Friday, February 27, 2015

Vatican condemns leaking of documents showing power struggle

Phillip Pullella
February 27, 2015

The Vatican on Friday condemned the leaking of documents that according to a media report show a power struggle in the Holy See over economic reforms and excessive expenses by the cardinal charged with carrying them out.

L'Espresso magazine said it had seen minutes of meetings and emails showing mostly Italian cardinals felt that Cardinal George Pell had accumulated too much power.

Pell is an outsider brought by the pope to Rome from Australia to oversee the Vatican's often muddled finances after decades of control by Italians.

Pope Francis was given a mandate by the cardinals who elected him in 2013 to clean up after a series of financial scandals, mostly involving the Vatican bank.

Francis set up the Secretariat for the Economy last year and gave Pell, as its head, broad powers to clean up the Vatican's often troubled and murky finances and bring them in line with international standards.

"Leaking confidential documents to the media in order to stir up polemics and fuel arguments is nothing new but it is always something to be condemned and is illegal," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

Lombardi said it was "normal" to have disagreements on complex financial and legal issues and condemned the article as "undignified and petty" because of its personal attack on Pell. Pell could not be reached for comment.

The magazine said Pell's department had run up half a million euros in expenses in its first six months, mostly on staff and equipment but some spending was personal, including 2,508 euros (1,822 pounds) for clerical clothing Pell allegedly bought from a well-known clerical tailor in Rome.

It also said the department had spent tens of thousands of euros to renovate and furnish a Rome apartment for use by a business manager who the cardinal brought over from Australia to help him clean up Vatican finances.

The spokesman said Pell's department was moving ahead with reforms and would in a few months publish for the first time financial statements for 2014 for each Vatican department.

The "Vatileaks" scandal in 2012, in which the butler of former Pope Benedict, Francis' predecessor, was arrested for leaking the pope's private papers to the media, alleged corruption in the Holy See, something the Vatican denied.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Controversial San Francisco handbook to be reviewed, expanded by theology teacher committee

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
February 25, 2014

A committee of theology teachers from the four high schools administered by the San Francisco archdiocese will be asked to expand and clarify a statement on church teachings and practices developed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and scheduled for inclusion in those schools' 2015-16 faculty handbooks.

In an open letter to teachers dated Feb. 24 as well as during an hourlong meeting with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday, Cordileone said he has been surprised by the uproar generated by the Feb. 3 release of the handbook insertion, "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church."

An archdiocesan "media advisory" issued late Tuesday appeared to counter a Chronicle characterization of the committee's formation and the newspaper's meeting with Cordileone as the archbishop backing down.

"The Archbishop has not repealed anything," Jesuit Fr. John Piderit, archdiocesan vicar for administration and moderator of the curia, said in the advisory. "He is adding explanations, clarifications, and material on Catholic social teaching, via a committee of religion teachers he is establishing. The committee is to expand some areas of the material to be included in the faculty handbook, and clarify other areas by adding material.

"Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn," said Piderit, who accompanied Cordileone to the meeting with the newspaper.

The faculty handbook statement contains 15 "affirm and believe" distillations of church teaching and practice, including prohibitions of abortion, same-sex marriage, pornography, homosexual relations, masturbation, artificial birth control, "artificial reproductive technology," women's ordination, and human cloning.

"Since these are doctrinal statements, I anticipated the teachers would interpret them as such. In fact, what occurred was an interpretation of the statements as if they were designed to be spoken primarily to students and parents," wrote Cordileone in a letter to teachers in the Feb. 27 archdiocesan newspaper.

Many parents, students, teachers and others have criticized the focus on sexual topics and claimed some language was inflammatory, notably use of "intrinsically evil," "grave evil," and "gravely evil."

"These statements are, admittedly, not nuanced for students or even for parents, nor are they placed in the proper context within which they need to be interpreted," wrote Cordileone, adding that he was open to the handbook statement including other areas of church teaching, "including material on social justice and Catholic social teaching."

"The teachers wanted all the statements related to sexual intimacy as well as religious practice to be heard in a broader context that corresponds better to the way in which students positively evaluate various components of the Catholic faith," he wrote.

The new theology teachers' committee will recommend a draft, which, "while retaining what is already there, expands on these statements and adjusts the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider readership," Cordileone wrote. "I will also leave to their discretion how to include the proper wider context within which to understand these points of doctrine."

Cordileone told teachers he had been "moved by your sincerity and commitment" and noted how "a number of you spoke to me seeking advice on how to effectively present the Church's teaching in a compassionate and compelling way to your students who may be struggling in these areas and perhaps even feeling rejected or unwelcomed by the Church because of them."

Reaction to the faculty handbook language as well as to the archdiocese seeking to define teachers as "ministers" in union contracts has included:

Two vigils staged at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, one in conjunction with a Feb. 6 convocation of Catholic high school teachers and an Ash Wednesday candlelight prayer gathering;
A Chronicle editorial charging Cordileone with an "attempt to silence teachers and other school employees" and "an affront to the many practicing Catholics -- especially in this region -- who have issues with doctrine";
A social media campaign, #teachacceptance, launched by students;
An online petition, "Discrimination and Fear Don't Belong in Our Schools," which has received more than 6,500 signatures;
A jointly signed letter from eight Bay Area state lawmakers in which they accuse Cordileone of sending "an alarming message of intolerance" to students and urge withdrawal of the handbook section;
A statement by the California Federation of Teachers objecting to the handbook statement's warning to Catholic school employees to avoid off-campus activities that might contradict church stances and claiming that contractual use of the designation "minister" could erode teachers' legal protections.
Cordileone has repeated flexibility on the use of "minister" as long as two goals are achieved -- clarity that the Catholic high schools embrace the entirety of Catholic church teaching and that all Catholic school employees are integral to a Catholic school's mission.

In his letter to teachers, the archbishop said he hopes the handbook revisions "can all be completed prior to the beginning of the next academic year."

Melanie Morey, director of the archdiocese's Office of Catholic Identity Assessment, told NCR in an email Wednesday that the handbook would not go to print "before the process is completed."

The office, which is charged with assessing and bolstering the Catholicity of Catholic high schools within the archdiocese, opened last month.

Cordileone concluded his letter to teachers: "This has been a very trying time for all of us. I implore your patience, good will, and especially prayers as we continue to work toward a consensus. And as we have just begun this holy season of Lent, I would ask one specific favor from our Catholic teachers: please join me in offering your Lenten fasting for the intention of a happy resolution and calming of tensions."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese won't classify teachers as ministers, has not dropped morality clause proposal

CBS San Francisco
February 24, 2015

The Catholic Archdiocese in San Francisco is backing away from a plan to designate teachers as ministers, but has not announced plans to withdraw another controversial proposal for high school teachers to adhere to a morality clause in their contracts.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday afternoon that the archdiocese would “peel back” the guidelines Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone proposed for teachers, outlining expectations that staffers would reject adultery, masturbation, homosexuality and other behavior the diocese calls “gravely evil.”

The proposal generated an outcry from teacher groups, human rights organizations, lawmakers, and others concerned that staffers could be disciplined or fired for behavior that occurs in private.

Cordileone told the San Francisco Chronicle he didn’t anticipate the backlash over the plan to add detailed statements on sexual morality to faculty and staff handbooks at four Catholic high schools in the city. He spoke at a meeting with the paper’s editorial board on Tuesday. “I was surprised at the degree of consternation over this,” Cordileone told the Chronicle.

The archbishop told the newspaper he was forming a committee of theology teachers to review the guidelines and “adjust the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider leadership.” He added the language is merely a reiteration of existing Catholic morality doctrines concerning behavior.

The language was included as part of the faculty handbook intended for teachers at the four schools, but Cordileone told the Chronicle that he has no intention of invading the private lives of the teachers.

Tuesday night, the archdiocese released a statement in response to the Chronicle article. “The Archbishop has not repealed anything,” the archdiocese said. “The committee is to expand some areas of the material to be included in the faculty handbook, and clarify other areas by adding material. Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.”

The paper reported Cordileone is dropping an effort to designate the teachers as ministers, which would have eliminated them from government-mandated employee protections by placing them solely under church control.

Following word of the proposed teacher morality clauses, Bay Area lawmakers sent a letter to Cordileone urging him to withdraw the plan they called “divisive,” saying the clauses “conflict with settled areas of law and foment a discriminatory environment,” which sends “an alarming message of intolerance to youth.”

On Monday, Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) urged an assembly committee to investigate working conditions at the high schools administered by the San Francisco archdiocese.

Bishops distressed over remarks on Mother Teresa

UCAN India
February 24, 2015

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has expressed distress over RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's recent statement on Blessed Mother Teresa and said freedom of speech should not jeopardize nation's age-old passion for truth.

"It is quite unfortunate that the services of such a world-renowned Nobel Prize laureate and Bharat Ratna awardee be dragged into such unwarranted controversies," the bishops' statement said.

According to media reports, Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS- national volunteers corps), said on Monday that the motive behind Mother Teresa’s service was "to convert the person being served into a Christian”.

“If conversion is done in the name of service, then that service gets devalued,” he reportedly added.

Christian leaders and secular politicians across India criticized Bhagwat for saying that Blessed Mother Teresa's services were a cover up for conversion.

"Mother Teresa never had any hidden agenda nor did she ever use her services as a cover up for conversion. She always maintained that her main concern was to ease the suffering of people and to help the poor and the suffering to lead a life of relief and self-respect," the bishops said in a statement.

It said Mother Teresa had repeatedly explained that the motive behind her "self-effacing service" was "to help the Hindu, live a better Hindu, the Muslim, a better Muslim and the Christian, a better Christian with proper human dignity."

While upholding the freedom of speech of every citizen of India, the bishops said that our nation’s age-old passion for truth, unbiased support for the humanitarian works and compassion for the poor may not be jeopardized by any cynical motive or intolerant gesticulations.

Mother Teresa has become a symbol of love, care and compassion for the world, a legacy that will be carried on for ages to come, said the statement singed by conference deputy secretary general Father Joseph Chinnayyan.

Beheaded Egyptians to be included in Coptic calendar of saints

Abigail Frymann Rouch
the Tablet
February 23, 2015

The Coptic Orthodox Church is to commemorate in its calendar of saints the 21 Egyptian Christian labourers beheaded in Libya earlier this month. The Coptic leader, Pope Tawadros, announced that the names of the 21 men murdered by Islamic State jihadists will be added to the Synaxarium, the Coptic Church’s equivalent to the Roman Martyrology.

This procedure is also equivalent to canonisation in the Latin Church.

According to the website, the martyrdom of the 21 Copts will be commemorated on 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, 15 February in the Gregorian calendar – the day on which footage of the killings was made public. It is also the feast-day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

The Coptic Catholic bishop of Giza, Bishop Antonios Mina, said: “The name of Jesus is the last word that escaped their lips. As in the passion of the first martyrs (…), they celebrated their victory. That victory that no murderer can take away from them. That name whispered at the last second of life is like a seal on their martyrdom.” Pope Francis last week hailed the men “martyrs” and “brothers”.

Beshir Kamel, the brother of two of the Copts who died, thanked the Islamic State for including the men’s declaration of faith in the videos. “ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith,” he told the Christian channel SAT-7 Arabic.

Beshir said the martyrdom of his brothers, Bishoy and Samuel, was “a badge of honour to Christianity.”

Kamel’s interview went viral, receiving over 100,000 views within hours of being posted online.

Asked what his reaction would be if he saw an Islamic State militant, Kamel told the interviewer how his mother has said she would respond. "My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven,” Beshir said.

The leader of the Coptic Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, said he had already forgiven the men’s murderers.

“We don't forgive the act because the act is heinous. But we do forgive the killers from the depths of our hearts,” he told the Huffington Post on Friday, adding: “Otherwise, we would become consumed by anger and hatred. It becomes a spiral of violence that has no place in this world.” The website commented that Egypt’s Copts hoped that the tragedy provides “the long-awaited and necessary shock that brings to an end the anti-Christian demonstrations and violence that it constantly has to put up with”.

On the day the footage of the beheadings was released, Egypt’s Catholic Coptic Church celebrated the consecration of its first ever church in Sinai.

The name of Our Lady of Peace, in the community of Sharm El-Sheikh, was chosen by Susanne Mubarak, wife of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Mrs Mubarak, who was educated by Catholic nuns, and ensured that construction of the church went ahead, after years of delay and opposition by local political leadership.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone wields controversy to advance his agenda

C.W. Nevius
San Francisco Chronicle
February 18, 2015

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is a curious case. Ever since he arrived in July, 2012, he’s hit one hot button after another. He traveled across the country to appear at a March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., in June to speak out against same-sex marriage.

Recently, he’s stirred up a firestorm of controversy, including a vigil on Ash Wednesday — to protest what local Catholic school teachers say are “morality clauses” he wants to include in their handbook and labor contract.

And a priest in the archdiocese, the Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church in the Richmond District, decreed three weeks ago that he would only allow boys to serve as altar servers, rather than both boys and girls, as has been the practice. Earlier, in December, the school handed out a bizarre — and some parents say inappropriate — pamphlet that asked elementary school students about their sexual practices.

None of this is an accident. The idea that Cordileone is unaware that his views are way out of step with the city is ridiculous. Not that he’s letting on. Cordileone, who declined an interview request, has perfected the long, complicated, eye-glazing response that basically boils down to “What’s the big fuss?”

His justifications: He’s just providing “clarity” in the teachers’ contract. Male altar servers have been a long-standing tradition. And, he said in his March for Marriage speech, that while the LGBT community is “misdirected ... they are people of good will, and we must love them.”

What nonsense. While he pretends to take the high road, he also told the Catholic Herald in 2013 that Catholics should only use the term “gay marriage” sparingly because “we might fool ourselves into thinking it is an authentic reality.”

“Legislating for the right for the people of the same sex to marry,” he said, “is like legalizing male breastfeeding.”

Cordileone hasn’t said anything like that lately, presumably because it undermines his supposed thoughtful message. But Star of the Sea pastor Illo, who arrived here in August and says he has Cordileone’s full support, isn’t so diplomatic. The opinions expressed in Illo’s media interviews and personal blog make it clear he’s out to incite.

“An altar boy-only policy is a poke in the eye of the liberal culture of San Francisco,” he told the Catholic World Report on Jan. 29. “The media and liberal Catholics are on edge because of the new archbishop. And I think it’s great that we’re getting all the media attention. It helps us define the mind of the church.”

OK, now we’re getting to it.

Illo’s views are extreme by any measure. In fact, earlier this month he had to write a “statement of apology” to the parents, children and faculty of Star of the Sea School after saying the anger and upset over the altar boy controversy was creating “a necessary purging.” On Wednesday, he issued another apology, this one for the pamphlet: “Among the 70 items for reflection, some were not age appropriate for schoolchildren,” Illo said. “It is an oversight and we apologize to faculty, parents and students.” The pamphlet was not his only controversial message to parishioners: As he wrote on his blog in October: “There is a reason they call it 'birth control.’ It is an attempt to control human generation, to control our species at its very core, to control nature at its essential genesis.”

So let’s drop the facade of how thoughtful people of faith can disagree. That’s not what is going on here.

This is the model from the Walk for Life (which Cordileone and Illo enthusiastically support). Each year, the antiabortion group buses in thousands of people and uses the streets of the city to stage a traffic-stopping march, hoping to draw outrage and counterdemonstrations. Early on, some gullible reporters — raises hand sheepishly — took the bait and railed against the charade. Finally we realized that this was the idea — rile up the media, get lots of press attention and play to the red-meat true believers.

Although WFL organizers were well aware that the typical San Francisco Chronicle columnist wouldn’t support them, this year I got a personal e-mail asking how it was possible that I wasn’t going to write something about the walk. They didn’t care if it was negative. In fact, it looks like they saw that as a positive.

Frankly, three years ago the average San Franciscan probably couldn’t have named the archbishop. Now he and the archdiocese are constantly in the news, both here and nationally. Cordileone is using San Francisco as a backdrop to play to his real constituency — extremely conservative Catholics who are shocked by changing values in the country.

And that’s fine. If that’s what he wants to do, go right ahead. But let’s make it clear, Cordileone isn’t representing San Francisco. He’s not even trying.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pamphlet about morals upsets parents at San Francisco Catholic elementary school

Vivian Ho
San Francisco Chronicle
February 18, 2015

In the latest controversy to strike the Catholic Church in San Francisco, elementary school students at the Star of the Sea School were given pamphlets referring to sexual topics that some parents say were inappropriate and far too advanced for their children.

At the Inner Richmond school whose parish recently made news when its pastor banned girls from acting as altar servers at Mass, copies of “The Examination of Conscience and Catholic Doctrine” were passed out to students in second through sixth grades about two weeks ago, just before confession, parents and students said.

They asked questions such as, “Did I perform impure acts by myself (masturbation) or with another (adultery, fornication and sodomy)?” and, “Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse prematurely sterilized (tubal ligation or vasectomy)?” as well as, “Have I had or advised anyone to have an abortion?”

“It was very careless on their behalf, and you would expect anyone who works around children to be much more careful,” said parent Siobhan McFeeney, who has four children at the school. “You should never show this to a 9-year-old.”

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco did not return messages for comment, and the Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church, could not be reached.

McFeeney said some teachers realized what the pamphlets contained and grabbed them before her child in the second grade could read one. But her fourth-grade daughter, Sinead Trevino, said she had read them. They were being handed out by Father Patrick Driscoll, the parish’s parochial vicar, she said.

“I read the first few lines and I thought, 'What does that mean?’” she said. “They looked like they were things you weren’t supposed to do — the Commandments. But I don’t think they were.”

The older students were just as confused, and were talking about them at recess and getting “really grossed out,” said sixth-grader Riley Brooks, 11.

“There was something about masturbation,” he said. “Pretty sure abortion was on there, but I can’t remember. And sodomy. I don’t know what that means.”

His mother, Christy Brooks, said she found it ironic.

“There’s something on there saying, 'Did I deliberately look at impure television or Internet,’ and I feel like they have actually given my children impure content,” she said. “It’s not appropriate for children and anybody who thinks otherwise doesn’t belong around children.” Brooks said she understands that these are the teachings of the Catholic Church and that her children would eventually learn about these topics. But she said these pamphlets were just the latest in questionable actions made by the clergy running the parish and the school. Illo’s exclusion of girls from serving at the altar came after he forbade non-Catholic students from receiving blessings while the Catholic students took Communion, Brooks said. He reinstated the option after parents complained about his decision.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has also recently come under protests for introducing a new “morality document" for Catholic high school faculty and staff that would require them to “affirm and believe” that sex outside of marriage and homosexual relations are “gravely evil.”

California lawmakers: Archbishop's morality clauses for teachers send 'message of intolerance'

Olga R. Rodriguez Associated Press
February 17, 2015

California lawmakers on Tuesday urged the archbishop of San Francisco to remove from a teachers’ handbook morality clauses they say are discriminatory and divisive.

The lawmakers said in a letter to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone that the clauses “foment a discriminatory environment” and send “an alarming message of intolerance to youth.”

Cordileone earlier this month presented teachers at the archdiocese’s four high schools with a statement that says Catholic school employees are expected to conduct their public lives in a way that doesn’t undermine or deny the church’s doctrine.

The statement outlines the church’s teaching that using contraception is a sin and that sex outside of marriage, whether it is in the form of adultery, masturbation, pornography or gay sex, is “gravely evil.”

The archbishop said the statement would be added to the faculty handbooks.

Cordileone’s media office said he was not available to comment Tuesday.

The archbishop has said the document was designed to bolster the schools’ primary mission of educating faithful Catholics and that “no teacher will be required to sign any kind of statement or oath.”

The letter, written by Democratic Assemblymen Phil Ting of San Francisco and Kevin Mullin of San Mateo, was signed by every lawmaker representing the communities served by the four Catholic high schools in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties. Cordileone’s statement “strikes a divisive tone, which stands in stark contrast to the values that define the Bay Area and its history,” the letter reads.

A group of parents and students from the Catholic high schools plan to hold a candlelight vigil outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in support of teachers Wednesday, which is Ash Wednesday, a holy day that starts the Lenten season in the Roman Catholic church.

“We call on the Archbishop to reconsider his proposal, stop his attack on our LGBTQ family members and friends, and instead, affirm the fundamental Catholic values of love, respect and justice,” vigil organizers said.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Middle ground remains elusive in San Francisco Catholic high schools handbook fight

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
February 17, 2015

The clash over Catholic high school faculty handbooks and teacher contracts in the San Francisco Bay Area seems to be a standoff between those who embrace Catholic teaching as settled and unchanging and those who insist it is evolving and must do so. At the center is new faculty handbook language developed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for the four high schools under direct archdiocesan authority.

The text condemns homosexual relations, same-sex marriage, abortion, artificial birth control, "artificial reproductive technology," women's ordination, pornography, masturbation and human cloning.

It also says "administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or no faith are expected to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church doctrine and practice.

It calls on Catholic employees to additionally strive to "conform their hearts, minds and consciences, as well as their public and private behavior" to church teaching.

Educators are warned to avoid "organizations that call themselves 'Catholic' but support or advocate issues or causes contrary" to the church.

Supporters and opponents of Cordileone's initiative are both claiming the pastoral high ground.

Detractors argue that the emphasis on sexual issues is skewed, the new section's language is inflammatory, and that the initiative flies in the face of the pastoral style and tone of Pope Francis.

Those include a group of parents and students from several of the high schools within the archdiocese that organized an Ash Wednesday vigil and candlelight prayer service "in support of the teachers of the Archdiocese of San Francisco" beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the plaza of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in San Francisco.

"This is a respectful gathering at the start of the Christian season of Lent, held in the spirit of Atonement and Solidarity," an event flyer states.

However, Marin Catholic High School President Tim Navone said teachers there "have a clear sense of our mission and the [handbook] language is nothing new to our community. Our theology teachers have tackled these sensitive topics for years, and they are approached with love and prayer and study."

Located in Kentfield, Marin is one of the four archdiocesan-administered campuses. The others are Archbishop Riordan in San Mateo, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, and Junipero Serra in San Mateo.

Former Marin religious studies teacher Ryan Mayer posted a blog on the Catholic Vote website also endorsing Cordileone's efforts.

Emphasizing that he was commenting as an individual, Mayer said "based on the content of most of the tweets and comments" he has seen, "it's clear that many [protestors] haven't actually read the proposal and are merely parroting talking points from outlets and organizations hostile to Catholic teaching."

Professional conduct and ethics clauses are "nothing new," wrote Mayer, who lives near Rome, where he is pursuing a licentiate in bioethics. "It's odd that the archdiocesan proposal to clarify some aspects of what constitutes the Church's moral teaching would be met with resistance."

"It also seems odd," Mayer wrote, "that someone would willingly make themselves part of an institution that holds to a particular vision and then demand that the institution alter its vision and expectations to suit them, or voice discontent when the institution reiterates what it has always held."

Contrasting views were aired on a San Francisco public radio program, "Forum." Jesuit Fr. John Piderit, archdiocesan vicar for administration as well as moderator of the curia, defended the handbook language and the focus on sexual teachings.

"There is no doubt about it that ... many people's notions of what is appropriate in the sexual area have changed, and that includes many Catholics," Piderit said. "What the archbishop wants to do is reaffirm that ... the four archdiocesan schools as institutions still teach and defend the Catholic faith as it appears in the Catechism. He goes out of his way to say that the issues that he chose are not the most important, but they are important issues, especially for young people, because they are at a time when they are forming their views on these things. But he recognizes that there are many other issues. However, he calls these the 'hot-button' issues -- the issues upon which there has been severe changes in both secular society and in the thinking of many Catholics over the past 30 or so years."

Vincent Campasano, a gay man and the father of a SHCP junior, disputed Piderit, claiming the handbook promotes "hatred and judgmental innuendo" and "a sense of fear."

Criticism has been leveled at the handbook statement, titled "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regards The Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church," for its use of the phrases "intrinsically evil" and "grave evil," notably in describing homosexual relations. Piderit pointed out that Cordileone was quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Campasano said during the broadcast: "I have been with my friend, my partner, and thank God in recent years I am able to call him my husband, for 32 years. I live a monogamous relationship, a loving and caring relationship with him. There are so many aspects to our relationship that are no different than what the Catholic church would require or ask of a loving family. We object to this type of language. We are afraid we are going to lose teachers, good teachers, some of the best in the world, because of that fear that I mentioned earlier."

In addition to the handbook language, teachers are pushing back against a clause being sought for labor contracts that would classify them and other school employees as "ministers."

Union leaders and legal experts fear the "minister" designation would greatly weaken their legal standing in disputes by appearing to make them an official part of church apparatus.

Cordileone has indicated flexibility on use of the term.

Nonetheless, on Feb. 13, the California Federation of Teachers released a statement saying it is "alarmed that Archbishop Cordileone ... would attempt to impose the title of 'minister' on the dedicated women and men who work in the [arch]diocese's schools."

The release also seemed to target faculty handbook language: "The personal lives of teachers outside school in particular should be subject to common sense, not fear and intimidation or control by their employers. Archbishop Cordileone's proposals appear to be at variance with the philosophy and direction taken by Pope Francis," it stated, adding that "California has moved to overcome antiquated exclusionary provisions that target teachers based on marital status, political views, reproductive rights, and sexual orientation."

"No one doubts that religious schools ... are free to shape their curriculum in line with the views and mission of the institution," the CFT release said. "However, those views must be questioned and confronted when they fundamentally violate the constitutional rights of individuals who work in these schools. The CFT is working closely with the leadership and members of the San Francisco Archdiocese Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2240, to address the situation in ways that respect the views and diversity of our members in these schools as well as supporting the mission of providing the students and their families with the best educational environment possible."

Minimal response was received to dozens of email requests for comment sent to various faculty members at the four archdiocesan-owned schools. A handful said they had been asked to refer media contacts to a school's public relations office or to administrators.

Commented a Riordan teacher: "I am deeply disappointed in the text of the handbook for one simple reason -- its tone and its language differ from that of our beloved Pope Francis who has made great strides to heal our fractured Catholic Church."

Wrote an SHCP teacher: "I will simply say that the archbishop's keynote did very little to smooth over any rough spots and I disagree that the heat of the reaction is dying down."

At least some teachers, however, seemed to appreciate that Cordileone had addressed more than 350 of them Feb. 6 during a convocation held at SHCP. The archbishop remained for a 45-minute question-and-answer session following his talk.

Could Pope Francis be any clearer about his vision for the church?

Robert Mickens
National Catholic Reporter
February 16, 2015

It would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall on Sunday in any number of Rome's restaurants or private dining rooms where clerics gathered for their midday pranzo.

Without a doubt, first course for most of them was the extraordinary homily Pope Francis gave just a couple of hours earlier at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica with his newly fortified College of Cardinals.

Depending on the wall, the conversion would have been either stomach-churning or quite inviting.

Those clerics who are troubled by or pretend not to understand what Francis is "up to" -- no matter what color their dress or which rung of the ecclesiastical ladder they stand on -- were certainly not raising their glasses to toast what he had to say.

But those priests, bishops and cardinals who have been inspired by this pope from "the end of the earth" or who are at least willing to be challenged by him -- no matter how small or great their numbers -- were no doubt feasting on his words.

The Jesuit pope on Sunday showed once again that elevation to the episcopacy, even to the venerable See of Peter, has not emasculated the prophetic nature so constitutive of his priestly ministry and identity as a professed religious.

He reminded the men that some Catholics still and unashamedly call "princes of the church" that Jesus was more interested in embracing lepers and every kind of outcast than observing the ritual purity and prudent deliberations of the doctors of the law.

"I desire mercy and not sacrifice," he said in one of the numerous lines in which he evoked the Lord of the Scriptures. "What matters for Jesus is, above all, reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick and restoring everyone to God's family!" the pope said. "And this is scandalous to some people!"

Francis knows firsthand that a number of men who wear miters on their heads are among those most scandalized by the way "Jesus revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality" characteristic of certain religious leaders. He has seen it by the near fanatical and hostile way some of them and their theological experts have tried to annihilate proposals -- which the pope has encouraged -- that seek to reconcile all variety of Catholic "outcasts" with their church, most especially those currently excluded from its sacramental life.

"I urge you to serve the church in such a way that Christians -- edified by our witness -- will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about," he said.

Francis was explicitly addressing the 20 new cardinals (15 of them electors) that he created over the weekend. He told them to serve and see Jesus in all those on the margins, "even in those who have lost their faith, or have turned away from the faith, or say they are atheists."

He urged them to imitate his namesake, St, Francis of Assisi, by embracing the leper and accepting all the different types of outcasts. "Truly, dear brothers, the gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered and is revealed!" he said.

Sunday's homily was arguably one of the most important messages Pope Francis has issued during his nearly two years in the Petrine office. And it must be seen an essential addition to a small collection of interviews, documents and speeches during this period in which he has clearly placed the program of his pontificate before the People of God and, indeed, all people of good will.

He began with the surprising and blockbuster interview in August 2013 with La Civiltà Cattolica, which was translated and published shortly thereafter by numerous other Jesuit publications. Then the following November, he issued his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium ("Joy of the Gospel"), an astonishingly fresh blueprint for church reform and renewal inspired by the far-sighted, yet unrealized, vision of the Second Vatican Council.

In this select compendium, one must also include Francis' opening address at October's extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops for the way it liberated church leaders from a decadeslong moratorium on debating or questioning topics that had long been labeled "streng verboten" by authorities in Rome.

And finally, one cannot forget the 78-year-old pope's message to the top officials of the Roman Curia just before Christmas, when he warned the cardinals and bishops of 15 spiritual ailments to which they were especially susceptible. In every one of these talks and texts, Francis provoked -- and continues to provoke -- clear and diverse reactions.

But those who say they disagree with the prophetic words of the first religious order pope in nearly 170 years (the last was the Benedictine monk Gregory XVI) are more honest than those who say they do not understand him. By now, Francis has made it clear what he believes -- that the Holy Spirit is pushing the church to be more inclusive, compassionate and outward-looking; that the Lord Jesus is calling it to be less inward-focused, legalistic and obsessed with the nonessential externals; and that "finding the right words" for our beliefs, our teachings, our disciplines -- is one of the great tasks the church's pastors and its people must discover in order to bring this into being.

The next gathering of the synod in October will offer a glimpse of how many of the bishops are ready to ratify the pope's vision. But in the meantime, expect him to offer at least a few more talks and papers like his homily on Sunday to spell out that vision even more clearly.

Monday, February 16, 2015

ISIS: the Copts were killed simply for being Christian

Domenico Agasso Jr
Vatican Insider
February 16, 2015

Murdered for being Christian. Pope Francis is in no doubt about the reason why more than 20 Egyptian Copts were killed by jihadists of the so-called Islamic State. The Pope wished to express his “sentiments today at the execution of the Coptic Christians.” "They were murdered just because they were Christians … in the land of Jesus the blood of our Christian brothers is a testimony that shouts, whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Lutherans doesn't matter. The blood is the same.” Francis pronounced these words this morning – speaking off the cuff in Spanish – before concluding his audience with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland (Reformed), John Chalmers.

“These brothers, who died simply because they professed their faith in Jesus Christ, that the ecumenism of blood is still strong. The martyrs belong to different Christian denominations,” the Pope added in his address to John P. Chalmers, whom he called “brother”. The Pope had been talking about “what happens in the land of Jesus” where “the blood of our Christian brothers is a testimony of faith.”

“The Christian faith and testimony are faced with such challenges that only by joining forces can we effectively serve the human family and allow the light of Christ to reach every dark corner of our hearts and our world. May the path of reconciliation and peace between our communities continue to bring us closer to one another, so that guided by the Holy Spirit, we may bring life to everyone and bring it in abundance,” Francis said. “Let us pray for one another and continue to walk together along the path of wisdom, benevolence, fortitude and peace,” the Pope added.

This evening, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement informing that this afternoon the Pope telephoned the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His holiness Pope Tawadros II to express his “profound participation in the pain of the Coptic Church for the recent barbaric assassination of Coptic Christians by Islamic fundamentalists.” “He assured his prayers and tomorrow, when the victims’ funerals are held, he will join spiritually the prayers and grief of the Coptic Church as he celebrates morning mass,” the spokesman’s statement reads.

Convent school 'vandalisation' shocking: Delhi archdiocese

Business Standard
February 16, 2015

The Delhi Catholic Archdiocese on Friday said it was shocked that the Holy Child Auxilium School in the Vasant Vihar area of the national capital had become the latest Christian institution to be vandalised despite assurances from the concerned authorities.

"We are shocked again that so quickly another attack has taken place in one of our Catholic institutions. Though this time, it's not a church but a Catholic school run by nuns. They first attacked the CCTV cameras and then went into the Principal's office and stole whatever money they could," said Father Dominic of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese.

"We are sad, surprised that despite assurances from authorities, Christian institutes are being attacked. We will wait for what police has to say. We feel helpless. Who are these people and why are they doing this?" he asked.

Meanwhile, Father Savarimuthu, spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, said all they demanded from the government was safety and security.

"Earlier, we were told these attacks are election related; all we want is safety, security. This is not an isolated incident, we only demand security from the government," he told ANI here.

Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi, however, sought to downplay the situation and said the attack was a matter of theft not desecration.

HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who is also an alumnus of the institution, also paid a visit to the school today.

It is time for reform, but what kind of reform

Pat Perriello
National Catholic Reporter
February 16, 2015

In a beautiful homily by Pope Francis to the assembled cardinals and bishops, the need for reform was made clear once again. Francis stresses one more time that the church is about the marginalized, those on the periphery.

There is some indication that this homily may be an especially significant one. First he had just named twenty new cardinals, and this homily was specifically directed at them as well as members of the current hierarchy. Second, it comes at a time when columnist David Gibson notes the evidence suggests that traditionalists may feel they are winning the battle to slow down the momentum of reform. For this reason others felt the pope needed to do something to show that reform is going to go forward.

Francis pointedly states that we can either “fear to lose the saved,” or “want to save the lost.” He speaks of the excessive fear of scandalizing the faithful, which has always been a problem within the church. A pastor might tell a bridegroom to receive communion on his wedding day even if he was guilty of mortal sin, rather than scandalize the faithful at the wedding by not receiving communion. Of course this penchant for avoiding scandal was also instrumental in making possible the lengthy priestly abuse crisis. Better to let a priest continue molesting children than admitting to the faithful that such a thing could ever happen in the holy Catholic Church.

Many have asked, ‘but what does Francis really want?’ I think we only know part of the answer to that question. As he made clear again in this fiery sermon, like Jesus, he is saying that what we are doing as a church, as the leaders of the church, is not good enough. He tells us that we must not only welcome others, but go and reach out to the lost sheep. He is calling for a radical change in what it means to be bishop and cardinal. What matters to Jesus, Francis says, “is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family.” He contrasts that mission of service to those who are scandalized even by an act of healing, openness, or any action outside their “mental and spiritual boxes.” He chides those who see as scandal any “caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity.” He is calling on his priests, bishops and cardinals to embrace the Jesus of the gospels and truly reach out and serve their people.

But what does this mean in practical terms? We are limited to a few tidbits which we cannot be sure will even happen. Some changes in the structure of the Vatican curia are on the table, although even their resistance is gathering to major aspects of those changes. There is talk of communion for divorced Catholics, but once again there appears to be strong opposition.

Francis is not a liberal reformer. He is not invested in some of the same issues that many liberals are, such as advocating for a married and female clergy. Instead, Francis is a radical gospel reformer. The reform of Francis goes deeper than a few specifics. He is saying the present structure interferes with the mission of Jesus’ church. Radical change in the way we do things is necessary if we expect to be true, authentic followers of Jesus. Each of us as individuals but especially church leaders must quit being staunch defenders of some restrictive notion of orthodoxy and embrace Jesus’ mission of love and service to all. What this means for the nuts and bolts of church structure and practice may be in question. But before visible, observable change can really occur something else has to happen.

The hierarchy must first get the message. They must read again the Scriptures and see Jesus preaching that change must come to individuals and to the practice of Judaism. Repent or ‘metanoia’ as we know really means to change your mind. Jesus asked the religious leaders of his day to change their minds, to take another look at their religious practices to see that as in Luke 18:9-14, it was the tax collector who left the temple justified, not the Pharisee. Until the hierarchy fully embraces the reality that it has too often missed the most important element of its mission, and needs to change its way of being priest and bishop, real change cannot come to this church. The change Francis is seeking is in hearts and minds. In that arena we still have a long way to go.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Vatican's finance czar reports $1.5 billion in hidden assets

John L. Allen, Jr.
February 13, 2015

Pope Francis’ finance czar today informed fellow members of the College of Cardinals that the Vatican has more than $1.5 billion in assets it didn’t previously know it possessed, although that potential windfall has to be balanced against a projected deficit of almost $1 billion in its pension fund.

The discoveries mean that the Vatican’s total assets rise to more than $3 billion, roughly one-third more than previously reported.

The cardinals were also informed that the Vatican’s real estate holdings may be undervalued by a factor of four, meaning that the overall financial health of the Vatican may be considerably rosier than was previously believed.

The disclosures at the closed-door meeting by Australian Cardinal George Pell, installed as secretary for the economy a year ago, was part of a wide-ranging overview of efforts at financial reform under Francis presented today to cardinals from around the world.

“We’re sound,” Pell said of the Vatican’s financial condition. “We’re muddled, it’s been muddled, there’s been inadequate information, but we’re far from broke.”

Pell spoke in an exclusive interview with Crux from his Vatican office.

In a speech to cardinals on Friday who were meeting in Rome ahead of a Saturday ceremony in which Pope Francis will create 20 new Princes of the Church, Pell said the Vatican’s total assets include some $500 million in various accounts that were purposefully excluded from an overall 2013 balance sheet, as well as $1 billion in assets that should have been included in that report but weren’t.

Pell stressed the discrepancies were not the result of illegal activity, but an overly compartmentalized and unwieldy reporting system that allowed significant pockets of assets to go undetected. He styled Friday’s revelations as a major step forward for transparency.

“This is the first time we’ve had a comprehensive and, we believe, accurate picture about what’s going on economically,” Pell said.

He said the clean-up effort on finances drew “massive support” from the cardinals gathered in Rome.

On other matters, Pell conceded that his clean-up operation stirred “enthusiastic opposition” earlier in the process, especially from some of the Vatican’s other traditional centers of power such as the Secretariat of State, but said much of that has dimmed.

“There was a bit of a dream world that this wouldn’t really take off, that after some huffing and puffing the world would return to way it was,” he said.

He pointed to last October as a turning point, when Pope Francis approved a set of procedures for money management intended to bring the Vatican into line with international best practices.

“The penny dropped after that,” Pell said. “People realized the game has changed.”

He also confirmed a point made recently by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa, a member of the Council for the Economy, in an interview with the Catholic News Service: That a proposed set of statutes for the new secretariat, prepared by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, would have hamstrung their efforts.

In early December, Pell revealed in an essay for a Catholic publication in England that his office had discovered “hundreds of millions” of Euro in previously unreported assets, although by Friday’s report to the College of Cardinals, that total had risen to $1.5 billion.

Pell told Crux that while he can certify that number is accurate, he’s not yet sure that’s everything that was previously unreported.

He cautioned, however, that those discoveries have to be balanced against difficulties in maintaining the pension fund.

“We don’t want to frighten people, because the fund is secure for the next 10-15 years,” he said. “But to make sure we can fund pensions in 20 years’ time, we’ll have to somehow put in progressively at least $800 million to $900 million.”

Pell said the actual number may be higher still, given that projections on fund performance going forward may be overly “fanciful,” given trends in interest rates.

One of the Vatican’s senior financial officials, Pell said, went out of his way on Friday to reassure elderly cardinals that “their pensions are secure.”

Pell said that providing an honest picture of the Vatican’s true financial condition is the opening salvo of the broader reform effort.

“What we’ve got to do is to get in place structures so that the Vatican is a model to others and not a scandal,” he said. “We have to make it terribly difficult to return to waste and inefficiency and some measure of corruption.”

In terms of future steps, Pell vowed that an independent auditor general for the Vatican, reporting directly to the pope, will be appointed by the summer, and that sometime later in the year, a new supervisory board will be in place for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, another of the Vatican’s important financial centers.

Pell also promised that sometime later in the year, “for the first time ever in Vatican history,” the various departments will be providing quarterly reports comparing expenditures to budgets.

In general, Pell said, Pope Francis has supported the reform effort at every turn.

“Whenever there were things we couldn’t clean up on our own, he’s been there to support us,” he said.

Cordileone's continuing controversy in San Francisco revolves around Catholic identity

Brian Cahill
National Catholic Reporter
February 13, 2015

The continuing controversy surrounding San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone's attempt to emphasize Catholic teaching on sexuality in the San Francisco high schools under his control is, among other things, about how we understand Catholic identity. In the context of our secular society, it is good and necessary for a diocesan bishop to focus on Catholic identity.

The question is: How does a Catholic organization -- a school that does not limit its hiring or its services to Catholics -- manage the tension between what our church teaches in the area of sexuality and how it is expected to carry out its mission, serve its students and support its staff in the pluralistic society in which we live and operate?

The answer: very carefully. It's an ongoing challenge, one not conducive to an ideological, thought-police approach.

Some years ago, San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy, who did his dissertation on the writings of Jesuit priest and theologian John Courtney Murray, wrote: "It is the responsibility of the Church to proclaim the whole Gospel, but it is not the responsibility of each part of the Church to proclaim it the same way."

McElroy is an assistant bishop in San Francisco, but Cordileone appears tone deaf to this kind of nuanced thinking.

Cordileone could also learn from former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn, who has written about the public duty of bishops. In 2009, Quinn wrote expressing concern that some bishops are exacerbating the existing culture war mentality, "which corrodes debate both in American politics and in the internal life of the Church." He then quoted Christus Dominus: "The Church has to be on speaking terms with the human society in which it lives."

If Cordileone can't listen to two bishops in his own backyard, why should we be surprised that he won't listen to anyone else?

The archdiocese has declared that Catholic schools "exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus." Cordileone and his fellow culture warriors seem to have forgotten that the "Gospel of Jesus" can best be found in the Beatitudes and in Matthew 25: "What you did for the least of my brothers and sisters." The Gospel of Jesus is a message of love and inclusiveness -- a calling to charity and justice.

The conduct, maturity, integrity, loyalty and compassion of members of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School and other demonstrators in front of the St. Mary's Cathedral last week tell me and should tell Cordileone that Catholic identity is alive and well in our Catholic high schools. In their compassion and support for their teachers, they were giving witness to charity and justice -- the essence of Catholic identity.

Cordileone and his representatives keep insisting there is nothing new here, but there is: in the specificity of the handbook, in the implied threat to non-Catholic teachers and to dissenting Catholic teachers. There is a cloud of uncertainty, confusion and demoralization over these schools -- teachers, students and parents -- even if the "minister" issue is taken off the table and this situation is dialed back to some form of "don't ask, don't tell."

The archbishop constantly refers to confusion about church teaching about sexuality, not just in his announcement of his handbook changes, but also in many of his public pronouncements, implying that if we just understood the teaching, everything would be fine. But there is no confusion about contraception and, increasingly, same-sex civil marriage. There is strong, thoughtful, conscience-driven opposition. He also uses the words "timeless church teachings" and conveniently forgets how the church was wrong on Galileo and slavery and ignores that the "timeless church teaching" on same-sex adoptive parents was written in 2003.

Cordileone suggests that he is in line with Pope Francis. In one way, he may be correct: It doesn't appear that Francis is going to be changing any doctrine in the near future. But the whole world knows we have a pope who is focusing on Jesus' message of love and inclusiveness and who has told Cordileone and his fellow culture warrior bishops to quit being obsessed with the sexuality issues. Our archbishop doesn't even appear to be listening to his boss.

Cordileone turns out not to be a very good culture warrior. He's been the point man for the American bishops trying to stop civil same-sex marriage, and he won one battle with California's Proposition 8. Since then, 37 states have approved gay marriage. He is 1-37. If he were a football coach, he would have been fired a long time ago. But no other bishop probably wants the job.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

St. Teresa of Avila's survival guide for Catholic women

Nicole Sotelo
National Catholic Reporter
February 12, 2015

When I was a young girl falling madly in love with God, a nun gave me two books about St. Teresa of Avila. Later, I discovered that Teresa and I had another thing in common besides love of God: concern for women's equality. Teresa witnessed women suffering in a church that did not value their gifts, so she set out to make changes. As part of her reforms, she wrote a prayer manual, or, as I like to think of it, a 16th-century feminist survival guide.

At the time, church officials did not think women capable of accessing God through prayer on their own. "Mental prayer," or contemplative prayer, was considered dangerous without guidance. The Inquisition had recently banned a number of prayer books, and women's prayer was particularly suspect.

After Teresa's confessor forbade her to share her autobiography with her fellow nuns, she turned around and wrote another book, The Way of Perfection. Today, it is considered a spiritual classic on prayer. I also consider it a spiritual classic on Catholic women's liberation.

Teresa was a church reformer par excellence. She knew it wasn't enough to reform external structures. One also had to reform internal ones, the beliefs we carry around inside us.

So as she went about reforming her Carmelite order, she also sought to transform women's understanding of themselves.

Teresa wrote the prayer book for her fellow brave reformers, the sisters of her new communities. She seemed to know that it is in deepest prayer that we discover the truth about ourselves; that in prayer, her fellow sisters could discover that they, too, were equally beloved of God.

In the book, Teresa roots her thoughts in Scripture, proclaiming, "Nor did you, Lord, when you walked in the world, despise women; rather, you always, with great compassion, helped them. And you found as much love and more faith in them than you did in men."

And she reminds her fellow sisters that the officials of her day who pronounced judgments against women were not in accord with the Great Judge, "since the world's judges are sons of Adam and all of them men, there is no virtue in women that they do not hold suspect."

Teresa exhorts her fellow sisters to believe in their own ability to pray and access God. "Should anyone tell you that prayer is dangerous, consider him the real danger and run from him."

Most of all, she encouraged her fellow sisters to continue their prayer, despite injunctions against it by church officials: "Hold fast, daughters, for they cannot take from you the Our Father and the Hail Mary."

This line was later retracted from future manuscripts after one of her censors wrote in the margin, "It seems here that she is reprimanding the Inquisitors who prohibited books on prayer." Indeed.

Teresa certainly suffered for her bold beliefs. From church officials who said her "experience was from the devil" to house arrest, she faced myriad trials. In her earlier writing, The Book of Her Life, she concedes, "There were enough things to drive me insane."

But Teresa knew that things would eventually change. "Yes, indeed, the day will come, my King, when all will be known for what they are. ... I see that these are times in which it would be wrong to undervalue virtuous and strong souls, even though they are women," she wrote in The Way of Perfection.

She tells her fellow sisters that God will give them the courage they need. She suggests that if "one or two ... fearlessly do what is best," that things will begin to change.

Most of all, she assured them to continue confidently: "It is harmful to walk on this road with fear. It is very important for you to know that you are on the right road."

That "right road" led to the transformation of Teresa's religious order so many years ago. It is just one reason Carmelites around the globe will celebrate the 500th anniversary of her birth next month.

The transformation of the church to one that truly values women, however, clearly isn't finished. When the pope considers women "the strawberry on the cake" and Catholic women still lack full equality, it is helpful to turn again to Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century saint who knew women's worth and wrote a powerful guide for their prayer. Teresa's writing spoke to the heart of women nearly five centuries ago. It still speaks volumes today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Release of new language for San Francisco teacher handbooks sparks protests

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
February 9, 2015

Students, parents, teachers, gay activists, media commentaries, and others have challenged San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone's assurances that new faculty handbook language for the four archdiocesan-administered high schools does not "introduce anything essentially new" or "target ... any teachers, singly or collectively."

However, some have lauded the archbishop for the 2,000-word handbook statement, "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church," and its focus on sexual morality and religious practice as well as its strong warning to "administrators, faculty and staff" to "arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church teaching.

The handbook statement and teacher labor contract language Cordileone seeks at those four schools were made public Feb. 3 during afternoon meetings between school administrators and their faculties.

That same day, Melanie Morey, the director of the archdiocese's new Office of Catholic Identity Assessment, emailed the text of the handbook language, a letter from Cordileone, and the three desired labor clauses to administrators of the 10 other Catholic high schools within the archdiocese in what she said was an informational courtesy.

In her email, Morey told the school officials that the documents "contain information that is critical to Catholic identity" and "lay out some of the beliefs a Catholic school claims when it chooses to operate as Catholic. It also explains the responsibilities of faculty and administrators in relation to those beliefs."

Immediately after the documents were released, opposition surfaced to Cordileone's handbook language and labor contract clauses, including a social media campaign launched by students, #teachacceptance, which also supports a petition promoted by Call to Action, "Discrimination and Fear Do Not Belong in Our Schools." The petition had received more than 5,400 signatures by Monday morning.

On Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page analysis on the issue and an editorial titled "Wrong city, wrong century."

The editorial conceded the archbishop's authority "to ensure that his rigid interpretation of church doctrine is taught," but criticized what it called "this attempt to silence teachers and other school employees."

The editorial called the handbook statement "an affront to the many practicing Catholics -- especially in this region -- who have issues with doctrine that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry or prevent families from employing modern medicine to experience the joy of parenthood or to prevent or terminate pregnancy."

Cordileone was the keynote speaker at a long-planned Friday in-service event under the auspices of the Department of Catholic Schools that was open to teachers from all 14 Catholic high schools. More than 350 people attended the event at San Francisco's Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory (SHCP), two blocks from St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, where a 9:30 a.m. Mass was held for the educators prior to the assembly. Cordileone presided and was homilist.

SHCP is one of the four archdiocesan-operated high schools. The others are Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Junipero Serra in San Mateo, and Marin Catholic in Kentfield.

Archdiocesan security personnel did not permit people without convocation badges or other clearance into the cathedral for the liturgy. Several teachers entering the church declined to comment.

Braving driving rain, nearly 200 protesters, most of them students dressed in black as a statement of solidarity, staged a vigil and prayer service on the cathedral's plaza during the Mass.

Many protesters carried signs: " 'If a person is gay and seeks the Lord out of good will, who am I to judge?' -- Pope Francis"; "Inequality is the root of all evil"; and "Homosexuality is not a sin, intolerance is."

The protesters formed a two-block-long line from the cathedral's exit to the entrance of SHCP as teachers left the liturgy. Clearly moved by the show of support, many teachers thanked the protesters as they walked to the school.

Passing cars on busy Gough Street honked continually, and some people shouted support for the protesters out of their windows.

Elizabeth Purcell, an English teacher who has been at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco for 19 years, told NCR during the vigil that she was not representing her school but was participating "as a teacher in support of other Catholic school teachers."

"The language that the archbishop has laid out is unacceptable," she said. "It's exclusive. It's hateful. It denies everything we teach our students about inclusion. ... The kids at St. Ignatius are very upset. They're afraid it'll lead to indoctrination, not education."

Purcell is also one of the promoters of a statement opposing the archbishop's contractual and handbook initiatives. Backers were seeking signatures for the "open letter" and donations to run it as an advertisement in NCR.

Linda Swan, a mother to two SHCP alumni, said, "My brother is gay, so I know what it's like to feel like you're on the outside. I can't believe we're going back to the Stone Age, especially with this new pope."

Kathy Curran, who has one child at St. Ignatius and another at SHCP, said: "I sent my kids to Catholic school because of the strong academics, but also because I wanted them to have the best church foundation possible in charity, love and justice. This initiative pulls us away from that. I'm deeply saddened and profoundly troubled by the change in the teacher contracts and the handbook. I don't want the teachers to be put in a position of signing a contract they disagree with because they need a paycheck or health care."

SHCP junior Morgan Hood and St. Ignatius senior Jasmine Barnard summarized what many of the student protestors said.

"We have a lot of faculty and students who are part of the LGBQT community, and we don't want them to feel they're not welcome and supported," Hood said.

Barnard agreed. "A bunch of my friends are gay. I have an amazing teacher who changed my life, and she's gay."

Billy Bradford traveled from Castro Valley to join the protest. Holding a sign that says, "Cordileone denies gay families," he said, "I'm a gay father with a kid in college. I'm unhappy about what the archbishop's saying about my moral failings and how my family is not a family."

Nick Andrade, well-known for his board work and support for Catholic Charities CYO in the archdiocese as well as with various schools, also took part in the vigil.

Andrade told NCR he considers Cordileone a friend and has driven the archbishop to help serve at Wednesday evening meals sponsored by San Francisco's Most Holy Redeemer Parish. The parish website describes it as "a spiritual home to all: senior citizens and youth; single people and families; those who are straight, gay, lesbian, and transgendered; the healthy and the sick, particularly persons with HIV disease."

"We have had some good times talking" during the trips to and from the parish, Andrade said, although he said he has not had an opportunity to visit with Cordileone about the faculty handbook declarations.

What advice would he have given Cordileone?

"I would have asked him to be really cautious and ... most importantly to be concerned how it is going to affect other people especially within the gay and lesbian community," Andrade said.

"I understand and completely honor his beliefs ... and he will also tell me he honors my beliefs. He does not agree with them, and I do not agree with his. But the one thing about the Catholic church that is really nice is that we are allowed to agree and disagree."

"I have never felt him to be unwilling to listen or to consult and talk about issues," Andrade said. "He's really good with small groups, but once he gets with large groups, he can take on a different persona. I think he is terribly shy and as a result of that, he does not come off as being welcoming. But I have found him to be very friendly, and even though we have disagreed on some major issues, he's listened and he's been thoughtful."

"He is surrounding himself with some people who, I think, are like-minded, and that is a difficulty," Andrade said. "I don't think he's getting other points of view."

In conversation following Cordileone's address to the teachers Friday morning, archdiocesan Catholic Identity Assessment director Morey underscored Cordileone's "deep integrity" and desire to help young people develop healthy, integrated spiritual and sexual lives.

Morey said hurting or diminishing gay people "is the last thing" Cordileone would want to do.

SHCP graduate and chaplain Fr. Mark Doherty said he supports Cordileone's move.

Catholic school teachers, he told NCR in an email Saturday, "bear the responsibility -- at a bare minimum -- to conduct their professional and public lives, in both word and deed, in such a way as to not present a contrary witness. The new language to be introduced in the faculty handbook is meant to be an aide to faculty members. By clarifying what exactly the Church teaches on neuralgic points of human sexuality and religious practice, the new language ... can help faculty members direct the course of their professional and public conduct in such a way as to not flagrantly contradict the Church's stated mission."

"This is especially true in an age and region where the prevailing cultural trends promote an often-times harmful vision of spirituality and sexuality that hinders and threatens human flourishing," wrote Doherty, who is also parochial vicar at St. Peter Parish in San Francisco.

Another priest of the archdiocese, who asked not to be named, said he has deep reservations about the handbook language. He and others said Cordileone did not consult the archdiocesan priests' council or his consultors in development of the statement, and he had not provided them a heads-up of its content or pending release.

The priest said many of his clerical colleagues are "outraged."

"If I were asked to do a handbook," he said, "I would write, 'We believe and affirm the 16 documents of Vatican II, which are the supreme teaching authority of the church.' "

"This is a wonderful church in the archdiocese," Fr. David Ghiorso, pastor of St. Charles Parish in San Carlos, told NCR, "[but] I struggle with understanding what is transpiring. At the same time, I take the promise of obedience very seriously and to publicly challenge the decisions and actions of our leaders is not easy for me to do. It goes against so much of my priesthood. We can be so much better than what is happening presently in this local church."

In the wake of extensive news coverage about the handbook changes, Head of School Karen Hanrahan at Mercy High School in Burlingame sent a letter to parents clarifying that the school is "one of 10 high schools that are sponsored by religious orders and, therefore, considered independent."

"We understand that this is a challenging time for our colleagues in the four archdiocesan high schools and we hold them in our thoughts and prayers," the letter also said.

An independent Catholic high school official texted NCR on Saturday to say she was "still processing" the previous day's cathedral events and the issues involved.

"More than anything, I am saddened by Archbishop Cordileone's overall approach," she wrote. "It's Pharisaic to say the least -- and his comments about trying to be with the people are simply empty words."

"If he rented a room in [a poor neighborhood], got rid of his body guard, and started having real conversations with people, then he might build credibility," she said. "Cordileone will do much more damage if he continues in this trajectory. ... Imagine if he had started from the ground up and tried to have an impact on the culture by engaging in conversations with educators, students, and their parents. No -- this was about asserting his power and control, which is absolutely contrary to the message of Jesus."

San Francisco activist and blogger Michael Petrelis announced that a "kiss-in" protest of what he called Cordileone's "bigoted remarks and policies" would be held Feb. 21 outside the cathedral to coincide with the archdiocese's annual liturgy to honor married couples.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cardinal Burke in interview with France 2: I will resist

Rorate Caeli
February 8, 2015

Source: 13h15 le dimanche, Sunday program of French public television network France 2, broadcast on Sunday, February 8, 2015 (title "N'oubliez pas de prier pour moi" - "Do not forget to pray for me").

Presenter:] Since then [the Christmas Address to the Curia dedicated to the "infirmities" of the Roman Curia], the Cardinals have receded into silence, but some remain with a heavy heart. One of the most influential of these has finally accepted to receive us. Cardinal Burke is an American, ultra-conservative, and close to former Pope Benedict XVI.

- [Interviewer:] We are very glad to meet you, that you could grant us a little bit of your time! You are a great admirer of Benedict XVI?

- [Burke, in French:] Oh, yes!

- [Interviewer:] You have his complete works?

- [Burke, in French:] Of all the qualities of Benedict XVI, I think that the greatest is the one of being a master of the faith. / [In Italian:] When there is confusion, protest, I always turn towards him, towards his writings on the liturgy, but also on other doctrinal matters. Now I must get used to a new pope and -

- [Interviewer:] Is it difficult? Sincerely.

[Presenter:] The Cardinal is not seen favorably [lit. "in odor of sanctity"] in the eyes of the new pope. He was in the room on the day Francis threw his darts against the Curia.

- [Burke, in Italian:] I have heard here and there some jokes among the cardinals: "how many infirmities do you have?" It will be remarked upon for some time.

[Presenter:] The opposition between both men goes back to the month of October, at the time of the Synod on the family. In the order of the day, some matters provoke turmoil among the bishops, such as communion to remarried divorcees or the recognition of homosexual couples.

[Recording of Francis in the Synod:] "A cardinal wrote to me saying, 'too bad that some cardinals have not had the courage to say certain things. This is not good. This is not synodality. Because it is necessary to say all those things that, in the Lord, it is felt that must be said."

[Presenter:] Several conservative cardinals take up a crusade in order to defend the traditional family - among them Müller, Brandmüller, and Caffarra. As for Cardinal Burke, he takes the helm of the rebels. The debates are very lively, heated.

-[Burke, in Italian:] I cannot accept that communion be given to a person who is living in an irregular union, because it is adultery. On the matter of persons of the same sex, this has nothing to do with matrimony. This is a suffering that some persons have, of being attracted - against nature, sexually - to persons of the same sex. Those people, we must help them to live chastely. But there is no relation to marriage and family, it is a separate issue.

[Presenter:] The response to the Supreme Pontiff is clear: it is a rejection of what Francis had said in July 2013.

[Recording of Francis in the Airplane interview of July 2013]: "If someone is gay, and he searches the Lord, and has good will, who am I to judge him?"

-[Interviewer:] How do you intend to place pope Francis on the good path?

-[Burke, in Italian] On this, also one must be very attentive regarding the power of the pope. The classic formulation is that, "the Pope has the plenitude, the fullness, of power." This is true. But it is not absolute power. His power is at the service of the doctrine of the faith. And thus the Pope does not have the power to change teaching, doctrine.

-[Interviewer:] In a somewhat provocative way, can we say that the true guardian of doctrine is you, and not pope Francis?

-[Burke, in Italian:] [Smiles, shakes his head] We must, let us leave aside the matter of the Pope. In our faith, it is the truth of doctrine that guides us.

-[Interviewer:] If Pope Francis insists on this path, what will you do?

-[Burke, in Italian:] I will resist. I cannot do anything else. There is no doubt that this is a difficult time, this is clear, this is clear.

-[Interviewer:] Is it painful?

-[Burke, in Italian:] Yes.

-[Interviewer:] Worrisome?

-[Burke, in Italian:] Yes.

-[Interviewer:] According to you, today, is the Catholic Church under threat as an institution?

-[Burke, in Italian:] The Lord assured us, as he assured Saint Peter in the Gospel, that the forces of evil will not prevail -- non praevalebunt, we say in Latin. That the forces of evil will not achieve, let us say, victory over the Church.

-[Interviewer, looking at a portrait of Francis in the Cardinal's study:] Well then, Francis is your friend?

-[Burke, in Italian:] [Laughter] I would not want to make of the pope an enemy, certainly!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

San Francisco teacher union fanning hopes for contract breakthrough

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
February 7, 2015

A spark of hope that San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has signaled flexibility on a key impediment to contract negotiations with the union representing employees of the four high schools owned and operated by the archdiocese is being fanned by union members.

During a question-and-answer period following a Friday talk to more than 350 Catholic high school educators gathered at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School in San Francisco, Cordileone indicated openness to altering contract language he is seeking that would classify employees in the four schools as “ministers.”

Union members fear that designation would distance them from legal protection against discriminatory actions or firings by making them an official part of the church apparatus.

“All is lost” if the ministerial definition is adopted in contract language, one member said during the meeting.

Asked following his address if he was willing to discuss changing or removing the term “minister,” Cordileone said his goal is “to find language” that would “reflect employees' legal rights” but at the same time accomplish his push to make clear that all employees are collaborators in a Catholic school's mission and that the Catholic schools of the archdiocese endorse the entirety of Catholic church teaching.

He also said, “I've already thought of” possible language options. He did not elaborate.

Several dozen members of San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers Local 2240 and their elected representatives remained in the SHCP assembly room to meet following Cordileone's keynote address there just over an hour earlier for an annual high school teachers' in-service day.

Teachers from all 14 of the Catholic high schools within the archdiocese attended the convocation. Only four of the schools -- SHCP and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield, and Junipero Serra in San Mateo -- come under direct archdiocesan administration, and only those four have union representation.

According to a report in the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, about 470 full and part-time teachers and staff are employed at those four schools which enroll about 3,600 students.

The union represents “about 400 members,” nearly all of them full-time teachers, union official Susan Woodall told NCR. The union does not represent other staff who are part-time, maintenance or administrative, she said. The union was formed more than four decades ago.

During the union meeting, Woodall said she was both “delighted” and “encouraged” by the archbishop's apparent receptiveness to discussing use of the word “minister.”

No specific “language ideas” have been revealed “as we have yet to meet with the archbishop,” Woodall wrote Saturday in a email to NCR. “That should happen within the next few weeks.”

Union representatives are scheduled to meet with presidents of the four high schools on Monday to resume contract talks.

When Cordileone expressed "thanks and esteem" for the union negotiating team during the question-and-answer period, the crowd erupted in sustained applause.

Much of the union meeting's give-and-take also dealt with the widely publicized and controversial statement Cordileone developed for inclusion in the 2015-16 faculty handbooks of the four archdiocesan-administered campuses.

The 2,000-word statement, titled "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church," was made public Feb. 3 and quickly generated significant news coverage and opposition.

The free-standing handbook segment puts faculty and other employees on notice about heightened demands regarding adherence to Catholic teaching, particularly on sexual issues, and warns against taking public positions contrary to church teaching.

The section:

• Delineates areas of church teaching on "sexual morality and religious practice" it says needs more clarity and emphasis;
• Underscores that "administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or no faith are expected to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church doctrine and practice;
• Calls on "administrators, faculty and staff who are Catholics" to "not only avoid public contradiction of their status as professional agents in the mission of Catholic education," but to also "conform their hearts, minds and consciences, as well as their public and private behavior, ever more closely to the truths taught by the Catholic Church";
• Warns educators to "refrain from participation in organizations that call themselves 'Catholic' but support or advocate issues or causes contrary" to church teaching.

Woodall and others at the Friday union assembly underscored that the union does not have any direct authority to impact handbook content.

“Let's focus on what we can control and what we cannot,” charged one member. He called the handbook controversy “a red herring” that drew attention and focus from union negotiations on teacher retirement, benefits, wages and performance reviews.

Another member who said he was “a 31-year teacher” said “my Catholicism comes first” and warned against the union “losing sight of what” the archbishop “had to say about the role” of a Catholic school institution in conveying church teaching.

“Not all people in this union feel the same way,” he said.

While the handbook section and the union contract clauses are separate issues, labor negotiations and handbook content have long been intertwined, archdiocesan superintended of schools Maureen Huntington told NCR last week.

Catholic San Francisco reported that "the handbook additions will take effect in the 2015-16 school year and are not part of the [teachers'] contract.” However, a legal expert consulted by NCR said faculty handbooks do have legal bearing.

Nearly 200 persons, most of them students, staged a prayer vigil and protest Friday morning on the plaza of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral as the Mass for high school teachers prior to their convocation was taking place inside. Cordileone was celebrant and homilist.

The protesters formed a two-block long line from the Cathedral exit to the entrance of SHCP as teachers left the liturgy. Clearly moved by the show of support, many teachers said, “Thanks,” “Thank you guys,” “We appreciate it,” as they walked.

Friday, February 6, 2015

What is really toxic in the new San Francisco teacher handbook

Brian Cahill
National Catholic Reporter
February 6, 2015
[Brian Cahill is the former executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities.]

Continuing to ignore the spirit of nonjudgmental inclusiveness of Pope Francis, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is inserting a new document into the handbook of the four Catholic high schools under his control.

The document creates a clear demand to adhere to Catholic teaching on sexual issues. Cordileone says he is not going after individual teachers, but at the same time he is attempting to reclassify all school employees as “ministers,” a convenient way to dodge anti-discrimination laws and other workplace protections. Cordileone says he understands that not all teachers are Catholic and they may not agree with all church teachings. But the document includes multiple “affirm and believe” declarations relating to abortion, birth control, “artificial reproductive technology,” as well as pre-marital sex, same-sex acts or marriage, and masturbation. There is also a prohibition from joining organizations that call themselves Catholic but oppose church teaching. Cordileone says that the statement is “made on behalf of the institution, not all individuals in the institutions.”

Cordileone suggests that he will not be invading the private lives of employees. However, it’s safe to assume that on these high school campuses no public masturbation takes place, no abortions, no distribution of condoms, no in vitro fertilization, no same-sex weddings. Therefore the only possible area of focus is in the non-work lives of teachers. Will a gay or lesbian teacher who belongs to DignityUSA be fired? Are married teachers who use contraception at risk? What about teachers who are in legal same-sex marriages? And what is the point of adding masturbation? In the spirit of “affirm and believe” will employees have to resort to issuing “Nixonian” denials of such activity?

The language of the statement clarifies that employees must “arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny” these Catholic teachings. The key word here may be “visibly.” That would suggest if employees get caught breaking any of these rules, they would be fired, as teachers have been fired all across the country in Catholic high schools, but if they could just be discreet — then no harm, no foul. That’s pretty much what has become the fallback position of Oakland, Calif., Bishop Michael Barber when he tried this. Now his effort is seen for what it is — a clumsy, inept Catholic version of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

No one should be surprised at this latest action of our culture warrior archbishop. This is the man who made his career on Prop 8. This is the man who says every child should have a mother and father but blissfully ignores the hundreds of thousands of children placed in the foster care system because of the abuse and neglect of their mothers and fathers, parents who are living proof that sexual orientation is not an indicator of good parenting. This is the man who is opposing workplace protection for gays and lesbians. This is the man who hung out with documented bigots last year at the National March for Marriage.

Cordileone stated that Catholics who endorse contrary views “create toxic confusion about our fundamental values.” But if Catholic couples, in the spirit of the pope’s recent comments, limit the number of children they have, is that toxic? If you are a little girl who is only here because science helped her mom and dad conceive her, is that toxic? If you are a 10 year old abused child and the only adoptive parents who want you are a loving, qualified gay couple, is that toxic? If you think that the civil rights of gays and lesbians should be protected, is that toxic?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pope Francis to address joint meeting of US Congress

US Congress
February 5, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today made the following announcement:

“It is my great privilege to announce that His Holiness Pope Francis will visit the United States Capitol on Thursday, September 24, 2015. On that day, he will become the first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress. It will be a historic visit, and we are truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation.

“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another. We look forward to warmly welcoming Pope Francis to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people.”


Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi today released the following statement after Speaker Boehner announced His Holiness Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to address a Joint Meeting of Congress on September 24, during his visit to the United States:

“We are honored and overjoyed that Pope Francis, the first pontiff born in the Americas, has accepted our invitation to address a Joint Meeting of Congress during his upcoming visit to the United States.

“Pope Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of their religious affiliation, to be instruments of peace. In the spirit of the namesake of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ universal message of love and compassion speaks to millions around the world.

“We are eager to welcome His Holiness to the U.S. Capitol and we look forward to hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace.”

Pope Francis' letter to bishops: no place in church for sex abusers

NBC News
February 5, 2015

Pope Francis wrote to Catholic bishops around the world Thursday, ordering them to cooperate with investigations into sex abuse and telling them: "Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children."

The open letter, published on the Vatican website, came a day before the first full meeting of the Church's own commission to examine investigate and prevent such scandals.

Families "should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home," the pontiff wrote. "Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors."

One of the members of the commission, Marie Collins of Ireland, herself a victim of sexual abuse, told Reuters that commission members had asked the pope to write a letter to thwart any resistance from bishops to its work.

Francis said he had been "deeply moved" at a meeting in July with abuse victims at which he heard "the depth of their sufferings and the strength of their faith."

He wrote: "This experience reaffirmed my conviction that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused."