Friday, May 29, 2015

India's minority Christians struggle against violence and persecution

Jose Kavi
National Catholic Reporter
May 29, 2015

The shrill sound of his car alarm awoke Fr. Eugene Moon Lazarus around 3 a.m. on March 16. As he rushed out of his room, three other priests living in the presbytery also came out with puzzled looks.

They found some strangers running away from Lazarus' car, which was parked inside the church premises. The car doors were open. They also found at least four broken statues of Mary and one of baby Jesus.

In the report he filed with local police, Lazarus said what pained them most was seeing a dog leash tied to the neck of life-sized statue of Mary.

"The attackers have not only broken the images inside the church, but they have played with the sentiments of Christian community," he said.

Lazarus is the parish priest of St. Mary's Church in Agra, a city in Uttar Pradesh state famous for the Taj Mahal.

Such incidents have been reported from various parts of India over the past few months.

A month earlier, a Catholic nun in her 70s was gang-raped and a convent was looted in Ranaghat town in West Bengal state.

Before that, five churches and a convent school were targeted in New Delhi, the nation's capital. The first was on Dec. 1, 2014, when a mysterious fire gutted St. Sebastian's Church in Dilshad Garden, an eastern suburb.

A statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India after the Agra attack said such incidents are not "mere acts of vandalism, but well planned dastardly acts, aimed at deeply wounding the religious feelings and creating a feeling of insecurity among the minorities." The attackers, the bishops said, wanted to inflict "maximum shame and disgrace" on Christians. The bishops demanded swift action against the culprits.

In a week, police arrested three people -- all Muslims -- in connection with the Agra incident. They said April 24 that the incident was the result of unrequited love between a Muslim boy and a Catholic girl.

Those arrested in the nun's gang rape case were Muslim, which caused some Christian leaders, who say the incidents have been carried out by Hindu radical groups, to believe the incidents are deliberate attempts to put India's two prominent religious minority groups -- Muslims and Christians -- at loggerheads.

According to John Dayal, a Catholic lay leader and former member of the prime minister's National Advisory Council, the police seemed to take special care not to identify any Hindu as a suspect.

"Criminals can come from anywhere," he told NCR. "They can be hired by anyone. The police are often wrong. They arrest Muslim youth for being terrorists but have to release them because their version is rejected by the court."

The arrests of Muslims help the government not to act against the Hindu radicals, he said.

Dayal and others say Christians have faced persecution since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to office a year ago.

Modi is a former member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, a national volunteer organization), the umbrella organization blamed for a wide range of sectarian riots in India. It was founded in 1925 to unite Hindus, counter British colonialism in India, and suppress Muslim separatism. The British colonists had banned it once and the Indian government three times, first in 1948 when a former RSS member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.

Dayal said while many see RSS cadres' hands in the recent attacks on churches, the RSS is keen to prove the Christian complaint of persecution as false and that no Hindu is involved. They want to show that the allegation of Christian persecution is a ploy to collect funds from within and outside the country, he said.

But many academics, social activists and political leaders blame the Hindu radicals for the attacks.

A group of them drawn from all religions staged a protest in New Delhi on March 19, the day the Modi government completed 300 days in office. They labeled the church attacks as part of Hindu radicals' systematic attempts to intimidate Christians under the new government.

They released a report that listed at least 43 deaths in more than 600 cases of violence, 149 targeting Christians and the rest targeting Muslims, during those 300 days. The group said India witnessed several cases of desecration of churches, assault on pastors, and illegal police detention of church workers in the same period.

Dayal, who helped write the report, said the actual number of anti-Christian incidents is higher because many cases go unreported. The RSS and organizations affiliated to it became more active after Modi came to power, he said.

"There is also impunity," he added.

Speeches by Hindu leaders and some ministers against Christians and Muslims give credence to such a view.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat often says that every Indian is a Hindu, and minorities will have to learn their place in the country. "Hindutva [Hinduness] is the identity of India and it has the capacity to swallow other identities," he said in August. "We just need to restore those capacities."

On April 20, Munna Kumar Shukla of the Hindu Mahasabha (the grand council of Hindus) justified the attacks on churches, saying such acts do not violate law because churches are no more places of worship, but factories for converting Hindus to Christianity. In fact, he said the federal government should protect and award those targeting churches.

Shukla's remarks not only disproved the police and government stand on those incidents, but unnerved the Catholic bishops. They issued a statement April 24 condemning Shukla's remarks as "highly insinuating and derogatory," saying they contribute to an increase in violence against Christians and other minorities.

"All such attacks indicate a sinister pattern and evil design calculated to denigrate and defame the Christians, peace-loving and law abiding citizens of India," the statement said.

R.K. Chattree, a Hindu social activist who attended an April 23 protest rally against the Agra incident, said all attacks in the past six months had the same modus operandi, which he said "indicates the role of the same group in all incidents."

The Indian Constitution allows citizens to profess, practice and propagate the religion of their choice. The constituent assembly that drafted the constitution from 1948 to 1950 rejected Hindu nationalists' demands to make India a theocratic nation, like neighboring Pakistan. The drafters chose secularism as the national identity to allow equal respect and treatment for all religions.

This was done despite India being overwhelmingly Hindu. The national census in 1951 recorded 84.1 percent Hindus in a population of 361 million. Muslims were 9.8 percent, Christians 2 percent and Sikhs 1.9 percent. The rest were Buddhists, Jains, animists and atheists. Half a century later in 2001, Hindus were 80.5 percent of just over a billion Indians. Muslims were 13.4 percent, Christians 2.3 percent and Sikhs 1.9 percent.

RSS and other groups say that the Hindu population has gone down partly because of Christians indulged in fraudulent conversion of the poor and gullible Hindus. So much so, its chief found fault even with Mother Teresa.

Bhagwat told a meeting Feb. 23 that the world-renowned nun's prime motive for service was to convert the poor and destitute to Christianity and that her selfish aim devalued the virtues of a noble cause. He also said he had seen forced conversion of tribal people by Catholics when he was working in India's northeastern region.

Such statements have emboldened people to organize religious rituals to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism through what they call "ghar wapsi" (homecoming) at various places in the country.

The 300-day report says these divisive activities have diverted the government from fulfilling its election promise. Modi, the report notes, came to power riding a promise of development. Development remains a mirage even after 11 months, but the hate has spread across the country, it adds.

Navaid Hamid, general secretary of the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians, said at the March 19 protest that Hindu radicals and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people's party) "do not believe in diversity and wish to have everyone follow their own dictates." This has brought the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution -- secularism and pluralism -- "constantly under attack, and minorities are a part of that," the Muslim leader said.

Prime Minister Modi's initial silence on the attacks baffled many because when he took the oath of office, he called for a 10-year moratorium on sectarian violence. He not only refused to reprimand his Cabinet colleagues for making anti-minority remarks, the 300-day report says, but declared Christmas as a "Good Governance Day" to honor former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was born Dec. 25.

Some Christian leaders at the March 19 protest told NCR that Modi reprimanded them for being misled by newspaper reports when they complained about the church attacks. They said he refused to acknowledge Christians were under attack.

However, he relented after his party suffered a defeat in the election for Delhi legislative assembly. (The BJP could win just three seats in the 70-member house.) Modi addressed Christians for the first time Feb. 17, nearly nine months after he took over as a prime minister.

"We cannot accept violence against any religion on any pretext, and I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard," he said.

But Modi's assurance seems to have little impact as the attacks on churches continue and the Hindu hard-liners indulge in hate speeches.

Meanwhile, people such as Jayanta Roy Chowdhury, a New Delhi-based journalist and a Hindu, urge Christians not to become defensive because India will remain a secular country. Chowdhury told NCR that Modi and his cohorts do not have the support they think they have because Indians generally do not like radicals.

Chowdhury, however, wants all religions to curb "crazy evangelists" among them.

Nirendra Dev, also a Hindu journalist in the capital and an admirer of Modi, said he does not believe Christians are being targeted. The attacks are incidents with a peculiar pattern, he told NCR. He said he blames Christians and Hindus for the present situation.

Hindus, as the majority community, should have acted more responsibly, he said, adding that a substantial section of Christians had turned anti-BJP and backed the opposition Congress.

Fr. Ajay Kumar Singh, a social activist in Odisha, an eastern Indian state, said anti-Christian violence is not a recent phenomenon. Odisha witnessed one of the worst attacks against Indian Christians: An estimated 100 Christians were killed and some 50,000 rendered homeless in monthslong violence that began Aug. 24, 2008, a day after Maoists killed a 90-year-old Hindu sage and his five companions.

It was also in Odisha that Hindu radicals burned to death Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two sons, ages 10 and 6, in January 1999. A few months later, the same radicals killed Fr. Arul Doss of Balasore diocese.

Singh said he blames the early RSS leaders for such "alarming situations" by identifying Muslims and Christians as internal enemies for subjugation and elimination.

"I am concerned about the India's survival as a secular and democratic nation," the priest told NCR. "It is not just the minorities' life at stake, but the very fabric of the nation."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cardinal Kasper: Francis wants a hierarchy that listens to 'senses fidei'

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
May 26, 2015

Pope Francis wants to retool the Catholic hierarchy so that it not only defines and enforces church teachings, but also listens and responds to how laypeople understand God's will, German Cardinal Walter Kasper said.

Kasper, a noted theologian whose writings are known to have influenced Francis, said the pope wants to create a "listening magisterium."

Kasper said one concept important to the pope is that of the sensus fidei, or the capacity of individual believers and the church as a whole to discern the truths of faith.

That concept, Kasper said, "was emphasized by the council ... [but] Francis now wishes to give it complete meaning.

"He wants a listening magisterium -- that makes its position, yes," the cardinal said, "but makes its position after it has heard what the Spirit says to its churches."

"Catholicity includes ... all," Kasper said. "Women and men, young and old, clergy and laity. The laity are not only recipients, but also actors. Not only objects, but much more, subjects in the church."

Kasper, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral as part of a landmark theological conference on the Second Vatican Council co-hosted by the cathedral, Georgetown University, and Marymount University in Arlington, Va.

Among other speakers at the May 21-24 conference were Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Cardinal Luis Tagle, the archbishop of Manila and new president of Caritas Internationalis.

The conference was titled: "Vatican II, Remembering the Future: Ecumenical, Interfaith and Secular Perspectives on the Council's Impact and Promise." A gathering of the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, the event saw an estimated 140 academics reflect on the meaning and import of the council and how its vision might be carried forward.

The Second Vatican Council was a 1962-65 global meeting of Catholic bishops that led to significant changes in the church, including modernization of the Catholic liturgy and redefining the relationship between the church and the modern world.

At a morning session Saturday that was focused primarily on hearing how Vatican II affected ecumenical relations with other Christian churches, Kasper gave a wide-ranging overview of ecumenical efforts of the past decades.

The German cardinal, who has spent much of his church career on ecumenical efforts, also outlined what he sees as problems facing such dialogues in the future and gave four perspectives he said might help overcome difficulties.

Proposing an overarching concept of apostolicity for Christian churches, Kasper related his message to the call of Francis for a church that continually goes forth.

"Again and again, we can and must allow ourselves to be surprised by God and his spirit," he said. "In this sense, ecumenism occurs not in standing still, but in moving on. Only water that flows remains fresh, while standing water turns bad and becomes stale."

"A church that goes back to its apostolic origins goes also forwards to the future," he said.

Kasper then said that concept of going forth has "great significance" and related it to a concept known as the "hermeneutic of continuity." That concept, embraced by many Vatican cardinals and Pope Benedict XVI, stresses that Vatican II did not repeal earlier church teachings or traditions.

"Ecumenically, this concept, it seems to me, to be of great significance since it frames the subject of continuity with the apostolic origins," Kasper said. "It is fundamental for our churches but evokes among the churches a conversion."

"The hermeneutic of continuity must -- for the sake of the future, the sustainability of Christianity -- always be a hermeneutic of reform," he said.

Kasper also said ecumenical language in the Catholic church has always stressed dialogue, which he said involves reciprocal listening.

"What [dialogue] signifies is not hierarchical thinking, but cross-thinking," the cardinal said. "It is to be open to value the others, seeking communalities, and entering into a reciprocal learning process in creative collaboration."

Speaking of how Francis sees the value of the different Christian churches, Kasper said: "The whole is greater than the parts and is therefore not the sum of the parts."

"For him, the mode he proposes is a ... a multifaceted prism, in which all parts form a whole, but they participate in the whole in different ways," he said. "And it is precisely because they maintain their uniqueness that they contribute to the ... beauty of the whole."

The conference was the ninth for the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network, a global network of theologians co-founded and led by Georgetown professor Gerard Mannion. It follows previous events in India, Belgium and England.

Among others speaking at the conference, which saw a diverse range of viewpoints: noted moral theologian Fr. Charlie Curran; former Catholic Theological Society of America presidents Richard Gaillardetz and M. Shawn Copeland; South Sudan Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro; and Nigerian Jesuit Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator.

On Friday, Tagle called on Catholics to avoid looking to the pre-Vatican II church with a sense of nostalgia and to instead embrace and live out the council's sense of openness to the modern world.

"Many people want to witness to Christ in some idealized past that they long for with nostalgia," he said. "No, we witness to Christ now, here, where we are in our world."

Focusing on ecumenical dialogue, Kasper also called for a "down-to-earth ecumenism" that is not limited to only academic theological discussions.

"The unity of the church and the unity of humanity are fatefully interwoven today," Kasper said. "Therefore, it is our sacred duty ... that we do not accept the division between Christians."

"The divisions within the church are ... structures of sin. They thwart God's plan for salvation," he said. "They are deep wounds in the body of Christ and the blame lies ... with all sides."

Commenting on the dialogues that have taken place since the council, Kasper said: "Anyone who has experienced the previous denominational estrangements ... can only be amazed on all that has grown in the last decades ... and be infinitely thankful for it."

"We have succeeded in building bridges out of the trenches ... through which people can encounter one another," he said.

But even after decades of dialogue, Kasper said, the ecumenical dialogues are at a perilous point.

"Agreement is nowhere in sight," he said. "This situation is extremely dangerous. If we are not in agreement of where we are and going, there is a great danger that we will disperse in different directions."

"The great expectations following the council have not been followed," he said. "We are at a standstill."

"An ecumenism of love, of encounter, of listening and friendship are what is needed."

Kasper ended his talk by quoting the late German Jesuit Fr. Karl Rahner, who said the council "was only the beginning of a beginning."

"With the current pontificate, a new phase of its reception has begun," he said.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Archbishop Diarmud Martin: Catholic church needs reality check

Alison Healy
Irish Times
May 23, 2015

The Catholic Church needs “a reality check” in the wake of the same-sex marriage referendum and needs to ask if it has drifted away from young people, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

“I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, ‘Look, have we drifted away completely from young people?’ ” he told RTÉ News.

He said the referendum result was “an overwhelming vote in one direction” and he appreciated how gay men and lesbian women felt after the endorsement of same-sex marriage - “that they feel this is something which is enriching the way they live”, he said.

‘Social revolution’

“I think it’s a social revolution... It’s a social revolution that didn’t begin today,” he said. “It’s a social revolution that’s been going on, and perhaps in the church people have not been as clear in understanding what that involved.

“It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people, then the church has a huge task in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and to get its message across to young people, not just on this issue, but in general.”

Dr Martin said it was important that the church must not move into denial of the realities. “We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal by simply denying,” he said.

When he met Pope Benedict after he became archbishop, the pope asked him where were the points of contact between the Catholic Church and the places where the future of Irish culture was being formed, he said.

“And that’s a question the church has to ask itself here in Ireland,” Dr Martin said.

‘Big challenge’

“Most of these young people who voted Yes are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years,” he said. “There’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the church...We need to sit down and say ‘are we reaching out at all to young people?’ ... We’re becoming a church of the like-minded, and a sort of a safe space for the like-minded,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean that we renounce our teaching on fundamental values on marriage and the family. Nor does it mean that we dig into the trenches.

“We need to find...a new language which is fundamentally ours, that speaks to, is understood and becomes appreciated by others.”

Dr Martin added that “we tend to think in black and white but most of us live in the area of grey, and if the church has a harsh teaching, it seems to be condemning those who are not in line with it.

“But all of us live in the grey area. All of us fail. All of us are intolerant. All of us make mistakes. All of us sin and all of us pick ourselves up again with the help of that institution which should be there to do that.

“The church’s teaching, if it isn’t expressed in terms of love - then it’s got it wrong,” he said.

Ireland votes to legalize gay marriage in historic referendum

Lisa McNally
NBC News
May 23, 2015

Ireland became the first country in the world to vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage Saturday after a resounding victory for "Yes" campaigners.

At final count, 62 percent voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage in the country, while 38 percent voted against it. Nearly 2 million people voted, with more than 1.2 million voting "yes" and 734,300 voting "no."

A celebratory mood had come over Dublin even before the official results were announced around 7 p.m. local time, with tallies for each constituency displayed on big screens to thousands watching from Dublin Castle's sun-soaked central square.

The large crowd spontaneously broke into Ireland's national anthem as they awaited the final tally.

Earlier, David Quinn, the director of the conservative Iona Institute and leader of the "No" campaign — which sought to prevent Ireland's constitution from being amended to permit same-sex marriage — conceded defeat and congratulated the 'Yes' side.

The poll pitted liberal forces against Ireland's conservative Catholic foundation.

The vote drew more than 60 percent turnout nationally for the first time since the country narrowly voted to legalize divorce in 1995, according to Reuters. When the Irish voted to ease access to foreign abortions in 1992, 68 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot.

Backers of gay marriage had hoped for high turnout, reflecting strong participation by young and first-time voters.

Ireland's president Michael D. Higgins said he was particularly encouraged by the amount of young people who turned out to vote. He said while he could not comment on the results, he was happy that citizens were given the opportunity to express their opinions.

"Today's victory is the culmination of decades of struggle which has forced this government and conservative elements in the establishment to hold this referendum," Higgins said.

Among those who voted were thousands of emigrants who returned by aircraft or ferry to take part in the world's first direct national vote on gay marriage. Many shared their journeys on social under the #HomeToVote hashtag.

Sisters Rebecca and Rachel Doyle from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, were among 2,000 members of the public allowed to view the counting process at Dublin Castle.

"It feels brilliant, especially since we thought it was going to be so close and now it looks like such a definite 'Yes'," Rebecca told NBC News, adding that the experience was "emotional."

"This shows how much we've changed, how attitudes are changing, to see all of the young people come out to vote, that wouldn't usually vote who wouldn't normally be interested in politics."

Rachel added: "This was my first time to vote, because I'm only 18, I'm glad it was something so important to me, I feel that my sister should be able to get married."

Opponents argued that same-sex marriage was a step too far, after Ireland already allowed civil partnerships.

"You can give the gays their rights without redefining the whole institution of marriage. What they're asking for is too much," said Bridget Ryan, 61, as she voted with her border collie in tow at a Catholic parish hall.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Different visions of church collide in San Francisco archdiocese

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
May 22, 2015

"The religious fabric of the San Francisco archdiocese has been torn, and it did not need to happen. Intentionally or not, it has been wrenched," said Thomas Sheehan, a Stanford University scholar who summarized what several observers shared with NCR.

Conflict has marked the tenure of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone since his arrival in San Francisco in 2012. In recent months, highly publicized events have made the archdiocese and Cordileone a staple of media coverage, and local Catholics have made their feelings known, from critics calling for Cordileone's removal in a full-page ad in a major daily, to supporters rallying for the archbishop with a picnic, petitions and a website.

The Bay Area has become an epicenter for colliding visions of what being Catholic means, the role of conscience, church teaching on sex and sexuality, the core role of Catholic schools, the understanding of revealed truth, and how authority should be exercised.

In short, Catholic identity.

"I still think there is a possibility of reconciliation if both sides would just pause for a moment, if Archbishop Cordileone publicly announced as pastor of the archdiocese that he is willing to sit down and start from scratch. He arrived here running, landing with all four episcopal feet on the ground, and with an agenda," Sheehan added.

Bay Area social and theological ethicist Toinette Eugene agreed that addressing "antipathies and conflicting issues" is paramount.

"I know from experiential certainty that the meaning of 'Catholic identity' is a bigger and broader concept and understanding than that articulated by Archbishop Cordileone," said Eugene, a founding member of the National Office of Black Catholics and the first associate director of the Black Sisters' Conference.

Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, echoes calls for Cordileone to stop, look and listen.

"It is not uncommon for corporate CEOs or university presidents or deans hired from outside to come charging in and badly misread the cultures of their organizations," Hanson wrote to NCR. "The prescription is usually to go on a humble listening tour and then press the restart button. That is what I would suggest to Archbishop Cordileone, but as yet there is no indication he is interested in doing that."

NCR attempted multiple times over several months to interview Cordileone and the archdiocese's vicar for administration and moderator of the curia, Jesuit Fr. John Piderit. On April 6, NCR received an email from Larry Kamer, principal of the Kamer Consulting Group, who said he had been asked by Piderit to "respond on the Archdiocese's behalf." NCR has yet to receive a response to questions sent to Kamer.

Jesuit Fr. Joseph Fessio, founder and editor of San Francisco-based St. Ignatius Press, said he feels Cordileone has made efforts to quell the tumult.

The Jesuit, who is also publisher of the online Catholic World Report, asked if "Pope Francis might have even been wittingly or unwittingly responsible" for bringing about conflict via the media highlighting comments the pope has made on homosexuality, marriage and other topics that might have "heightened expectations" of those who question areas of church teaching.

Fessio pointed out that Cordileone responded to the outcry earlier this year about the tone and content of a faculty handbook statement by conceding it was not nuanced enough. Cordileone had mandated that the handbooks for archdiocesan-owned high schools include a statement clarifying church teaching, largely on sexual issues, and put faculty on notice to "arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church teaching.

In response to the uproar, Fessio noted, Cordileone formed a task force of high school theology teachers to recast it in more readily absorbable language and with a social justice element. That work is reportedly ongoing.

Fessio also noted that the archbishop candidly admitted during a one-hour meeting Feb. 24 with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial staff that in hindsight "he would have gone about things differently" in development and promulgation of the handbook statement -- seeking more input "from stakeholders."

Prop 8 history

A significant amount of the "pushback" in some quarters, Fessio said, draws energy from lingering frustration with the prelate's pivotal role in the passage of Proposition 8, the 2008 California referendum that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. A federal court ultimately ruled the law unconstitutional.

Cordileone's Proposition 8 history, as well as his role as "point man" for the U.S. bishops in "defending traditional man-woman marriage," often leads to the archbishop being portrayed as harboring animosity toward gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual individuals, according to Fessio and others interviewed for this story.

The director of the archdiocese's new Office of Catholic Identity Assessment, Melanie Morey, told NCR in February that hurting or diminishing gay persons "is the last thing" Cordileone would want to do.

Regardless, the Cordileone-authored faculty handbook statement has had that effect, notably by employing usages such as "intrinsically evil," "grave evil" and "gravely evil."

Cordileone friend and erstwhile adviser Nick Andrade said he has told the archbishop "that because of this language, some young man is going to kill himself, and that is not what you want at all. Therapists will tell you that that is exactly what can happen, that some kid is going to kill himself because he has been told he is gravely evil."

The archbishop "knows I am married to a man," said Andrade, who is known for his board work and support for Catholic Charities CYO, as well as with various Catholic schools in the archdiocese. "My partner and I have been together for 25 years, and I am not gravely evil."

Cordileone "is a good and holy man who really does mean well," Andrade said. "He might not be trying enough for everybody, but he is trying."

But, Andrade emphasized, "he needs to get better advice."

The perception that Cordileone depends on a tight sphere of like-minded advisers surfaces often among his critics and was among charges leveled in the April 16 full-page San Francisco Chronicle advertisement, signed by more than 100 high-profile local Catholics, that asked the pope to replace the archbishop.

Jesuit Fr. John Coleman, associate pastor of St. Ignatius Parish, said it is common to hear concerns about Cordileone having "brought in a bevy of outside priests" who serve as his priest secretary, moderator of the curia, and development director, and in other positions.

"Even some more conservative priests of the archdiocese ... resent that he has bypassed the San Francisco presbyterate to bring in such outsiders," said Coleman, a sociologist who taught at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., for more than two decades and held the Charles Casassa Chair in Social Values at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles (1997-2009).

In December, Cordileone announced the creation of the Office of Catholic Identity Assessment. It has had a lukewarm welcome.

Sheehan, who has "talked to a number of teachers" in the archdiocese, says the office's mandate of "assessing the schools for orthodoxy" implies "the notion that such an office is needed in San Francisco" and tells "people who have worked so hard ... that they are not Catholic enough. It reflects the archbishop's own personal assessment that something needs to be fixed."

"The office reflects a personal agenda that only Archbishop Cordileone embraces, in opposition to his faithful," said Sheehan, who specializes in contemporary European philosophy at Stanford and its relation to religious questions, with particular emphasis on Roman Catholicism.

"This is an arrogant, condescending attitude, almost bullying," Sheehan said. "Cordileone seems unwilling to consider he might be wrong" and comes across as "an unyielding ideologue who is trying to tell faithful employees to behave in ways in- consistent with their consciences."

Hanson and Eugene are just as blunt.

"There is a culture clash between an image of a Church which engages with the community, demonstrating an interest in and understanding of the lived reality of the faithful," Hanson said, "and a Church which is the defender of truth and uses its authority to discredit and marginalize any who disagree with the truth as defined by the local bishop. There is a broad discussion of the role of conscience in the Church today, which threatens some leaders like Archbishop Cordileone."

He continued, "There is another culture clash between an understanding of truth as focused on a set of reproductive and marriage-related issues, and a truth focused more broadly on love and mercy, which has more recently been the hallmark of Pope Francis."

Bay Area culture

Eugene noted that despite the "obvious social and religious diversities" in the Bay Area, "there is a callous disregard on the part of the archdiocese for those individuals and groups who have taken a stance that in any way differs from or questions the Catholic doctrine and authority which is being held up as the standard."

Eugene and Fessio both downplayed the idea that Cordileone arrived in San Francisco naive of its culture and then misread it. After all, Fessio pointed out, the archbishop is a San Diego native and had spent three years as bishop of the neighboring Oakland diocese.

Eugene says the current turmoil should be viewed in the context of the Bay Area's long history of social upheaval.

"I have lived in the Bay Area most of my life," she said. She grew up amid the student Free Speech Movement at the University of California in the 1960s; lived in San Francisco in the time of the Haight-Ashbury hippie movement; ministered in an urban parish "at the height of the Black Panther Party developments"; and has had "ties with the nascent and now flourishing LBGT community through friends and associates," she explained.

"I do not believe that these seemingly disparate historical movements and aspects of a regional culture have faded into the dim past, but in fact they give substance and roots to the reality of a vibrant multi-layered Bay Area culture," she said.

"From the perspective of the ordinary person in the pew," Eugene wrote, "I think that dealing and dialoguing more directly and pastorally with the constituencies who represent the cultural, social, racial and sexual diversities of the archdiocese is a critical priority."

Perhaps ironically, a lead organizer of the student-parent group #TeachAcceptance, which has battled against the Cordileone faculty handbook and labor stances, also argues against polarized, black-white argumentation.

"It is not a matter of love versus rules," Jim McGarry wrote in response to a recent NCR essay by John J. Savant on the San Francisco situation. "This often translates to the pejorative label of 'legalism' or it surfaces as an attack on sentimentalism. It sometimes allows opponents of Archbishop Cordileone, for example, to label him as rule-bound and hence unloving or not compassionate. That is neither true nor helpful."

McGarry, who taught religious studies in the archdiocese for more than three decades, warned that such "dualism" can lead "to a sense of soft vs. hard Catholicism, and that is problematic stereotyping leading to unresolvable intramural squabbling, leaving us with intractable 'culture wars' instead of theological debate. Rather, we need to move towards social justice and the Beloved Community."

McGarry said he sees church teaching on homosexuality as a bedrock issue in the current San Francisco upheaval.

"Doctrinal development matters. Discrimination against homosexuals is wrong. Persecution of homosexuals is real," he said. "If church teaching is not part of the protection of a vulnerable population, it is part of the persecution. Civil rights for gays must be understood and incorporated into the Catholic tradition -- theologically, just as opposition to slavery finally was promulgated. This inclusion of civil rights in moral teaching may or may not imply other developments of doctrine on this issue, but this first, true step must be fully taken -- to the point of support for civil marriage as a human right -- in a world where violence against gays, lesbians and transgender people is still the norm."

McGarry continued, "Mercy does not mean acquiescence or procrastination. We do not condemn our opponents but we do not wait for them. We pray that they will eventually come along. The long arc of Church history suggests that they will."

Record on dialogue

Cordileone's record, ability and style when it comes to dialogue receives divergent reviews.

Proponents can list multiple examples of him meeting with groups or persons who might disagree with him:

He invited all clergy of the archdiocese to a gathering at his residence to offer background and updates on the faculty handbook uproar.

He addressed more than 350 high school teachers about the faculty handbook statement at a Feb. 6 convocation and answered questions from the assembly.

He requested a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial staff to open communication lines with the newspaper, which is perceived by many archdiocesan officials as negative toward the church.

He has sent archdiocesan officials to local radio talk show programs to represent the archdiocese's perspective.

He recently invited Brian Cahill to lunch; the retired Catholic Charities director has been an outspoken critic and is one of the signers of the full-page ad asking Cordileone's removal.

Cordileone met recently with at least one retired clergyman; a letter signed by 21 retired priests of the archdiocese in March took Cordileone to task for his lack of consultation and implicit disrespect of teachers in the handbook language.

He has met separately with the campus ministry/religious studies faculties of at least two of the archdiocesan-owned high schools.

In early October, he met with officials of Dignity, an organization that advocates "for respect and justice for people of all sexual orientations, genders, and gender identities ... in the Catholic Church," according to its website.

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

Sheehan and others, however, see Cordileone dialogue as tactical.

"His style seems to be delay, delay, delay and then send out" representatives "who refuse to compromise," observed Sheehan, who said people he knows "have come away with a sense of futility in regard to dialogue" with the archbishop.

Presidents of the four archdiocesan high schools might nod their heads. A Dec. 29 letter to Cordileone signed by the four administrators pleaded not to go forward with plans for the controversial school handbooks. They asked the archbishop to "consider a different path" to pursue his goal of "effective catechesis on the key doctrinal teachings on which you would like the local Church to focus, as well as the spiritual formation of those called to serve in your schools across all academic disciplines and extra-curricular programs."

The educators wrote, "We are unable to support the inclusion of the 'affirm and believe' language" into the collective bargaining agreement or the school handbooks.

They told the archbishop they "remain very concerned about the deleterious effect that will result from this particular language. Our experience with our teachers assures us that the 'affirm and believe' statements you have submitted will not be received as you intend and will counter much of the bolstering of our schools' Catholic identity on which we have all focused over the last 20 years."

They warned that "undue confusion and turmoil" could result.

They suggested that Cordileone "make clear to the teachers the doctrines upon which you place high priority" at the scheduled Feb. 6 convocation of high school teachers, and have the Office of Catholic Identity Assessment follow up on campuses "and give further information about the role we are called to play."

However, that advice was set aside. On Feb. 3, the administrators shared with their faculties and staffs the texts of the handbook statement and the contract language.

In a draft of an op-ed on the San Francisco developments, teacher union representative Ted DeSaulnier from Archbishop Riordan High School described a meeting at which the union executive board, high school presidents, and Piderit were present.

When a school president asked for clarity on what the archbishop expected of the administrators in the face of potential resistance from faculty and staff, he was told he should "vigorously follow the directives that he was given" to support the archbishop, DeSaulnier wrote.

Piderit told the administrator to "fall on your sword," said DeSaulnier.

Fr. Coleman is among the handbook critics. In a Feb. 17 blog on the St. Ignatius Parish website, he critiqued its rationale and content.

"By so stressing sexual morality," Coleman wrote, the handbook "tends actually to distort the fullness of Catholic teaching and overemphasize the hot button issues in its place and to neglect, entirely, a personal conversion to become a disciple of Jesus."

Interviewed, Coleman underscored what he sees as a disconnect between Cordileone and a large portion of the clergy.

He described instances of Cordileone missing priests' funerals, seeming unawareness of priests' illnesses in hospitals, and a sense among "thoughtful priests that he really does not hear their deepest pastoral concerns."

"I have never known an archbishop of San Francisco with so much public opinion, elected officials, good Catholic businessmen, school teachers and students against him -- as well as such lack of support from priests," he said.

A member of the Council of Priests told NCR that during a meeting of the group last summer, one priest stated that in all his years of ministry in the archdiocese he had never seen morale in the parishes and chancery at a lower level. He said that if any of the group disagreed, to say so. There were no responses.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone takes divisive action in San Francisco Archdiocese

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
May 22, 2015

"Bold," "brazen," "courageous," "combative," "timely" and "bombshell" were among descriptions that greeted the 2012 appointment of Salvatore Cordileone, then bishop of Oakland, Calif., to the high-profile San Francisco archdiocese. In the nearly three years since Cordileone succeeded Archbishop George Niederauer, the new archbishop seems to have done little to change the minds of those who made those initial assessments.

Critics say Cordileone has aligned himself ever more deeply with hard-line conservatives in the church and estranged himself from Catholics who claim closer affinity with the Second Vatican Council. He arrived with a narrow agenda, they charge.

Supporters laud the archbishop for proclaiming undiluted doctrine, particularly on marriage, Catholic religious practice, and human reproduction.

Both camps argue that they have been caricatured by the other, treated like theological piñatas.

The polarity strikingly surfaced April 16 when a full-page ad appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, calling on Pope Francis to remove Cordileone. The ad was signed by more than 100 influential Bay Area Catholics.

The text charged that Cordileone has "fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance," coerced teachers with a "morality code which violates individual consciences as well as California labor laws," and isolated "himself from our community" as he "relies ... on a tiny group of advisors recruited from outside of our diocese."

The archdiocese called the ad "a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching, a misrepresentation of the nature of the teacher contract, and a misrepresentation of the spirit of the Archbishop."

"The greatest misrepresentation of all is that the signers presume to speak for 'the Catholic Community of San Francisco.' They do not," a media release stated. "The Archdiocese has met with a broad range of stakeholders. Together, we have engaged in a constructive dialogue on all of the issues raised in this ad. We welcome the chance to continue that discussion."

The ad's signers bristled at the implication that they were a fringe group, pointing out they include members of school and university boards, a former director of Catholic Charities, CYO, high-profile attorneys, physicians and businesspeople, and officials of trusts, foundations and charitable organizations.

An online arm of the Chronicle, SFGate, ran a poll after the ad, asking: "Should Pope Francis remove Archbishop Cordileone from the San Francisco archdiocese?" Seventy-nine percent chose "No, the archbishop is upholding the values of the Catholic Church."

In contrast, four out of five faculty and staff of the four archdiocesan-owned high schools signed a petition in early March asking Cordileone to forgo his announced addition to those schools' faculty handbooks and to leave the current text in place.

Hundreds of students, parents and teachers packed a University of San Francisco conference room March 16 to proclaim opposition to the proposed changes to the faculty handbook. The group that organized the event, #TeachAcceptance, has also coordinated protest vigils at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral and a labor rally supporting teachers in front of the chancery.

Meanwhile, a picnic at San Francisco's Sue Bierman Park demonstrated appreciation for Cordileone, and a website supporting the archbishop has been established. Picnic organizers include Eva Muntean, a primary mover behind the annual Walk for Life in San Francisco.

Conservative pedigree

Cordileone's pedigree as a conservative churchman was already well-established before his arrival in San Francisco, as was his intense opposition to same-sex marriage.

It was widely asked if Cordileone would be able to effectively lead the archdiocese, where San Francisco city and county voted 75 percent against Proposition 8, the state law passed in 2008 that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Cordileone was a chief architect of the proposition, which a federal court ruled unconstitutional in 2010. Same-sex marriage remains legal in California.

Chair of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Cordileone took part as a featured speaker at the June 2014 March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., despite requests from several Bay Area religious leaders and politicians not to do so. Critics charged the gathering was anti-same-sex marriage and defamatory of the LGBT community. Cordileone strongly denied this.

Originally scheduled to speak again at the 2015 March for Marriage in April, Cordileone announced he would instead remain in the archdiocese to "attend to the pastoral needs of the Church here."

On his arrival in San Francisco in 2012, Cordileone soon signaled things would not be business as usual. For one thing, he would have a personal security person.

From Oakland, Cordileone brought with him Derek Gaskin, who is listed as director of Security Disaster and Emergency Preparedness in the archdiocesan directory. Gaskin was customarily known in Oakland and now in San Francisco as the archbishop's bodyguard, and is often seen overseeing security details at events and staying close to the prelate.

Cordileone began using personal security shortly after an article in the East Bay Express delineated his involvement with Proposition 8. Rumors circulated at the time that he had received death threats.

A former San Francisco chancery employee lauded Gaskin as "a nice guy" and "really good at what he does."

Another noted, "He has the best technology at his fingertips -- high-end computers linked to newly installed cameras through every inch of the chancery, and he carries several cellphones. ... The archbishop will not step out into public without this individual. There is an air of paranoia."

Cordileone, who is known for his affection for the Latin Mass, announced in 2013 that he would promote establishment of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, to be housed at the Menlo Park campus of St. Patrick's Seminary and University. He named Benedictine Fr. Samuel Weber director. Weber, a chant expert, helped set up the Institute of Sacred Music in 2008 in St. Louis under then-Archbishop Raymond Burke.

Cordileone raised eyebrows across the archdiocese during his first year when he abruptly fired his executive assistant, who had served both of his predecessors and who had worked in the chancery for 23 years. She transitioned to a position at Serra Clergy House in San Mateo, a priests' retirement facility. She recently moved to Texas and declined comment.

Cordileone just as abruptly forced the resignation of the president-rector of St. Patrick's, Sulpician Fr. James McKearney. The seminary primarily serves dioceses on the West Coast. The move stunned McKearney, his faculty, the students and others.

Reasons for McKearney's removal remained open to conjecture, and its suddenness generated curiosity and rumors. School and archdiocesan officials sought to quash speculation that McKearney had done something illegal or immoral.

At the time, the seminary enrolled 93 students, down from 114 in the 2012-13 school year. Today's enrollment is 86, according to a school official.

Some see enrollment as a sleeper referendum on Cordileone's supervision of the seminary by those who make decisions to send students there. The archbishop is chancellor and chair of the trustees, and the seminary itself is owned by the archdiocese.

Cordileone had commended McKearney for his leadership during the school's annual fundraising gala on Sept. 14, 2013. Two days later, Cordileone, accompanied by vicar for administration Msgr. James Tarantino and San Jose Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Daly, compelled McKearney to resign, according to McKearney, who had been president-rector since 2009 and at the seminary since 1999.

Neither U.S. Sulpician Provincial Fr. Thomas Ulshafer nor the school's board of trustees had been consulted.

That same afternoon, both the archdiocese and the San Jose diocese issued releases announcing that Daly had been named interim president and rector, the first non-Sulpician to head the seminary since its founding in 1898.

It was announced that Jesuit Fr. John Piderit, former Loyola University Chicago president, would become St. Patrick's new vice president for administration, in addition to continuing as vicar for finance, and that Basilian Fr. Anthony Giampietro would be executive vice president for advancement and academic dean.

Sulpician Fr. Gladstone Stevens, then vice rector and dean of men, declined comment at the time. He said faculty had been told to funnel media requests to Melanie Morey, seminary provost. Stevens succeeded Daly as president-rector last June.

Morey and Piderit are longtime collaborators on Catholic identity issues. Piderit helped found the Catholic Education Institute, headquartered in New York, in 2001 and remains its president. Morey is the institute's senior research director. The two co-authored Catholic Higher Education: A Culture in Crisis and other materials that focus on Catholic identity at Catholic colleges and universities.

In 2010, Daly instituted annual Catholic identity summer conferences for educators, called "Substantially Catholic." At the time, he was president of Marin Catholic High School, one of the four archdiocesan-owned schools and located in Kentfield. Piderit and Morey were main presenters at the first of those conferences.

Daly was named bishop of Spokane, Wash., in April.

Morey was a key contact for the recruitment of Giampetro from the University of St. Thomas in Houston to St. Patrick's.

In May of last year, Piderit was moved from the seminary to become the archdiocese's vicar for administration and moderator of the curia. In October, Giampietro was named archdiocesan director of development.

Assessing Catholicity

In December, it was announced that Morey would direct the archdiocese's new Office of Catholic Identity Assessment. Cordileone created the office independently of the Department of Catholic Schools and the archdiocesan Board of Education. The office's mandate is to evaluate and enhance the Catholicity of high schools within the archdiocese.

On Feb. 3, a month after the Catholic identity office opened its doors, the texts of Cordileone's 2,000-word narrative for faculty handbooks of the four archdiocesan-owned high schools, as well as proposed clauses for those schools' teacher contracts, were shared during meetings with administrators of the four schools and their faculties and staffs. The insert for the handbook distilled church teaching, largely on sexual issues, and required faculty to "arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church teaching.

Morey emailed copies of the documents as well as a cover letter by Cordileone to administrators of the 10 independent Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. "The documents lay out some of the beliefs a Catholic school claims when it chooses to operate as Catholic," she wrote.

Reaction was rapid and widespread. Critics skewered the handbook document, calling it conscience-crushing, inflammatory, an intrusion into private lives, and oblivious to its potential impact on the gay community.

Teacher union officials and legal experts argued that classifying teachers and staff as "ministers" -- part of the archdiocese's proposed contract language -- was a maneuver to distance them from legal protections.

Meanwhile, conservative Catholics rallied behind the document, titled "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church." They praised Cordileone for championing forthright guidelines, explicit expectations and doctrinal clarity.

Cordileone has since expressed flexibility on use of the word "minister" if twin objectives are met -- clarity that archdiocesan high schools as institutions embrace the entirety of church teaching and that all employees are integral to the mission of Catholic education.

Also, on Feb. 24, the archbishop announced he would form a committee of theology teachers to revise, expand and clarify the statement before insertion into the 2015-16 school year faculty handbook.

In addition to the #TeachAcceptance vigils and the Chronicle ad, the handbook and contract language stimulated:

A front-page Chronicle analysis charging that the statement flew in the face of Francis' call for embracing the marginalized, and an editorial ("Wrong city, wrong century") against the move;
A joint letter from eight San Francisco Bay Area state lawmakers accusing Cordileone of sending "an alarming message of intolerance" to students;
A news release by the California Federation of Teachers, objecting to contractual use of the designation "minister" and to the warning that Catholic school employees avoid off-campus activities that might contradict church stances.

Meanwhile, on March 18, a local CBS affiliate reported that St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral had been employing a specially installed sprinkler system in some of its covered doorways to discourage the homeless from sleeping there. The tactic might have even violated some city water-use regulations. The archdiocese apologized, but the story went viral.

Parish uproar

Controversy at Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco has also plagued Cordileone. It was announced that Fr. Joseph Illo from the Stockton, Calif., diocese would become the parish's new administrator and Fr. Patrick Driscoll from the St. Louis archdiocese would be its associate, effective August 2014. The two priests would begin the process of turning the parish into an oratory.

Catholic San Francisco reported that an oratory's "members are secular priests and brothers who live in community without formal vows and carry out pastoral ministry, usually in an urban parish."

Media coverage was sparked when Illo announced discontinuation of altar girls and when it was learned that Driscoll had distributed age-inappropriate confession guides to students at the parish school.

Illo and Driscoll said distribution of the pamphlet was a mistake and apologized. Illo has since revised parish policy to now allow already-trained altar girls to continue to serve at the school, but girls will no longer be recruited for altar service.

Tensions led to a March 25 meeting attended by some 200 parents, as well as Driscoll, Illo, Auxiliary Bishop William Justice, and archdiocesan vicar for clergy Fr. Raymund Reyes. Sixteen parents made presentations and asked for Illo's and Driscoll's removal.

Parental ire flared again April 23 when the San Francisco Examiner reported that a civil case settled in 2005 ruled that Illo had inflicted "intentional emotional distress" on an 11-year-old girl when he was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Modesto. A 2003 canonical investigation had said Illo's handling of the incident indicated "a need for improvement of his pastoral management skills."

Illo supporters claim the suit was frivolous and point out the plaintiff was required to pay Illo's attorney fees.

Cordileone has been criticized for not reversing Illo's ban on altar girls, and Illo's public relations challenges have been used to question the archbishop's administrative judgment.

However, a petition supporting the two priests signed by "hundreds of parishioners" was delivered to the chancery, the Examiner reported. The parish logged enough gifts and pledges on the first weekend of the Archbishops' Annual Appeal to exceed its assessed goal by 27 percent, according to the archdiocesan development office.

Prior to taking the reins of the parish, Illo had raised more than $300,000 via his blog to support the oratory project. In his blog, the priest had portrayed his move to San Francisco as a mission to combat the Bay Area's "savagely distorted" moral climate. He later apologized for his choice of words.

While the Star of the Sea School parents' organization has not received an official response, the archdiocese recently announced the appointment of Fr. Vito Perrone as chaplain of the school. The priest has reportedly starting meeting with individual parents and families.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

San Francisco Catholic school teachers protest revised morality clauses offered by archbishop

CBS San Francisco
May 20 2015

After months of heated debate, San Francisco Catholic school teachers said they are no closer to a contract deal with the archdiocese.

Teachers from four high schools operated by the Archdiocese of San Francisco rallied Wednesday afternoon in front of the Chancery office, calling for a rejection of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s latest revision of the teacher handbook.

The proposed handbook requires strict adherence to the church’s teachings on things such as homosexuality and contraception, both in and out of the classroom.

Protestors said the latest draft of the handbook is a little softer in tone, but the substance is the essentially the same. “So the good news here is that there have been some changes to this document, so it seems as if the archbishop is willing to listen, to a certain degree,” said teacher Sal Curcio. “We wish he would listen more, and we wish he would really communicate with us more.” Negotiations between the archdiocese and the union are ongoing.

In a statement Wednesday the archdiocese said, “both sides are hopeful they are getting closer to resolving the few remaining bargaining issues on which there is disagreement.”

Priests are bucking Catholic church leadership to support same-sex marriage in Ireland

Sarah Kaplan
Washington Post
May 20, 2015

For the Rev. Pádraig Standún, a Catholic priest in western Ireland, voting “yes” is a matter of what’s right. To another Irish priest, the Rev. Iggy O’Donovan, it’s about creating an inclusive state.

To the Rev. Martin Dolan, Ireland’s upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage is deeply personal.

“I’m gay myself,” he announced to his Dublin congregation in January. It was a surprise ending to Dolan’s homily, in which he urged his congregation to vote “yes” in the referendum. But his parishioners took it in stride — they gave him a standing ovation, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

As the Friday referendum approaches, Ireland seems poised to become the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. The Catholic Church itself opposes the measure.

In at least a few cases, though, Irish Catholics may vote “yes” not in spite of their priests, but alongside them. Standún, O’Donovan and Dolan are among a group of priests who have bucked Church leadership to voice support for the amendment. Speaking to BuzzFeed, The Rev. Tony Flannery, founder of the reform-minded Irish Association of Catholic Priests, estimated that 25 percent of the country’s clergy would vote”yes.”

Recent polls show a significant majority of voters favor a constitutional amendment to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples — one of many signs in recent decades of the greatly diminished influence of the Catholic Church, which also unsuccessfully opposed a 1995 referendum in which Ireland legalized divorce.

Standún, a parish priest from Carna, in western Ireland, has expressed controversial opinions — at least, controversial for a member of the clergy. In 2013 he praised Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny for passing legislation that legalized abortion under certain circumstances, announcing that public representatives should reflect the views of their constituents, not their church, according to the Irish Times.

Standún made much the same argument in a column supporting the same-sex marriage referendum published earlier this month — only this time, he directed his plea toward Church leaders.

“… [N]ow is the right time. The people of God have moved on. Leaders please follow,” he urged in the Connaught Telegraph, the newspaper of Ireland’s western Connaught province.

The priest went on to say that he’ll be voting for the amendment “not to cock a snoot at the leadership of my church, or to jump on a popular bandwagon, but because I think it is the right thing to do.”

In a phone interview with The Washington Post, Standún said he had no qualms going public with his vote, and he doesn’t expect to face any repercussions from Church leadership, who have for the most part expressed their opposition to the amendment in measured terms.

“They haven’t really said anything besides ‘think carefully,’ which I did,” Standún said. “It’s a free country and it’s a political choice.”

O’Donovan, an Augustinian priest based in Limerick, argued that a “yes” vote is about separating the church from the state.

“We have inherited a tradition which has associated religion and politics in a way that has excluded some of our fellow citizens,” he wrote in a op-ed for the Irish Times, referring to Ireland’s long tradition of viewing politics and religion as virtually inseparable.

“When we become legislators, though, as we do when we vote in referendums, we legislate for ALL our fellow citizens,” he continued. “We do not vote as members of this or that church or faith.”

Church leaders in Ireland have quietly but firmly opposed same-sex marriage legalization. In recent weeks, several bishops have issued statements on the issue, using muted language and phrases like “carefully consider” and “the natural order.” Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly in mid-western Ireland, wrote in a pastoral statement that marriage should be understood as “the union between a man and a woman,” but added “There is no desire, on my part or that of the bishops, to alienate or denigrate any person or group of persons in our society. We uphold the dignity of each person.”

As The Post’s Griff Witte reported last week, the Catholic Church is practically the only major Irish institution opposing the referendum. The government supports it, as do major media organizations, unions and business groups. Even elderly church-going ladies have said they’re voting “yes.”

“I’m just going to vote for gay people because I have nothing against them. I can’t understand why anybody is against it; they’ve done no harm to anyone,” 83-year-old Rita O’Connor told the Irish Times on her way out of Sunday morning Mass in Dublin this month. “I think it’s a stupid carry-on the way the Church is going on at the moment, ridiculous.”

Deepening disaffection with the Church could explain why bishops have been “circumspect,” in the words of politics professor David Farrell, about urging a “no” vote.

The number of Irish citizens who identify as Catholic has slowly declined to around 84 percent, according to Reuters. And the number of people who actively practice is even lower — in a 2011 address, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin estimated that only 18 percent of his parishioners attended Mass any given week. The abuse scandals of the 1980s and ’90s accelerated the trend.

“They’ve been a bit more circumspect — and they have to be, because people are still sore with them for all that they’ve done,” Farrell, chairman of the politics department at University College Dublin, told The Post.

But Rev. Flannery, who was suspended by the Vatican in 2012 for contradicting Church orthodoxy on issues like homosexuality and the ordination of women, said even the Church’s muted opposition could be damaging.

“This referendum in particular is one that is very attractive to the younger generation. For the official Church to be taking such a consistent no line on it, they’re just further alienating a group that has largely left the Church anyway,” he told Reuters. “I would have thought that, that was foolish.”

Flannery announced that he, too, will be voting yes in an op-ed for Ireland’s Sunday Independent. Rejecting Church doctrine on homosexuality as “inhuman,” he said he sees the referendum as a chance to demonstrate Ireland’s potential for inclusivity.

“For me, the really Christian thing is to give them a strong and clear message that they are loved and accepted just as they are, and that they deserve to be treated with the same dignity as the rest of us,” he wrote.

And Rev. Standún said that win for the ‘yes’ side wouldn’t indicate that Irish Catholics are done with the Church.

“A lot of people who vote ‘yes’ on Friday will be at church on Sunday,” he said. “They won’t be any less Catholic. In fact they might be even more so, because they’re following the words of Jesus and showing more love.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Draft of revised San Francisco faculty handbook statement takes a broader approach

San Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
May 20, 2015

An alleged draft of a revised faculty handbook statement for San Francisco archdiocesan high schools and a cover letter by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone show a broader, less legalistic approach on church teaching and practice than the much-debated original version -- and a conciliatory tone from the archbishop.

Yet even before the archdiocese released the recast language, some people privy to leaked drafts of the purported texts expressed concern over what they describe as a change in tone but not substance as well as ongoing phrasing that would diminish labor law protections for teachers and staff.

The group Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance announced it will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. Wednesday on the steps of the chancery to "reject Archbishop Cordileone's revised Faculty Handbook" and "keep the current contract and handbook that have served the schools well."

Request for comment sent to archdiocesan officials early Wednesday were not acknowledged.

In a copy of what is said to be a working draft of a cover letter by Cordileone to accompany the rewritten handbook statement, the archbishop apologized for "lack of foresight on my part" for the "several unintended consequences" generated by his original document that "created tensions we have been experiencing."

Titled "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church," the free-standing, nearly 2,000-word instruction made public Feb. 3 has generated international headlines and deep divisions within the Bay Area Catholic community.

The statement underscored teaching on Mass attendance, confession, teaching authority of the church, sex outside marriage, traditional marriage, homosexual acts, hell, purgatory, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, birth control, "artificial reproductive technology," and human cloning.

It also put "administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or of no faith" on notice to "arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny" church teaching and to "refrain from participation in organizations that call themselves 'Catholic' but support or advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the Church."

Supporters of the statement praised Cordileone for laying out clear expectations for Catholic school employees and endorsed his stated motivation for developing the narrative: that the hot-button issues addressed are among the most sidelined by modern culture and that young people are under constant pressure "to conform to a certain agenda at variance with, and often aggressively so, our Christian understanding of the human person and God's purpose in creation," in the archbishop's words.

Critics said the document ignores the role of conscience, invades individuals' private lives, focuses too heavily on sexual issues, and employs divisive, hurtful language.

The harshest criticism focused on the Feb. 3 text's usage of language such as "gravely evil," "intrinsically evil," "gravely immoral" and "grave moral disorder" in regard to primarily sexual and reproductive teachings. The phrasing can effectively marginalize and diminish gay people and others, it was argued.

Well more than 4,000 words, the revised draft seen by NCR does not employ those descriptions and underscores: "The Gospel cannot be reduced to a list of truths no matter how comprehensive because the Gospel is a person, the anointed one, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord."

After reading the draft, Jesuit Fr. John Coleman, who wrote a blog in February critical of the rationale and approach of the initial text, said in an email that the tone of the new draft "is worlds apart from the earlier handbook."

"I could easily sign off on this one without any problem. Even the sexual stuff is more nuanced and less terrifying," wrote Coleman, a Bay Area sociologist who was a professor of religion and society at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (1974-97) and held the Charles Casassa Chair in Social Values at Loyola Marymount University (1997-2009).

Written by a group of five high school theology teachers recruited by the archdiocese, the new document says in its preamble that the contents follow "the general structure of the Catechism" and "offer a short compendium of some important teachings."

Superintendent of Schools Maureen Huntington lauded the committee's work.

"From my perspective," she wrote in an email to NCR, "the Context Committee ... did an excellent job of articulating the Church's teachings in a variety of areas within the Four Pillars of the CCC. They were able to bring the Church's teachings into our daily life and assist us in understanding not only what the Church teaches but why."

Huntington confirmed indications in the archbishop's leaked cover letter that the new document will be open for review and refinement and is not scheduled for immediate inclusion in the 2015-16 faculty handbooks.

The four high schools affected by the faculty handbook are Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield, and Junipero Serra in San Mateo. There are also 10 other independent Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.

In its press statement Wednesday, Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance wrote:

"The Archbishop is attempting to reclassify all employees of four schools within the Archdiocese as part of the 'ministry' and 'mission' of the church in order to eliminate anti-discrimination and other workplace protections for those staff members. He has also proposed that teachers and staff at the schools accept handbook language that, among other things, condemns homosexuality, same-sex marriage, contraception, and use of assisted reproductive technology. These proposals, originally made public in February, were met with an overwhelming outcry from teachers, parents, students and allies of the four schools."

Kathleen Purcell, a constitutional attorney and former Catholic high school teacher, was quoted by the group, saying, "Under the revised handbook language, teachers would not be able to dissent or discuss ideas that conflict with the Archbishop's understanding of Catholicism without risking their jobs. This fundamentally alters the character of our schools. Teachers whose jobs are under threat if they step outside the line cannot provide a safe environment for students to learn."

The protest organization also wrote: "The Archbishop has many platforms from which to educate faculty, students, parents and other members of the school community regarding his interpretations of Church theology, other than an employee handbook."

Jim McGarry, a lead organizer of Concerned Parents and Students, sent an open letter to administrators of the four schools and others based on the circulating revised handbook text. He warned against communications "particularly aimed at parents" that "implied that all things will work out in time and nothing that you love about your school will change."

"The suggestion is that we will weather this storm by being who we are. Could this be a false hope? Instead, what is needed is an 'apocalyptic' tone," he added. "If our teachers' integrity is compromised in labor agreements and if this faculty handbook language is instituted, it will lethally damage our students, our teachers, our schools and our mission. Even muted, the Archbishop's rhetoric of judgment and selectivity about and atomization of the moral life of our students and their families is not simply a storm to be weathered. It is the precipice of a disaster."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pope to bishops: stop ordering faithful around, fight graft

Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
May 18, 2015

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has told bishops to strongly denounce corruption and to act more like pastors than "pilots" telling the faithful what to do.

Francis' strong words were aimed at members of the Italian bishops' conference, who opened their annual meeting at the Vatican on Monday. Francis, who is also the bishop of Rome, urged his bishops to be more Christ-like in showing humility, compassion, mercy and wisdom.

He told them to not shy away from denouncing the "diffuse mentality" of public and private corruption that he said impoverished families, honest workers and retirees, while marginalizing the neediest and depriving young people of hope. Italy is rife with corruption scandals, and its youth unemployment rate stands at 43 percent.

Francis asked the bishops to reinforce the "indispensable role" of ordinary folk in their dioceses. "In reality, lay people who have an authentic Christian formation shouldn't need a bishop-pilot, or a monsignor-pilot, or clerical input to assume their responsibilities at every level, from political to social, economic to legislative," he said.

"Rather, what they all need is a Bishop Pastor!"

He complained that often official church documents are too heavy on doctrine and theory "as if our orientation isn't aimed at our people and country but rather students and specialists."

Francis has complained about an over-emphasis on doctrine and "small-minded rules" and lamented that theologians can get in the way of the church's evangelizing work. On Monday, he urged bishops to make sure their documents "are translated in concrete and comprehensible proposals."

Francis also complained that the church often organizes conferences where "the same voices" are heard over and over, an apparent reference to the practice of hosting only like-minded speakers at church-sponsored academic conferences.

Francis said such a practice "drugs the community, homogenizing choices, opinions and people." He urged bishops to instead go "where the Holy Spirit asks them to go."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Controversial (San Francisco) school chaplain Illo ousted at Star of the Sea

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

The announcement that priest Joseph Illo would be removed as chaplain of Star of the Sea School took a lot of people by surprise, but was Illo one of them?

The controversial pastor of the Star of the Sea parish sent out an odd letter to parents and faculty last week that said, “indications thus far are that I will remain administrator of Star of the Sea Parish for the foreseeable future.” However, nothing is said about the school.

We now know that Bishop Salvatore Cordileone has replaced Illo with Father Vito Perrone, who had been at Mater Dolorosa Church in South San Francisco. Perrone has quickly set out to lower the volume of the discussion about gender roles and morality pamphlets that’s been raging around the school for the past few months and reassure school parents.

“Father Vito showed up and the first thing he did was schedule 40-minute appointments with every parent,” said Christy Brooks, who has a sixth and a fourth grader at the school. “He’s a wonderful human being and a wonderful spiritual teacher.”

So all is well? Not so fast. Illo continues to be a polarizing figure and is still attempting to walk back some of his more incendiary comments. In an interview with the Catholic World Report he said his decision not to allow girls to be altar servers was, “a poke in the eye of liberal San Francisco.” He said changes at the Star of the Sea were part of a “purge.”

And, in preparing to come to San Francisco he wrote in a February 2014 blog post that he was about to enter the “ beautiful but savagely distorted cultural maelstrom that is the ‘Baghdad by the Bay.’”

“Before he ever arrived he was blogging about purging the parish,” said Brooks. “It was just name-calling in the simplest form. He insulted and accused us and he did not even know us.”

Illo appeared to get the message. His letter last week talks about how “I understand how important that it is that we develop a better working relationship moving forward.”

And, he added in respect to the all-male altar server controversy that, “I deeply regret the upset this issue has called us all.”

He may have hoped that would quell the controversy, but apparently Cordileone felt he’d rather make a change — at least for now. At first there was an announcement that Illo would stay as chaplain, then a reversal. Meanwhile, Brooks says the needs of the parents are simple and basic.

“Our hope is for a permanent pastor at Star of the Sea who honors and respects our community and 100-year Catholic education,” she said. “To that end, Fr. Vito Perrone has really gotten to know all the families.”

That all sounds positive, but at this point Brooks says parents are still deeply suspicious. Perrone is only committed to the school for a year, and she says parents fear that the plan is to let things cool down and then bring Illo back to run the school.

“In Father Illo’s mind, I think he truly believes that he will get the school back,” Brooks said. “That’s why the best long term solution would be to remove Fr. Illo from the parish completely.”

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Catholics gather in San Francisco to support Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

NBC Bay Area
May 16, 2015

The Bay Area Catholic community gathered in San Francisco Saturday to support Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Family picnics were held at Sue Bierman Park, with many people enjoying games and live entertainment, as they wrote messages of appreciation to Cordileone.

Cordileone has been a controversial figure these past months for his views on sexual abstinence and homosexuality. But that hasn't stopped some folks from standing by his side.

"I think his stance has been misunderstood, misinterpreted by a lot of people, and I hope that will change," Fr. Patrick Lee said. "That as time goes on, what he's doing would be understood and appreciated."

Attendees also wore blue to Saturday's event to show their solidarity and support for the archbishop.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Students react over twitter to priest's dismissal by (Newark) archdiocese

Emily Balan
the Setonian
May 16, 2015

Students took to social media to express their concerns in light of news Friday that the director for the Office of Campus Ministry, the Rev. Warren Hall, had allegedly been fired from the University.

Hall announced in a tweet around 2 p.m. that he had been let go from the University “for posting a pic on (Facebook) supporting LGBT ‘NO H8.’ I’m sorry it was met with this response. I’ll miss my work here.”

Since then, a spokesman for the Archdiocese confirmed Hall’s termination.

The initial post, which has since been deleted, was met with a large reaction from the social media community, racking up over 230 retweets and 150 favorites.

There are some who believe this will reflect poorly on the University, that a priest was allegedly fired for publicly supporting anti-discrimination for LGBT people by posting a ‘NOH8’ poster on Facebook.

Student Danielle Andreani, @dcandreani, tweeted at Seton Hall, “Would you like to comment? This seems unfair. College is where students & professors can engage in meaningful topics.” SHU’s official twitter replied, “We are thankful for all the tweets. The Archdiocese of Newark appoints the director of Campus ministry at Seton Hall,” to which Andreanu replied, “And you don’t even feel bad about the shameful situation that is occurring? This looks bad for #SHU, not the Archdiocese.”

Seton Hall’s official twitter account, @SetonHall, replied to students by repeating the Archdiocese of Newark is in charge of appointing the director’s position. Tweets about the situation have since been deleted.

Student Francis Ahmed, @francecee, tweeted, “Catholicism is based on a foundation of love. Love includes acceptance and seeking to understand. Make things right @SetonHall @Warrmeister.”

Student Karly Trovarelli, @KarlyTrovarelli, tweeted, “Sad to see that @Warrmeister will no longer be at SHU for posting an article against hate. Very upset that this was SHU’s response.”

Another student, @brimcfee, simply tweeted, “Ashamed to be a Seton Hall student.”

Student Ethan Kraft, @ethan_kraft, tweeted, “Outraged at @Seton Hall for dismissing @Warrmeister. Certainly not what Christ would have wanted, and not in line with the words of @Pontifex,” later clarifying that it is “important to remember the Archdiocese of Newark is ultimately in charge of this decision, not SHU. #WeWantFatherHall.”

He created a petition on, an online platform to manage a petition for change, to reinstate Fr. Hall. It received more than 450 supporters within 16 hours of being created.

Students have also shown support for some type of organized response on Facebook. A public event was created by student Marina Montenegro who felt “ashamed” as a Catholic and as a part of the LGBTQ community at the situation. The Facebook event merely shares Archbishop Myer’s email address and invites people to voice their reactions. Within eight hours, more than 215 people expressed their support.

In a follow-up tweet, Fr. Hall expressed dismay by the situation but said “don’t be angry” and encourages people to turn this situation into an “opportunity for open/reasonable discussion on LGBT issues on a (Catholic) Campus.”

SHU alumni Michael Jacobson, @acsjacobson, tweeted, “@Warrmeister Absolutely unbelievable. Thanks for standing up for what is the right stance. I’m withholding this year’s donation to @SetonHall,” to which Fr. Hall replied, “Don’t do that! Push for more discussion/dialogue about the timely and challenging issues students should discuss.”

Spokeswoman for Seton Hall Laurie Pine repeated information from the University’s official twitter that “Seton Hall University does not comment on personnel matters. The Archbishop of Newark appoints the Director of Campus Ministry, who serves at his discretion,” according to an article.

Fr. Hall was ordained in Newark’s Roman Catholic archdiocese in 1989. He became the Associate Director of Campus Ministry at Seton Hall in 2012 and later the director of Campus Ministry and an adjunct professor at the Department of Catholic Studies.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bishops must support the children of priests

David Weber
The Tablet
May 15, 2015

The Irish bishops have pledged to fund all counselling needed by clients of a new support group for the children of Irish Catholic priests, Coping International. Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin added: “I pray that Coping will be able to find ways which will bring the children of priests and their natural parents together for the benefit of both.” David Weber, the son of a priest, says globally thousands of people are affected

While much justified coverage has been devoted to child abuse by members of the Catholic clergy, a different issue, with again children as the main victims, has been largely neglected by the media and governments: the discrimination faced by children whose father is or was a Catholic priest.

Many rights thought to be basic in any modern society – the right to know one's father and be able to have open contact with him, the right to receive child support not attached to conditions, and the right to inherit from one's father, are being denied to children of priests, resulting in a discrimination that has consequences long into adulthood.

The numbers of those affected are far greater than most people would expect. A 2010 Guardian article estimated a figure of 1,000 children were born to priests in Britain and Ireland. In Germany, the initiative I co-founded, Menschenrechte für Priesterkinder (Human Rights for Children of Priests), estimates a figure of around 3,000. I am the son of a German mother and an Australian priest.

When I gave these figures to Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke, an auxiliary in Hamburg, in a discussion programme, he replied "we don't have exact numbers, but 3,000 is a figure that is probably quite accurate".

The number of those affected who have demanded an end to the discrimination they have suffered remains low. The majority of those who contact our initiative, which focuses on the political and legal aspects of the issue, and those who turn to private support groups, demand that they remain anonymous for fear of the financial and social consequences. While this is understandable it is clear that change can only begin when those discriminated against speak out.

While a child of a diocesan parish priest might sometimes have secret contact with his or her father, (who might often live close by), in my experience, the payment of child support is attached to a confidentiality agreement that results in immense pressure on the child not to tell anyone who the father is (and to, say, not even inadvertently call him "Dad" in public). Religious priests who father a child may be sent into mission on another continent.

The 2014 report on the Vatican’s compliance with the UN convention of the right of the child was almost revolutionary therefore in recommending that “the Vatican find out who [the children of priests] are, [and] take all necessary measures to ensure that the rights of those children to know and to be cared for by their fathers is respected.“ The convention effectively became the first secular authority since the introduction of the Church’s celibacy rule in 1022 to officially reprimand the Church on its treatment of children of priests.

Therefore the UN report is a threefold appeal: to the Catholic Church to end the discrimination of children of priests, to governments to do more to protect children of priests, who are also citizens, from such discrimination, and to the children of priests themselves, to more courageously fight for their rights.

It is exactly what needs to happen now.

David Weber, co-founder Human Rights for Children of Priests

Vatican official praises 'Modern Family' for raising family issues

Ines San Martin
April 15, 2015

Politics has no monopoly on making strange bedfellows, as a senior Vatican official paid tribute to Hollywood on Thursday for raising the profile of family issues, specifically citing the American sitcom “Modern Family,” a show that features two married gay men who adopt a baby, plus an older divorced dad who remarries a woman half his age.

Along with writings of Pope Francis and other Vatican initiatives, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia told the United Nations on Thursday that thanks to “phenomena like the media production ‘Modern Family,’ or same-sex marriage initiatives in a significant number of jurisdictions, the family has become the subject of increasingly intense interest and discussion.”

Paglia is head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the office organizing a “World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia in September that Pope Francis is scheduled to attend.

Unfortunately, Paglia said during an event to mark the UN’s annual “Day of the Family,” discussion about the family has become “unproductively ideological.” It centers too much on definitions of the family unacceptable to one political current or another, and on economic considerations.

“It is important to realize that the family is not an ideology,” Paglia said.

Instead, he said, family is a complex of human relationships characterized by love, fidelity, commitment, sacrifice, trust, conflict, joy, fruitfulness, nurture, respect, celebration, protection, memory and faith.

LCWR evaluates end of mandate

Dawn Cherie Araujo
Global Sisters Report
May 15, 2015

In a statement released this morning, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious acknowledged the sadness and public humiliation they experienced during the six years they were under Vatican review, but they said they hoped the process would be a valuable learning experience for both the wider church and community.

This is the first time LCWR has spoken publicly since last month’s conclusion of the Vatican oversight of their group. They had maintained public silence on the matter for 30 days, per the Vatican’s request.

"We believed that the sanctions called for in the CDF mandate were disproportionate to the concerns raised and we feared the sanctions could compromise the ability of the LCWR officers and members to fulfill the mission of the conference," LCWR leaders wrote in their statement, adding that were times of darkness when "a positive outcome seemed remote." But they did ultimately get that positive ending, encouraged, in part, by the prayers of their supporters around the world.

LCWR, an association for the elected leaders of women religious communities in the United States, has more than 1,500 members and represents almost 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the country.

In 2009, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began a doctrinal assessment of LCWR as a result of its “radical feminist themes” and “problems” promoting church teaching on topics such as homosexuality. The investigation concluded in 2010, and two years later, the doctrinal congregation issued both its findings and a mandate for implementation of the assessment, appointing Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to supervise the process.

The mandate – as well as Sartain’s oversight – was given a lifespan of five years, so when it ended last month after only three, it was considered abrupt and unexpected by some. Yet LCWR president Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sharon Holland told Global Sisters Report, it was anything but.

“It was a very intensive three years of work and dialogue in coming to the conclusion,” she said.

The statement from LCWR today doesn't give details about the process of working through those discussions, but it does give an outline: Through sustained prayer and contemplation, the LCWR leaders say they were given the strength to stay at the table and to have difficult conversations. They also thanked Sartain for his sincere manner and genuine respect, which they say made them confident that honest dialogue would in fact foster mutual understanding.

In last month’s joint statement from LCWR and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the doctrinal congregation, said his office was confident that LCWR had proven its mission to foster a religious life that is “centered on the Person of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the Tradition of the Church.”

In that same statement, Sartain said it had been an honor to work with LCWR leadership and members and called the dialogue between the sisters and the bishops a “blessing from the Lord.” He has not yet, however, responded to GSR requests for additional comment, now that the requested 30-day silence has expired.

read full article at Global Sisters Report