Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vatican stands by bishop accused of covering up abuse

Abigail Frymann Rouch
The Tablet
March 31, 2015

The Holy See has defended its decision to appoint as bishop a Chilean prelate accused of covering-up child abuse.

The appointment of Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of Osorno has been questioned by two members of Pope Francis' safeguarding board and a third, Peter Saunders, has said he may have to quit unless Pope Francis withdraws the appointment. The bishop’s installation Mass on 21 March was cut short amid loud protests by crowds who were angry at his handling of allegations regarding abuser Fr Fernando Karadima, 84.

In a brief statement on Wednesday the Vatican said: “Prior to the recent appointment of His Excellency Msgr. Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of Osorno, Chile, the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.”

Monday, March 30, 2015

Is this the face of religious liberty?

Thomas Bushlack
Catholic Moral Theology
March 26, 2015

In a move that seems both almost incomprehensible, and yet somehow perhaps not surprising in our political climate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation today that could potentially allow discrimination against members of the LGBT community. Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post writes that “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.” Concerns over legalized discrimination have prompted Salesforce, a Fortune 500 company to state that it will avoid future business in Indiana, and Gen Con, one of the largest gaming conventions in America, has threatened to stop holding its convention in Indiana.

This bill is based upon both bad jurisprudence, and bad theology. Is this really the way in which religious leaders, including members of the Catholic Church such as those represented in this Mike Pencephoto, want to stand up in defense of religious liberty? Do we want to use the fundamental tenet of American democracy as an excuse to discriminate against our own citizens, against our own brothers and sisters in Christ? I submit that this is not the face of religious liberty that we need to defend in America today.

This bill strikes me as one of the most ironic and perverse applications of religious liberty imaginable: a fundamental principle of the United States’ Bill of Rights, enshrined in the First Amendment non-establishment clause, is now being used to sanction discrimination. The ironies of history and politics know no bounds. The framers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights wanted to create an enduring political and legal structure that would ensure that no group in America would be able to leverage its particular beliefs in order to discriminate against those with whom they disagree. They saw this as a necessary foundation for a free and just society. As we are apparently going to have to continue to deal with laws such as this one, Catholic citizens – and others – involved in such debates would do well to turn to Thomas Aquinas’s discussion of the virtue of epikeia. The purpose of epikeia is to acknowledge that when interpreting and applying a particular law, a legislator or judge will have the freedom to take into account the original intention of the law-maker, and apply the law properly and in line with that original intention. Such a move is warranted, Aquinas claims, even if one must act in contrast to the literal interpretation of a particular law. No doubt there will be Constitutional appeals to laws such as Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. One can only hope that epikeia (along with charity) will be expressed in the overturning of this law as contrary to the original intentions and purposes of the very religious freedom upon which this country is built.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

San Francisco priests' council debates "P.R. disaster" parish

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
March 26, 2015

During what one participant described as an "explosive" meeting, the San Francisco archdiocese's Council of Priests in mid-February addressed Star of the Sea pastor Fr. Joseph Illo's decision to phase out altar girls as well as the designation of the parish as an oratory-in-formation.

Retired Sulpician Fr. J. Michael Strange, who lives at St. Stephen Parish in San Francisco, "proposed this agenda item and raised the issue for discussion because many of his constituents and parishioners at St. Stephens and elsewhere have contacted him regarding Fr. Illo's recently announced policy of admitting only altar boys at Star of the Sea Parish," according to a draft of the Feb. 12 meeting's minutes.

NCR obtained a copy of the minutes from an anonymous priest.

Strange told council members that "he found other aspects of Fr. Illo's parish bulletin explanation [in regard to] this new policy troublesome, as was the fact that Fr. Illo did not consult his deanery to see if this was a wise and prudent move prior to implementing this policy, noting consultation is one of the purposes of a deanery."

According to the minutes, Strange said he and other priests have had "to spend much time on the issue with parishioners."

Strange asked "for a decree that altar servers are open to boys and girls in the archdiocese, or that the Priest Council issues a recommendation that Fr. Illo reverse his policy," the minutes state.

Toward the end of the meeting, then-Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy suggested that San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone issue a directive stating disagreement with Illo's exclusion of altar girls, the minutes report.

McElroy, whose appointment as bishop of San Diego was announced March 3, "distinguished between personnel issue and the policy issue," the minutes say, explaining that personnel issues belong to the archbishop.

However, the minutes continue, McElroy said "excluding girls from being altar servers is 'invidious discrimination' and to do this in this day and age in our culture has no justification."

McElroy "mentioned the Pope recently spoke on this very theme and said 'to live by exclusion is a corrupting method of living'" and "further stated that if this was just a case of a pastor acting rashly, he could be talked to."

"But the dilemma, in [McElroy's] view," the minutes say, "is that Fr. Illo repeatedly stated in public interviews that he proceeded with the Archbishop's permission. That was the killer ... and that the public perception will be that the Archbishop is in favor of these actions."

Jesuit Fr. John Piderit, archdiocesan moderator of the curia and vicar for administration, told council members he felt that "in an archdiocese with 93 parishes, having a few that do something different is a healthy thing," the minutes state.

Cordileone echoed Piderit during closing remarks about the Star of Sea situation, the minutes report: "There are some people in the archdiocese that like worshiping in this way, they like seeing only altar boys on the altar, and [Cordileone] wonders why we can't have one or two parishes ... with this practice, so the lay faithful with this preference have a space to go."

"Regarding calls for a policy to be implemented, the Archbishop does not want to impose a policy that would restrict a pastor from exercising pastoral discretion in situations where the Church allows such discretion," the minutes state.

Cordileone also told the council that a Congregation for Divine Worship instruction had "made clear that a pastor can have altar boys only, and highlighted the connection between altar serving and vocation," according to the minutes.

"The Archbishop did acknowledge that Fr. Illo could have handled the matter much differently and in doing so could have avoided the P.R. [public relations] disaster that ensued," the minutes say, adding that the archbishop "reminded that this has been the 'M.O.' [modus operandi] of the Church in recent times -- citing the example when altar girls started. Pastors just started doing it, they didn't talk about it at their deaneries, they didn't consult others, they just did it. So there is nothing new in handling things poorly in matters of change."

The archbishop said he would discuss the council's concerns with Illo during an upcoming, already-scheduled meeting.

According to a participant in the priest council's March 12 meeting, there was little more discussion of Star of the Sea, and "the archbishop simply said he had talked with Fr. Illo."

The Feb. 12 minutes report that Cordileone said he felt he was responding in part to past council discussions on rectory life "and how to promote priests having a more fruitful common life living together" when he accepted the request from Illo to form an oratory in San Francisco.

The oratory, Cordileone told the priests, could be a model for "fostering this sense of common life in rectories," the minutes say.

According to a May 2014 story in the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic San Francisco, Illo and Star of the Sea associate pastor Fr. Patrick Driscoll were to be the initial residents of what is called a fraternity, the first "step toward the canonical establishment of an Oratory of St. Philip Neri" at Star of the Sea.

An oratory is a "Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right," first begun by St. Philip in Rome in 1575, Catholic San Francisco reported. "Its members are secular priests and brothers who live in community without formal vows and carry out pastoral ministry, usually in an urban parish."

Strange called "the Oratory -- as it exists in our archdiocese -- a divisive force and wonders if there is an implication that the rest of us are not imparting the true Catholic faith."

During the discussion, several other priests expressed concerns, including Fr. David Ghiorso, who also brought up the controversial examination-of-conscience guide that had been distributed at the Star of Sea School, as well as the establishment of an oratorian community. He reportedly said he had "concerns about this group doing their own thing" and "running their own show."

In early February, it came to light that Driscoll had distributed to even young students a pamphlet, "Examination of Conscience and Catholic Doctrine," an extensive listing of potential sins, including adultery, masturbation, fornication, entertaining impure thoughts and abortion.

Parents and teachers reportedly retrieved the pamphlets. Driscoll and Illo later apologized.

Ghiorso, pastor of St. Charles Parish in San Carlos, Calif., said he "would never vote to invite them into the archdiocese, finds them an embarrassment and thinks they should be returned to their own dioceses," the minutes said.

Illo was released to the San Francisco archdiocese by Stockton, Calif., Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Driscoll was given permission to join the fraternity by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.

Dominican Fr. Michael Hurley, pastor of St. Francisco's St. Dominic Parish, questioned if any council members had visited with Illo about the recent issues. The minutes indicate no responses. Hurley criticized "casting aspersions and making wide sweeping generalizations and recommendations prior to actually speaking with him."

According to the minutes, Hurley said he "senses that he [Illo] is very pastoral." Hurley added that he and Illo are in the same deanery, that he had spoken with Illo following the highly publicized events and that he thinks "Fr. Illo feels he is on an island and was looking for advice."

Responding to Hurley, pastor of St. Cecilia in Lagunitas, Calif., Fr. Cyril O'Sullivan argued that "the onus should have been on Fr. Illo to first talk to his brother priests, especially being new in this archdiocese," the minutes state. O'Sullivan said Illo should be taught about "where we are in our Church today; if he wants to be pre-Vatican II he needs to be told, 'We're not Vatican I, we are Vatican II.' "

The minutes say that O'Sullivan said Illo's "actions were totally disrespectful to his brother priests and the archdiocese" and asked if Illo might be considering the ban of female eucharistic ministers.

Carmelite Fr. Michael Greenwell lauded Cordileone's "policy of not micromanaging pastors, as evidenced by giving authority to Fr. Illo, even if he might disagree with the pastor," the minutes said, also noting that Greenwell described parental concerns he'd heard about potential perceptions caused by a pastor wanting "only boys in the program" in light of the "priestly pedophile scandals."

According to the minutes, Paulist Fr. Bart Landry, pastor of Old St. Mary's Cathedral Parish in San Francisco, expressed frustration at spending inordinate time "having to respond to angry parishioners," "putting out fires," and doing "damage control."

Parents ask San Francisco Archdiocese to remove controversial parish priests

Mandy Erikson
National Catholic Reporter
March 26, 2015

In a packed auditorium at Star of the Sea School in San Francisco on Wednesday, parents told representatives of the archdiocese to remove the parish's two priests.

After describing the changes that Fr. Joseph Illo, administrator, has instituted at the school since his arrival and the effects on their children, most of the parents concluded their talks by saying, "We respectfully ask that Fr. Illo and Fr. Driscoll be removed from Star of the Sea."

The audience frequently clapped and cheered while Illo and associate pastor Patrick Driscoll faced the audience and the speakers. Auxiliary Bishop William Justice and Fr. Raymund Reyes, vicar for clergy, also attended the meeting. Reyes took notes; Justice said they would pass the parents' comments on to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

Justice added that recently, the archdiocese has received a few, "not a lot," of emails in support of Illo. He said those emails would be considered along with the parents' comments.

Neither Illo nor Driscoll spoke.

About 200 parents and teachers attended the meeting, the majority of them wearing Star of the Sea sweatshirts. Sixteen parents spoke at a dais at the front of the audience that faced the four clergymen. Several started to cry as they spoke.

In November, three months after arriving at Star of the Sea, Illo banned girls from serving at the altar during Mass, a practice approved for the universal church since 1994. He has since revised the policy to allow already-trained altar girls to continue to serve at the school, but girls would no longer be recruited or instructed for altar service.

According to a May 2014 story in the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic San Francisco, Illo and Driscoll were to be the initial residents of what is called a fraternity, the first "step toward the canonical establishment of an Oratory of St. Philip Neri" at Star of the Sea.

An oratory is a "Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right," first begun by St. Philip in Rome in 1575, Catholic San Francisco reported. "Its members are secular priests and brothers who live in community without formal vows and carry out pastoral ministry, usually in an urban parish."

Illo was released to the San Francisco archdiocese by Stockton, Calif., Bishop Stephen Blaire, and Driscoll was given permission to join the fraternity by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.

Also in November, Illo stopped blessing non-Catholic children at Communion and barred non-Catholic students from reading at school Mass, although he later reinstated these practices.

The same month, Illo no longer included non-Catholic children in reconciliation by meeting with them and giving them a blessing; those students now sit elsewhere while Catholic students take part in confession.

In February, parents said Illo told them at a meeting that the school's curriculum needed to cover more religion, adding that families who didn't like his changes were welcome to leave.

Many of the parents said their children have been thriving at Star of the Sea and they didn't want to leave. They praised the school's diversity and sense of community.

But Illo's distinctions between Catholics and non-Catholics and boys and girls, they said, have created divisions.

Several parents said the exclusion of non-Catholics from celebrations reminded them of discrimination they or their families had suffered in other places at other times.

Brian Wu said he felt discriminated against growing up as an Asian-American in Kansas and didn't want his child to feel that way at Star of the Sea. He said his child had asked him: "Does Fr. Joseph think that some kids are better than others?"

Some also said Illo's changes caused them and their children to lose sleep. Ed Wong said his 9-year-old son stayed awake at night wondering "if his school is going to close, if he is going to hell."

Parents also described their shock when they learned that Driscoll had distributed a pamphlet to the students, some as young as 7, that addressed sodomy, masturbation and adultery.

Illo and Driscoll have said distribution of the confessional guide was inappropriate and apologized.

In addition, parents say Illo had asked their children during confession how frequently their families attend Mass.

"I deeply resent the use of confessional as a polling place," said parent Stella Bialous.

Many parents mentioned Illo's blog, in which he described San Francisco as "savagely distorted" and said changes at the school were to effect a "necessary purge." On his blog, Illo apologized for his choice of words.

Brenda Kittredge, a school alumna as well as a mother of four students at Star of the Sea, said: "We are way, way, way past apologies being enough."

Members of Vatican abuse commission question Francis' inaction in Chile

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
March 26, 2015

Two members of the new Vatican commission advising Pope Francis on clergy sexual abuse say they are both concerned and surprised at the pope's decision to appoint a bishop in Chile who is accused of covering up abuse, even witnessing it while he was a priest. Speaking in brief NCR interviews Thursday in personal capacities, the commission members also said some in their group are considering traveling to Rome to speak to the pope face-to-face on the matter.

Bishop Juan Barros Madrid was installed Saturday as head of the diocese of Osorno, Chile, amid protests in the cathedral. Chilean survivors accuse Barros of covering up abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima, a once-renowned spiritual leader and key Chilean church figure who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of sexually abusing minors, when Barros was a priest.

"I am only speaking for myself, but as a working sub-group of the commission, we are all very disturbed by what is going on in Chile," said Peter Saunders, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a survivor of abuse.

Referring to different sub-groups of the commission working on recommendations for Francis on the church's abuse measures, Saunders said he is part of a commission working group of survivors who together are considering the trip to Rome.

"I am gravely concerned about this issue," said Saunders, who is also the founder of the U.K.-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood. "One or two of us on our survivor working party are suggesting we go to Rome to speak with Francis, or at least Cardinal [Sean] O'Malley."

Boston's O'Malley leads the Vatican abuse commission and is also a member of the pope's advisory Council of Cardinals.

During Barros' installation Saturday, some 650 people interrupted the ceremony wearing black and making noise in protest. Survivors say that as a priest, Barros not only worked to cover up Karadima's crimes, but witnessed some of them as they happened.

The bishop, who previously served as the head of Chile's diocese for the military, has denied the claims, saying in a statement he "never had knowledge or imagined the serious abuses that this priest [Karadima] committed with his victim."

In a telephone interview with NCR on Thursday, Marie Collins, another member of the Vatican sexual abuse commission who is also a survivor, called on Francis to remove Barros.

"As a survivor, I'm very surprised at the appointment in Chile because it seems to go against ... what the Holy Father has been saying about not wanting anyone in positions of trust in the church who don't have an absolutely 100 percent record of child protection," said Collins, an Irishwoman.

"I don't know what investigations were done on behalf of the church, but I do know that in investigations of [Karadima], survivors did make those investigating aware of Barros' presence," Collins said.

"[Barros] is not accused of abuse himself in anyway," she continued. "He may have been aware of it and did nothing. And that's enough."

Asked about what recommendations the Vatican commission is considering making to Francis about bishops who cover up abuse, Collins said she thought accountability for bishops was a separate issue than Barros' situation, as he was not a bishop during the time he is alleged to have covered up Karadima's crimes.

"It doesn't appear that he has behaved in any way inappropriately as a bishop," she said. "It's just whether with all the concern around him he's an appropriate person to be appointed."

"I think it's a slightly different issue, but it's just as concerning," Collins continued. "It's the fact that the church would have known about this. I can't understand just how it's gone ahead."

"If he has been able to prove that he wasn't present at any time of any of this, if he's able to prove that, then obviously there's no case for him to answer," she said. "But I don't know that he's done that. It would seem a number of the survivors have all said the same thing. It's not just one person accusing him."

Collins said she thought Francis was "very sincere" about child protection.

"This seems to be contrary to what he has said," she continued. "I'd just like to understand it better and to know why the concerns around Bishop Barros seem to have not been addressed."

Saunders and Collins are two of 17 members of the Vatican abuse commission, which the Vatican announced in December 2013 but which met for the first time with all of its members in February in Rome.

Collins said the next in-person meeting of the group is likely to be held in October.

During a press conference in February, the commission said it is focusing on making recommendations to Francis in about 10 areas, including accountability for bishops who cover up abuse and examining the guidelines on sexual abuse from each of the world's bishops' conferences.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Irish Association of Catholic Priests takes neutral stance on same-sex marriage

Catholic Herald
March 25, 2015

The Association of Catholic Priests has adopted a neutral position on the same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland and urged priests not to instruct their parishioners on how they should vote in May.

The group of priests, with a membership of about 1,000, issued a statement saying: “After a consultation with our members, the results of which indicated clearly a wide range of views, the Association of Catholic Priests has decided not to adopt a position in favour or against the marriage equality referendum.”

The statement added: “Sexual orientation does not debar anyone from God’s love. If as priests we are speaking on this matter, we need to remember that the use of intemperate language can cause deep hurt among gay people and their families, as well as doing further damage to an already ailing church.”

They concluded: ““We look forward to a debate that will be characterised by freedom of speech and respectful listening so that the best result for the Irish people might be reached” and said that their priests had a particular responsibility to “not to direct their parishioners to vote Yes or No.”

An opinion poll published in the Irish Times last year found more than two thirds of voters would back same-sex marriage in a referendum.

San Francisco teachers' union describes 'great distress' among members

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
March 24, 2015

A letter describing “great distress” and “significant division, discontent, doubt and fear” among its members has been sent to administrators of three of the four high schools overseen by the Archdiocese of San Francisco by the executive board of the teachers' union representing all four schools.*

In response to "your recent distribution to all faculty members of the annual letters of intent to return," the letter said the "turmoil resulting from the archbishop's proposed changes to the [faculty] handbook," and the collective bargaining agreement has led to "many of our colleagues ... considering other career options," according to a copy of the statement sent to Gary Cannon, principal of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco.

Union officials told NCR that similar letters were being sent to leaders at Marin Catholic in Kentfield and to Junipero Serra in San Mateo. Annual intent-to-return letters had not been mailed yet from Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco, they said.

The archdiocese owns and operates those four schools. Ten other Catholic high schools in the archdiocese are private and/or sponsored by religious communities.

Controversy erupted and continues in the Bay Area following the Feb. 3 release of a statement developed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for inclusion into the four schools' 2015-16 faculty handbooks.

It outlined areas of church teaching and practice Cordileone said needed more clarity and emphasis, and it cautioned "administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or no faith ... to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church tenets.

The union leaders' concerns were echoed in a March 2 letter to Cordileone signed by 21 retired priests of the archdiocese.

"We feel that ... consultation and collegiality, deeply rooted in our local church, has not been followed in your initiative regarding the teachers of the Catholic High Schools of the Archdiocese," the senior priests wrote. "Most initiatives and actions elicit both positive and negative reactions. By far, the majority of responses we have heard have been negative. They do not challenge that Catholic doctrine should be part of a Catholic high school's curriculum, nor that teachers should respect the school's Catholic identity. The objections focus mainly on the lack of sufficient consultation, on the manner of presentation, on the wording, and on the question of the need for such a document."

The union's letter asked Cannon to forward the text to SHCP president Christian Br. Ronald Gallagher as well as to the archdiocesan superintendent of schools, Maureen Huntington, "in hopes that the archbishop himself may get a sense of the real and potential impact of his actions."

"While the majority of your faculty employees might be returning those letters as usual signed with their official intent to return," the union letter stated, "an indeterminate number of them may at some time in the near future renege on that declaration in favor of alternate employment."

Meanwhile, Cordileone invited priests of the archdiocese to meet with him from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in San Francisco to foster "presbyteral unity and brotherhood" and discuss "as a current issue of the moment ... the Teacher Contract/Handbook issue."

In announcing the gathering, Cordileone said he would "deliver some comments and give some perspective on what has transpired." He encouraged advance submissions of questions.

In other developments in the archdiocese:

•The Gubbio Project, an outreach program for the homeless that includes their sleeping on pews of St. Boniface Church, announced it would meet with Auxiliary Bishop William Justice to discuss ways to cooperate on ministry to the homeless in the wake of the controversy over revelation that the cathedral had installed a sprinkler system to discourage transients from sleeping in its doorways.

•Justice and Fr. Raymond Reyes, the archdiocesan vicar for clergy, are scheduled to meet with an organization of parents and alumni of Star of the Sea School on Wednesday to discuss tension between the school community and parish priests over a ban on altar girls, distribution of inappropriate materials to school children, confusion over the school faculty future, and other issues.

•The organization Concerned Students and Parents: Teach Acceptance announced it will sponsor a March 30 procession and vigil. The procession will begin at 6 p.m. at Mission Dolores Church and move to the cathedral, where a 7 p.m. "peaceful vigil" will include presentation of a petition it has promoted, "We Call Upon Archbishop Cordileone to Teach Acceptance: Withdraw proposed language from the contract & handbook."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cardinal Keith O'Brien removed from public life and forced into retirement

The Herald Scotland
March 20, 2015

Two years after he stood down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh after admitting sexual relationships dating back decades, Pope Francis has ordered the Cardinal no longer perform any public, religious or civil duties associated with the title.

The unprecedented move will be seen as a humiliation of the former leading cleric and will prevent him taking any future role in the selection of any new Pope.

The move has been welcomed by the Catholic Church in Scotland however, he will be allowed to retain in his Red Hat and is expected to stay in his temporary residence in north east England.

The sanction confirms the Vatican has now formally accepted the claims of the four priests who claimed Cardinal O'Brien's had been guilty of inappropriate sexual conduct with them.

A further seminarian also launched a civil action against the church claiming Cardinal O'Brien had made sexual contact with him in the late 1970s.

He has been effectively exiled from Scotland by the Vatican since May 2013 but retains some support amongst sections of the clergy and lay Catholics.

Both Pope Francis and Cardinal O'Brien have met in person to discuss the issue and sanctions. The Cardinal has also issued a renewed apology

His successor, Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh said Cardinal O'Brien's behaviour distressed many, demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic.

Archbishop Cushley said: "As most people are aware, Pope Francis is a good and prayerful man whose character embodies justice and mercy. I am confident therefore that the decision of the Holy Father is fair, equitable and proportionate,"

"I therefore acknowledge and welcome Cardinal O'Brien's apology to those affected by his behaviour and also to the people of Scotland, especially the Catholic community."

Today's announcement follows the decision by Pope Francis to send a personal envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, on a fact-finding mission to Scotland last year. Based upon that investigation, the content of which is fully know only to Pope Francis and Archbishop Scicluna, Pope Francis has reached his canonical conclusion.

Archbishop Cushley added: "For my own part, I would like to express sorrow and regret to those most distressed by the actions of my predecessor. I also pay tribute to those who had the courage to come forward to speak to Archbishop Scicluna. I hope now that all of us affected by this sad and regrettable episode will embrace a spirit of forgiveness, the only spirit that can heal any bitterness and hurt that still remains."

Cardinal O'Brien said: "I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland some two years ago now on 3rd March 2013.

"I then said that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that I am deeply sorry".

"I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way. I will continue to play no part in the public life of the Church in Scotland; and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement, praying especially for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way."

Archbishop Cushley has sent out a letter to be read as masses this weekend confirming the Pope has accepted Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and his retirement.

Only a Pope can approve a cardinal resigning his official status, and today's announcement is extremely rare in Church history.

The closest parallel to today's events came in 1927 when French Cardinal Louis Billot resigned from the Sacred College of Cardinals following a stormy meeting with Pope Pius XI. His resignation was accepted by the Pope eight days later.

Traditionalist bishop excommunicated from Catholic church for unsanctioned ordination

Antonia Blumberg
Huffington Post
March 20, 2015

British Bishop Richard Williamson was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church on Thursday for conducting an ordination ceremony unsanctioned by the pope, according to news reports.

Williamson, 75, consecrated Father Jean-Michel Faure a bishop during a ceremony in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, on Thursday, the feast of St. Joseph. Canon 1382 in the Code of Canon Law dictates that a bishop who ordains another bishop without papal consent incurs a latae sententiae, or automatic, excommunication.

By canon law, Faure, 73, will also incur automatic excommunication for participating in the ceremony.

Vatican officials did not respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment on Friday.

The excommunication is only the latest bump in the bishop's controversial career. Williamson was previously excommunicated in 1988 for receiving his own unsanctioned consecration from French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who founded the Society of St. Pius X. Lefebvre, and three other bishops he ordained on the same day as Williamson, were also excommunicated.

The Society of St. Pius X was formed in 1970 in response to what Lefebvre saw as unwanted modernizing reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council. The society has been called "ultra-traditionalist" and has been on tenuous terms with the Catholic Church since the 1988 consecrations.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in an effort to initiate reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X. Williamson subsequently caused an uproar, however, when he appeared in a television interview saying he believed no Jews had been killed in gas chambers during the Holocaust.

The Society of St. Pius X expelled Williamson in 2012 for criticizing the reconciliation efforts with the Vatican, saying the bishop had failed “to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

San Francisco Cathedral pulls water system that sprayed the homeless

Lucy Westcott
March 18, 2015

A prominent San Francisco cathedral is removing a water system that served as a deterrent to homeless people as they slept after a local television station reported about the system Wednesday.

St. Mary’s Cathedral, the main church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, installed a mechanism two years ago that drips water from a hole about 30 feet above an alcove where homeless people typically shelter and sleep, KCBS in San Francisco on Wednesday. The stream lasts for about 75 seconds and runs every 30 to 60 minutes, according to KCBS.

A homeless man identified only as Robert told KCBS, “They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing.’” Those who gather in the alcove are not warned before the water starts dripping.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco released a statement on Wednesday morning after KCBS’s broadcast apologizing for using the water system, which it said was intended to mimic similar systems used by other buildings in the area to keep the area clean of “needles, feces and other dangerous items [that] were regularly being left in these hidden doorways.… The idea was not to remove those persons, but to encourage them to relocate to other areas of the cathedral, which are protected and safer. The purpose was to make the Cathedral grounds as well as the homeless people who happen to be on those grounds safer,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

The statement acknowledged that the “method used was ill-conceived,” and “had the opposite effect from what it was intended to do.”

KCBS also discovered the system had been illegally installed and that the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection has filed a notice of violation against the archdiocese and the cathedral. In their statement, the archdiocese acknowledged that the system may have violated water-use laws and they planned to do to remove it by the end of day Wednesday.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless, told KCBS the water system was “very shocking, and very inhumane.”

“There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings,” said Friedenbach.

There are roughly 6,436 homeless people living in San Francisco, including 914 children, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the city. The Archdiocese said in its statement it supports thousands of homeless people each year through its programs.

Pope Francis, elected as head of the Catholic Church two years ago, has made improving the lives of the homeless a priority. In February, the Vatican offered showers and haircuts for the homeless in St. Peter’s Square; both will be available on a regular basis. To mark Pope Francis’s 78th birthday in December, a group of volunteers handed out sleeping bags to the homeless in Rome.

As well as being a deterrent, the water system could also be viewed as waste: California is expecting a record drought and NASA warned last week the state only has one year of water left. New water regulations were introduced in California on Tuesday; measures include the prohibition of watering of lawns within two days of rain while restaurant customers must also ask for a glass of water instead of it being automatically provided.

Kansas City commission unanimously rejects bishop's plan for faith based dormitory

Soli Sagado
National Catholic Reporter
March 18, 2015

The City Plan Commission of Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday unanimously voted against the construction of a faith-based dormitory, a project Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn had supported and neighbors of the site overwhelmingly opposed.

More than 100 people attended the hearing, with more than 80 representing the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition. Eleven women religious and one priest attended alongside Finn after he sent a letter inviting diocesan clergy to attend the hearing in support of his plan.


full article at National Catholic Reporter

This story is interesting in that Bishop Finn sent a letter to all priests and deacons in the diocese to come to this meeting to support him. One priest showed up. This speaks to the level of support he has from his priests.

Homeless at St. Mary's Cathedral (San Francisco) intentionally drenched while sleeping

Doug Sovern
CBS SF Bay Area
March 18, 2015

KCBS has learned that Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.

The cathedral, at Geary and Gough, is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.

“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing,’” said a homeless man named Robert.

But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

The shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people, and their belongings.

“We’re going to be wet there all night, so hypothermia, cold, all that other stuff could set in. Keeping the church clean, but it could make people sick,” Robert said.

The water doesn’t really clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. The water pools on the steps and sidewalks.

A neighbor who witnessed the drenching told KCBS, “I was just shocked, one because it’s inhumane to treat people that way. The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless said, “It’s very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.”

A cathedral staff member confirmed to KCBS the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.

Chris Lyford, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said cathedral staff tries hard to help these people.

“We refer them, mostly to Catholic Charities, for example for housing,” Lyford said. “To Saint Anthony’s soup kitchen for food, if they want food on that day. Saint Vincent de Paul if they need clothes.”

But he says they keep coming back, and most seem to have serious substance abuse issues.

“We do the best we can, and supporting the dignity of each person. But there is only so much you can do.”

Some of the homeless bring waterproof gear, even an umbrella, to try to stay dry. Frustrated cathedral employees tell us they don’t have the staff to police the doorways, which are used by churchgoers during services.

Lyford, who says he didn’t know about the water system until we showed it to him, admits it doesn’t seem to be an effective deterrent. Then, suggests this church neighbor, turn it off. “I would hope that they would stop doing this, both for environmental reasons and for common decency.”

KCBS has also learned from a review of city permit records that the system was installed illegally, and may violate water use regulations. We’ll have more on that Thursday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hundreds attend forum opposed to San Francisco handbook changes

Mandy Erickson
National Catholic Reporter
March 17, 2015

Several hundred students, parents and teachers of schools in the San Francisco archdiocese packed a University of San Francisco conference room Monday night to galvanize their opposition to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s changes to a handbook for teachers at four high schools. “Cordileone, who with his imported crew of orthodox, smugly ideological and intentionally provocative zealots, is trying to shove his sex-obsessed version of Catholic identity down the throats of Catholic high school students and teachers,” said Brian Cahill, former executive director of Catholic Charities of San Francisco, one of the speakers at the forum.

Hear Our Voices: Teach Acceptance was hosted by the university’s Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership and by Concerned Parents & Students: Teach Acceptance, a group that has organized over the past seven weeks to fight Cordileone’s revisions to the teacher handbook.

The handbook affects teachers and staff at the four high schools owned and operated by the San Francisco archdiocese: Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Junipero Serra in San Mateo, and Marin Catholic in Kentfield.

For the 2015-16 school year, the handbook asks that teachers adhere to Catholic teaching, particularly on sexual issues. It includes 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.

About 400 attended the forum, many of them wearing black T-shirts that read “#teach acceptance” — which, along with buttons, were on sale outside the conference room. The audience frequently interrupted the two dozen speakers, including students, parents and teachers at the four high schools, with enthusiastic clapping and standing ovations.

Organizers informed the archdiocese of the event, which was open to the public, but didn’t extend an invitation for a formal response.

Kathy Curran, who helped organize the event and whose daughter attends Sacred Heart, said the purpose of the forum was to “deepen people’s understanding and deepen people’s commitment to continuing the struggle.”

The university opened its room to the group, but was not a sponsor of the event. Anne-Marie Devine Tasto, senior director of media relations at the University of San Francisco, emphasized that USF’s hosting of the forum was not an “automatic endorsement” of the views expressed. “As part of our role as a university, a place where genuine differences and diverse opinions can be addressed openly and honestly, USF hosts dozens of community and external organizations throughout the semester.”

Since the archdiocese released the revised handbook Feb. 3, parents and students have held several protests, including an Ash Wednesday candlelight vigil at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Eighty percent of the teachers at the four affected high schools have signed a petition asking the archbishop not to include the changes to the handbook. And San Francisco city leaders, including City Attorney Dennis Herrera, have spoken out against the revisions.

While forum attendees were heading to the conference room, about 15 people stood silently outside Saint Ignatius Church on campus, holding signs saying “We support the archbishop.”

“The schools have been infiltrated by people who are teaching the aberrant as the norm,” said Dorinda Sears of Tiburon, across the bay from San Francisco. “We’re just trying to stand up for what the church has taught for 2,000 years.”

At the forum, students and parents told personal stories about their struggles with their sexuality, about their relationship toward a church they once felt rejected them, and about overcoming infertility. Many spoke of the damage they believe Cordileone will cause with his language in the handbook, especially the phrase “grave evil.”

Gus O’Sullivan, a senior at Sacred Heart, said, “The language is offensive and damaging. As a gay student, I understand the severity of this language.”

O’Sullivan said his struggle to accept his sexuality was difficult enough, but had such language been present at his school during that time, “It would have been detrimental to my mental health and self-worth.”

Parent Lynn Schuette said she had some hesitations when her son wanted to attend Serra. A lesbian who grew up Catholic, she wasn’t sure she wanted her son, whom she’s raised with her partner (now wife) of 22 years, to attend a school that’s part of a church she left.

“Pope Francis changed all that,” she said. Because of Francis, “I felt called to the Catholic faith for the first time since I came out 33 years ago. It was starting to feel like it was the right time to come back. All this could come to an end” if the archbishop’s handbook revisions create an atmosphere of discrimination, she said.

Micaela Presti, the mother of twin boys at Marin Catholic, added, “I don’t understand why God did not allow my husband and me to conceive naturally.” Noting that God created scientists who could address their fertility problems, she added, “Archbishop Cordileone, your language tells our sons that their conception was wrong.”

Speakers also rejected the idea that the handbook additions reflect church teaching. “I do not believe that the archbishop is representing the whole truth of Catholic teaching,” said Jim McGarry, former religious studies teacher at Catholic schools. “I believe that the archbishop is actually distorting Catholic teaching.”

“If Archbishop Cordileone is calling us, as he says in his proposed document, ‘to conform… hearts, minds and consciences, as well as … public and private behavior, ever more closely to the truths taught by the Catholic Church,’ let us at least be sure we are considering all those Catholic truths, which include and indeed prioritize the demands of justice, the practice of compassion, the avoidance of discrimination and the protection of the vulnerable.”

Cahill added that the Catholic church may hold certain beliefs, but its teachings are “not unchangeable. The church no longer teaches that the earth is flat, that slavery is acceptable and that women are inferior to men,” he said.

John Ahlbach, a teacher at Riordan, said he felt the archbishop was trying to move the church’s evolution on humanitarian issues backward. “My most memorable moments as a teacher were when LGBT teachers have shared their stories,” he said. “That kind of trust enriched me as a teacher and as a human being.”

“I don’t want to go back to that time of shadows and doubt, and that’s where the archbishop seems to want to take us.”

The archbishop wasn’t the only one singled out for criticism at the forum. Fr. Joseph Illo, pastor of the elementary Star of the Sea School, came under attack for a sexuality pamphlet young students received last month.

“Before he was stopped, Father Illo was apparently on a mission from God to root out all those second grade masturbators, fourth grade fornicators and sixth grade same-sex couples,” Cahill said.

Despite questionable local support, San Francisco archbishop lauded by conservatives

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
March 16, 2015

Support appears shallow in the San Francisco Bay Area for Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone's imperative that faculty handbooks of high schools under his jurisdiction underscore church teaching on "hot-button" issues and that employees not contradict church doctrine on or off campus.

However, viaducts of encouragement are pouring into his office from multiple sources outside the archdiocese, including support for his move to have upcoming teacher contracts include language emphasizing employees' role in Catholic educational ministry.

For example, LifeSiteNews, an organization focused on issues such as abortion and euthanasia, launched an online petition in cooperation with the American Life League backing Cordileone that as of Monday had been signed by more than 37,500 people.

An introduction to the petition summarizes much of what other Cordileone proponents contend: "Gay activists and dissident Catholics have launched an all-out war against his [Cordileone's] attempts to protect the Catholic identity of his schools, and to promote pro-life and pro-family values."

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has pushed back against state politicians who have charged Cordileone with creating a "divisive tone ... in stark contrast to the values of the Bay Area and its history" and with seeking to alter teacher contracts to remove "civil rights protections guaranteed to all Californians."

In a letter to the chairs of the California Assembly's Judiciary Committee and Labor and Employment Committee, Donohue warned lawmakers they were overstepping their bounds to insert themselves into church governance issues.

An Our Sunday Visitor magazine report quotes Donohue as saying it is "common sense" to require teachers in Catholic schools not to contradict Catholic doctrine in the classroom or in their public lives.

OSV also editorialized on the topic, arguing that "the Church is clearly swimming against the tide of public opinion in many places" and noting that a "recent Pew Research Poll puts the 2014 yearly average level of support for same-sex marriage at 52 percent, a number that has skyrocketed nearly 20 percentage points in the last five years."

"As that number increases, so does the pressure on Catholics and on the Catholic Church to mute their opposition," the editorial continued. "This is why, as Church institutions around the country combat an increasing number of lawsuits, they are inserting detailed contract protections such as is the case in San Francisco. It is also why Church leaders are insisting upon institutional and individual conscience protection from our government on the basis of religious liberty."

The editorial echoes the position of Cordileone and other archdiocesan officials that many Catholics, including some educators, lack sufficient faith formation.

The controversy centers on the statement developed by Cordileone and scheduled for insertion into the 2015-16 faculty handbooks of the four high schools owned and operated by the archdiocese.

Titled "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church," the 2,000-word document focuses on sexual and marital morality and religious practice. It cautions "administrators, faculty and staff" to "arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church teaching.

Many criticize the focus on sexual topics, say the document crosses the line on invading private lives, and claim some passages are insensitive and incendiary, notably usages such as "intrinsically evil," "grave evil" and "gravely evil."

The handbook statement and desired labor contract language were made public Feb. 3.

Conservative columnist George Weigel recently wrote that Catholics should be "grateful for the courageous leadership shown by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, whose San Francisco archdiocese is arguably ground zero of the culture war that cannot be avoided -- and that must be fought if Catholic institutions are to remain free to be themselves."

"This is going to be a nasty fight, given that 'tolerance' has become the all-purpose bludgeon with which the sexual revolution, in all its manifestations, beats its adversaries into submission or drives them into catacombs," Weigel wrote in Catholic San Francisco.

Cordileone's initiative places him "squarely in the cross-hairs of the increasingly intolerant Tolerance Police. More power to him for understanding that, like it or not, the culture war is interested in you -- and responding is an evangelical imperative," Weigel concluded.

Coverage by Catholic News Agency, National Catholic Register and traditionalist bloggers have repeatedly mentioned the advent of the Singer Associates, Inc. into the fray, indicating Cordileone opponents have turned to the high-profile and controversial media adviser for muscular help in molding public opinion.

Sam Singer has said his firm was retained by alumni, supporters and parents of Star of the Sea Catholic School. Controversy continues there over the pastor's actions, which have included elimination of altar girls, no longer providing a blessing to non-Catholic students who present themselves at Mass, and announcing hopes to bring in an order of women religious to make the school more Catholic. Fr. Joseph Illo has made some concessions, parishioners said; for example, allowing current altar girls to continue at school-related liturgies but not training any in the future.

Singer has used the Star of Sea platform to project into the larger conflict over teacher contracts and the faculty handbook statement. He told NCR he is keeping his "patrons" anonymous to respect their concerns about "backlash" from the archdiocese.

National Catholic Register has carried several reports on the San Francisco situation, including a March 2 opinion piece by Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, strongly endorsing Cordileone's efforts.

The Register and CNA are owned by Eternal Word Television Network.

The Cardinal Newman Society, which describes its mission as defending "faithful Catholic education," has posted on its website various items supportive of the archbishop.

A commentary by Cardinal Newman Society vice president for program development Bob Laird, "Archbishop Cordileone is a true shepherd of Catholic schools," was carried in the op-ed section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Other groups and individuals who have lined up behind Cordileone include:

The San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good, which describes itself as "a lay apostolate for the evangelization of culture based on the social teachings of the Catholic Church with insights from the method of St. John Paul";
CNS News, also known as Cybercast News Service, a conservative American news website owned by Media Research;
Crisis Magazine, an online outlet featuring posts on a wide variety of religious topics and which calls itself "a voice for faithful Catholic Laity";
Blogger Father Z;
Mark Paredes, a Mormon bishop and author of a blog titled "Jews and Mormons," who calls Cordileone "courageous" and says the archbishop is being "pilloried by the morally confused for having the effrontery to require that Catholic educators actually teach Catholic teachings in the four Catholic high schools sponsored by his archdiocese."

There are 14 Catholic high schools in the San Francisco archdiocese, four of which come under direct archdiocesan administration: Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Junipero Serra in San Mateo, and Marin Catholic in Kentfield.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Persecution of Catholics in Asia

It is not only in the Near East that people are being targeted for being Christians. Recent stories from Asia:

Police detain 8 men in Indian nun rape investigation

March 15,2015

Eight men have been detained by police investigating the rape of an elderly nun in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Six alleged attackers were caught on CCTV as they burgled the convent before the 74-year-old nun was raped.

Prayers for the victim are are being said in churches across the country. She is in a stable condition in a Calcutta hospital.

The Archbishop of Calcutta has called for more security at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, the site of the attack.


complete story at BBC


Deadly blasts hit Pakistan churches in Lahore

March 15, 2015

Two bomb blasts have killed at least 14 people near two churches in a Christian neighbourhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.

More than 70 people were hurt in the explosions, which targeted worshippers attending Sunday mass at the churches in the Youhanabad area.

Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with a mob killing two men accused of involvement in the attacks.

Pakistan's Christian community has often been targeted by militants.

An offshoot of the Pakistan Taliban, calling itself Jamatul Ahrar, has said it carried out the attack.


complete story at BBC

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Catholic Catechist: The Church is unjust to gays and lesbians

Michael O'Loughlin
March 14, 2015

The Catholic Church “acts unjustly” toward gay and lesbian Catholics, who are “held to different standards than other Catholics,” a situation “harming” the Church — and one that must change.

That was the message delivered Friday at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress by Arthur Fitzmaurice, an advocate for making the Church more welcoming for gay and lesbian Catholics.

His talk, delivered to 800 catechists and religious educators during an official Church event, comes during renewed clashes between Catholics who hold the line on the Church’s teaching on issues of sexuality, and those who support same-sex marriage and other gay rights.

Fitzmaurice, resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, said he, like many gay Catholics, has turned at various points in his life to Church writings for guidance, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The paragraph on homosexuality — which describes it as “intrinsically disordered” while also demanding respect for gays and lesbians — is placed in a section of the catechism paragraphs condemning “pornography, prostitution, and rape,” he said.

“To keep this abusive language in the Catechism and other Church writings is, in itself, gravely evil,” he said.

Even as the Supreme Court is on the verge of ruling on same-sex marriage, and Pope Francis has signaled a more welcoming attitude toward gays and lesbians, some Catholic bishops have launched initiatives meant to strengthen “Catholic identity.”

But some Catholics are pushing back. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, for example, is revising its contract with Catholic school teachers after a campaign from local Catholics upset at the “morality clause” inserted into the new contract.

In San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is facing pushback from teachers there over a similar clause. About three-quarters of the archdiocese’s teachers signed a petition asking him to reconsider, and there have been protests by students and parishioners. As a result, Cordileone is reconsidering the language.

Catholic bishops in Nebraska held a “Day of Fasting and Prayer for Marriage” earlier this month in protest of a federal judge’s ruling deeming that state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

Fitzmaurice condemned the contracts and other practices, saying “our Church leaders should be models of love,” he said.

He referenced recent high-profile firings of gay Church employees — such as a church musician in Chicago and a vice principal in Seattle — and said those episodes “reinforce the false message that being born LGBTQ is shameful.”

He said he’s even heard of priests not wanting to offer sacraments to some gay Catholics.

“Denying us the sacraments communicates the sentiment that we are beyond God’s abilities and unreachable by God’s love and grace,” he said. “This is dangerous and poor theology.”

Hosted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the four-day event at the Anaheim Convention Center provides workshops and resources for catechists and others involved in Catholic education. Fitzmaurice told Crux that this is his second year presenting on LGBT topics, but that the convention has hosted sessions discussing similar issues since the mid-2000s.

One participant in the gay and lesbian workshop told the crowd that he is drawn to being a catechist because he wants “to change the mindset” of Catholics who are opposed to homosexuality.

“You cannot be gay in a Mexican family, because they will say so much stuff to you that hurts you,” Anthony Marquez, a high school senior, told participants. “But what hurt me most was my confirmation teacher who told me it was a disease. I want to be a catechist so badly because I want to change that mindset. It’s not a disease. We can be good Catholics, even if we’re gay.”

Several audience members spoke about experiences with gay relatives that helped them change their minds on the issue, though some said they still struggle reconciling Church and biblical teachings with their own experiences.

But not everybody present seemed on board.

During a question-and-answer period, one woman challenged Fitzmaurice on whether or not he thought sacramental marriage should be offered to gays and lesbians. Fitzmaurice declined to give an answer, stating only that he’s heard a wide variety of opinions from gays and lesbians with whom he’s worked.

Kristi Balleweg, a teacher at the Catholic Chaminade College Prep in West Hills, Calif., said she attended the workshop for ideas on how to talk to her students about the issue, because many of them are puzzled by the Church’s teaching.

“Because of the generation that they’ve been raised in, they don’t agree with the Catholic Church’s teachings,” she said. “They are much more accepting and appreciative of everyone, and they don’t think that we should put people in molds or boxes, and label them.”

Fitzmaurice cited a number of studies showing high rates of homelessness, depression, and sexual abuse among LGBT youth, and said Catholic parents have a special obligation to help prevent this.

“The Church cannot continue to turn our backs on these kids,” he said. “Tell your LGBT child he or she can have a happy future.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Students protest San Francisco Archbishop morality clause

NBC Bay Area
March 12, 2015

Slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to be beatified May 23

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
March 11, 2015

Slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, the murdered prelate of the people whose sainthood cause languished under previous popes but has been fast-tracked by Pope Francis, is to be beatified May 23 in San Salvador.

News of the date of the ceremony -- which puts Romero one step away from sainthood -- was first made in a report Wednesday morning by the Italian daily Avvenire, which is published by the country's bishops' conference.

The ceremony will be in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo, Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the chief promoter of the archbishop's sainthood cause, said at a news conference Wednesday in San Salvador. The archbishop said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, would celebrate the Mass.

Paglia called the beatification a gift for the world, but particularly for the people of El Salvador.​

Romero was archbishop of San Salvador during the bloody and tension-filled time leading up to his country's 1979-1992 civil war. Shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980, the archbishop has long been considered a saint by many in Latin America, but the official Vatican process of sainthood had lingered for years.

Some had speculated that there was unease among church prelates -- including Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI -- because of Romero's embrace of liberation theology, a type of Christian theology that posits that Christ did not just seek liberation from sin but every type of oppression.

Wednesday's Avvenire report said the announcement of the date of the beatification ceremony was made by Paglia himself during a visit to El Salvador this week.

Avvenire speculated that the choice of date to make the announcement of the beatification, March 11, was significant as Romero contemporary Salvadoran Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande was murdered on March 12, 1977.

The death of Grande, who was noted for forcefully speaking against injustices suffered by the Salvadoran people, is known to have had a deep influence on Romero's life.

Paglia, who also leads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, announced in February that the Vatican has also opened a sainthood process for Grande.

"It is impossible to know Romero without knowing Rutilio Grande," Paglia said then.

Francis, the first Latin American pope, paved the way for Romero's beatification in February when he formally decreed that the prelate was assassinated as a martyr for the Catholic faith.

While in the sainthood process beatification normally requires that a miracle be proven to have been caused by the deceased person, martyrs of the faith do not have to meet that requirement.

In February, Paglia declared that Romero was "a martyr of the church of the Second Vatican Council."

The Salvadoran's murder, Paglia said then, was part of a "climate of persecution against a pastor that followed the evangelical experience, the documents of the Second Vatican Council, of Medellin [and] had chosen to live with the poor to defend them from oppression."

"Romero was killed because he chose this perspective," Paglia said, adding that the Salvadoran wanted to combat a government and a type of oppression "that leaves the poorest without life."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cincinnati archdiocese to tweak morality clauses

Associated Press
March 10, 2015

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati plans to update language in its teachers’ contract following a committee’s suggestions on its morality clauses.

Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the tweaked language in the contract will clarify what is expected of employees. The clarifications come after last year’s contract sparked protests for its language prohibiting “homosexual lifestyles,” abortion, artificial insemination and public support for any of those causes.

The public battle, which included a protest march, online petitions, and a dozen opposition billboards, had divided some of the region’s Catholics. But a large majority of the schools’ 2,800 teachers still signed the contract.

Andriacco says the updates include changing the wording from “public support” of such causes to “advocacy.” The diocese had received many questions about what constituted “public support.”

“If I go to my gay child’s wedding, is that ‘public support?’ Well, the answer is no,” Andriacco said.

For example, writing a blog in support of gay marriage would be considered advocacy, but writing a personal letter to a senator on the same topic would not, he said.

“What we wanted to do was, without in any way softening our intentions of the contract, make it still clearer what was intended,” Andriacco said.

Some opponents of the contract’s morality clauses said the changes don’t make much difference.

The contract for the 2014-15 school year was drafted after the archdiocese in 2010 fired an unmarried teacher who became pregnant by artificial insemination. A federal court in 2013 ruled in that teacher’s favor, ordering the archdiocese to pay her $171,000.

Court: Milwaukee archdiocese can't use First Amendment to protect against claims in bankruptcy

Marie Rohde
National Catholic Reporter
March 10, 2015

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Milwaukee archdiocese can't rely on the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as protections against claims in its bankruptcy case.

The key question in the Milwaukee case of whether approximately $55 million placed in a trust for the care of cemeteries can be used to pay off the archdiocese's debts in bankruptcy was not answered in the decision. Mounting legal fees -- now at least $16 million but possibly as high as $20 million -- raise the question of whether much will be available to pay debts and compensate those who claim to have been sexually abused.

The appellate court decision issued late Monday is not a final decision. The court also found that U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, who ruled in the archdiocese's favor, should have stepped aside because of a conflict of interest. A new judge will have to be appointed to decide the issue of the trust fund based on the appellate findings that the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act do not apply.

James Stang, a lawyer representing the claimants in the Milwaukee case, said a number of states have local laws similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that allow some cases to be handled at the state level.

"In states that do not have these laws, bankruptcy is seen as a way of shielding assets from creditors," he said. "This decision means they can't hide under RFRA anymore."

Stang, who represents many claimants in bankruptcies involving dioceses or religious orders, said he will be in New York this week on a case involving the Christian Brothers who transferred a school in an attempt to minimize its assets.

"Does it happen often?" he asked. "Yeah, it does."

The Milwaukee archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2011, just before lawsuits involving 17 survivors of sexual abuse were about to go to trial in state court. The Wisconsin Supreme Court had ruled that archdiocesan officials could be sued for fraud if they knowingly allowed abusers to continue in their ministries despite credible allegations having been made to the archdiocese. The state's high court had also ruled that insurance coverage did not have to pay if the archdiocese committed fraud.

When Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki authorized the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, he said the pending lawsuits forced the action. The backdrop for the case was a 2006 agreement by the archdiocese to pay $17 million -- about half from insurance coverage -- to 10 California victims of sexual abuse by priests who had been transferred there after abusing victims in Wisconsin.

In 2007, the archdiocese created a trust fund for the maintenance of eight cemeteries and seven mausoleums it has operated in the Milwaukee area since 1857, transferring some $55 million out of its general fund into the trust. The archdiocese said the money for the cemetery fund had always been kept in a separate account within the general fund, which the appellate court said it accepted as true.

The appellate decision, written by Judge Ann Claire Williams, noted that the then-archbishop, now New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan sent a letter to the Vatican asking for approval of the move, saying: "By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability." The Vatican approved the transfer in 2008.

But earlier in the decision, Williams wrote this: "We begin by noting that the issue of whether the archdiocese actually made a fraudulent, preferential or avoidable transfer is not before us."

Claimants in the bankruptcy, including some 570 who say they were sexually abused, argued that moving the money from the archdiocese's general fund into the trust was an illicit attempt to protect the money. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley ruled in their favor.

Lawyers for the archdiocese appealed her decision to Randa, claiming protection under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 federal law aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion.

The appellate decision found that the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act only applied to government actions, rejecting the archdiocese's argument that the committee representing those who filed claims was acting under the "color of the law" and, therefore, an extension of the government.

While the First Amendment bars laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion, "not all rights require the government be a party in the case," Williams wrote in the decision.

She continued: "Here, we have what was alleged to be a fraudulent or otherwise avoidable transfer, and the court need not interpret any religious law or principles to make that determination, nor must it examine a decision of a religious organization or 'tribunal' on whether or not the transfer was fraudulent."

The committee representing the claimants argued that there is a compelling governmental interest in protecting creditors, and the appellate court agreed, saying this interest "can overcome a burden of the free exercise of religion" and that in this case, the importance of protecting those with claims is "readily apparent."

Key to the bankruptcy law, Williams noted, is to provide protection for the creditors while allowing the debtor -- in this case, the archdiocese -- to continue its work and rebuild after settling claims.

But the decision noted that another federal appellate court had made a different decision: A tithing contribution to a church made by a man who then filed for bankruptcy was found to be protected by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

When two branches of the appellate court disagree on an issue, it can lead to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as a means to resolve the differing opinions. The Chicago court, apparently aware of the rift, discussed conducting a new hearing on the Milwaukee case that would include all 14 of the judges there, not just the three who heard the case. None favored a rehearing.

Stang said because the decision in the Milwaukee case is not a final determination of what will happen to the $55 million cemetery trust, it may not yet be ripe for an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Stang and others representing claimants argued that Randa had an ethical conflict of interest: Nine close relatives were buried in cemeteries affected by his decision. The appellate court agreed that Randa should have stepped aside.

"Here, these were not distant relatives of the judge's -- they were his parents (whose plots he personally bought), two sisters, an uncle, an aunt, his mother- and father-in-law, and his brother-in-law so nine relatives within the third degree," wrote Williams, one of three judges who heard the appeal. "This was problematic."

The rehearing of the issue has not been assigned to a new judge yet but could be assigned to U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman. The archdiocese appealed another decision made by Kelley in the bankruptcy court -- her ruling that approval of the archdiocese's reorganization plan should wait until after the 7th Circuit ruled -- that is now in Adelman's court.

Jerry Topczewski, a spokesman for the Milwaukee archdiocese, said Kelley "can now move forward with confirming the archdiocese's Plan of Reorganization to emerge from Chapter 11. The Plan resolves the litigation over the Cemetery Trust to the benefit of abuse survivors and also maintains the sacred commitment to provide perpetual care for those buried in Catholic Cemeteries."

The reorganization plan calls for $6 million to be given to abuse survivors but eliminates all but about 135 of the 570 who filed claims. Of that amount, $2 million would be borrowed by the archdiocese from the cemetery trust and $4 million would come from an insurance settlement. Another $4 million from insurance would go toward legal fees.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Top Jesuit academic urges church to drop 'clunky' missal translation and unearth 1998 version rejected by Rome

Liz Dodd
The Tablet
March 9, 2015

Gerald O’Collins, one of the Church’s top theologians and biblical scholars, has issued a stinging critique of the “clunky and Latinised” 2011 translation of the Missal.

Fr O’Collins SJ, who was a professor at the Gregorian University in Rome for 33 years and who holds eight doctorates in theology, made his comments in a letter sent to The Tablet entitled “An open letter to English-speaking bishops”.

In his letter he urged Catholics to act quickly to rescue Anglophone Catholics’ participation in Mass by taking up the “incomparably better” translation prepared in 1998 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

That translation was approved by bishops’ conferences but rejected by Rome.

The alternative translation devised by the Vatican, which came into use in November 2011, “sounds like Latin texts transposed into English words rather than genuine English”, he complained.

He acknowledged that the language of the Missal had aimed at a sacral style but said it fell far short of Jesus’ own “simple and direct” way of addressing God in the Our Father.

He went on: “What would Jesus say about the 2010 Missal? Would he approve of its clunky, Latinised English that aspires to a ‘sacral’ style which allegedly will ‘inspire’ worshippers?”

He concluded: “I yearn for a final blessing, a quick solution to our liturgical woes. The 1998 translation is there, waiting in the wings. Please pass on now to English-speaking Catholics the 1998 translation that you or your predecessors originally voted for only a few years ago.”

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An important addition to Catholic intellectual life

Joanna Bogle
Catholic World Report
March 5, 2015

"My Battle against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich" by Dietrich von Hildebrand (Image Book, 2014)

The name of Dietrich von Hildebrand is known to many Catholics as a great writer, thinker, and teacher who influenced many people, both in America where he taught for decades and in his native Europe. But until I read My Battle against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich I knew nothing of his early life except that he was a refugee from the Nazis.

What a fascinating story it is—and how excellent that we can now read it in his own words and, especially with the hindsight of history—ponder its significance.

The von Hildebrand diaries, as collated and published in this edition, begin shortly after the end of the First World War, when the young academic from Germany visited France, taking part in a conference organised by a French Catholic academic as part of a peace initiative. This was no bland let's-all-make-peace-together assembly with people talking in cliches, but a tough commitment to finding a way forward in a continent where it was all too clear that future conflicts were quite likely.

And the French bishops weren't happy with this kind of lay activity. Conservative and royalist, still insistent that the only right way ahead was to insist that the French monarchy be restored and remaining distant from other social and political realities, they were able, under the guise of trying to crush Modernism, to insist that all Catholic activity be under their specific control and subject to their ideological stance. Anti-semitism was also strong in French Catholic circles at that time, finding a voice in “Action francais”—later to be censured but at that time active and influential.

But it was to be German ultra-nationalism that caused the great problems for von Hildebrand, then and, of course, later. At the French conference he stated, as a Catholic, his opposition to the German invasion of Belgium, which had caused so much suffering in World War I, and found on arrival home that his words, distorted and robbed of their original context, were used to denounce him and mark him as a dangerous figure.

Over the next few years, the issues of anti-Semitism (especially among Catholics) and passionate nationalism were central in Germany. In the murderous atmosphere of post-war confusion, assassination and violence stalked the country. And many in the Church seemed not to mind. After one such murder a priest said to von Hildebrand: “This won't stir up the people. They'll say 'One Jew more or less is of no consequence'”.Von Hildebrand records his dismay at this moral blindness, and also the aching sense of the near-impossibility of changing such horrible attitudes.

There were sane voices, and it was still possible to work and plan for a better way ahead. But National Socialism gripped many; it is especially distressing to see how anti-Jewish attitudes framed so much of Catholic thinking at the time. One voice of courage and sanity was Cardinal Pacelli—later Pius XII—who became a friend of von Hildebrand (and as pope would save many Jewish lives during the Second World War).

Eventually having to flee Germany, von Hildebrand and his family settled in Vienna; there, a warm friendship with Dolfuss developed and funding became available for an anti-Nazi publication aimed at celebrating the best of the Austrian Christian social and political tradition. These chapters of the diary are full of hope—the old Habsburg lands offering some potential unity and goodwill across central Europe, and the Catholic faith sparkling with vision. The pages are filled with the names of men and women who not only recognised National Socialism as wrong but sought real alternatives. As we now know, it was not to be and the horrors, from Dolfuss' murder to the increasing drumbeats of war in Germany, grew steadily.

It's depressing, but it's also a vivid description of an era that shaped our own, and it's important that we understand its realities and its tensions. The Church learns from history; Nostra Aetate was born from the recognition of the wickedness of anti-Jewish attitudes that had developed and become standard among too many Catholics. St. Pope John Paul II would open up and transform the way Catholics understood lay action, offering a wide and hopeful vision echoing so much of the message that rings through von Hildebrand's own work.

We need this perspective. In my early adult life I heard many voices telling me that the Second Vatican Council was a terrible mistake, and that in the “good old days” things were so much better in the Church. Wiser voices spoke of the value, authority, and importance of the Council's teachings, but today, alas, a new generation is hearing siren voices under the guise of “Catholic Tradition”, and even anti-Jewish messages sweep around the Internet. Von Hildebrand's diaries are important, even more important than he could have known when he was writing them.

This is a book that makes a gripping read, ending as it does with his escape from Vienna with his family; it is beautifully produced with useful footnotes and appendices. It is an important addition to Catholic intellectual life, and one that will stay with you.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Controversy in San Francisco highlights importance of Pope Francis, synod on family

Dennis Herrera
National Catholic Reporter
March 6, 2015

As San Francisco's elected city attorney for the last 13 years, I've had a role to play in many of the high-profile "culture war" clashes that seem to erupt regularly in our famously liberal city.

In 2004, I was the lawyer who defended then-Mayor Gavin Newsom's bold decision to issue licenses allowing same-sex couples to wed. I shortly after sued to invalidate state marriage laws that discriminated against lesbian and gay partners, beginning a nine-year legal battle that twice helped secure marriage equality in California: temporarily in 2008, then permanently in 2013. And I've defended my clients' actions from lawsuits by organizations whose Catholic faith (though usually not conservative principles) I share.

Last month, as you're probably aware, yet another controversy erupted to reclaim San Francisco's familiar place as ground zero in the culture war. The contention involved Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone's decision to designate high school teachers as "ministers," which could profoundly diminish their employment rights, and to modify the faculty handbook at four Catholic high schools by adding what many regarded as "morality clauses" to govern private conduct.

To be fair, none of the archbishop's modifications represents novel Catholic teaching. But in the context of an employer's guidance to employees, it was a chilling directive -- for Catholic teachers particularly -- to "conform their hearts, minds and consciences, as well as their public and private behavior" to tenets of church teaching that include "chastity" and "abstinence from all sexual intimacy outside of marriage." Directives included refraining from "gravely evil" acts like "masturbation, fornication, the viewing of pornography and homosexual relations."

The modifications additionally required faculty to "affirm and believe" church teaching on "the sinfulness of contraception" and to accept that "the fundamental demands of justice require that the civil law preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman." Teachers were also to affirm and believe that medical procedures that assist in reproduction -- presumably including in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination -- are "gravely immoral" for betraying spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."

Public reaction to the moves was predictable: a firestorm of opposition from teachers, parents, students, legislators, newspaper columnists, editorial boards and others, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Elected city leaders who agree on little else agreed on this: The archbishop's move was high-handed and wrong. In fact, the archbishop appears to have been virtually alone in saying he was "surprised at the degree of consternation over this."

As for my own perspective, the newly erupted controversy was unusual in a key respect: Here was a San Francisco-based flashpoint in the culture war with no direct connection to city government. Without a duty for me to respond professionally -- to litigate or advise clients about -- I was liberated to contemplate the matter personally, and in many ways more meaningfully, as a Catholic and a parent.

My wife and I were both raised Catholic. We are both beneficiaries of Catholic educations. Like most of the Catholics we know and attend church with, we don't proselytize about our faith, but it guides our lives in important ways. As parents especially, we place a high priority on encouraging faithful Christian discipleship in our son, and we do everything we can to make sure he has the benefit of a well-formed Catholic conscience.

Of course, we expect our son will struggle with aspects of Catholic teaching -- just as his parents have, and just as so many conscientious Catholics do in trying to live their faith. But the controversy stirred up by the archbishop's needless insertion of personal morality dictates into faculty handbooks highlighted to me the mounting challenges today's Catholic parents face as we strive to make our church relevant in the lives our children will lead.

In short, it's not making our jobs easier.

My son is growing up in a generation that has witnessed laudable progress in civil rights, in science, and in how a more just society views and better affirms the dignity of nontraditional families and once-reviled minorities. Church ideologues may quarrel with much of that progress. But we should make no mistake that his generation (and those to follow) will view prohibitions on same-sex marriage with the same disdain my generation held for racist Jim Crow laws. For my son and his contemporaries, rejecting discrimination isn't at odds with a well-formed Christian conscience -- it's the product of it. And it's hard to argue that they're wrong.

So when church ideologues express disdain for contemporary society (as Cordileone often does) or bring disproportionate emphasis to the catechism's most discriminatory and divisive elements (as Cordileone did last month), it risks losing a generation of Catholics quite unlike anything has before.

To me, San Francisco's recent controversy threw into stark relief the challenges that make Pope Francis' leadership so vitally important at this moment in our church's history. Progress is desperately needed to renew our church's mission to serve the world rather than scold it and to emphasize teaching that young Catholic consciences will recognize as legitimately Christlike.

One can see hopeful signs -- and perhaps even the Holy Spirit at work. It was there, I think, in the principled reaction of San Francisco's Catholic high school students last month. It was there, too, in some initial steps by the Synod of Bishops on the family, which Pope Francis first announced in 2013 to re-examine many of the very issues in contention last month. It may even be there in Cordileone's decision to drop the "minister" provision and invite a committee to reconsider his controversial faculty handbook additions.

Catholic parents like my wife and me, who are doing the important field work of trying to instill Catholic values in our children, are grateful to Pope Francis for emphasizing our faith's capacity to bring us together instead of divide us. But we could do without Cordileone's efforts to seemingly teach the opposite. Most of all, we're praying for the synod's success -- and for Pope Francis' -- to make needed progress and to forge consensus for a compassionate, inclusive and ministering Catholic church for the 21st century and for generations to come.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Washing the feet of women

Pray Tell
March 5, 2015

Another bit of information has come to us from Rome:

The Congregation for Divine Worship is now working on a document clarifying that the feet of women as well as men may be washed – this at the request of the “highest levels” of the church.

As you may recall, Pope Francis has caused quite a stir in recent years by washing the feet of women during the Holy Thursday Mandatum. The Pope’s actions were so sensational that the Liturgy Secretary of England and Wales reminded parishes that this practice was prohibited. He even went so far as to say: “It is precisely because the papal liturgy is a distinct reality in itself, that local churches [cannot] call on its precedent to dispense themselves from norms that apply to the whole Church.”

Many parishes in the United States and Europe have taken to washing the feet of women as well as men during their Holy Thursday services. Some bishops have cracked down on the practice, such as Bishop Morlino of Madison, while others have turned a blind eye. It will be interesting to see if this rumored directive will make it out of the CDW before Holy Thursday this year. Only time will tell.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Teacher petition asks Cordileone to drop San Francisco faculty handbook statement

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
March 5, 2015

Four-fifths of the faculty and staff of the four high schools under jurisdiction of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone have signed a petition asking him to forgo his announced insertion into those schools' faculty handbooks and to leave the current handbook text in place.

Read into the minutes of Tuesday's San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, the petition said signers "believe the recently proposed handbook language is harmful to our community and creates an atmosphere of mistrust and fear."

In all, 358 teachers and staff signed the grassroots petition over two days: 126 at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco; 87 at Junipero Serra High School in San Francisco; 77 at Archbishop Riordan in San Mateo; and "more than" 68 at Marin Catholic in Kentfield, according to a news release by the organizing group. The archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, reports that about 470 full and part-time teachers and staff are employed at those four schools, which enroll about 3,600 students.

The petition dovetailed with the supervisors' unanimous passing of a resolution at that meeting urging Cordileone to respect the rights of teachers and administrators, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Supervisor Mark Farrell, a Catholic, introduced the resolution. Farrell "has previously said city officials are considering legal action to prevent what he described as Cordileone's discriminatory measures from going into effect," according to the Chronicle.

The petition and resolution are the latest reactions generated by the Feb. 3 release of "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church."

The 2,000-word explication crafted by Cordileone delineates areas of sexual morality and religious practice the archbishop said need increased clarity, emphasis and understanding by students, faculty, staff and administrators.

The Cordileone narrative also cautions "administrators, faculty and staff" to "arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church teaching.

On Feb. 3, the archdiocese also made public texts of new clauses it asked to be included in the teacher labor contract currently under negotiation, including a call for all employees at the four schools to be considered "ministers."

Cordileone has since repeated willingness to reconsider use of the word "minister" after union officials, legal experts and others charged that the designation could severely weaken teachers' legal protections by making them appear to be part of church work, akin to ordained ministry.

Church teaching distilled in 15 "affirm and believe" clauses in the Cordileone document include condemnation of abortion, homosexual relations, same-sex marriage, artificial birth control, "artificial reproductive technology," women's ordination, pornography, masturbation and human cloning.

Many have criticized the focus on sexual topics and claimed some passages are insensitive and incendiary, notably usages such as "intrinsically evil," "grave evil," and "gravely evil."

"Such language has no place in our handbooks," the teacher-and-staff petition said.

"Whenever you label something gravely evil, you are giving tacit permission to destroy," teacher Jim Jordan told NCR Wednesday.

He said he fears the language as proposed could be hurtful to students, especially at a "fragile" state in their lives. "To highlight it in this way is condemning and hateful."

One of "a dozen or so" employees of the four schools to develop the petition, he said its text was finalized Friday.

"The response was immediate and overwhelming," said Jordan, chair of the English department of one of the four schools, San Francisco's Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory. "We had all of the signatures in two days."

"We actually feel that our school [SHCP] is closer to 95 percent," he said, noting that some supported the petition but "were afraid to put their names on it."

While Cordileone and archdiocesan officials have pointed out that the faculty handbook statement simply quoted the catechism and other church documents, on Feb. 24 the archbishop said he was establishing a committee of theology teachers from the four schools to review, expand and clarify the document.

Requests to archdiocesan officials for comment on the petition and city action had not been acknowledged as of Thursday.

Officials of San Francisco Archdiocesan Federation of Teachers Local 2240, which represents full-time teachers at the four schools, have emphasized that the contract talks can address issues surrounding use of the word "minister," but that handbook language comes under the archbishop's purview.

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 members who are part-time, maintenance or administrative, she said. The union was formed more than four decades ago.

The handbook text and "minister" discussions are interrelated, and "separating them can lead to half-truths," Jordan said, explaining why the ad hoc group of teachers and staff joined to field the petition.

The group includes teachers of math, science, English, history and others, he said.

"We did not do this behind the union's back, but in addition" to its work, he said, noting that the petition itself had been presented to a union representative for delivery to the archdiocese.

"This is a way bigger fight" than teacher contracts and handbook language, Jordan continued. "People in the local community want their church back."

Contention over the handbook has galvanized school personnel resolve, Jordan said.

"There is a sense of unity and community emerging that I have never experienced ... and some hope emerges from that, too."

The archbishop "has caused all of us to look deeply" and to ponder personal convictions, church teaching authority, and the catechism, he said. "If that was his goal, he is succeeding."

Jordan said he and other employees acknowledge the archbishop's authority to oversee handbook content as well as the teaching role of the catechism. "But the conversation needs to be more sensitive to the culture in which we live," and if the proposed statement "becomes the operative law of the land," it could diminish "the environment of our schools."

Jordan said he trusts "what the archbishop said about not wanting to fire anybody, but we need to say something ... to step up now."

Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance, a group formed Feb. 3, announced this week that it is co-sponsoring a March 16 forum on the handbook and teacher contract at the University of San Francisco's McLaren Conference Center.

The 7:30 p.m. event will include a panel discussion by parents and students from the four schools. Speakers will be Brian Cahill, former executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities; Jim McGarry, a former long-time religious studies instructor; and Leslie Griffin, William F. Boyd professor of constitutional law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.