Friday, October 31, 2014

Burke: Church under Francis is 'a ship without a rudder'

Josephine McKenna
Religion News Service
October 31, 2014

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the feisty former archbishop of St. Louis who has emerged as the face of the opposition to Pope Francis’ reformist agenda, likened the Roman Catholic Church to “a ship without a rudder” in a fresh attack on the pope’s leadership.

In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva, published Thursday (Oct. 30), Burke insisted he was not speaking out against the pope personally but raising concern about his leadership.

“Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,” Burke said.

“Now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith.”

Burke is the current head of the Vatican’s highest court known as the Apostolic Signatura, but he said recently he is about to be demoted. There is speculation he will be made patron of the Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial post.

“I have all the respect for the Petrine ministry and I do not want to seem like I am speaking out against the pope,” he said in the interview. “I would like to be a master of the faith, with all my weaknesses, telling a truth that many currently perceive.”

“They are feeling a bit seasick because they feel the church’s ship has lost its way,” he added.

Burke has expressed an uncompromising stance on keeping the ban on Communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment, and is one of five conservative cardinals who aired their views in a new book, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” released on the eve of the bishops’ blockbuster synod in early October.

When the synod signaled a more welcoming tone to gay and lesbian Catholics, Burke publicly accused the global gathering of bias and was among those who pushed for a less conciliatory approach in the final report.

Burke had previously said that Catholic families should not expose children to the “evil” of homosexuality by inviting a gay son home for Christmas with his partner.

In his latest interview, Burke said the church was “the pillar of marriage” and challenged the pope’s revolutionary “Who am I to judge?” remark on gay people.

“The acts must be judged; I do not think that the pope thinks differently. They are sinful and unnatural. The pope never said we can find positive elements in them. It is impossible to find positive elements in an evil act.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Threatened with excommunication, Tony Flannery holds firm to his beliefs

Margery Eagan
October 29, 2014

Tony Flannery has done what few of us could. He sacrificed his career and his passion for his principles. It’s been anything but easy.

All four of the Galway Flannerys joined religious orders. The three priests and one nun were the children of an ambitious Irish mother who well understood that an affordable religious education was her best hope of saving them from poverty.

“So I was third on the conveyor belt,” says Flannery, now 67, who grew up to love his Catholic faith, his Church, and his work as a Redemptorist preacher traveling from Irish parish to Irish parish holding revivals to renew that faith. He would have celebrated 50 years in religious life this year, save for this: For years now, he has very publicly spoken out against the Church’s stands on the origins of the priesthood, ordaining women to it, contraception, and gays – some of the same issues cardinals debated and commented on publicly at the synod in Rome.

But Francis was not yet pope when Flannery’s Vatican superiors began their investigation.

When they insisted he sign a paper renouncing those views, he refused. When they told him to keep silent, he refused again.

So two years ago, the Vatican stripped Flannery of his ministry. Last year he said he was threatened with excommunication for heresy, a word that conjures up images of Joan of Arc burned at the stake. And on Monday, this ousted itinerant preacher told his story at a friend’s home in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.

“I love preaching,” he said. “I still love the Church.”

But his censure has at least done this: turned Flannery into an even bigger celebrity in Ireland, where he’s already known for his writing and his nine books on faith and Catholicism. And now he’s in the midst of an 18-city, American preaching and listening tour sponsored by a coalition of reform and progressive Catholic groups including Call To Action, Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance, Future Church, and the National Coalition of American Nuns.

He’ll be speaking at just one Catholic Church. That’s in Minneapolis. Mostly he’ll speak at Protestant churches or in union halls and public buildings from Boston to Chicago to Seattle, telling his story again and listening to faithful but frustrated Catholics tell theirs.

Flannery said Monday he was ordained amidst Vatican II’s hopes for a more open Church willing to hear and respond to the laity. Then he lived through 40 years “of disappointment, when the main thing we heard from Church authorities was about law, what you could and couldn’t do, like the Pharisees in the New Testament,” he said, who were always fretting over minute details of Jewish law. “And not seeing how ridiculous the whole thing was, or how appalling it is to withhold the Eucharist instead of seeing it as nourishment for our weakness.”

Flannery has spoken and written, in words that often echo Francis, about the need for a more welcoming and merciful Church, one that treats women as equals and does not demonize sex. He is one of the founders of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, an association of about 1,100 reform-minded priests who’ve also been willing, like Flannery, to speak to the media, challenge the Church, and bemoan, for example, the loneliness of celibacy.

“Oh,” Flannery said Monday, “when I see children, when I see grandchildren, I think, ‘it would have been nice ….’ ”

His association is totally independent from the Church and unlike anything in the United States, where dissenting priests mostly keep their complaints, quietly, to themselves.

Looking back, says Flannery, it was naïve not to expect some blowback. Still, he was a surprised that the mighty Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Pope Benedict, even noticed him. “I’m the only priest in Ireland who’s out of ministry for heresy,” he said. Other priests are out of ministry, too, but because of Ireland’s decades-long priestly sex abuse scandal. One can’t help comparing the swift ferocity of the hierarchy’s actions against Flannery with its slowness to act against hundreds of child-abusing Irish priests. Meeting Tony Flannery, one can’t help but notice, too, the sad irony here: The Church sought to silence a priest whose ministry had attracted disillusioned souls back to that very same Church. You can understand why he did so well. Tony Flannery comes across as a kind, compassionate and thoughtful man — and a man still wistful for the priestly vocation he has lost.

Flannery thinks he may not have been censured under Francis, “but who knows.” He said many have written to Francis on his behalf. There is no word on any reconsideration of his case. Yet Flannery is a huge Francis fan. “I think he’s trying desperately hard to make change,” he said. “We’re praying he lives long enough to get some reforms through,” ones not easily jettisoned by his successor.

Among those reforms: a dramatic change of emphasis. The point of being a Catholic, says Flannery, is not citing from memory “The Catechism of the Catholic Church.” The point is “to follow the gospels. To follow Jesus, and the big thing about Jesus was the way he accepted and loved everybody.” Misfits, sinners, prostitutes, thieves, the sick, the outcast, the desperately poor. “That’s what drew people to him. That has to be the core of the Christian message. That’s what we’re hoping for. "

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cardinal Marx: Pope Francis has pushed open the doors of the church

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
National Catholic Reporter
October 28, 2014

"The doors are open -- wider than they have ever been since the Second Vatican Council. The synod debates were just a starting point. Francis wants to get things moving, to push processes forward. The real work is about to begin," Cardinal Reinhard Marx told the German weekly Die Zeit.

The fact that the two hot-button issues -- Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and a more positive, open approach to homosexuality -- that were discussed at the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family failed to get a two-thirds majority should not be seen as a setback, he said.

"Anyone who comes to that conclusion has not had their eye on what has been going on in our church over the past one and a half years," Marx said. "Up to now, these two issues have been absolutely non-negotiable. Although they had failed to get the two-thirds majority, the majority of the synod fathers had nevertheless voted in their favor.

"They are still part of the text," Marx continued. "I especially asked the pope about that, and the pope said he wanted all the points published together with all the voting results. He wanted everyone in the church to see where we stood. No, this pope has pushed the doors open and the voting results at the end of the synod will not change that."

The Die Zeit reporter asked Marx if it was the Curia or the African and Asian bishops who saw these two hot-button issues as a threat.

"Neither/nor. That was my 'aha' experience in those two weeks," he replied. "We in the German-speaking world are not alone with our difficulties. It has so often been insinuated in recent years that these two wishes are a phenomenon of the decadent West and that they do not play a role in the rest of the world church. However, the numerous colleagues from Africa and Asia, but also from the Curia who approached me at the synod about them proves how totally mistaken that view is."

No punches were pulled on these two issues at the synod, his interviewer said. Does this mean that the world church now faces an internal dispute?

Factional struggles might be the logic of party conventions, but the church must not allow itself to be infected by them, Marx said.

"The logic of confrontation would not only be un-Christian, but also unwise," he said. "In a reform process, whoever divides people into superiors and inferiors prevents us from being infected and surprised by the Holy Spirit. It's not a case of throwing opponents. Whoever abuses a new beginning in the church in order to organize majorities for their own camp has not understood the spirit of this pope."

Discussion of whether the faithful should be brought into line with doctrine or doctrine tapped to see how it could be adapted crippled the church, Marx said.

"That was why one of the central theological debates at the synod was on how to find a way out of the far-too-narrow logic of 'Everything or nothing,' 'Sin or not sin,' as I worded it in the synod hall," Marx said.

And how should this work?

Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schönborn had suggested applying the "principle of gradualness," "which, to put it simply, means realizing the Gospel mandate in stages," Marx said, adding that Schönborn's suggestion received a great deal of support.

When his interviewer asked him to describe Pope Francis' special approach more clearly, Marx said: "This pope knows exactly what he is doing, let no one doubt that. Francis wants us to move. His frequent use of the word avanti -- 'get moving' -- is ample proof of that. He is convinced that one doesn't need clever tactics if one is not afraid. In his final, forceful address to the synod he also for the first time describes how he sees his own office. 'As long as I am with you, you can discuss everything without being afraid. I'll see to it that we stay on the church's track.' That was certainly a strong emphasis on his primacy."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scandals of the 'playboy priests' of Italy's most gossiped about diocese

Sebastian Whale
The Telegraph
October 24, 2014

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into Northern Italy's scandal-hit Albenga-Imperia diocese, where "playboy priests" have been accused of multiple crimes and misdemeanors over the past 25 years.

Described by one Italian newspaper as “the most gossiped about diocese in Italy”, it has been run for the last 25 years by Bishop Mario Oliveri, 70.

While the bishop himself is not accused of any wrongdoing, he is reported to have recruited “black sheep” priests with distinctly chequered pasts. Given the number of lurid accusations which have since surfaced, this appears to have spectacularly backfired.

But what exactly have the priests been accused of?

• Posting nude photos of themselves on Facebook and gay websites
• Raiding church coffers and stealing communion money
• Sexually harassing parishioners and courting the ‘prettiest’ faithful • Priest accused of having courted married woman during a procession • Living in secret with gay partners • Getting tattooed • Moon-lighting as barmen and sleeping with co-workers Several priests from the diocese have also been convicted or investigated of the following: • One priest found guilty and jailed for four years for organising an under-age prostitution ring • Several priests convicted or investigated for child abuse

Lefebvrians: "Rome doesn't plan on imposing a capitulation"

Marco Tosati
Vatican Insider
October 24, 2014

n an interview with authoritative French weekly magazine Famille Chrétienne, the Secretary of Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Guido Pozzo, discussed the state of relations between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X following Mgr. Fellay’s recent meeting with the Prefect of the Doctrine for the Faith. From the interview, it would seem that the Holy See does not intend to put any pressure on Mgr. Lefebvre’s followers but would like an agreement to be reached, although the timeframe for this is uncertain. What we are given to understand here, is that Rome intends to show greater flexibility on any aspect that does not regard doctrine.

In 2009 Benedict XVI decided to revoke the excommunication of Lefebvrian bishops who had been illicitly ordained by Mgr. Lefebvre in 1988. This was a first and essential step toward the resumption of a constructive dialogue. Just a first step, however, because there were still some big doctrinal questions which needed to be addressed. The Ecclesia Dei Commission which has close links with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the main instrument in this dialogue process.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview is that which addressed the sticking points in said dialogue. Mgr. Pozzo underlined that “any reservations or positions the Society of St. Pius X may have regarding aspects which are not related to faith but to pastoral questions or the prudential teaching of the Magisterium do not necessarily need to withdrawn or relinquished.” Here Rome seems to be showing an attempt to alter positions expressed in the past: According to Mgr. Pozzo, the fraternity’s reservations are linked to “aspects of pastoral care or the prudential teaching of the Magisterium.” The monsignor’s statement suggests that since these criticisms and reservations are no longer labelled as “doctrinal” the Lefebvrians could legitimately continue to express them.

This approach is expressed more clearly in the following part of the interview: “The Holy See does not wish to impose a capitulation on the SSPX. On the contrary, it invites the fraternity to stand beside it within the same framework of doctrinal principles that is necessary in guaranteeing the same adhesion to the faith and Catholic doctrine on the Magisterium and the Tradition. At the same time, there is room for further reflection on the reservations the fraternity has expressed regarding certain aspects and the wording of the Second Vatican Council documents as well as some reforms that followed but which do not refer to subjects which are dogmatically or doctrinally indisputable.”

Finally, one other very important clarification was made: “There is no doubt that the teachings of the Second Vatican Council vary a great deal in terms of how authoritative and binding they are depending on the text. So, for example, the Lumen Gentium Constitution on the Church and the Dei Verbum on the Divine Revelation are doctrinal declarations even though no dogmatic definition was given to them”, whereas the declarations on religious freedom, non-Christian religions and the decree on ecumenism “are authoritative and binding to a different and lesser degree.”

It is unclear how long this process is going to take: “I don’t think it is possible to say yet when this process will conclude,” Mgr. Pozzo said. Both sides are committed to taking things step by step. “There will be no unexpected shortcuts; the clearly stated aim is to promote unity through the generosity of the universal Church led by the successor of Peter.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Schönborn: Get rid of 'tunnel view' when it comes to discussion of families

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
National Catholic Reporter
October 23, 2014

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has appealed not only to the media but also to the church in general to take a closer look at the broader family environment -- including single parents, widows, children of divorced couples, and patchwork families -- rather than concentrate solely on Communion for divorced and remarried people and those in gay relationships.

The media's "tunnel view" -- namely, its concentration on divorced and remarried people and those in same-sex relationships -- also to a certain extent played a dominant role at the synod discussions, he told the press on his return to Vienna.

He then quoted the view of one of the only female participants at the synod, whom Pope Francis especially invited to take part: Ute Eberl, 52, a married mother of three who has been responsible for family pastoral work in the Berlin archdiocese for over 20 years. (See below.)

"Take a look at the living room first and not at the bedroom," Schönborn said Eberl told synod participants in her four-minute talk. "Once you start wagging your finger, you're no longer taken seriously."

Schönborn said he agreed with Eberl and knew the pope did, too.

The decline of marriage worldwide is the most worrying factor by far and should be occupying center stage, Schönborn said. "The really big problem is that people aren't getting married at all -- and that is worldwide," he said.

Because young couples frequently cohabit nowadays, Pope Francis had suggested accompanying such couples and encouraging what was promising and valuable in their relationships in the hope that it would lead to marriage, Schönborn said.

Pope Francis' change of perspective -- looking positively at the reality of people's lives -- has instilled the fear that the "earnestness of the ideal" of marriage would be lost if irregular relationships are accompanied, Schönborn said. Francis told the Austrian bishops on their ad limina visit in January that he found this fear extraordinary, Schönborn said: "And it is indeed most astonishing that this change of perspective the pope is asking of us is causing quite such fears, as he only wants to remind us of the joy of the Gospel, which is as fresh as ever," he added.

Schönborn said Pope Francis is being exposed to a "massive wave of attacks," especially in the Italian media, attacks he said were evident in reports in Il Foglio or certain books published by such well-known Italian publishers as Mondadori. Some of the reports even said Francis' election was not valid, he said.

During the synod, Schönborn told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that he himself had great respect for faithful, lifelong same-sex partnerships. He said he knew such a couple in Vienna, and when one of the partners had become seriously ill, the other partner had not moved from his side. He recalled Christ's words that publicans and prostitutes also go to heaven and said Jesus' message is also directed at bishops and priests, who could bow down to the exemplary behavior of gay couples even if they could not give their blessing to this form of sexuality.

The pope's wish for open discussion and a realistic stocktaking of family situations had on the whole been fulfilled at the synod, Schönborn said, but there was still a lot of ground to be covered. His own "theological key" of accompanying the "traces of Christ" in relationships outside the ideal of Catholic marriage had met with a wide response at the synod, even if it had not been explicitly mentioned in the final document, Schönborn said, recalling the pope's bid to look positively at what is already there and not at what is missing.

A woman's inside view of the synod

Eberl, one of the few women personally invited by the pope to take part in the synod, was responsible for collecting the replies to the Vatican questionnaire in the Berlin archdiocese.

Asked after the first week of the synod by the German daily Der Tagesspiegel what she had told the bishops, Eberl replied, "I said, Let's take a look at people's living rooms first before we look into their bedrooms. We'll witness their fears, joys and sorrows in the living room -- and that's what counts if we as a church want to be near them. Life concepts have become more fragile. If one goes there, wagging one's finger, one won't be taken seriously."

What were the chances that divorced and remarried Catholics might be able to receive the sacraments? she was asked.

"One can feel that something is developing," she said. "On this issue, it won't be possible to turn the clock back, as marriages are not only breaking down in Europe. In Latin America, entire extended families are falling apart. That came out quite clearly in the first week. The subject was hotly debated. Some experienced participants of Episcopal synods even said they'd never known quite such heated discussions." She said she was very pleased with the interim report, which was in a new tone and reflected a change of perspective, both of which she said she wished for.

When she was asked a week later by the German online portal whether she was disappointed by the final report, Eberl replied, "I was surprised that the interim report had been changed to quite such an extent by the many interventions. In the first week, bishops from all over the world described family life very realistically, but in the second week, I had the impression that family life as it really is had been pushed into the background in favor of the question: 'What does the Church say?' Insofar, yes, I am a little disappointed."

However, she said she was very impressed by the pope's final words.

"He encouraged us to have controversial debates. In short, his message was: 'Of course you can quarrel. That won't make the church fall apart. I'll see to that.' I find that most encouraging for the coming year, in which the bishops' conferences and the dioceses are to continue working on the synod results."

Archbishop Chaput blasts Vatican debate on family, says 'confusion is of the devil'

David Gibson
Religion News Service
October 22, 2014

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput says he was "very disturbed" by the debate over church teachings on gays and remarried Catholics at this month's Vatican summit, saying it sent a confusing message, and "confusion is of the devil."

In a lecture delivered Monday evening in Manhattan, Chaput also suggested that in the wake of the rapid series of court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage in more than 30 states, Catholic priests might consider opting out of certifying civil marriages as a sign of "principled resistance."


full article at the National Catholic Reporter

[Evidently the gloves are off as conservative bishops strongly criticize progressive bishops like Cardinals Kasper and Marx and even Pope Francis (see comments by Cardinal Burke to the press that Pope Francis had "done a lot of harm" in the Riverfront Times).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trial showed Kansas City diocese hasn't learned enough from its past

Mary Sanchez
Kansas City Star
October 20, 2014

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph showed itself as a forgiving, diligent shepherd in the civil trial just concluded.

But the sheltering love was for priests’ welfare first. Less attention was apparent for parishioners’ concerns, and certainly not for vulnerable children.

Given the testimony of denial by multiple priests, it’s questionable how far deeply ingrained attitudes have really shifted. In recent years, changes came about when the diocese was forced through repeated pleas by the faithful, multimillion-dollar settlements and court orders.

The trial’s conclusion was halted by a nearly $10 million settlement that lumped together multiple cases. But the jury trial was intended to weigh the sexual abuse accusations of a former altar boy, now a 44-year-old man.

Nearly two weeks of proceedings put on public display how the diocese for five decades — through four bishops — rationalized its decisions and struggles with pedophile priests.

The diocese put forth a shameful record in its own defense.

Letters and verbal complaints of specific troubling incidents, dating back to the mid-1970s, were initially dismissed. Sexually inappropriate advances were seen as raucous and drunken behavior, something that a priest could be chided for and then ushered back to the rectory. There seemed to be a belief, a misplaced hope, that treating a priest for alcoholism could also cure pedophilia, as if the criminal behavior was only contingent upon the drinking. For some bishops, there appeared to be confusion about the difference between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children.

The church can choose to see the first as sinful. But to attack an innocent child is a crime. Such lack of common sense, that inability to separate church doctrine from criminal acts, is baffling.

In the 1980s, the diocese put its faith into what one expert testified was once common, moving a priest known to be struggling with sexual issues to a job as a hospital chaplain. One of the lawsuits settled this week was filed by a man who said he awoke from surgery to find a priest masturbating him.

Some of the deceased bishops’ actions can be understood better in the context of the times. Society in general is thankfully more informed about sexual abuse, how children are groomed to be victims.

But it’s a shallow defense.

Federal laws mandating that certain people must report suspected child abuse have been around since the mid-1970s. They always included clergy.

The priest in this case was still a priest when he died in 2013. He had been barred from performing some religious rites, but he was never formally defrocked. Monsignor Thomas O’Brien was treated as just another retired priest, his well-being taken care of as if he had served God and the diocese well in his time on Earth.

Before the settlement, O’Brien alone had already cost the diocese more than $7 million. And he’s just one priest who has been accused.

The question has always been, to what extent did the diocese shield its clergy at the cost of its flock? And why?

After this trial, we know more. But the jury was never going to hear the full story. Crucial information, broader context, was not allowed due to legal agreements between the parties to limit the case. Yet those elements draw a better picture of how the diocese mismanaged these problems, with one poor decision often leading to another.

Jurors were not told that one altar boy took his own life. They were not to know that O’Brien was believed to molest boys in tandem with another priest, Thomas Reardon, who has left the priesthood and has also been the subject of many lawsuits.

And they could hear no mention of former priest Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan, sentenced last year to 50 years in prison for child pornography, is the link that makes the diocese’s past history so disturbing. Because the diocese used some of the same rationalizations initially for Ratigan’s behavior as they used in the 1970s and 1980s.

A long letter from a parish school principal detailed disturbing behavior by Ratigan toward children. The letter was not taken seriously by diocese officials. When disturbing pictures were found on Ratigan’s computer, he was simply shifted to another location and he abused again. Those decisions led to the misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse against the sitting bishop, Robert Finn.

It is only because of the Ratigan criminal trial that this civil proceeding came to be. Publicity about Ratigan’s case was the kick-start that brought these new allegations forward. So the past of the diocese is intricately linked to its more recent woes.

Certainly the addition of two non-clerical ombudsmen to handle allegations of abuse is significant. The two female workers have made prompt and appropriate reports. Most important, they’ve kept the diocese in compliance with the law when accusations have been raised the past three years.

Finn would not allow any non-monetary agreements to be tacked to this settlement. The diocese is still reeling from its breach of similar agreements to keep it on track, doing the right thing for parishioners. That lapse cost the diocese $1.1 million earlier this year.

These cases are not just about money. Lives have been ruined.

Among the most stoic in the courtroom were Don and Rosemary Teeman, with whom the diocese settled a lawsuit last year. Their son Brian committed suicide after serving as an altar boy at the same time as the plaintiff in this case.

These forever-grieving parents listened to detailed accounts suggesting the diocese knew this priest was a danger before he met their son. They believe Brian took his life after being molested by O’Brien.

No testimony changes their reality. The Teemans have two grandsons by their daughter. One boy bears a remarkable likeness to Brian.

But they do not have their son.

“They should have done something; it could have been stopped,” Rosemary Teeman commented midway through the trial. “I’d have a bigger family.”

Upon that truth is where the diocese should begin post-trial reflection.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Francis: church has one year to mature. In the meantime, its doors are wide open

Iacopo Scaramuzzi
Vatican Insider
October 19, 2014

Speaking after the vote on the content of the Synod’s final document, the relatio synodi (three key paragraphs in the draft document did not win the two thirds majority vote), Francis addressed the assembled Fathers saying: “Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.” In his speech, which received a five-minute standing ovation , Francis underlined that the Church’s “doors are wide open to receive the needy”, “not only the just”. He disproved assumptions about a “disputatious Church where one part is against the other”, and presented himself as the “guarantor” of its unity. He reiterated that no one ever called into question the indissolubility of marriage and marriage’s openness to life.

The relatio synodi, Francis emphasised, is “the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as ‘lineamenta’”, as a guiding text that is, for the Ordinary Synod in October 2015.

“I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of ‘Synod’, a path of solidarity, a ‘journey together’, the Pope said after thanking everyone present. “And it has been ‘a journey’ – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people.”

In typical Jesuit-style spiritual language, Poe Francis said that during the course of these past two weeks, there have been “moments of consolation” as well as “moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations”, which he then went on to list: “One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God.” This is “the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.” Then there was “the temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them.” There was also a temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast; and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick.” There was “the temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people,” “the temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms’.”

“Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits,” Francis said. “If all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia ... And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life.”

The Church “is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans,” Francis said. “The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him.” It is not true therefore, that the Catholic Church is “a disputatious Church where one part is against the other,” as “many commentators, or people who talk” have portrayed it.

The Synod took place “cum Petro and sub Petro” and “the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all,” Francis emphasised, adding: “We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; ... it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome ... the lost sheep.” After extensively quoting Benedict XVI’s General Audience on 26 May 2010, Francis said: “The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant” and he guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church.”

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cardinal Burke reportedly confirms Vatican ouster

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
October 17, 2014

U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a former archbishop of St. Louis known for his rigorist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, has reportedly confirmed rumors that Pope Francis is planning to remove him from his influential post as the chief justice of the Vatican's Supreme Court.

Burke is reported to confirm the rumors, which have attracted attention in recent weeks as a sign that Francis may be preparing a tonal shift at the Vatican, in a piece Friday by BuzzFeed News.

“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke is reported to say in the piece, which goes on to say that the cardinal is yet to receive formal notice of his removal.

The rumors in recent weeks have speculated that Burke, currently the prefect of the Vatican's Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, would be moved to the largely ceremonial post of patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

"In the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given," Burke is reported to say in the BuzzFeed piece. "And so I trust by accepting this assignment I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

Burke, who took up the Vatican role in 2008, has made news frequently in recent days voicing disapproval with the direction of a worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops, known as a synod, taking place at the Vatican from Oct. 5-19.

He has voiced staunch disapproval in particular to a landmark document released by the synod on Monday, which called on the church to listen more widely to people's concerns and to apply mercy more generously.

Burke has said in interviews that the document was "not of the church" and that Francis should issue a clarification reaffirming traditional Catholic doctrines.

The Apostolic Signatura is the Vatican's highest court and is widely responsible for ensuring the proper administration of justice in the Catholic church. The Knights of Malta is a lay religious order that seeks to aid people in need around the world.

Burke also previously served as the bishop of La Crosse, Wis. A native of that state, he has been known through the years for his staunch conservative positions. In one instance in 2009, he called on U.S. bishops from his position at the Vatican to withhold Communion from pro-choice Catholic politicians.

Francis previously removed Burke in December from an influential position as a member of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, the Vatican office responsible for advising the pontiff on bishop appointments around the world.

Cardinal Marx: Doctrine can develop, change

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
October 17, 2014

Addressing a key question raised by the Synod of Bishops on the family, a German cardinal said Friday that church doctrine can change over time.

The church's doctrine, Cardinal Reinhard Marx said, "doesn't depend on the sprit of time but can develop over time."

"Saying that the doctrine will never change is a restrictive view of things," Marx said at a Vatican press conference Friday.

"The core of the Catholic church remains the Gospel, but have we discovered everything?" he asked. "This is what I doubt."

Marx, the head of the German archdiocese of Munich and Freising, is one of some 190 prelates attending the Oct. 5-19 meeting.

His remarks on doctrine carry special significance as the synod has raised expectations that the church might be changing some of its family pastoral practices, particularly regarding how it treats those who have divorced and remarried without first obtaining annulments.

Marx spoke in German, with simultaneous translation into several languages provided by the Vatican.

The synod is one of two called by Pope Francis for 2014 and 2015 on family life issues. It made global headlines on Monday when it released a working document summarizing its first week of discussions, known as a relatio post disceptationem, which called on the church to listen more and to apply mercy much more widely.

This week, the prelates met in 10 working groups, divided by language, to discuss that document and to submit possible revisions. Those revisions were submitted Thursday morning and are to be used in drafting a final document for the synod for submission to Pope Francis by Sunday.

Monday's document seemed to shift the tone of the church toward gay people, asking if the church was welcoming them and "guaranteeing them a space of fraternity in our community." Addressing that Friday, Marx said: "homosexuals are not condemned by the church for their sexual orientation."

Making a difference between gay couples who have monogamous relationships for decades and gay persons who are promiscuous, Marx continued: "I cannot simply say that everything is black or everything is white."

"We cannot say that since you are homosexual, you cannot experience the Gospel," Marx said. "This is impossible to me."

Answering questions about possible changes in the church's teachings toward divorced and remarried people, Marx said the church first "needs to make a pastoral effort" to let such people who are divorced and remarried know that they are still part of the church.

"Nobody is excluded [from the church]," he said. "Nobody is superfluous. Exclusion is not in the language of the church."

"We cannot say since you are [this way] you have become a second-category Christian," Marx said. "This is not possible."

"We cannot divide Christians into first class or second class or third class," he continued. All Christians, he said, are "parts of the body of Christ. We all participate."

Marx spoke Friday at the briefing alongside French Archbishop Georges Pontier, president of the French bishops' conference, and Ilva Myriam Hoyos Castañeda, a Colombian lawyer who serves on her country's commission for Defense of the Rights of Childhood, Adolescence and the Family.

Hoyos Castañeda, who is serving as an auditor at the synod, said she thought it was "important for women to be heard in this synod."

Part of the way she sees her role, she said, is to give input as "a woman that works for the state, a woman that feels the difficulty of Catholics when they talk with the world."

Responding to questions of how the synod members might be changing Monday's document in its new, final version, Marx said he hopes the final document will "bring everything to a common denominator in order to respect all views."

"This is not the end of the synod process. We are in the middle of the path," he said, referring to the 2015 synod.

Discussions among the prelates during the synod, Marx said, "have been rich and have had many directions."

The debates even "have been really intense at times," he said. "What is clear is that we need to find common views."

Pontier, the archbishop of Marseilles, said there had been two "poles" in the discussions and that the prelates were looking to ensure "balance is made between these two points of view."

Approximately 190 prelates are at the synod and are able to vote in the discussions. Some 60 others, mainly non-prelates, have been selected in other roles and are able to contribute to discussions but not to vote.

The Vatican made summaries of the suggested revisions to Monday's document made by the synod's small groups public Thursday, written in the group's various languages.

The synod's final document is expected to be released to the public and to be used as the blueprint of sorts for the next synod, to be held in 2015.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vatican retranslates synod document, muddles openness to gays

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
October 16, 2014

Questions over the tone presented by the global meeting of Catholic bishops toward gay people dominated conversations surrounding the event Thursday, after the Vatican seemingly tried to water down its message of openness and welcoming to homosexuals.

Unexpectedly updating the English-language translation of a landmark document released by the group Monday, the Vatican on Thursday changed a section of the document from "welcoming homosexual persons" to "providing for homosexual persons."

But the Italian version of the document from the meeting, known as a synod, remains the same and does not reflect the changes in the English translation.

Responding to questions from reporters about the change at a briefing Thursday, Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi emphasized that the official language of the synod is Italian and "we have said always that the text to refer to is the Italian."

Pressed about who had asked for the change and why the English version no longer matches the Italian, Lombardi said the Vatican press office released the revision at the request of the Vatican's office for the Synod of Bishops and would not provide further details.

Monday's document, which calls for the church to listen more and to apply mercy much more widely, was released as a summary of the synod's discussions so far and is known officially as a relatio post disceptationem.

The document was created after the some 190 prelates attending the Oct. 5-19 synod met last week in general assemblies. The prelates then met in small groups, divided by language, this week to come up with revisions to the document. Those revisions were submitted Thursday morning and are to be used in drafting a final document for the synod for submission to Pope Francis by Sunday.

The only passages that seem to be changed in Thursday's revision of the English language translation of Monday's document come in the 50th paragraph of the document, which deals with the church's attitude and tone toward homosexuals.

While the subheading on the Italian version of those paragraphs remains "Accogliere le persone omosessuali" -- literally, "to welcome homosexual persons" -- the English version now reads, "Providing for homosexual persons."

Likewise, one of the sentences in the paragraphs in that section of the new English version has been changed to remove several words while the Italian version has not.

The Italian version asks the question: "Siamo in grado di accogliere queste persone, garantendo loro uno spazio di fraternità nelle nostre comunità?" -- roughly: "Are we capable of welcoming these persons, guaranteeing them a space of fraternity in our community?"

The new English version reads, with the ellipses in the original: "Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities?"

While Lombardi would not provide further details regarding the changes to the synod document, they seem to reflect a sense of fear among prelates about what appears to be a decidedly new tone toward gay people from the synod.

Although Monday's document re-emphasizes church teaching against same-sex marriage, it also asks blunt questions about how the wider church treats gay people and if it is offering space for them in the community.

Asked about that change during the Vatican press briefing Thursday -- specifically if it meant the church no longer holds that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" -- Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said, "The basic principle is that we first look at the person and not the sexual orientation."

"Every human person has a dignity beyond any other question," said Schönborn, who is representing the Austrian bishops at the synod. "This does not mean and certainly will not mean that the church can say the respect for every human person means the respect for every human behavior."

He said he thinks "the church will ... always maintain that the fundamental gift of God's creation is difference and relation between man and woman," the cardinal also said he knows a same-sex couple in Austria that "are marvelous human persons."

One of the partners in the couple, he said, became severely ill, and the other partner cared for them. The care, Schönborn said, "was saintly. Full stop."

Some prelates have publicly criticized Monday's working document, with South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier saying on Tuesday that its message of openness had put the prelates in "a position that is virtually irredeemable."

But Lombardi on Thursday also a made a short statement on behalf of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who had been quoted in the Italian daily La Repubblica as saying that Monday's working document from the synod was "undignified" and "shameful."

Müller said that report "is not true" and that he did not make those remarks, Lombardi said.

The Vatican spokesman also announced Thursday that new members had been appointed to the group drafting a final version of Monday's synod document. The synod, Lombardi said, has added two members to that group: Napier and Australian Archbishop Denis Hart.

Schönborn spoke Thursday at the briefing alongside Italian professors and married couple Francesco Miano and Pina De Simone. While there are 13 couples attending the synod in different roles, Miano and De Simone are the only couple who are full participants and able to vote on the documents along with the prelates.

Touching on a tone Schönborn mentioned, Miano said one key value of the October synod is in its desire to accompany married people.

"The strength of the synod is the strength of accompanying," he said.

Schönborn said the strength of the teachings of the church is not from them being imposed on people but in them being proposed as a "walk together, or a way of life."

"We cannot forget the doctrine," the cardinal said. "But the other part ... is also the need to accompany [people] in the many situations that which the pope speaks of a field hospital."

"The pope said to accompany people where they live," he continued later. "There's an ideal we want to reach, but we do it with time, with patience."

Approximately 190 prelates are at the synod and are able to vote in the discussions. Some 60 others, mainly non-prelates, have been selected in other roles and are able to contribute to discussions but not to vote.

The Vatican made summaries of the suggested revisions to Monday's document made by the synod's small groups public Thursday, written in the group's various languages.

Lombardi stressed at the briefing that the summaries from the small groups are "working documents" and that you "can't interpret them as definitive judgments of the synod, but inside the path of the synod that continues."

On the subject of homosexuality, one of the English language groups suggests that the church "must continue to promote the revealed nature of marriage as always between one man and one woman united in life-long, life-giving, and faithful communion."

The synod's final document is expected to be released to the public and to be used as the blueprint of sorts for the next synod, to be held in 2015.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Synod document an 'unbiased summary' Spanish cardinal says

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
October 15, 2014

A Spanish cardinal has defended the landmark document released Monday by the Synod of Bishops on the family, saying it was an "unbiased summary" of the prelates' discussions to that point.

The document, said Barcelona Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, is a collection of what was said in some 300 talks during the first week of the Oct. 5-19 meeting.

"It is far from being complete, but it is an unbiased summary," Martínez said Wednesday at a Vatican press conference.

The cardinal's comments come as some prelates have begun to criticize the document. On Tuesday, South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said its message of openness to modern society has put the prelates in "a position that is virtually irredeemable."

Answering a question Wednesday about how he sees the reaction of some Catholics who disagree with points in the synod document, Martínez said repeatedly that the document was not a final decree but a "working document" that the synod members are still revising.

"It is not a final document, I insist on this," he said. But, he continued: "We must all convert ourselves, and conversion is a painful experience. All the faithful must continue to follow the will of God through conversion."

Monday's document, which calls for the church to listen more and to apply mercy much more widely, was released as a summary of the synod's discussions so far and is known officially as a relatio post disceptationem.

The document was created after the some 190 prelates attending the synod meet last week in general assemblies. This week, the prelates are meeting in small working groups, divided by different languages, to revise Monday's document. Those revisions are to be presented to the whole synod Thursday, in view of drafting a final document for the synod for submission to Pope Francis by Sunday.

Unlike previous synods, the Vatican is not releasing the texts of the speeches made by the prelates in their general assemblies. Instead of releasing texts, the Vatican is providing daily briefings with three spokesmen attending the synod and summarizing events: official Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, in Italian; Chicago archdiocesan Fr. Manuel Dorantes, in Spanish; and Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, in English.

Joining the spokesmen Wednesday were Martínez, U.S. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Italian Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella.

Kurtz, who is the head of the archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., and is attending the synod as the U.S. bishops' president, said his small group mainly wanted to make three adjustments to Monday's document.

That group, Kurtz said, wants to add passages to "highlight the importance of the witness of sacrificial love"; to "make sure that all of our words are truly welcoming and come truly from the heart"; and "to locate clearly our pastoral avenues ... as being located within the beauty of sacred Scripture and church teaching."

Kurtz also said that he and his group wanted to call attention to what the document called a "missionary conversion."

That conversion, Kurtz said, means to "go to where people are and accompany them, and I think that's what Pope Francis is saying so strongly to us."

But Kurtz also downplayed the importance of Monday's document a bit, saying he was looking to see what the final document, to be voted on by the synod on Saturday, would say.

"I think the document that will have the force of support among the delegates is actually the one that will, I hope, be approved on Saturday," he said. "That's the document that I will take very seriously."

Asked if certain groups lobbying the synod were having undue influence on the prelates' discussions, Martínez said Wednesday that they "seek to listen to the Lord and not the interests of particular groups."

"It is true we have different opinions, but this diversity may shed light on the needs of the church today," said Martínez, who was one of 26 prelates personally appointed by Francis to participate in the synod.

"I do not believe that we have had a certain influence in particular," he continued.

Approximately 190 prelates are at the synod and are able to vote in the discussions. Some 60 others, mainly non-prelates, have been selected in other roles and are able to contribute to discussions but not to vote.

The synod's final document is expected to be released to the public and to be used as the blueprint of sorts for the next synod, to be held in 2015.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Four things needed to move beyond the (St. Paul - Minneapolis Archdiocese) 'crisis'

Jennifer Haselberger
October 14, 2014

Unusually for me, I have agreed to interviews with WCCO TV and radio this afternoon. This has forced me to spend more time ruminating on the provisions of the Doe 1 settlement, and what it means in terms of resolving the crisis in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I want to state at the outset that I really would like to see this crisis come to an end. I have no interest in becoming entrenched in a position of binary opposition to the Archbishop or the Archdiocese. At the same time, I must admit that I felt much more hopeful about the settlement and its impact prior to the press conference yesterday afternoon. I continue to believe that the provisions of the settlement will have a tremendous impact, but I see that impact as being limited to two key areas: support for victims and investigations of alleged criminal conduct. The rest of the provisions are, by and large, little more than a restatement of previous promises, and I don't think we should be patting the Archdiocese on the back for agreeing not to have priests in ministry who have abused minors.

In order for me to believe that we are truly entering 'a new era', I think that four things still need to occur. What follows is my attempt to outline these four things, as well as to explain my reasons for believing they are necessary. I hope to also have the opportunity to discuss these items with WCCO this afternoon.

Item #1: Leadership Change in the Archdiocese

The first and most critical 'action item' if you will, is leadership change in the Archdiocese. Obviously, this has to begin with Archbishop Nienstedt. Whether he chooses to resign or some process is begun to determine his fitness for ministry is not for me to say. What I think is clear is that he lacks many of the characteristics to be any sort of a leader, much less a good leader. This is not just a comment on his handling of allegations of sexual abuse. Many besides me have raised issues about his style of management, his ability to relate to people, and his administration in general. Yet, in calling for a change in leadership, I do not mean to stop there. Bishop Piche should be granted medical retirement. Bishop Cozzens, if his episcopal ministry is to be salvaged, should be transferred to another Archdiocese where he can serve as an auxiliary under a bishop capable of mentoring him in authentic and effective pastoral leadership. The rest of the upper levels of Archdiocesan staff also have to go. I observed yesterday's press conference from the back of the room, and so my view was different than those of you who saw it unfold through the lens of a camera. From my vantage point what was obvious was that while the faces in front of the camera were by and large new, the faces of those beyond camera range were all too familiar. There will not be any true change in the Archdiocese until all the faces are new. If someone was in a directive position in the years leading up to or during 2013, and stood by while the Archdiocese was assuring the public that there were no accused priests in active ministry, that it was complying with the Charter, and that there had been only one credible accusation since 2005, he or she needs to go. Perhaps that will happen as part of a reorganization plan arising from a Chapter 11 filing, but previous Archdiocesan reorgs have rarely led to the right departures. I think we will only see this change when there is a change at the very top.

Item #2: More Clergy Must be Removed from Ministry

I will not be satisfied that the Archdiocese is doing all it can to protect children and vulnerable adults until additional men are removed from ministry. A quick perusal of my Doe 1 affidavit should my demonstrate grounds for concern. At the press conference yesterday Tim O'Mallley seemed to indicate further removals were coming, but I doubt that these will entirely conform to the list that I have in my head of those whose ministry is a threat to the wellbeing of the faithful. Further removals will single that the Archdiocese is finally moving beyond a mentality of putting the interests of the priests above the interests of the people.

Item #3: The Archdiocese Must Authorize Greene and Espel to Release the Full Report on their Investigation into the Conduct of Archbishop Nienstedt.

Frankly, I am not interested in the conclusions that may be disclosed from the Archdiocese. What needs to be released is the work done by the attorneys at Greene and Espel. I state this not from prurient interest- I think I have a fairly clear idea, based on conversations with others, about what is in their report- but rather because if the Catholic Church is going to get beyond the sexual abuse crisis, we need to ensure that our seminaries are adequately screening and forming men for service to the Church. I am alarmed by how many reports I have heard of inappropriate conduct by the Archbishop towards seminarians under his care. If there has been a system in place for rewarding men for submitting or overlooking such behavior, the Church needs to address it rather than let it perpetuate. Consider this: the most recent version of the Program for Priestly Formation, the normative guide to seminary formation in the United States, was drafted under the Chairmanship of Archbishop Nienstedt. This should be a grave cause for concern.

Item #4: The Archdiocese Must Demonstrate that it is Providing for the Care and Support of the Victims of Father Wehmeyer

Nothing was said yesterday about the young men who were the victims of Curtis Wehmeyer. The Archdiocese needs to accept its responsibility for the harm that was done to them. The way to demonstrate this is to provide assurance that those boys are receiving what they need- right now, at this moment. The Archdiocese has tended towards 'scorched earth' tactics in litigation, which often rely on attempts to starve plaintiffs into submission. We need assurances that this is not currently taking place.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Landmark settlement closes suit against St. Paul - Minneapolis archdiocese

Jean Hopfensperger and Chiao Xiong
Star Tribune
October 13, 2014

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will be required to overhaul its reporting of clergy sex abuse, how reports are investigated and how it responds to abuse victims under the terms of a historic legal settlement detailed Monday.

The deal, announced at an emotional news conference that brought church officials and sex abuse victims together for the first time on a public platform, followed a tumultuous year of scandal for the Catholic church in Minnesota.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the centerpiece of the settlement is a 17-point “child protection plan.” It requires the archdiocese to report any child abuse claim to law enforcement and refrain from conducting its own investigation until law enforcement finishes its own. It also prevents the archdiocese from assigning accused priests to active ministry.

“We’ve forged a new way and that new way is an action plan that not only protects kids in the future but honors the pain and sorrow and the grief of survivors in the past,” victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson said at the news conference in downtown St. Paul.

Archbishop John Nienstedt was in Kenya, but issued a written statement. “Today we take a significant step closer to achieving the goals we set nearly a year ago to protect children, to help survivors heal, and to restore trust with our clergy and faithful,” wrote Nienstedt. “I am grateful to all those on both sides of the courtroom aisle who have worked so diligently to bring about this agreement.”

The settlement also includes a process for making public the names and church files of priests accused of abuse that are currently sealed, something that the archdiocese had long opposed.

The news conference came hours after Ramsey District Judge John Van de North filed an order for dismissal of the case in the wake of the settlement.

The lawsuit had forced the archdiocese to publicly reveal the names of clergy accused of child sex abuse as well as church documents revealing how it handled the cases.

‘Era of cooperation’

Joining Anderson and attorney Mike Finnegan at the microphone were Vicar General Charles Lachowitzer, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, the archdiocese’s point person on abuse Tim O’Malley and two survivors of sexual abuse.

Al Michaud, who had been abused as a boy in Edina in the 1970s, told the packed news conference that he hoped the plan would allow victims to step forward without being “shamed, judged or dismissed.”

He encouraged other victims to come forward, saying “this is a new era of cooperation.

“Today is a day that I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d see,” said Michaud.

The most emotional moment occurred when about 20 survivors of clergy sex abuse, now grown men, walked to the front of the room to meet Cozzens and Lachowitzer. As the church leaders looked each in the eye and shook hands or embraced, eyes often welled with tears.

“Sixteen years!” whispered one man, of how long he’d been waiting for such an act of contrition.

Case against Adamson

The lawsuit that led to this unprecedented moment of unity represented one of the most significant challenges to the archdiocese in decades. It was filed on behalf of a man, identified as “John Doe 1,” who said he was abused by the former priest Tom Adamson at a St. Paul Park church in the 1970s.

Adamson had been accused of molesting boys in the Winona Diocese before being transferred to the archdiocese.

The lawsuit accused the church of negligence in supervising and retaining Adamson, as well as creating a “public nuisance” by moving sex offenders without notifying parishioners and others in their new assignments.

“John Doe 1” did not make a public appearance Monday. However, a letter he wrote to Lachowitzer was released, in which he credited the vicar general with moving the “clergy abuse mountain.” Doe met with diocese officials recently.

“I knew one day there might be an apology to me from a member of clergy, but I believed this would be meaningless,” he wrote. “ You should know that the sincerity I felt on Wednesday afternoon from yourself, Charlie Rogers, and Tim O’Malley surprised me and gave me great hope for the future. Thank you.”

The financial impact of this case, and others pending, on the archdiocese is unclear. Lachowitzer said that the church will be examining its options, including bankruptcy, for addressing the lawsuits.

“But we need to look at what is best for resolution and restitution,” he said.

Anderson said it was the first time in more than 30 years of filing lawsuits against the Catholic Church across the country that he has entered into a child protection agreement with the church.

He expects the new spirit of cooperation to extend to other lawsuits filed over the past year against the church.

A trial had been scheduled for Nov. 3 in the case was the first filed under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which allowed older child abuse cases to be heard in civil court. It gave victims three years to file suit for sexual abuse that occurred in the past.

In recent months the archdiocese has assembled a new team to address allegations of abuse. Michael Campion, former state commissioner of public safety, will join that team next week, O’Malley said.

Haselberger responds

Jennifer Haselberger, a former canon lawyer at the archdiocese who became a whistleblower on the church’s handling of clergy abuse, called the settlement “a tremendous victory for those concerned with the safety and well-being of children and vulnerable adults.”

But Haselberger had reservations about archdiocese follow-through.

“This isn’t the first time the church has promised to follow protocol on child protection,” said Haselberger, noting the archdiocese had not followed the protocols forged by U.S. bishops in 2002.

“This settlement is a heartbreaking acknowledgment of how far the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has strayed from its mission,” she said. “It should never take action from the civil courts to compel a Catholic diocese to act in the public good.”

Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona issued a statement saying the diocese was “committed to a series of child protection protocols which will further help to ensure the safety of all of God’s children.”

Those provisions were not the same as those agreed to by the archdiocese. The Winona Diocese was referring to its current child protection policies, which are reaffirmed under the agreement, said Quinn.

All had something to lose

Charles Reid, a professor of civil and canon law at the University of St. Thomas, said he was initially surprised at the settlement because the archdiocese attorneys and Anderson did not have a positive working relationship that would spur mediation.

On the other hand, a settlement makes sense, he said.

“This would be a high-profile trial, and everybody had something to lose,” said Reid. “The archdiocese could face a potentially larger settlement, more intrusive rules governing transparency, less public trust.”

Anderson, meanwhile, could have lost the case. Or his 17-point plan could have faced allegations that it infringed upon religious expression.

“He sidesteps all the risks,” said Reid, “and gets the results he wants.”

But the deal does not include a comprehensive financial settlement, said Reid, and the archdiocese has left open the option of declaring bankruptcy.

“That’s something to remain alert to,” Reid said.

Synod releases document with new tone, calling for mercy, listening

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
October 13, 2014

Taking a decidedly different tone than many church statements in recent years, the worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues has released a document calling for the church to listen more, to respect people in their various struggles, and to apply mercy much more widely.

Summarizing the work of the continuing meeting, known as a synod, the document acknowledges bluntly that the strict application of church doctrine is no longer enough to support people in their quest for God.

"It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations," states the document, released Monday morning.

"This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy," it continues.

The document, known as a relatio post disceptationem, is a summary of the discussions held at the synod so far, which is meeting from Oct. 5-19. It was read Monday morning to the some 190 prelates attending the synod by Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, who is serving as the synod's relator, or secretary.

Among the many changes in tone in the document are how it addresses Catholics who are divorced and remarried, how it addresses gay people, how it addresses contemporary culture -- and, more widely, how it asks for a church that is always open.

At one point, it quotes Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel"), stating: "The Church is called on to be 'the house of the Father, with doors always wide open ... where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems' and to move towards those who feel the need to take up again their path of faith."

The synod, one of two called by Francis on family issues for 2014 and 2015, has attracted wide expectation that it might change aspects of the church's family practices, particularly the prohibition against taking Communion for people who have been divorced and remarried without first obtaining an annulment of their first unions.

But beyond that expectation, Monday's document also appears to reflect a move among the prelates from legal exactness in adherence to church teaching to graduality, a theological notion that people can grow in their holiness or in their adherence to church teaching over time.

Devoting a whole subsection of the 12-page document to the subject, it states: "Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God."

"In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ's help through the ministry of the Church," the document continues later.

Answering that question, it turns to the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium, saying that document provides a "hermeneutic key" when it states that "many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of [the church's] visible structure."

"The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons," the document continues.

"Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries," it continues.

The document also calls for the church to have a conversion in the way it teaches about the family, referencing Jesus' parable in the Gospel of Matthew of a sower who drops his seed in both rocky and fertile ground.

"In the light of the parable of the sower, our task is to cooperate in the sowing: the rest is God's work," it states.

It also states that church must not be theoretical and must address real-world problems.

"What is required is a missionary conversion: it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people's real problems," states the document.

Addressing "wounded families" -- specifically, couples that are separated, divorced, or divorced and remarried -- the document says, "what rang out clearly in the Synod was the necessity for courageous pastoral choices."

"The Synodal Fathers ... felt the urgent need for new pastoral paths, that begin with the effective reality of familial fragilities, recognizing that they, more often than not, are more 'endured' than freely chosen," states the document.

The document then calls on the Catholic church around the world to continue the synod's discussion on finding those "new pastoral paths" before the beginning of the 2015 synod.

"The dialog and meeting that took place in the Synod will have to continue in the local Churches, involving their various components, in such a way that the perspectives that have been drawn up might find their full maturation in the work of the next Ordinary General Assembly," it states.

In particular, the document asks the church to listen to those "wounded families."

"Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples of the road to Emmaus," it states. "What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly."

Addressing specifically those who have divorced and remarried without obtaining annulments, the document states that their situation "demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against."

"For the Christian community looking after them is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring," it states.

Showing disagreement among the synod members about allowing such people to take communion, the document continues: "As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering."

"For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path -- under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop -- and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children," states the document.

"This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances," it continues.

Regarding changes to the church's annulment process, the document states that "various fathers underlined the necessity" to reform that process, which is used to determine whether a marriage was valid or not -- and, subsequently, if the parties could then be able to marry others inside the church.

Giving several options for how the process could be reformed, the document cites specifically that such reform "requires an increase in the responsibilities of the diocesan bishop, who in his diocese might charge a specially trained priest who would be able to offer the parties advice on the validity of their marriage."

The document also recognizes that marriages outside of the church and cohabitation are simply realities in many parts of the world that church cannot change.

"A new dimension of today's family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences," it states.

"Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage," it continues.

"Imitating Jesus' merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm," states the document.

Continuing on the theme, it states again: "All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel."

"They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy," it states.

The document also seems to frankly change the church's tone toward gay people: While it re-emphasizes church teaching against same-sex marriage, it also asks blunt questions of the wider church.

"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?" it asks.

"Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home," it continues. "Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?"

Yet the document clearly reaffirms church teaching banning same-sex marriage.

"The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman," it states. "Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology."

Indirectly addressing Catholics' use of contraception, widely banned in Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, the document states: "Being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love."

"What is required is a realistic language that is able to start from listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life as that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest," the document continues.

"It is on this base that we can rest an appropriate teaching regarding natural methods, which allow the living in a harmonious and aware way of the communication between spouses, in all its dimensions, along with generative responsibility," it states.

"In this light, we should go back to the message of the encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, which underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control," the document continues.

Restating the timeline of the two synods called by Francis for 2014 and 2015, the document concludes that it is meant to be used as a tool in preparing for the 2015 synod.

"The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015," it states.

"These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view," the document continues.

"All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God's people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all," it concludes. "This is the wish that from the beginning of our work Pope Francis has extended to us, inviting us to the courage of the faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity."

Monday's document was released after a week of meetings by the prelates, which saw speeches given by them on the subject in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

Approximately 190 prelates are at the synod and are able to vote in the discussions. Some 60 others, mainly non-prelates, have been selected in other roles and are able to contribute to discussions but not to vote.

Following the week of meetings, Monday's document was to be prepared by Erdo; Archishop Bruno Forte, the synod's special secretary; and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Vatican's office for the synod of bishops. But, in a sign that Francis perhaps took a personal role in the document, the pontiff late Friday assigned six other synod members to the document's drafting committee.

Through the rest of this week the synod members are to meet in small groups, divided by language, to discuss and edit Monday's document in view of creating a final document for the synod for submission to Francis.

That final document is expected to be released to the public and to be used as the blue-print of sorts for the 2015 synod.

Among the added bishops added to the drafting of Monday's document are several known to have close connection to the pontiff. The added bishops:

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture;
Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl;
Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina;
Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico, president of the Latin American bishops' conference;
South Korean Archbishop Peter Kang U-Il; and,
Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, superior general of the Jesuit order.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Austrian, German cardinals stress need for new look at teachings on marriage, family

Christa Pongratz-Lippett
National Catholic Reporter
October 10, 2014

Both Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich are campaigning for a new look at marriage and the family at the ongoing synod in Rome. They are both known to support Cardinal Walter Kasper's merciful The Gospel of the Family, in which Kasper outlines a possible way of allowing some divorced and remarried people to receive the sacraments. Small wonder, therefore, that they are both being interviewed at length during the synod.

When Jesuit Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, head of the German section of Vatican Radio and one of the few journalists allowed to attend synod sessions, asked Schönborn on Thursday to explain what exactly was meant by "graduality" -- an aspect of tradition that recognizes that moral decision-making develops over time and that has repeatedly been mentioned at the synod -- Schönborn said while it is clear that one cannot change divine daw, it is at the same time essential to point out that few people manage to keep it 100 percent of the time.

"The Ten Commandments are not at our disposal, we cannot change them. But what we actually experience in our own lives is that we only keep them partially and not 100 percent," he said. "If one applies this to marriage and the family, then of course the full realization is sacramental church marriage, which is indissoluble and open for children. But we also know that many people only reach this full realisation of marriage gradually."

On the Austrian bishops' ad limina visit in January, Schönborn said, Pope Francis had asked the bishops whether, like in Argentina, many young couples first cohabited in Austria.

"The pope didn't say that cohabitation was OK," Schönborn said. "He merely said that that was the situation in Argentina. And he went on to say that when a child was on the way, the couple often began think, 'Perhaps we should marry after all, possibly in a registry office.' And some couples then went a step further and said, 'We want a church marriage.' We must accompany these couples, step by step, in this gradualness so that they can discover what the full form of the sacrament [of marriage] is, the pope told us."

Does that mean that there are positive elements in nonsacramental marriages or relationships? Hagenkord asked.

"I can look at an imperfect situation from two sides, and both sides are justified. I can look at what is missing, and I can see what is already there," Schönborn replied. When couples live together in a stable, faithful relationship, one could say that is not a sacramental marriage, that there is something missing, but one could also say that it is a beginning, that there is already something there, Schönborn said. Pope Francis had encouraged the Austrian bishops to look at what was already there and to accompany it "towards something more complete and more perfect."

He also said it is important to consider a couple's personal circumstances. In Austria, for instance, unmarried couples are better off tax-wise than married couples, as single mothers receive extra support from the state. Getting married, therefore, means sacrificing the extra money, Schönborn said. Previously in Austria and still in many countries even today, very poor people cannot get married for financial reasons, he said, then recalled the case of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, whose mother had been a maidservant.

"Franz was born illegitimately [in Upper Austria in 1907]," Schönborn said. "His parents hadn't enough money to get married. Later, when he was a little older, his mother was exceedingly lucky that a farmer was prepared to marry her and adopt young Franz."

The main thing is to accompany such relationships nonjudgmentally and with understanding and encouragement, Schönborn said.

Schönborn said Thursday on Austrian television that he is sure the church under Pope Francis, who speaks so often about mercy and forgiveness, will find a new way of dealing with failure. Schönborn said it is clear that the church must reach out to those whose marriages have failed: No one must feel that their membership of the Catholic church ended because they failed, he underlined.

Marx, meanwhile, has emphasized that the church's teaching is not a "static construct." It is essential to develop it further, he told the online German publication on Tuesday. While the synod does not aim to change church teaching, "we cannot say we won't touch teaching and only consider pastoral matters," he said. "The church must rework Christian teaching on the family together with today's Christians and have a new look at the magisterium."

Marx, who is also a member of Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals, said he hopes the entire church will engage in a broad discussion on marriage and the family, but he cautioned against glorifying what some people see as the good old days.

"That undertone that there used to be such a thing as an ideal marriage and an ideal family in times gone by should be avoided," he said.

The church must also take a differentiated view of homosexuality, Marx said.

"One simply cannot say that a faithful homosexual relationship that has held for decades is nothing," he said, as that is too "forceful" a standpoint.

"We just mustn't lump things together and measure everything with the same yardstick, but must differentiate and take a closer look, which doesn't mean that I endorse homosexuality as a whole," he added.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nov. 18 appeal hearing for Msgr. Lynn

Philadelphia Inquirer
October 9, 2014

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday set Nov. 18 to hear oral argument on the Philadelphia District Attorney’s petition to reinstate the child endangerment conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic Church official charged in the clergy child sex-abuse scandal.

The high court will hear the appeal in Harrisburg in the court’s main courtroom in the Capitol.

At issue before the state’s highest court is the contested key legal theory underpinning the landmark 2012 prosecution of Lynn, 63, who as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s former secretary for clergy was the official responsible for investigating and recommending punishment for priests accused of sexual and other misconduct.

In July 2012, after a 13-week trial and 12 days of deliberations, a Common Pleas Court judge sentenced Lynn to three to six years in prison. He immediately went into custody.

The jury found that Lynn allowed the Rev. Edward V. Avery, who had a history of sexually abusing children, to live in a Northeast rectory where he later assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy. Avery pleaded guilty in the 1999 attack and is serving up to five years in state prison.

But last Dec. 26, a three-judge Superior Court panel reversed Lynn’s conviction. Lynn was released from prison Jan. 2 after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia posted the required 10 percent of his $250,000 bail. He lives in the rectory of St. William, a parish in Lawncrest, on electronically monitored house arrest.

The Superior Court panel agreed with Lynn’s attorneys that his conviction could not be affirmed under the original child-endangerment law or the amended version enacted in 2007. Lynn’s lawyers argued that the pre-2007 version required direct personal supervision of a child while Lynn was just a “supervisor of a supervisor.”

But the post-2007 law, which enabled prosecution of church officials for crimes committed by priests they supervised, cannot be retroactively applied to Lynn, who left the clergy secretary post in 2004 after 12 years.

The District Attorney’s Office has argued that the Superior Court wrongly interpreted the original child-endangerment statute to mean “direct supervision.”

Synod is split on issue of divorce

Iacopo Scaramuzzi
Vatican Insider
October 9, 2014

The Extraordinary Synod on the Family is tackling the issue of remarried divorcees head on. The Synod Fathers have been dealing with the issue – which had emerged occasionally in previous discussions – since yesterday afternoon as they work their way through the Instrumentum Laboris, the Synod’s working document. “Participation peaked” during this very “passionate” debate, with the Synod split down the middle, between those in favour of allowing remarried divorcees to take communion in certain cases and others against. Both sides, however, are faithful to Jesus’ teaching on mercy and support the indissolubility of marriage. It is not yet time to take official counts, we don’t count who is “for” and who “against” at the Synod, Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi said.

Two main lines of argument emerged during the daily press briefing. One “insists on what the Gospel says about marriage: if a first marriage is valid, a remarried divorcee cannot be admitted to the sacraments, as there needs to be coherence between doctrine and faithfulness to the word of the Lord. The other line of reasoning recalls that “Jesus sees human experiences with a merciful eye” and “takes into account” the “differences” in each “specific case”, which would make access to the Eucharist possible in some cases. Nevertheless, “even those who are most concerned about the preservation of the doctrine, are far from shut off to the suffering of people facing difficult situations.” Likewise, those who are open to allowing access to communion “do not in any way deny the indissolubility of marriage.”

This open attitude is reflected in the summaries of the debates that took place yesterday afternoon and this morning. The Holy See published these today, as usual without specifying which Synod Father presented which issue. During yesterday’s debate “a strong emphasis was placed on the importance of respecting remarried divorcees because they often find themselves in uncomfortable situations and subjected to social injustice; they suffer in silence and in many cases, attempt to gradually go back to becoming full participants in Church life. So pastoral care must not be repressive but full of mercy.” During yesterday evening’s open debate, the Synod’s participants said “it is important to carefully avoid making any moral judgment and speaking of a ‘permanent state of sin’.” Instead, an effort should be made to understand that not being admitted to the sacrament of the Eucharist does not completely rule out the possibility of Christ’s grace but is rather linked to the objective reality of a previous indissoluble sacramental bond. Hence, emphasis has often been given to the importance of spiritual communion. However, it should also be underlined that these proposals are not problem-free. There is no ‘easy’ solution to this issue.” Today “the reflections on the issue of access to the Eucharist for remarried divorcees continued.” The Synod’s participants stressed once again that marriage is indissoluble, stating that “each case needs to be considered individually.” They also reminded remarried divorcees that “just because they do not have access to the Eucharist does not in any way mean that they are not members of the Church community.”

Fr. Lombardi said it is not possible at the moment to speak of a majority or minority vote, “we don’t count who is “for” and “against” during the Synod” and “taking counts based on participants’ speeches is absolutely out of the question” because the Church is on a knowledge-sharing journey and “everyone is listening with interest and respect.” The debates that have taken place between yesterday and today have been “great, very intense and passionate.” Synod Fathers have not only been addressing the presidents but also the Synod Fathers directly, said Fr. Rosica, the English-language spokesman for the Synod.

During the news briefing, the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, explained that there are three possibilities being discussed by the commission Francis set up in August – and headed by Mgr. Pio Vito Pinto – “with the purpose of simplifying and speeding up marriage annulment procedures”. These are: to eliminate the current requirement for two judiciaries to approve the annulment, the need for a “collegial judge” and finally, the “administrative procedure”, in other words the annulment approved directly by a local bishop in cases where a marriage is definitely null, the bishop knows the two individuals concerned, personally, and knows them to be trustworthy. But this does not mean the Catholic Church plans on introducing divorce as an option. During the discussions, there was an emphasis on the importance of “respecting and not discriminating against gay people”. Cardinal Coccopalmerio stressed that the Church does not accept same-sex marriage or the blessing of such unions, but it respects them. Regarding remarried divorcees, Coccopalmerio said “we must adopt the Pope’s line of thinking: to protect the doctrine but to look at each person’s situation, their needs and suffering individually” and “offer solutions to real people who are faced with serious situations that require an urgent response.”

Cardinal André Vingt-Trois opened this morning’s session by reiterating the Catholic Church’s doctrine on contraception in a secularized world. Among the many themes addressed during today’s discussions, were: paternal responsibility, “the seriousness of a crime like abortion”, violence in the family, polygamy, improved preparation for marriage, pastoral care for children and the significant way in which the family has evolved since the last Synod held in 1980, on the theme “The Christian Family”.