Saturday, March 30, 2013

Catholic church leaders on trial (in Uganda)

Ian Katusime
The Independent (Uganda)
March 28, 2013

Vatican is watching how Archbishop Lwanga deals with the Fr. Musaala saga

“It is a good point for reflection but it will not change the fundamentals of the church.” That is how one practicing Catholic assessed the impact of recent revelations by renowned celebrity Catholic priest, Father Anthony Musaala of sexual impropriety in the church. That belief in theinvincibility of the old Catholic Church might be similar to the Biblical house built on quick sand, without a foundation.

What one hears in conversations on the street and in the media across the country is that Fr. Musaala’s letter has sparked unprecedented public debate of what some have called the “double standards and hypocrisy’ of the Catholic Church that the letter points out.

It is without doubt that depending on how the leadership of Uganda’s biggest religious congregation of 14 million Catholics in four archdioceses and 19 dioceses handles the Fr. Musaala saga, the church could be changed; perhaps irrevocably. The man on whose shoulder lays the task of steering the church through the storm is Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala diocese.

A stocky man, with a disarming smile and unusual aggressiveness for a clergyman, the 60-year old Archbishop has in the past shown he is not one to shirk the sometimes tough calling of his office. He has spoken out firmly against bad governance, child sacrifice and corruption.

Few were surprised when within days of Musaala’s letter going public, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, who is the head of the church, suspended him from all priestly duty.

Critics have said it is unlikely that the highest ranked priest in the Catholic Church in Uganda, the mild Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala who has not commented on the Musaala saga yet, would act so swiftly.

Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, like his predecessors, has eyes set on being ordained cardinal. That process has been almost automatic. Depending on how he handles this saga and how his performance is judged by his superiors in the Vatican, his fate and that of the Catholic Church could shift.

Part of the problem is that since Father Musaala on March 12 released a letter addressed to bishops, priests, and laity, the Catholic community can no longer shrug off tales of priests in Uganda fondling penitents in the confessional, bishops molesting young women, paying for abortions, and fathering children.


In the letter entitled, “The Failure of celibate chastity among diocesan priests”, Father Musaala described the Catholic Church in Uganda as a “sick system which has lost its integrity in this one area but won’t admit it.”

“A campaign for optional married priesthood in the catholic church is now required,” he writes, “This campaign is primarily a form of education and purification. It is not to be construed as a rebellion against established doctrine but a reading of the signs of the times.”

Archbishop Lwanga will not make the allegations disappear by suspending Fr. Musaala and banning priests from discussing them. He needs to do more.


Although the Musaala saga has shed light in a dark chapter of the church, the clergy and laity in interviews with The Independent says what he is talking about is “nothing new”.

Many Ugandans do not know that the Catholic Church allows married people to serve as priests in some places such as Ukraine.

Many Ugandans also do not know that the requirement for Roman Catholic priests not to marry is relatively new, from 1123 when the First Lateran Council introduced it. Since 1980, the Catholic Church has allowed married priests from the Anglican Church who joined to stay with their wives.

Father Stephen Msele, the head of the Jesuits in Uganda, says the issues Fr. Musaala points out are pertinent and that a priest found to be with children should be ex-communicated.


Pope Francis has been quoted in international media saying the celibacy rule could change although he stated that he would still vouch for it on a personal note. That view is based on an interview the Pope gave when he was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.


History of celibacy in the Catholic Church

First Century

Peter, the first pope, and the apostles that Jesus chose were, for the most part, married men.

Fourth Century

306-Council of Elvira, Spain, decree #43: A priest who sleeps with his wife the night before Mass will lose his job.

325-Council of Nicea: Decreed that after ordination a priest could not marry. Proclaimed the Nicene Creed.

385: Pope Siricius left his wife in order to become pope. Decreed that priests may no longer sleep with their wives.

Fifth Century

401: St. Augustine wrote, “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman.”

Sixth Century

567-2nd Council of Tours: Any cleric found in bed with his wife would be excommunicated for a year and reduced to the lay state.

580-Pope Pelagius II: His policy was not to bother married priests as long as they did not hand over church property to wives or children.

590-604: Pope Gregory “the Great” said that all sexual desire is sinful.

Seventh Century

France: documents show that the majority of priests were married.

Eighth Century

St. Boniface reported to the pope that in Germany almost no bishop or priest was celibate.

Ninth Century

836: Council of Aix-la-Chapelle openly admitted that abortions and infanticide took place in convents and monasteries to cover up activities of non-celibate clerics.

St. Ulrich, a holy bishop, argued from scripture and common sense that the only way to purify the church from the worst excesses of celibacy was to permit priests to marry.

Eleventh Century

1045- Benedict IX dispensed himself from celibacy and resigned in order to marry.

1074-Pope Gregory VII said anyone to be ordained must first pledge celibacy.

1095-Pope Urban II had priests’ wives sold into slavery, children were abandoned.

Twelfth Century

1123-Pope Calistus II: First Lateran Council decreed that clerical marriages were invalid.

Sixteenth Century

1545-63-Council of Trent states that celibacy and virginity are superior to marriage.

Twentieth Century

1930-Pope Pius XI: Sex can be good and holy.

1951-Pope Pius XII: Married Lutheran pastor ordained catholic priest in Germany.

1962-Pope John XXIII: Vatican Council II; vernacular; marriage is equal to virginity.

1966-Pope Paul VI: Celibacy dispensations.

1978-Pope John Paul II: Puts a freeze on dispensations.

1980: Married Anglican/Episcopal pastors are ordained as catholic priests in the U.S.; also in Canada and England in 1994.

Archbishop Lwanga criticised

Archbishop Lwanga has banned priests from discussing this subject but the Canon law of the Catholic Church on which Archbishop Lwanga based his suspension of Fr. Musaala has also come under scrutiny. According to knowledgeable interpretation, it is not clear about the issue of clergy speaking out and raising issues within the church.

Archbishop Lwanga who said Fr. Musaala’s allegations “tarnish the image of the church and threaten to derail believers from their spiritual journey” has been criticised for his speedy action. Tough action from the Catholic Church is not unheard of in Uganda. The Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Fr. Simon Lokodo, was ex- communicated from the Catholic Church by the former Pope Benedicto XVI when he joined politics.

Fr. Musaala’s letter has also sparked public debate of the “double standards and hypocrisy’ of the Catholic Church that the letter points out.


Fr. Musaala, who was ordained after the age of 30 in England, has said he has no interest to marry.

Full article at the Independent

Friday, March 29, 2013

Papal preacher urges a courageous return to simpler church structures

Robert Mickens
The Tablet
March 30, 2013

Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa – the firebrand preacher of the papal household – has warned that divisions among Christians, overly bureaucratic Church structures and “the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes” are blocking the spread of the Gospel.

In his annual sermon for the Good Friday commemoration of the Lord’s Passion in St Peter’s Basilica, the bearded friar compared the Church to an old building that had “become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets” to meet various needs over the centuries. “The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle,” he said in Italian before Pope Francis, scores of cardinals and bishops and a basilica filled with worshipers. “So we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins,” he added.

“This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: ‘Go, Francis, and repair my Church’,” Fr Cantalamessa said.

“May the Holy Spirit, in this moment in which a new time is opening for the Church, full of hope, reawaken in men who are at the window the expectancy of the message, and in the messengers the will to make it reach them, even at the cost of their life,” the brown-robed friar said.

The carefully choreographed service featured the veneration of the cross and the singing, by three deacons, of the Lord’s Passion. The entire ceremony was in Latin and stretched to just over two hours long.

The full text of the homly is available here.

"Francis set a bad example by washing the feet of two women"

Alessandro Speciale
Vatican Insider
March 29, 2013

Alarm bells rang straight after Pope Francis’ election when he presented himself to the world, from the Loggia of the Blessings, wearing a simple iron cross. No red mozzetta and no stole. Eyebrows were raised among traditionalist Catholics who defend the pre-conciliar Latin Mass.

The Argentinean Pope’s CV attracted instant criticism from fans of the Tridentine Mass. In an analytical piece published by traditionalist website Rorate Coeli, one Latin American journalist summed up his reaction to Bergoglio’s election as “The Horror”: “Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst. Not because he openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals, but because, judging from his work as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, faith and moral seem to have been irrelevant to him.”

Above all, the new Pope was a “sworn enemy of the traditional mass,” the Latin Mass that is, and apparently forbid the implementation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum – with which Benedict XVI liberalised the Tridentine Mass as an “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite - in his archdiocese.

Another example, was the piece by Catholic commentator Michael Brendan Dougherty published in the National Post, in which he rashly – just three days after the result of the Conclave was announced - defined Bergoglio’s election as “one more in the pile of recent Catholic novelties and mediocrities.” This is because Pope Francis “falls in line with the larger era of the Church in the past 50 years, which has been defined by “ill-considered experimentation”: “a new synthetic vernacular liturgy…the dramatic gestures and “saint factory” of Pope John Paul II’s papacy, along with the surprise resignation of Benedict XVI.”

But hostilities exploded yesterday afternoon, after Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two girls – one of them Muslim – during the Holy Thursday Mass celebrated in the Casal del Marmo detention centre for young offenders, in Rome.

Pope Francis was accused of setting a bad example and violating Church law, to the extent that Rorate Coeli promptly declared the end of the “reform of the reform” – that is, the return to the more traditional rites and celebrations after the drift, seen by some critics as a path of carelessness and unjustified innovation after the Second Vatican Council – which many expected Benedict XVI to carry through.

Ed Peters, an expert on Canon law and a blogger who is famous in the Vatican, naturally did not accuse the Pope of violating a divine directive, but by ignoring it, “what he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example at Supper time.”

In 1988 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published the Circular Letter Paschales Solemnitatis on the celebration of Easter rites. No. 51 of the circular letter states: "The washing of the feet” is a rite that is only performed on “chosen men”. The original Latin viri selecti is crystal clear on the fact that the chosen ones must be male.

A year earlier, the U.S. Episcopal Conference had decreed that although the practice of washing women’s feet was not mentioned in liturgical books, “the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord "who came to serve and not to be served.”

The question came back into the limelight again in 2005 when the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley sparked a controversy because he wanted to open up the rite to women. On that occasion, the Congregation for Divine Worship had explained that whilst the “liturgical obligation” of washing men’s feet alone, remained, local bishops were free to decide otherwise, according to the pastoral needs of his diocese.

Then Pope Francis made his humble gesture. Speaking to Associated Press, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained that “in a "grand solemn celebration" of the rite, it would make sense to only involve men because during the Last Supper, Christ washed the feet of the 12 apostles, all of whom were male. But in the case of Casal del Marmo “the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women. It was a specific situation in which excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all in a group that certainly didn't include refined experts in liturgical rules."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Francis washes, kisses feet of two women, two muslims

Thomas C. Fox
National Catholic Reporter
March 28, 2013

Pope Francis today kneeled before 12 juvenile detainees in a Rome detention center during a Holy Thursday ceremony. He washed, dried and kissed their feet. Two in the group were women, two were Muslims, according to the Vatican. The symbolism of these gestures will certainly move quickly beyond the Catholic church.

While media outlets were not allowed inside the detention facility, Vatican Radio offered a live audio feed and the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, briefed reporters afterward. He said the ritual was "extremely moving" because kneeling on both knees was very demanding for a 76-year-old pope.

The pope thanked everyone for their warm welcome and said he was happy to be with them. In words of encouragement, he told the young people "Press on! Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope. Understood?"

The pope greeted the residents with hugs and gave each of the young detainees a large chocolate egg and a traditional Italian Easter cake shaped like a dove.

The detainees, who range in age from 14 to 21, then gave the pope a wooden crucifix and kneeler they made in the detention center's woodshop

Archbishop of Munich criticizes "royal court carrying on" in Vatican

Pray Tell
March 28, 2013

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, successor to Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict) as archbishop of Munich, is critical of “royal court carrying on” at the center of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican behaves too much like a royal court, Archbishop Marx told the Deutsche Presseagentur (German press agency).

“The successor of Peter can be no monarch. In my view, that would contradict the office of Peter,” Marx said. With media coverage of church events such as the election of the pope, there is the danger that superficialities play too great a role, said the 59-year-old.

“Things such as the Swiss Guard and postage stamps are very nice, but the central thing is that Christ is spoken of. Side things can’t become the central thing. We have to attend to this.”

Marx expects a reform of the curia from Pope Francis. “There was a basic feeling among the cardinals that something has to change, that one must reflect anew on areas of responsibility, that one must deal with the scandals of the past. The pope will certainly be concerned about this, so that responsibility is taken for whatever wasn’t functioning correctly.”

Whether more things could be decided locally rather than in Rome will also have to be examined, Marx said. “I wish to emphasize strongly that we need the central office in Rome. But it must not overreach.”

“Everyone has to find their authentic style,” Marx said. “I rejoice that the new pope is so well received. But he will also have to make difficult decisions which won’t please everyone. As I have gotten to know him, he will not distance himself from his predecessor, but he will bring to the Petrine ministry his pastoral experiences from Buenos Aires. Just as Benedict had brought in his theological experiences.”

The archbishop of Munich does not wish to cut off contact with Pope Emeritus Benedict. “He is interested in what happens in Bavaria and especially in his home diocese. I will take care that lively, friendly contact with him continues further.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cardinal leads mourners at Jägerstätter funeral

Ellen Teague
Independent Catholic News
March 27, 2013

The funeral of Franziska Jägerstätter was held last Saturday in the tiny village of St Radagund in Upper Austria where she had lived all her life. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and several bishops officiated at a two-hour Mass, held outdoors because the large congregation could not fit into the tiny church. According to reports, it was “very, very cold”.

Whoever met Franziska Jägerstätter, "went away forever blessed " said Bishop Ludwig Schwarz of Linz the previous evening at a Requiem Mass in Linz Cathedral. The widow of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, she died just two weeks after celebrating her 100th birthday. He recalled that Franziska’s life had for 70 years brought the message of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter to post war generations. He praised Franziska as devout woman "who set an example for all of us as followers of Christ", saying “whoever met her went away forever blessed".

Members of the Jägerstätter family and the parish of St Radegund and faithful from all parts of the Diocese of Linz came to the Mass. From the political world, Governor Josef Pühringer attended. The sacristans of Upper Austria were well represented, as Franziska for 30 years held the office of sacristan in St Radegund, a role she took over from her husband in 1944.

Franz was beheaded in on 9 August 1943 for refusing to fight in Hitler’s army. He was beatified six years ago after a long campaign by Pax Christi and others to recognise his witness for peace.

Jägerstätter’s correspondence with his wife during his incarceration in 1943 is a primary source for revealing how he came to his stance, and she supported his action.

Valerie Flessati of Pax Christi UK reports that: “when we were in Linz Cathedral for his beatification in 2007 the entire congregation gave her a standing ovation in unspoken recognition of her own sanctity and much longer sacrifice”. She points out that things were really tough for Franziska and their three children after his execution and local people shunned her for years. “Meeting Franz Jägerstätter’s wife Franziska, as I did several times, was always so moving”, says Bruce Kent; “a quiet woman with the twinkle in her eye, I could not fail to think each time of the terrible pain of that separation and execution in 1943”. He added that, “hers was a long life of great faith matched with equal hope” and “to me and many she is as much Blessed as her martyr husband”.

Pax Christi organises an annual service on 9 August in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral to give thanks for the life and witness of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter.

More photos of the funeral at St Radegund can be seen at:

and from the Community of Sant'Egidio

.....Franz, who was beheaded in Berlin 70 years ago, in 1943, and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, had found in the simple and firm faith of his wife Franziska a strong support to his decision to resist and oppose. In a letter to the prison chaplain, who had assisted her husband to the end, Franziska writes: "I feel so much pain for him because I lost a good husband and a good father for my children. I can assure you that our marriage was one of the happiest of our parish community ... But the good God has willed otherwise and loose that bond so beautiful. I await with joy to see him again in heaven, where no war can no longer separate us" (from C. G. Zucconi, Christ or Hitler?, Cinisello Balsamo (Mi) 2008, p.208).

British Catholic legislators ask pope to relax priestly celibacy rule

Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service
March 27, 2013

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Twenty-one Catholic members of Parliament have written to Pope Francis to ask him to relax the rule on priestly celibacy for Latin-rite priests.

The members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords said in a March 25 letter to the pope that the rule should be changed to allow married men to be ordained priests where pastoral needs required it.

They suggested that it was unfair to allow married former Anglican ministers to be ordained as Catholic priests in England, Wales and Scotland while the church insisted on the celibacy rule for Catholic candidates in those countries.

The letter did not suggest that serving priests should be given permission to marry, and the legislators proposed that the celibacy rule be retained for bishops, as in the Eastern Catholic Churches, which allow priests to marry.

They said retaining celibacy for bishops "would signal the continuing high regard we have for those who are able to live a genuinely celibate life."

"Your two predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, guided we are sure by the Holy Spirit, generously permitted the ordination of married Anglican clergy as Roman Catholic priests," said the letter, released to the media March 27. "These men and their families have proved to be a great blessing to our parishes.

"Based on that very positive experience we would request that, in the same spirit, you permit the ordination of married Catholic men to the priesthood in Great Britain," said the letter by members of the Catholic Legislators' Network UK.

It continued: "In recent years we have been saddened by the loss of far too many good priests. If the celibacy rule were relaxed, there would be many others who would seek ordination, bringing great gifts to the priesthood."

The letter was signed by such senior Catholic peers as Lord (David) Alton of Liverpool, an internationally respected human rights and pro-life activist, and Baroness (Patricia) Scotland, the attorney general for England and Wales under former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

It was also signed by Paul Murphy, a Labor Party member of Parliament who served in former Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet as secretary of state for Northern Ireland, then as secretary of state for Wales.

The letter said: "We recognize that the church is serious about the new evangelization and the need to renew the Christian faith in our secular societies.

"As such, one of our priorities must be to ensure that parishes have priests to administer the sacraments; therefore, we believe that allowing married priests is desirable and imperative," it added.

The letter concluded: "In the first instance, based on the Anglican precedent and the desirability of subsidiarity, it would be logical and greatly welcomed by the faithful if you were to consider permitting our bishops in England and Wales and in Scotland to ordain married men where they believe it would meet the pastoral needs of the local church."

Priestly celibacy is a tradition that developed in the church in the first millennium before it was codified in the Lateran councils of the 12th century. It is a discipline of the Latin church, not a doctrine.

Vatican family czar says pro-life,peace and justice work a package deal

John L Allen,Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
March 27, 2013

When a brief mini-tempest broke out a few days ago over whether Pope Francis had, or had not, once signaled openness to civil registration of same-sex unions in Argentina, nobody in the Vatican was probably in a better position to appreciate where it might lead than Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

(Various media outlets reported that as Argentina was gearing up for a national debate over same-sex marriage in 2010, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had floated the idea of civil unions as an alternative. That claim has been denied by Miguel Woites, director of a Catholic news agency in Argentina.)

In his own way, Paglia had been down this road before.

Last February, just a week before Benedict XVI's resignation announcement, Paglia said during a Vatican news conference that while the church is opposed to anything that treats other unions as equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman, it could accept "private law solutions" for protecting people's rights.

In some quarters the line was styled as undercutting bishops in both France and the United States fighting off proposals for gay marriage, which he insisted he had no intention of doing. It was an experience Paglia would later look back on as an example of how seemingly innocent comments can be "derailed" in the context of fierce political tensions.

Paglia, 67, took over as the Vatican's family czar in June 2012. He comes out of the Community of Sant'Egidio, which is conventionally seen as center-left in the terms of Italian politics, and he's also the official responsible for the sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a hero to the church's peace-and-justice wing. At first blush, that might seem a counterintuitive profile for the head of a Vatican department long been seen as the Vatican's "tip of the spear" for fighting the Western culture wars.

Paglia, however, sees his various commitments as part of the same deep passion for humanity.

"All these efforts – to defend the poor, to defend those on death row, to defend human life at its earliest stages – are applications of the same principle, which is the defense of humanity," he said.

One of his hopes is to reintroduce Catholic teaching on the family in a positive key, so that the emphasis falls more on what the church supports than what it opposes.


Pagila sat down for an interview with NCR on Feb. 9, and again on March 21 to bring things up to date with the election of Pope Francis. The interviews were in Italian; the following is an English translation of the combined text.

What's your first impression of Pope Francis?

My first impression is that of a man of God, a pope that not just the church but the whole world needed. Throughout history, the church has always had to reposition itself based on the times and the situations it faced. I believe that today, after the first decade of this new century and new millennium, Pope Francis can lead the church back to its role as the spiritual guide of the world, of all humanity.

Everywhere today, there's an extreme need for paternity, for a point of reference. The French psychoanalyst [Jacques] Lacan has spoken of our epoch as a time of the 'evaporation of the father.' More than ever today, there's a deep need for a paternal presence, and Pope Francis is that father figure.


Before and after the conclave, people have been talking about a reform of the Roman Curia. What kind of reform do you think we can expect from Pope Francis?

I'm convinced that a reform of the structures of governance here is indispensable. There's no doubt about it. At the same time, we don't need Swiss watches! Structures are not the real movers of history. The lack of a curia that runs like a Swiss watch isn't our biggest problem. The real challenge is to grasp who we're working for … is it for ourselves, or for others? This Pope certainly will lead a reform of the curia, but what's more important is to shape a curia that works for others, that leads the church to be ferment for the whole world, a church that assumes its responsibility for creation and respect for life, a church that helps all peoples rediscover the value of fraternity.

We need to get past a self-referential church, or a church that's on the defensive. We need a church that places itself at the service of others, and not in a feeble or weak fashion. The Pope has spoken of power, but a power that expresses itself in service. It's the power of stopping the car in front of a disabled sick man rather than in front of the powerful VIPs. That's a kind of power in itself, having the courage to say to the driver, 'We're stopping here: There's a weak person to help and to comfort.' It's what the Good Samaritan did in the Gospel parable. In sum, it's the power of staying in the street.


In the West, we live in a hyper-ideological culture in which defense of the family is typically seen as a right-wing concern. Does that bother you?

Yes, it bothers me, because the left needs the family too.


Speaking of private law, you recently created a small media frenzy by suggesting that nations could find "private law solutions" to protect the rights of unmarried couples, potentially including gays and lesbians. In some quarters, that was seen as softening the Vatican's line on gay marriage at a time when bishops in various countries are trying to resist a push for it. Did you learn anything from that episode?

Yes, that I have to be more careful in how I talk about these things, and more aware that words can be derailed. You may think they're going to take you to the station, but in reality they can carry you to the edge of a cliff! But to make clear to you what I actually meant at the time, I proposed what the church has maintained: it is a matter of [protecting] individual rights. Facing the explosion in various forms of living together today, I simply called on states to find solutions which help people and avoid abuses.

Among those who pay attention to church affairs, the Pontifical Council for the Family is usually seen as the Vatican's 'tip of the spear' for fighting the culture wars. Is that the reputation you want for it?

I hope our vision is bigger. The Jewish philosopher Hans Jonas wrote a small book several decades ago called The Edge of the Abyss, in which he talked about ecology. Well before it was fashionable, he criticized the absence of sound choices on the subject. He said that states, governments and individuals were continuing to do what they'd always done, without realizing that they stood on the edge of an abyss. The same thing is true of the nuclear age. For the first time in human history, we have the capacity to utterly destroy the planet. Today, I would say we also face an anthropological abyss, in which some so-called philosophers think that human beings are entirely constructible by themselves, in a manner that's total and absolute. Nature is irrelevant, all that matters is culture. When they say 'culture,' of course, they mean the culture of the 'I'.


Finally, let me ask a question on a different subject. In addition to your position at the Council for the Family, will you also continue to serve as the postulator for the sainthood cause of Oscar Romero?

No doubt, and with great enthusiasm.

Where do things stand?

I believe that the beatification of Padre Puglisi as a 'martyr of the mafia' opens some interesting lines of reflection. [Fr. Giuseppe "Pino" Puglisi was an anti-mafia priest in Sicily murdered in 1993 and set to be beatified May 25.]

John Paul II once said, 'Romero is of the Church.' Romero is an example of a pastor who gave his life for others. Beyond any canonical problems in terms of whether he died directly in odium fidei ["hatred of the faith"], Romero continues to be a point of reference for millions and millions of people, believers and non-believers alike. I was moved, and it made a deep impression on me, when a President of the United States, in this case Obama, stood before the tomb of Oscar Romero, made the sign of the cross and bowed. He did well, because that symbolism was more powerful than any speech.

Full article at National Catholic Reporter

Cuba cleric: Pope Francis criticized church at conclave

CBS News
March 27, 2013

Havana's Roman Catholic cardinal says Pope Francis made a strong criticism of the church just hours before he was selected as the new pontiff.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega says then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio called for the Vatican to emerge from self-absorption and what he called "theological narcissism."

He urged the church to refocus its energy on the "peripheries," not only geographical but existential: sin, suffering, injustice and ignorance.

Bergoglio's comments were made to the College of Cardinals as it met in a conclave to choose a new pope.

Ortega's account was published Tuesday in Cuban Catholic magazine "Palabra Nueva."

Bergoglio was named pontiff March 13 and subsequently chose Francis as his papal name

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pope's note to Chief Rabbi of Rome for feast of Passover

March 25, 2013

Here is a translation of the note that Pope Francis sent to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, for the feast of Passover, which starts today at sundown.

The Holy Father met Rabbi di Segni on March 20, during his audience with delegations from other Christian confessions and non-Christian religions.

* * *

A few days on from our meeting, and with renewed gratitude for your having desired to honor the celebration of the beginning of my ministry with your presence and that of other distinguished members of the Jewish community, I take great pleasure in extending my warmest best wishes to you and Rome's entire Jewish community on the occasion of the Great Feast of Pesach. May the Almighty, who freed His people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land, continue to deliver you from all evil and to accompany you with His blessing. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you, confident that we can deepen [our] ties of mutual esteem and friendship. - FRANCIS

US Mennonites greet Pope Francis

Pray Tell
March 26, 2013

Here is the official US Mennonite response to the election of Pope Francis. (If there are other official responses, please let Pray Tell know.)

Your Holiness:

On behalf of Mennonite Church USA, we offer heartfelt blessings to you in the new ministry to which you have been called. We are grateful for your choice of a name that reminds us of Francis of Assisi, a follower of Jesus who loved peace, cared for the poor, and cherished creation. We are heartened by your choice to live humbly and simply and by your desire to reach across boundaries to people of faith in many traditions. Most of all, we appreciate your profound commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the years ahead we hope that relationships between Roman Catholics and Mennonites will continue to be strengthened. We commit ourselves to pray for you and for our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers.

May you be blessed with abundant wisdom to guide the church, with strength to persevere even in daunting and difficult times, and with a loving shepherd’s heart as you represent the church in the world. May God grant you a long and joyous ministry!

Yours in Christ,
Richard Thomas, moderator
Ervin Stutzman, executive director
Mennonite Church USA

Pope Francis to live in Vatican guesthouse, not papal apartments

Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
March 26, 2013

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has decided not to move into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, but to live in a suite in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been since the beginning of the conclave that elected him, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

"He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement, which is simple," but allows him "to live in community with others," both the permanent residents -- priests and bishops who work at the Vatican -- as well as guests coming to the Vatican for meetings and conferences, Father Lombardi said March 26.

The spokesman said Pope Francis has moved out of the room he drew by lot before the conclave and into Suite 201, a room that has slightly more elegant furnishings and a larger living room where he can receive guests.

The Domus Sanctae Marthae, the official name of the guesthouse, was built in 1996 specifically to house cardinals during a conclave.

Celebrating Mass March 26 with the residents and guests, Pope Francis told them he intended to stay, Father Lombardi said. The permanent residents, who had to move out during the conclave, had just returned to their old rooms.

Pope Francis has been there since his election March 13, taking his meals in the common dining room downstairs and celebrating a 7 a.m. Mass with Vatican employees in the main chapel of the residence.

He will be the first pope in 110 years not to live in the papal apartments on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace.

In 1903, St. Pius X became the first pope to live in the apartments overlooking St. Peter's Square. The apartments were completely remodeled by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and have undergone smaller modifications by each pope since, according to "Mondo Vaticano," a Vatican-published mini-encyclopedia about Vatican buildings, offices and tradition. The large living room or salon of the apartment is located directly above the papal library where official audiences with visiting bishops and heads of state are held.

Pope Francis will continue to use the library for official audiences and to recite the Angelus prayer on Sundays and holy days from the apartment window overlooking St. Peter's Square, Father Lombardi said.


full article at Catholic News Service

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sister Mary Glowrey to be declared a servant of God

Catholic News
March 20, 2013

Dr Sister Mary Glowrey JMJ will be declared a Servant of God in India next week, the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart announced yesterday in a media release.

The poor were the people of her choice and incurable patients had a special place in her heart.

“It is my pleasure to let you know that on Wednesday, 27th March 2013, at the Chrism Mass in the Diocese of Guntur, India, Bishop Gali Bali will declare Dr Sister Mary Glowrey a ‘Servant of God’ as the commencement of the diocesan phase of the process for possible Beatification,” Archbishop Hart said in the release.

Mary Glowrey was a gifted doctor at Saint Vincent’s Hospital and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and had a private practice in Collins St Melbourne. She was the founding President of the Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga.

She later went to India in 1920, joined the Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and was the Founder of the Catholic Health Association of India.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fr. Musaala: church must strike balance

The Observer (Uganda)
March 24, 2013

In a space of days, the Catholic Church in Uganda has both hit the apex of ecstasy – with the election of Pope Francis – and crashed to a nadir of controversy, with the Father Anthony Musaala dossier.

Fr Musaala, famed for his gospel music and charismatic preaching, this month wrote an open letter in which he calls for priests to be allowed to marry. He argues, with examples, that celibacy is increasingly becoming a fallacy, as priests conduct affairs and father children.

In response, the church has suspended Musaala over the dossier. But the debate rages on, sometimes taking ugly inter-faith turns. Some Catholics have backed Musaala. But many have condemned him, seeing his dossier as irresponsible washing of dirty linen in the public, to the embarrassment of the faithful.

This is a delicate subject for both the priest and his church. What is certain is that the issues Musaala raises are not new. Many Catholics know a priest, even bishop, who has affairs and children and these issues are usually talked about in hushed voices, or simply avoided.

One unique thing Musaala has done is to give a face and priestly endorsement to the anti-celibacy debate while retaining his robes.

Still, Musaala must have known that the issue of celibacy is bigger than Uganda. It arouses curiosity if Musaala expects Uganda to write the law for Rome.

To the extent that Musaala has denied having circulated his dossier on the internet, the priest can be credited for raising this debate with his superiors. Beyond that, Musaala may find more sympathetic ears if he accuses his church of locking anti-celibacy men out of priesthood.

But ultimately, this is a matter for Pope Francis and the leadership of the church to grapple with.

Church leaders cannot claim to be unaware of the issues Musaala raises. There should be a compromise between permitting free debate and failing to provide strong leadership.

From Rubaga to Rome, the church must decide whether to rethink celibacy, or – as Pope John Paul II ordered a decade ago – to act against deviant priests. Failure to act and hoping the problem will go away will only invite more Musaalas to speak out.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cardinal O'Brien's departure: another coverup

Elena Curti
The Table
8 March 2013

Cardinal Keith O'Brien's admission in his statement on 3 March following his hasty departure from office raises many more questions about his conduct than it answers. In it he wrote:

'I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.'

Is he referring to the unwanted sexual advances he is accused of making to four priests and a seminarian that are now in the public domain? Has he made sexual advances to other young priests and seminarians? Is it habitual behaviour that has continued right up to the present day? If so how did it affect his governance of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh?

Straightforward gay relationships are one thing - though of course a violation of the vow of celibacy - but a spiritual director or archbishop making passes at a seminarian and young priests is quite another. In the context of the Church's guidance on safeguarding, a seminarian is considered a vulnerable adult if his spiritual director behaves inappropriately towards him. The same could be argued of young priests if their archbishop makes unwanted sexual advances to them. These are the scenarios painted by the three serving priests and the priest (now no longer in ministry) whose complaints date from the 1980s and have featured in The Observer newspaper over the last two Sundays. A fifth priest made a similar complaint to Rome last October concerning a similar incident in 2001, though it would appear that he sought to keep the matter private. Even so, it found its way into The Times on 1 March.

The terms in which the four men have talked to The Observer reveal the pain and confusion they have felt down the years over at their treatment from a superior they should have been able to trust completely. As the former seminarian said of the relationship between priest and bishop: 'He's more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold ... he controls every aspect of your life.'

Now the Church's lack of transparency is compounding the suffering of these men. It will not confirm what happened when Cardinal O'Brien was summoned to Rome after the first priest made a complaint to the Congregation to Bishops last October. In this week's Tablet we report that a deal was brokered whereby the cardinal would resign as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in November but actually leave on his 75th birthday - the official retirement age for bishops - the following March, ie this month. If a parish priest is accused of sexual impropriety he is usually suspended from ministry immediately while the allegation is investigated. In this instance, Cardinal O'Brien was going to be allowed to retire with his integrity intact.

Nor is the Church giving details of its response to the four later complaints made to the papal nuncio which according to the Observer journalist were made on either 8 or 9 February two weeks before they appeared in the newspaper. A spokesman at the nunciature told The Tablet this week: 'I have been told to say nothing and can make no comment.' In Rome the director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi, was similarly reticent.

Sources have complained that the cardinal's behaviour affected his governance of the diocese and that a culture of gay cronyism was allowed to develop. Certainly he would have been vulnerable to blackmail. But the most troubling aspect of this scandal is the harm his 'drunken fumblings' - as the priests concerned described some of the allegations - did to them. The cardinal was harsh in his criticism of same-sex couples who want to make a life-long commitment to each other in marriage yet it would appear he was prepared to violate a sacred trust. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

With new pope, spotlight returns to mild rebel priest

Nicholas Kulish
New York Times
March 23, 2013

WITH his gentle mien and deep blue eyes, the Rev. Helmut Schüller does not seem even remotely disobedient in person. He has the calm, reliable presence of the best parish priests whether in his vestments or, as on a recent afternoon, in street clothes.

But as one of the organizers behind a group of more than 400 priests and deacons who in 2011 issued an “Appeal to Disobedience,” Father Schüller, 60, has developed a reputation as one of the leading rebels within the Austrian church. That is no small feat in this small Alpine nation, which might well be the unruliest country in the Catholic world, a laboratory of liberal ideas and reform initiatives.

Among the seven points in the appeal, the group said it would “take every opportunity to speak up publicly for the admission of women and married people to the priesthood.” The group was rebuked by Pope Benedict XVI in a sermon last year, and Father Schüller was formally stripped of the honorific “monsignor” a few months later.

But unlike many priests who have found themselves in deep disagreement with the Vatican, he prefers to continue working from within the ranks of the priesthood. Once the vicar general of the archdiocese of Vienna, Father Schüller now works as a regular parish priest in Probstdorf, about half an hour’s drive east of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna’s old town.

The Preachers’ Initiative began, Father Schüller said, with a small group of priests, talking about the problems faced by their parishes, about the lack of successors to take their places, and about the fusing of congregations in response to declining numbers of priests and parishioners.

He almost seemed weary when the subject turned to ending mandatory celibacy, as though the news media always wanted to talk about sex when less lurid topics like the liturgy, ecumenism and allowing lay people to preach in parishes without enough priests were equally pressing.

“The church is built on the congregation,” Father Schüller said. “You can’t reduce the churchgoer to a consumer, receiving a service.”

THE election of the first pope from Latin America last week was greeted with excitement, a sign of change and tangible evidence that the global church had become a reality. While Pope Francis may plan to concentrate the efforts of his papacy on the fast-growing regions and the problems that preoccupy the poorer parishioners there, he will more than likely have to deal with new challenges from the dissenters in his own backyard, like Father Schüller.

Calls for a larger role for laypeople in church decision making, women in the priesthood and an end to mandatory celibacy for priests have grown in liberal corners of Europe and the United States. Pope Francis will have to deal with the divergent demands of a world church.

“In countries with extreme hunger and violence, where children are stolen, these questions are not paramount,” said Hans Peter Hurka, chairman of the lay initiative We Are Church in Austria. “But as soon as those needs can be met these questions come very, very quickly.” But he cautioned against the attention that has focused on Father Schüller. “It’s not just about one person,” Mr. Hurka said.

Experts trace the roots of Austria’s dissent as far back as the Reformation, which swept across Austrian territories only to be brutally repressed by the Habsburgs under the Counter-Reformation, turning the country Catholic again but leaving lingering resentment and distrust of church hierarchy and diktats. “We’ll make you Catholic again,” is an old expression still occasionally used for putting someone back in line.

Helmut Schüller felt the call of the church from an early age, perhaps influenced by his birthday on Christmas Eve. Born and raised here in Vienna, he was enchanted by the otherworldly quality, the sounds of the organ and the mellifluous prayers. He became an altar boy.

Under the beloved Cardinal Franz König, many Austrians were particularly enthusiastic about the changes under the Second Vatican Council. After decades of retrenchment, it is hard to remember the burst of fresh ideas that accompanied the council, which took place from 1962 to 1965, and the years immediately following.

AMONG the students who decided to enter the priesthood during this era of intellectual ferment was Father Schüller. The church was an intellectually stimulating place at the time, with debates not just on theological matters but about the future of the church and the questions of social justice raised by the movement known as liberation theology.

He was ordained in 1977, still expecting the reforms and modernizations in the church to continue. The following year the church would have three popes, following the back-to-back deaths of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I, who was succeeded by Poland’s Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who took the name John Paul II. “At the beginning I was fascinated,” Father Schüller said of John Paul II. “The great subject of Eastern Europe was the focal point.”

In addition to the new emphasis on the states behind the Iron Curtain, other shifts became apparent. There was a backlash against liberation theology and a move away from the spirit of reform embodied by the Second Vatican Council. The expectations of a modernized church were met instead by a traditionalist countermovement. The Vatican sent extremely conservative bishops to Austria, including Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër as the replacement for Cardinal König, creating significant discord.

Father Schüller occupied himself during these years working with youth and with the Catholic charity Caritas, where he happily spent roughly a decade, becoming the country director in 1991.

Even his role at the charity was not without controversy. He was outspoken in his support of migrants and asylum seekers and for his trouble was one of a group of prominent Austrians who received letter bombs in the mail.

THE spark that turned discontent into organized opposition came in 1995, when Cardinal Groër was accused of sexually abusing seminarians. Cardinal Groër never admitted guilt or faced charges, but thousands of Austrians left the church as a result of the affair. The abuse accusations against Cardinal Groër also led to the founding of We Are Church, which collected more than half a million signatures in a petition for a referendum on change in the church.

“Since 1995 the church in Austria has never quite found peace again,” said Heiner Boberski, a religion correspondent for the newspaper Wiener Zeitung and author of books about the Vatican.

In this moment of upheaval, Christoph Schönborn succeeded the disgraced Cardinal Groër as archbishop of Vienna. He asked Father Schüller to take over as his vicar general, a kind of chief operating officer for the diocese. Father Schüller had developed a reputation as a strong manager at the head of the charity and would have preferred to stay there for his entire career, but answered the call when it came.

The following year, in 1996, Father Schüller became the head of a new group handling allegations of abuse. He described the process of learning more about child abuse as significant for his overall understanding of the church, almost an awakening. His confrontation with sexual abuse also began to crystallize certain ideas about the centralized power of the church that had never found an outlet before.

“It’s not just sexual abuse, but a systematic abuse of power,” Father Schüller said. “It threw a harsh light on the system.”

Cardinal Schönborn abruptly fired Father Schüller as vicar general in 1999. The day-to-day problems of his parish church increasingly shaped Father Schüller’s thinking. In April 2006 he co-founded the Preachers’ Initiative, calling for church reforms.

“He’s very open to new ideas from us,” said Maria Tödling-Weiss, 42, who works with Father Schüller on the church board in Probstdorf. “He always says, ‘Let’s give it a try.’”

“It’s about church from below,” he says, lifting his palms upward from the table, a gesture quite literally uplifting, “or church from above.” At that he presses downward. There is no question on which side he comes down.

How long will the honeymoon with Pope Francis last?

David Gibson
Religion News Service
March 23, 2013

Since the moment of his election March 13, Pope Francis has been warmly embraced by his own flock and even the media and the wider public in a way his bookish predecessor, Benedict XVI, was not.

Polls show that anywhere from 73 percent to 88 percent of American Catholics say they are happy with the selection of Francis, as opposed to about 60 percent who were happy with the choice of Benedict -- and many of those are extremely pleased with the new pope.

Such an effusive welcome is especially good news for Catholic leaders who spent years fending off criticism of Vatican dysfunction under Benedict and a cloud of scandal and crisis at home. And the hot start for Francis is also crucial in building up a reservoir of good will that will be needed when the new pope refuses to bend on unpopular teachings or commits a gaffe of his own.

Yet even as the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio basks in this broad approval as Pope Francis, some constituencies in the Catholic church are cautious or even angry at his election, and their concern has only grown in the early days of his pontificate.

'Something is profoundly wrong'

Chief among the critics are the liturgical traditionalists who reveled in Benedict's exaltation of old-fashioned ways, and are now watching in horror as Francis rejects the extravagant vestments and high-church rituals that were in en vogue for the past eight years.

"Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst," an Argentine Catholic wrote in a post at Rorate Caeli, a blog for aficionados of the old Latin Mass rites. "It really cannot be what Benedict wanted for the Church."

"Something is profoundly wrong when the winds of change can blow so swiftly through an immutable institution of God's own making," agreed Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report, another conservative site.

Given that traditionalists are some of the most devoted and vocal Catholics in the church and that they retain both contacts and influence in the upper ranks of the hierarchy, their pessimism could spell trouble for Francis.

'A Pope Francis problem'

The same could be said of politically conservative Catholics, especially those from the U.S. who have enjoyed access and approval in Rome for decades under both Benedict and the late John Paul II.

Their concerns, while expressed in more muted tones, are tied to a number of markers: Francis is a Jesuit, for one thing, and even though he is considered a relatively conservative member of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits are considered notorious by the Catholic right.

Their list of alleged faults is long -- they advocate engagement with the world, they have shown a willingness to criticize the hierarchy, and they have embraced a radical commitment to the poor. That last one is a priority for Francis as he sharply critiqued unfettered capitalism and austerity politics, even taking on the name of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the poor.

Indeed, the new pope "would likely be considered too liberal for a prime time speaking slot at the 2016 (Democratic) convention," Charles Camosy, a theologian at Fordham University in New York, wrote in a Washington Post column titled, "Republicans have a Pope Francis problem."

St. Francis is also an icon of environmentalism, which the new pope has similarly embraced. That discomfits some conservatives, as does praise for Francis from liberation theologians like Leonardo Boff and Jon Sobrino. Rumors are already afoot that Francis might beatify slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed by a right-wing death squad for speaking out against injustice.

Not only that, but Francis allowed Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats who support abortion rights, to receive Communion at his installation Mass.

While Francis is as orthodox as Benedict on the church's doctrines of sexual ethics, he has shown what is to some a disconcerting willingness to seek pragmatic solutions to difficult issues, such as when he supported civil unions for gay couples in Argentina in an unsuccessful bid to thwart a gay marriage law.

Skepticism on the left

On the other side of the spectrum, however, some left-wing Catholics are leery of Francis or openly criticize him for what they see as his antagonism to gay rights. They also question his track record on sex abuse by clergy and his disputed role during Argentina's "Dirty War" in the 1970s, when some say he was not sufficiently vocal in speaking out against the military junta.

"The election of a doctrinally conservative pope, even one with the winning simplicity of his namesake, is especially dangerous in today's media-saturated world where image too often trumps substance," the feminist theologian Mary Hunt wrote at Religion Dispatches.

"A kinder, gentler pope who puts the weight of the Roman Catholic hierarchical church behind efforts to prevent divorce, abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage -- as Mr. Bergoglio did in his country -- is ... scary," Hunt said.

By contrast, mainstream Catholics, and Catholic Democrats in particular, have welcomed Francis' election not only because of his appealing common touch but also because his statements on behalf of the poor may hold out a chance for leveling the playing field in the church's internal culture wars.

The new pope's words about fighting economic exploitation and "being a poor church, for the poor" are so insistent that they could put the church's social justice teachings back on par with its doctrines on abortion and sexual ethics, which have been so prominent for so long that some complain they outweigh any other tenets.

Still, even Catholic progressives could wind up disappointed as Francis begins to unveil his appointments and policies, just as traditionalists and conservatives could be cheered or at least reassured that all is not lost.

As Fr. James Keenan, a Boston College theologian, says, the Jesuits have an unwritten rule that a new superior should spend the first hundred days of his office learning about the community before making any changes. That means the critics need to make their voices heard now, because the clock is ticking.

Friday, March 22, 2013

California bishop temporarily withdraws belief requirement for school contracts

[Perhaps a new spirit of collegiality in Santa Rosa?]

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
March 22, 2013

In a letter Tuesday to pastors, Catholic school principals and "especially teachers," Santa Rosa, Calif., Bishop Robert Vasa has temporarily withdrawn his requirement that they sign an addendum to their 2013-2014 contracts that would have required they agree they are "a ministerial agent of the bishop" and reject "modern errors" that "gravely offend human dignity," including contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

In the letter, Vasa:
Wrote that his "most serious oversight ... was my failure to engage and consult the pastors of the diocese and especially those who are the local shepherds of our Catholic schools";
Said his "degree of vigilance" in assuring "the greatest hope of finding the truths of Jesus in our Catholic schools" for students "can look like a lack of trust"; and
Acknowledged "that I over looked proper engagement of the principals" and "erroneously chose a path of informing rather than mutual discernment."

Broad grass-roots reaction from parents, teachers, students and pastors had developed in the diocese following disclosure of the addendum, which had been inserted into the contracts as what Vasa and Catholic school superintendent John Collins described as an amplification and clarification of the standard faith and morals clause.

Teachers had been given a March 15 deadline to sign a letter of intent to renew their coming school-year contract and accept the language of the addendum, titled "Bearing Witness."

In the two-page letter, Vasa said he still plans to implement "in some form" the "goals which we established for this year's teacher contract" in the spring of 2015.

Between then and now, Vasa wrote, "in conjunction with other theological educators, I will work to prepare presentations on matters of faith and morals" with principals and teachers as the "primary audience," though "hopefully parents also will find a way to participate."

A story Friday in Santa Rosa's Press Democrat newspaper reported that Vasa's letter was issued following a meeting with 10 Catholic school principals. He also apparently met with various pastors.

In the story by Jeremy Hay, Cardinal Newman High School (Santa Rosa) parent Lori Edgar says, "We are extremely grateful to Bishop Vasa" for suspending the addendum that, she said, had not reflected her own Catholic faith.

The roughly 400-word addendum would have required all teachers and administrators -- Catholic and non-Catholic -- to "agree that it is my duty, to the best of my ability, to believe, teach/administer and live in accord with what the Catholic Church holds and professes."

About 25 percent of the 200 teachers in 11 schools under Santa Rosa diocesan administration are not Catholic. The schools enroll about 3,100 students.

For previous stories on this issue see here and update

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Files detail decades of abuse in Joliet diocese

Christy Gutowski, Stacy St. Clair and David Heinzmann
Chicago Tribune
March 21, 2013

The Joliet Diocese readily admitted that David Rudofski was sexually abused during his first confession at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mokena. It offered him an in-person apology from the bishop and more than six times his annual salary in the hope of putting a quick, quiet end to yet another ugly incident involving a priest.

But Rudofski wanted more than money.

The south suburban electrician wanted the diocese to truly pay for its repeated and, oftentimes, willful mishandling of sexual abuse cases involving clergy — and he insisted on a currency far more precious to the church than money. He demanded that the diocese settle its debt by turning over the secret archives it maintained on abusive priests and making them available for public consumption.

"What was I supposed to do? Take the money and run?" Rudofski said. "How would that help anybody else? If people don't know how this was allowed to happen for decades, they can't prevent it from happening again."

The diocese, however, fought Rudofski's efforts for more than a year before agreeing to turn over the personnel files of 16 of the 34 priests with substantiated allegations against them. It also issued a news release adding his alleged abuser, the Rev. James Burnett, to its still-growing list of accused clergy.

The files, which Rudofski's attorney shared with the Tribune after redacting the names of other victims, contain more than 7,000 records detailing how the diocese purposefully shielded priests, misled parishioners and left children unprotected for more than a half-century. They also raise new questions about whether the church has been forthcoming about the number of local priests involved in the scandal and the percentage of clergy confronted with credible claims.

Though the Joliet Diocese's botched handling of pedophile priests has been well-documented in recent years, the records offer the most complete portrait of the ineptitude and indifference that greeted the allegations almost since the religious district's inception in 1948. The errors span more than six decades and involved three bishops, 91 places of worship and more than 100 victims.


Reached at his home in New Lenox, retired Bishop Joseph Imesch, 81, said he didn't want to discuss details of the revelations in the documents.

"I'm not going to rehash all of this. I know what I did; I know what I should have done,"
he said, expressing frustration with the way news reports portrayed his conduct.

When a reporter informed him that a Tribune story was being prepared to report on the newly released documents, Imesch said, "Sure. Sex and the priests, let's blast it all over the place. Never let it go."

The records, some of which are stamped as being from the bishops' "secret archives," include letters, personnel files and administrative memos that the diocese has refused to release for years.

The documents show that two victims committed suicide and at least one other became a molester himself.


"In many ways, Joliet was far worse than others," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It flew under the radar because of its size."

Most of the files reflect reports taken during the tenure of Imesch, who oversaw the diocese for 27 years and was in office when the churchwide scandal broke a decade ago. Imesch apologized in 2006 for any hurt caused by his words and decisions, after a deposition was unsealed in which he appeared unrepentant about sexual abuse allegations.

The records indicate that on at least two occasions, Chicago cardinals had intervened in cases and persuaded Imesch to respond accordingly.


Full article at the Chicago Tribune

Uganda: Catholic clergy calls for right to marry

Godfrey Olukya
Africa Report
March 21, 2013

A Ugandan catholic priest has said the church should do away with the vow of celibacy, saying it was time for "common sense to prevail" as many clergymen were already living with wives and children.

Father Anthony Musaala, a popular priest in the East African nation, recently wrote to the archbishop of the Catholic Church in Uganda alleging that most of his colleagues had secret families, while others had forced their lovers to abort.

Musaala, also a well-known musician, wrote a letter entitled: "An open letter to bishops, priests and laity: The failure of celibate chastity among diocesan priests", said the celibacy vow must be revisited as it had become archaic.

"I believe it is a matter of time before common sense prevails and marriage for the clergy in the Latin rite church is accepted," reads the letter, which has thrown the church into turmoil.

Musaala said there are already a lot of priests in Britain and the United States who had been allowed to marry and the church in Uganda should follow suite.

Catholic clergy are required to take a vow of celibacy and are not allowed to marry and Musaala's letter is likely to cause further confusion in the church which has seen several high profile sex scandals in recent years.

"It is an open secret that many catholic priests and some bishops, in Uganda and elsewhere, no longer live celibate," he wrote, in the letter that appeared in several newspapers.

Musaala further alleges that the amorous priests made sure their children "are carefully hidden from view" while in other cases the unborn "are aborted at the priests' behest".

But the Catholic Church has reacted swiftly, suspending Musaala and saying his statements were regrettable. "Father Anthony Musaala is suspended from celebrating sacraments and sacramental and from the powers of governance to the law of church," Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga said.

"It should, however, be clear that the value of the choice of priestly celibacy according to catholic tradition still stands and the need for solid human and Christian formation is underlined, both for seminarians and those already ordained."

He indicated that Musaala's allegations that there were priests living with families will be investigated.

Musaala's allegations have generated excitement in Uganda, with opinion polarised between those who support him and others who say his approach is wrong.

Lilian Nalongo, a housewife believes most of the allegations are true and Musala's suspension to be unfair. "We are aware of many catholic priests who have wives and children. It is unfair that he has been suspended for speaking the truth," she said.

Henry Kizza, a lay leader in a Catholic parish in Kebago, Kampala, the capital, said "Father Musala should not impose his thoughts on the entire Church. If he feels it has become too much for him, he should quit."

John Male, a school teacher in Kampala said the matter should have been handled discreetly.

"Father Musaala's letter is shameful. He should have reported priests with wives to the Archbishop in confidence," he said.

Meanwhile, Father Musaala has reportedly announced his intention to appeal his suspension.

Read the original article on : Uganda: Catholic clergy calls for right to marry | East & Horn Africa

On Holy Thursday, Pope To Prison

Rocco Palmo
Whispers in the Loggia
March 21, 2013

In a sudden announcement this morning from the Holy See, Pope Francis has yet again turned Vatican protocol on its head – shredding the earlier plan of beginning the Easter Triduum in St Peter's Basilica, the new pontiff has instead opted to go to a juvenile prison in Rome to celebrate Holy Thursday's Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, at which he'll wash the feet of 12 inmates.

The opening chapter of the church's most sacred moment of the year, while the rite normally takes place in at St John Lateran, this year's Evening Mass was previously slated to happen in the Vatican Basilica as the new pontiff has yet to take possession of the Lateran – the "Mother and Head" of all churches, which technically serves as the cathedral of the bishop of Rome.

Over recent decades, the Popes have washed the feet of 12 retired priests of their diocese at the liturgy. As the facility Papa Bergoglio has chosen for the Mass comprises both male and female inmates, given his prior practice, a long-standing flashpoint for the church in the "developed" world – namely, the inclusion of women in the Mandatum rite – could well see its most authoritative verdict to date in Francis' actions next week.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Pope Francis open to optional celibacy?

Thomas Reese
National Catholic Reporter
March 19, 2013

In a 2012 interview about celibacy, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio noted that in the Eastern churches, priests can be married, and "they are very good priests." He said: "It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change." He stated his support for celibacy in the interview: "I am in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures," he said. "Tradition has weight and validity."

But what is remarkable is the way he qualifies his statements: "For the moment, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy." Likewise, when he noted that some organizations are pushing for more discussion about the issue, he said, "For now, the discipline of celibacy stands firm."

"For the moment" and "for now" are not the kind of qualifications one normally hears when bishops and cardinals discuss celibacy.

He even went on to propose a hypothetical: "If, hypothetically, Western Catholicism were to review the issue of celibacy, I think it would do so for cultural reasons (as in the East), not so much as a universal option."

What is totally unacceptable to Pope Francis is a priest who does not observe his promise of celibacy. If a priest falls, he said, "I help him to get on track again." By that, he means doing penance and practicing celibacy.

"The double life is no good for us," he said. "I don't like it because it means building on falsehood."

In addition, if a priest gets a woman pregnant, "he has to leave the ministry and should take care of that child, even if he chooses not to marry that woman. For just as that child has the right to have a mother, he has a right to the face of a father."

Pope Francis takes celibacy very seriously. If it is the rule, it must be observed. But could the rule change?

Archbishop Smith sees ‘dysfunctional' curia

The Tablet (UK)
March 20, 2013

The Archbishop of Southwark Peter Smith has urged Pope Francis to reform the "dysfunctional" Roman Curia and give bishops a greater say in the running of the Church.

Commenting for the BBC at the inauguration of Pope Francis in Rome on Tuesday, Archbishop Smith - who is vice-president of the bishops' conference of England and Wales - said some members of the curia, the central administrative body of the Holy See, had become "very set in their ways" and had taken upon themselves "an authority they haven't got".

He said: "My experience is that there are some good people in the curia but it has become rather dysfunctional in certain respects."

The archbishop said he hoped the Pope would develop "the notion of collegiality," where governance of the Church is shared with the College of Bishops, though he admitted he had no "blueprint" for how this could be done.

Providing comment alongside the archbishop, Cambridge historian Professor Eamon Duffy, in response to a question about the curia, said: "There are a lot of ecclesiastical Sir Humphreys."

Trust in Scots clerics and church teaching broken, says bishop

The Tablet (UK)
March 20, 2013

Trust in the Church in Scotland has been "broken", the Bishop of Aberdeen has warned.

Bishop Hugh Gilbert used his statement welcoming the election of Pope Francis to highlight the "feeling of distress" within the Church.

"At the heart of it is a sense of things being broken," he said, "things like personal integrity, trust in our bishops and priests, the credibility of our faith and teaching."

Bishop Gilbert said "all of these things have seemed to collapse," and that behind people's sadness or anger "there is a great cry inside us for them to be given back to us. A cry for a new purity and honesty, for the Gospel, for Christ."

His comments follow the hasty departure of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who admitted to sexual misconduct after allegations of "inappropriate behaviour" with three priests and a former priest appeared in the press.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Francis and the self-reform of the church

Vatican Insider
March 19, 2013

What is the Pope’s power? What type of power is it? It is a power "of service". In the few days of his pontificate, and today with the mass for the official start of his ministry, Francis has already given precise and important signals about the future. Yesterday in the Domus Sanctae Marthae (St. Marthat’s House) the new Pope held a long and cordial meeting with the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I.

Until now, Bergoglio has not once called himself Pope or Supreme Pontiff, in any of his speeches and actions, but always referred to himself as the Bishop of Rome. This choice contains a clear message, regarding both the sense of Episcopal collegiality and of ecumenism.

A Pope who considers his role of Bishop of Rome as his main mission, his task being to preside over charity," gives a strong signal to the "separated brethren" of the East.

The hints and emphasis on tenderness, upon which the new Pope insisted during the homily in this morning's mass while drawing a portrait of St. Joseph, must not be misread. Bergoglio is a simple man, who speaks of the tenderness and mercy of God, who wants a church of "closeness", able to bend over the miseries of man and to support men and women. But this “being himself” should not be mistaken as weakness.

"Ecclesia semper reformanda", the Church is always reforming itself, and Francis's example, even more than any decision, can already start a self-reform process. If the Pope does this, if he behaves like this, it invites and draws everyone in the Church to follow him. The faithful see this Episcopal style before them and will look to their pastors in hopes of seeing a reflection of that moderation.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pope Francis's family 'fled Italy to escape Mussolini'

Nick Squires
The Telegraph (UK)
March 17, 2013

Maria Elena Bergoglio hit back at allegations that her brother may have colluded with the military junta in Argentina, saying that their family's escape from Italy had instilled in him a revulsion for military dictatorships.

Their parents, Mario, a railway worker, and Regina, emigrated from Piedmont in northwestern Italy after Mussolini came to power in 1922.

"I remember my father often saying that the advent of the Fascist regime was the reason why he made up his mind to leave the country," Mrs Bergoglio, the only surviving sibling of the Pope, told La Stampa newspaper on Sunday.

She said allegations that her brother, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had turned a blind eye to the brutal rule of Argentina's military junta in the 1970s and early 1980s were hurtful and false.

"Does it really seem credible to you? It would have meant betraying all the lessons that our father taught us with the difficult decision he made (to emigrate)."

There have been accusations that, as a senior Jesuit in Argentina, Francis was complicit in the kidnapping and torture of two priests during the country's "dirty war".

The Vatican hit back forcefully on Friday, saying the allegations were baseless and defamatory. Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the accusations were being levelled as part of a "Left-wing, anti-clerical" smear campaign and insisted that the charges would be "clearly and firmly denied".

Mrs Bergoglio, 65, the divorced mother of two adult sons, said: "He protected and helped many people who were being persecuted by the dictatorship. They were dark times and one needed to be very careful, but his commitment to victims is well documented."

The Pope's sister lives in the run-down, industrial Buenos Aires commuter town of Ituzaingó – a far cry from the grandeur of the Vatican, where her brother's future now lies.

Their family emigrated from Portacomario, a village of around 2,000 people near the town of Asti. Francis speaks fluent Italian, albeit with a slight Spanish intonation, and his links to Italy are thought to have smoothed his election by his fellow cardinals in last week's secret conclave, held in the Sistine Chapel.

He is the third successive Pope to come from outside Italy after centuries of Italian domination of the papacy, following Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff, and Benedict XVI, from Germany.

Whose successor is Pope Francis?

- What’s the story with paying the hotel bill, riding the bus, and no golden cross?
- Perhaps I misunderstood… They said that I’m successor of a poor fisherman from Galilee, not the Roman Emperor.
from Pray Tell

Cardinal Hummes, Close to Pope Francis: “New Methods of Doing Mass”

Pray Tell
March 17, 2013

Cardinal Hummes, who is close to Cardinal Bergoglio, hugged and kissed him in the conclave as it became clear he would be elected Pope. Hummes said to him, “Don’t forget the poor.” This inspired the new pope to take the name “Francis.”

Now Cardinal Hummes has given an extensive interview to Folha de S. Paulo about the plans of the new pontificate.

“The church does not work anymore,” Hummes said. “We need new methods. Not just of the curia, but of many other things: our way of doing Mass, doing evangelization…”

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Francis' first moves hint at break with past

David Willey
March 16, 2013

The first 48 hours of the pontificate of Pope Francis have given the world a foretaste of what it is going to be like to have a Jesuit priest for the first time in history as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholic believers.

Minutes after the election result was declared in the Sistine Chapel, a Vatican official called the Master of Ceremonies offered to the new Pope the traditional papal red cape trimmed with ermine that his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI gladly wore on ceremonial occasions.

"No thank you, Monsignore," Pope Francis is reported to have replied. "You put it on instead. Carnival time is over!"

It was just one small sign out of many this week that as Massimo Franco, one of Italy's shrewdest political editorial writers, commented in the Corriere Della Sera, "the era of the Pope-King and of the Vatican court is over".

You only had to look at the shocked faces of many of the courtiers when they suddenly realised the significance of what had happened and understood that it really was over.

Another moment of truth occurred when Pope Francis broke the seals of the Papal Apartment in the Apostolic Palace to take possession of his new home. Vatican officials genuflected and bowed as Archbishop George Gaenswein, secretary of the now retired Pope Benedict but still master of the papal household, searched for the light switch while the Pope stood motionless for a moment, outlined in the dark, surveying the scene.

"There's room for 300 people here," he's reported to have remarked. "I don't need all this space."

The new Pope has given no indication yet of his key choice of future number two, the Vatican secretary of state. Clearly the Italian cardinals and monsignori who have been running the Vatican under Pope Benedict would all like to be confirmed in their jobs (all Vatican senior posts lapse when there is a vacancy of the Holy See). But many will be disappointed.

He has already told his fellow bishops in Argentina not to waste their money on travelling to Rome for his installation ceremony but to give the money instead to the poor - so be prepared for some further surprises”

Pope Francis intends to make his senior appointments at his own pace and in his own time, and is expected to make significant changes within weeks in the way the slow-moving Vatican bureaucracy works.

What has fascinated observers of the Vatican scene is that the new Pope has no close personal secretary or aide following him around comparable to George Gaenswein, the personal shadow of former Pope Benedict.

Only hours after his election the new Pope slipped out of the Vatican in an unmarked car to pray at a Rome basilica where the founder of his order once prayed. And then he asked the driver to stop at the hotel for clergy in the centre of Rome where he had been staying before the conclave to pay his bill and pick up his bags.

The following day he again left the Vatican, incognito, to visit a sick friend in hospital.

The new pope is a frugal man, a friend of the poor, in the long tradition of another icon of the Catholic Church, whose name he has borrowed, St Francis of Assisi. As bishop he was used to travelling around Buenos Aires on public transport and cooking for himself in a small apartment.

He has already told his fellow bishops in Argentina not to waste their money on travelling to Rome for his installation ceremony but to give the money instead to the poor.

So be prepared for some further surprises.

The Jesuits are not only the largest religious order in the Church but also the most revolutionary. Founded by a soldier turned mystic, Saint Ignatius Loyola, in the 16th Century, they have a tradition of intellectual and spiritual rigour which suggests that the Vatican is about to undergo a reset with huge implications for the future of the Roman Catholic Church in the 21st Century.


Full article at the BBC

Pope Francis drops first hint that reform may be real

John L. Allen,Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
March 16, 2013

In the first clear signal that Pope Francis may be serious about reform, he's decided that the heads of the various Vatican offices will keep their jobs for now, but he's not making any definitive appointments.

It’s customary for new popes to swiftly reconfirm the department heads who lose their positions when the previous pontificate ends, and then take his time about bringing in his team. The fact that Francis has not followed that path may suggest that significant personnel moves will come sooner rather than later.

So far, the storyline about Francis has been mostly about style – taking the bus with the other cardinals, preferring to walk rather than being driven, packing his own bags and paying his own hotel bill, and setting aside his prepared texts for off-the-cuff personal reflections.

At some point, however, style will have to give way to substance, and today’s announcement marks the first indication of what that substance might look like.

Vatican-watchers are paying keen attention above all to what Francis does about the all-important position of Secretary of State, held under Benedict XVI by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Fairly or not, Bertone shoulders most of the blame for perceived breakdowns in business management over the last eight years, and most people presume that Francis will move quickly to bring in his own “prime minister.”

That appointment shapes up as the first unmistakable signal of where the new pope wants to go, and how much of a break with business as usual he plans to pursue.

In today’s statement, the Vatican said that Francis has expressed the desire that “all the heads and members of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as the secretaries and the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, provisionally continue in their respective capacities.”

It added that these appointments are donec aliter provideatur, “until other provisions are made.”

“The Holy Father desires, in fact, to reserve a certain period for reflection, prayer and dialogue before [making] any definitive nomination or confirmation.”

Most observers believe new appointments, including the Secretary of State, won’t roll out until after Holy Week. Today’s statement, however, suggests that a changing of the guard may not be long in the offing.

During a meeting with journalists today, Francis said that some cardinals had suggested that he ought to take the name of Adrian, in honor of the reforming pope Adrian VI. Though said with a sense of humor, the insight revealed that many cardinals expect the new pontiff to be a reformer, including getting the Roman Curia under control.

During the pre-conclave period, cardinals defined reform of the Vatican in terms of three key points:

Greater transparency, both internally and externally
Greater accountability, including consequences for poor performance
Greater efficiency, as opposed to the traditionally glacial pace at which business is conducted
Today was the first real indication that Francis may be serious about reform, beginning with who moves the levers of power inside the Vatican.


Peter’s Square and then deliver the Angelus address.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Anglican Ordinariate is quite unnecessary" - Pope Francis

Anglican Communion News Service
March 15, 2013

The new Pope has reportedly said the Church universal needs Anglicans and that the Ordinariate is "quite unnecessary".

In a note released after the election of the first ever pontiff from Latin America, the Anglican Bishop of Argentina and former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, the Rt Revd Greg Venables said Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was "an inspired choice".

"Many are asking me what is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written.

"I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary."

Bp Venables added that in a conversation with Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, the latter made it clear that he values the place of Anglicans in the Church universal.

"He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us as Anglicans.

The former Primate of the Anglican Communion's Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America added, "I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend, but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him."

Updates on freedom of conscience in Diocese of Santa Rosa

Below are two recent updates on Santa Rosa Bishop Vasa's attempted imposition of loyalty oaths on teachers and catechists similar to that he imposed earlier when Bishop of Diocese of Baker in Oregon.

California Catholics buy ad supporting teachers asked to sign addendum

Monica Clark
National Catholic Reporter
March 15, 2013

Concerned about the morale of Catholic school teachers in the Santa Rosa, Calif., diocese who are being asked to sign an orthodoxy addendum to their teaching contracts, a small group of parishioners has purchased a full-page ad in their local paper supporting a person's right to follow his or her conscience.

"We want to show our support for teachers, whether they sign the addendum or not," said Cynthia Vrooman, a former adult education director in the diocese who is coordinating the effort.

"Our teachers are devastated" by the requirement, she said. "They feel they are being singled out to prove their orthodoxy."

Bishop Robert Vasa wrote the addendum to the letter of intent teachers were to sign by Friday indicating they would renew their contacts for the 2013-2014 school year.

In signing the addendum, a teacher agrees to be "a ministerial agent of the bishop" and to reject "modern errors" that "gravely offend human dignity," including "but not limited to" contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. It requires all teachers and administrators -- Catholic and non-Catholic -- to "agree that it is my duty, to the best of my ability, to believe, teach/administer and live in accord with what the Catholic Church holds and professes."

The ad, which will appear in the Sunday edition of Santa Rosa's The Press Democrat, features text from the Second Vatican Council's "Declaration on Religious Freedom." The headline reads, " ... a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully," followed by selections from the document supporting the primacy of conscience. The names of almost 200 supporters are listed. Many contributed the $4,000 needed to design and purchase the ad. One of the signatories is a retired priest in the Oakland diocese.

In addition to affirming the teachers, Vrooman said the group wants to let the broader civic community know Catholics "do honor the primacy of conscience." She also said there was concern about the confusion the addendum might cause among non-Catholics with children in Catholic schools.

"We want them to know their children won't be forced to adhere to Catholic doctrine," she said.

Bishop exempts Ukiah teachers from morality vow

Martin Espinoza
Press Democrat
March 14, 2013

Bishop Robert Vasa has exempted nearly a dozen teachers at Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic School in Ukiah from signing a controversial morality clause that he is requiring of about 200 educators employed by the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese.

As news of a reprieve for 11 full-time St. Mary's faculty members reached Sonoma County, parents of students at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa said they planned to request a similar exemption for teachers at that school.

Vasa, reached by phone Thursday afternoon, refused to comment about the "temporary pastoral accommodation" at St. Mary's.

"It's a private matter between me and the pastor and I won't discuss it," he said.

In a letter signed by the school principal, Mary Leittem-Thomas, and Rev. Alvin Villaruel, the local pastor, parents were informed that Vasa had made an exception for St. Mary's teachers and they would not have to sign the clause, which is an addendum to the teachers' contract for the 2013-2014 school year.

The letter states that, "Father Alvin met with Bishop Vasa on Monday and the bishop offered a Temporary Pastoral Accommodation which allows teachers to remove the addendum from their contract . . . we are grateful to Father Alvin for taking our concerns to the bishop."

A St. Mary's teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the move as a one-year reprieve Thursday and said that she and other faculty members have met with Villaruel and shared with him their strong objections to the language in the addendum.

"Teachers shouldn't be put in a position where they have to sign something that they may not believe in," the teacher said.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A house that needs putting in order

Robert Mickens
The Tablet
March 14, 2013

Much criticism has been directed at the Roman Curia in the past few months and that has only intensified in the immediate run-up to the 2013 conclave. The media, fuelled by documents emerging from the so-called VatiLeaks scandal, have portrayed it as a dysfunctional bureaucracy mired in sexual and financial impropriety. Some even depict it as the root cause of all the Church’s problems. Others maintain that the alleged corruption and vice inside its various departments prompted Benedict XVI’s sudden resignation from the Chair of St Peter, in a similar way to the moment when the 1968 student riots led him to leave his professorial chair at the University of Tübingen.

Defenders of the Roman Curia and those who want to reform it were reportedly the main two opposing blocs squaring off in the conclave. At least that’s the storyline many reporters and commentators were following, especially the pundits from Italy.

However compelling, the “Curia vs reformers” billing has been simplistic. Think of this: at least 51 of the 115 cardinal electors have worked in the Vatican’s central bureaucracy, either currently or in the past. And like the so-called reformers, almost all of them agree that “the Pope’s own house has to be put in order”, as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, a non-Curialist, so vividly put it.

Certainly there are divisions in the curial camp; some quite sharp. But these factions still agree on at least one thing – that Curia reforms should be led by insiders like themselves who already know where all the light switches are in the Apostolic Palace, rather than by outsiders who are coming in from the dark. Indeed, there is a long-standing view that only a pope who is an insider can be trusted with reforming the Curia. That’s what happened with the election (exactly 50 years ago next June) of Paul VI. And it was supposed to happen with the election in 2005 of Benedict XVI. Unfortunately, it did not.

But Francis is the first Pope from the Americas, and the first from outside Europe in over 1,000 years, and there is a firm belief among the cardinals and many bishops around the world that he must show a greater interest in administration than his predecessor did. That includes carrying out an internal bureaucratic reform at the Vatican.


...... a rapid succession of decrees that would culminate in the complete overhaul of the Curia in 1967 with the apostolic constitution, Regimini Ecclesiae Universae.

This 46-year-old text remains to this day the basic blueprint for the Vatican’s central bureaucracy. It began the process of inter­nationalising a Curia that was for centuries monopolised by Italians. It took steps to make the Curia’s work more efficient and internally coordinated by decreeing that the various offices hold regular inter-dicasteral meetings. And it made diocesan bishops members of the major Vatican offices, which was seen as providing a practical way for them to assist the pope in governing the whole Church. Pope Paul’s restructuring effort was thus aimed at enhancing the Vatican II doctrine of episcopal collegiality.

In the first years after the council it seemed to be succeeding, even despite resistance from the Curia’s “old guard”. But by the second half of the long pontificate of John Paul II, that resistance had regrouped and many bishops around the world began complaining that the Curialists had clawed back much of the controlling power that Paul’s reforms had taken from them.

More and more the Roman Curia began forming policy without widespread consultation. Then during the last eight years under Benedict XVI, there was yet another turn. Rather than reform the Curia, the Pope just ignored it and began issuing motu proprio decrees. These were decrees issued by his “own initiative” and seemingly without consultation, either with the Curia or the world’s bishops.


“How is this next pope going to govern the Church?” asked Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor before the conclave got under way. “A lot of bishops and cardinals think it has to be done perhaps in a more collegial way. It is not just the pope who rules the Church, it is the Pope with the bishops,” he said. In other words, it is not the pope with the Roman Curia, and certainly not the pope with the Curia instead of with the bishops.


Pope Francis I should make it a top priority to appoint a Secretary of State and other top aides that will move immediately to fix “his” Curia and bring it more fully into line with the vision set out by Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council.

However, that alone will not resolve the Church’s more crucial crisis, which is its increasingly anachronistic model of ­monarchical governance. Francis I could provide a marvellous service to church unity if he consults widely with the world’s ­bishops and tries to find a fruitful way of restoring the more ancient and more ­evangelical model of synodal governance. Tinkering with the Roman Curia while ­ignoring this bigger ­problem would be like healing a broken foot on a cancerous body. As Paul told the Corinthians, if one part ­suffers, every part suffers with it.

Full article at The Tablet