Thursday, February 28, 2013

Church sex abuse ruling could cause big spike in compensation claims

Owen Bowcott
The Guardian (UK)
Feb. 28, 2013

The Catholic church could facing spiralling compensation costs after an attempt to avoid liability for abuses committed by priests and nuns was dismissed by the UK supreme court.

The decision will have implications for a wide range of organisations by expanding the principle of "vicarious liability" to other churches, local authorities, charities that rely on volunteers, as well as Scouts and Guides. Lawyers said it could even affect claims involving Jimmy Savile's abusive past.

The refusal by the UK's highest court even to hear the church's challenge that clerics are not "akin to employees" marks the end of a potential legal escape route from responsibility for compensation.

Lawyers for the trustees of Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust had appealed against a decision in the court of appeal that they had a duty to compensate a young girl for alleged beatings inflicted by a nun and sexual abuse perpetrated by a priest as long ago as the 1970s – if the facts of the abuse were established.

But in a statement issued this week, the supreme court said it had refused permission to appeal "because the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance". It believes the issue has now been settled.

Lawyers for the diocese have conceded they cannot take the case to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg and consequently the court of appeal's ruling becomes definitive.


Commenting on the decision, Keith Porteous Wood, of the National Secular Society, said:............."Evidence abounds of the shameless lengths to which the church has stooped for decades to evade financial responsibility for widespread abuse of children in its care. To have fought to evade liability for admitted abuse is both morally repugnant and a continuing blatant breach of the church's obligations under the UN convention on the rights of the child."

Full article at the Guardian

Benedict resigns papacy: "I am simply a pilgrim"

Frances D'Emillo and Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
Feb. 28, 2013

As bells tolled and the clock struck 8, the brass-studded wooden doors swung shut Thursday at this palace in the Italian hills, marking an end to Benedict XVI's papacy and the start of his final journey as a "simple pilgrim."

Capping a day of tearful farewells that included an extraordinary pledge of obedience to his successor, Benedict entered history as the first pope in 600 years to resign — leaving the Catholic Church in unprecedented limbo and ending a pontificate shaped by struggles to move beyond clerical sex abuse scandals and reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world.

On Benedict's last day, the mood was vastly different inside the Vatican than at Castel Gandolfo, the 17th-century papal retreat set in the hills south of Rome, where he will spend the first two months of his retirement.

At the seat of the popes, Benedict's staff bade the pontiff goodbye in scenes of dignified solemnity, with Swiss Guards in full regalia and prelates kneeling to kiss his papal ring one last time.

A livelier atmosphere reigned in the countryside, with well-wishers jamming the hilltop town's main square, shouting "Viva il Papa!" and waving the yellow and white flags of the Holy See.

Cheers went up as the 85-year-old Benedict stepped out onto the palace balcony and, arms outstretched, declared his papacy was nearing the end.

"I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth," he said. Then giving a final blessing, he declared: "Grazie e buona notte" — "Thank you and good night" in Italian.

It was a remarkable bookend to a papacy that began on April 19, 2005, with a similarly meek speech delivered from the loggia overlooking St. Peter's Square, where the newly elected Benedict said he was but a "simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

Over his eight-year papacy, Benedict tried to set the church on a more traditional course, convinced that all the ills afflicting it — sexual abuse, dwindling numbers of priests and empty pews — were a result of a misreading of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.


Full article at the Christian Science Monitor

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cardinal Pell critical of Pope as he bids farewell

Hobson's Bay Weekly (Australia)
Feb. 28, 2013

A frail Pope Benedict made his public farewell to the world's Catholics on Wednesday morning, hours after one of his closest allies - Sydney Archbishop George Pell - criticised his decision to resign and said the church needed a stronger leader.

Cardinal Pell, who was close to the Pope when both served on the key Vatican watchdog congregation and played an important role gathering support for him at the 2005 conclave at which Benedict was elected, said the resignation created a precedent and left the church in an even more uncertain position.

Cardinal Pell, Australia's only voter at the coming papal election, was unexpectedly candid in a television interview.

He said: ''People who, for example, might disagree with a future pope will mount a campaign to get him to resign.''

He called the Pope a brilliant teacher but said government was not his strongest point.

''He's got to know his theology but I think I prefer somebody who can lead the church and pull it together a bit,'' he said.

Benedict was the first pope to step down voluntarily since 1294, and conservatives fear the precedent will open the church to other possible innovations at a time when it faces profound challenges.

In Rome - which was bathed in pale winter sunshine - Benedict made a poignant farewell at his final general audience, threading his way in the popemobile through the thousands gathered in St Peter's Square.

Benedict clearly enjoyed the crowds, taking a long victory lap around the square and stopping to kiss and bless half a dozen children handed to him by his secretary.

In his address, he recalled moments of ''joy and light'' during his papacy but also times of great difficulty.

''The Lord gave us days of sun and of light breeze, days in which the fishing was good. There were also moments when there were stormy waters and headwinds,'' he said, drawing an analogy with a Biblical passage.


Benedict has not commanded anything like the popular appeal of his predecessor, John Paul II, but Catholics have responded to an endearing shy humility that has marked him amid his travails.

He concluded with Our Father in Latin and a gently voiced blessing.

Full article here

Monday, February 25, 2013

Papal conclave shapes up with resignations of Cardinals

Two Cardinals drop out of conclave thus far and Pope Benedict XVI permits Cardinals to advance starting date of conclave.

Pope accepts Cardinal O'Brien's resignation
Vatican Insider
Feb. 25, 2013

In a significant and decisive intervention, Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews following allegations that he had engaged in “improper behavior” with priests in his diocese. The Cardinal announced that he will not participate in the conclave.

The Vatican broke the news February 25, a day after The Observer, a British Sunday daily, revealed that three priests and a former priest had denounced the cardinal to the Vatican for having engaged in “improper behavior” against them in the 1980s. The cardinal has contested those allegations, and has taken legal advice. Yesterday, the Vatican spokesman, Fr Lombardi, said “the Pope has been informed of the allegations, and the problem is in his hands”.

The Vatican statement made no reference to the allegations, and made clear his resignation was accepted for reasons of age in accordance with Canon 401#1. It said the Pope had accepted his resignation on February 18, in other words before The Observer article was published. The decision takes effect immediately. The Vatican also said that the Pope has appointed an Apostolic Administrator for the diocese.


Full article at Vatican Insider

Cardinal Darmaatmadja pulls out of conclave
Vatican Insider
Feb. 25, 2013

There will be 116 and not 117 cardinal electors, as first expected from the official list of those who will choose the future Pope, after Benedict XVI steps down at 8 pm on 28 February next. The 78 year-old Indonesian Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, Archbishop Emeritus of Jakarta, has told AsiaNews that he will not be present - by "free and personal" choice - because of severe health problems.”

“Speaking over the phone from the Jesuit Emmaus House, a retirement home for elderly priests and prelates in Ungaran city, central Java, the prelate emphasizes the "progressive deterioration" of his condition, since he left the archdiocese in the capital two years ago, on having reached retirement age.

““It s mostly my eyesight," he tells AsiaNews quietly but firmly, pointing out that the problem would impose a "serious obstacle" to work within the Conclave, where assistants are not allowed during the election. The inability to read texts and documents is also an obstacle too such a great task which requires serenity and autonomy.”

“"I am convinced - Cardinal Darmaatmadja tells AsiaNews - that I am no longer suitable and proper to sit with other cardinals to vote for the new pope. So I have decided not to go to Rome for that kind of important event in the history of the church."


full article at Vatican Insider

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bishops call for reform of church governance under new pontificate

the Tablet
Feb. 22, 2013

Bishops in England and Wales have called for a new Pope to implement greater consultation in matters of church governance.

Three bishops - including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - said they would like to see a deeper sense of collegiality, the principle developed at the Second Vatican Council of the Pope governing the Church with the bishops.

The Bishop of Menevia, Tom Burns, said that following Pope Benedict XVI's resignation it was time to reform the Vatican's "monarchical style and turgid bureaucracy" and introduce greater consultation, transparency and a "root and branch review of the method of appointing bishops."

He also told The Tablet it was time for "a freedom of speech to search for ways ahead that will address key issues like remarriage after divorce; re-examining ethical issues; developing a simpler and humbler Church stripped of status and elitism."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who will play a crucial role in the cardinals' meetings before the conclave next month, said on Tuesday in a lecture on the Second Vatican Council that there should be a "richer sense of collegiality" in the Church.

The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Kieran Conry, said said that a "stronger sense" of collegiality would have been helpful in the establishment of ordinariates for former Anglicans and the new translation of the missal.

Cardinal Kasper calls for creation of new office of "deaconess"

Pray Tell
Feb. 22, 2013

Cardinal Walter Kasper suggested a new “diaconal” office for women at the recent spring assembly of the German bishops’ conference, German media are reporting. His proposal is for a “community deaconess” who would carry out pastoral, charitable, catechetic, and specific liturgical roles. This would be distinct from the office of male deacons, to be commissioned by a blessing rather than sacramental ordination. “I think when there is such an office that isn’t simply based on the classical office of deacon, we would have much more flexibility,” he said. The occasion was a study day at which the bishops discussed how to involve women more strongly in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Kasper rejects women priests. “I think that nothing is to be changed that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood,” he said. This is “the unbroken tradition of the eastern and western Church.”

The “We Are Church” movement called once again for women priests. “We want female priests, bishops, and popes,” said Annegret Laakmann. She termed the bishops’ discussion “a sedative pill.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cardinal: married Catholic priests a possibility

Associated Press
Feb. 22, 2013

LONDON — Roman Catholic priests should be allowed to marry and have children, Britain's most senior Catholic cleric said Friday.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who heads the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said the requirement for priestly celibacy is "not of divine origin" and could be reconsidered.

He told BBC Scotland that "the celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry - Jesus didn't say that."

He said that "many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy," and while he had never considered marriage himself, "I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married."

O'Brien, 74, will form part of the conclave of cardinals that chooses the next pontiff, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict announced earlier this month that he will step down Feb. 28 - the first pope to resign in almost 600 years.

The cardinal said that the next pope would be free to consider changing church policy on issues, such as celibacy for priests, that were not "basic dogmatic beliefs."

He said that "we know at the present time in some branches of the church - in some branches of the Catholic church - priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again."

In recent years a number of traditionalist Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women and other changes have joined the Roman Catholic Church. The pope granted special dispensation for married Anglican clergy to stay married and be ordained in the Catholic Church.

O'Brien also said it was time to think seriously about having a pope from outside Europe.

He said he would be "open to a pope from anywhere if I thought it was the right man, whether it was Europe or Asia or Africa or wherever."

Read more here:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cardinal Dolan deposed in Milwaukee sex abuse lawsuits

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Feb. 20, 2013

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the U.S. bishops' conference and one of the expected electors of the next pope, was deposed Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by clergy sex abuse victims, The New York Times reports.

Dolan, who has served as archbishop of New York since 2009, the Times reports, was called to testify over his management of priests in the Milwaukee archdiocese, which he led from 2002-2009.

Barraged by suits from hundreds of sex abuse victims, Milwaukee's current archbishop, Jerome Listecki, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.

Dolan's deposition makes him the second American cardinal and potential pope elector to be in the limelight for his handling of sex abuse, following the focus on retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Bishops want next pope to reform church governance

Pray Tell
Feb. 21, 2013

Bishops in the U.K. are being surprisingly open and forthright in their calls for reform in church governance.

The Bishop of Menevia, Tom Burns, said that following Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, it was time to reform the Vatican’s “monarchical style and turgid bureaucracy” and introduce greater consultation and a “root-and-branch review of the method of appointing bishops.”

He told The Tablet: “Conservatism has had its day. It doesn’t work. Despite all Benedict’s efforts, the Church is losing its place in society … It’s time to reopen the doors and windows for a new blowing of the Spirit, a freedom of speech to search for ways ahead that will address key issues…”

Read the full story at The Tablet, with comments by Bishop Burns and others, here .

The need for a new beginning

Der Spiegel (Germany) has a long piece ( Zero hour at the Vatican), well worth reading, on Pope Benedict's resignation, the process to select a new pontiff, Benedict's status after a new pope is chosen. Part of this explores the present condition of the church, particularly in Germany and the need for change from which the following is extracted

Der Spiegel
Feb. 18, 2013

Thomas von Mitschke-Collande, the former advisor to the German Bishops' Conference, deplores the pope's need for harmony. "Being Catholic also means unity in diversity. Bishops and the pope must come to terms with this tense relationship. The universal church now needs a pope who is willing to relinquish more of his power." There is no alternative, says Mitschke-Collande, in light of globalization, the diversity of regions and the differences in the nature of Catholics worldwide. He believes that the assumption that only one monolithic church is a strong church is fundamentally incorrect. "Using this approach, no corporation today would be able to market its products worldwide anymore," says Mitschke-Collande, who made his career as a consultant at McKinsey.

On the other hand Ratzinger, a former council theologian, tried to counteract the centrifugal currents. He was a pope of the Restoration, and many priests, and members of their congregations even more so, hope that those days are now gone.

It was not a happy pontificate for Benedict XVI, but rather one of suffering. The world witnessed a shy person who regards the present with deep pessimism and, no matter how hard he tried, was unable to hide his feelings.

Last year, Benedict repeatedly experienced how every step forward was weighed down by the shadows of the past, including charges of abuse and betrayal. Furthermore, his pronouncements were often thwarted, especially in his native Germany. Indeed, church attendance in his homeland has declined to 12 percent of the population and elementary religious beliefs -- that of the creed and the belief in the resurrection and the Holy Trinity -- are now held by only a minority of the population.

If he already felt worn out from these battles over faith, the years in which butler Paolo Gabriele betrayed his trust must have finally pulled the rug out from under his feet. When Secretary Gänswein assumed all of the blame and offered to resign, the Holy Father wanted nothing of it. With a sigh, he said: "But we must trust each other up here. It doesn't work without trust."

Benedict's Parting Gift

But the treachery had found its way into his own chambers. According to a report last week by the Milan newsmagazine Panorama, Dec. 17, the day on which three cardinals handed the pope the secret report describing the background of Vatileaks, complete with witness statements, was apparently the moment he decided to resign. Before that, Benedict had "learned of conditions in the curia that he would never have thought possible."


With his decision to resign, Benedict has given his church a final gift: the chance for a new beginning. And that is exactly what Catholics in his native Germany long for. Benedict's resignation comes at a time when the standing of the Catholic Church in Germany has arrived at a new low.

Church doctrine and social reality have drifted so far apart in many areas that even devout Catholics believe the time has come for change. Karl-Josef Kuschel, a religious scholar in the southwestern German city of Tübingen, says that the church is now confronted with "fundamental mistrust."


Atmosphere of Fear and Suspicion

In total, the church lost about 3.8 million Catholics in Germany between 1990 and 2011, a number almost twice the size of the Archdiocese of Cologne. And the trend has shown no signs of reversal.

As a result, the church is losing importance in Germany. Its influence over legislation, important national debates or on culture is limited today. "The church is in a crisis of faith, trust, authority, leadership and communication," Mitschke-Collande, an active Catholic, writes in an analysis.

And then there are the devastating results of a recent study by the Sinus Institute, based in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, on the growing isolation of the Catholic Church in most social environments. The study makes it very clear that it isn't just external critics, so-called enemies of the church, but also the core and even the substance of loyal Catholics in the church that no longer has any confidence in the pope and the bishops.

The crisis has reached the center of the church, and the bishops are at a turning point. Business as usual isn't an option, and yet the bishops are only thwarting one another. "No one wants to come out from cover first," says a bishop's aide. "No one dares to go it alone, because everyone fears that the others will attack him and that, in the end, there will only be trouble with Rome."

This culture of making statements on the quiet is reminiscent of the final stage in East Germany, when an atmosphere of fear and suspicion had taken hold. But how can a church be attractive when it is internally divided, disunited and demoralized? Pope Benedict XVI and his most loyal representatives in Germany, be it in Cologne, Limburg or Regensburg, have allowed this disunity to develop, or they have even promoted it.

Referring to this issue, one cardinal's spokesman says: "You have to be able to say something without being immediately assailed, and without denunciation in Rome or on the Internet. If this climate of mutual suspicion isn't put to an end now, we will fail in our efforts to launch a new beginning. The church must be able to tolerate more criticism, more diversity and more freedom without its ranks." The role of the bishops, he adds, will be more important than that of the pope in the future, and the local mood will be crucial to people, be it in Germany, Asia, Africa or Latin America.

Easter Deadline

Catholic youth groups are calling on their bishops to address current debates from the center of the church, and not to leave the field to ultraconservative Catholics. This, they say, also includes a discussion on what "can be left up to the conscience of the individual," when it comes to sexual morality. Helmut Schüller, the co-founder of a pastors' initiative, says that the Vatican can no longer be the center of a universal church that "emanates fear and terror, where people are harassed, removed from office and denied the right to teach."

For now, such critique has been but a murmur. But it is rapidly getting louder.


Will the succession be decided among the Europeans, or will they succeed in bridging the gap with the non-European churches? Will the pope remain a man of the Restoration, as Ratzinger was, or will he be a reformer, like Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schönborn or Gianfranco Ravasi, 70, the notoriously progressive president of the Pontifical Council for Culture?


The church faces massive and fundamental issues: connecting to the modern age and decisions on key questions such as celibacy, the ordination of women, ecumenism and large numbers of faithful leaving the church in some regions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

German bishops have plenty to talk about

Deutsche Welle
Feb. 20, 2013

The German Catholic Bishops' Conference in the western city of Trier will be a mixture of uncertainty, diagnosis and prayers. Following Pope Benedict XVI's recent announcement of his resignation at the end of the month, the election of a new leader of the church is high on the agenda. Four of the 66 members of the Bishops' Conference will travel to Rome to elect the new pope: 76 year-old Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner (79), Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx (59) and Berlin Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki (56). They are members of the papal conclave which elects the pope, and which is made up of cardinals who are under 80.

The church is suffering from dwindling membership

At the moment, the German bishops are being unusually open about their desires and expectations for Pope Benedict XVI's successor. They want a much younger pope - who doesn't have to come from Europe. They are criticizing the Italian system of the Curia. Cardinal Lehmann lamented its "centralism." He spoke of Benedict XVI's disappointment and loneliness, pointing to the lack of good people around him. But the bishops who have gathered in Trier are not suggesting any names or even indirectly indicating any preference. That wouldn't be the done thing.

Sexual abuse

But there is a need to discuss German issues too. The process of dealing with the sexual abuse that took place in church institutions has stalled. The German Bishop's Conference began working with the criminologist Christian Pfeiffer in 2011. Researchers wanted to draw lessons for the training of priests and church practice by looking at biographies of offenders across the country. However, church officials and criminologists found themselves at odds and are now squabbling over legalities. Spokespeople for the victims, the media and politicians have been disappointed by the row, and there's been a wave of indignation throughout the country....

Apart from the sexual abuse scandal, the bishops will also be discussing another issue which has caused much outrage in Germany. In Cologne, two Catholic hospitals refused to give help to a victim of rape. The doctors were apparently afraid to prescribe the morning-after pill, which would have prevented pregnancy. It now looks as if the church will allow Catholic hospitals, despite their strict ban on abortion, to prescribe the morning-after pill to rape victims.


These scandals have overshadowed internal wranglings in the Catholic Church. Bishops and laity have been involved in a so-called "dialogue process" since 2010 to discuss issues such as how the church deals with remarried divorcees or increased ecumenical opening. The bishops will discuss the role of women, but no change is expected.


Full article at Deutsche Welle

Cardinal Kasper: more collegiality needed in church

Vatican Insider
Feb. 20, 2013

Ratzinger’s resignation has “shed new light on the papacy” because the essence, the nature of the Petrine ministry is given by Jesus and cannot be changed” but “what changes is the sacred aura that surrounds the papacy which has mainly been gained over the past two centuries” and “has been lost some extent,” Cardinal Walter Kasper explained to Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper. Cardinal Kasper, who was previously in charge of Vatican relations with other faiths, believes “the Pope’s role needs rethinking.”

What the Church also needs to do is “rethink the relationship between the Curia and local churches, how to hold communion and how to improve communication within the Church.” “It is essential that the Curia be organised in a more suitable way so that it is better placed to face the challenges of our time. Coordination between dicasteries needs to be improved, there needs to be more collegiality and better communication.” The Church also needs to reflect on the role of the synods because sometimes when bishops meet, the topics addressed are too generic and they fail to discuss the concrete issues faced by the Church.” A Church which is being affected by a growing secularisation in Europe. We know that most Catholics live in the southern hemisphere. This is a new situation and presents new challenge.”

According to Cardinal Kasper, the new Pope will need to be someone “who has charisma and is able to influence faithful. A real shepherd of the people but also a shepherd who knows how to lead the Church. I think what is needed today is experience of the universal Church; knowing about one country or one diocese in particular is not enough.”

Irish leader apologizes for infamous
Magdalen laundries

Emily Alpert
Los Angeles Times
Feb. 20, 2013

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny offered an emotional apology Tuesday for government involvement in a harsh system of laundries run by Roman Catholic nuns, where women and girls labored long hours behind locked doors, unpaid and often bewildered about why they were there.

“As a society, for many years we failed you,” Kenny said in a televised official apology Tuesday before the Irish Parliament. “This is a national shame.”

Kenny stopped, his voice breaking, and then concluded, “Let me hope that this day and this debate heralds a new dawn for all those who feared that the dark midnight might never end.”

The apology came two weeks after a report found that the Irish government had been involved in the infamous Magdalen laundries, helping to send girls and women into the workhouses, paying them through government programs and contracts, and bringing runaways back in the hands of police.

The report painted a picture of a punishing regime of work and prayer, imposed on women and girls who felt trapped, often told little or nothing about why they were at the laundries and when they could leave. More than 10,000 women worked in the laundries between 1922 and 1996, it found.

The women ended up in the workhouses for many reasons, more than a fourth of them sent there by courts, reform schools and other state institutions, others dropped off by their families, still others turning there themselves after becoming homeless or fleeing abuse.

Although some saw the laundries as “their only refuge in times of great personal difficulty … others spoke of their real sense of being exploited,” former Sen. Martin McAleese wrote in the introduction to the report.

The secrecy and shame enshrouding the workhouses kept their stories hidden for decades, as women who spent time in the laundries were widely stigmatized as “fallen women.” Kenny lamented “the ignorance and arrogance that saw us publicly call them ‘penitents’ for their ‘crime’ of being poor or abused or just plain unlucky.” Some still fear coming forward to tell their stories.

Women held in the workhouses had pressed repeatedly for a state apology. For years, the government had argued that it bore no responsibility, saying that the institutions were privately run with scant state involvement. Irish news media reported survivors were overjoyed Tuesday after Kenny spoke, saying his speech went far beyond what they expected.

Even getting an apology at all floored some. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen,” Magdalene Survivors Together member Maureen O’Sullivan told the Irish Examiner earlier this week of the anticipated apology. “It just goes to show that you must never give up.”

The apology is also a first step toward compensating the women once confined in the laundries. Kenny said Tuesday that a judge would undertake a three-month review, then offer recommendations on how the government could help the women, including payments, counseling and other assistance. One group, Justice for Magdalenes, has called for the women to receive 100,000 euros, about $133,000, in addition to pensions and lost wages.

“But today is not the day to focus on that,” board member James M. Smith said, growing emotional in a phone interview after Kenny spoke. “What happened today was very, very significant. Irish society finally did right by these women and told them that they were wronged.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The new religious practice dodge

Mark Silk
Spiritual Politics
Feb. 19, 2013

Since we started walking down the contraception mandate road a year ago, clerical opponents of the mandate have embraced the meme that the First Amendment protects not only religious beliefs but also religious practices.

Last June, 24 prominent Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, and Muslim leaders signed an open letter that declared, “No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right.” Last week, Rick Warren told a small press gathering at Georgetown that the “first freedom” is “is the freedom to practice my faith and values and not just to believe it.”

As reported by National Review Online‘s Kathryn Jean Lopez, Warren went on to say that he believed in “pluralism, not relativism.” Be that as it may, the anti-mandate clergy (to say nothing of Ka-Lo) know perfectly well that the First Amendment does not give religious organizations or individuals the right to put their beliefs into practice however they see fit.

Take polygamy. Forbidding it in the granddaddy of Free Exercise cases, Reynolds v. United States (1879), the Supreme Court delivered the following dictum:

Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?

So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.

To be sure, in the years after World War II, the Court raised the bar the government had to get over in order to subordinate religious practices to the law of the land. To do so, the courts needed to find be a “compelling state interest.” But such strict scrutiny went by the boards in 1990, when Justice Antonin Scalia persuaded a majority of his brethren to hark back to Reynolds in in Employment Division v. Smith (1990):

We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Gobitis,310 U.S. 586, 594-595 (1940):

“Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities.”

We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States,98 U.S. 145 (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. What Smith did was establish that ”neutral laws of general applicability” cannot be challenged constitutionally on the grounds that they impede religious practices.

It would be a good thing for religious liberty if the Court, one of these days, overturned Smith and restored strict scrutiny as its standard for evaluating Free Exercise claims. But even if it does so, there will still be religious practices–and not only human sacrifices and suttee–that civil law would trump. It’s dishonest for Warren et al. to pretend otherwise.

The Mahony case casts a shadow over the conclave

Vatican Insider
Feb. 19, 2013

Is it ethical for someone whose image has been tainted by the paedophilia scandal to take part in the next Conclave? It seems right to at least ask the question: California in particular and the U.S. in general have certainly been doing so over the past few days, as cardinals hurry to book their flights to Rome.

One of them is the 76 year old archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, Roger M. Mahony, who was “relieved of all public duties” by his successor, Mgr. José H. Gomez, last 31 January, as announced by the Los Angeles Times.

The files the current pastor of the Diocese of California had to examine and which were the focus of a five year court case handled by the Superior Court of Los Angeles (Judge Emilie Elias) leave no room for doubt. The Church, led by Mahony (from 1985 to 2011) had fought for years to conceal reported sex-abuse cases, in particular reports against Fr. Nicolas Aguilar Riveira (accused of molesting 29 minors during a nine-month stay in the archdiocese) who eventually fled to Mexico.

Archbishop Gomez's decision was a painful one to take and he explained it in a letter to faithful and the clergy: “There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.” Six hundred thousand dollars in compensation were paid out to victims.

A similar fate to Cardinal Mahony's (he is due in court on 23 February and has so far denied all responsibility, even going as far as to publicly complain about the humiliation he suffered) was met by the vicar for clergy, Thomas Curry, who resigned from his post as Auxiliary Bishop of Santa Barbara (both of them had come up with a series of strategies to prevent police interference):they were still allowed to celebrate mass but not to read out homilies or speak in public. This provision which had “immediate effect” was an unprecedented case in the U.S., partly because it involved a bishop punishing two fellow bishops, one of whom was even a cardinal.

Only the Pope had the power to go further and reduce them to the lay state or at least remove them from their posts (as happened last year with Australian bishop, William Morris, who was removed because of his heterodox ideas.)

But after the sacking, SNAP's David Clohessy said that was enough for representatives of paedophilia victims' associations: it was a small step in the right direction.

Now that a new and unexpected Conclave is coming up, things are getting complicated and protests are flaring up: this is not what the U.S. expects of the Roman Catholic Church but no one in America can do anything about it, even if the President of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Dolan, has received requests to do something about it in the Vatican.

In other words, the Pope, who has already done so much to combat the sex-abuse plague, is being asked to make one final courageous gesture: to strip Mahony of his title of “Cardinal” and forbid him to vote in the Conclave that will elect Benedict XVI's successor.

This is not the first case of its kind but the outcome of the previous case was opposite to that expected: In 2005 demonstrators gathered in St. Peter's Square asking for Cardinal Bernard Law to be barred from entering. Cardinal Law resigned from Boston after being accused of covering up sex-abuse cases, but still took part in the Conclave that elected Benedict XVI to the papacy.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, questions are being asked about Cardinal Séan Brady who has been included in the list of cardinal electors despite resigning as president of the Irish Bishops' Conference. The paedophilia case has not been shelved yet and is going to add to the new Pope's already full plate.

Kenny to 'offer Magdalene apology'

Irish Independent
Feb. 19, 2013

Thousands of women who survived Catholic-run workhouses known as Magdalene laundries are expected to receive a state apology from the Government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to make a statement two weeks after a report revealed 10,000 women were incarcerated in institutions run by nuns for a myriad of reasons from petty crime to poverty, disability or pregnancy outside marriage.

Twenty women who were locked up in one of the laundries will attend a parliamentary debate to witness first hand the anticipated apology.

Representative group Magdalene Survivors Together is also hoping to hear details of a compensation scheme.

Spokesman Steven O'Riordan said the women, most of whom feel too stigmatised to speak publicly, are optimistic Mr Kenny will also acknowledge women detained in other institutions similar to laundries but classed as training units.

"Magdalene Survivors Together are extremely confident that the Taoiseach will in some way extend the apology," Mr O'Riordan said.

The group has called for compensation in the form of a nominal payment of 50,000 euro for incarceration and an additional 20,000 euro for every year spent in detention to make up for lost wages.

The Government has not confirmed to the women or their representatives whether they will be compensated. But ministers have suggested a comprehensive package of measures would be produced to meet the women's needs on a case by case basis.

The apology follows the publication of a report from former senator Martin McAleese, which revealed that the state was responsible for 24% of all admissions to the laundries - where girls as young as 11 were forced to work unpaid.

The inquiry found that 10,000 women were incarcerated in the workhouses, run by nuns from four religious orders, for many reasons - from petty crime, fleeing the institutes, foster families no longer receiving state allowances and others who were orphaned, abused, mentally or physically disabled, homeless or poor. The last laundry closed in 1996, at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin's north inner city.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lefebvrians: the last train

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
Feb. 18, 2013

Lefebvrians are given a final chance. The Holy See has asked the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to accept the agreement proposed by Rome by 22 February, the day the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, so before Benedict XVI resignation comes into effect

. Following the “personal” and highly spiritual letter sent by U.S. archbishop Augustin Di Noia, to the Lefebvrians last December, a new letter dated 8 January has reached the SSPX's Superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay. It would not be correct to call it an ultimatum as such but the document signed by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, imposes a deadline on the Lefebvrians for the first time. A particularly dramatic move in light of Benedict XVI's shock resignation.

The existence of the letter was confirmed by the abbot Claude Barthe, a careful observer of relations between Rome and the traditionalists, in an interview with Présent on 16 February: Everyone knows by now that the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission sent a letter to Bishop Fellay on 8 January and that he is expected to reply by 22 February, the day of the Feast of the Chair of Peter. This could also be the day the Prelature of Saint Pius X is founded. If it does indeed happen, it would mark the real end of Benedict XVI's papacy: Mgr. Lefebvre's rehabilitation. You can imagine what a clap of thunder that would be and what an effect it will have on March's scheduled events,” in other words, the Conclave.

According to Abbot Barthe, the game is not over yet. It does however seem unlikely that Lefebvrians will agree to sign the doctrinal preamble the Holy See sent to them last June. According to French Catholic daily La Croix, if the SSPX fails to send a reply by 22 February, Rome has the right to appeal to each of the Fraternity's priests directly, without first going through their Superior, Fellay, extending individual invitations to them to re-enter into communion with Rome. The first reactions of the Lefebvrian clergy, however, indicate unanimous support for their Superior.

Readers will recall that last June, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, delivered the final version of the doctrinal preamble to Fellay, along with a proposal for a Canonical settlement which involved transforming the SSPX into a personal Prelature.

The document required Lefebvrians to recognise that the magisterium is the authentic interpreter of Tradition, that the Second Vatican Council agrees with Tradition and that the post-conciliar liturgical reform promulgated by Paul VI was not only valid but legitimate as well. These conditions were discussed during the Fraternity's General Chapter in July 2012, but no response came from Rome. Lefebvrian leaders gave various statements and interviews in which they implied that it was difficult for them to accept the conditions laid out by the Holy See.

Will the Pope's resignation speed things along? It's hard to tell. Conditions as favourable as the current ones and a Pope as willing to reach an agreement as Benedict XVI will certainly be hard to come by. If the SSPX rejects the Holy See's proposals, the new Pope will have to decide on what to do next.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Swiss bishop sees urgent need for reform of curia

Pray Tell
Feb. 17, 2013

This is an interesting and perhaps challenging time for the Roman Curia, as bishops here and there begin to speak out more openly about the need for structural reforms in the curia, and problems with too much centralism in the Catholic Church. Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, Switzerland spoke with Blick today. Pray Tell offers part of the interview in translation.

What expectations do you have for his (Pope Benedict’s) successor?

First of all, that he holds together the universal church with its innumerable facets and fosters a culture of dialogue. Second, that he takes up the urgent reform of the curia. When one does not know exactly how the curia functions, this truly does not serve the office of the Pope. It wasn’t among the charisms of this pope to carry out this reform.

Reform in what direction?

A feeling of lack of transparency dominates. There should be clearer areas of authority. Also, the curia should take to itself only what is truly necessary and leave the greatest possible scope of action to us bishops and the local church. Sometimes the curial offices worry about things that simply are not their beer.

The new pope will have to concern himself with a few demands that keep coming up. That women can be ordained as priests, for example. Unthinkable?

No, it is not unthinkable. But one must appraise the possible consequences. I am convinced that this break with tradition would lead to a split, as among our Anglican brothers and sisters. Is that what we want? When a split looms, women’s ordination certainly cannot be the first priority on the agenda of the next Pope. But what we should discuss is the office of the diaconate for women…

… they would sort of be priests’ helpers, they could preach, baptize, marry. But not celebrate Mass or hear confessions.

Yes. Here there are starting points in the tradition – in contrast to female priests, where there aren’t such starting points. And I consider it important that women hold important offices in the diocese. …

Many want to abolish mandatory celibacy. You also?

Celibacy is a good manner of life appropriate for priests. It’s thus not a question of simply abolishing it. In the church there is a long tradition that the call to be a priest and being unmarried belong together- but I think that this link is not absolutely binding. Thus, as I see it, celibacy of priests can be reexamined.

Grassroots calls for reform are getting louder. In the canton of Lucerne alone, 180 pastoral ministers – including many priests – signed the Pfarrei-Initiative. How much does that put pressure on you?

We have 1.1 million Catholics in the diocese, so 180 aren’t terribly many. But I do not undervalue the concerns of the Pfarrei-Initiative. I will meet with the initiators and others interested for five half-days about various topics. I believe that we will come together.

In Austria there is the very similar Pfarrer-Initiative. The Austrian bishops were called to Rome because of it. Is the same imminent for the Swiss bishops?

That is entirely possible. We have discussed this in the bishops’ conference. But now a new pope is coming, and possibly such things will no longer stand at the top of the list of priorities.

Bishop Conry: Problems of Overcentralization and New Missal under Pope Benedict XVI

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Pray Tell
Feb. 15, 2013

Two days after the announcement of Pope Benedict’s resignation, Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton in the United Kingdom, spoke out on the pontificate of Pope Benedict in the pages of The Times (subscription needed).

Bishop Conry spoke of a negative impact on Catholics in the pews through the introduction of the new English translation of the Missal: Liturgically is where it has impacted most obviously on the lives of Mass-going Catholics. We have a new translation of the Mass texts which was really imposed by Rome. There are bits of the translation that people are simply not happy with, words such as ‘consubstantial’ in the Creed. Before that it was ‘of one being’. Had we been able to make local decisions we would have stuck with the original. It has not had a massive impact, but at the same time it has had an impact that is felt.

For Bishop Conry, this translation problem is tied to the larger issue of centralization: There is a need for the Roman Curia, the central administration, to be reviewed. That was not one of Pope Benedict’s strengths. It needs reviewing because it is not working very well. There seems to be a degree of centralization that is not really necessary which might indicate that there is a degree of inefficiency.

A return to the traditional autonomy of local bishops, a characteristic of the early Church, was one of the calls from the Second Vatican Council. The aim was that Rome should work more collaboratively with the local bishops. That has not really developed.

New Pope should not condemn contraception says cardinal

John-Paul Ford Rojas
The Telegraph
Feb. 12, 2013

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said that while a radical departure from previous teaching was not likely, it would be “wise” to focus on "what's good and what's true" about marriage and family life instead.

He said that Catholic teaching on sexuality should steer away from saying "we condemn this, we condemn that".

“I think that every Pope will face what needs to be faced and with regard to contraception I think the Pope won’t say the Church has been wrong the whole time. He’ll be saying there are ways…

“I think the Pope will be as every other Pope has, particularly Pope Benedict, understanding that the fundamental teaching on sexuality is concentrated on marriage, on family life.

“I think that the Church would be wise actually to focus on that in her teaching, rather than saying ‘we condemn this, we condemn that, or the other’. No – focus on what’s good and what’s true.”

The cardinal’s views are significant because, while at 80 he is too old to vote in the conclave to elect the next Bishop of Rome, he will take part in its discussions.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t expect the next Pope to be a radical. Every Pope when he’s elected is not going to be elected to change what’s been handed down through the centuries.”

The cardinal said the Pope must maintain the traditions of the Church but it was also important for him to be “listening”. He defended the Church's position on gay marriage saying it was not “completely out of step” as had been suggested – though it may be “swimming against the tide”.

Prof Diarmaid Macculloch of Oxford University, a leading authority on Church history, said its teaching had increasingly placed the bishops at odds with the faithful, who “simply ignore” what they are told.

He told Today that a Pope in the mould of John Paul II or Benedict was inevitable as the current conclave of cardinals had been chosen by them.

“This is going to be another conservative Pope – perhaps the last before a great explosion in the Church.”


Speculation on the next Pope was already in full swing in Rome today. Some say the papacy could return to an Italian for the first time since 1978, while others suggest it could go to a non-European for the first time since 731.

Full article at the Telegraph

Pope's impact on church both good, detrimental

Brother Charles Hilken,FSC
Professor of History and head Bishop John Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture and Action
St. Mary's College, Moraga, CA
guest opinion: Times Sunday
Feb. 17, 2013

n the 2,000-year history of the papacy, there have been all sorts of popes, including administrators, monks, pastors, lawyers, and theologians. The present pontiff who will step down from the chair of Saint Peter at the end of the month can be numbered among the latter. His lack of administrative savvy, as many commentators have noted, has led to feudal warfare in Vatican City.

Some might say he let the Vatican run its course so that he could commune with the worldwide Catholic faithful through his writings. Pastorally, Benedict XVI acquitted himself as pope with respect to the sexual abuse scandals in the church. Deeply troubled personally by the gross failure of the priestly ministry, the pope moved with determination to right the wrongs he found.

Most notably, he removed from ministry the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel. The real test of Benedict's legacy, though, will be his impact on the church and the world as a teacher and scholar. In this regard his record is mixed, with some good and some detrimental effects.

His scholarly way of thinking has meant safety and constancy for official Catholic teaching. At the same time, however, it also burdened the church with new directions that may have looked good on paper but were divorced from the realities of lived experience. The decision to approve an English-language revision of the Mass that was the result of a small committee without widespread consensus has saddled English-speaking Catholics with words that grate at their sensibilities during the central act of public worship at the Mass.

The continued use of male nouns and pronouns as the gender universal and the adoption of cumbersome Latinate expressions can only be seen as mistakes made in an ivory tower. On the other hand, Benedict's profound learning allowed him to distinguish the essentials of church teaching from doubtful matters and to plead for a faith informed by reason in a world often scarred by religiously motivated violence.

Pope Benedict XVI was the last pope who participated in the Second Vatican Council, which brought about so many changes in the Catholic Church. His successor will be the first pope of the generation to inherit the work of the council. In the spirit of the council's call to engage the world in dialogue, it will be most important for him to steer the church toward greater transparency, especially in the wake of the bishops' horrific record of handling abuse cases.

It will also be incumbent on the new pontiff to continue the legacy of Benedict XVI on the preaching of faith, the advocacy of peace, and the application of reason in worldwide religious dialogue.

Perhaps his greatest legacy will be his last act as pope, his resignation. Only a scholar pope with the confident knowledge of history could do something so breathtakingly unexpected yet also within church tradition.

His resignation speaks of deep scholarship, but also of humility. Benedict has been able to distinguish his own frail humanity from the office entrusted to him.

Like Saint Peter, the first pope, at the end of the John's Gospel, Benedict is able now to let himself be led away and leave others to remain in service.

This daring act by someone holding one of the most revered and influential positions of leadership is a prophetic witness in a world of eminent gerontocracy.

The symbolic choice of leaving office on the last day of the last full month of winter points to Benedict's confidence at the approach of a new spring for the world and the Church.

Gomez, Mahony : a study in contrasts

Teresa Watanabe and Rebecca Trounson
Los Angeles Times
Feb. 16, 2013

In more than two decades leading the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahony headlined immigration rallies, marched for worker rights and made national news by announcing he would defy a congressional bill he regarded as anti-immigrant.

But the man who replaced him in 2011 — Archbishop Jose Gomez — has shied away from such attention-getting actions. Instead, he plans to take 60 conservative Catholic business leaders on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City this fall in hopes of winning them over on immigration reform.

It's a distinctly different style from that of Mahony, whom Pope John Paul II nicknamed "Hollywood" for his frequent media appearances.

"Cardinal Mahony was pretty much everywhere," said parishioner Carlos De Leon as he departed from Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels last week. "Archbishop Gomez seems much more behind the scenes. It's a different management style."

Yet Gomez has begun quietly making his mark on the archdiocese, the nation's largest with 4.5 million Roman Catholics in 120 Southern California cities.

He has elevated issues such as opposition to abortion and euthanasia. He has promoted evangelization and religious education and embraced more conservative voices.

At the same time, he has not led an ideological purge of the archdiocese as some liberals had feared might happen under a cleric associated with the orthodox Opus Dei organization. Gomez has not, for instance, shut down a program Mahony developed that has trained lay leaders, particularly women, for powerful church roles, said Claire Henning, a pastoral associate at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood.

"I was one of the first to say, 'Oh my God, Opus Dei,'" Henning said. "But I've been very impressed. I had a lot of presuppositions about him which were wrong."

One of Gomez's most ambitious initiatives has largely gone unnoticed in English-speaking Los Angeles: active outreach to Latinos, who comprise 70% of archdiocese members and 60% of Catholics under the age of 35 nationwide.

The archbishop has launched a weekly Spanish-language radio and TV show to teach the faith, covering such topics as marriage and respect for life, that reaches an audience of more than 2 million.

The 61-year-old Mexico native has also attended popular Spanish-language gatherings — Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and a Divine Mercy conference at the L.A. Convention Center, for instance.


Gomez believes Catholics must first know their faith to understand the theological reasons for taking stands on social issues, said Father Virgilio Elizondo, a longtime friend in San Antonio, where Gomez previously served as archbishop.


"He's concerned about social justice but feels if you're not well-grounded in the basics, then it can be seen as just activism and not … evangelization of the Gospel," Elizondo said.


Some conservatives say he hasn't gone far enough.

It irks some of them that he has not yet rid the archdiocese's annual Religious Education Congress — the world's largest gathering of Catholic workshops and exhibits, scheduled for this week — of speakers who promote such causes as gay rights and other causes they consider anti-Catholic.

Still, Gomez has welcomed conservatives who say they were shut out by Mahony in years past, such as Terry Barber, a Covina-based producer and distributor of multimedia Catholic educational material. Barber said he was told by Mahony's theologian that he was too conservative and didn't fully embrace Catholic theology.


"He doesn't come in and bulldoze what was here but adds to the mix," said John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

In light of his quiet style, parishioners were stunned last month when Gomez publicly rebuked Mahony in a letter released alongside a raft of documents on the church's mishandling of the sex abuse crisis. The documents showed that Mahony plotted with other church officials to prevent police from investigating priests accused of molesting children.

In the Jan. 31 letter, Gomez said he was relieving his predecessor of "any administrative and public duties," although he later clarified that Mahony remains a bishop in good standing.

Gomez's action was seen as an unprecedented public rebuke of Mahony — and friends said it was uncharacteristic.

"His style is subtle, careful and cautious," said Tim Busch, an Orange County businessman and close friend of Gomez. "He is much more soft in style and doesn't want to offend anyone. He knows where he wants to go, but he's going to take his time getting there."

On Friday, Gomez sent out a new letter urging parishioners to pray for Mahony as he goes to Rome to help select a new pope. He said Mahony's accomplishments and experience with such issues as immigration and social justice would "serve the College of Cardinals well" during deliberations to elect a new pope.

Gomez declined an interview request.


Some priests find Gomez enigmatic — a "mystery man," as Father Paul Lannan of St. Paul the Apostle church put it. Others say that with his gracious manner, Gomez puts people at ease.

"He's very warm and has a self-deprecating humor," said Father Scott Santarosa of Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights, "which goes a long way with a lot of people."

One joke has particularly endeared him to Angelenos: He has said that his Lenten sacrifice was giving up allegiance to the San Antonio Spurs in favor of the Lakers.

Full article at the Los Angeles Times

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Calls for priest to resign over "protestant like beliefs"

Evening Echo (Ireland)
Feb. 16, 2013

THERE is a growing split in the Diocese of Cloyne over the treatment of Fr Tony Flannery the priest who claims he was threatened with excommunication by the Vatican over his liberal views.

Fr Gabriel Burke from Carrigtwohill has called on Fr Flannery to resign because his “Protestant-like beliefs make him no different to Dr Ian Paisley or William McCrea” — the Free Presbyterian minister linked to loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

Fr Burke was defending Fr Damien Lynch from the Fermoy parish, after a small number of parishioners walked out of noon Mass in Fermoy last week in protest at his homily criticising Fr Flannery.

Galway based, Fr Flannery had received widespread support from priests across Cork but criticism is now beginning to surface.

Fr Lynch said it was regrettable that people had walked out of his Mass and he had not intended to cause offence.

Fr Lynch, who at 26 was the first priest ordained in Cloyne for five years last July, told parishioners that Fr Flannery had adopted positions that were not consistent with Catholic faith, and that to adopt some of Fr Flannery’s views were completely at odds with Church doctrine.

Fr Flannery was censured by the Vatican last month because of his pro-stance on women priests and liberal stances on contraception and homosexuality.

Fr Flannery, aged 66, was suspended from ministry by the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith watchdog last year. He was told he could only resume ministering if he published an approved article declaring that he accepted all of the Church’s stances on the controversial subjects.

Fr Gabriel Burke said that he agreed with Fr Lynch but went further, saying Fr Flannery should “do the honourable thing and resign” as a priest.

He claimed Fr Flannery had refused to accept the Church’s fundamental faith of transubstantiation — where bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ during Mass — and that this meant he was “no different to a Protestant”.

Fr Burke added: “His Protestant-like beliefs make him no different to Dr Ian Paisley or William McCrea. It is akin to a Fine Gael TD having no belief in Fine Gael principles.” If that was the case, a TD would leave the party.”

Fr Flannery declined to comment when contacted by the Evening Echo, except to refute Fr Burke’s claims on transubstantiation. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Cloyne said the priests were speaking in a personal capacity and declined to comment further.

Priest resigns as dean of Maynooth deanery over treatment of Fr. Tony Flannery

Association of Catholic Priests
Feb. 15, 2013

It may seem illogical to step down as the Dean of the Maynooth Deanery over an issue that is neither specifically my own nor diocesan. However, justice has no frontiers.

In this case it is the disrespectful and unjust treatment of Fr Tony Flannery that moves me to this action.

I would like to thank the Deanery members for electing me on the last two occasions to what is a gender-inclusive and dynamic Deanery. I am indebted to Ellie McKeown (Office of Evangelisation) for her formative and continuing work with the Parish Pastoral Councils of the Deanery. Bishop Raymond Field, the area bishop, has at all times been an encourager of Deanery initiatives. The Archbishop gives confidence to Deaneries to take greater responsibility for witnessing to the Gospel through Deanery co-responisibility in our diocese.

It is extremely distressing and depressing the manner in which Fr Flannery has been dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I was ordained nearly 33 years ago and can say with certitude, that if the truth were told, some of his views are shared by many Priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin. It is a sad reflection on the rights of the person and the pre-eminence of conscience that a man of such integrity, kindness and stature is treated in such a manner. Of course, he is not the first and perhaps will not be the last to be thus treated as Rome is a law unto itself.

Fr Timothy Radcliffe, in a recent reflection on the 2nd Vatican Council, spoke of Pope Paul VI’s profound sense of the need for dialogue between the Church and the world but was nervous of enshrining dialogue in the core of its government. We now live in a Church where courage is silenced by fear, and one can only reflect that the Gospel we cherish and struggle to live seems to be a “dead letter” within Vatican bureaucracy.

Fr. John Hassett

Friday, February 15, 2013

Deep rifts in Vatican

Manila Bulletin
Feb. 15, 2013

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – What would appear at first glance to be a cakewalk for a staunch conservative, to follow in the footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI, will be anything but, Vatican experts say.

Of the 117 cardinal electors, 67 were named by the outgoing pontiff, and the other 50 by his beloved predecessor and ideological soulmate John Paul II.

More than half of them are European, including 28 Italians, which points strongly to a successor in the same mould as Benedict, who yearned for a rebirth of Christian faith on the Old Continent.

But the arithmetic is misleading, given the water that has flowed under the bridges of the Tiber since the 2005 conclave that elevated the Polish pope’s German protege after just four voting sessions.

The gaffes and scandals that came to characterize Benedict’s papacy, combined with unflattering comparisons between the introverted German and the charismatic Pole, have laid the foundations for divisions and dissent.

Benedict, who took office as the Roman Catholic Church appeared cut adrift, proved unable to quell public relations disasters, came up short in addressing an avalanche of scandals over child sex abuse by priests and made only modest progress in efforts to clean up the Vatican’s murky financial dealings.

But insiders have pointed to the “Vatileaks” scandal, in which the pope’s butler stole documents containing revelations about corruption and mismanagement that turned up in a tell-all book, as the last straw.

More than any of the other crises, Vatileaks underscored the cerebral Benedict’s failure to stamp his authority over the Curia, the Church’s secretive and powerful governing body dominated by feuding Italian clerics.

“The scandals that brought enormous pain to Benedict XVI had the effect of digging up divisions,” Franca Giansoldati wrote in the Rome daily Il Messaggero on Thursday.

A “wave of emotion” over the death of John Paul II speeded Benedict XVI’s election, she said, something that cannot be matched for someone who is simply retiring at the age of 85.

When they gather for the conclave in mid-March, the cardinals will be under pressure to choose a reformer, someone to fix the “central machinery” of the Curia, said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert and staunch supporter of Benedict who writes for the Italian weekly L’Espresso.

“A great majority are in favor of a strong leader with a strong public presence and a capacity to govern,” Magister told AFP, noting that cardinals outside the Curia – most of them bishops in overseas dioceses – “will weigh very heavily in favor of reform.”

The 28 Italian cardinals are not the “compact group” that they once were, he added.

What is more, Benedict reinstated an old rule requiring a two-thirds majority to elect the next pope – or 78 of the 117 possible this time.

South African cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, who is among the handful dubbed “papabile” or possible successors, said the Church was in a state of “profound crisis” and needed a new pope to bring about “spiritual renewal.”

“The determining factor is he must have the wisdom and energy to confront the challenges that await the Church in every corner of the globe,” he told Italian daily La Stampa.

“Church institutions should help evangelization, not slow it down,” he said. “People, and young people in particular, are waiting for words of truth from the Church.”

Magister, like many Vatican watchers, dismissed the chances of an African or Latin American rising to the top, predicting that the race would come down to Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola, 72, versus Marc Ouellet, the 67-year-old former archbishop of Quebec who heads the influential Congregation of Bishops.

London bookmaker Paddy Power makes Ouellet, described as “good pals” with Benedict, the frontrunner, with Scola as his main contender.

Meanwhile speculation is mounting over how the new pontiff will deal with Benedict’s future status as a former pope living out his years within the Vatican walls after he retires on February 28.

The pope’s decision to take up residency in a disused Vatican convent, which Magister described as “provocative,” sets up an unprecedented situation.

With the Vatican insisting he will be a paragon of discretion and Benedict saying that he will remain “hidden from the world,” others are not so sure.

Also adding to the intrigue was an announcement Thursday that Benedict’s closest confidant Georg Gaenswein will continue as his personal secretary while also overseeing the new pope’s household.

Benedict promoted Gaenswein to prefect of the papal household in December – a move interpreted now as a key part of his plans to resign.

Prominent German theologian Hans Kung warned that Benedict could become a “shadow pope,” telling the Italian daily La Repubblica: “I would have preferred for him to have chosen to retire into meditation and prayer in Bavaria. Contacts and conversations will be inevitable if he stays at the Vatican.”

Cardinal Mahony to be deposed in abuse lawsuit

Associated Press
Feb. 15, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, will be deposed this month for a clergy abuse lawsuit set for trial in April.

A lawyer representing a person claiming abuse by a priest said Friday that an agreement will allow him to question Mahony about his handling of the case on Feb. 23, before the cardinal leaves for Rome to help select a new pope.

Attorney Anthony De Marco says he can also ask questions about up to 25 other priests accused of child molestation. Recently released files show that Mahony and other archdiocese officials maneuvered behind the scenes to protect the church from scandal.

Mahony has apologized for those actions and contends he turned the archdiocese into a leader in terms of safeguarding children.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The great German church selloff

Matthias Schulz
der Spiegel
Feb. 14, 2013


"Upon this rock, I will build my church," Jesus said with confidence. He said nothing, though, about demolishing those churches.

Two millennia later, churches are being forced to make dramatic cuts due to dire financial straits and declining membership. "Between 1990 and 2010 we closed 340 churches, and of those 46 were demolished," says Thomas Begrich, head of finances for the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), Germany's largest federation of Protestant churches. This, Begrich says, is only the beginning. "It may be necessary to give up an additional 1,000 buildings," he said.

Churches are being demolished throughout Germany. Take, for example, the city of Frankfurt am Main. In the 1950s, when Konrad Adenauer was German chancellor, there were 430,000 Protestants living in the city. Today, that number is 110,000. These declining numbers have forced the Church's regional authorities to close every fourth house of worship.

In Hamburg, meanwhile, a former Protestant church has ended up in the possession of the Muslim community for the first time, after a former church building in the Horn district of the city was sold in 2005 to a businessman who then sold the property to an Islamic center.

Church members were indignant over the transaction, but the EKD had little choice. If a buyer can't be found and a building is left standing vacant, eventually the only other option is to allow the bulldozers to raze it.

Things are no different for the Catholic Church. There are churches standing empty even in staunchly Catholic Bavaria, and one has even had to close in the famous pilgrimage site of Telgte, near Münster.

The central German town of Börssum, in the state of Lower Saxony, offers a typical example -- the Church of Saint Bernward here is facing demolition. The church is named for Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim, who lived from around 960 to 1022 and built defensive towers and forts to protect his followers from attacks by Normans and other non-believers.

Now, though, many of Börssum's own residents could fall into that category. The most recent figures show that only about 5 percent of church members in Börssum attend Sunday services. The laundry list of necessary repairs for the church buiding, meanwhile, has reached a total of €134,500.

There are also many church buildings in Germany that have already been used for other purposes, from art classes to sports courses. There are churches that serve as event locations or offer storage space for companies. St. Maximin's Abbey in Trier now serves as a school gym, while the Sacred Heart Church in Katlenburg houses a school for dance and Pilates.

When a local pastor announces that the time has come for a church to observe its very last supper, the declaration causes many a heavy heart among the congregation's members, who gather in the pews, contrite and often weeping, no one quite daring to strike up a hymn.


The situation for Catholic churches is particularly bad in the Ruhr region of western Germany and in northern Germany, places that saw an influx of refugees from the former German lands of Silesia and East Prussia after the Second World War. The church established small "branches" throughout these areas, so that there was always a confessional for parishioners within walking distance.

But now these small houses of worship, often built in an unappealing modern style, are at very high risk of being demolished. In the Diocese of Hildesheim, one out of every two churches is on the endangered list, while in the Diocese of Essen, 83 churches are slated for demolition and another 13 have already been torn down. The situation is the worst in Wilhelmshaven, where six out of nine Catholic churches are slated to be destroyed.


Full article at der Spiegel

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The next pope

So, who will be the next pope? Everyone has their own opinion and bookmakers are laying odds......

The Canadian Press
Feb. 12, 2013

MONTREAL -- Word that a Canadian cardinal is a presumed contender to succeed Pope Benedict has been met with a mixed response in his own Quebec backyard.

Advocates for victims of sexual abuse by priests and even a member of the clergy aren't quite in Marc Cardinal Ouellet's cheering section.

The idea of a global icon emerging from here has stirred the local imagination.

But that excitement is tempered by the fact that Ouellet's home province has become intensely secular and even anti-clerical over the years.

Rev. Raymond Gravel says amid this decline the Catholic church should be looking for a pope who has worked closely to the world's poor -- not another theologian.

The former Bloc Quebecois MP says he doesn't know if Ouellet fits this bill.

Ouellet is being touted as one of the likeliest successors -- perhaps even the favourite -- to take over from Pope Benedict.

Phillipines Catholics hope, pray for Asia's first pope


Feb. 13, 2013 - With attention turning from Europe to the "new" world, worshippers in the Philippines prayed quietly and took to social media on Tuesday in the hope their cardinal might be chosen as the next leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Many Catholics in the Philippines, the largest Christian community in Asia, were shocked by Pope Benedict's resignation, including their charismatic leader, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

African papal contender wants change

The Grio

VATICAN CITY (AP) — One of Africa’s brightest hopes to be the next pope, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, says the time is right for a pontiff from the developing world, and that he’s up for the job “if it’s the will of God.”

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, the day after Pope Benedict XVI announced he would soon resign, Turkson said the “young churches” of Africa and Asia have now become solid enough that they have produced “mature clergymen and prelates that are capable of exercising leadership also of this world institution.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

the Vatican's Irish problem

Deutsche Welle

The Vatican used to be able to count on Irish clergy to follow the rules. But now a group of Irish priests are openly questioning the Vatican's conservative approach to Catholicism, despite the threat of excommunication.

On Sunday, January 20, during a news conference in Dublin, Father Tony Flannery became the unlikely face of the modern Irish Catholic. Unlikely, because Flannery supports allowing women and married men to become priests. He embraces the role of lesbians and gays in the Catholic Church. Flannery also questions the legitimacy of the Vatican's hierarchy, and he warns that unless power is decentralized and free thought is encouraged, church attendance in Ireland will continue to stagnate.

These views would seem to be counter to the regular average Irish churchgoer, who, according to numerous polls and surveys, is older and slightly more conservative than the general population. But Flannery has been embraced. The well-known 66-year-old Irish priest has been inundated with e-mails, texts and handwritten letters from supporters all over the country.

"The support is overwhelming," Flannery told DW. "When you think of the effort it takes to write a letter ... I do not feel like I will be isolated should I be forced to leave." Flannery, who resides at the Redemptorist Esker Monastery in the West of Ireland, maintains that if he doesn't sign a statement reversing his positions, the Vatican has threatened excommunication. Several Irish newspapers, quoting unnamed Vatican officials, report there is no threat of excommunication.

Broad backing

Yet, the Vatican did excommunicate an American priest in 2008 for taking the same public position on women serving as priests. Through letters and intermediaries, the Vatican has denounced Flannery's theological views, and have stripped him of his ministerial duties. Catholic Church leaders are also pressuring Flannery to disband a liberal organization he leads. Catholic clergy is expected to tow the Vatican's line.

The Association of Catholic Priests, founded just over two years ago, now reports to have more than 1,000 members. Flannery is a founder of the organization.

"I will not be terrified into submission," Flannery has repeatedly said. Meanwhile other high profile Irish priests, both in the country and abroad, are also speaking out against the Vatican's handling of the Flannery case, and more than a thousand Irish Catholics have signed a petition to have Flannery reinstated as a priest.

Flannery says since he's gone public with the theological differences, the Vatican has yet to contact him or respond. "I won't hear from them," Flannery told DW. "If something is to happen, one day I'll just be asked to leave [the monastery]."

Shift in Irish society

Flannery represents a significant change in Irish religious culture. Ireland used to be a reliably Catholic country. Couples couldn't legally use birth control until 1980, and even then access to reproductive health was heavily regulated. Divorce was prohibited in Ireland until 1995. Homosexuality was illegal until 1993. Abortion is still illegal.

Yet, in the next year, limited abortion rights are expected to be legalized. Earlier this year, Irish judges laid the legal foundation for a later challenge to the state's ban on assisted suicide. Homosexuals are allowed civil partnerships, and divorce is becoming more common. There has also been great public anger and disappointment directed towards the Church after the child sex abuse scandal was exposed in Ireland.

While conservative Catholics acknowledge there has been a shift in Irish society, they criticize Flannery for going too far in his theology. Flannery has expressed support for a less centralized Catholic Church, and he refers to the Vatican as "the Official Church," suggesting there is a split inside the body.


"He is calling into very serious question whether Jesus intended for a hierarchical church," Quinn said. "And if he's doing that ... [it's] just not a Catholic understanding." That's what's worrying for Irish religious conservatives: Flannery's theological challenge to the Vatican represents a significant change to what it means to be Catholic. And the support he's receiving suggests the once steadfastly Catholic Irish public is also ready to consider that change. Full article at Deutsche Welle

Pope Benedict XVI to become first pope in 600 years to resign

Tom Kington
Los Angeles Times
Feb. 11, 2013

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will step down on Feb. 28 due to failing health, stunning the world's 1 billion Catholics by becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign from the office.

The German pontiff, 85, made his surprise statement to cardinals during a Vatican concistory on Monday, saying “my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” a reference to his duties as leader of the church.

Speaking at a ceremony held to canonize three new saints, Benedict said he would step down at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said a conclave of cardinals would be held in March to elect a new pope in time for Easter.

Italian cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, said Benedict's announcement was a "bolt out of the blue."


Vatican insiders have noted that Benedict has become more frail in recent months; he requires a moving platform to transport him down the aisle at St Peter’s Basilica during services and has slowed during his walks in the Vatican gardens. His private life was recently exposed to public scrutiny after his butler was convicted by a Vatican court for leaking papal correspondence.

Lombardi said Benedict had not been persuaded to step down by a particular illness, but said "he had become more tired and fatigued than in the past."

Benedict’s decision, which he described as being "of great importance for the life of the church," marks the first papal resignation since Pope Gregory XII reluctantly stepped down in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy. The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months.


Beyond giving details of the coming conclave, Lombardi said the Vatican was entering unchartered waters with a pope set to replace a living, former pope. “We are heading into an unknown situation,” he said at a hastily called Vatican news conference.


Lombardi said the German pontiff, who was elected in 2005 at age 78, had shown “courage, a humble spirit, responsibility and a desire that the church be governed in the best way,” adding that he had met the pope recently and found him “serene.” The pontiff’s decision, he said, “did not completely surprise me.”


Full article at the Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vatican official thanks media for uncovering church abuse

Feb. 5, 2013

(Reuters) - The Vatican's new sexual crimes prosecutor on Tuesday acknowledged that the U.S. media "did a service" to the Catholic Church through its aggressive reporting on child abuse that helped the Church "confront the truth".

The rare acknowledgement came from Father Robert Oliver, a canon lawyer from the U.S. diocese of Boston, speaking at his first public appearance since becoming the Vatican's "Promoter of Justice" last week.

"I think that certainly those who continued to put before us that we need to confront this problem did a service," he said in response to a question on whether the role of an aggressive American media was, in hindsight, a blessing for the Church.

"They (the media) helped to keep the energy, if you will, to keep the movement going so that we would, honestly and with transparency, and with our strength, confront what is true," he told a news conference.

Since the abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002 and spread around the world, some Church and Vatican officials have accused the media of irresponsible journalism and exaggeration.

One Latin American cardinal once famously said sexual abuse was "an American problem" in part "invented" by the media.

Oliver was speaking at the presentation of a report on a conference called "Towards Healing and Renewal", held last year, on the Church's attempts to become more aware of the problem and to make a universal commitment to listen to victims and prevent future cases of abuse.

Asked whether some in the Church were still in denial about the extent of problem, Oliver said: "Every single one of us begins with denial. I think it is one of the great things about the work that is being done here, that we all come to know that, in order to prevent this from happening, we all need to come to better understanding."

"I think the leaders of the Church, the members of the Church, we are no different from anyone else. In the beginning our reaction was 'no this is not possible, people don't do this to children,'" he said, adding that the Church had now found a proper way to respond to the crisis.


The Church's crisis began in Boston in 2002 when media began reporting how cases of abuse were covered up systematically and abusive priests shuttled from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and handed over to civil authorities.

Since then, the Catholic Church in many countries has set up new guidelines to deal with cases of past abuse, prevent new cases, report abuse to police, and stop potential abusers from entering the priesthood in the first place.

But victims groups say there is much still to be discovered about how the Church behaved in the past and want more bishops who were aware of abuse to be held responsible.

Last week, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, after years of legal battles, released files of priests accused of molesting children. The city's former archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, was banned by his successor from carrying out his priestly duties in public.

The files were made public after Church records relating to 14 priests were unsealed as part of a separate civil suit, showing that Church officials plotted to conceal the molestation from law enforcement as late as 1987.

Original article at Reuters

Ireland admits involvement in Catholic laundry slavery

CBS News
Feb. 5, 2013

Ireland has admitted some responsibility for workhouses run by Catholic nuns that once kept thousands of women and teenage girls against their will in unpaid, forced labor.

The apology comes after an expert panel found that Ireland should be legally responsible for the defunct Magdalene Laundries because authorities committed about one-quarter of the 10,012 women to the workhouses from 1922 to 1996, often in response to school truancy or homelessness.

"To those residents who went through the Magdalene Laundries in a variety of ways, 26 percent of the time from state involvement, I am sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment," said Prime Minister Enda Kenny on behalf of the Irish government, according to Reuters.

Survivors said they were unsatisfied with the prime minister's response. Steven O'Riordan, spokesperson for Magdalene Survivors Together, told Irish paper The Journal the apology was a "cop out."

Ireland stigmatized those that had been committed as "fallen" women - prostitutes - but most were simply unwed mothers or their daughters.

The report found that 15 percent lived in the workhouses for more than five years, and police caught and returned women who fled. They endured 12-hour work days of washing and ironing.

The state apology could pave the way for payments to survivors.

Abbot Martin Werlen on church reform, tradition and being with one another

Pray Tell
Feb. 4, 2013

Benedictine Abbot Martin Werlen of Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland, who is also a member of the Swiss bishops’ conference, has become well known for his firm but gentle words on Church reform Below is from recent interview with Tages-Anzieger.

In your booklet “Discover Together the Embers under the Ashes,” you write that the state of the church is dramatic. How so?

There are entire generations that hardly notice the Church any more, or else perceive the Church as something where everything just stays the old way. This is dramatic and the opposite of what the Church most deeply is.

Does the Catholic Church need another Reformation?

There is always need for a reform. There is the saying in theology, “The Church must ever be reformed.” Those who close themselves to this are putting the mission of the Church at risk.

… Among other things, you write that it should be possible also for married priests, that they be admitted to ordination.

And I write that this is possible in the Catholic Church

In the eastern Churches..

who are in full unity with the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict is their Pope. I point out that many things that people experience in the Church as rigid ossification are not essential to our faith, but rather a regulation that could also be handled differently.

You support ideas that sound revolutionary: for example, that the people should have a vote in the selection of bishops.

That isn’t revolutionary. I belong to a Church that cultivated this tradition from the beginning. Great bishop figures whom we honor as saints were chosen by the people. Martin of Tours didn’t want to become bishop and, according to tradition, hid himself in a stall. The geese in the stall honked and so they found him.

How could such an election of bishops function concretely?

There are different ways. In Switzerland we have the example of the Diocese of Basel, where all the baptized are invited to speak out about the description of the future bishop and possible candidates. A sense of responsibility is thus awakened in all the baptized.

You also hold that ordinary people should advise the Pope.

When I myself stand before challenges, I generally speak with people from other contexts and with other experiential backgrounds. These people don’t simply say what pleases me and what I want to hear. Such an external advisement would also be important for the Pope.

Does this mean that people who have no idea about real life are advising the Pope?

Not that, but those on the outside bring aspects into a discussion which can’t be brought in by someone who is part of the system. Precisely when one bears responsibility and carries out a leadership role, one needs advice. Saint Benedict taught us that the Lord often reveals to the abbot and community through the youngest something which is better. Through one from whom you don’t expect anything.

At Thursday prayers in the monastery church you said that, thanks be to God, it is Jesus and not the Pope who has the say in the Church. That sure sounds like criticism of the Pope.

Not at all. The Pope surely wouldn’t have trouble with this. Whoever has responsibility in the Church must above all be one who hears and obeys. The Pope is not the Lord of the Church.

Is he not God’s representative on earth?

Precisely this statement implies that the Pope must be one how hears and obeys. There are also other titles that perhaps better express what th epope is primarily. For example, “Servant of the servants of God.”

For many Catholics, what the Pope says has the character of law.

That is not the intention of the Pope. It is problematic when it is understood thus.

You also hold that one could eliminate cardinals.

There is not one word about cardinals in the Gospels, nor in the Catechism. To eliminate them would be no problem for the faith, but merely a question of organization. In any case, the college of cardinals is hardly used as an advisory council. But to eliminate something, there first needs to be a better alternative.

You write that polarization between progressives and conservatives in the Church is enormous. Don’t your progressive positions just contribute to this?

These are hardly progressive positions. In my booklet I base everything on the tradition of the Church. A journalist rightly wrote that my statements are nothing new. But because I go public in an understandable language, it is perceived otherwise.

Your positions may belong to tradition, but they aren’t the reality in your Church.

Oh yes. The examples I give in my booklet are most certainly examples from the reality of the Church.

A small part of the reality!

But it exists. And it can be extended further. I strive to show that there are possible paths for many pressing problems in the Church that do not lead to a dead end.

Are there female priests anywhere? According to your booklet, in questions of gender the Church is “helpless and clueless.”

I don’t focus the problem on the question of female priests, but rather take up a theme that was treated in a document of 1994 from John Paul II. He said that the ordination of women is excluded. Many say that with this the case is closed. I state that a question remains: is the gender of a person ever a question of faith? So: is this a question of faith or not? Of course the answer is No. With this question it becomes possible to speak again about the topic.

A Church official writes: “Abbot Werlen divides the Catholic Church with his controversial ideas.” Are you a divider?

No, not at all, because I always argue from the tradition of the Church. Furthermore, negative reactions come exclusively from people who have not read the booklet, but only newspaper articles about it. If possible, I write to these critics and include a copy of the booklet.

Do you hope that Rome reacts to your booklet?

The future of the Church must concern all of us, not just Rome. If I were to expect from the Pope that he flip a switch and everything changes, we would more or less be in the same place as before. In the Church as a whole, a new culture of being with one another must come about. My booklet is a modest contribution to this. There have already been reactions from Rome. For example an interview with Cardinal Kurt Koch in the Tages-Anzieger.

And what did Koch say about you in the interview that appeared about five weeks ago?

The abbot of Einsiedeln is someone who is not lacking in fire. He certainly poses justified questions. But his perception as a whole is rather onesided.