Friday, January 31, 2014

India's most tragic export to Britain: gender selective abortions

Mark Bhagwandin
The Tablet
29 January 2014

Wherever in the world Indians have travelled, they have taken with them the values, culture and beliefs of Mother India. India’s cultural exports have added beauty and richness to societies – all except one, the low status afforded to women.

In India it permeates through the ages, manifesting itself in the all-too-prevalent abuse and rape of women and the termination of girls in the womb. It is an attitude incongruent with the values of gender equality in British society and must be addressed. For months newspaper reports have pointed to an existing problem of gender selection abortions among British Asians. It cannot be ignored.

So what do we do? Firstly societies cannot function effectively when laws protecting core and justified values are abused and superseded by misguided cultural practices. It is therefore necessary that the Government sends a firm and clear message that gender selection abortions have no place in British society, by imposing a ban on the practice.

Secondly, religious leaders in British Asian communities must shoulder some of the blame for this state of affairs. I was invited to visit a temple a few years ago to speak about abortion and gender selection. A few minutes before I was due to speak, I was called away to see the president of the temple, who firmly told me he was cancelling the talk because “matters relating to sex” could not be discussed in a temple.

I wasn’t surprised. Abortion and sex are rarely discussed openly in Indian communities much less, a Hindu temple. But it is precisely the refusal of Hindu leaders to engage with the issue of abortion in general, and gender selection abortion in particular, that represents a failure, indeed a dereliction of their duty to provide essential guidance to Hindus. Their silence has created the default impression that it is mainly Christians that have a problem with abortion.

I have spoken to many Hindus who have no idea what the Hindu position is on these matters. Hinduism is clear in its opposition to abortion. Life begins at fertilisation with the entry of Atma, (or soul) defined as a spark of God, Paramatma. Destruction of the unborn baby is prohibited in the Vedas not simply because of its atmic sanctity but also because abortion thwarts this soul on its karmic journey through many births on its way to salvation. The termination of the unborn baby is also a violent act incompatible with the Hindu principle of Ahimsa or non-violence.

Where gender selection is concerned, Hindus must be reminded of the eminence placed on women in the scriptures. The actual primordial cosmic energy of God, also known as Shakti, is personified in a feminine form and identified as the Divine Mother in Hinduism. The Hindu Goddess Durga wages wars against evil. Hindu scriptures do not see women as having lesser value than men. Where depicted as mothers, the scriptures pay tribute to their great importance in God’s creative plans.

Given the importance of women in Hinduism, the mind boggles that some Hindus today see women as liability. There is a notorious ad for gender selection in India that came out a few years ago: "Spend 500 rupees (£4.80) now and save 50,000 rupees (£480) later." It speaks volumes about the nature of the Indian tragedy in which an estimated one million girls are aborted every year. Girls require a dowry to be married. Boys will receive a dowry, are expected to look after their parents in old age and can carry on the family name. It’s a consideration of asset and liability which should never be used with human life.

India’s tragedy of the missing girls must not be exported to the UK. It must be nipped in the bud by lawmakers and religious leaders before the situation gets out of hand.

Mark Bhagwandin is a senior education officer at the pro-life charity Life. A Hindu, he is married to a Catholic and blogs at A Hindu Voice in Britain

Church must adjust to reality of co-habitation, divorce and remarriage, says cardinal

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
The Tablet
31 January 2014

In interviews on the eve of his departure for the Austrian bishops’ ad limina visit in Rome, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said he was certain that under Pope Francis the Church would find new ways of incorporating remarried divorcees in the life of the Church.

“This Pope speaks so much about mercy, that I’m sure that a new way of coping with failure will be found,” Cardinal Schönborn said.

“One thing is clear: the Church must pay far greater attention to those whose marriages fail and must reach out to them. No one must get the feeling that their life in the Catholic community has come to an end because their marriage has failed,” the cardinal said.

Ninety-five per cent of Austrians who had filled in the Vatican questionnaire on the family were in favour of allowing remarried divorcees to receive the sacraments, Cardinal Schönborn said, adding that the Austrian bishops would be handing over the questionnaire results in Rome.

The Church must adopt a more rational, down-to-earth approach as far as the reality of life was concerned, the cardinal warned. “We in the Church tacitly live with the fact that the majority of young people, including those who have close ties to the Church, quite naturally live together.

“The simple fact is that the environment has changed,” he said. This was “in no way” a call to change canon law on his part, he underlined, but he wanted to show how difficult it was to bring the ideal family model into line with reality.

After the Austrian bishops’ two-hour audience with Pope Francis on Monday Schönborn said in a live interview on the main Austrian TV news that the meeting “was a truly great lesson on how to live the Gospel today”.

The Pope had spoken of his observations of marriage in Latin America and underlined that it was the Church’s duty to accompany people on their way through life.

“People are on the way. They live together, have children, some then get married in a register office and later perhaps in church. The important thing is to accompany them on their way,” Schönborn explained.

Catholic diocese of Helena files for bankruptcy

Matt Volz
Associated Press
January 31, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena filed for bankruptcy protection Friday in advance of proposed settlements for two lawsuits that claim clergy members sexually abused 362 people over decades and the church covered it up.

Diocese spokesman Dan Bartleson said in a statement Friday the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization case came after confidential mediation sessions with the plaintiffs' attorneys, resulting in the deals to resolve the abuse claims.

The settlement details are being worked out, but the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Montana would be responsible for approving and supervising the disbursement of $15 million to compensate the identified victims, plus an additional amount set aside for those who come forward later.

The victims and creditors will have the chance to vote on the proposed settlement, Bartleson said.

The plaintiffs' attorneys said they planned to release a statement later Friday.

The two lawsuits filed in 2011 claim clergy members groomed and then abused the children from the 1940s to the 1970s. They claim the diocese shielded the offenders and knew or should have known the threat they posed to children.

The plaintiffs, the diocese and the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province began mediation talks in 2012, but the talks faltered with legal challenges by the church's insurers over the claims they are obligated to cover.

A court hearing was scheduled for Friday.

The diocese's territory covers all or part of 23 counties in western Montana and employs about 200 people in its parishes, schools and social-service programs. It was created in 1884, five years before Montana became a state, and covered the entire state until the Diocese of Great Falls was formed in 1904, according to the Helena diocese's website.

The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings now covers the eastern half of Montana.

The plaintiffs, the diocese and the Ursulines had pledged to work together to settle the lawsuits, and they have participated in three mediation sessions.

The diocese has filed claims with 16 insurers for its legal defense and the cost of the settlements. Several insurers have filed lawsuits challenging those claims, saying they should not have to pay damages for abuse that occurred before their policies went into effect.

Minneapolis-St. Paul clergy abuse: papers spur new review of Wehmeyer case

Jean Hopfensperger and Tony Kennedy
Minneapolis Star Tribune
January 30, 2014

The Ramsey County attorney’s office and St. Paul police began reviewing documents Thursday that indicate that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis failed to notify authorities of a child sex-abuse accusation against a St. Paul priest within 24 hours, as required by law.

The move comes a day after County Attorney John Choi announced he would not prosecute the archdiocese for its reporting of the abuse complaint against the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, now in prison for sexually abusing two boys.

Within hours of that announcement, however, authorities received an archdiocese document that appeared to indicate that the archdiocese waited more than two days to notify police. The document was made public by Minnesota Public Radio.

“We’ll be looking at the new information as to the impact it may have on the investigation,’’ said Dennis Gerhardstein, spokesman for the county attorney’s office. “We’re still in the early stages of discussion.’’

The county attorney’s office and the police will issue a joint statement on Friday, “to say we’re on the same page,’’ Gerhardstein said.

Meanwhile, attorneys for one of the boys sexually abused by Wehmeyer filed a lawsuit Thursday against the archdiocese, claiming the church obstructed justice, destroyed evidence and failed to report the abuse within 24 hours.

Archdiocese e-mails and documents show that church officials were aware of the abuse several days before reporting it to police, allowing the archdiocese to “cover up evidence,” interview the child witness and begin its own investigation before contacting law enforcement, said St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson.

“This lawsuit is designed to do what [County Attorney] John Choi should have done,’’ Anderson said at a news conference.

The archdiocese repeated Thursday that it continues to support the county attorney’s findings. “We have continuously made ourselves available to law enforcement to address any outstanding questions … and we know, based on the body of facts of the case, that the findings announced yesterday by civil authorities are accurate.”

Why no search warrants?

The lawsuit represents a boy who, with his brother, was sexually molested by Wehmeyer in his trailer parked outside Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul. Wehmeyer is serving a five-year prison term.

Anderson questioned why police didn’t subpoena witnesses or get a search warrant for documents.

“You don’t rely on the suspect to turn over the evidence,’’ he said. “You seize it.’’

Police said they did not have sufficient evidence to do so.

Anderson said he met with Choi in September and provided him with detailed information about the documents that law enforcement should search for, and where they were stored in the chancery.

At the news conference, Anderson provided copies of e-mails between the archdiocese and the St. Paul police, as well as a decree signed by Archbishop John Nienstedt, saying he had received a complaint against Wehmeyer on June 18, 2012. The complaint, he wrote, indicated that Wehmeyer “had supplied alcohol and sexually explicit images to a minor, and fondled or attempted to fondle the minor’s genitals.’’

Anderson said the Nienstedt decree sheds light on the archdiocese’s priorities after the complaint. The archbishop appointed his vicar general, the Rev. Peter Laird, to conduct an investigation, but with stipulations: “Father Laird is to take care that such an investigation does nothing to harm Father Wehmeyer’s name or to violate his right to protect his privacy.’’

“What about protecting the kid?’’ asked Anderson. “What about the truth?’’

Archdiocese defends timeline

Archdiocese officials insist that they followed a proper timeline for reporting the abuse allegation. “The earliest that any representative of the archdiocese became aware of the specific allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by Wehmeyer was on the morning of June 19, 2012,” said a statement issued Thursday evening. “However, that information was provided to a priest of the archdiocese in the context of a pastoral relationship, which is considered privileged communication under Minnesota law.”

The statement said the archdiocese reported the allegations as soon as the mother of the victim waived that privilege.

“We have provided a detailed timeline to law enforcement with clear supporting documentation and stand ready to provide any additional information they may need,” the statement said.

Even if the law enforcement review doesn’t result in charges against the archdiocese, child protection advocates say the archdiocese violated best practices in its handling of the abuse complaint against Wehmeyer.

Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University, said state law required the archdiocese to report immediately, which is legally defined as “as soon as possible but in no event longer than 24 hours.’’

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Francis taps reformer for financial cleanup

John L. Allen Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
Jan. 30, 2014

In his latest move to clean up the financial scandals that have plagued the Vatican in recent years, Pope Francis has replaced a cardinal who headed the financial watchdog agency launched under Pope Benedict XVI with a bishop associated with an earlier effort to foster reform.

The Vatican announced Thursday that 76-year-old Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora has stepped down as president of the Vatican's Financial Information Authority, the anti-money-laundering agency launched under Benedict XVI in 2011.

In his place, Francis has named 66-year-old Italian Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, who will also keep his job as head of the Vatican's labor office and head of the disciplinary commission of the Roman Curia. The appointment to the Financial Information Authority was made ad interim, meaning Corbellini has no fixed term.

From 1993 to 2011, Corbellini was a senior official of the Government of the Vatican City State, where he worked under Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the current papal ambassador in the United States and the former No. 2 official at the City State.

Viganò was seen as a reformer, with a track record of cutting costs, imposing competitive bidding procedures, and creating a centralized system for procurement. After just 10 months, Viganò reportedly saved enough on running the Vatican Gardens alone that he was able to fund an update of the Vatican's heating system.

Viganò also wrote letters to Pope Benedict XVI chronicling his struggles against various forms of what he described as corruption and cronyism, and in one, he asserted that his enemies were trying to force him out in order to short-circuit reforms. That correspondence became public as part of the Vatican leaks scandal.

Corbellini was seen as a Viganò ally, and in a January 2012 broadcast on Italian television after Viganò was removed, Corbellini essentially backed his position.

Overall, the shift from Nicora to Corbellini is likely to be read as a move away from the Vatican's "old guard" and toward a more aggressive reform posture.

The shake-up at the Financial Information Authority follows a similar move in mid-January in which Francis overhauled a commission of cardinals that oversees the Vatican bank, among other things removing Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former secretary of state on whose watch the bank found itself mired in a series of scandals.

René Bruelhart, the Swiss anti-money-laundering expert hired by the Vatican in 2012 to serve as director of the Financial Information Authority, will remain as director. If anything, most observers say, Thursday's move strengthens Bruelhart's position by making it clear the pope supports the broad direction in which his agency is moving.

Francis is also expected to name new members for the Financial Information Authority's five-member board of directors, currently made up by Italian financiers and lawyers. Most observers expect the pope to name a more international panel.

Like Bertone, Nicora is a longtime Vatican insider closely associated with the Italian political and financial establishment.

Among other things, it was Nicora who negotiated a revision of the concordat, or treaty, between Italy and the Vatican in 1984 that regulates the system by which tax monies are assigned to the Catholic church, generally resulting in annual payments of roughly $1 billion to the Italian church.

Nicora also served from 2002 until 2011 as president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), the department that manages the Vatican's investments and real estate.

APSA recently has been in the spotlight because of scandals surrounding Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, a former APSA official arrested in June for involvement in an alleged cash-smuggling scheme and more recently charged with money laundering.

In interrogations by Italian police, Scarano charged that several suspect practices were routine at APSA during his time there, including running a "parallel bank" by allowing individuals to participate in Vatican investments for a price and officials accepting luxury vacations at five-star hotels in exchange for depositing Vatican funds with certain banks.

Although Nicora will be 77 in March and was due to step down, observers see Francis' decision to accept his resignation now as a sign of wanting to break with the past.

By not naming another cardinal to serve as president, observers say the pope also has signaled that he sees the work of the Financial Information Authority as technical rather than political, meaning that subject-area competence is more important than ecclesiastical status.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Philly DA files appeal of Monsignor William Lynn's overturned conviction

Brian X McCrone
January 28, 2014

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the overturned conviction of Monsignor William Lynn.

In the 35-page appeal, Williams argued "the Superior Court erred in holding that a church official who systemically reassigned pedophile priests in a manner that risked further sexual abuse of children did not endanger the welfare of children."

"If, as the Superior Court held, it was legally impossible for defendant to endanger the welfare of children in his individual capacity, the evidence was sufficient to prove his guilt as an accomplice," Williams argued in the appeal.

Late last month, a three-judge panel reversed the priest's conviction and ordered the Archdiocese official to be freed on bail while a ruling by a higher state court weighed whether an official overseeing someone convicted of sexual abuse could in turn be tried under Pennsylvania's child-endangerment laws.


Read full story at

Monday, January 27, 2014

Outspoken Redemptorist Fr. Flannery to 'begin new chapter' in his life

Nick Bramhill
Irish Times
January 27, 2014

Fr Tony Flannery has said he will begin a new chapter in his life today, after learning the Vatican has no plans to allow him to practise as a priest again.

Fr Flannery (67) also said he has decided to stay away from premises owned by the church during his upcoming tour to avoid any “embarrassment” of further fallout with the church hierarchy. But he said he is determined to push for reform in the church in his upcoming lectures, which begin tonight in the Clayton hotel in Galway.

The outspoken Redemptorist was first censured nearly two years ago over his liberal stance on such issues as women priests and contraception.

Fr Flannery, from Athenry, Co Galway, said “informed sources” have told him that there is no prospect of a change to his ban on public ministry.

However, Fr Flannery, who founded the Association of Catholic Priests, said he is looking forward to his series of lectures across Ireland and abroad about church reform. He said: “The information I’m getting is that while Pope Francis is shaking things up, the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith] is just the same and there is no indication whatsoever of a change in my position in the short or medium term. My choice is to either wait around or go my own way – and so I’ve decided to go my own way.”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Much 'prayer, consultation' led to diocese of Stockton bankruptcy decision, says bishop

Catholic News Service
January 17, 2014

The decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection was difficult for the diocese of Stockton but will allow it to "compensate as fairly as possible" victims of abuse, "including those who have not yet come forward or had their day in court," said Bishop Stephen Blaire.

Bankruptcy protection, filed Wednesday, also will "provide a way for us to continue the ministry and support we provide to the parishes, the poor and the communities located within our diocese," he said in a statement Monday.

"After months of careful consideration and prayer," Blaire said, it became clear to him it was the right course of action. "This decision was reached through consultation with experts in finance and law, as well as with priests, parishioners and many others in the community our diocese serves," he added.

In the past 20 years, the Stockton diocese has paid more than $14 million in legal settlements for victims of clergy sexual abuse and the total amount of payments, including funds from insurers and others, amounts to $32 million.

Stockton becomes the 10th U.S. archdiocese or diocese that has filed bankruptcy protection as a result of the costs of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits since 2004. The others are: the Milwaukee and Portland archdioceses; and the dioceses of San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; Davenport, Iowa; Tucson, Ariz.; Fairbanks, Alaska; Wilmington, Del.; and Gallup, N.M.

Those that have since emerged from bankruptcy include Tucson, Davenport, Spokane, Wilmington and Portland.

"It is important to remember that the only entity seeking bankruptcy protection is the corporation sole known legally as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton," Blaire said in his statement.

"The parishes and Catholic schools within our diocese are separate corporations and should not be impacted by this filing," he said. "The same is true for other separate corporations, such as St. Mary's and Central Catholic high schools, and the Madonna of Peace Retreat Center."

He also noted that since he began discussing the possibility of bankruptcy with diocesan officials more than six months ago, he has been "moved by the understanding, patience and support expressed by so many people in the church and in the wider community."

The bishop wrote to Catholics in the diocese last summer informing them that funds used to settle sexual abuse lawsuits were almost depleted and the diocese had "no apparent way to meet the expenses of pending lawsuits and possible future claims."

In that letter, he said that since his arrival in the diocese 14 years ago, he has tried to settle abuses cases when possible and to "heal the deep wounds caused to our church and our diocese by the evil of sexual abuse."

"Today, the cash reserves from which these payments are made are all but gone" he wrote, and the remaining cash "is a small fraction of what is needed to face pending lawsuits as well as any new claims."

He said decisions made by the diocese "will not impact the solvency or operations of the parishes," and he stressed that the "hard work you have done to build and run your parish should not be jeopardized by the actions or inactions of the diocese in decades past."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Knights of Columbus redefine charity by giving to bishops

Nicole Sotelo
National Catholic Reporter
Jan. 23, 2014

I have always been impressed by the Knights of Columbus' dedication to charity. But over a period of four years, the Knights have donated more than $1.4 million of their "charitable contributions" not to the poor, but to sponsor Catholic bishops to attend medical ethics workshops that increasingly carry a political agenda.

The Knights' sponsorship of these political workshops is listed in their annual reports as charity alongside their Coats for Kids and Food for Families programs. Charity and bishops are both seven-letter words, but I have never confused the two. Unfortunately, it seems the Knights of Columbus have.

Since the 1980s, the Knights of Columbus have sponsored biennial "workshops for bishops" under the auspices of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia to train the Catholic hierarchy in medical ethics. Workshop topics have ranged from euthanasia to hospital ethics committees. In recent years, however, the curriculum for these workshops has increasingly focused on anti-gay politics.

For example, last year's workshop [1] featured the conservative psychologist and activist Thomas Finn, who presented on "Same-Sex Parenting Studies." He is known for disputing mainstream research, telling lawmakers [2], and now bishops, that children who grow up with same-gender parents are "vulnerable to risks such as increased presence of sexually transmitted disease, violence, substance abuse, mental health problems, etcetera."

At the 2011 workshop [3], bishops heard from Brian Brown [4], president of National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT political organization that works against marriage equality. He spoke to the bishops not about medical ethics, but about "Same Sex 'Marriage' " (the quotes around "marriage" are his).

The same year, bishops heard a presentation on "Same-Sex Attraction and Gender Identity" by Richard Fitzgibbons, who runs a conservative counseling center. Fitzgibbons has written [5] extensively on his belief that people who identify as gay or transgender can be cured through counseling, something that the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have both rejected.

These anti-gay trainings for bishops continue beyond the workshops. The National Catholic Bioethics Center not only coordinates the workshops but distributes supplementary materials, including public policy reports [6], a quarterly journal and online resources. All of these contain information that is harmful toward those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, including the Knights' own members who identify as such.

ds For example, the NCBC advocacy office issues monthly public policy reports that update dioceses on anti-gay legislation. Another example comes from an article in the NCBC quarterly journal that suggests those who are transgender have a "disorder [that] begins in early childhood with an insecure mother-child relationship and tends to affect boys who are emotionally vulnerable" (NCBC Bioethics Quarterly, Spring 2009, 103 [7]).

While mainstream scientists would disagree with the journal, bishops who believe the NCBC information may go on to make harmful diocesan policies and advocate in legislatures against those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Harmful actions by the bishops have included advocating against fair housing, resisting equal employment opportunities, and preventing standard health care treatment.

The fact that these "workshops for bishops" and supplementary resources are actually thinly veiled conservative political coachings shouldn't come as a surprise. The Knights of Columbus vice president for public policy sits on the board of the NCBC, which runs the workshops and resource distribution. Additionally, a large majority of the NCBC's board of directors reads like a who's who directory of bishops known for their political work against LGBT equality.

The NCBC board includes:

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who presided over the rejection of a lesbian couple's children from a Catholic school and actively worked against marriage equality [8] while he was an archbishop in Colorado; Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who has repeatedly spoken out against the LGBT community [9] and battled against marriage equality in Illinois [10];
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and former chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage that focused on anti-gay education and advocacy [11];
Archbishop John Nienstedt of St.Paul/Minneapolis, who sent anti-gay DVDs [12] to Catholics in his diocese in advance of a key election and was a vocal opponent against marriage equality [13].

While the "workshops for bishops" originally focused on the U.S. hierarchy, now the gathering includes bishops from countries such as Canada, Mexico and the Philippines, places where the Knights have membership. Today, the gathering is considered one of the largest regular gatherings of bishops outside of their episcopal conferences.

I am grateful the Knights are interested in educating bishops about medical ethics, but these classes appear less about education and more about politics. Plus, the fact that the Knights' leadership is using its charitable contributions for politically oriented workshops instead of charity, as their supporters are led to believe, seems anything but ethical.

The Knights of Columbus leadership themselves could benefit from an ethics workshop, one that focuses on the difference between politics and charity.

[Nicole Sotelo is the author of Women Healing from Abuse: Meditations for Finding Peace, published by Paulist Press, and coordinates . She is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School.]

Abp Chaput's sermon

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
January 23, 2014

Last June, my colleague and friend Tom Roberts penned an essay comparing the two most famous seminary classmates in America, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, and Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap. That essay was much on my mind as I read +Chaput’s closing sermon at the Vigil for Life and compared it with the sermon delivered the night before by +O’Malley. (h/t to Rocco for the text of the +Chaput sermon and you can find my comments on O’Malley’s sermon by clicking here.) In the event, snow prevented +Chaput from making the trek to Washington and his sermon was read for him by the Rector of the Shrine, Msgr. Walter Rossi.

Roberts concluded his commentary by posing this question about the differing ecclesiastical styles of leadership posed by the two men: “Are we more likely to be attracted to the invitation into a life, a story if you will, of transformative love, rats and all, or one in which the criticism of our lives, beliefs, efforts and culture is relentless and without much hope?” That basic contrast was on display in the two sermons.

The most obvious difference to me was that while Cardinal O’Malley spent several minutes speaking about women facing crisis pregnancies, the fact that they feel “overwhelmed, alone, afraid, confused,” like the woman caught in the act of adultery in the Gospel passage the congregation had just heard. He praised the work of crisis pregnancy centers that help women perceive the viable alternatives to abortion, and the efforts of groups like Project Rachel to comfort women who have had abortions.” He urged the pro-life movement to reach out to mothers facing crisis pregnancies and he praised women who make the courageous act to offer the children they cannot rear up for adoption and the other courageous mothers who adopt those children. .

In his sermon, Archbishop Chaput had this to say about women facing a crisis pregnancy. Oh, wait. I forgot. He did not mention the plight of women in his sermon.

+Chaput did, of course, mention the unborn as did his confrere from Boston. And, I would like to stipulate that I am one hundred percent confident +Chaput does grieve the loss of the children killed by abortion and grasps the human tragedy involved. But, I cannot fail to note that in mentioning the unborn in his sermon, they appear less like people unnaturally deprived of life and more like a moral category. He wrote:

Seventy years ago, abortion was a crime against humanity. Four decades ago, abortion supporters talked about the “tragedy” of abortion and the need to make it safe and rare. Not anymore. Now abortion is not just a right, but a right that claims positive dignity, the license to demonize its opponents and the precedence to interfere with constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly and religion. We no longer tolerate abortion. We venerate it as a totem.

This is all rather bloodless. Abortion is presented not as a problem because of the lives lost but because of what it says about our culture, because our nation has decided to break the moral law, because it now interferes with “constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly and religion.” Is THAT the problem? In some sense, yes. But, it is not the problem a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant wrestles with, is it? In this telling – and I repeat, that I am sure the Archbishop really does care about women and their children – but in this telling, abortion is not a problem for the woman, not even for the baby. It is a problem for constitutional lawyers.

+Chaput did have some fine moments in his sermon. He writes:

Our lives matter to the degree that we give them away to serve God and to help other people. Our lives matter not because of who we are. They matter because of who God is. His mercy, his justice, his love – these are the things that move the galaxies and reach into the womb to touch the unborn child with the grandeur of being human. And we become more human ourselves by seeing the humanity in the poor, the weak and the unborn child and then fighting for it.

This may be a little too Augustinian to persuade modern ears, but I like Augustine. And, I think more people are attracted to the faith when we do not try to make it "relevant" so much as when we point out the enormity of the claims our faith makes – “these are the things that move the galaxies and reach into the womb to touch the unborn child with the grandeur of being human” – is an arresting phrase.

Still, the overall feeling of the sermon is a depressing one. Take the last sentences: “If Jesus is the lord of the sabbath, he is also the lord of history. And sooner or later, despite the weaknesses of his friends and the strengths of his enemies, his will will be done — whether the Pharisees and Herodians of our day approve of it or not.” If +Chaput has sent me this text in advance, which is not something likely I admit, I would have asked, “Why give the last word to the Herodians?” This sermon was preached to a basilica full of young people, most of whom barely slept through the night, about to brave the wind and the cold. Why not a thought to warm them? Why not add, “The Lord of the Sabbath. The Lord of History. The Lord who, today, is present here and now because we are gathered in His name.” Is there anything wrong with an uplifting finish?

Sadly, I fear that in the worldview that his dominated +Chaput’s writings, the answer to that last question is: Yes, there is something wrong with an uplifting finish. Just as there is something wrong with the palpable enthusiasm Pope Francis has generated, causing +Chaput to re-print some emails from disgruntled conservative Catholics. Just as, in Roberts’ essay, +Chaput is seen to be incapable of assigning credit, only blame, to everyone and everything, the world, or at least our nation, is going to hell in a handbasket, and when asked if he discerns any signs of hope, replied, “I see some lights, but they’re not many and they're small.” His Grace needs to get out of his chancery, perhaps, hang up the phone on Robbie George or George Weigel or whoever is counseling him these days, drive up to North Philly and see the wonderful work Sr. Mary Scullion, or across the river to Camden and see the wonderful work of Fr. Doyle. There are plenty of lights, some small, some not so small, that are being lit every day by the flame of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the most mysterious person of the Trinity, to be sure. But, the Spirit is not a neo-conservative cultural critic.

This, finally, is the problem I have with Archbishop Chaput. He thinks his job as pastor is to be a cultural critic, and I think the job of a pastor is, first, to let his people know that he loves them, second, to connect his love for the them with Jesus’ love for us all, and third, to teach them the truths of the faith that flow from our understanding of this love. I know that the world is not all wine and roses. Nor is the history of the Church. As the Holy Father says, the world is often battle-scarred and the Church must serve as a field hospital. Sadly, the insular, depressive, detached cultural critiques offered by +Chaput are not spiritual bandages. They are more like Civil War-era medicine: The “cure” is as dangerous as the initial wound and happy is the man who dies on the battlefield rather than come under the scalpel of the surgeon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Editorial: files lay blame at cardinals' feet

Chicago Tribune
January 21, 2014

"The files speak for themselves. What the documents demonstrate to us is that all the cardinals, including George, were complicit." -- Jeffrey Anderson, attorney for victims of clergy sex abuse.

Those harsh words are backed up by the release of 6,000 pages detailing the actions and inactions of leaders in the Archdiocese of Chicago when confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct by priests.

On Tuesday, in accordance with a court settlement, the archdiocese released its case files on 30 of 65 priests with substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct. The accusations against those priests surfaced under the leadership of Cardinals John Cody, Joseph Bernardin and Francis George.

The priests’ names have been public for years. The depravity and scope of the abuse, in Chicago and elsewhere, is no longer in question.

Yet the files are still shocking, individually and in their totality. In black and white — accessible with the click of a computer mouse — they recount tale after tale of faith betrayed, first by a cleric and then by the church.

Catholics who came forward to report unspeakable abuse at the hands of their parish priests were met with disbelief and denial from church leaders. That resistance continued even as allegations mounted.

Priests accused of molesting children were protected from prosecution, shuttled from parish to parish by higher-ups who sought to cure or redeem them — and to shield the church from scandal.

Victims were disregarded, shamed and even investigated. “We had relatives that didn’t even believe us,” said one victim, now 56.

Their only recourse was to take their religious fathers to court. Over the past 25 years, the archdiocese has paid more than $100 million to victims. But the true damage to the church is immeasurable: Thousands of innocent priests harmed by association. Countless Catholics disillusioned and alienated.

The files released Tuesday point to failings at the top:

The secretive Cody, who counseled one accused priest that “no good can come of trying to prove or disprove the allegations.”

The pastoral Bernardin, who removed dozens of accused priests from the ministry in 1991 — but only after granting many of them second, third and even fourth chances.

The cerebral George, whose handling of the relative handful of cases he inherited showed a puzzling failure to absorb the lessons of his predecessors’ mistakes.

George admits he mishandled three cases. He lobbied to have one convicted child molester released early from prison and failed to act quickly to remove another, since convicted, from ministry.

When another was accused of molesting two sisters nearly three decades earlier, George initially disregarded a review board’s recommendation to remove the priest from ministry and instead allowed him to be monitored by a close friend. At least a dozen more allegations have since been levied against the same priest, who denies all wrongdoing.

One serial abuser who eventually went to prison on child pornography charges had been reassigned repeatedly by Cody and Bernardin. Another was promoted to pastor despite several accusations of sexual abuse, then was forced to resign. A priest nicknamed “Happy Hands” by students was sent to minister to the elderly in nursing homes.

It’s disappointing, distressing, disgraceful. But the failure to own up to it is a worse reflection on the church.

“I feel that this whole matter should be forgotten by you as it has been forgotten by me,” Cody wrote to one accused priest in 1970.

The victims did not forget.

The archdiocese says 95 percent of the allegations covered in the documents released Tuesday occurred before 1988, and none occurred after 1996. The healing that might have taken place in all those years was impeded by the church’s denials. Perhaps now that healing can begin in earnest.

Chicago archdiocese releases sex abuse documents

Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
January 21, 2014

More than 6,000 pages detailing past allegations, reports and procedures related to clergy sexual abuse in the Chicago archdiocese became public Tuesday morning, part of a 2008 settlement between the archdiocese and alleged victims.

The documents pertain to 30 archdiocesan priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children. Of the 30, four have been removed from the priesthood and four have been criminally convicted. Only Joseph L. Fitzharris was both convicted and laicized. Fourteen of the priests are deceased. According to the archdiocese, 95 percent of the cases predate 1988.

"Today no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor serves in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago," the archdiocese said in a statement made ahead of the release.

Describing the documents as "upsetting" and "painful to read," the archdiocese apologized to victims and said the image the files portray "is not the Church we know or the Church we want to be." The pages include decisions church officials made decades ago "that are now difficult to justify" but were based upon "the prevailing knowledge at the time," noting that understanding of sexual abuse has evolved since then.

"While we complied with the reporting laws in place at the time, the Church and its leaders have acknowledged repeatedly that they wished they had done more and done it sooner, but now are working hard to regain trust, to reach out to victims and their families, and to make certain that all children and youth are protected," the statement read.


read full article at National Catholic Reporter

It's cardinal v. cardinal on divorced and remarried Catholics

John L. Allen, Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
January 21, 2014

A rift has seemingly opened between two cardinals with significant Vatican influence, as the head of the pope's Council of Cardinals has suggested that the Vatican's doctrinal czar needs to be more "flexible" in his views on divorced and remarried Catholics.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga made the comment Monday in an interview with the German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Named in April as the coordinator of the pope's kitchen cabinet of eight cardinals from around the world, Rodriguez Maradiaga was asked about a recent article in which German Cardinal-designate Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, appeared to close the door to any revision to church rules barring divorced and civilly remarried Catholics from the sacraments.

"I think I understand it," Rodriguez Maradiaga is quoted as replying.

"He's a German, one has to say, and above all he's a German theology professor, so in his mentality there's only truth and falsehood. But I say, my brother, the world isn't like this, and you should be a little flexible when you hear other voices. That means not just listening and then saying no."

Rodriguez Maradiaga said he was sure Müller "will arrive at understanding other positions too," even if at the moment "he listens only to his group of advisers."

On the question of divorced and remarried believers, Rodriguez Maradiaga seemed to signal support for some sort of change.

"The church is obliged [to uphold] the commandments of God," he said, including what Jesus said about marriage: "What God has united, let no man separate."

That said, Rodriguez Maradiaga was quoted as adding, "There are different approaches to making this clear. After the failure of a marriage, for example, we can ask if the spouses were truly united in God. There's much room for further reflection there."

However, the Honduran cardinal also seemed to caution against expectations of dramatic lurches in policy.

"We're not going in the direction that whatever is black today will be white tomorrow," he said.

In the text of the interview, Rodriguez Maradiaga says he has not yet spoken to Müller, who will be made a cardinal by Pope Francis in a consistory scheduled for Feb. 22, about the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics.

Veteran Vatican writer Marco Tosatti described that admission as "a little surprising" in a blog posting on the interview, given the seemingly clear contrast between their two positions.

Francis has himself signaled openness to some flexibility on access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics, saying during a press conference on an airplane during his return from Brazil in July that perhaps Catholicism could learn something from the practice of Eastern Orthodox churches of recognizing a second marriage.

Francis has also announced that the issue will be on the agenda for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family, to be held in the Vatican in October.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley sidelines Cardinal Dolan as top advisor to Francis

Sean Dunne
Irish Central
January 19, 2014

The shift within the Catholic Church recently to sideline conservative priests and cardinals has seen Cardinal Sean O’Malley rise through the ranks. Observers say that O’Malley is now seen as the key ally in America to Pope Francis.

The move appears to sideline Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York who was not chosen as one of the top eight cardinals to advise the pope. Francis instead picked O’Malley from North America.

Given that New York has always held the most important position in the American church this moves seems a major blow to Dolan’s prestige.

Now dubbed as the ‘prince’ of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, O’Malley is one of eight cardinals and the only North American representative on the pope’s committee to reform the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia.

The shift means that Cardinal Sean O’Malley has the ear of Pope Francis in America and he is clearly someone that Pope Francis holds in high esteem.

Dolan, on the other hand, has been notable by his absence from recent key meetings in Rome.

O’Malley’s prominence has been noted. “It cements his role as a trusted advisor,” said the Rev. James Bretzke, Professor of Moral Theology at Boston College, told the Boston Herald.

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘power broker,’ because I think that’s the wrong nuance. In terms of trying to develop a pastoral vision, as well as a strategic plan, O’Malley is clearly in the inner circle, and the single American cardinal that is in the inner circle.”

Terrance McKiernan, president of, said O’Malley ignores the “culture warrior” rhetoric of past prelates in favor of finding common ground with all believers. That resonates with Francis, who has already benched cardinals who courted controversy in public fights over church doctrine.

“O’Malley is kind of consolidating power within the Francis administration without having any official title,” McKiernan said. “Pope Francis is a shrewd guy. By establishing this side group of cardinals, he side-steps the hierarchy while he’s restructuring it.”

The Boston Herald reports the Rev James Weiss, a professor of church history at Boston College as saying:

“As one of the eight cardinals selected to the committee to reform the church he needs O’Malley to have one foot in the U.S. ... The pope is calling on him for his experience.”

Rev. James Bretzke added, “Pope Francis is trying to, in a systematic way, reorganize Vatican culture, to change the way things were done from his immediate predecessors,” he said. “Not in a dramatic, flashy way, but in organized and incremental ways.” he said.

Thomas Groome, a professor of theology at Boston College, said Francis will depend on O’Malley’s advice to lead major church reforms.

“He’s a key consultant to the present pope,” Groome said. “One of the reasons why Pope Francis is going to do so well is precisely because he counts on people like Cardinal O’Malley.”

Pope Francis appointed 19 new bishops this week and moved away from choosing conservative Cardinals in favor of appointing moderates.

Cardinal O’Malley was in the spotlight earlier in the week when at an ecumenical service he dipped his thumb into a glass bowl of consecrated water and made the sign of the cross on the forehead of the Rev. Anne Robertson, a United Methodist minister who was about to offer the same gesture to the overflow crowd in the church hall.

He then asked Robertson to do the same for him, but it has angered critics of the man that declared the church can never allow women to be priests.

The Boston Globe reported Michael Potemra, congratulating the cardinal for “doing ecumenism right.”

“O’Malley was showing that he believes that the prohibition of women’s ordination does not entail any disrespect for women,” he wrote.

Some liberal Christians are praising O’Malley, suggesting his gesture might be another indication that under Pope Francis the church may be opening up.

Robertson said she was so moved that she could hardly speak for hours afterward.

“I’ve been in so many places where I’ve been excluded in so many ways because I’m a woman in ministry,” she said in a phone interview this week.

“It wasn’t a sacrament, and I’m sure Cardinal O’Malley would express the same beliefs as Pope Francis, that they don’t believe the ordination of women is appropriate. He wasn’t saying any of that.

"He was saying what the whole service was about, that if you go back to our baptism, we are all Christians. And in that moment with him, we were one.”

This is one clear example of the leadership that Pope Francis is seeking from the cardinals he has appointed.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley, Methodists building ecumenical bridges

Lisa Wangness
Boston Globe
January 13, 2014

SUDBURY — One freezing winter day when he was a child, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley told a congregation of Catholics and Methodists Sunday afternoon, the pipes in his house burst and his father opened the phone book to find a plumber.

O’Malley’s mother sang out, “Be sure you call a Catholic!”

These days, O’Malley said, the split between Catholics and Protestants has been replaced with a “new polarity . . . between believer and nonbeliever,” a shift that should spur Christians to greater cooperation.

Christians also share a common enemy, he added: what Pope Francis has called “the globalization of indifference” to those who are poor and suffering.

“The call to unity is an imperative,” O’Malley said.

‘The strength of the movement toward Christian unity is deepening because of our long effort to build contacts and trust.’

The cardinal was preaching at a special service at Sudbury United Methodist Church in honor of the 50th anniversary of Cardinal Richard Cushing’s historic visit to the same congregation to discuss the Second Vatican Council’s work on ecumenism, or efforts toward Christian unity. Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church also presided at the service, along with the Rev. Joel B. Guillemette, pastor of the host church, and the Rev. Richard Erikson, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Sudbury.

The service fell on the Sunday on which many Christians celebrate the baptism of Jesus. After the homily, O’Malley and Devadhar received congregants one by one, making a sign of the cross on their foreheads with water, telling each, “Reaffirm your baptism and be thankful.”

Beverly Paro said she enjoyed Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s homily at a service at Sudbury United Methodist Church.

“It was wonderful to get both congregations together,” said Jim Carleton, a member of Our Lady of Fatima, at a reception after the service. “We could have more of this, really.”

Cushing’s trip to the Sudbury church, at the height of council’s work toward modernizing the Roman Catholic church and forging improved relationships with other Christians and faiths, was a remarkable event at a time when Protestants and Catholics often regarded one other with suspicion and rarely entered one another’s houses of worship.

A Globe story published after Cushing’s visit called it “the most remarkable hour and a half ever experienced by church people in the old town.” A photo caption marveled: “In the congregation, you could not tell which were Protestants and which Catholics.”

“I think of what he did in Sudbury as something similar to what Nixon did when he went to China — it was real detente,” said Guillemette. “Doors were opening, and that all came out of Vatican II.”

The Second Vatican Council marked a major shift in the Catholic church’s posture toward other Christians, said Richard Gaillardetz, the Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College and president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. The tenor, he said, went from one of “we’re right, you’re wrong, come back to us,” to one of dialogue.

“The council decided instead of focusing on areas where there is disagreement between Catholics and other Christians, they would focus first on all the things Christians had in common,” he said in a telephone interview.

The council also recognized that errors were made on both sides of the divisions between Catholics and other Christians and declared that the Roman Catholic church has the obligation to adopt a more self-critical attitude. And, Gaillardetz said, it stated that the church, as a human institution, will always be in need of reform and renewal.

Cushing, who had earlier on that Sunday in 1964 presided at a memorial Mass for President John F. Kennedy, arrived in a black stretch limousine, extending his hand to the first person he met as he walked in: “My name’s Cushing. . . . What’s yours?”

He charmed his audience, describing his upbringing in “tough’’ South Boston, what a poor student he’d been, and how he loved Pope John XXIII, the reform-minded pontiff who called the Second Vatican Council.

Cushing said the reunification of Christian churches could take hundreds of years, but in the meantime, “we have unity of the spirit of love.”

Beverly Paro, 81, a member of the Methodist church who was there that day and attended the service with O’Malley Sunday, too, remembers how Cushing had the large crowd laughing. “I think he put everyone at ease,” she said.

Cushing’s visit, which came at the invitation of the Sudbury UMC church’s then-pastor, the Rev. Blaine Taylor, became a point of pride for the church, which has built a tradition of interfaith and ecumenical work.

Guillemette heard about it soon after he became pastor in 2006, and found himself mentioning it in a sermon last year on a text from John 17, in which Jesus prays “that they might all be one.”

Afterward, he said, it occurred to him that Erikson, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Sudbury, had served as a top archdiocesan official under O’Malley. The two were already friendly; they’d gotten to know each other through the town’s close-knit interfaith clergy group. Guillemette sent Erikson the sermon, and the two sent O’Malley a letter describing the Cushing visit and inviting the archbishop to Sudbury.

Guillemette, who was raised Baptist, remembers the coldness between many Catholics and Protestants during his childhood. When the Baptist church in Lowell burned down, he says, a nearby Catholic parish took up an offering to help their neighbors rebuild.

“The Baptists sent it back,” he said. “That’s the world I grew up in. Building bridges between Catholic and Protestant Christians is important to me.’’

Today, although high-level talks among Christian theologians and prelates continue, divisions over doctrine, sacraments, and, particularly, structures of ministry and leadership remain. There are also disagreements over social issues, such as homosexuality and contraception. And, in the past decade, the Catholic church has had to focus intensively on its internal strife over the abuse crisis.

“It is officially a part of everyone’s effort, but it is not at the top of the priority list for a lot of people,” said the Rev. Raymond Helmick, a theologian at Boston College.

Yet interdenominational — and interfaith — marriages, along with religiously diverse neighborhoods and workplaces, have become the norm.

Local churches continue to collaborate in efforts to serve the poor in their communities, and in many communities, including Sudbury, interdenominational and interfaith clergy groups are strong.

“I think many Christians are waiting for Christian institutions to catch up to the unity they already experience on the local level,” said the Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the state’s main ecumenical organization.

There is some evidence of a growing interest in developing those interchurch relationships.

A number of noteworthy events will mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity next week, including a joint service with the bishop of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.

O’Malley will preside at a service at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston honoring martyrs from different Christian communities; the heads of many churches have been invited to attend.

“The strength of the movement toward Christian unity is deepening because of our long effort to build contacts and trust,” said Vito Nicastro, associate director of the archdiocese’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Many church observers say Pope Francis’ emphasis on the core values of Christianity, rather than divisive social issues, and his call to care for people on the margins have galvanized Christians.

“He’s another John XXIII,” said Janet Johnson, 79, a member of the Sudbury United Methodist Church, of Francis. “My heart soars when I hear Francis talk about how we must be concerned about the poor, the least of these.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

UN panel confronts Vatican on child sex abuse by clergy

January 16, 2014

The Vatican has been confronted publicly for the first time over the sexual abuse of children by clergy, at a UN hearing in Geneva.

Officials faced a barrage of hard questions covering why they would not release data and what they were doing to prevent future abuse.

They insisted the Church had learnt from the crisis and had taken action to prevent future abuse.

Victims' advocates complained there was still too little transparency.

Last month, the Vatican refused a request from the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for data on abuse, on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.

The Vatican came to Geneva expecting a rough ride and it got one, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports.

Victims say they hope the hearing, which is being broadcast live, will prompt the Church to end its "secrecy".

Pope Francis announced last month that a Vatican committee would be set up to fight sexual abuse of children in the Church. The Holy See is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a legally binding instrument which commits it to protecting and nurturing the most vulnerable in society.

It ratified the convention in 1990 but after an implementation report in 1994 it did not submit any progress reports until 2012, following revelations of child sex abuse in Europe and beyond.

In a homily on Thursday, Pope Francis said abuse scandals were "the shame of the Church".

'Not very transparent'

"The view of committee is that the best way to prevent abuses is to reveal old ones - openness instead of sweeping offences under the carpet," Kirsten Sandberg, chairwoman of the 18-strong CRC, told the Vatican delegation.

"It seems to date your procedures are not very transparent."

The Vatican was asked why it continued to describe abuse as an offence against morals rather than a crime against children. "Does the Holy See believe that paedophilia is something that can be successfully overcome?" was another question.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said: "To prevent abuse of minors is a real, immediate concern."

On prosecution of offenders, he said priests were "not functionaries of the Vatican but citizens of their countries and fall under the jurisdiction of their own countries".

When asked if the Vatican would hand over Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish papal envoy recalled from the Dominican Republic in September amid claims of sexual abuse there, Archbishop Tomasi said he was being investigated by the Vatican's own prosecutors.

A member of the CRC asked about the Church's practice of moving priests suspected of abuse.

"It is a no-go simply to move people from one diocese to another," said Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's former chief prosecutor of clerical sexual abuse.

He insisted it was "not the policy of the Holy See to encourage cover-ups" but added: "The Holy See gets it that there are things that need to be done differently."

'Refused to answer'

While Thursday's questions were numerous and far-ranging, they were asked in blocs, with the Vatican delegation given time to retire to prepare its answers.

Observers vented frustration at the lack of specific answers.

"Holy See: 'We get it' in UN review on child sexual abuse Catholic Church," wrote the children's rights watchdog CRIN in a tweet. "Do you? Why then don't you make statistics public?"

Barbara Blaine, president of a group representing US victims of abuse by priests, told BBC News that the hearing had brought "hope to victims across the globe".

But it would also stand, she said, as a "record of how the Church officials refused to answer the questions, how they claim to be open and transparent, and yet they don't live up to that ideal".

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Catholic Church will hand over sex abuse documents on Chicago priests

Associated Press (Chicago)
January 15, 2014

The Archdiocese of Chicago will on Wednesday hand thousands of pages documenting clergy sex abuse allegations to victims' attorneys who have for years fought to hold the Catholic church accountable for its handling of such claims.

The attorneys plan to publish documents detailing allegations of crimes concealed and priests assigned to positions that allowed them to continue molesting children.

The nation's third-largest archdiocese agreed to release the files as part of settlements with abuse victims, and will include complaints, personnel documents and other files for about 30 priests with substantiated abuse allegations.

The documents are similar to recent disclosures by other dioceses in the US that showed how the church shielded priests and failed to report child sex abuse to authorities. Chicago officials said most of the abuse occurred before 1988 and none after 1996.

"Until there is public disclosure and transparency ... there is no way people can learn about it and make sure it does not happen again," said attorney Marc Pearlman, who has represented about 200 victims of clergy abuse in the Chicago area. He said he has been working to get the church to release the documents since 2005.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Burritt said neither Cardinal Francis George nor archdiocese attorneys were available for comment Tuesday.

George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners Sunday in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop.

"I apologize to all those who have been harmed by these crimes and this scandal, the victims themselves, most certainly, but also rank and file Catholics who have been shamed by the actions of some priests and bishops," George wrote to parishioners.

George said all of the incidents were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims.

In fact, the archdiocese has paid millions of dollars to settle sexual abuse claims, including those against Father Daniel McCormack, who was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2007 to abusing five children while he was parish priest at St Agatha catholic church and a teacher at a Catholic school. The next year, the archdiocese agreed to pay $12.6m to 16 victims of sexual abuse by priests, including McCormack.

Files on McCormack will not be among those released; they have been sealed by a judge because of pending court cases, Pearlman said. He said he and St Paul, Minnesota, attorney Jeff Anderson will re-release the McCormack documents that they have.


Pope replaces cardinals serving on Vatican bank oversight commission

Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
Jan. 15, 2014

Pope Francis replaced four cardinals serving on a five-person commission overseeing the Vatican bank.

The new members include Canadian Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto and Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is the only serving member the pope asked to stay on.

The Vatican made the announcement Wednesday.

The responsibilities of the five-member Commission of Cardinals Overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal title of bank, include appointing the bank's president -- an appointment which then must be approved by the pope.

In addition to Collins and Parolin, the new members are Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna and Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril Castello, the archpriest of Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The four cardinals replace Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state; Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi, India; Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Domenico Calcagno, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See.

Pope Benedict XVI had confirmed the mandates of the five previous members just 11 months ago, five days after announcing his retirement in February.

Bertone retired as Vatican secretary of state in October, just before his 79th birthday; the usual retirement age is 75. He had served as president of the cardinals' oversight commission and had faced a number of criticisms in the press for mismanagement during his tenure as secretary of state.

Tauran continues to serve on a separate five-person papal commission that is reviewing the activities and mission of the Vatican bank. Pope Francis created the commission in June as part of his larger efforts to reform the central offices of the church.

The Vatican has said that Pope Francis' reforms are in continuity with a 1990 reform of the bank ordered by Blessed John Paul II and efforts begun by Pope Benedict in 2010 to better monitor all of the Vatican's financial operations and make sure they reflect the latest European Union regulations and other international norms.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

German theologians critique church teachings, propose new sexual understanding

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
Jan. 14, 2014

Two groups of noted German theologians have bluntly outlined how church teaching does not align with the concerns or lifestyles of most European Catholics in response to a Vatican questionnaire on Catholics’ attitudes on issues like contraception and same-sex marriage.

Church sexual teachings, say the representatives of the Association of German Moral Theologians and the Conference of German-speaking Pastoral Theologians, come from an “idealized reality” and need a “fundamental, new evaluation.”

“It becomes painfully obvious that the Christian moral teaching that limits sexuality to the context of marriage cannot look closely enough at the many forms of sexuality outside of marriage,” say the 17 signers of the response, who include some of Germany’s most respected Catholic academics.

The theologians also propose that the church adopt a whole new paradigm for its sexual teachings, based not on moral evaluations of individual sex acts but on the fragility of marriage and the vulnerability people experience in their sexuality.

The theologians are responding to a Vatican request last October that bishops worldwide prepare for a 2014 global meeting of Catholic prelates by distributing a questionnaire [1] on family topics "as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”

Pope Francis has called the meeting of bishops, known as a synod, for Oct. 5-19, 2014. The meeting will focus on "Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization."

The questionnaire, sent from the Vatican’s office for the Synod of Bishops, asked the individual bishops' conferences to question their populations on topics that sometimes have sharply divided the church, like the Catholic teaching prohibiting the use of artificial contraception and the possibility of a divorced Catholic to remarry or receive Communion.

The analysis of the questionnaire by the German theologians comes amidst a continuing dispute between the heads of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal-designate Gerhard Müller, over how the church should treat divorced Catholics.

Last year, the Germans announced a plan [2] to allow divorced Catholics to make a "responsible decision in conscience" to receive sacraments after consulting their priest. Müller rebuked the plan in October in a 4,600-word article in the Vatican's semi-official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, saying the "entire sacramental economy" could not be swept aside by an "appeal to mercy" on the matter.

The theologians released to NCR on Sunday an English language translation of their document, originally published in German at the end of last year.

The theologians begin in their document by responding to nearly every question in the questionnaire, outlining how or why official church teaching is sometimes not followed.

In response to a question regarding the church’s teachings on the value of the family, for example, the theologians respond that the church’s teachings are “practically not accepted” and “often lacks in [their] relation to experience.”

Continuing on that subject, the theologians also state that people “are not satisfied when the Church proposes only celibacy and marriage as legitimate forms of life.”

“In the light of the Gospel, the question should be examined whether other forms of life could be relieved of the verdict of sin,” they state.

In response to questions on whether Catholics who divorce understand the church’s process of granting annulments, the theologians state that for most persons who divorce the process is “irrelevant.”

“For most persons concerned the declaration of nullity of the marriage is irrelevant because they do not perceive the nullity of their marriage, but rather its failure, and because they hope for a life beyond this failure,” they state.

“Thus the Church’s canonical practice with regard to marriage does not replace their own responses to situations in which, after the failure of a seriously lived marriage, a perspective of hope is opened up in the shape of a new partner.”

Responding to questions on the church’s prohibition of artificial contraception, the theologians state that “even the most committed Catholics don’t perceive their practice of artificial contraception as a conflict with their involvement in the Church which might lead to changes in their sacramental practice.”

Moving to their proposal for a new paradigm of evaluating sexual acts, the theologians say the church needs to appreciate the nakedness and vulnerability people experience in their sex lives.

They state that such a paradigm would have at least three dimensions:

A caring dimension to “protect that which is fragile.” Marriage, the theologians state, “could then be understood as an institution that protects this fragility, not as an institution of obligation.”

An emancipatory dimension that “opens new perspectives when vulnerability has become violation.”​

“As an emancipatory ethics, Christian sexual ethics has to take the side of those who lose in relationships, the ones who are left and hurt to the core,” they state. “It rejects all forms of sexual violence.”

A reflexive dimension that “accepts vulnerability and counters the banalization and routinization of sexuality.”

“As a reflexive ethics of vulnerability, Christian sexual ethics know the ontological value of vulnerability,” they state. “The joy of intimacy can be experienced only when it is possible to be vulnerable without being violated.”

Among theologians’ signing the German statement are Antonio Autiero, an emeritus professor at the University of Munster; Karl-Wilhelm Merks, an emeritus professor at the University of Tilburg; and Eberhard Schockenhoff, a professor at the University of Freiburg.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pope Francis should consider the church's outdated annulment process

Fr. Peter Daley
National Catholic Reporter
January 13, 2014

The pope wants to know what we think.

That in and of itself qualifies as a minor miracle. In our top-down hierarchical church, the concept of the sensus fidelium has been pretty much a dead letter since the Second Vatican Council. Usually Rome talks and we listen. But now he wants to hear from us. Thank you.

In preparation for the meeting of bishops in October, Pope Francis has asked the whole church to answer 38 questions in nine broad categories, all dealing with marriage and family life. I just want to deal with just one question: annulments.

Here is my view: It is time for us to scrap our current annulment process and look east to see what our Orthodox brothers and sisters are doing.

It is pretty clear from the Gospels that Jesus did not approve of divorce and remarriage. He says it amounts to adultery, which is pretty strong language, especially coming from Jesus. But if we are his followers, we have to at least try to deal with his teaching. Our annulment process is an attempt to take his teaching seriously and still allow people a second (or third) chance.

The problem with the process in the Roman Catholic church is that it takes what ought to be a pastoral matter and turns it into a legal one. It is complicated, often unfair, and frequently unintelligible to the participants. Some tribunals are easy. Some are hard. It can be very capricious.

Annulments come up every year in our RCIA program. We always have several couples who are divorced and remarried and want to come to the sacraments. Often, they have been divorced and remarried for years, even decades. Sometimes their own children don't even know about the previous marriages. Until they felt the attraction to the church, it never even occurred to them that they might need a Catholic annulment. It does not make any sense to them that they need to get a marriage annulled that may have taken place 30 years ago in a Baptist church or before a justice of the peace. All the annulment process does is put a road block in their way to entering the church.

There is a loophole for Catholics. If either party in the former marriage was a Catholic and the marriage took place in a non-Catholic ceremony, the annulment is just a matter of paperwork. It is a slam dunk that goes through in a few weeks.

I always get these right away. But it seems unjust. It rewards people who were disobedient to the church years ago and got married outside the church. Most people take it for what it is: a loophole. They get a chance at a second marriage because of the kind of ceremony they had years ago.

The thornier annulments involve people who were not Catholics at the time and had absolutely no reason to get married in a Catholic church. Ironically, they have to go through a full legal process before a church tribunal.

It is painful and pointless. They have to find witnesses, get records, take statements, dig up old contacts, and open old wounds. All of our language is legal, not pastoral. We speak of petitions, tribunals, witnesses, advocates, petitioners, defendants and evidence. It is Kafkaesque. It turns pastors into bureaucrats, to no purpose.

Sometimes there are good reasons why people don't want to get in touch with the former spouse. There may have been abuse or violence. They open themselves up to further wounds or retribution. They may not even know where the former spouse or witness is after so many years. I have had cases in which former spouses held up an annulment out of spite for years.

Nobody is deterred from getting divorced and remarried by our annulment process. But many people are deterred from coming into or back to the church by our annulment process. It is spiritually counterproductive.

The Roman Catholic annulment process needs a total overhaul. We should look to the Orthodox churches for a better way to handle it.

In the Eastern churches, the first annulment is handled entirely by the parish priest. After all, he is the person on the scene. He knows the people involved and can judge their sincerity and seriousness. He can talk to them about marriage and see if they are sincere in their desire for reconciliation with the church. No tribunal downtown at the chancery office can do that.

Basically, in the Orthodox churches, couples get a second chance. Their first marriage can be annulled by the parish priest in a simple conversation and confession. But third or fourth marriages would need the permission of the bishop in most Orthodox churches, as I understand it. However, this is a pastoral process, not a legal one.

Our legal process of annulments is a holdover from the days when the Catholic church was the civil law of marriage in many countries. Today, it makes no sense.

Over the years, I have had several couples get infuriated with me or with the church and just walk away in anger. A friend of mine who is an Episcopal priest told me once, "So long as you guys are so strict about divorce and remarriage, there will be a reason for the Episcopal church."

Sometimes, I have just taken the pastoral route. For instance, I've had couples in their late 70s and 80s who were married decades ago. They can hardly remember their first marriage, let alone dredge up the records. Or I've had people who are terminally ill and want to come into the church. There is no time or energy to get an annulment.

If I were pope, I would leave the decision about annulments and reception of the sacraments entirely up to the parish priest. It should be resolved in the internal forum of the confessional. The emphasis should be on mercy, not law. End of story. Move on.

The people who come to RCIA are spiritually mature. They are serious people who are really giving the Catholic church a serious look. I find that these converts make the best Catholics and the strongest witnesses to the faith.

If we put a legal roadblock in the way of converts, all we really accomplish is keeping them from coming back to or into the church. No grace for you!

It does not change any of the facts of their lives. They are already in their second or third marriage. It would not be moral or prudent to expect them to leave their current spouse just because we say so.

To our faithful, the real scandal is not the fact that divorced and remarried people might receive Communion, but that sincere people who really desire the Eucharist are kept from it by a legalistic, complicated, capricious and alienating annulment process.

Let divorced and remarried people make a good confession and offer sincere contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. Then let them start again. God has forgiven us much worse.

Priests and bishops should be pastors, not jurists. That's one pastor's opinion, anyway.

I'm glad the pope is asking and actually wants to know what is happening in the local church.

[Fr. Peter Daly is a priest in the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and has been pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md., since 1994.]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pope chooses new cardinals from Africa, Asia, Latin America

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
January 12, 2014

Pope Francis on Sunday announced who he has chosen as the new cardinals of the Catholic church, picking 19 prelates for the honor who mainly hail from the Global South, including places like Haiti, Burkina Faso, and the Philippines.

Francis made the announcement, long expected in recent weeks, during his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter's Square.

Cardinals, sometimes known as the "princes of the church" and for their wearing of red vestments, are usually senior Catholic prelates who serve either as archbishops in the world's largest dioceses' or in the Vatican's central bureaucracy. Their principal role is to gather in secret conclave following the death or resignation of a pope to elect his successor.

Many had wondered what impact Francis would have on choosing who is to be cardinal and from where in the world they come. On Sunday, it seems he answered that speculation by firmly saying the new crop would be predominantly from areas around the world not always reflected in the elite church group known formally as the College of Cardinals.

Of the 19 new prelates Francis will formally induct into the college on February 22, only four come from the Vatican's central bureaucracy, which typically sees a large number of cardinals. Likewise, there is only one Italian in the group. Normally, Italians dominate the numbers of cardinals in the college.

Instead, ten of Francis' choices come from places outside Europe, including some of which have never had a cardinal. Among the choices: Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Andrew Yeom Soo jung, Archbishop of Seoul, Korea; Philippe Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti; Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, Philippines.

In announcing the list Sunday, Francis said the cardinals, "coming from 12 countries from every part of the world, represent the deep ecclesial relationship between the Church of Rome and the other Churches throughout the world."

The four members of the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman curia, chosen for the honor are Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's new Secretary of State; Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary of the Synod of Bishops; Archbishop Gerhard Muller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Archbishop Beniamino Stella,​ the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

Outside the curia, the only choice for a cardinal from Europe under the age of 80, the age at which cardinals are no longer allowed to vote for the next pope, was Britain's Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. The only North American was Québec's Archbishop Gérald Lacroix.

Pope Francis also chose three archbishops over the age of 80 to receive the honor, saying they were "distinguished for their service to the Holy See and to the Church."

full article at National Catholic Reporter

Friday, January 10, 2014

Vatican refuses to extradite Polish archbishop accused of child sex abuse

Liz Dodd
The Tablet
January 10, 2014

The Vatican has refused to extradite a Polish archbishop who was accused of sex abuse while serving as papal nuncio in the Dominican Republic.

In a statement the Holy See said that Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski was a citizen of the Vatican, and that Vatican law did not allow for his extradition.

The District Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw had requested the clarification, Polish news agency reported today, adding that the Holy See was pursuing its own investigation against the Archbishop.

Archbishop Wesolowski was dismissed as papal nuncio in the Dominican Republic in August last year and was recalled to the Vatican, where is currently believed to be living. He and a Polish priest, Father Wojciech Gil, have been accused of sexually abusing young boys.

The Dominican Republic’s Attorney General last year sent case files concerning Archbishop Wesolowski to Poland and files concerning Fr Gil to the Vatican.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Archbishop Cordileone explains goal of new liturgical institute

Christina M Gray
Catholic San Francisco
January 8, 2014

On the eve of the feast of the Epiphany, more than 200 sacred music lovers from around the archdiocese and beyond filled the parish hall of St. Sebastian Church in Greenbrae and practiced Gregorian chant with Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone in preparation for afternoon vespers.

The event, organized by St. Sebastian pastor Father Mark Taheny and a group of parish volunteers, served as the archbishop’s launch point for publicly introducing the new Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park and its director, Benedictine Father Samuel Weber.

Archbishop Cordileone explained to the assembly that he created the institute to “reclaim the sense of the sacred” in liturgical expression at the parish level and to offer a deeper sense of formation to lay ministers such as lectors, music directors, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and those who bring Communion to the sick. The institute’s program – still in development while it seeks funding – will offer liturgical education courses toward certification at St. Patrick’s, at parishes and online.

According to the archbishop, a liturgical mindset and a sensitivity to the sacred is critical to the integrity of worship. He said the institute can provide the necessary foundation to parish pastors who choose to use it as a resource.

“It’s not enough to know how to pronounce the words correctly,” said the archbishop using the role of lector as an example. “To proclaim the word of God well, you must know what the words mean in an historical context and what the author is trying to say.” Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion likewise must develop eucharistic piety and devotion he says. “It’s not just a matter of doing a job, it’s a matter of loving the Lord and handling what is most sacred to us.”

Music is at the heart of the institute, the archbishop said as he introduced Father Weber, founder of the Institute for Sacred Music in St. Louis and a highly regarded scholar, composer and practitioner of chant in the English-speaking world.

“We want to reclaim sacred music which is so much at the heart of our celebration of the Mass,” said the archbishop who puts Gregorian chant at the first place of the Mass. “It doesn’t replace other forms of music, but those forms must be in harmony with the sacred traditions of chant.”

The archbishop said that he has emphasized to the pastors in the archdiocese that the institute is a resource, not a requirement being imposed on them. He said that all lay ministers and indeed all Catholics benefit from a renewal of traditional forms of worship.

“My experience is that when people are exposed to the riches of the church’s traditions, when they are properly explained and when a person is properly catechized, they respond and get excited about being Catholic,” said the archbishop. “Formation helps solidify and deepen their own Catholic identity.”

Bishop's new mansion draws criticism from flock

Phil Dunn
Courier Post
January 4, 2014

Catholics in South Jersey were quick to point out Jesus was born in a manger — not a mansion — after news broke that the Diocese of Camden has plunked down a half-million dollars for Bishop Dennis Sullivan’s new digs in Woodbury.

The 7,000-square-foot mansion previously was the residence of former Rowan University president Donald Farish.

Sullivan, who took over leadership of the diocese after Bishop Joseph Galante retired in 2012, sought the new home to hold meetings with church donors and dignitaries.

Before coming to Camden, Sullivan worked as vicar general and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York. He lived and worked in midtown Manhattan, in a particularly posh neighborhood near Rockefeller Center.

Sullivan currently lives in an apartment near the St. Pius X Retreat House in Blackwood.

“This is a joke,” said John Miller of Deptford. “Jesus was born in a stable. We have a rectory right there in Camden, the headquarters of the diocese, where the bishop could live. If I’m a benefactor, I want to give money to a humble man, not because he is throwing this lavish affair.”

Ron Johnson of Woodbury said the diocese should have used the $500,000 to help restore churches and schools that have closed.

“Amazing that the Catholic Church has money for this extravagant home despite the apparent financial crisis that has led to the closing of many Catholic schools and several churches,” he said.

In recent years, the diocese has closed several schools in Cumberland County and neighboring communities, including Sacred Heart High School in Vineland; St. Mary Magdalen Regional School in Millville; and Notre Dame Regional School in Buena and Newfield.

The Woodbury mansion was built by Frank H. Stewart in 1908. The gray stone house — with eight bedrooms and six bathrooms — is described as one of the city’s grandest homes. Other amenities include an in-ground pool, three fireplaces, a library and a five-car garage.

The diocese purchased the home from Rowan University for $500,000 on Dec. 23. The university bought the property in 2000 for Farish, but put it on the market when he left the school in 2011.

“The diocese purchased the property because the bishop needs a residence and space to hold meetings with potential donors and benefactors,” diocesan spokesman Peter Feuerherd said. “It will well pay for itself and more. We realize others may have a different opinion, but that was the rationale behind the purchase.”

Stuart Charmé, a Rutgers-Camden professor of religion, noted Pope Francis has set a tone for the church regarding concern for the poor and service to them. And the pontiff has personally shunned most of the amenities of his office.

“So others in the church need to be particularly careful about any actions that might give the impression church leaders live lives of luxury paid for by the donations of common people,” the professor explained. “At a time when there is a greater disparity in wealth between those at the top and those at the bottom, it would be disappointing, to say the least, if that phenomenon were also found in religious institutions.”

The Cooper Street mansion originally was listed for about $800,000. Feuerherd noted the diocese will finalize the sale of its Blackwood property for $395,000 in early January.

The diocese will have to furnish the Woodbury mansion, and Feuerherd was unsure if the property would be tax-exempt. According to property records, taxes are $31,000 annually.

“I’m guessing the Diocese of Camden is going to plead poverty and get tax-free treatment,” Johnson said.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

John Allen, legendary Vatican reporter, to join staff of the Boston Globe

Boston Globe
(BOSTON, Jan. 7, 2014)

John Allen, a senior correspondent for the highly respected National Catholic Reporter, will be joining the staff of The Boston Globe in early February.

Allen, widely hailed as the best-sourced and most knowledgeable English-speaking reporter on the Vatican, will help lead coverage of Catholicism and the Vatican as an associate editor of The Globe.

“There is a resurgence of global interest in the Catholic Church, inspired by the words and deeds of the newly-installed leader, Pope Francis,” said editor Brian McGrory. “There’s nobody in the nation better suited. John is basically the reporter that bishops and cardinals call to find out what’s going on within the confines of the Vatican. His inexhaustible energy, supported by extraordinary insights, is legendary.”

McGrory said Allen, 48, will play “several roles of prominence. He will be a correspondent first and foremost. He will be an analyst on all things Catholic. He will also help us explore the very real possibility of launching a free-standing publication devoted to Catholicism, drawing in other correspondents and leading voices from near and far.”

Allen’s coverage will supplement the work of the Globe’s award-winning religion writer, Lisa Wangsness. McGrory stressed that Allen’s role “will have no impact whatsoever on how we cover other religions. We will remain as dedicated to the mission of broad coverage of all faiths.”

In addition to his work as a correspondent and author of the column “All Things Catholic” for the National Catholic Reporter, Allen is also the senior Vatican analyst for CNN. He has written nine books on the Vatican and Catholicism.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Francis 'manipulated' both by left and right, confidant says

John L. Allen, Jr
National Catholic Reporter
January 7, 2014

A recent comment by Pope Francis about educating the children of homosexual couples is being twisted both by the political right and left to suggest that the pontiff has waded into a debate over same-sex unions, according to a key papal confidant.

Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the influential journal Civiltà Cattolica, published a front-page essay in Tuesday's Corriere della Sera, Italy's paper of record, responding to widespread claims in the Italian media of an "opening" by Francis to legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

In fact, Spadaro wrote, Francis has no intention of "legitimizing any behavior that's inconsistent with the doctrine of the church."

The effort to twist the pope's words, Spadaro wrote, comes both "from his 'detractors' on the right, as well as those who exalt him in order to take advantage of him on the left." He called those efforts "misleading" and a form of "manipulation."

Spadaro insisted that comments by Francis to the effect that the children of gay couples shouldn't receive a "vaccine against the faith" do not imply any revision to church teaching on marriage.

"Mercy doesn't mean justifying sin, but tenderly reaching out to the humanity for which Christ went to the Cross," Spadaro wrote.

Spadaro was the architect of the blockbuster interview with Francis in September carried by Jesuit publications around the world, and it was also Spadaro who recently released extensive notes from the pope's Nov. 29 meeting with the superiors of men's religious orders.

The 47-year-old Spadaro, who's led Civiltà Cattolica since 2011, has been widely mentioned as a possible successor to Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi as the pope's top spokesman.

The current controversy began Saturday, when Spadaro released his notes from the pope's meeting with superiors. Among other highlights, Francis identified several challenges to education arising from changing family situations.

According to Spadaro's write-up, the pope described a situation that he faced as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina: "I remember the case of a sad little girl," Spadaro quoted Francis as saying, "who finally confided to her teacher the reason for her state of mind: 'My mother's fiancée doesn't like me.' "

In Italian, Francis used the feminine ending for "fiancée," making clear the reference was to a lesbian couple.

Reflecting on how to reach out to children living in such situations, Francis said, "We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against the faith to them."

Coincidentally, Italy is gearing up for a national debate over same-sex unions after the new leader of the center-left Democratic Party announced that support for legal recognition of those unions would be a component of the party's electoral platform.

In that context, several media outlets suggested Francis' comments amounted to an indirect "opening" to the idea.

In his essay, Spadaro referred to those claims as "misleading in understanding of what the pope actually said, and the great challenge that he laid out."

The real point Francis wanted to make, Spadaro wrote, is that "the church is called to respond to an enormous anthropological challenge" created by changing social situations and norms.

"The Christian educational challenge," Spadaro wrote, "consists in avoiding that the light of Christ remains only a distant memory for many, or, worse yet, that it stays in the hands of a small and elect crowd of the 'pure,' which would transform the church into a sect."

Spadaro's suggestion appeared to be that the pope does not intend to change doctrine, but rather to find new language to express that doctrine to people who no longer respond to traditional formulae.

This is not the first time Spadaro has tried to clarify a papal remark that originated in something he himself published.

When the Civiltà Cattolica interview appeared in September, one widely quoted line was Francis' insistence that "I have never been a right-winger."

Spadaro was later compelled to explain that what Francis meant was that he had never been a supporter of Argentina's military regime in the 1970s and '80s. The pope did not mean to locate himself, Spadaro said at the time, on the contemporary ideological spectrum.