Friday, November 28, 2014

New book reveals 'strong gay scene' in Irish Catholic church

Sarah MacDonald
Irish Independent
November 28, 2014

Ground-breaking new research into the sexual lives of Irish Catholic priests has revealed many of them are or have been sexually active, that the bishops are aware of the situation, and that there is a gay scene within the church.

'Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity' publishes new analysis of priests' views from a series of interviews conducted by Dr John Weafer, a former seminarian who is now married with children.

The book, which has just been published by Columba Books, reveals that one parish priest interviewed confidentially by Weafer is in a long term gay relationship.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, the author said 'Fr C' was "very happy with his life as a priest and a person".

Another priest interviewed, 'Fr L' was ordained in the 1990s. It was only when he was ordained that he finally ended up 'sleeping' with another priest.

"Although we both vowed it would never happen again, it did and I was really very confused," he said.

When he ended up in bed "fumbling around" with another priest, he decided to try the gay scene.

Fr L then "discovered a strong clerical gay scene in Ireland", although it was not easy to access because of the clerics' need for secrecy.

He believes that there are "quite a lot of gay guys in the priesthood" and on one occasion when he went into a gay bar in Dublin, he recognised at least nine priests in the bar.

Dr Weafer said he did not think that the Irish hierarchy would be shocked by the revelations in the book as the interviews showed that the "hierarchy are aware" of what is going on.

"As long as priests don't go public and don't flaunt those actions that don't correspond with being a celibate priest" they turn a blind eye, he claimed.

This will shock many as the official church's attitude on homosexuality deems it as intrinsically disordered.

According to Dr Weafer: "If a priest was to say in the morning 'I am gay', he would be fired. Priests have learned to keep their heads down".

The researcher, who was the first lay director of the Irish Bishops' Council for Research and Development in Maynooth, said that while most of the priests he interviewed lived celibate lives, and some are enthusiastic about their priesthood, others have become disillusioned.

The new research shows that the majority of Irish priests are unhappy with mandatory celibacy.

Those most enthusiastic about the retention of celibacy are younger, more conservative priests, the research shows.

Many of the priests were highly critical of the fact that sexuality was a taboo when they were training to be priests in the seminary.

The majority of 33 priests interviewed by Dr Weafer for the book were heterosexual.

One former priest had married and joined the Church of Ireland while Fr L has since decided to leave the priesthood, as he found the double standards too much. Another gay priest Fr G had opted to remain in the priesthood and was not sexually active.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

opinion: Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis finances

Steve Sack
Star Tribune
November 23, 2014

Is Benedict XVI the real pope? 4 factors fuel Vatican conspiracy theories

David Gibson
Religion News Service
November 26, 2014

When Benedict XVI stunned Catholics by announcing that he would become the first pope in six centuries to resign, it immediately raised concerns — which were dismissed just as quickly — that an ex-pope around could undermine the legitimacy of the new pontiff.

Now, nearly two years later, those fears are emerging again, fueled by the growing discontent of conservative Catholics with Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, and by Benedict’s presence, if not quite as a player, in church debates Francis has sparked.

"Benedict is hanging back for now, but there’s no doubt that he could easily become a figurehead for traditionalists hearkening back to the good old days," Notre Dame New Testament professor Candida Moss and Joel Baden, Old Testament professor at Yale Divinity School, warned in a Daily Beast column earlier this month.

Hubert Wolf, a church historian at the University of Münster, echoed those thoughts in comments reported by a leading German newspaper last week, when he said there were worries that "around Francis and Benedict XVI, two competing power centers could come into being in the [Roman] Curia, with pope and anti-pope at the top of each."

What’s fueling these fears? They seem outlandish, almost medieval. But there are at least four factors at work:

1. "There is another pope still living."

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a Catholic who has become something of a spokesman for conservatives, made that point in a widely circulated column warning that Francis could provoke a schism on the right.

His statement seems both obvious and perilous: If there’s "another pope," that means there is a potential rival to the throne.

But the "two living popes" meme isn’t actually true, even though it keeps getting repeated.

"There is only one pope and his name is Francis, whether people like him and the direction he is steering Roman Catholicism or not," Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University, wrote in a column for Reuters.

"There is not more than one president or prime minister because predecessors are still alive," Bellitto wrote. "A person holds the office of president, prime minister or pope. When that person no longer holds that office, then that person is no longer president, prime minister or pope."

2. Conspiracy theories won’t die.

Good luck telling that to some Catholics and conspiracy-lovers, who have propounded a number of theories they say undermine Francis’ claims to the papacy.

Among them: Benedict used incorrect Latin in his formal resignation letter, so it is invalid; alternately, they say, the cardinals in the March 2013 conclave that elected Francis violated certain procedures, so his election is null and void.

The speculation was so insistent that on the first anniversary of his resignation last February, an exasperated Benedict publicly called notions that he was still pope "simply absurd."

3. If he walks like a pope …

Despite his protests, Benedict hasn’t exactly helped by keeping his papal name, continuing to wear the distinctive white papal cassock and taking the title — which he created for himself — of "pope emeritus." Some church experts say he could have instead gone back to a black cassock and his baptismal name, Joseph Ratzinger, and used the title "bishop emeritus of Rome" or simply Cardinal Ratzinger.

"Juridically there is only one pope. A ‘pope emeritus’ cannot exist," Manuel Jesus Arroba, a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University, warned in the days after Benedict announced the innovation.

Catholic sexual abuse case is Spain's biggest of its kind, has Pope's attentionn

Al Goodman
November 26, 2014

In a case that Pope Francis says he's taken an interest in after speaking to one of the alleged victims, a Spanish judge on Wednesday filed preliminary charges of sexual abuse against three Catholic priests and a religious teacher.

Investigating magistrate Antonio Moreno, in the southern city of Granada, ordered the suspected ringleader, a priest, to post a $12,500 bond in order to leave jail, according to a court statement and spokeswoman. The suspect posted the bond, and Moreno released the others from custody without bond, the statement said.

The four must report regularly to authorities and can't have any contact or communication with two alleged male victims, the court statement said.

The judge's decision came two days after the four were arrested, and just a day after Pope Francis told reporters that he called an alleged victim in August and urged him to come forward to authorities in Spain.

"The truth is the truth, and we must not hide it," Pope Francis said aboard the papal plane, CNN Vatican contributor John Allen reported in a story for the Boston Globe.

The Pope confirmed that he received a letter from a young man describing his plight.

"I received it and I read it," Pope Francis said of the letter. "I called the person and said, 'Tomorrow go to your bishop.' I wrote to the bishop so he could start his work, do the investigation and go ahead," the Pope said, Allen reported for the Globe.

Spanish media have credited the young man's letter to the Vatican -- alleging the abuse when he was a teenaged altar boy -- and then the surprise phone call from the Pope as big steps toward preventing the events from remaining a dark secret.

Attorney Javier Muriel, representing all four defendants, told CNN that they deny the charges, while acknowledging they know the man who brought the complaint.

The court investigation is under seal, and since it began, a second man has come forward to allege similar abuses.

The Andalusia regional government's education department in Granada is moving to terminate the contract for the high school religion teacher who's facing the preliminary charges. He's been teaching for seven years, up until Friday, but authorities do not want him back in the classroom, a department spokeswoman told CNN.

On Sunday, the Archbishop of Granada and other clerics took the unusual step of prostrating themselves in the cathedral during Mass, "asking forgiveness for the sins of Church, for all of the scandals that have, or might have, occurred among us," the Granada Archdiocese website reported.

The archbishop usually does that once a year, on Good Friday, but he lay on the floor of the cathedral Sunday because of the seriousness of the allegations, a Granada Archdiocese spokeswoman said. The archbishop earlier had removed an unspecified number of priests from their duties pending an investigation, she said.

The arrests of three priests in a single day over sexual abuse allegations is the biggest case of its kind in Spain, said a spokesman in Madrid for the Spanish church leadership, known as the Episcopal Conference.

Since 1997, 10 priests have been convicted of sexual abuse, in individual cases, most recently in 2010, the spokesman said. The Pope has called for "zero tolerance" of sexual abuse by clerics and has said Catholic bishops "will be held accountable" for failing to protect children from such abuse.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hearing Cardinal Burke: Let him speak and let the debate go on

November 18, 2014

Schadenfreude can be a grave temptation and, if not resisted, a serious sin. There are some, both inside and outside the church, who have taken a certain glee in the fate of Cardinal Raymond Burke. Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis, first made a name for himself as one of the American hierarchy’s most outspoken conservatives and energetic culture warriors. He came to national attention for warning that he would refuse to give Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. A canon lawyer, Burke argued that denying Communion to prochoice Catholic public officials was a cut-and-dried issue. He understands most things to be cut and dried. That is not, however, how Pope Francis sees things, and the pope has taken steps to sideline the cardinal. Last year Burke was removed from the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops , and just last month he was relieved of his duties as head of the church’s high court. Instead, Burke has been given the ceremonial title of patron for the Knights of Malta .

Burke has not taken his removal from the centers of influence in Rome quietly. He has been perhaps the most outspoken critic of the recent Synod on the Family, repeatedly charging that the synod’s discussion of homosexuality, cohabitation, and the readmission of some divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion has sown dangerous “confusion” among the faithful. The church under Pope Francis, the cardinal warns, “is like a ship without a rudder.” Burke insists that what the church has taught about homosexuality and marriage is unchanging and unchangeable. Look it up in the Catechism, he urges.

Popes are free to staff the Vatican with whomever they think best suited to steward the church and implement whatever program of retrenchment, stasis, or reform is needed. Burke’s vision for the church calls for a defensive and rejectionist posture toward the modern world. Francis clearly thinks that strategy will result in a further eclipse of the gospel and marginalization of Catholicism. The pope’s aim is to steer the church away from the culture wars and toward a joyful engagement with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. “Joyful” is not the first word that comes to mind when listening to Cardinal Burke. Many find Francis’s openness a promising departure from the last two pontificates, while a vocal, entrenched minority, identifying themselves as the “orthodox,” see papal initiatives like the Synod on the Family as a kind of betrayal. Some, including Burke , speak darkly about the possibility of schism .

We come to praise Cardinal Burke, not to vilify him. As Burke’s apologists like to point out, Pope Francis asked the bishops to speak frankly , and that is what Burke has done. Good for him. Much of what the cardinal says is unpersuasive and unappealing, but he is not wrong to insist that doctrinal continuity and coherence are essential to the integrity of the church’s witness. Nor is he wrong to remind us that knowing we will be held to high moral standards helps us live good lives.

Yet Burke sets the wrong course for the church by insisting that the questions taken up in the synod were settled centuries ago and need never be revisited. His fear of foisting “confusion” on the faithful is misplaced, especially his claim that no good can come from what the church has traditionally taught are disordered and gravely sinful acts and relationships. That gets the contemporary moral dilemma backwards. Given what the church teaches, what is perplexing for the faithful is the goodness evident in the lives of many divorced and remarried Catholics. Much virtue is also apparent in the loving relationships of same-sex couples, especially in their devotion to their children. Goodness, after all, is properly understood as a grace and a mystery. What is confounding is finding it in places where the church—or at least Cardinal Burke—claims it cannot exist.

Burke will now have more free time to challenge those who think it imperative that the church reconsider the status of the divorced and remarried as well as the nature of homosexuality. And he should. These are not questions that demand a rush to judgment. But if the cardinal wants to be credible, he should refrain from pretending that all church doctrine was cast in stone two millennia ago. The moral questions Catholics face today are as real and as difficult as those faced by the apostles; pat answers did not work then, and will not work now. “We shall find ourselves unable to fix an historical point at which the growth of doctrine ceased, and the rule of faith was once and for all settled,” Cardinal Newman wrote. Bishops should deepen, not simplify, our understanding as well as our faith. Change need not be betrayal. Let the cardinal be heard, and then let the debate continue.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron bans gay support group from Detroit parish

Deadline Detroit
November 21, 2014

The Archdiocese of Detroit bars a support group for Catholic families with gay members from using a Detroit parish for a Saturday meeting because the scheduled speaker represents a pro-gay rights ministry censured by the Vatican, Patricia Montemurri reports in the Free Press.

The ban comes a month after Catholic bishops publicly feuded at a Vatican meeting over Pope Francis' more welcoming words and outreach to gay Catholics and their families.

"I feel bad for the message that it sends to Catholics that there can't be discussion of an issue of great importance to them and their families — how to stay in better communication with their church and their gay and lesbian children," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), but which is not sanctioned by the Catholic church.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron has quashed DeBernardo's scheduled appearance Saturday at Christ the King parish in northwest Detroit to the Fortunate Families support group. Instead, Fortunate Families organizers have moved the meeting to a Farmington Hills condo clubhouse.

The Rev. Victor Clore, pastor of Christ the King parish, sides more with Pope Francis than his boss downtown. "It's treating people as if they were children," he tells the Free Press.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley repeats: Church needs to discipline bishops over sex abuse

David Gibson
Religion News Service
November 20, 2014

Following up on remarks to “60 Minutes” about the clergy sex abuse crisis and other controversial topics, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has stressed that the Catholic Church needs a system to hold bishops accountable and must “avoid crowd-based condemnations.”

“We are all aware that Catholics want their leaders to be held accountable for the safety of children, but the accountability has been sporadic,” O’Malley wrote in a column posted Wednesday night (Nov. 19) at the website of the archdiocesan newspaper. “We need clear protocols that will replace the improvisation and inertia that has often been the response in these matters.”

“Bishops also deserve due process that allows them to have an opportunity for a fair hearing,” he added.

O’Malley’s column was responding to both praise and criticism of his CBS interview broadcast Sunday (Nov. 16) in which he said the Vatican needs to respond “urgently” to cases like that of Missouri Bishop Robert Finn, who remains in office despite a conviction in 2012 for failure to report concerns about a priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who was later convicted of federal child pornography charges.

The cardinal said Francis, who recently sent a Canadian archbishop to Finn’s diocese to investigate, was personally aware of the situation.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, O’Malley also called the Vatican’s investigation of American nuns a “disaster” and said if he were starting a church “I’d love to have women priests,” but he added that’s not what Jesus did. Both comments sparked strong reactions.

In his column, O’Malley — in his characteristically wry tone — praised the “60 Minutes” team that spent months on the piece and said he knew “the questions would not be about the weather and the Red Sox.” He also acknowledged that he was speaking frankly about “provocative issues that are seldom addressed by members of the hierarchy.”

He said he wanted to expand on his comments, especially his remarks about holding bishops accountable for shielding priests and other misdeeds — an issue that goes to the heart of the institutional church’s credibility crisis.

The cardinal was sent to Boston in 2002 to help clean up the abuse scandal that rocked a bastion of U.S. Catholicism and quickly spread to the rest of the American church. Pope Francis has since tapped O’Malley — considered his closest adviser in the U.S. church — to head a Vatican commission to address the abuse crisis.

“After all that American Catholics have been through in the past decade, survivors and the community at large understandably are demanding transparency and accountability,” O’Malley wrote. “As a Church, the safety of children must be our priority. At the same time, we need to provide justice for all and avoid crowd-based condemnations.”

While Francis has fired bishops for various reasons, and in one case defrocked and tried a Vatican diplomat who abused children, the pontiff reportedly wants to develop a system for judging and disciplining bishops, something that has always been left to the personal discretion of the pope.

The goal is to make hierarchical accountability more transparent and common, and also to counteract any tendency by church authorities to defensively circle the wagons when one of their number is criticized.

Referring to the Vatican’s long-running investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents most of the 50,000 Catholic nuns in the U.S., O’Malley reiterated his criticism of the way the probe was conducted and the way it has “alienated” many sisters and caused a public relations headache for the American bishops.

“Hopefully when the final report of the visitations is presented, it will be a more positive experience that will contribute to healing in our Church and be helpful for the cause of religious life,” O’Malley wrote.

The cardinal also recognized that the church’s ban against ordaining women to the priesthood is “particularly painful to many Catholic women.” He noted that St. Therese of Lisieux wanted to be a priest and that Catholic women “are often holier, smarter and more hard-working than men.”

But he said the church “is called to be faithful to Christ’s will, and that is not always easy or popular.”

Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis weighs bankruptcy

Jean Hopfensperger and Tony Kennedy
Star Tribune
November 20, 2014

Citing growing financial trouble linked to clergy sex abuse cases, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Thursday raised the prospect that it will seek bankruptcy protection.

In its annual report in the Catholic Spirit online newspaper, archdiocese officials said the unfolding settlements of clergy sex abuse cases are a key factor.

The report says litigation claims are expected to grow beyond the $5.3 million the chancery has reserved for them.

“Due to the above there is substantial doubt regarding the Chancery Corporation’s being able to continue as a going concern,” the report says.

“We have settled only two of the legal cases involving clerical sexual abuse of minors,” Archbishop John Nienstedt wrote in his column. “There are 20 more trials that are scheduled. There is still another year and a half for the window created in May 2013, lifting the Statutes of Limitations. We have no idea how many more legal claims may be made against us.”

Archdiocese CFO Thomas Mertens said that the archdiocese would not use reorganization “as a tool to avoid compensating victims/survivors. It would be a way to respond to all victims/survivors by allowing the available funds to be equitably distributed to all who have made claims, not just those who have the earliest trial dates or settlements.’

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm represents many of the plaintiffs in the clergy sex abuse cases, declined to say whether he believes the archdiocese is sincere in saying that it would not be an attempt to evade abuse payouts. Anderson said that his first priority is to continue poring through church documents for evidence of abuse, and sharing that information with police and the public.

“Actions speak louder than words, so I’ll make judgments on their actions and not about their words, and that remains to be seen,” Anderson said Thursday at a news conference in which he announced a clergy sex abuse lawsuit against the Crosier order.

Last week the archdiocese announced plans to cut 20 percent of the chancery’s operating budget, or more than $5 million, in response to growing financial pressures resulting from clergy sex abuse lawsuits and other spending. Staff layoffs in the central office as well as a reduction in some parish support services are expected in the move, which may be followed by the sale of some church assets.

$4.2 million on investigations

The annual report says the archdiocese had a deficit of $9.1 million in the year ending June 30, 2014. Total church assets were down 17.5 percent to $48.9 million. The biggest decline was in cash contributions, which fell 59 percent to $3.9 million (from $9.5 million).

But much of that decline comes from the decision to establish the Catholic Services Appeal — one of the Archdiocese’s biggest annual fundraising campaigns — as a separate foundation.

According to the report, the archdiocese spent $4.2 million on sex abuse investigations in the past fiscal year. Costs included: “outside professions provided expertise in the areas of legal, investigative, communications, insurance and financial matters. The majority of these expenses were related to review of priest files, investigation of insurance coverage and analysis of financial options.”

If it seeks bankruptcy, the archdiocese will join Milwaukee and others that have faced mounting costs to settle sex abuse claims.

The Milwaukee bankruptcy

The Rev. James Connell, a retired Catholic priest and canon lawyer in Milwaukee, said there’s still no end in sight to the bankruptcy proceedings in the Milwaukee archdiocese that began in July 2011, after Anderson filed suit on behalf of clergy abuse plaintiffs.

He said many former victims of clergy sexual abuse went into the process believing the archdiocese would take care of them. But as time went on, they experienced rejection. In February 2014, the archdiocese took a stance in bankruptcy court that none of the 575 claims made by sexual abuse victims had judicial merit, Connell said.

“Don’t assume that it is all clear-cut and simple,” the priest said. “Seek out the truth about the process.”

Connell, who has worked as an advocate for survivors of clergy sex abuse, said he believes that many ordinary parishioners in the Milwaukee area are exasperated by the bankruptcy case. As part of the proceedings, the archdiocese had to post legal notices in the entrances of all its churches, schools and offices, announcing the deadline for claims.

“Many people in the pews believe this isn’t healing anything,” Connell said.

Bankruptcy Law Professor Ralph Anzivino of Catholic-owned Marquette University in Milwaukee, said a big bone of contention could evolve over the assets of individual parishes and whether they should be available to fund claims made against the archdiocese.

“That could be a big-deal issue,” Anzivino said. “That has to be solved.”

Another early issue that could arise is whether the church can protect cash reserves by transferring them off the central books, the professor said. In Milwaukee, church leaders diverted millions into a cemetery fund that was ruled off limits to claims.

“You’ll want to watch for pools of money being set aside,” Anzivino said.

He also said Twin Cities church leaders will pay close attention to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals regarding an unresolved religious liberty issue raised by the archdiocese in Milwaukee. In that litigation, Anzivino said, the Catholic church is arguing that the government shouldn’t impose any restrictions on how it pays bankruptcy claims.

He said the overall bankruptcy case in Milwaukee has been hard fought by attorney Anderson. “It’s been hand-to-hand combat all the way through,” Anzivino said.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cupich, at installation Mass, honors John Quinn

Thomas C. Fox
National Catholic Reporter
November 18, 2014

At his concelebrated installation Mass on Tuesday, Blase Cupich, the new Chicago archbishop, continued to make Francis-like symbolic acts, choosing to give special prominence to the progressive-minded former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, who stood behind the altar next to Cupich during part of the service.

Last month, in another symbolic gesture that sent its own signals, Cupich told priests he had decided not to live in a $14 million stately mansion that has been home to Chicago archbishops for decades. Cardinal Francis George lives there with four other priests. Cupich instead said he will live in an apartment building next to the cathedral.

Cupich's concelebration choice is noteworthy. Quinn is viewed as both a pastor and a scholar and, it appears, Cupich paid public respect to a mentor while perhaps saying something about the kind of bishop he would like to be.

The former San Francisco bishop was appointed head of Golden Gate City see in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. He was a widely respected bishop in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Influenced by the Second Vatican Council, he became president of the United States Catholic Conference and National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1977 to 1980.

After the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in March 1980, he issued a statement lauding the murdered prelate as "a voice for the poor and the oppressed." He later attended Romero's funeral in San Salvador, El Salvador.

However, Quinn slowly lost influence in the 1980s as a more conservative generation of episcopal appointments under Pope John Paul II gained ascendancy in the U.S. hierarchy.

In 1999, Quinn wrote a book, The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity. That book was Quinn's response to Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, a meditation on ecumenism and the role of the office of the pope as sign of church unity.

Quinn said he took up John Paul's offer, contained in the encyclical, to further discussion. Quinn examined the centralization of the office of the pope that has occurred over the centuries. He made the point in his book that decentralization of Vatican authority is a prerequisite for any serious consideration of union between the Roman Catholic church and other Christian church bodies.

Recently, Quinn told a gathering of priests in St. Louis that he met the then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio days before he was elected Pope Francis. At their meeting in the Vatican, Bergoglio told Quinn that he had read his book "and am hoping it will be implemented."

With Cupich, Francis' first major U.S. appointment, being a Quinn promoter, the former San Francisco archbishop might have newly gained access into Francis’ still forming papal court. Francis, the Jesuit, clearly values thoughtful input. Quinn's writings are widely respected, viewed as thoughtful and scholarly.

Francis, it appears, is looking for fresh ideas and idea men who think outside the box. For example, Orlando Quevedo was among the first 19 cardinals Francis appointed in February. Quevedo is from the Philippines and has had his hands on nearly every pastoral document that came out of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, a progressive voice in the church, in the 1990s and 2000s. Those documents stressed the importance of local church as primary. They called for what the FABC termed "the triple dialogue": with the poor, other religions and other cultures.

Quinn, the FABC in general and Quevedo in particular have argued that for Catholicism to evangelize successfully in the 21st century, it must decentralize and place a greater emphasis on local church and local cultures. The colonial model, they have argued, is if not dead, certainly ineffective.

Whatever the outcome, it was a sensitive move on Cupich's part to invite the seemingly exiled 85-year-old Quinn to center stage for another, if not last, hurrah.

Pope intervenes in Granada abuse case after alleged victim sends letter

Valme Cortes
El Pais (Spain)
November 17, 2014

The Archbishop of Granada has removed 10 priests from their duties after they were accused of sexually abusing a young man when he was a minor.

The case was reported directly to the Vatican by the alleged victim, prompting a personal response from Pope Francis, and is now being investigated by a Granada court.

According to website Religión Digital, the young man had spent years “trying to bury the horror of all of that [abuse] in the depths of his memory.” But motivated by “the possible damage” that “other boys and girls could be suffering,” he wrote a five-page letter to the pope.

Then, on August 10, “Daniel” (not his real name) received a phone call from an unknown number while he was driving. “Who is this?” asked the man, now in his 20s. “Good afternoon son, this is Father Jorge,” the voice on the phone said, according to a number of sources with whom Religión Digital spoke. “Sorry, you must have made a mistake, I don’t know Father Jorge.” “Well, it’s Pope Francis,” said the voice on the phone.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the man was left dumbstruck by the call. “Are you still there?” the pope asked. “Son, calm yourself, I have read your letter a number of times. I couldn’t be more upset about it and feel huge pain on reading your story. I want to ask forgiveness in the name of all of the Church of Christ. Forgive this terrible sin and terrible crime that you have suffered.”

The pope then told Daniel that “there are already people working to resolve all of this.”

I want to ask forgiveness in the name of all of the Church of Christ. Forgive this terrible sin and terrible crime that you have suffered”

The archbishop of Granada has since published a statement defending his actions over the allegations of sexual abuse committed by a group of priests in his diocese, saying he had followed the procedure outlined by “canonic discipline.”

He explained that after learning of the facts he carried out a preliminary investigation to verify if “the accusation had any credibility” and imposed the precautionary measure of removing the accused priests from their ministerial duties. Two lay persons are also implicated in the case.

The collected information was sent to the Holy See and once the young man’s legal complaint was formulated, the archbishop “put himself at the disposition of the courts to collaborate in whatever way is necessary.”

The diocese says it has followed the principles of “Church discipline,” which in this case are “zero tolerance of abuse and those who commit it, helping the alleged victims and, once the facts are checked, the victims, if there are any, and cooperating with the authorities.”

The statement details that the archbishop “is aware that the vast majority of priests carry out their ministerial duties in exemplary fashion.” Nevertheless, it continues, “it wounds and pains the whole body of the Church immensely that scandals of this nature, whose certainty and reach will ultimately have to be determined by the courts, can occur.” A gag order has been placed on the case summary.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cardinal Burke urges pope not to discuss cohabitation or communion for civilly remarried at next synod

Sarah McDonald
The Tablet
November 18, 2014

Next year’s follow-up Synod on the Family must take issues such as extra-marital cohabitation and Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics off the agenda, US Cardinal Raymond Burke said.

Burke, who has criticised Pope Francis’ handling of last month’s Synod on the Family, told 300 people at a conference in Limerick last Saturday that those issues had been a distraction at the meetings.

“Even within the Church there are those who would obscure the truth of the indissolubility of marriage in the name of mercy,” he said, and added: “We are engaged in a very great struggle and it strikes at the very heart of the Church.”

Burke, the former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, whom Pope Francis has recently moved to become Patron of the Order of Malta, criticised the confusion and error which he said became evident to the world during the synod. “The assembly, dedicated to the discussion of the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation, found itself addressing in a confused way erroneous practices which contradict the Church’s constant teachings and practice regarding holy matrimony,” he said.

Cardinal O'Malley's warning shot about Bishop Finn is just the start

David Gibson
Religion News Service
November 17, 2014

(RNS) When Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley told “60 Minutes” that Pope Francis was well aware of the need to hold Missouri Bishop Robert Finn accountable for shielding a suspected child abuser, it sounded like another bell tolling on Finn’s tenure, perhaps the loudest gong yet since Finn was convicted in 2012.

“It’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently,” O’Malley said Sunday (Nov. 16) when asked about Finn, who was found guilty of a misdemeanor for failing to tell police about the Rev. Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan was later convicted of federal child pornography charges.

“There’s a recognition of that,” O’Malley said. Asked if that recognition came directly from Pope Francis, the cardinal said yes: “From Pope Francis.”

O’Malley is known as Francis’ closest confidant among the U.S. bishops and he is part of the pope’s blue-ribbon commission on combating sex abuse by clergy.

But even more important may have been O’Malley’s remarks about the Vatican creating a system for disciplining bishops — establishing a process of accountability that could be used for churchmen beyond low-hanging clerical fruit like Finn.

“One of the first things that came up is the importance of accountability,” O’Malley said, referring to his role as leader of the sex abuse commission that Francis set up a year ago. “We’re looking at how the church could have protocols of how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for the protection of the children in his diocese.”

That’s the kind of solution that will have long-term repercussions for the hierarchy because it won’t depend on one-off firings of bishops. Such a system also would not rely on the kind of secrecy that church lawyers say violates both due process and the kind of transparency that the faithful need on high-profile cases.

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., has become the first U.S. bishop to be charged with failing to report the suspected abuse of a child. Photo courtesy Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

To be sure, Francis has taken actions against bishops who have committed abuse. In September, the Vatican announced that it had defrocked an archbishop and papal diplomat, Jozef Wesolowski, for allegedly abusing boys in the Dominican Republic. Wesolowski is under house arrest awaiting trial on criminal charges in the Vatican and could face extradition as well.

In addition, Francis has regularly blasted “careerist” churchmen who preen like “peacocks,” and he has taken steps to clip their wings.

In March of this year, Francis removed a German bishop, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, who had scandalized Catholics — and earned to moniker of the “Bishop of Bling” — for a $43 million renovation to his home and offices.

Then in September, the pope fired a bishop in Paraguay, Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, who had promoted a priest who has been accused of sexual impropriety with young men under his charge.

That’s a potential sea change, because until recently, bishops have tended to enjoy a generous degree of immunity from being fired.

That’s because bishops are largely autonomous, answerable to no one except the pope, who also has the sole authority to appoint a bishop. They cannot be fired by the national hierarchy, like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And bishops are loath to even suggest that a colleague step down because they don’t want to undermine their own independence. They also worry that they could be next.

Yes, the church’s code of canon law does have various provisions for dumping a bishop. But they are not always clear and there is no obvious procedure for firing a bishop. Moreover, the provisions are not uniformly applied. The Vatican generally prefers to pressure bishops to resign in order to avoid a public relations mess.

But polls indicate that no program of church reform will be credible, and no pope’s popularity will endure, among the laity unless bishops are regularly held as accountable as lay people or priests, and Francis has taken some steps that have encouraged reformers.

In July, Francis’ top canon lawyer said he was working on revisions that would punish a bishop who fails to stop a molesting cleric. If a bishop does not act forcefully against an abuser, “in some way that would be, or would seem to be, consenting to the evil committed,” said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

In September, Francis also sent a Canadian archbishop to investigate Finn, which is seen as a prelude to Finn’s possible dismissal, and senior Vatican officials have said such a dismissal would be justified.

Earlier this month, the Vatican issued a statement clarifying when and why bishops must resign or retire, but also stressing that the pope “may consider it necessary to ask a bishop to present the resignation of his pastoral office, after letting him know the motives for such a request and after listening attentively to his justifications, in fraternal dialogue.”

Essentially, Francis is putting underperforming bishops on notice.

But some church leaders still want further clarity, and a better system. In September, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Francis needed to find “some way of putting teeth” into a process for punishing bishops that go beyond “fraternal exhortations” delivered by back channels.

“I would find it immensely helpful and see it as part of Pope Francis’ long-range plan to flesh out how bishops can hold one another more accountable,” Dolan told the Catholic news site Crux.

Some canon lawyers and supporters of bishops fired by Francis have also criticized the apparent surge in the dismissal of bishops, saying the cases need greater transparency and a better legal underpinning if they are to be credible.

“Such actions … taken by several recent popes but without advertence to any process recognizable under canon law … raise serious canonical and indeed ecclesiological questions,” Edward Peters, a canon lawyer at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote on his blog.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley: pope recognizes need to address Bishop Finn situation

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
November 14, 2014

Boston Cardinal Seán O'Malley, a key advisor to Pope Francis, has said the pontiff recognizes the need to address the situation in Kansas City, Mo., where Bishop Robert Finn was found guilty in 2012 of a criminal misdemeanor count of shielding a priest who was a threat to children.

Speaking in a forthcoming interview with the U.S. television program 60 Minutes, O'Malley says the situation surrounding Finn is "a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently."

"There's a recognition of that -- from Pope Francis," O'Malley continues during the interview, which is to air Sunday evening.

CBS made a preview of the interview available online Friday.

During the interview, O'Malley is apparently speaking of his work on both the Council of Cardinals and the pope's new commission on the sexual abuse of minors. After interviewer Norah O'Donnell says one of the "biggest scandals" of the church in recent years is the way bishops handled priests accused of abuse, O'Malley says that is something he is working on.

"One of the first things that we came up with was the importance of accountability and we're looking at how the church can have protocols and how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for protection of children in his diocese," O'Malley states.

Finn, who has served as the bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., since 2005 was found guilty over his handling of sexual misconduct by Shawn Ratigan, a former priest who was found guilty in federal court in September 2013 of producing child pornography and sentenced to 50 years in jail.

A Canadian archbishop visited the Kansas City diocese on behalf of the Vatican in September to investigate Finn's leadership, a rare move that normally only occurs in dioceses where the pope or one of the Vatican's congregations have concerns about the leadership of the diocese.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

St. Paul priest's suspected child pornography never turned over to police, 'disposed of'

Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press
November 13, 2014

When two employees at St. Mary's church in downtown St. Paul found what they believed was child pornography in the Rev. Donald J. Dummer's living quarters in 1997, they brought the material to an archdiocese official.

Over the next five years, the circle of church leaders made aware of the material grew. It included then-Vicar General Kevin McDonough, then-Archbishop Harry Flynn, and the Rev. Joseph Hitpas, Dummer's superior in the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order to which he belonged.

It even reached the apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican's ambassador to the United States.

But the potentially criminal material was never turned over to law enforcement. Instead, Hitpas told Flynn in 2002, "I will dispose of the tapes."

The details of the events involving the former Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis priest were released Thursday by attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, who obtained it through a lawsuit.

A message left for Dummer, now 77 and living in an oblates residence in Tewksbury, Mass., was returned by the residence's administrator, David Arthur, who referred a reporter to the oblates headquarters in Washington, D.C. Messages left there were not immediately returned.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the archdiocese said in a written statement Thursday that Dummer's file was turned over to police investigators in November 2013.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Change urged by Pope Francis is rattling hierarchy of Roman Catholic Church

Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
November 11, 2014

It was a hail and farewell moment at a tumultuous time for the Roman Catholic Church. More than 200 bishops rose to their feet Monday and gave a protracted standing ovation to Cardinal Francis George, a former president of the bishops’ conference, who will step down next week as the archbishop of Chicago.

Among those applauding in the conference room was the man who will soon be installed in the powerful Chicago seat, Bishop Blase J. Cupich. Pope Francis has never met him, but plucked him from the obscure diocese of Spokane, Wash., passing over archbishops considered rising stars under the two previous popes.

Change is rattling the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and the bishops here say they now feel it even if they do not yet understand where Pope Francis is leading them. The change is reflected not only in appointments — with the Chicago seat the main indicator so far — but also in Francis’ call for the church to open discussion on sticky matters long considered settled, such as communion for the divorced and remarried, same-sex relationships, couples who live together without being married and even polygamists in Africa.

Some prelates, like Bishop Cupich, are exhilarated at the pontiff’s fresh message and the prospect of change, while others, like Cardinal George, are more wary. A few have been downright resistant, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American in Rome who has publicly challenged Francis and was removed on Saturday from his position as head of the Vatican’s highest court.

“The pope is saying some very challenging things for people,” Bishop Cupich said in an interview Tuesday. “He’s not saying, this is the law and you follow it and you get to heaven. He’s saying we have to do something about our world today that’s suffering, people are being excluded, neglected. We have a responsibility, and he’s calling people to task.”

The bishops are gathered in Baltimore only weeks after a contentious Vatican meeting on marriage and family ended in Rome. That meeting — the first of two synods being held one year apart — has potentially resurfaced a split in the church between theological conservatives and liberals that had remained relatively dormant during the 20-month honeymoon with Francis. But now Francis’ pontificate has entered a more delicate phase, with some bishops asking whether he has a coherent vision of where he wants to take the church and a plan for how to get there.

“He says wonderful things,” Cardinal George said about Francis in an interview on Sunday, “but he doesn’t put them together all the time, so you’re left at times puzzling over what his intention is. What he says is clear enough, but what does he want us to do?”

Cardinal George, who is 77 and being treated for cancer, remains a voting cardinal until age 80 and says he would like to travel to Rome to see Francis: “I’d like to sit down with him and say, Holy Father, first of all, thank you for letting me retire. And could I ask you a few questions about your intentions?”

Catholics worldwide are supposed to spend the next year leading to the next synod meeting in Rome in October 2015 discussing issues related to marriage and the family. Several bishops said in interviews that they were supposed to shepherd such a dialogue but are awaiting instructions from the Vatican about how to conduct it.

Their public meetings here have largely been taken up with the priorities they have had for years: opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, and the concern that government is infringing on the church’s religious freedom through provisions like the birth control mandate in President Obama’s health care law.

On Tuesday afternoon, after some Catholic commentators took the bishops to task for saying nothing during the conference about the hot-button issue of immigration, the floor was briefly turned over to Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, an auxiliary bishop of Seattle. He called attention to a letter that the bishops’ conference sent in September urging Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, to take executive action to protect some illegal immigrants from deportation, including parents with children who are American citizens, and those who have been in the United States for 10 years or more.

In their regional meetings, the bishops were asked to identify which seven priorities the bishops’ conference should take up, in light of Francis’ pontificate, for the years 2017 to 2020, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City said in an interview.

He said that among the priorities he suggested were the plight of illegal immigrants, and the poor — including working people who live paycheck to paycheck, and “those who are caught in our world financial structures and are getting squeezed.” These are concerns and themes that Francis has sounded repeatedly.

However, Bishop Wester said, “I don’t think the old priorities are going to stop, particularly if they’re still relevant.”

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, the chairman of the bishops’ committee on marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, said in his report to the conference that it was possible to link these varied priorities: “The message of Pope Francis, with his concern for the poor, but also standing for marriage, I think they do go together.”

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for National Catholic Reporter, a liberal, independent news outlet, said in an interview between the sessions that this group of bishops was shaped by the popes who appointed them, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

“There is no bishop who is standing up and being the real leader of a Francis faction,” Father Reese said. “They grew up in conservative families, went to conservative seminaries and have been told not to talk to theologians who are creative because they’ve been labeled heretical. Now Francis is saying, let’s go in a different direction and let’s have a discussion. The last two pontificates, there was no room for discussion, and this makes them nervous and confused.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Vatican's Francis revolution gains pace

Paul Collins
Eureka Street (Australia)
November 10, 2014

Archbishop Mamberti

An important power shift has just occurred in Rome, and it has a genuine Australian connection.

The long-rumoured removal of US Cardinal Raymond Burke as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the top tribunal in the Vatican’s judicial system, and effectively the appeals court for all other tribunals in the church, occurred at midday on Saturday.

Burke has been made Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta. His replacement at the Signatura is Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, effectively the Vatican’s foreign minister. Mamberti’s replacement is Liverpool-born Archbishop Paul Gallagher, currently papal nuncio to Australia.

The sidelining of the 66 year old Burke signifies an important power shift. A bluntly outspoken conservative critic of Pope Francis’ pastoral approach to difficult moral issues, his rejection of a hierarchy of truths (the notion that some teachings are more important than others) has placed him at the far right of the Catholic spectrum. Burke has said that Catholicism risks schism if bishops at the Family Synod next year ‘go contrary’ to the Church’s established dogmas.

A ‘folk hero’ for some Catholics, Burke was appointed bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1994, and promoted to Archbishop of St Louis in late 2004. He was appointed Prefect of the Signatura in 2008 and was made a cardinal in November 2010.

He exercised considerable influence on the appointment of new bishops in the US as a member of the Congregation of Bishops. He was removed from the Congregation by Pope Francis in December 2013. His dismissal from the Signatura was certainly brutal by Vatican standards. The Roman saying is ‘Let him be promoted that he may be removed’, but with Burke they didn’t even pretended he was being ‘promoted’. Perhaps it is because he had ‘leaked’ his own demotion some weeks earlier.

He is known for his devotion to the Tridentine liturgy and practices such as wearing a cappa magna. He has claimed that contemporary ‘moral corruption’ is ‘strictly correlated’ to the liturgical ‘abuses’ that in his view came in the wake of Vatican Council II. Whispers in the Loggia blogger Rocco Palmo has described him as ‘arguably the most polarising figure on the global Catholic stage.’ His removal from the Signatura and Bishops strips him of any real influence on the wider church - at least for this papacy.

Burke’s replacement at the Signatura is Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, a Corsican. This leaves his very senior and important post of Secretary for Relations with States vacant. The Secretariat of State is the central body of the curia and is presided over by the Secretary of State, currently Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He is effectively the papal prime minister. Serving directly under him are two under-secretaries with the rank of archbishop, one for Ordinary Affairs (this person runs the curia and deals with general matters concerning the church) and the other for Relations with States i.e. the Vatican’s dealings with foreign governments. Thus the secretary of this section becomes the Vatican’s foreign minister.

60 year old Paul Gallagher’s appointment as Secretary for Relations with States comes as a surprise to many, although he is a close friend of Parolin. He returns to Rome as a cleanskin ‘who is not part of any clique’, and as someone of real competence. Rocco Palmo says he is ‘the first native born English speaker to hold the post.’ This is not strictly true. Australian-born Archbishop (later Cardinal) Edward Cassidy was Secretary for Ordinary Affairs from 1988-9.

Gallagher was born in Liverpool, near where the Beatles came from. Ordained in 1977, he did parish work in Liverpool, graduated from the Gregorian University in Canon Law and entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1984.

He served in Tanzania, Uruguay, the Philippines and at the Council of Europe. He was ordained archbishop to the titular see of Hodelm (an extinct Scottish diocese) and was appointed Nuncio to Burundi in early-2004 in succession to the murdered Irish Nuncio, Archbishop Michael Courtney who had worked for peace during the vicious civil war in Burundi. Gallagher later served as Nuncio in Guatemala and was appointed to Canberra in April 2013. He also worked for several years in the Secretariat of State, so gaining experience in the affairs of the curia.

He has been popular in Australia because he has kept in touch with pastoral life. For example he volunteered to help out in the far-flung western NSW of Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes during his first Easter in Australia. He’s also been willing to talk to Catholics from across the ecclesiastical spectrum. This puts him very much in line with Francis’ emphasis on the need for church administrators to keep in touch with real world ministry.

While Gallagher’s appointment to Rome will be a real loss for the Australian church, it does mean that there will be someone in an influential position who knows Australia well. He might even be able to influence the appointment of new Australian bishops. That would be a good thing!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cardinal Kasper: Pope Francis 'does not represent a liberal position, but a radical position'

Vinnie Rotondaro
National Catholic Reporter
November 7, 2014

On Thursday, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, received the Johannes Quasten Medal for Excellence in Scholarship and Leadership in Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Kasper, the German theologian best known for his writings on the role of mercy in church teaching, gave a 50-minute lecture on the meaning and significance of Pope Francis.

What follows are some highlights from that speech, titled "Theological Background of the Ecclesiological and Ecumenical Vision of Pope Francis."

Kasper, nicknamed the "pope's theologian," began by calling Francis "a pope of surprises."

"Not the least surprising," he said, remarking on the early days of Francis' papacy, "was that the new pope within a short period of time succeeded in brightening up the gloomy atmosphere that had settled like mildew on the church."

The cardinal mentioned the "benevolent [media] attention" the pope has enjoyed -- a surprise -- and the great acceptance and enthusiasm shown by much of the laity to Francis' vision and style -- another surprise.

But, "as one would expect," he said, "there are of course the critical voices who say, 'This pope does not please us because he pleases too much.' "

"These attitudes aren't surprising," said Kasper, whose thoughts on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics have greatly angered some within the Roman Curia. "There are a lot of you," he said, "even among the episcopate and the younger clergy, who do not really trust this new style or this new enthusiasm" and who display a "condescending wait-and-see attitude."

Remarking on the tension that grips the church today, Kasper quipped that what for many "is the beginning of a new spring is for others a temporary cold spell."

While efforts may exist to "trivialize Pope Francis" or to appropriate him "for one's own reform concepts," especially in the Western world, he said, the Argentine pope "does not fit into our now rather worn-out scheme of progressive or conservative."

He "cannot be categorized, much less appropriated, by any specific school -- he's not an academic theologian in the professional sense, but a man of encounter and practice."

For Pope Francis, "reality has primacy over ideas," Kasper said. And with a focus on the Gospel, he "is intent on overcoming the absence of joy in the church and the modern world."

He "wants to initiate a new beginning for the church," Kasper said, but not by destroying tradition. Rather, "Pope Francis stands in a great tradition, reaching back to the earliest beginnings."

"He does not represent a liberal position, but a radical position, understood in the original sense of the word as going back to the roots, the radix." By reaching back through time, he is, in fact, "constructing a bridge to the future."

At the center of Pope Francis' vision stands the concept of mercy, Kasper said -- "God's mercy."

"Mercy has become the theme of his pontificate," he said. "... With this theme, Pope Francis has addressed countless individuals, both within and without the church." He has "moved them intensely, and pierced their hearts."

And "who among us does not depend on mercy?" Kasper asked. "On the mercy of God, and of merciful fellow man?"

Kasper made note of the fact that Francis is not alone in his emphasis on mercy. He stands "in the tradition of many great saints ... and also in continuity with his predecessors," such as St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, all of whom spoke or wrote on the subject.

"Nevertheless, for some, the pope's talk of mercy has become uncomfortable," Kasper said. "They sense danger lurking behind it."

But "when correctly understood, mercy is not a yielding pastoral weakness"; it is "revealed truth."

"It does not abolish justice, but outdoes it."

"In the center of Pope Francis' understanding of the church stands, according to his Argentine background, the image of the church as the People of God," Kasper said. It is an "ancient" understanding, one renewed by the Second Vatican Council, but one that has come to be viewed with suspicion in the West.

Pope Francis' style is not one of "benevolent popularism," Kasper said. "His pastoral style is based on a whole theology. On the basis of this theology, he's averse to all clericalism. He wants the participation of the People of God in the life of the church. Women as well as men. Laity and clergy, young and old."

"He stresses the importance of the sensus fidei, and says the church must open its ears to the people."

The Catholic church must not be self-centered, Kasper said, but instead a church "on the move." And a church that is an "open house," a church of the open God, "presupposes renewal and reform," he said.

It's official: Cardinal Burke is out

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
November 8, 2014

In this morning's Bolletino, the announcement makes it official: Cardinal Raymond Burke has been named Patron of the Order of Malta. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, currently the Vatican's "foreign minister," will replace +Burke as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. The position of Patron of the the Order of Malta is usually given to a retired cardinal, or as a second task to an active cardinal. It has almost no responsibilities. The demotion is unprecedented, and completely warranted: Cardinal Burke's influence at the Vatican has been crushingly backward looking, and that influence has resulted in some unhappy appointments. The downside of the appointment? By giving him a job with no real duties, +Burke will be free to make more speeches and give more interviews.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Vatican consultant 'absolutely' favours women priests

Paddy Agnew
Irish Times
November 6, 2014

Spanish priest Fr Pablo d’Ors, a consultant to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, yesterday said he was “absolutely” in favour of opening up the priesthood to women.

Speaking in a candid tone that appears to take its cue from the frank debate at the recent Synod of Bishops, Fr d’Ors told Italian daily La Repubblica: “Am I in favour [of the ordination of women]? Absolutely, and I am not the only one. The reasoning which claims that women cannot become priests because Jesus was a man and because he chose only men [as his apostles] is very weak. That is a cultural consideration not a metaphysical one.”

Were it not for the fact that Fr D’Ors is one of 30 consultants due to report to a meeting of the Pontifical Council for Culture (PCC) in February, his comments might have little significance. However, the PCC’s meeting in the Vatican will be focussed on the role of women in the Catholic Church today.

Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi told The Irish Times yesterday that he could not comment on Fr d’Ors’ remarks. He said he did not know the Spanish priest, adding that although Fr d’Ors may indeed have some function to perform for the PCC, he certainly was not speaking on behalf of the Vatican on this occasion.


Saying “the time is now ripe to travel down other roads”, Fr d’Ors also said this “change is necessary” because to deny women the priesthood represents “an unacceptable discrimination”. He said that in preparing his report for the PCC, he had spoken to many women, Christian and non-Christian alike, from various social backgrounds, and that “all but one” were in favour of the ordination of women.

He acknowledged there were many in the church, priests and laity alike, who were opposed to such a move, adding that “new things” always frighten people. However, he argued it would be a “sin” to resist this change because “life is a continual evolution”.

Ordained a priest in 1991, 51-year-old Fr d’Ors is listed on the PCC’s website as director of the theatre writing workshop of the University of Madrid. Grandson of Catalan intellectual and art critic Eugenio d’Ors, Fr Pablo is himself a writer. His Trilogy Of Silence, which deals with the contemplative dimension of the human experience, proved a major literary success between 2009 and 2013.

Friends In The Desert

This year he founded the association Friends in the Desert which focuses on the role of meditation and silence in the Christian experience.

Fr d’Ors now works at the Ramon y Cajal hospital for the terminally ill in Madrid.

Asked about the nature of his ministry there, he said: “You accompany a [dying] person by truly listening to what they say, without judging them intellectually and without upping the emotional tension.

“You listen and nothing more, forgetting about yourself, which is the most difficult thing.”

In his interview yesterday, Fr d’Ors also said he had no idea why he had been appointed to the PCC last July, saying with a laugh: “Perhaps he [Pope Francis] asked people, now who is the most marginalised priest in Madrid?”

Irish archbishop decries comments critical of pope following synod

Michael Kelly
Catholic News Service
November 4, 2014

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin decried comments from clerics and others who said Pope Francis caused confusion in his calls for an open discussion on how the church should reach out to those who are marginalized, hurt and wounded in their lives during the recent Synod of Bishops on the family.

Martin said he was "quite surprised at the remarks of some commentators within church circles about the recent Synod of Bishops, often making accusations of confusion where such confusion did not exist and so actually fomenting confusion."

He did not identify specific comments Tuesday during a Mass marking the refurbishment of a church at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, has been among those who described some discussions during the synod as causing confusion. The cardinal also warned that it "could even induce the faithful into error with regard to the teaching about marriage and other teachings."

The cardinal was among those who led an effort to rework the synod's midterm report, which had emphasized the importance of a church that reaches out to families and people hurting in today's world -- including cohabitating couples, divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexual couples -- and accompanies them back into the church. The synod's final report omitted those sections and upheld long-standing teaching on marriage.

Martin said he believed that "a longing for certainties may spring from personal uncertainty rather than strong faith."

"A strong -- and indeed orthodox faith -- is never afraid of discussion," he said.

"They fail to see how Pope Francis shows that his concern for people who suffer is far from being a sign of dogmatic relativism, but rather is a sign of pastoral patience," Archbishop Martin said.

Archbishop Martin also said that "a church which becomes a comfort zone for the like-minded ceases to be truly the Church of Jesus Christ."

The archbishop attended the synod and spoke of the need for new language with which to communicate with married couples during an address Oct. 7, according to excerpts of his remarks published by the Irish bishops' conference.

Many people "would hardly recognize their own experience in the way we present the ideals of married life, he told the synod.

"Indeed many in genuine humility would probably feel that they are living a life which is distant from the ideal of marriage as presented by church teaching," he said.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Long Island bishop claims proposed bill penalizes 'only the Catholic church'

Jamie Manson
National Catholic Reporter
November 4, 2014

Bishop William Murphy of the diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., has written a letter to Catholics on Long Island advising them that a proposed bill in the New York State Assembly, called The Child Victims Act, "seeks to penalize only the Catholic Church for past crimes of child sex abuse must also be recognized for what it is."

Murphy's letter, which was sent to all pastors in the diocese of Rockville Centre last week and reprinted in many parish bulletins over the weekend, was intended to advise Catholics on today's elections. Even though the bill is not on the ballot, Murphy used the letter as an opportunity to condemn proposed law (a condemnation he has offered regularly since 2009).

The Child Victims Act (which is also known as the "Markey Bill" because it is sponsored by State Assemblyperson Margaret Markey) would serve to protect children by removing the statute of limitations for crimes of sexual abuse of children and minors. It would also open a one-year period for victims previously shut out by New York's outdated statutes of limitations to bring forth charges in civil court.

Murphy, who called the bill an "annual threat," seems to believe that sexual abuse in the Catholic church has been "effectively and permanently ... remedied," writing in the letter:

Those who support [the bill] should be opposed by those of us who know how effectively and permanently the Church has remedied that horrific scourge of the last decade.

Murphy's statement raised the ire of the Catholic Coalition of Conscience, a group representing Call To Action Metro NY, Call to Action Upstate NY, and Voice of the Faithful, New York, among others, who today released a press statement clarifying the bill's provisions:

The Markey bill does not cover only Catholic institutions. In fact, it covers ALL private institutions -- prep schools, sports clubs, youth clubs, private daycare and early childhood centers, churches of all denominations, synagogues, mosques, AND, very importantly, sexual abuse crimes committed against children in a home setting. In addition, the Markey bill would open a door for judges to have more flexibility in dealing with sexual abuse crimes committed on public facilities. The bill is NOT targeting Catholic institutions; there is no mention of Catholic in the bill. The coalition's press release also highlights Murphy's role in sex abuse cover-ups during his tenure under Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law.


Bishop Murphy is no stranger to controversy. Before coming to Long Island, Bishop Murphy was second in command at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Boston which was led by Cardinal Law. He denied accusations that he helped to protect abusive priests while in that position. However, Murphy's denials contradicted a July 2010 report by the Massachusetts Attorney General that stated that Murphy "placed a higher priority on preventing scandal and providing support to alleged abusers than on protecting children from sexual abuse." The report also stated: "There is overwhelming evidence that for many years Cardinal Law and his senior managers had direct, actual knowledge that substantial numbers of children in the Archdiocese had been sexually abused by substantial numbers of priests. Any claim by the Cardinal or the Archdiocese's senior managers that they did not know about the abuse suffered by, or the continuing threat to, children in the Archdiocese is simply not credible.", a non-profit project that tracks sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, says Murphy is a "key figure in the sexual abuse crisis, both because of his earlier role in the Boston archdiocese and because of conditions in Rockville Centre.

More from Cardinal Burke

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
November 4, 2014

Cardinal Raymond Burke, whose term as Prefect of the Signatura is about to end and, apparently will not be renewed, is once again complaining about the recent Synod on the Family. He is worried about "confusion" coming from the synod, especially the mid-synod report. But, I do not think anyone was confused. The mid-term report got a little ahead of the synod fathers. The final relatio was a bit more restrained. That is how synods work. But, what really bothers +Burke is that the issue of how the Church's teaching is applied was even up for discussion. Here is the key quote:

"The secular media, not without reason, referred to it as an earthquake in the church,” he said. “While some bishops and others excused it saying well this wasn’t a doctrinal statement, it was just a report of what was being discussed in the synod, the very fact that these matters were being discussed and questioned by the presidents of the conferences of bishops, by the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and by other special appointees of the Holy Father to the synod caused a tremendous confusion and could even induce the faithful into error with regard to the teaching about marriage and other teachings.”

I am not scandalized that the bishops and the Holy Father had some discussions about the application of the Church's teaching. I do not think the discussion, or the fact of the discussion, created as much confusion as +Burke suggests. Indeed, I think most people were delighted to see the Church engaging these issues. Those of us in the pews have been dealing with these issues for some time now.

Cardinal Burke is playing with fire. He is stoking the opposition to the very idea of synodality. You do not need a synod to rubberstamp what the curia wants. It is time for him to be removed, and to go as quietly as possible. I will not gloat when his removal is announced, but I will breath a sigh of relief.

Contra Douthat: We are not on the edge of a precipice

Tom Gallagher
National Catholic Reporter
November 4, 2014

That didn't take long.

Over at America magazine, Jesuit Fr. John W. O'Malley, a university professor in the theology department at Georgetown University and author of What Happened at Vatican II, quickly dismissed Ross Douthat's New York Times Sunday column, "The Pope and the Precipice."

Douthat argues that Pope Francis is sowing confusion through the topics raised at the recent synod on the family and with the possibility that things may change. O'Malley points out in his essay:

Change is in the air at the synod. To that extent Mr. Douthat is right. Moreover, change is problematic for an institution whose very reason for existence is to preserve and proclaim unchanged a message received long ago. Yet, given our human condition, change is inevitable. Sometimes change is required precisely in order to remain faithful to the tradition. It has in that way been operative in the church from the beginning.

For the self-described conservatives wholeheartedly against Pope Francis and change, O'Malley educates the reader that every council of the church was an instrument of change. But no, the church is not on the edge of a precipice, as Douthat posits.

Douthat claims that Pope Francis -- to the extent he changes pastoral practices -- is betraying the loyal conservative "orthodox" Catholics. He says: "They [the conservative Catholics] have kept the faith amid moral betrayals by their leaders; they do not deserve a theological betrayal."


Even more surprising, and disturbing, in Douthat's essay were his final two paragraphs:

But if [Pope Francis] seems to be choosing the more dangerous path -- if he moves to reassign potential critics in the hierarchy [referencing the rumored removal of Cardinal Raymond Burke from the Apostolic Signatura], if he seems to be stacking the next synod's ranks with supporters of a sweeping change -- then conservative Catholics will need a cleareyed understanding of the situation.

They can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.

Is Douthat really threatening the pope and calling for both an insurrection against Pope Francis and a schism?

O'Malley has done a real service to the church by quickly debunking such a scandalous and misguided column by Ross Douthat.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Is the pope Catholic? Critics rally around Benedict as talk of schism looms

Candida Moss and Joel Baden
Daily Beast
November 2, 2014

Almost from the beginning, there have been rumblings of discontent about Pope Francis. While the world’s media fell in love with him, there were more conservative bishops who felt that Francis’s popular appeal came at the expense of carefully worked-out Church rituals and teachings. They saw Francis as chipping away at established Church teachings on sexuality, kowtowing to the liberal media, and acting aggressively towards conservative church leaders.

Criticism of Francis has come to a head with the publication of the final report of the Synod on the Family. Despite changing absolutely nothing doctrinally, the Synod’s recommendations for a more understanding attitude to those in unconventional family arrangements have ignited a firestorm of controversy among conservative commentators. The possibility that Catholics who had divorced and remarried without receiving an annulment might be readmitted into full communion with the Church has made many apoplectic.

Writing on his diocesan website, Bishop Thomas Tobin accused Francis of being fond of “making a mess” and stated that the Synod voting concept “struck [him] as being rather Protestant.” A funny argument, since Catholic bishops have been voting on key issues since the Council of Nicaea in 325, but that’s beside the point. Tobin seems to be suggesting that with Francis at the helm, the Catholic Church is no longer acting like the Catholic Church.

For over a year conservative Catholics have had their chastity belts in a twist over Francis and apparently, the chafing has finally grown too much to bear.

Over at The New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat, a convert to Roman Catholicism, warned that Francis’s current path could “eventually lead to real schism.” With the threat of schism hanging in the air he then encourages a kind of rebellion: “True Catholics,” he writes, must “resist” the Pope’s pressure to change the Church.

Other conservatives agree, pointing to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, in which the upstart self-proclaimed Apostle Paul describes a meeting when he called out Peter—the first Pope—for hypocrisy. To his face and everything. According to Paul, Peter backed down. Now traditionalists want to use this as a precedent for calling out the Pope when he’s not Pope-y enough.

Benedict is hanging back for now, but there’s no doubt that he could easily become a figurehead for traditionalists harkening back to the good old days.

Proof-texting from scripture in order to criticize the Pope—now who’s being Protestant?

Conservative Cardinals seem to be getting in on the act. Last weekend Australian Cardinal George Pell unnecessarily reminded his congregants not only that Pope Francis is the 266th Pope, but also that “history has seen 37 false or antipopes.” Antipopes? Does Cardinal Pell intend to hint that Francis isn’t a true Pope? Was Cardinal Pell not there when Francis was elected?

But there’s a reason to pay attention to this particular breed of shrill complaint: there’s more than one Pope in town.

Much like an ex-partner you keep running into in the street, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s continued presence in the church serves as a constant reminder of the way things used to be. Benedict’s occasional but thoroughly traditional statements offer a painful reminder and glimmer of hope to conservative Catholics. Just last week, in written remarks read aloud at the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome, Benedict wrote that interreligious dialogue “is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures.” Benedict’s arguments are expressed somewhat philosophically, but they are music to the ears of those tired of Francis’s soft embrace of atheists, aliens, and—worst of all—progressive social policies.

Conservatives can also be encouraged that Benedict is showing support, albeit subtly, for the previously important conservative Cardinals that Francis ousted from power. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a pro-life traditional prelate whose demotion by Francis was recently announced, invited Benedict to a Latin Mass at the Vatican. In declining the invitation, Benedict wrote that he was glad that the Latin Mass was being “celebrated by great cardinals,” a statement that many conservatives see as tacit support for those sent into exile by Francis.

Benedict is hanging back for now, but there’s no doubt that he could easily become a figurehead for traditionalists harkening back to the good old days. In some ways, he already has. In somewhat ominous tones that have rightly been called threatening, Douthat exclaims to his “true Catholic” audience, “Remember there is another pope still living!” Having warned that Pope Francis and the Synod are leading us towards schism, does Douthat mean to imply that “true Catholics” will or should stage a coup?

It’s almost as if the Catholic Church was recently baptized in a vat of irony: so-called traditionalists—the same people who insisted that liberals fall in line behind John Paul II and Benedict XVI—are petulantly calling for schism and for bucking Church hierarchy. What makes it even more absurd: Francis isn’t all that liberal. He cares profoundly and deeply about the poor, but he rarely speaks about supporting women, holds the line on contraception and abortion, and is only selectively pro-environment. In keeping with official Church teaching he believes in the reality of evolution, and in keeping with official Church teaching he believes in the power of exorcism. The Pope is Catholic, go figure.

Traditionalists appear to be buying into the media spin about which they themselves complain. In doing so they are actually bolstering Francis’s lib credentials. Perhaps the hawks should settle down, stop drinking the libertine media Kool-Aid they’ve been protesting about for so long, and act like the pro-hierarchy traditionalists they claim to be.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

By waving goodbye to "warrior bishops" the US church can change

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
November 2, 2014

Blase Joseph Cupich represents the new face of the American Church. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1949, to a Croatian family and has eight siblings. Francis unexpectedly nominated him leader of the Diocese of Chicago, which has 2,3 million faithful and is the third largest diocese in the US. The fact he was chosen as replacement to the seriously ill 77-year-old Wojtylian cardinal, Francis George, is the sign of a significant change of course when compared to the past few decades, which saw “cultural warriors” being appointed leaders of the US episcopate. These “warriors” took part in tough public battles against abortion and same-sex unions. They were much less concerned with subjects such as immigration, social justice, peace and the consequences of what Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium called: an economy “that kills”. When he was bishop of Rapid City, Cupich - whom the Editor-in-Chief of U.S. Catholic magazine, Bryan Cones, referred to as “the bishop who can speak without shouting” – transformed the local “pro-life committee” into a “social justice committee”: he did not stop speaking out against abortion, but widened the focus of his speeches, calling for immigration reform and taking an interest in the poor.

The difference in approach between the US Episcopate on one hand and Francis on the other, became all the more evident during the Synod on the Family. So much so, that Boston Globe Vatican expert John Allen said the US Church’s “honeymoon” with Pope Francis was over. Among the most shocking declarations made by prelates who were not present at the Synod assembly, were those published on the Diocese of Providence website by Bishop Thomas Tobin: “The concept of having a representative body of the Church voting on doctrinal applications and pastoral solutions strikes me as being rather Protestant. According to Tobin, “the Church risks the danger of losing its courageous, counter-cultural, prophetic voice”. Commenting on the distortions of the media, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, said the “public image” of the Synod has created “confusion” and “confusion is of the devil”.

One of the key figures of the Synod - not just in the media sphere - was US cardinal and Curia member, Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, who is about to leave his position: he spoke out against the idea of discussing the possibility of allowing remarried divorcees to partake in the sacraments. He also publicly criticised the fact that Francis had not expressed his opinion on this, leaving the issue open to discussion: “I can’t speak for the pope and I can’t say what his position is on this, but the lack of clarity about the matter has certainly done a lot of harm.” New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan also expressed criticism toward the open approaches proposed during the Synod. A comment made by Catholic New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, about Pope Francis bringing “the church to the edge of a precipice”, has also contributed to the controversy.

Massimo Faggioli, Assistant Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, said that “in recent decades the American Church had become much more important in terms of its relationship with politics and the economy, compared to the past. Now, Francis’ approach and his words on poverty and social justice are calling the Episcopate’s positions into question. Today, anyone who values and refers back to the Second Vatican Council, is seen as a leftist.”

North American Catholicism is no longer just an extremely polarised and sometimes ideology-focused body, historically divided between conservatives and liberals. It must also deal with a growing presence of immigrants from Latin America and Asia who do not relate to this framework. “There is a significant part of the Catholic body that US bishops today do not represent,” Professor Faggioli observed.

Leaving aside the different positions that emerged regarding the topics discussed during the Synod, many believe that one of the main causes of friction, is the fact that Francis is plunging the “holy alliance” - as Catholic neoconservative think tanks have referred to it - between capitalism and Christianity, into a crisis. Certain reactions to the social paragraphs of the Evangelii Gaudium testify to this. Only yesterday, Chicago’s outgoing cardinal, Francis George, stated: “The Pope speaks, it seems, from the experience and the analysis of South Americans who believe that some are rich because others are deliberately kept poor.” But the attempt to squeeze the Pope into the Latin American mind-set, does not tally with his transversal approach.

According to Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Catholic television network Salt + Light and English language assistant to Holy See Press Office, who was born in the US and now lives in Canada, “Francis speaks to everyone’s heart.” “He reaches all faithful,” directly, bypassing Episcopates in a way. “When this happens, he disturbs Church leaderships. The Pope’s words are not exploitable. What he says about the poor and his criticisms of a certain economy are deeply evangelical. They are not to be read through the “lenses” or on the basis of the contexts of individual countries.”