerged that one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, was a vocal denier of the Holocaust. Entire article at the National Catholic Reporter

Full article at the National Catholic Reporter

Catholic church can't withold names in California priest files

Greg Risling
Daily News LA

LOS ANGELES - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles must release the names of church leaders and pedophile priests identified in thousands of pages of internal documents recounting sexual abuse allegations dating back decades, a judge ruled Monday.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias overturned much of a 2011 order by another judge that would have allowed the archdiocese to black out the names of church higher-ups. Victims, as well as The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, argued for the names to be public.

Elias said she weighed the privacy rights of priests and others - including those who are mentioned in the documents but were not accused of any wrongdoing - versus the public's interest in learning details of the child abuse that prompted the archdiocese to agree to a record $660 million settlement with victims in 2007.

"Don't they have the right to know what happened in their local church?" Elias said before ruling from the bench.

The documents include letters and memos between top church officials and their attorneys, medical and psychological records, complaints from parents and, in some cases, correspondence with the Vatican about abusive priests. There are approximately 30,000 pages and it wasn't immediately clear how soon they would be released.

Elias stipulated that some redactions of people who played no major role would be allowed, and attorneys for the plaintiffs and church were discussing how to do so. The sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church has played out in many dioceses around the country, with victims receiving huge settlements. Files released in other places, such as Boston, have shown the church shuffled predator priests among parishes without calling police.

Both plaintiffs' and church attorneys said Monday they want the documents released as soon as possible.

"Our client's objective is to get this over with," church attorney Michael Hennigan said.

Attorneys for the archdiocese previously said they planned to make the confidential files public by the middle of this month with the names of the church hierarchy blacked out. A set of documents with the redactions already was prepared and Hennigan said it's not clear how long it will take to produce a new set with far fewer redactions.


The 2007 settlement stipulated that personnel files would be made public, but more than 20 accused priests went to court to block the release, arguing that making their files public would violate their privacy rights.


Full article here

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wiesenthal Center Condemns SSPX Leader’s Description of Jews as “Enemies”; Calls on Schismatic Catholic Group to Renounce Anti-Semitic Theology

Jan. 4, 2013

The Simon Wiesenthal Center today condemned the reported remarks of Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the schismatic Catholic traditionalist group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), in which he called Jews “enemies of the church.”

Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs of the Wiesenthal Center said, “Bishop Fellay’s description of Jews as “enemies” amply proves once again the deep rooted anti-Semitism that lies at the heart of the SSPX’s theology. Despite all of the group’s efforts to present a cleansed public face, their teaching of hate still seeps to the surface. Instead of blaming their traditional bogeymen of Jews and Masons for their problems with the Church, and accusing these enemies of being responsible for subverting the Church through the Vatican II, which shifted the relationship between Catholics and Jews into a positive direction in 1965, they would be better served by acknowledging the teachings of Vatican II and cleansing their theology of the bigotry that it espouses."

Fellay’s remarks came during an almost two hour talk that he gave on Dec. 28 in Ontario, Canada, which was posted on YouTube on Dec. 30th. Last year, the Wiesenthal Center applauded the Vatican’s announcement that talks aimed at readmitting the schismatic group into the Church had broken down over, among other issues, the Church’s insistence that Vatican II be accepted by the SSPX.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

SSPX leader calls Jewish people 'enemies of the church'

The latest pronouncements from the traditionalist schismatic, anti-semitic, misogynistic Society of St Pius X only reinforces how mistaken lifting the excommunication of Fellay and other SSPX "bishops" really was.

Carol Glatz
Catholic Herald (UK)
Jan. 4, 2013

The head of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X has called Jewish people “enemies of the Church”, saying Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s”.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, the society’s superior general, said those most opposed to Rome granting canonical recognition to the SSPX have been “the enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists”.

He said these people, “who are outside of the Church, who over centuries have been enemies of the Church”, urged the Vatican to compel the SSPX to accept Vatican II.

He made the comments during a nearly two-hour talk at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada.


Pope Benedict launched a series of doctrinal discussions with the SSPX in 2009, lifting excommunications imposed on its four bishops, who were ordained in 1988 without papal approval, and expressing his hopes they would return to full communion with the Church.

In 2011, the Vatican gave SSPX leaders a “doctrinal preamble” to sign that outlines principles and criteria necessary to guarantee fidelity to the Church and its teaching; the Vatican said the SSPX leaders would have to sign it to move toward full reconciliation.

But Bishop Fellay said he repeatedly told the Vatican that the contents of the preamble – particularly acceptance of the modern Mass and the council as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church – were unacceptable.


The Vatican has not made the preamble public, but said it “states some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity” to the formal teaching of the Church, including the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and that it leaves room for “legitimate discussion” about “individual expressions or formulations present in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the successive magisterium” of the Church.

Bishop Fellay said Pope Benedict wrote to him, emphasising that full recognition required the society accept the magisterium as the judge of what is tradition, accept the Council as an integral part of tradition and accept that the modern Mass is valid and licit.

Bishop Fellay said: “Even in the Council there are some things we accept,” as well as reject, however, the group wishes to be free to say, “there are errors in the Council” and that “the new Mass is evil”.

The group will not accept reconciliation if it means no longer being able to make such pronouncements, he said.

Original article at the Catholic Herald

Bishops investigateing US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases

[This is long, but helps clarify who Rome finds "problematic" (nuns focusing on social work instead of denouncing gay marriage) vs who are tolerated and rewarded (bishops that cover-up abuse)

Jason Berry
National Catholic Reporter
Jan. 5, 2012

From its palace in Vatican City, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith monitors compliance with Roman Catholic moral teaching and matters of dogma for the oldest church in Christendom.

These issues have little bearing on most of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Faith, for them, rests in parish life and the quality of their pastors. In the 1980s, for example, when the congregation punished theologians who dissented from the papal ban on artificial birth control, the majority of Catholics who believe contraception is morally acceptable did not change their opinion.

But as the congregation accelerates a disciplinary action against the main leadership group of American nuns, many sisters and priests are reacting to a climate of fear fostered by bishops and cardinals who have never been investigated for their role in the greatest moral crisis of modern Catholicism: the clergy sex abuse crisis.

A small but resonant chorus of critics is raising an issue of a hypocrisy that has grown too blatant to ignore. The same hierarchy that brought shame upon the Vatican for recycling clergy child molesters, a scandal that rocked the church in many countries, has assumed a moral high ground in punishing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a group whose members have put their lives on the line in taking the social justice agenda of the Second Vatican Council to some of the poorest areas in the world.

Many nuns from foreign countries wonder if the investigation is an exercise "in displaced anger," as one sister puts it, over the hierarchy's failure in child abuse scandals across the map of the global church.

Cardinals and bishops involved in the LCWR investigation have suffered no discipline for their blunders in handling clergy pedophiles, according to news reports and legal documents.

Cardinal Bernard Law was the prime mover behind the "apostolic visitation" of all American nun communities, other than monastic ones, and the subsequent doctrinal investigation of LCWR, according to sources in Rome, including Cardinal Franc Rodé, retired prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Law, who refused to comment for this article, has not spoken to the press in 10 years. He resigned as Boston archbishop in December 2002 and spent 18 months living at a convent of nuns in Maryland, with periodic trips to Rome. In 2004, the Vatican rewarded him with a position as prefect of Santa Maria Maggiore, a historic basilica; he took an active role in several Roman Curia boards, and became a fixture on the social circuit of embassies in Rome.

Boston was a staggering mess. Settlements and other expenditures related to abuse cases there have cost about $170 million. Mass attendance since 2002 has dropped to 16 percent. Declining financial support has caused a storm of church closings, from nearly 400 parishes in 2002 to 288 today (soon to be organized into 135 "parish collaboratives").

Six years after Law found redemption in Rome, clergy abuse cases exploded in Europe.

"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry," Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Catholics of Ireland in a letter on March 19, 2010, as the Irish reeled from a government report on a history of bishops concealing clergy predators. "Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated," the pope continued.


Despite the uncommon tone of contrition, the pope's letter offered no procedures to remove complicit bishops or genuine institutional reform.

On April 6, 2010, as cases of clergy abuse in other countries shook the European heartland, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel criticized Benedict for "reluctance to take a firm stance" on the abuse a crisis, which "is now descending upon the Vatican with a vengeance and hitting its spiritual leader hard."

Almost three years later, ...... the core problem is unchanged. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., remains in his office despite his conviction in criminal court, where he drew a suspended sentence for failure to report suspected sexual abuse of children. Benedict has not punished any of the hierarchs who recycled so many sex offenders by sending them to other parishes.


In 2005, shortly after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger emerged from the conclave as Pope Benedict XVI, he appointed San Francisco Archbishop William Levada to succeed him as prefect of the doctrinal congregation. Levada became a cardinal soon after.

Levada was caught in a swamp in 2002 amid news reports on abuse cases under his watch in San Francisco. He formed an Independent Review Board of primarily laypeople to advise him and review personnel files on questionable priests. Psychologist James Jenkins chaired the board. Fr. Greg Ingels, a canon lawyer, helped set it up. Jenkins grew suspicious when Levada would not release the names of priests under scrutiny.

In May 2003, board members were stunned to read news reports that Ingels had been indicted for allegedly having oral sex with a 15-year-old boy at a local high school in the 1970s. Levada, the board learned, had known about the allegations since 1996, yet kept Ingels in ministry and as an adviser. Ingels helped fashion the church's 2002 zero-tolerance policy and wrote a bishops' guidebook on how to handle abuse cases. Ingels stepped down.

Jenkins quit his post, denouncing Levada for "an elaborate public relations scheme."

Levada was sued for defamation by a priest he pulled from a parish for blowing the whistle on another priest. In 1997, Fr. John Conley told police that the pastor with whom he served made advances on a teenage boy. Levada yanked Conley from ministry; Conley, a former assistant U.S. attorney, sued. After the accused priest owned up in a civil case, which paid the victim's family $750,000, the archdiocese paid Conley in 2002 a six-figure "pre-retirement" settlement before the suit went to trial.

Robert Mickens reported in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly, in May 2012 that Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, a protégé of Law's, asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate LCWR.

Lori established several communities of traditionalist nuns as bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., between 2001 and 2012.


Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, who wrote the secret report on LCWR for Levada, has said he got most of his information from LCWR literature. Writing in his diocesan paper, Blair made the accurate point that several speakers at LCWR conferences have taken positions, such as ordaining women, that are contrary to church teaching.

Does this mean that the ordination of women is a new form of heresy? If the truth of the church is defined by men who have violated basic moral standards in disregarding the rights of children and their families, how does their behavior meet the sensus fidelium, or sense of the faithful, extolled by the Second Vatican Council?

Blair's own background spotlights a double standard that rewards bishops who scandalize laypeople.

In 2004, the priest who had headed the Toledo diocese's 2001-2002 $60 million capital campaign was accused by two men of having abused them as boys many years before. Blair kept Fr. Robert Yeager as the diocese's planned giving consultant, and until Yeager's retirement in July 2005, the priest continued to solicit donations while an attorney negotiated settlements for the victims. The bishop removed Yeager from ministry in 2006, before the settlements made news.

Blair forcibly retired a veteran pastor who criticized the bishop's parish closures as "high-handed decisions with almost no collaboration with anyone." In one parish Blair installed a priest who had had a long relationship with a woman. When the parishioners found out, Blair reassigned the priest. A spokesperson said the bishop had to keep quiet as the priest had told him in confession.


Blair, Lori and Levada became bishops with help from Law, whose influence at the Vatican as a member of Congregation for Bishops is pivotal in selecting new American priests for the hierarchy.

Along with Blair, the second member of the three-man committee now supervising LCWR is Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. In a 2007 homily in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the Red Mass, an annual liturgy for lawyers and judges, Paprocki, who has degrees in civil and canon law, declared, "The law is being used as an instrument of attack on the church. This was true from the earliest times when the earliest Christians were, in effect, outlaws in the Roman Empire for refusing to worship the official state gods."

He saw clergy abuse lawsuits were undermining the church's religious freedom. "This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd," he insisted.

"The principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil," he said.


In a column for his diocesan newspaper before the November election, Paprocki attacked the Democratic Party platform for its support of legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

Without endorsing Mitt Romney outright, he wrote, "A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your soul in serious jeopardy."

Did bishops who sent child molesters from parish to parish, on to fresh victims, without warning parishioners, promote "actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil"? Does apostolic succession absolve them of all wrongdoing?


Leading the Vatican's supervision of LCWR, the doctrinal congregation delegated Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to ensure that the nuns' leadership group conforms to changes the Vatican wants.

Sartain was previously the bishop of Joliet, Ill., a diocese that was wracked with abuse cover-ups and lawsuits under his predecessor.

In spring of 2009, a Joliet seminarian, Alejandro Flores, was caught with pornographic pictures of youths, some of which appeared to be of underage boys. No criminal charges were filed.

Sartain ordained Flores three months later, in June 2009. Then in January 2010, Flores was arrested for molesting a boy. He pleaded guilty in September 2010, the same month that Benedict promoted Sartain to archbishop of Seattle.

Read the full article at the National Catholic Reporter

Friday, January 4, 2013

Vatican goes 'cash only' because of lack of money laundering controls

Harvey Morris
Herald Tribune
Jan. 4, 2013

LONDON — If you’re planning a trip to the Vatican, be sure to take cash.

Since Wednesday, museums and businesses in the Holy See have been declining credit card and debit card purchases following a decision by the Bank of Italy that is reportedly linked to concerns over inadequate money-laundering controls.

Cash machines have also been shut down after the Italian central bank refused authorization for Deutsche Bank’s Italian unit to continue operating services it provided within the Vatican’s walls.

An Italian treasury official said last month that the Vatican could no longer use the services of Italian-based banks in the light of new rules against money laundering, according to Vatican Radio.

“The Bank of Italy could not give the authorization because the Vatican, apart from not respecting money-laundering regulation, did not have the legal prerequisites,” Reuters reported, quoting a source close to the Bank of Italy.

The banking freeze, which has prompted the move to cash-only transactions, and which Vatican officials have tersely dismissed as a technical problem, has prompted speculation in the Italian press that a fresh scandal is about to erupt involving the ministate’s still-shadowy finances.


The Vatican’s efforts to shake off a reputation for shadowy finances date back to 1982 and the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, in which the Vatican Bank was a major shareholder.

At the height of that scandal, the body of Roberto Calvi, the Ambrosiano chairman known as “God’s banker” for his Vatican ties, was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London.

The Ambrosiano affair was not the last of the Vatican’s troubles, however.

Just last May, the Vatican Bank fired Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, its chairman, after a three-year tenure marred by financial scandal. In 2010, Italian prosecutors seized the equivalent of $29 million from a Rome bank account registered to the Vatican Bank, amid suspicions of money-laundering violations.

As the current ban on credit cards suggests, the Vatican’s efforts to clean up its finances have only been partially successful.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said contacts were under way with other operators to resume normal banking services and the suspension would be “short-lived.”

In the meantime, at the Vatican’s museums and souvenir stores, it’s cash only, please.

Full article at the International Herald Tribune