Saturday, December 31, 2016

Brazil may soon have married priests says Leonardo Boff

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
National Catholic Reporter
December 30, 2016

Pope Francis may soon fulfill the Brazilian bishops' special request to allow married priests to resume their priestly ministry, liberation theologian Leonardo Boff said in a Dec. 25 interview in the German daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. "The Brazilian bishops, especially the pope's close friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes, have expressly requested Pope Francis to enable married priests in Brazil to return to their pastoral ministry," Boff said. "I have recently heard that the pope wants to fulfil this request — as an experimental, preliminary phase for the moment confined to Brazil."

With its 140 million Catholics, Brazil needs at least 100,000 priests but it only has 1,800, which is a "catastrophe," Boff said. "No wonder the faithful are going over to the evangelical churches or to the Pentecostals in droves, as they are filling the personnel vacuum. If the many thousands of priests who have married are once again allowed to practice their ministry, that would be a first step to improving the situation but at the same time also an impulse for the church to free itself of the fetters of celibacy."

Asked if he, as a former Franciscan, would reassume his priestly ministry should the pope decide to acquiesce to the Brazilian bishops' request, Boff replied, "I personally do not need such a decision. It would not change anything for me as I have continued to do what I have always done: I baptize, bury and when I come to a community that has no priest, I celebrate Mass with the faithful. Up to now, as far as I know, no bishop has ever objected, let alone forbidden me to do this. On the contrary, bishops often tell me to keep it up, as people have a right to the Eucharist."

The late Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, under whom Boff studied theology, had always been very open on this issue, Boff said. Whenever Arns noticed married priests in the pews, he would invite them to come up to the altar and concelebrate with him, saying, "They are still priests and they will remain priests!"

As far as inner-church reforms were concerned, it is possible that the pope has further surprises up his sleeve, Boff said.

"Only recently, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is close to the pope, said we could expect some big surprises shortly. So, who knows, maybe we can expect women deacons?"

Francis has sought reconciliation with the most important representatives of liberation theology, Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, Jesuit Fr. Jon Sobrino and himself, Boff said.

"Francis is one of us. He has made liberation theology the common property of the church and he has, moreover, extended it," Boff said. "Whosoever speaks of the poor nowadays must also speak of our planet Earth, which is being plundered and desecrated. To hear the cry of the poor means to hear the cries of animals, trees and the whole of tortured creation and Pope Francis says we must hear the cry of both the poor and of creation. That is what is principally new in Laudato Si'."

According to Boff, Francis asked the theologian to send material for the pope to use in the environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." Francis called and thanked Boff the day before the encyclical was published in May 2015.

Boff admitted that Francis is experiencing fierce opposition from within his own ranks, "particularly from the USA."

U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, along with German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, has "once again" written to the pope, said Boff, who called Burke the "Donald Trump of the Catholic church." But unlike Trump, Boff said, Burke has now been "sidelined" in the Roman Curia.

Burke and Meisner were two of four cardinals who sent Francis a letter, made public in November, questioning the pope's teaching in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Some have interpreted the letter, along with some of Burke's public comments, as accusing Francis of heresy, though Burke has denied making such a charge.

"The way Burke has behaved is unusual, although not absolutely unprecedented in the course of church history," Boff said. "One can criticize the pope and argue with him. I have done so myself often enough. But for cardinals to publicly accuse the pope of disseminating erroneous theology, let alone heresy, is too much. That is an affront that a pope cannot tolerate."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

While Francis frustrates foes with silence, Fr. Antonio Spadaro nails them with tweets

David Gibson
Religion News Service
December 27, 2016

Since the moment he was elected in 2013, Pope Francis has sought to steer the Catholic church away from a focus on doctrinal rules and formulas and toward a more pastoral ministry — a campaign that has sparked widespread hand-wringing among traditionalists and unusually public opposition to the pontiff.

In recent weeks, however, the critics have grown bolder and more demanding than ever as several conservative cardinals and various pundits have issued warnings that Francis may be leading the church into heresy and schism.

They have openly speculated about how Francis could be disciplined, or if he should resign for incompetence — basically, the sort of topics that haven’t been bandied about in Catholic circles in the last 1,000 years or so.

So far, Francis himself has declined to engage his foes directly, preferring to let his writings, periodic interviews and daily sermons speak for themselves.

Yet Francis is hardy without champions in what some are calling a “Catholic civil war,” with perhaps the most prominent and vocal among them a soft-spoken Italian priest, Fr. Antonio Spadaro.

Indeed, Spadaro is so ubiquitous in his mission to defend the pontiff that critics like to call him “the pope’s mouthpiece” — a label seemingly designed to undermine Francis by denoting Spadaro as a kind of papal puppet master, as well as making Spadaro a target in his own right.

The "mouthpiece" epithet is one that makes Spadaro smile. “The pope doesn’t need anyone to speak for him,” he said in lightly accented English during a late November interview at the Villa Malta, headquarters of La Civilta Cattolica, the Vatican-approved magazine Spadaro has edited since 2011.

'I am only doing my job'

Spadaro certainly comes off as an improbable paladin in this crusade. A Jesuit like Francis, he has a winsome affect and the bookish look of a scholar; he holds degrees in theology and philosophy.

But Spadaro, a 50-year-old Sicilian, is anything but reticent. Nor is he a head-in-the-clouds intellectual.

On the contrary, he is intense, always in motion, and dogged in mixing it up on Twitter with both critics and trolls, which should not be surprising given that he also has a degree in social communications and curates a blog called CyberTeologia, “understood,” as its mission statement reads, “as the intelligence of faith in the age of the Internet.”

In keeping with that digital focus, Spadaro has even begun to turn Civilta Cattolica from a rather staid journal that hadn’t changed format much since its founding in 1850 to a more accessible publishing venture with a robust online presence in various languages. (One recent feature was Spadaro's lengthy interview with Martin Scorsese, director of the new movie “Silence,” about 17th-century Jesuit missionaries in Japan.)

Spadaro’s own office reflects the different eras he inhabits — a simple room with contemporary furnishings on the ground floor of an enormous old Italianate palazzo sitting on a hill across Rome from the Vatican.

What hasn’t changed about the Jesuit-run magazine in all these years is its loyalty to the pope, whoever he might be.

From the archconservative Pius IX (who reigned from 1846-1878) to the social justice pontiff Leo XIII (1878-1903) to the anti-modernist Pius X (1903-1914) and every pope since, Civilta Cattolica has vigorously defended papal teachings — even if some of those later proved embarrassing. In the past, popes personally reviewed its articles before publication, and a draft of the magazine is still given the once-over by senior Vatican officials.

Since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s launched the church on a path of reform and opened Rome to the world, the journal has also become more engaged — and engaging — though it still aims to reflect the Vatican's views rather than counter them.

“In reality I am only doing my job as director” of the magazine, Spadaro wrote in a follow-up message in December as the criticisms of Francis continued to mount. “All of the popes throughout history have been attacked, in one way or another. And ours has always been a simple and humble service.”

Two Jesuits, one opinion

The other reality is that Spadaro is particularly close to Francis. They are both Jesuits (Francis is the first member of the Society of Jesus ever to become pope) and it was Spadaro whom Francis called out of the blue on a May morning before 7 a.m., two months after Francis was elected.

Spadaro had not known Cardinal Bergoglio before he became Pope Francis, and when his cellphone rang he hesitated on seeing an unknown number.

"I was wondering whether to pick it up because I was in a hurry. In the end, I decided to pick up and was going to ask the calling person to call back later. Then I heard: 'Good morning, this is Pope Francis speaking,'" Spadaro told the Catholic website Aleteia last July.

"After a moment of complete shock, like, ‘Oh, my God!,' I said perhaps a little incredulously: 'His Holiness?' Then I asked, how do I respond to the Holy Father. And he said: 'There is nothing to be alarmed about,' and we began to talk freely."

During that conversation, Francis agreed to Spadaro's request to give his first extended interview. That took place in August 2013 and set out many of the themes and tropes that have become familiar hallmarks of Francis’ pontificate, and it forged a strong bond between the two men.

Spadaro is now a regular visitor to the Casa Santa Marta, the pope’s residence inside the Vatican, and is frequently seen consulting with Francis and networking with many of the other power players in the church who live in Rome or regularly pass through the Eternal City.

The priest and the pope also recently collaborated on a collection of the pope’s homilies from the years he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina (Francis is also the first pope from Latin America, and the first from outside the European orbit).

But to those who follow all things Catholic, it is Spadaro’s efforts to champion the pope’s ideas and blunt the latest round of attacks on Francis that draw the most attention.

The spark for this recent, and possibly most serious, furor is a document Francis published in April that offered his summation of the deliberations of two major Vatican gatherings — called synods — of cardinals and bishops from around the world to discuss the realities of modern families. The meetings, each three weeks long, were aimed in part at figuring out how and whether the Catholic church could accommodate those who don’t conform to the ideal of the catechism.

Francis asked the church leaders to be honest and frank in their talks; many of them were all that and more, especially conservatives who reacted sharply against proposals to welcome families led by gay couples, for example, or to approve ways that Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment could receive Communion in some cases.

In his apostolic exhortation delivering a definitive papal take on the synods, titled Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “The Joy of Love,” Francis delivered a wide-ranging reflection on family life, recognizing the myriad challenges but pledging that the Catholic church would accompany families of whatever form and size and in whatever situation they found themselves.

Conservatives wished that the pope’s exhortation had been stronger in emphasizing traditional church doctrine on sexual morality and marriage. But they were especially concerned, and then increasingly angry, as it became clear that one element of the document could in fact be seen as allowing pastors latitude to give divorced and remarried Catholics Communion.

Such a development, the critics said, would undermine Jesus’ own teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and would in effect “Protestantize” (a favorite characterization) Catholicism if it were allowed to stand. This crisis, some have claimed, is as serious as the fourth-century debates over the nature of Jesus Christ — as both God and man — that deeply divided Christianity; they were only resolved over several decades through the development of a common creed.

'He is the vanguard in taking down the critics'

The attacks on Francis over Amoris Laetitia mounted along with conservative frustration, and in November four leading conservative cardinals — including the Rome-based U.S. churchman Cardinal Raymond Burke, a chief papal gadfly — finally released a letter demanding that Francis answer five yes-or-no questions, known in Latin as “dubia.” They said answering those questions would clarify whether Amoris Laetitia contravened church doctrine or not. By implication, the answers could also determine whether Francis was promoting heresy.

The publication of the letter came just days before Francis was to create a new batch of cardinals, ensuring that it would generate maximum publicity, and controversy.

The yes/no format of the “dubia” was also seen as a trap, and one that Francis apparently hopes to avoid. He has made it clear he sees the issue as a pastoral matter for Catholics and their priests to resolve and he is not going to try to give a one-size-fits-all response that conservatives could use to shortcut that process.

Spadaro, however, is happy fill the silence.

“He has become the vanguard in taking down the critics of Amoris Laetitia or even anyone who would question the thinking here,” Raymond Arroyo, a popular host on the conservative Catholic cable network EWTN, said during a recent interview with Burke (who also took the opportunity to blast Spadaro as “in error”).

Indeed, in these past weeks Spadaro has been everywhere, physically and virtually. A sought-after speaker, he has given talks on Francis’ pontificate in Spain, South Korea and elsewhere; given interviews; and penned a firm rejection of the cardinals’ questions for CNN’s website.

And, of course, he has been all over social media. “The Pope has ‘clarified,’” he tweeted in mid-November. “Those who don't like what they hear pretend not to hear it!”

Which is of course the sort of response that, in turn, has made Spadaro as big a target as Francis himself.

But in their eagerness to take down the pope’s apologist, the passion of the critics sometimes outstrips their facts.

A case in point: A Spadaro critic on Twitter compared the priest and the pope to Grima Wormtongue and Saruman, a pair of evil characters from the “Lord of the Rings” epics. Rather than taking it too seriously, Spadaro tweeted a video clip of Gandalf, another Tolkien protagonist, declaring that he refused “to bandy crooked words with a witless worm” — a joking reference to his critic’s view of Spadaro himself as Wormtongue.

The critics, however, overlooked the original tweet comparing Spadaro to Wormtongue and instead saw Spadaro’s video clip as a villainous attack on the four cardinals who were demanding answers from Francis. Thus a viral meme was born — that a top papal adviser was calling the pope's enemies, and cardinals to boot, "witless worms."

It got to the point that even New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic who has been one of the pope’s most persistent foes, recycled the false slam in a piece about the pontiff's standoff with the four cardinals.

Spadaro did not sit still for that, and on Twitter pressed Douthat for a correction; the columnist eventually complied, and apologized.

“The whole thing is ridiculous,” Spadaro later told the Catholic news site Crux. "And deeply offensive, that anyone should believe that I could ever refer to a cardinal as a ‘worm.’ I might not agree, or make a light-hearted joke, but offense is something else together.”

Critics in media outlets that are less susceptible to persuasion than the Times continue to repeat the story, however. Some also went on to accuse Spadaro of being a “sock puppet” — using a fake online identity to promote his own views anonymously — when he tweeted from a little-used personal account to say that the “4 cardinals sounds like the title of a rock and roll band from the early 1960s that sang trite songs.”

Once again, outrage ensued, and Spadaro rolled his eyes. “If I had really wanted to throw stones from an anonymous account I would never, obviously, have re-tweeted it,” Spadaro told Crux. “And why should I feel any need to hide?”

'To follow the pope up close is a profound joy'

So how does it feel to be the designated spear catcher for such a controversial pope?

Spadaro insisted that it’s not about engaging in online spats but is instead about advancing a much larger, and more crucial, narrative — one he is also privileged to witness firsthand.

“I feel that we are living through an important phase in the history of the world and the church,” he told RNS. “It is not an easy moment and it is full of contradictions and risks. Francis’ outlook is profoundly evangelical, prophetic and open: He is one of the few figures who gives hope. To follow the pope up close is a profound joy that overcomes all possible problems along the way and all possible attacks by the critics.”

Spadaro also downplays the number of critics, even if they have an outsized profile, especially in the English-speaking world where the opposition seems most vocal.

“The problem is that some opponents make a lot of noise, especially on social media,” he said. “They create an echo chamber. But you can hear the noise only inside the sacristies” — the rooms in a church where priests and bishops change into their vestments. “If you get out of the sacristies you can’t hear anything. So only the people inside the sacristies can hear this big noise.”

He reiterated that Francis “likes opposition,” likes to hear different opinions and critiques because tensions means the church is alive, and differing views can lead to the discernment of the best way forward.

“This is the meaning of the Incarnation — the Lord took flesh, which means we are involved with real humanity, which is never fixed or too clear. So the pastor has to get into the real dynamic of human life. This is the message of mercy. Discernment and mercy are the two big pillars of this pontificate.”

Spadaro said Francis also distinguishes between the constructive criticism of those who “really want, in good conscience, the good of the church” and “another kind of opposition, which is just imposing one’s own view, which is ideological opposition.”

“The pope listens to the first and is open to learning. But he doesn’t pay too much attention at all to the second kind.”

Besides, for those opponents the pope has Antonio Spadaro.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Knights of Malta to Pope: stay out of our internal affairs

The maneuvering between Cardinal Burke and Pope Francis continues with Burke becoming more and more opening hostile to the Pope.

Associated Press
December 24, 2016

In an extraordinary rebuke of the pontiff, the Order of Malta has said the replacement of its grand chancellor was an "act of internal governmental administration of the Sovereign Order of Malta and consequently falls solely within its competence."

VATICAN CITY - The Order of Malta, the ancient Roman Catholic aristocratic lay order, has told Pope Francis that his decision to launch an investigation into the ouster of a top official over a condom scandal is “unacceptable.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of the pontiff, tahe group said the replacement of its grand chancellor was an “act of internal governmental administration of the Sovereign Order of Malta and consequently falls solely within its competence.”

Francis on Thursday appointed a five-member commission to investigate the ouster of Albrecht von Boeselager amid evidence that Francis’ own envoy to the group helped engineer it without his blessing.

One charge used against von Boeteslager concerned a program that the order’s aid group participated in several years ago to help sex slaves in Myanmar, including giving them condoms to protect against HIV infection. Church teaching bars artificial contraception.

An internal investigation was conducted and von Boeselager admitted he knew about the condoms, which were distributed by other aid programs, not his. The Vatican was informed, Malteser International’s participation in the program ended and an ethics committee was launched to ensure that future projects adhered to Catholic Church teaching, the officials said.

In a statement, von Boeselager said he had been asked to resign during a Dec. 6 meeting attended by Burke. During the meeting, the order’s grand master indicated that the request to resign “was in accordance with the wishes of the Holy See.”

However, no such request was ever made. Von Boeselager said since his ouster, the Holy See has written to the order “confirming that such a wish was never raised.”

By naming an independent commission to look into the case, Francis appears to be seeking an objective assessment of von Boeselager and his ouster without the input of Burke, who has been among Francis’ fiercest critics.

Burke is one of four cardinals who have publicly questioned Francis’ flexible approach to whether civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion. Burke, a native of Richland Center, Wis., is a hard-liner on the issue, as well as on the absolute prohibition on the use of artificial contraception. Francis removed him as the Vatican’s supreme court justice in 2014 and named him to be the patron of the Order of Malta, an ancient Catholic order that runs hospitals and clinics around the world and has an army of volunteers who respond to natural disasters and war zones.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Coming to Newark archdiocese: a different kind of Cardinal

Sharon Otterman
New York Times
December 22, 2016

For about a year, the guys at the gym just called him Joe. He lifted weights in the early mornings wearing a skull-printed do-rag. He worked out on the elliptical, wiping it down when he was done.

Then one day Shaun Yeary, a salesman at a landscape supply company, asked him in the locker room what he did for a living. “I used to be a priest,” Joe recalled telling him. “And now,” he said, his voice growing quieter so as not to scare anyone in earshot, “I’m the archbishop of Indianapolis.”

v “I was like, for real?” Mr. Yeary recalled. “This guy is benching two and a quarter!” — gymspeak for 225 pounds.

Joe, also known as Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, recently became one of the 120 men in the world who will choose the next pope. But he wants to be judged by his actions, not his lofty position in the Roman Catholic Church.

Though he has led the Archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2012, a status that usually comes with perks like a driver, he drives himself around in a Chevy Tahoe and helps with the dishes after lunch meetings. He introduces himself simply as Padre José to the children at a local Catholic school. He showers and shaves at the Community Healthplex gym like any other member, and calls his workout buddies his Band of Brothers.

In short, he is just the kind of leader Pope Francis is elevating to realign the church in the United States with his priorities.

As the pope has made clear over the past three years, fancy lifestyles, formality and regal titles like Prince of the Church are out of style for cardinals. So is an emphasis on the divisive issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, even though the church’s underlying position on those issues has not changed.

Instead, in the pope’s view, the church should emphasize humility and service to the poor. It should be multicultural, welcoming different styles of worship. It should reach out to other faiths and stand up for immigrants, refugees and nuns.

And that, church experts and members of his flock say, is a close description of the priorities of Cardinal Tobin, who will be heading east just after Christmas to lead the approximately 1.5 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Newark. He is replacing Archbishop John J. Myers, 75, who preferred to be addressed by the formal title Your Grace, and who achieved notoriety when the church spent some $500,000 to outfit the house he will retire to with an indoor exercise pool and an elevator.

Cardinal Tobin’s appointment in October as one of the nation’s 18 cardinals came as a surprise to many, including the man himself. But perhaps it should not have. For what his unassuming bearing does not reveal is that he is no stranger to the corridors of power in the church. He is a friend of Pope Francis. And under Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, he had helped lead the Vatican office that oversees the roughly one million men and women in religious orders around the world.

That position did not end so well. It was an open secret that Cardinal Tobin was sent to Indiana as a kind of exile most likely because he questioned an inquiry by his office into supposed doctrinal lapses among the roughly 50,000 nuns in the United States. As he got to know the faithful in the chancery of Indianapolis, he would joke with them about it.

“I was kicked out and I’m grateful for it,” the chancellor of the archdiocese, Annette Lentz, recalled his saying about how he turned up on her doorstep. And she would tell him, “Their loss is our gain.”

How Cardinal Tobin, 64, an amiable 6-foot-3 Irish-American who likes Bob Seger, plays piano and speaks five languages, went from being the oldest of 13 children living in Detroit to the pinnacle of the global church is a story that bears telling.

He grew up in a working-class neighborhood where the big houses were perfect for the large families of Irish, Polish and other Eastern European backgrounds that filled them. The local parish, Holy Redeemer, was run by an order of priests called the Redemptorists, and was unusually large, with 14 Masses each Sunday for up to 20,000 worshipers, he recalled in a Dec. 5 interview.

His mother was a public-school teacher who quit her job to raise her brood; nine of her cousins and three of her aunts were nuns. Growing up in a deeply Catholic environment, Cardinal Tobin had two role models: the parish priests and his father, a cost analyst at General Motors who attended 6 a.m. Mass daily.

Joe Tobin was a rough-and-tumble child, who once crashed through the back-porch window when he was being chased. But he also learned the deeper lessons taught by the nuns at the parish school.

“Joe came home in second grade and said to me, ‘Mom, I need a pair of socks,’” his mother, Marie Tobin, 93, recalled before Cardinal Tobin’s emotional farewell Mass in Indianapolis on Dec. 3. “And I looked at his feet and saw his socks were fine. ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘there’s a boy in my class who has rags around his feet and a safety pin.’”

In 1977, when the cardinal was in seminary in Esopus, N.Y., his father died of a heart attack. By that time, the family had moved across the border to Canada, and his father had been commuting to Michigan.

“I idolized my dad,” Cardinal Tobin said. “He was everything I think a man should be. He was strong, he played in the Orange Bowl as a freshman in Boston College. He lost his leg in World War II, so he never played football again. He had a quiet, unpretentious faith. He was chivalrous with women.

“And I remember when he died,” he added, “and I was waiting at the seminary for someone to drive me to La Guardia, and one of my teachers came and said, ‘If you can be a man like your father, when they call you Father you will be all right.’ And I suppose I am still trying to do that.”

He remains close with his siblings. And in the Redemptorists, an order that requires a vow of poverty and emphasizes missionary outreach, he found a second family.

He dreamed of being sent to far-flung locales once he was ordained in 1978. Instead, because he spoke Spanish, he was sent right back to Holy Redeemer, which had a growing Hispanic population.

There, he learned about serving the poor. An older priest modeled what was to become a signature of Cardinal Tobin’s ministry: an intense focus on each person.

“When he is there and you are talking to him, it’s as if you have known him all your life,” said Bernice Guynn, 89, a parishioner at St. Rita in Indianapolis.

From Detroit, he was moved during the AIDS epidemic to Chicago, where he ministered at the bedsides of the dying. The church’s stance against homosexuality was not a barrier to him. “It’s important to be there for people,” he said.

By 1991, the higher-ups of his order had taken notice and he was moved to Rome. For 12 years, he led the Redemptorist order, finally traveling the world to missions in more than 70 nations.

In that capacity, he made an impression on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the Vatican official responsible for enforcing Catholic doctrine. In 2010, five years after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, he offered Father Tobin the title of archbishop and the position of secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the Vatican.

Cardinal Tobin recalled that he was painting his mother’s porch in Ontario when he got the call from the Vatican secretary of state. “I turned white and started stuttering,” he said. He did not want the job, he said, but how does one refuse the pope?

The office he had been tapped to administer was investigating American nuns for supposedly adopting a “secular mentality” and straying from Catholic orthodoxy. In other words, the nuns were accused of being too liberal, and Cardinal Tobin was to oversee the inquiry. But he had an “extremely positive” view of the nuns, he told The National Catholic Reporter at the time, and he wanted to explain their good works.

“My first job, I thought, was to ask, ‘What were people trying to accomplish with this?’” he said this month. But the problem, he came to believe, was structural: the investigation of 55,000 religious women by a tiny staff for the alleged errors of a few.

“It made as much sense as an ophthalmologist trying to do cataract surgery standing in center field in Yankee Stadium and pointing his laser gun up at the bleachers,” he said.

Two years into his five-year term, his priest secretary surprised him with the news. “We are so sorry you are going,” Cardinal Tobin recalled him saying. “And I said, ‘Really, where am I going?’ And he said, ‘Indianapolis.’” The official news did not come for four months. “It was like death by 1,000 cuts,” he said.

When he arrived in Indiana in December 2012, most American Catholics had never heard of him. But to the nuns he was something of a hero.

“We thought that he was a tremendous individual,” said Mother Anne Brackmann, the prioress of the Carmelite Monastery in Terre Haute, Ind. “And he was welcomed very, very warmly.”

Someone else took note of his dismissal: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, who would become Pope Francis.

The two men met in 2005 during a synod of bishops in Rome, and they bonded over a shared view of the church.

There were conservative bishops in their group who wanted, for example, to ban girls from being altar servers. “I have eight sisters, and at the time, I had nieces who were serving at the altar, and I didn’t see the justification for it,” Cardinal Tobin said. “Bergoglio was on the same page. There are more important things to talk about.”

They had also laughed together: Cardinal Tobin recalled telling Cardinal Bergoglio that he had been his mother’s choice for pope that year, because she had read how he picked up after himself and cooked his own food. Still, Cardinal Tobin was surprised to get a note from Cardinal Bergoglio in 2010 wishing him luck in his Vatican position.

“He said: ‘I remember our time together, I remember our conversations, and I remember your mother’s good taste. I’m praying for you.’”

By the time Cardinal Tobin came to the Vatican in 2013 to receive his pallium — the cowl that would mark his status as the archbishop of Indianapolis — Pope Francis had been elected. He was not sure the new pope would remember him. But Francis again surprised him.

“I’ve been praying intensely for you since I heard what happened,” Cardinal Tobin said the pope had told him.

What happened next was a kind of rehabilitation. Francis appointed him to the oversight committee of the same Vatican office he had been removed from. Then, in October, came the announcement: The pope was naming him a cardinal. He would be the youngest one in the United States.

Cardinal Tobin was shocked. “It’s kind of like you are sleeping in class and all of a sudden the spotlight is on you,” he said.

At a news conference last month in Newark, he put it this way: “Sometimes I think Pope Francis sees a lot more in me than I see in myself.”

Cardinal Tobin said he loved his time in Indianapolis, where he visited parishes in 39 counties, ministered to prisoners on death row and baptized about 1,000 new Catholics each Easter.

He was up by 4 many mornings to pray before arriving at the gym by 5:30. With the help of a trainer, Shane Moat, he learned how to deadlift 425 pounds. “Big breath, explode, keep it close,” Mr. Moat coached him earlier this month. Cardinal Tobin strained and hoisted the weight to his waist. “You the man!” someone shouted.

“No, I’m not,” Cardinal Tobin said after dropping the weight with a bang.

That morning, Mr. Yeary, the salesman, presented him with a goodbye gift: a framed photo of the cardinal with his seven workout buddies, whose ages range from 27 to over 70. “Oh, man, that’s wonderful, thank you,” the cardinal said. Then he reverted to his lighthearted tone: “None of those Sopranos are going to mess with me. This is my crew.”

Cardinal Tobin has had a hard time saying goodbye. He choked up at his farewell Mass and had only one request of the congregation that had packed the cathedral: Pray for him. But his admirers here and elsewhere are hoping that Cardinal Tobin will become a more public voice for Pope Francis and his priorities.

He has already done that once, in a showdown with Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, a Republican who is now the vice president-elect, over welcoming Syrian refugees.

In November 2015, Mr. Pence announced that he would suspend Syrian refugee resettlement programs, citing security fears. Cardinal Tobin felt that was not only illegal, but also immoral. He met with Mr. Pence, discussed his objections and told him he would continue the Catholic Charities resettlement program. A federal court has since overturned the governor’s directive.

In an email, Mr. Pence said, “Cardinal Tobin is a personal friend, and I deeply respect his commitment to his faith and his ministry.”

While Cardinal Tobin did not tell anyone whom to vote for in the presidential election, he said he was disturbed by appeals to fear during the campaign of Donald J. Trump, particularly his views of refugees and immigrants.

Mr. Trump, he said, “was appealing to the dark side of the divisive forces, to the unredeemed part of us.” And while the cardinal believes American democracy will ultimately resist such appeals, “you can’t be too Pollyannish about things.”

In Newark, he said, his first job after his installation on Jan. 6 will be to listen. Encompassing Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union Counties in northern New Jersey, the archdiocese has pockets of great wealth and poverty, and an array of immigrants so diverse that Mass each Sunday is celebrated in 20 languages. About 30 percent of the parishioners are Hispanic.

It is also a community in need of healing. In July, citing the failure of the archdiocese to effectively remove priests accused of sexual abuse from contact with children, the editorial board of The Star-Ledger of Newark called the departure of Archbishop Myers a “true blessing.”

“During his 15-year tenure as New Jersey’s highest-ranking Catholic, he protected pedophile priests,” the board said. “He urged his flock to vote based on two issues — abortion and gay marriage — at the threat of being denied Holy Communion.”

Jim Goodness, the spokesman for the archdiocese, denied those allegations, saying that Archbishop Myers had permanently removed from ministry some 20 abusive priests and that he had “never threatened to deny Communion to anyone.”

Cardinal Tobin will bring a different message. One of his priorities, he said, would be to ensure that the archdiocese is fully compliant with church and criminal protocols on handling sexual abuse allegations.

At the Vatican in the late 1990s, the cardinal recalled, it was difficult to convince people that the abuse issue was serious. “I think they just believed it was an American problem,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to make it like I was a great crusader over there, but I did take it seriously.” He later led an effort to establish protocols for abuse claims in his order.

Yet the most outspoken American victims group, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said that Cardinal Tobin, like the church as a whole, must do more, such as posting the names of all credibly accused priests online. “Certainly there are worse bishops, but that fact should comfort no one,” David Clohessy, the organization’s national director, said.

Cardinal Tobin assumes his role in an uneasy time. He said that he hoped to lead with joy and transparency, and that he intended to encourage dialogue to bridge divisions. But he would go further if he believed that policies ran counter to the moral values that Jesus taught.

On the threats by President-elect Trump to carry out mass deportations of illegal immigrants, for example, Cardinal Tobin was clear. He recalled how Pope John XXIII, before he became pope, issued false baptismal certificates to help Jews escape the Nazis in World War II.

“We have to resist,” he said. “With public statements, and then, you do what you got to do.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Francis denounces resistance to Vatican reform in Christmas speech to Curia

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
December 22, 2016

Pope Francis on Thursday lashed out against high-level Catholic prelates who have been opposing his efforts to reform the Vatican's central bureaucracy, using an annual pre-Christmas meeting to say that while some cardinals and archbishops offer questions in a spirit of goodwill others practice a "malevolent resistance."

Such sinister opposition, the pontiff said, "sprouts from twisted minds and presents itself when the devil inspires bad intentions."

The pope also said it "finds refuge in tradition, in appearances, in formality, in the known, or in the desire to make everything personal without distinguishing between act, actor, and action."

Francis was speaking Thursday in an annual meeting that under previous pontiffs had simply been a polite encounter to exchange greetings before the holidays.

But in 2014 he shocked the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman curia, by using the occasion to list off 15 "spiritual sicknesses" he said he had witnessed among them. In 2015, he offered what he called a "catalog of virtues" to help them overcome the sicknesses.

This year, the pope outlined 12 guidelines he is using in pursuing his reform of the curia. But he first again took the prelates to task, hitting back against those who have resisted his changes.

Besides those opposing malevolently, the pontiff identified cases of what he called "open" and "hidden" resistance.

Francis said open resistance is often "born of goodwill and sincere dialogue," but that hidden resistance is "born of fearful or hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform, on the part of those who say they are ready for change, but want everything to remain as it is."

The pope said that in undertaking reforms of the Vatican, people should see that the central command of the church "is not an immobile bureaucratic apparatus."

Using to the Latin phrase Ecclesia semper reformanda est ("The church is always to be reformed"), Francis said that in the changes at the Vatican people should see "first and foremost a sign of life, a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda; in need of reform because she is alive."

"It is necessary to reiterate with force that the reform is not an end in itself but is a process of growth and most of all, conversion," said the pope.

"The reform, then, does not have an aesthetic end so as to make the curia more beautiful," he continued, saying it was not like applying make-up as a "trick to beautify the old curial body" or like undergoing plastic surgery to remove wrinkles.

"Dear brothers, it is not wrinkles that the church must fear, but moles!" the pontiff exhorted the cardinals and bishops.

"The reform will be effective only if it is carried out by 'renewed' men and not simply with 'new' men," said Francis. "It is not enough to content ourselves with changing the personnel, but we must bring members of the curia to renew themselves spiritually, humanly, and professionally."

"We need ... a permanent conversion and purification," the pope continued. "Without an alteration of mentality, the operational effort would be useless."

Francis then gave the prelates his 12 guidelines to reform: Individualism, pastoral concern, missionary zeal, clear organization, functionality, modernization, sobriety, subsidiarity, synodality, Catholicity, professionalism, and gradualism.

Taking up the theme of clear organization, the pope said that he needed to reorganize the different offices of the Vatican bureaucracy "on the basis of the principle that all Dicasteries are juridically equal."

"Each dicastery has its own areas of competence," he said. "These areas of competence must be respected, but they must also be distributed in a reasonable, efficient and productive way."

The pope addressed the theme of modernization using the Italian term aggiornamento, which means an "updating" and was made famous during the Second Vatican Council. He said such an updating "involves an ability to interpret and attend to 'the signs of the times.'"

In terms of synodality, Francis said a sense of a synodal approach to governance "must be evident" in the work of each Vatican office. The different offices, he said, "must avoid fragmentation caused by factors such as the multiplication of specialized sectors, which can tend to become self-referential."

Mentioning Catholicity, the pontiff said that each of the Vatican offices must be staffed by members that represent the diversity of the church in the different parts of the world.

The pope said he foresees "a greater number of laypeople, especially in those dicasteries where they can be more competent than clerics or consecrated people," and said "giving value to the role of women is also of great importance."

Francis ended his nearly 45-minute address with a list of 18 steps he has taken in the reform process so far, beginning with his creation of the advisory Council of Cardinals in April 2013 and ending with his approval of new statutes for the Pontifical Academy for Life in October 2016.

Among the most notable moves in the reform have been creation of three new overarching Vatican offices: the Secretariat for the Economy, which centralizes most of the city-state's financial offices; the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, which merged Vatican efforts on those issues; and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which will come into effect Jan. 1.

At the end of the meeting, Francis greeted the cardinals and bishops present one-by-one and gave each a copy of the book Tricks to cure the sicknesses of the soul by Jesuit Fr. Claudio Acquaviva, a 16th century Italian who was the fifth superior general of his order.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Conservatives launch civil war against Pope Francis

Phillip Wilan
The Times (UK)
December 20, 2016

The Pope is facing an unprecedented smear campaign designed to undermine his three-year pontificate. It has been orchestrated by cardinals angry about his sympathy for homosexuals and divorcees.

The campaign amounts to “a subterranean civil war” within the church, Marco Politi, an expert on the Holy See, said. He added that the smear campaign from within the Vatican included books, articles and letters contesting, in particular, the Pope’s teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics can “in certain cases” receive communion.

Politi said that the criticisms of the Pope constituted an attack that was unprecedented in modern times. In an article published by Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper to mark the Pope’s 80th birthday last Saturday, Politi said: “It’s a systematic campaign of delegitimisation, which questions the very authority of the pontiff and the rightness of his guidance.”

A longstanding observer of Vatican affairs and author of the book Pope Francis among the Wolves, Politi said that the ideological battle resembled the one fought in the 1960s over the modernising reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

While Vatican factions had long fought among themselves, they always accepted the role of the Pope as referee, he said. “It’s absolutely new that the attacks should be levelled at the Pope.”

Last month four cardinals, including the conservative American Raymond Burke, wrote to the Pope asking him to clarify his guidance, which was published in a footnote to Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), a teaching document issued last April. Some Catholics regard the apparent change in papal attitudes as overturning centuries of Christian moral teaching to fall into line with a secular world.

Politi wrote that the four cardinals represented a significant portion of the clergy who were resolutely opposed to changes in the church’s teaching on divorce, homosexuality and the role of women in the church.

Speaking yesterday, Politi compared the efforts to undermine the Pope’s authority to those of the Tea Party movement in the United States. “They kept trying to delegitimise Obama,” he said. “Of course they couldn’t topple him, but they did succeed in influencing the succession. A similar process is at work here and the aim is to prevent the election of another reformer.”

The Pope’s opponents see themselves as victims of persecution. Journalists from the conservative Catholic website said that they encountered an unprecedented climate of paranoia when they visited senior Vatican officials last month. “Many were afraid of being removed from their positions or of encountering severe public or private reprimands and personal accusations from those around the Pope or even from Francis himself,” the website wrote last week. “They are also anxious about the great damage being done to the Church and being helpless to stop it.”

Robert Mickens, editor of La Croix International and an experienced Vatican watcher, said the Pope’s critics were well organised but did not represent a significant Catholic constituency: “People in the pews are delighted with what the Pope is doing. His approval ratings are about 85 per cent.”

The conservatives would not be able to derail the Pope’s modernising reforms, he predicted. “People in parishes are not concerned about the church being too merciful.”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The church should not strive for 'false clarity'

Michael O'Loughlin
December 9, 2016

Archbishop Mark Coleridge thinks some of his fellow prelates are afraid of confronting reality.

As the head of the Archdiocese of Brisbane on the east coast of Australia, the archbishop was a delegate to the synod of bishops in Rome in 2015. There, he said, he witnessed healthy disagreement about issues important to families during the two-week meeting—prompted by Pope Francis’ call for open and honest dialogue. That debate has continued more than a year after the synod came to a close, with some bishops calling for greater clarity from the pope.

But Archbishop Coleridge told America that uncertainty is simply part of modern life.

“At times at the synod I heard voices that sounded very clear and certain but only because they never grappled with the real question or never dealt with the real facts,” he said in a recent interview. “So there’s a false clarity that comes because you don’t address reality, and there’s a false certainty that can come for the same reason.”

The archbishop, who worked in the Vatican’s secretary of state’s office in the late 1990s, was responding to a question about critics of Pope Francis who have taken issue with his apostolic letter, “Amoris Laetitia,” in which the pope calls for a pathway to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

Critics of the pope have stepped up their attacks on the document in recent months, emboldened by a letter sent to the pope by four cardinals in September asking for yes or no answers to five questions about the document. They say the pope is sowing confusion in the church on questions settled by previous popes, including St. John Paul II.

But the pope’s supporters, including Archbishop Coleridge, say Francis is simply asking the church to confront challenging questions.

“I think what Pope Francis wants is a church that moves toward clarity and certainty on certain issues after we’ve grappled with the issues, not before,” he continued. “In other words, he wants a genuine clarity and a genuine certainty rather than the artificial clarity or certainty that comes when you never grapple with the issues.”

During the 2015 synod, Archbishop Coleridge blogged about his experience as a synod delegate, offering Catholics a window into a process that, aside from occasional interviews with participants, was conducted in private.

He is a proponent of church leaders using social media, and he tweets on an eclectic range of topics from @ArchbishopMark [2]. In recent weeks, he’s tweeted his thoughts on the unification of Italy [3], his desire for a heavenly dinner with Leonard Cohen and Fidel Castro [4] and the mental fortitude of Australian professional athletes [5].

Archbishop Coleridge said he agrees with a fellow Aussie, Cardinal George Pell, who said in London recently [6] that some Catholics are “unnerved” by the debate about “Amoris Laetitia.”

“I think that’s probably the right word, and I sensed in the words of the four cardinals men who were unnerved,” Archbishop Coleridge said. “Clearly, they had been spoken to by a lot of people who were unnerved. I can understand that.”

But where Cardinal Pell went on to suggest the pope needed to offer clarity on the issue, Archbishop Coleridge said Francis is simply acting like a pastor.

The pope, he said, is “bringing out into the very public setting of the papacy what any pastor does in his parish or diocese.”

He noted that pastors are “very often dealing in a world of grays and you have to accompany people, listen to them before you speak to them, give them time and give them space, and then speak your word perhaps.”

Ultimately, individual believers have to discern where God is at work in their own lives—a process that doesn’t always lend itself to simple yes or no answers.

“Some people expect from the pope clarity and certainty on every question and every issue, but a pastor can’t provide that necessarily,” he said.

He said Francis is moving the church from a static way of doing business to one that is kinetic, something those used to a different kind of papacy are finding difficult.

“But there are still people who are more comfortable, for various reasons, with a more static way of thinking and speaking,” he said. “And there are people who are perhaps more comfortable in a world of black and white and who find the process of discernment, which deals in shades of gray, messy and unnerving.”

As for how Pope Francis is handling the criticism, Archbishop Coleridge said not to worry.

“I can’t imagine that Pope Francis is deeply anguished over some of the opposition that he faces,” he said. “He’s a man who doesn’t seem rattled by that sort of thing.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bishop calls for 'widespread opposition' in event of massive deportations

Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter
November 30, 2016

In the wake of “a deeply destructive political campaign,” U.S. citizens face the dual task of rising above profound political divisions that tear at the national fabric as well as remaining diligent in addressing “the major wounds of American society,” especially the threat of massive deportations.

The assessment was made by San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy during a Nov. 28 address at the 2016 Catholic Immigrant Integration Initiative Conference at the University of San Diego’s Joan B Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

McElroy prefaced his remarks on the need for Catholics to stand in the way of mass deportation of immigrants with a plea for political responsibility. He appealed to those upset at the election of Donald Trump to not follow the example of Barack Obama’s political opponents “who from his election onward worked toward the failure of his presidency.”

Political responsibility as Catholics and Christians, he said, also means dealing with “the profound sickness in the soul of American political life” that “tears at the fabric of our nation’s unity, undermining the core democratic consensus that is the foundation for our identity as Americans.”

Healing, he said, “will require altering the role of partisanship in our individual, social and national lives. Party choice has ceased to be merely a political category and instead has become a wider form of personal identity” that ultimately finds individuals confined “within partisan media and culture silos, and are encouraged in their anger against those who disagree.”

One of the major wounds in the culture, he said, is the threat to immigrants. In recent months, he said, “the specter of a massive deportation campaign aimed at ripping more than 10 million undocumented immigrants from the lives and families has realistically emerged as potential federal policy. We must label this policy proposal for what it is – an act of injustice which would stain our national honor in the same manner as the progressive dispossessions of the Native American peoples of the United States and the internment of the Japanese.”

For the Catholic community in the United States, “it is unthinkable that we will stand by while more than10 percent of our flock is ripped from our midst and deported. It is equally unthinkable that we as church will witness the destruction of our historic national outreach to refugees at a time when the need to offer safe haven to refugees is growing throughout the world.”

McElroy emphasized the need to maintain protections for those covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. “The DREAMers,” he said, “are everything that Americans seek in those who enter into our society: 85 percent have lived in the United States for more than 10 years; 93 percent have a high school degree, and 40 percent attended college. Eighty-nine percent have a job and pay taxes.” Should the new administration move toward massive deportations, he said, “the Catholic community must move to wide-spread opposition” and “with the same energy, commitment and immediacy that have characterized Catholic opposition on the issues of abortion and religious liberty in recent years.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dean of Rota warns Pope could strip Cardinal Burke & others of their cardinalate

Deacon Nick Donnely
November 29, 2016

Archbishop Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Roman Rota, told a conference in Spain that Cardinal Burke and the three cardinals who submitted the dubia to Pope Francis "could lose their Cardinalate" for causing "grave scandal" by making the dubia public. The Dean of the Roman Rota went on to accuse Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner of questioning the Holy Spirit. Archbishop Pio Vito Pinto made his astounding accusations during a conference to religious in Spain.

Archbishop Pio Vito's indictment against the four cardinals, and other people who question Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia, was that they not only questioned one synod of bishops on marriage and the family, but two synods, about which, "The action of the Holy Spirit can not be doubted.".

The Dean of the Roman Rota went on to clarify that the Pope did not have to strip the four senior cardinals of their "cardinalate", but that he could do it. He went on to confirm what many commentators have suspected that Pope Francis' interview with Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, was the Holy Father's indirect response to the cardinals' dubia:

During the conference, Pius Vito made clear to those present that the Pope did not respond directly to these four cardinals, "but indirectly told them that they only see white or black, when there are shades of color in the Church."

The Dean of the Roman Rota, the highest canonical court responsible for marriage in the Catholic Church, went on to support Pope Francis' innovation of allowing divorced and "remarried" to receive Holy Communion. In response to a question asking if it was better to grant divorced and civily remarried couples nullity of marriage so they can marry in the Church before they receive Holy Communion Archbishop Pio Vinto expressed preference for Pope Francis's "reform":

Pope Francis' reform of the matrimonial process wants to reach more people. The percentage of people who ask for marriage annulment is very small. The Pope has said that communion is not only for good Catholics. Francisco says: how to reach the most excluded people? Under the Pope's reform many people may ask for nullity, but others will not.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The four cardinals and their five doubts

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
November 23, 2016

The case of the four cardinals and their five dubia has been well reported and garnered plenty of commentary. Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner decided to publish their letter containing the dubia, openly challenging the pope to clarify parts of Amoris Laetitia that they find to be a source of confusion. The whole episode is painful and put me in mind of an earlier and similarly painful episode in the history of the Catholic church in the United States.

In the post-war years, Jesuit Fr. Leonard Feeney ran the Saint Benedict Center in Cambridge, Mass., adjacent to the campuses of Harvard University and Radcliffe College. A charismatic man, Feeney attracted young minds to his brand of extreme Catholicism and, specifically, his interpretation of the doctrine "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" — "no salvation outside the Church." Feeney managed to get his center accredited to teach courses by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts even though he had no such authority from either his Jesuit superiors or from the Archdiocese of Boston. He began convincing his young devotees to drop out of Harvard and Radcliffe and enroll at his center.

Needless to say, this made for some angry parents, and Fr. Feeney was summoned to a meeting with the archdiocese. Historical footnote: The auxiliary bishop with whom he met was then-Bishop, later-Cardinal John Wright. When Wright became Bishop of Pittsburgh and then Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, his secretary was then-Father, now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl, one of Pope Francis' staunchest defenders and one of the most effective participants in the two synods that led to Amoris Laetitia. Feeney agreed to notify parents before their children withdrew from the more prestigious schools and also to submit his newsletter to Jesuit censors.

The great historian of the church in the U.S., Jesuit Fr. Gerald Fogarty, picks up the story. He writes:

But Feeney's attacks became broader. In dealing with Protestants he was virulent in asserting that only in the Catholic Church could one be saved. His followers at Boston College even charged the president of the institution with heresy. He also alienated many of the students who used to frequent St. Benedict's Center, which now became a closed group of "family," totally convinced that it alone represented the truth of Catholicism. The American Church had its own Port Royal.

Bingo! How many times in these pages have I observed that a key hermeneutic in understanding both Pope Francis and his critics is to grasp that he is an old Jesuit and that old Jesuits contend with Jansenists. That is precisely the dynamic at work with these four cardinals.

Feeney continued to cause scandal. A 1949 decree from the Holy Office about Feeney stated: "Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranked against the Church seriously bear in mind that after 'Rome has spoken,' they cannot be excused even by reason of good faith. Certainly, their bond of duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church 'only by an unconscious desire.'" That is to say, the Protestants Feeney thought damned had a better shot at heaven than he did because of his disobedience! He was eventually suspended from the Society of Jesus and excommunicated in 1953. For insisting on an unduly narrow interpretation of the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the church, Feeney found himself outside the church. Thanks be to God, he finally was reconciled in 1972, although he never formally recanted his interpretation of the doctrine.

Doctrines are made to be wide enough to find application in a variety of complex and different human circumstances. This is the thing that the four cardinals, like Feeney, cannot accept. They believe that their way of reading the prior teachings of the church is the only way, even though the esteemed scholar of the theology of St. John Paul II, Rocco Buttiglione has again explained that Amoris Laetitia is in full continuity with the whole of the teachings of Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II's prior apostolic exhortation of the same subject. The four cardinals focus on parts of that latter text, and neglect others. The synod fathers, and Pope Francis, offer a different interpretation, one that I believe is more cognizant of the entire prior teachings, and one that is not the least bit confused about doctrine.

The problem, I think, is that the four cardinals believe Pope Francis is muddying the waters by reclaiming the church's long standing teachings on conscience, on the difference between objective and subjective guilt, on the application of the church's twin teachings on marital indissolubility and God's superabundant mercy to the human details of a situation, that is discernment, and perhaps most especially, that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, the most Jansenistic of the positions put forward by the critics of Amoris Laetitia. They want to look upon the world through the lens of church teaching and see only black and white, but human lives are grey and when seen through the lens of church teaching, that human greyness should invite compassion not judgment from a Christian pastor. Their approach works for an accountant but not for a pastor.

In his Apologia pro vita sua, Blessed John Henry Newman writes of his conversion to Catholicism and, specifically, his ability to acquiesce to Catholic understandings of certain doctrines. And, as ever, Newman writes beautifully:

Nor had I any trouble about receiving those additional articles, which are not found in the Anglican Creed. Some of them I believed already, but not any one of them was a trial to me. I made a profession of them upon my reception with the greatest ease, and I have the same ease in believing them now. I am far of course from denying that every article of the Christian Creed, whether as held by Catholics or by Protestants, is beset with intellectual difficulties; and it is simple fact, that, for myself, I cannot answer those difficulties. Many persons are very sensitive of the difficulties of Religion; I am as sensitive of them as any one; but I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending those difficulties, however keenly, and multiplying them to any extent, and on the other hand doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. There of course may be difficulties in the evidence; but I am speaking of difficulties intrinsic to the doctrines themselves, or to their relations with each other. A man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, of which the answer is or is not given to him, without doubting that it admits of an answer, or that a certain particular answer is the true one. Of all points of faith, the being of a God is, to my own apprehension, encompassed with most difficulty, and yet borne in upon our minds with most power.

"Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." It seems to me the four cardinals have five difficulties, but not five doubts. Perhaps they have more difficulties than that. I fear that in their zeal to defend the doctrine on marital incommensurability, they neglect other equally vital doctrines on conscience, mercy, and the sacraments. I certainly had difficulties with some of the interpretations placed upon the teachings of St. John Paul II. We all have difficulties. But to publicly voice doubts about the magisterial teaching of the church is not something a cardinal should be doing or, if he does, he should have the decency to include his red hat with the submission of his dubia. Cardinal Burke likes to fret about lax Catholics causing scandal, but in his case, as in that of Fr. Feeney, it is sometimes the most extreme Catholics who cause the worst scandal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Vatican confirms Francis did not renew terms of Burke, Pell on worship congregation

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
November 22, 2016

The Vatican office that handles affairs relating to the Catholic church's liturgical practices has confirmed that Pope Francis has decided not to renew the terms of several of its bishop-members, many of whom are known for preferring a more traditionalist practice of liturgy.

Francis had appointed 27 new bishops to serve as members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on Oct. 28. But the announcement of the appointments did not make clear whether the previous members’ terms had been renewed.

The congregation has now posted a full list of its current membership on its website. The list makes clear the pope did not renew the terms of 16 congregation members, including those of U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, Australian Cardinal George Pell, and the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Each of the Vatican congregations is made up of cardinal and bishop members, who frequently travel to Rome to help the offices in their work.

The worship congregation’s confirmation of its current membership was first reported by The Tablet. According to the online list, the congregation now has 40 members. It had previously had 31.

Among the new members of the congregation appointed by Francis are:

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin;
Abuja, Nigeria Cardinal John Onaiyekan;
Quebec, Canada Cardinal Gerald Lacroix;
Melbourne, Australia Archbishop Denis Hart;
Paterson, N.J., Bishop Arthur Serratelli;
Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses and who previously for twenty years as the Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is led by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah. Its second-in-command is English Archbishop Arthur Roche.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pope fires back at his critics over 'Amoris' and discusses ecumenism

Ines San Martin
November 18, 2016

Pope Francis has fired back at his critics over the document Amoris Laetita, suggesting they suffer from “a certain legalism, which can be ideological.” The critics now include a group of four cardinals who’ve accused the pontiff of causing grave confusion and disorientation and even floated the prospect of a public correction.

“Some- think about the responses to Amoris Laetitia- continue to not understand,” Francis said. They think it’s “black and white, even if in the flux of life you must discern.”

The pope’s comments came in a wide-ranging interview with the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire published on Friday, in response to a question about his Jubilee Year of Mercy and its relation with the 1960s-era Second Vatican Council.

“The Church exists only as an instrument to communicate to men God’s merciful design,” he said, adding that during the council, the Church felt the “need to be in the world as a living sign of the Father’s love.”

The Council, particularly the document Lumen Gentium, according to Francis, moved the axis of the Christian conception “from a certain legalism, which can be ideological,” to God himself, who through the Son became human.

It’s in this context in which he talked about the responses to Amoris Laetitia by those who continue “not to understand” this point.

Although he gives no names, it’s not a stretch to imagine the pope was thinking about the dubia or “doubts” about the apostolic exhortation presented to him by four cardinals, including American Raymond Burke.

The pope told the prelates he wasn’t going to respond, which is the reason why the cardinals went public with their questions earlier in the week.

In a follow-up interview with the National Catholic Register, Burke said they had done it out of charity towards the pope, and in an attempt to end the “tremendous division” caused particularly by chapter eight. In it, Francis seemingly opens the doors, in case-by-case situations, for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments.

Burke, an expert in canon law, said that if the pope doesn’t provide the “clarification of the Church’s teaching” they are asking for, then they’d consider making a formal act of correction of the Roman Pontiff.

But the “legalists” responses to Amoris are far from being the only matter addressed by Pope Francis in his interview with Stefania Falasca, a journalist from Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference.

The two central issues throughout the three-page long interview are the Holy Year of Mercy, which will conclude on Sunday, and ecumenism, meaning the press for greater Christian unity.

Falasca asked the pope about his inter-Christian meetings, saying that there too, he finds critics in the form of those who believe he’s “selling out” Catholic doctrine. “Some have said you want to ‘Protestantize’ the Church,” she asks. But Francis is not too worried about this criticism either: “I’m not losing sleep over it. I’ll continue on the path of those who proceeded me, and I follow the Council.”

Opinions, he said, have to be distinguished according to the spirit with which they’re voiced. “Where there’s not a nasty spirit, they can help you on the path,” he said. “Other times, you see quickly that criticisms taken here and there to justify pre-existing positions aren’t honest, they’re formed with a nasty spirit in order to sow division.”

These rigorisms, Francis argued, “are born from something missing, from trying to hide one’s own sad dissatisfaction behind a kind of armor.”

To illustrate his point and this “rigid behavior,” the pope recommended the 1987 movie “Babette’s Feast.”

Proselytism among Christians is sinful

Talking about Christian unity, the pope said it’s “a path” that leads to a walking together with Jesus, and that despite the theological differences, a “practical ecumenism” is possible and it can take different forms, such as Christians working together to help the poor.

Unity, he insisted, is built in this walking together, and it’s a “grace” that has to be asked for. It’s for this reason that he repeats: “every form of proselytism among Christians is sinful. The Church never grows from proselytism but ‘by attraction,’ as Benedict XVI wrote.”

“Proselytism among Christians, therefore, in itself, is a grave sin,” he said.

The journalist then asked, “Why?”

“Because it contradicts the very dynamic of how to become and to remain Christian,” he said. “The Church is not a soccer team that goes around seeking fans.”

Francis also spoke about his friendship with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, sharing that during the trip the two took to the Greek island of Lesbos to bring attention to the refugee and immigrant crisis, the Orthodox leader had his pockets full of candies, making him a favorite among the children.

This, the pope said, is Bartholomew, a man capable of leading the Great Orthodox Council, talking about high-level theology and being with children.

“When he came to Rome he would stay in the room where I am now,” Francis said, referring to room 201 of the Santa Marta, a hotel within Vatican grounds where he’s lived since the beginning of his pontificate. “The only thing [Bartholomew] reproached me for is that he had to change rooms.”

The cancer of the Church is giving glory to each other

Never one to go easy with his own people, the pope once again spoke about the “spiritual disease” some Catholics have, in believing that the Church is a “self-sufficient human reality, where everything moves according to the logic of ambition and power.”

“I continue to think that the cancer of the Church is giving glory to each other,” the pope told Falasca.

“If one doesn’t know who Jesus is, or has never met him, you always can meet him; but if one is in the Church, if one moves in it because it’s precisely in the ambit of the Church that one cultivates and feeds one’s hunger for power and self-affirmation, you have a spiritual disease.”

Francis argued that Martin Luther, a key figure in the Protestant Reformation, realized this: “the refusal of an image of the Church as an organization that can go ahead ignoring the grace of the Lord, or considering it as a possession to be taken for granted, guaranteed a priori.”

“This temptation to build a self-referential Church, which leads to opposition and therefore to division, always comes back,” the pontiff said.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Francis refuses to fall into trap set by Cardinal Burke and allies over 'errors' in Amoris Laetitia

Christopher Lamb
The Tablet
November 16, 2016

Pope believes questions posed on divorced and remarrieds are designed to force him into debate on cardinal's terms

One of Pope Francis’ most prominent critics has upped the ante. In an interview with the National Catholic Register United State’s Cardinal Raymond Burke has said the pontiff is “teaching error” by suggesting divorced and remarried Catholics can receive communion and has threatened to make a “formal act of correction.”

He and three other retired cardinals have written to Francis calling on him clear up the confusion which are contained in the Pope’s family synod document, Amoris Laetitia which they claim is causing “grave disorientation and great confusion” among Catholics. And they have put five questions to him - known as Dubia - which demand a “yes or no” answer.

But the Pope has not responded so the group - including Joachim Meisner, retired leader of Cologne, Carlo Caffarra, retired leader of Bologna, and Walter Brandmüller, formerly in charge of the Vatican’s historical sciences committee - have gone public with their concerns.

So why is the Pope staying silent? Francis believes their questions are a trap and has opted not to engage in a debate which seems on the cardinals' terms and designed to make him restate old rules. He has also definitively endorsed the Argentinian bishops’ position which is that communion can be given to remarried Catholics in some cases - and he is leaving it up to individual bishops in general to make the call.

For the conservatives this is the crux of the problem. It is not so much “confusion” about the document but that the Pope has ruled in favour of personal conscience, discernment and power to the local churches. That is scary for them because it means throwing off the comfort blanket of clean, clear unequivocal papal teaching.

But the truth is that when it comes to marriage and divorce a “one size fits all” solution doesn’t work, and Francis knows it. He also knows that most Catholics agree and that Amoris Laetitia reflects the reality of countless numbers of parishes. And he may be sceptical of the claim that the faithful are “confused” from a group of cardinals not currently engaged in front-line pastoral work.

Anyone watching the new Netflix series “The Crown” might have been struck by the similarity between this debate and the Church of England’s refusal to allow Princess Margaret to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend, on the grounds he was a divorced man.

The proposed marriage between Margaret and Townsend, the senior bishops tell the young Queen in one scene, cannot happen as it would threaten the sacrament of marriage. Those events took place more than half a century ago and the Church of England has since changed its position on the issue.

And in the Catholics’ similar debate over communion for divorced and remarried Francis is betting that his teaching will be the one that stands the test of time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In Gomez, US Bishops make clear pro-immigrant statement

John L. Allen Jr
November 15, 2016

Coming just seven days after the victory of Donald Trump, the choice by the US bishops of a Mexican-born prelate who’s passionate about immigrant rights can’t help but be seen as a powerful statement of priorities by the leadership of the American Catholic church.

Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles might well have been elected to a senior position in the U.S. bishops conference under any circumstances, given that he’s seen as a well-liked and popular figure among his fellow prelates, as well as someone robustly committed to the traditional doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church.

Coming just seven days after the victory of Donald Trump, however, following a campaign in which Trump ran on a get-tough platform on immigration, the choice of a Mexican-born prelate who’s become passionate about immigrant rights can’t help but be seen as a powerful statement of priorities by the leadership of the American Catholic church.

To be fair, the first vote of the day was actually for the presidency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but the outcome was largely foreordained since the bishops generally pick the sitting vice president for the top job. In this case, that meant Cardinal Daniel Di Nardo of Galveston-Houston was almost certain to prevail.

The interesting race was therefore for vice president, and in the end, although there were nine nominees, it came down to a choice between Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans or Gomez. After the initial two ballots they faced one another in a run-off, with Gomez eventually garnering the most votes.

Under other circumstances, that might have made the final ballot an interesting test of where the American bishops stand vis-à-vis the Pope Francis experiment in Catholicism, since Aymond is generally seen as a moderate to progressive figure who emphasizes many of the same social justice issues as the pontiff, while over the years Gomez, who’s a member of the Catholic organization Opus Dei, has been seen as a bit more conservative and traditional in outlook.

However, two factors likely changed the calculus this time.

First, it was widely expected that Gomez, as the archbishop of the largest Catholic diocese in the United States and also the first Hispanic bishop in the country up for the distinction, would be named a cardinal the next time an American received a red hat from a pope.

Instead, Francis opted to elevate Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis (who’s subsequently been named to Newark) and Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, who’s been tapped to head a new Vatican department for family, laity and life.

While few really begrudge those choices, there was nevertheless wide disappointment for Gomez and a natural sense of sympathy for someone other bishops perceived to have been “passed over” or left off the list.

In that context, putting Gomez in line to become president of the conference was really the closest way American bishops had at their disposal to make up for their disappointment that he wasn’t named a cardinal.

Even more fundamental than that, however, was likely the effect of Trump’s upset victory in last Tuesday’s presidential election. Whatever else the American bishops may care about, the defense of immigrants has emerged in recent years as an increasingly critical priority - in part because they see it as a critical human rights priority that’s very much in sync with the agenda of Pope Francis, and in part because those immigrants also tend to be members of the bishops’ own flocks, since they’re disproportionately Catholic.

One key trajectory in American Catholicism today is a “back to the future” dynamic, in which the Church is once again becoming a blue-collar, immigrant community, and therefore the defense of immigrant rights isn’t simply an abstract humanitarian exercise for many bishops, but also a reflection of the people they’re seeing in the pews as they move around their local communities. To be clear, it would be wrong to read the choice of Gomez entirely as an anti-Trump, pro-immigrant statement.

He’s hardly a standard-bearer for the progressive agenda in the American church. On the contrary, he’s a protégé of Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, having started his career as an auxiliary under Chaput in Denver, and is generally seen as part of the moderate-to-conservative camp among the bishops. He’s solidly pro-life, he believes strongly in the need for better catechesis and grounding in doctrine, and sees a serious threat in creeping secularism and assaults on religious freedom.

That said, there’s a more transcendent subtext at the moment, which is that at a time when American politics would seem to be trending towards walls and closure as the right response to the growing immigrant presence, Gomez incarnates a different option: Someone born in Mexico but who nevertheless has become fully assimilated in the United States, and without whom both the American Church and American society would be clearly impoverished.

For sure, as a leader of the U.S. bishops conference, Gomez will try hard to be a spokesperson for the full range of Catholic social teaching, including its positions on immigrants. However, even without trying, Gomez in his biography and personal story makes the point, and in his case, explicit speech almost seems anti-climactic.

That, in a nutshell, is the message the American bishops delivered on Tuesday, and it’s one sure to reverberate for some time to come.

Pope Francis surprise: Newark, NJ gets a cardinal, Philly doesn't

David O'Reilley
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 14, 2016

When Pope Francis announces 17 new cardinals Saturday in Rome, there will be some American surprises among them.

One will be the presence of Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, a little-known moderate soon to be the Archdiocese of Newark's first cardinal.

Another will be the absence of Philadelphia's prominent archbishop, Charles J. Chaput.

Although Chaput is widely regarded as one of the American hierarchy's most capable leaders, Francis appears to have bypassed the 72-year-old conservative who hosted him at last year's World Meeting of Families.

Since 1921, popes have presented the five previous archbishops of Philadelphia with the scarlet hat of a cardinal, lending the archdiocese a reputation as a "red seat" or "cardinalatial see."

It's not clear if Francis is "packing" liberal and moderate prelates onto the College of Cardinals that will one day name his successor, said William Madges, professor of theology and religious studies at St. Joseph's University.

"But it seems pretty clear," said Madges, "that Francis is intentionally breaking the tradition that certain dioceses automatically get a red hat."

Francis has also made clear he does not like clerics aspiring to honors, and has virtually discontinued the practice of naming diocesan priests "monsignors."

Archbishop Chaput and his spokesman, Ken Gavin, declined to comment for this story.

"If you love Chaput and want to see him a cardinal, then you'll resent" that Francis appears to have bypassed him, said David Gibson, a former reporter for Vatican Radio and biographer of Pope Benedict XVI.

"But it's nothing personal," said Gibson, who writes for Religion News Service. "Francis wants to elevate like-minded people to the College of Cardinals."

Cardinals serve as advisers to popes, head the Vatican's most important bureaus, and may elect a new pope until they turn 80. After Saturday's consistory — or gathering of cardinals — in St. Peter's Basilica, there will be 120 cardinal-electors. Of these, Francis will have named 36 percent of them.

"It's completely wrong to see the elevation of Tobin as diminishing Archbishop Chaput," said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America.

"Chaput has done amazing things in Denver and Philadelphia and has a terrific reputation in the church," he said. The pope's choice for Newark "I think reflects something that Pope Francis wants to promote in the pastoral work of Tobin."

Tobin, 64, will be installed as archbishop in Newark's Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Jan. 6. He succeeds unpopular Archbishop John Myers, who reached retirement age of 75 in February.

Myers controversially used $500,000 of archdiocesan moneys to expand his $750,000 retirement home in Hunterdon County and was sharply criticized for failing to report sexually abusive priests to civil authorities. Gibson, a former resident within the archdiocese, said there was "low morale" among the clergy and laity.

"I think that Pope Francis sees a lot more in me than I see in myself," Tobin, a priest of the missionary Redemptorist order, joked at a news conference Monday.

But some observers say they see much of Francis in Tobin, who this year publicly rebuked Indiana Gov. (now Vice President-elect) Mike Pence's refusal to allow Syrian refugees into the state, saying his archdiocese would continue to resettle them.

And while serving as second-in-command of the Vatican's office for clergy and religious, Tobin in 2012 questioned the need for a controversial Vatican investigation into perceived liberalism among some women's religious orders in the United States.

Pope Benedict sent Tobin to Indianapolis that same year.

Three years later, however, Francis called off the nun inquiry. The two prelates have been friends since 2005, and Tobin once visited him when the future pontiff was still Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.

Tobin served 12 years in Rome as the Redemptorists' superior general, and speaks Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish in addition to English.

While popes rarely explain their reasons for assigning bishops or making them cardinals, Madges said it seems the pontiff is trying to broaden the representation of parts of the Catholic world in the College of Cardinals.

He noted that three years into Francis' pontificate, the archbishoprics of Venice and Turin, Italy, are still without their traditional red hats.

And yet Francis has named a cardinal to the remote Polynesian island nation of Tonga and another to Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island where tens of thousands of refugees from Africa and the Middle East have landed in hopes of entering Europe, many at great peril.

The conclave that elected Francis in March 2013 had cardinals from 48 countries. As of Saturday's consistory, it will contain cardinals from 79 countries, including Mauritius and Papua New Guinea, both Pacific island nations.

Five cardinals will be from Europe, three from Latin America, two from Asia, two from Africa, and three from the United States.

The last group will include Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, who will head a new Vatican office on family and laity, and Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago. Both are viewed as doctrinally moderate.

Another striking absence in the consistory will be Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, an archdiocese headed by cardinals since 1948. Detroit, St. Louis, and Baltimore — other longtime "red seats" — also have been bypassed in recent years.

Chaput — who has said he was completely unprepared for the clergy sex-abuse issues and massive fiscal deficits he encountered on his arrival to Philadelphia — is sometimes described as a conservative "culture warrior" for his fierce opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

In July, he made headlines when he posted notice that Catholics living in "irregular" sexual relationships — heterosexual cohabitations, same-sex partnerships, and those divorced and remarried outside the Catholic Church — still could not receive Holy Communion or serve as lectors and eucharistic ministers, or on parish councils.

Coming just four months after Francis had issued a major church document, Amoris Laetitia, that appeared to give bishops more latitude in such matters, Chaput's traditionalist position struck some in the archdiocese as unduly rigid.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney even denounced it as "not Christian," but Madges said Chaput evidently views clear articulation of the church's traditional moral teachings to be a "gift to the faithful."

While Chaput "has made remarks that hint at a focus on a smaller and purer church," Schneck noted, he said he believes it has been "Tobin's outreach to the marginalized and outsiders" that has won him a red hat.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Diocese investigates pro life priest for aborted baby video

Associated Press
November 12, 2016

AMARILLO, Texas - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo says it’s investigating a priest who placed an aborted fetus on his altar and posted a video of it on two social media sites.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports that Amarillo Diocese Bishop Patrick J. Zurek says the Nov. 6 “action and presentation of Father (Frank) Pavone in this video is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”

In the video posted to Facebook, Pavone said Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform would allow abortion to continue and that Donald Trump and the Republican platform want to protect unborn children. A shorter version was posted on Instagram.

In his Tuesday statement, Zurek said the diocese “deeply regrets the offense and outrage caused by the video for the faithful and the community at large.”

“Father Frank Pavone has posted a video on his Facebook page of the body of an aborted fetus, which is against the dignity of human life and is a desecration of the altar. We believe that no one who is pro-life can exploit a human body for any reason, especially the body of a fetus,” Zurek’s statement said.

Pavone responded to the controversy his action created in a Nov. 8 post on his Facebook page, writing, “I want to offer you a sincere apology, brothers and sisters, for any unnecessary offense, any confusion, division that’s been created, because there are those out there who are deliberately stirring up that confusion.

“Some people say, ‘Oh, Father Frank, you’re out of your mind.’ You know what? Maybe that’s the place for normal people to be when we’re living in the middle of a holocaust and many people are ready to elect a woman who cares nothing about these babies, who wants us to pay for their destruction,” he wrote, referring to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Pavone was ordained a priest of the New York Archdiocese in 1988 but was incardinated into the Amarillo Diocese in 2005 by Bishop John W. Yanta, then head of the diocese, who served on the organization’s board of advisers. In 2012, the Vatican Congregation of the Clergy issued a decree allowing Pavone to minister outside the Diocese of Amarillo, but he still must obtain specific permission to do so from Zurek.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pope Francis gives N.J. its first cardinal - and ups the ante on church reform

David Gibson
Religion News Service
November 7, 2016

Pope Francis had already delivered the Catholic Church’s version of an October surprise when he included Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin in the batch of new cardinals he announced last month – promising a red hat to the leader of a relatively small Midwestern diocese of 230,000 Catholics that had never before had a cardinal, nor would ever expect one.

Then on Monday (Nov. 7) the pontiff doubled down with a November stunner as the Vatican announced that Francis was moving Tobin to head the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey.

In a statement release early Monday after the Vatican announcement was official, Tobin compared these last few weeks to an earthquake, saying the news on Oct. 9 that he would become a cardinal was his “first jolt” and the phone call on Oct. 22 informing him that he would be going to Newark was a “second tremor.”

Never before has a cardinal been moved from one diocese to another, and church observers across the board also expressed shock at the unprecedented transfer, which seemed to signal a new stage in Francis’ effort to revamp a U.S. church that had become increasingly conservative under the pontiff’s two predecessors.

Not only is Newark a much bigger archdiocese than Indianapolis, with some 1.2 million Catholics, but it’s never had a cardinal and, like Indianapolis, never expected to get one.

That’s mainly because a cardinal perched across the Hudson River from Manhattan would have been seen as a rival to the Archbishop of New York, a post currently occupied by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

And that’s exactly what’s likely to happen now, especially since Tobin is clearly a personal favorite of the pope’s and Dolan has been associated with Francis’ conservative critics.

“(T)he move portends an ecclesiastical scenario heretofore unseen on these shores nor anywhere else in the Catholic world: two cardinals leading their own local churches not just side-by-side, but within the same media market,” wrote Rocco Palmo, whose blog, Whispers in the Loggia, specializes in clerical gossip.

Moreover, Tobin’s promotion – which was first reported Friday by the Star-Ledger of Newark – was also viewed by church observers as something of a snub to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s five previous archbishops, going back nearly a century, had all been made cardinals.

But Chaput is seen as a culture warrior out of step with Francis’ more pastoral and welcoming vision of the church. That Chaput seems destined to end his career without a red hat, and a possible vote in an eventual conclave to elect a pope that comes with being part of the College of Cardinals, is a bitter pill for many on the Catholic right.

All of this reinforces the obvious fact that Francis clearly cares little for protocol, or bruised egos; the cardinals he named last month come from 11 dioceses that had never had a cardinal – including Indianapolis – and six countries that have never before had a cardinal.

At the same time Francis overlooked dioceses that for centuries had been considered a lock to have a cardinal.

READ: Pope’s cardinal choices bring surprises, especially for US

But the transfer of Tobin, 64, to Newark also underscores the challenges that Francis faces in a country that has produced some of his sharpest critics.

One is that “the pool of ‘Francis bishops’ is still rather small in the U.S, where the footprint left by the appointments of Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is more significant than in many other countries,” said Massimo Faggioli, a theologian and church historian at Villanova University in Philadelphia.

Indeed, more than three decades of promoting conservatives left a limited supply of more pastoral leaders for Francis – who was elected in 2013 after Benedict retired – to choose from, and reorienting the machinery of episcopal vetting and selection and restocking the supply chain of talent can take a long time.

That’s why, Faggioli said, Francis “likes to move bishops that he knows well to important and strategic posts in the U.S. church.”

Francis showed that when he personally picked Archbishop Blase Cupich – who will also be made a cardinal in Rome this month – to go from the small Diocese of Spokane to the influential Archdiocese of Chicago two years ago, another surprising move.

Similarly, Francis also knows Tobin and knows that under then-Pope Benedict XVI, Tobin was effectively exiled to Indianapolis in 2012 from a senior job in Rome because Tobin disagreed with the Vatican investigation of American nuns.

For Francis, who has made overhauling the papal bureaucracy a priority, poor treatment at the hands of the Roman Curia is a resume builder. Tobin also clashed with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — now Donald Trump’s running mate — over Pence’s effort to stop the settlement of Syrian refugees.

Another challenge for Francis is that many of those John Paul and Benedict appointments have not always turned out so well.

Newark is a case in point. Archbishop John Myers was sent there in 2001 by John Paul to replace Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – who was moved to Washington, DC where he was made a cardinal – and Myers’ quickly alienated many inside and outside the church with his hardline approach and a seemingly high-handed persona.

That was not only a contrast to McCarrick’s approachable style, but Myers, who is 75, was also widely criticized for mishandling clergy sex abuse cases. In addition, Myers outraged many in the flock when local media detailed pricey renovations he made to a retirement home.

Morale was so low in the archdiocese that in September 2013 Francis named Archbishop Bernard Hebda, also regarded as a pastor in the pope’s mold, as a coadjutor, or assistant, to Myers with the intention of replacing Myers with Hebda.

But after more than two years preparing to take over, Hebda was moved last March to take charge of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis following the departure of Archbishop John Nienstedt, who left under a cloud of various scandals.

The upshot is that not only does Francis want to overhaul the church’s U.S. leadership, but he has a lot of fires to put out in the American hierarchy and, for now at least, only so many fire fighters he can call on.

Church observers say that recent moves by the pope indicate that he has decided to take a more forceful hand in moving to promote bishops who share his approach in an effort to reorient the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops more quickly.

Yet that doesn’t mean all these decisions are necessarily good ideas.

“This move doesn’t really make sense to me,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and analyst for National Catholic Reporter who has written extensively on the political dynamics of the hierarchy.

“Newark is a big archdiocese and Tobin will have to take time to get to know the people and the priests,” Reese said, “and that will take time away from from the work he could be doing in the USCCB and as a cardinal advising the pope.”

On the other hand, getting to Rome from Newark is a lot easier than it is from Indianapolis, and Tobin is likely to be logging a lot more frequent flyer miles if Francis looks to consult him on how to move the American church in a new direction.