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.”