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ARCC News 27 January 2015

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Catholics call on our bishops to initiate a Year of Dialogue
                                            

WIDEN THE CIRCLE  AT  

THE 2015 FAMILY SYNOD
 

To: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and the Bishops of the World 
 
As faithful Catholics, we are deeply concerned that the perspective and experience of a large number of Catholics will not be represented at the upcoming Synod. Therefore, we are writing to urge you to widen the circle of people invited to participate in the upcoming Family Synod 2015.
 
We know our Church would benefit from listening to representatives of the many constituencies present in the church community and from engaging in the dialogue Pope Francis has been calling for since the beginning of his papacy. TheLineamenta points out, "In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis advocates for engaging in pastoral activity characterized by a 'culture of encounter' and capable of recognizing the Lord's gratuitous work, even outside customary models." 
 
We urge the Vatican Synod office to make every effort to include a wide diversity of Catholics, especially those from the constituencies being discussed including divorced and remarried people, cohabitating couples, interfaith families, impoverished families, single parents, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, same-sex couples, and families torn by the violence of war and abuse. These women and men can share their lives and stories in a way that creates greater understanding among the bishops who will, in the end, make critical recommendations about the Church's priorities and pastoral practices for years to come. 
 
We ask that Synod planners reach out to those on "life's periphery" (Evangelii Gaudium), those who have not felt welcome in our church. Their invaluable perspectives will greatly enrich and enlighten discussion at the Ordinary Synod on the Family in October. 
 
As stated in Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church(2014): "The baptized....are endowed as members of the body of the Lord with gifts and charisms for the renewal and building up of the Church....Not only do they have the right to be heard, but their reaction to what is proposed as belonging to the faith must be taken very seriously. . . " (#74). We assure you that the mission of the Family Synod is in our prayers.
 
Some things we have been reading  
   
Richard McBrien, 1936 - 2015

Notre Dame theologian known for books, liberal stands, dies
Tom Coyne       Jan.25, 2015

R.McBrienThe Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theologian known for his unabashed liberal stands on various church teachings and his popular books on Catholicism, died Sunday in his native Connecticut, according to the school. He was 78.

 

The often-quoted theology professor, who for nearly 50 years penned a weekly column for Catholic newspapers, courted controversy with his criticism of Pope John Paul II's emphasis on orthodoxy, and he advocated for change. McBrien also spoke out in favor of artificial contraception, the ordination of female priests and optional celibacy for priests.

 

"While often controversial, his work came from a deep love of and hope for the church," said Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins. "We pray for eternal rest for his soul."

 

University spokesman Dennis Brown said McBrien died after a lengthy illness.

 

McBrien was highly sought out by reporters seeking comment about the Roman Catholic Church, and he was one of the most widely quoted members since joining the Notre Dame faculty in 1980. He also authored 25 books, the most popular of which were "Catholicism," which drew criticism from church officials, along with "Lives of the Saints" and "Lives of the Popes."

 

McBrien was asked in 1986, when speaking out in favor of the ordination of women, whether he feared church retribution in light of the Vatican forbidding the Rev. Charles Curran from teaching as a Catholic theologian for what the church said was his "repeated refusal to accept" certain church teachings. Curran was a professor at Catholic University of America.

 

"Do I look afraid to speak out?" McBrien responded.

 

His book, "Catholicism," was criticized by U.S. bishops in 1985, and again in 1996, who said he had presented some core Catholic teachings as one view among many instead of as the authoritative views of the church.

Read more

Richard McBrien's funeral

Saint Helena Church
30 Echo Lane
West Hartford, CT

Wake,Thursday from 2:00 to 4:00 and 6:00 to 8:00 PM.

Funeral, Friday at 11:00 AM.

In lieu of flowers, send donations to: Leadership Conference of Women Religious, 8808 Cameron Street, Silver Spring, MD 20910  


Dick McBrien, free at last 

Eugene Cullen Kennedy     Jan.26, 2015
 

When word came of the death of the distinguished theologian Richard McBrien, the famous phase of oppression finally lifted, and deserved freedom won rang like a Sunday carillon in my head. Few people I know, or know of, have been asked to bear a series of serious illnesses as long as Dick did.

 

Now he is indeed free at last of time's unforgiving grip and at home in the eternal with which he was so familiar from a lifetime of meditation on, and experience of, every day in his work. He spent a lot of time in the eternal precincts, and his papers were in order as he was waved through, no inspection needed, free at last and home for good.

 

It would take a lot to misunderstand Dick and his columns and books. Yet mysteriously, the word was out that he was a dangerous dissident, and his excellent column was banned in many diocesan newspapers. Curious, I called up the editors of about a dozen Catholic papers, all of whom gave the same answer to my question about why they did not use his column: "I am under orders from the bishop not to use it." 

Read more

Marcus Borg, 1942-2015
Marcus Borg, Liberal Christian Scholar, Dies at 72
Laurie Goodstein      Jan.26, 2015
 

M.borgMarcus L. Borg, a scholar who popularized a liberal intellectual approach to Christianity with his lectures and books about Jesus as a historical figure, died on Wednesday at his home in Powell Butte, Ore. He was 72. His publisher, HarperOne, said the cause was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

 

Professor Borg was among a group of scholars, known as the Jesus Seminar, who set off an uproar with its very public efforts to discern collectively which of Jesus' acts and utterances could be confirmed as historically true, and which were probably myths.

 

His studies of the New Testament led him not toward atheism but toward a deep belief in the spiritual life and in Jesus as a teacher, healer and prophet. Professor Borg became, in essence, a leading evangelist of what is often called progressive Christianity.

 

He came to the fore in the late 1980s and early '90s, just as a conservative brand of evangelical Christianity was gaining adherents in America and emerging as a political force. He was among those who helped provide the theological foundation for liberals who were pushing back, defining Jesus as a champion of justice for the poor and marginalized.

 

He wrote or co-wrote 21 books and lectured at so many churches, conferences, universities and seminaries that, friends say, he accumulated more than 100,000 frequent flier miles almost every year.

Read more

 

A Tribute to Marcus Borg: 1942-2015 

Bruce Sanguin      Jan.26, 2014

. . . .

His genius was in the clarity of his thought. What he wrote about seemed obvious-after he articulated it so clearly. I'd read one of his books, and think, of course! It was as though he took what was forming at the edges of my consciousness, and gave it form. What he undertook in the corpus of his work was a reformulation of Christianity for the thinking person. If you had a video camera in the tomb of Jesus would it have captured him rising up from the dead? That was an image of his that stayed with me for decades. He differed with New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright on this matter, and many others, but there dialogues were always courteous. 

. . . .

What I appreciated most about Marcus was that despite all his scholarship and rational critique of traditional Christianity, he remained a deeply spiritual man. It came across in his talks and in the way he carried himself in the world. This is in contrast to so many modernist deconstructionist scholars, who tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Marcus was in his own way a mystic. He felt the presence of Spirit and conveyed it. His final book, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, 2014, no doubt will summarize this wonderful man's career and thinking. This is a profound loss for the progressive religious community. My heart goes out to his wife Marianne and his family. 

Read more

Liberté
Ameica Magazine Editors     Feb.2, 2015 issue
Je suis
. . . .

After enduring years of terrorist strikes by Islamic extremists-from Sept. 11, 2001, to Jan. 7 - the West appears now trapped in a reactionary loop, defaulting to military and rhetorical responses that do little to terminate this unwarranted and increasingly perilous clash of civilizations. 

 

In the wake of the Paris attack, shaken citizens and leaders are calling for deeper scrutiny and control of Muslim communities in the West and an immigration blockade that would presumably end any further weakening of Christian and secular hegemony in Europe. Those ambitions neatly dovetail, of course, with the aims of Muslim extremists, whether on the front lines in Syria or operating behind the scenes in Saudi Arabia. They would like nothing more than a mindlessly vigorous reaction from the West to buttress an ideology whose life-breath is conflict.

 

A more promising response to this latest outrage was a national examination of conscience of sorts undertaken in France, where the persisting isolation and deficit of opportunity of Muslim communities have become a blight that crosses generations. Indeed, such self-reflection would prove a benefit elsewhere. While Western media focused almost exclusively on the hostage drama in Paris, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were being slaughtered by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria's northeastern Borno State. The imbalance of coverage suggests an inequity in the valuing of news - and people - that has implications extending far beyond editorial offices.

 

Pope Francis has frequently condemned the invocation of faith as a justification for violence, and he did so again in the wake of the attacks on the staff of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. But the pope took a step back from a full-throated defense of free expression, suggesting that some subjects, religion for example, should be off limits. While his off-the-cuff remarks may have been insufficiently nuanced, it is not hard to be sympathetic to the pope's concerns. Freedom of expression is an absolute right, but it does not come without obligations. Communal harmony is also a social good worth protecting.

 

Charlie Hebdo relied heavily on blunt provocation as a rhetorical and stylistic device, to the point that its staff acknowledged and accepted the possibility of a violent reaction. Should the state have intervened, for their protection and out of sensitivity to France's Muslim communities, to restrain the magazine's cartoonists and editors?

 

Despite the senseless violence that terrorized Paris, America continues to believe that restraints on speech should be set through dialogue and civic consensus, not by government or religious edict. Any insistence that journalists, filmmakers, cartoonists, etc., bend Western norms of free speech to the expectations and sensitivities of specific communities to the point of snapping those norms should be rejected. But plenty of room remains for the mutual respect and sensitivity sought by the pope. Still, there will always be outliers whose views require not acceptance but protection.

Read more

The church is more than just the pope
Thomas J. Reese, SJ      Jan.16, 2015
 

Anyone who reads this column knows that I am a big fan of Pope Francis. I never thought I would see a pope like him in my lifetime. His simplicity, compassion, and commitment to the poor are genuine reflections of the Gospel message of Jesus. His support for openness and honest discussion and debate in the church are marks of his trust in the Spirit. His stress on justice, peace, and care for the environment show his focus on issues that are critical to the 21st century.

 

That said, I wish he knew how to talk about women in a way that would be more acceptable to educated women. I wish he would ask for the resignations of bishops who have lost credibility with their people by not following the church's rules on dealing with abusive priests.

 

I also get nervous when people place all of their hopes and dreams about the church on the shoulders of Francis. The pope is not the Catholic church. He has a very important role in the church, but the church is much bigger than him. It includes all of us.

. . . .

For centuries, the Catholic church has presumed that the role of the clergy is to be active and the role of the laity is to be passive. The Second Vatican Council tried to kill that notion, but old patterns die slowly.

 

In Brazil, Francis led the bishops through an examination of conscience, which included the question: Do we give the laity "the freedom to continue discerning, in a way befitting their growth as disciples, the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them? Do we support them and accompany them, overcoming the temptation to manipulate them or infantilize them?"

 

When conversation turns to the priest shortage, I sometimes joke, "Maybe God knows what she is doing. Maybe this is the only way to end clericalism in the church."

Read more

The Vatican's trouble with women
Tina Beattie       Jan.23, 2015
 

It has been an interesting month for Catholic gender politics. First, the Pontifical Council for Culture announced that its 4-7 February assembly would be on "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference". The council produced a short video, encouraging women around the world to submit a photo or make a one-minute video about their hopes and dreams. A fluffy blonde who looked as if she were advertising feminine hygiene products assured us that "we want to know".

 

The video was greeted with derision for the timing as well as the style. Not only did it give each woman a minute in which to tell her story, it was also released on 23 December and the deadline for submissions was 4 January - the busiest time of year for many women. Moreover, the format limited it to women with access to the internet, ruling out millions of poor women. Doesn't Rome want to know their stories too?

 

Then Cardinal Raymond Burke took time out from the ecclesial fancy dress parade to opine on manliness, radical feminism and "the dark confusion of gender theory" in an interview for a movement called "The New Emangelisation".

 

Apparently, the Church has been "assaulted" by radical feminism since the 1960s, which has left men feeling marginalised and misunderstood. Girl altar servers are partly to blame for the decline in vocations, given that being an altar boy was a traditional route to the priesthood. But, says the cardinal, "Young boys don't want to do things with girls. It's just natural." The result of this is that men became confused, feminised and disordered, and when such men entered the priesthood, some of them sexually abused minors. So radical feminism led to the feminisation of the Church which led to the sex abuse scandal.

. . . .

Setting aside the problem of always referring to women as "them" (aren't women included in the Church already?), Francis seems genuine in seeking to promote the role of women. However, the Synod on the Family in October will be his moment of judgement. Conservatives are said to be marshalling their formidable theological forces to launch an all-out assault on his reforming project, and he will need to be prepared to meet this with an equally robust theological defence.

 

The strongest theological support for his vision comes from lay theologians - including women.

 

If Francis is to win the battle of the Synod, his best strategy might be to surround himself with such theologians. He recently described women theologians as "strawberries on the cake". I do hope that there will be strawberries on the menu for the Synod on the family in October, and that some of them will be picked for their sharpness and not just their sweetness.

Read more

Nun is named first female head of Catholic Charities USA
David Gibson      Jan.12, 2015

. . . .

New CC headSister Donna Markham, a highly regarded Dominican who specializes in clinical psychology, will take over in June from the Rev. Larry Snyder, who has headed the Alexandria, Va.-based Catholic Charities for the past decade.

. . . .

Markham's appointment by the CCUSA board of trustees - a board she once chaired - comes as Pope Francis is pushing to give women more prominent roles in the Catholic Church.

 

The choice of a well-known Catholic sister also coincides with efforts to ease the Vatican's tensions with the American nuns, who have been the subject of two separate Vatican investigations and intense criticism from conservatives in Rome and the U.S.

 

"I will do all in my power to support her leadership and passion in working to respond to the growing needs of the underprivileged, especially following the example of our dear Pope Francis," said Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, the chief liaison between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and CCUSA.

Read more
Women lead in the Church, even as Catholics debate their role
Michael O'Loughlin      Jan.15, 2015
 

When Sister Donna Markham, OP, assumes leadership of Catholic Charities USA later this year, three of the Catholic Church's largest social service groups in the United States - Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, and the Catholic Health Association - will be led by women, a paradox, some say, in a Church that restricts women from the priesthood, and thus from ascending to the highest levels of institutional power.

 

"When it comes to the Catholic Church and women, it is really interesting because you have the very visible and hard line: women cannot be priests. Therefore women, by virtue of being women, cannot occupy the positions of power," said Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame.

 

But women have historically held positions of great leadership in the Church regardless, she said, usually through religious communities that saw women leading universities, hospitals, and even Catholic newspapers, long before their secular sisters were able to take advantage of similar opportunities.

 

Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services and the former dean of the business school at Notre Dame, said the Church has many female leaders, but doesn't do a great job of making them visible.

. . . .

"It's not unusual today, when going to meetings and functions, sometimes people will only acknowledge your male colleagues, and you almost become invisible," she said.

. . . . 

Sister Carol Keehan, DC, leads the Catholic Health Association, a membership organization representing more than 2,000 Catholic hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other health care entities.

 

Sister Keehan, dubbed "the most powerful person in healthcare" in 2007 by Modern Healthcare magazine, said that Pope Francis himself has called for more women in positions of leadership, and hopes the fact that it's happening in the United States could inspire the Church in other countries.

. . . . 

Polls find that most Catholics in the United States are at odds with their Church when it comes to the role of women.

 

2009 Pew study found that of 39 percent of young adults who leave the Catholic Church, and who are now unaffiliated with a religion, said they were "unhappy with the way religion treated women."

 

In a separate study last year, nearly 70 percent of US Catholics said they believe women should be ordained to the priesthood.

. . . .

Then there is the issue of what some see as a male-dominated culture among Church leadership.

 

Pope Francis has been taken to task for his off-the-cuff comments about women, avuncular in tone and extolling traditional roles for women. US Cardinal Raymond Burke recently suggested that an overly "feminized" Church has turned off boys and men from the faith, reducing an already diminished pool of potential priests.

Read more

Cardinal sparks row over whether Church teaching on family can change
Inés San Martín       Jan.27, 2015
 

During a recent Vatican summit, the top official at the Synod of Bishops stirred controversy by reportedly telling participants they should not be "shocked" by theologians questioning Church teaching on matters such as marriage and family life.

 

Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri also reportedly said that if the aim of the synod is simply to repeat established Church teaching and discipline, then it would be "senseless" to hold it.

 

An anti-abortion group called Voice of the Family issued a statement Jan. 25 objecting that Baldisseri's comments "further undermined church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage" and created "confusion."

 

To date, Baldisseri has not responded.

 

The comments were not in Baldisseri's prepared text for the Jan. 22-24 meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, but reportedly came in a Q&A session with participants.

 

The meeting was part of the run-up to the next Synod of Bishops in October, where hot-button matters such as homosexuality, couples living together outside of marriage, and Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are expected to be on the table.

Read more

Peeved Parishioners Leaving SF Catholic Church Over Ban On Girls As Altar Servers
Da Lin       Jan.23, 2015
 

A Bay Area church is now under fire over a controversial new policy saying only boys can be altar servers.

 

The new practice is making waves at the century old church Star of the Sea. Since the '70s, they've used altar girls during masses.

. . . .

Father Joseph Illo took over five months ago and decided to train only boys to be altar servers.

 

He said he has no choice but to exclude girls because the future of the church is at stake.

 

"The specifics of serving at the altar is a priestly function," Illo said. "And the Catholic church does not ordain women."

 

But many parishioners and parents criticize the new practice saying it sends the wrong message.

. . . .

Illo said he believes the new practice will help promote priesthood. He admits some people have left, but thinks this decision will actually bring in more parishioners.

 

"We have seen an overall increase in numbers and the income is up," Illo said.

Read more

Contact Fr. Joseph Illo 

Pope Francis repeats call for annulments to be easier and free
Inés San Martín      Jan.23, 2015
 

Pope Francis on Friday repeated his view that it should be easier for divorced Catholics to get an annulment - and at no charge.

. . . .

He also called for not allowing decisions in annulment cases to be contained within the "strains of legalism," suggesting that a lack of knowledge of the faith may be grounds for granting one.

. . . .

"The sacraments are free," Francis said. "The sacraments give grace, and a matrimonial process touches the sacrament of matrimony. I want so much for every process to be free of charge!"

 

Pope Francis reminded the judges and advocates of the tribunal that the highest law of the Church is the salvation of souls, and that the Church's legal system exists in the service of the faithful.

 

Francis also told the judges that, when considering the validity of a marriage, they should take in to consideration the values and the faith of the couple, suggesting that a "lack of knowledge of the faith" could be grounds for an annulment.

Read more

Kansas City Catholics Divided Over Vatican Investigation Of Bishop
Frank Morris       Jan.13, 2015

. . . .

Much of the discontent in Kansas City has to do with an incident four years ago. A computer technician found hundreds of lewd photos of young girls on a priest's laptop. The priest was Shawn Ratigan, and it wasn't the first sign that he was a pedophile.

 

But [Bishop Robert] Finn didn't tell authorities. Instead, he sent Ratigan to a therapist, switched Ratigan's job and asked him to stay away from children. Ratigan didn't, and months later a diocese official finally reported him.

 

Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison for child pornography, and Finn drew two years of probation for shielding him. Finn is now the subject of a rare Vatican investigation that began in September. 

 

Jeff Weis was once just a regular parishioner in the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, but after Ratigan was sentenced, he knew he had to act.  

. . . .

The church set up new protocols for reporting child abuse and hired a former federal prosecutor to investigate the Ratigan case. But Finn stayed on as bishop, so Weis launched an online petition asking the pope to remove him. It has drawn more than 260,000 signatures.

 

Other parishioners sent the same message in different ways, and then last fall, the Vatican dispatched an archbishop here to investigate.

 

"Out of the blue I got a call, and they were arranging meetings for the archbishop to talk with people about the Bishop Finn issues," says Jim Caccamo, who led a board for the diocese to advise Finn on sexual abuse issues.

 

While Caccamo calls Finn a wonderful, holy man, he can't fathom why he failed to report Ratigan to authorities.

. . . . 

Francis recently demoted Finn's closest ally in Rome, a conservative cardinal named Raymond Burke. But Finn still has plenty of support in Kansas City.

 

"Well, I love Bishop Finn," says John Purk, a recently ordained deacon in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. "He's a great friend. He's a supporter. You know exactly what he's thinking because it just rolls off his tongue.

. . . . 

"I think the bishop did the best that he could have done, with the information that he had, having to balance mercy and justice with a man who was suicidal," Purk says.

 

American Catholics are looking to see how the Vatican balances the traditional autonomy of bishops with the need to better address the church's ongoing sexual abuse issue and the pope's selection for leader of the diocese in Kansas City.

Read more                                        Listen to the story

Dialoguing with the Archbishop: Unity With or Without Diversity
Paula Ruddy       Jan.22, 2015
 

Archbishop John Nienstedt met with a delegation from CCCR and Council of the Baptized on January 20 in a conference room at the Chancery Office in St. Paul. The delegates were Bob Beutel, co-chair of the CCCR Board, Mary Beth Stein, co-chair of Council of the Baptized, and I, a member of the CCCR Board. The Archbishop had invited Bishop Andrew Cozzens and Father Erich Rutten to join us.

 

Archbishop Nienstedt was cordial, gave us an hour of his time, and accepted the agenda we proposed. He led us in prayer to start the meeting. The agenda was 1) to explain the mission of CCCR and Council of the Baptized, 2) to explore how we could work together to comply with Pope Francis's request for lay input for the Synod on the Family to take place in Rome in October 2015, and 3) we also wanted to know generally how we could work together to make our archdiocese a growth supportive community for all.

 

The Archbishop listened carefully while Bob explained the mission and activities of our joint organizations. When Bob had finished, the Archbishop asked this question: How do you think of yourselves as a Catholic organization when some of the member organizations of the coalition have opted out of the Roman Catholic Church?

 

Good question. We all talked about it in the spontaneous way that semi-formal conversation happens. I don't have a transcript, but I had the perception that we reached some understanding with the Archbishop. He said he understood us more clearly and we went on to the next item on the agenda.

 

The question is an important one for CCCR and Council of the Baptized. How do we think of ourselves as Catholic when people are all over the board on Catholic teaching? Our policy, we explained to the Archbishop, has been to accept anyone who self-identifies as Catholic, and, at the same time, keep all the questions open for discussion, on the assumption that discussion is the way for people to grow toward truth in their thinking.
 . . . .

Is CCCR/Council of the Baptized justified in trusting the Holy Spirit to work within a whole community of self-identifying Catholics who are all across the board in their thinking and in their observance and yet somehow drawn to grow within this community? Does Jesus's point about letting the weeds grow with the wheat have relevance? Or his caution not to snuff out the smoldering wick? 

 

Or is it better to draw lines for being either in or out and to provide programming in standard thinking and practice to support the people who are in? In a fragmented world with so many influences working against the Christian faith, is it necessary to get clear on some formulations of truth and zero in on a faith formation?

 

Choosing between these two modes of operating-inclusion or exclusion-is necessary to run a coherent program. So it is a fundamental question. What do you think? 

Read more

Pope Francis: Catholics Don't Have To Breed 'Like Rabbits'
Nicole Winfield      Jan.20, 2015
 

Pope Francis is firmly upholding church teaching banning contraception, but said Monday that Catholics don't have to breed "like rabbits" and should instead practice "responsible parenting."

 

Speaking to reporters en route home from the Philippines, Francis said there are plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births. But he said most importantly, no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called the "ideological colonization" of the developing world.

 

African bishops, in particular, have long complained about how progressive, Western ideas about birth control and gay rights are increasingly being imposed on the developing world by groups, institutions or individual nations, often as a condition for development aid.

 

"Every people deserves to conserve its identity without being ideologically colonized," Francis said.

 

The pope's comments, taken together with his defense of the Catholic Church's ban on artificial contraception during the trip, signal that he is increasingly showing his more conservative bent, which has largely been ignored by public opinion or obscured by a media narrative that has tended to highlight his populist persona.

Read more

Santorum: The Pope Is 'Difficult To Listen To' Sometimes
Brendan James      Jan.21, 2015
 

Ex-senator and onetime GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum has nearly reached his wits end after yet another statement by Pope Francis that has rankled conservatives.

 

In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday, Santorum appeared baffled by recent remarks by the Pope suggesting that faithful Catholics need not procreate "like rabbits."

 

"Sometimes it's very difficult to listen to the Pope and some of the things he says off the cuff, and this is one of them," Santorum, a professed Catholic, said.

Read more

Learning to 'get real' with Pope Francis
Robert Mickens      Jan.26, 2015
 

It all depends on how you interpret Humanae Vitae.

That's essential to understanding what Pope Francis "really meant" in his recent string of remarks on having children.

 

In fact, it's a line that comes from the pope himself.

He used it in an interview in March with Italy's biggest-selling daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera. The paper's editor asked the pope if the church should take another look at the teaching found in Paul VI's 1968 encyclical.

 

"Cardinal Martini, your confrere, thought it was probably the time to do so," the editor said provocatively.

 

Here's how the pope replied:

"It all depends on how Humanae Vitae is interpreted."

Now that's interesting!

 

"Paul VI himself, in the end, urged priest-confessors to be very merciful, to be attentive to concrete situations," he said, then called his predecessor "prophetic" and praised him for having "the courage to stand against the majority, to defend the moral discipline ... and to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism."

 

Francis completed his answer to the question by saying it was not a question of whether to change the encyclical's teaching, but to "make sure pastoral care takes into account situations and what persons are capable of doing."

 

The interview offers an interpretive key to understanding the Jesuit pope when he speaks specifically about the topic of birth control. (Until the papal visit to the Philippines, he's done so only seldomly.)

Read more

From the front row - new interview with Archbishop Gänswein
Mark de Vries      Jan.22, 2015
 

An interesting interview in Christ & Welt, a weekly supplement to Die Zeit in Germany, with Archbishop Georg Gänswein yesterday.

. . . .

Perhaps with Francis, the Curia needs to adjust to permanent spiritual exercises?

It has long been adjusted to that. Pope Francis makes no secret of his religious formation. He is a Jesuit, shaped through and through by the spirituality of the founder of his order, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. 

 

What are your thoughts about Francis, two years after his election?

Pope Francis is a man who has made it clear from the outset that he deals differently with things that he sees differently. That is true for his choice of living, the car he drives, the entire process of audiences in general and especially for protocol. One could think that he was getting used to things in the beginning and wanted a significant degree of flexibility. By now it has become standard. The Holy Father is a man of extraordinary creativity and Latin American zest.

 . . . .

One year ago you said, "We are still waiting for substantial standards." Can these now be seen?

Yes, much more clearly than a year ago. Consider the Apostolic Letter  Evangelii gaudium. In it he has presented a compass for his pontificate. In addition he has published important documents and given major addresses over the course of the year, such as in Strasbourg for the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Contours have become clearly visible and clear priorities were set.

. . . .

Does Francis have a better grip of the media than his predecessor Benedict?

Francis deals with the media offensively. He used them intensively and directly.

 

Also more skillful?

Yes, he uses them very skillfully.

 

Who are actually his closest advisors?

This questions always and consistently goes around. I don't know.

 

With the Synods on the pastoral care for families this past and the coming autumn, Francis created a focal point. Especially the question of allowing divorced and remarried faithful access to the sacraments causes much disagreement. Some also have the impression that Francis is more concerned with pastoral care than with doctrine...

I do not share that impression. It creates an artificial opposition which does not exist. The Pope is the first guarantor and keeper of the doctrine of the Church and at the same the first shepherd, the first pastor. Doctrine and pastoral care are not in opposition, they are like twins.

 

Do the current and the retired Pope take opposite views in the debate about divorced and remarried Catholics?

I know of no doctrinal statements from Pope Francis which are contrary to the statements of his predecessor. That would be absurd too. It is one thing to emphasise the pastoral efforts more clearly because the situation requires it. It is something else entirely to make a change in teaching. I can only act pastorally sensitive, consistent and conscientious when I do so on the basis of full Catholic teaching.  

. . . .

Was there a visit of some cardinals to Benedict during the Synod, with the request that he intervene to rescue the dogma?

There has not been such a visit to Pope Benedict. A supposed intervention by the Pope emeritus is pure invention.

 

How does Benedict respond to the attempts by traditionalist circles to recognise him as an antipope?

It was not traditionalist circles who attempted that, but representatives of the theological profession and some journalists. Speaking of an antipope is simply stupid, and also irresponsible.  That goes in the direction of theological arson.

. . . .

Upon his retirement, Benedict XVI said that he would be living "hidden from the world". He continues to make appearances, however. Why?

When he is present at important Church events, it is because he is personally invited by Pope Francis, for example when he took part in the consistory of last February, the canonisation of John Paul II and John XXIII in April and also the beatification of Paul VI in October. He has also written a greeting for the inauguration of the Auditorium Maximum of the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, which was named after him. Pope Benedict was invited for that, but did not accept that invitation.

. . . . 

Does Benedict sometimes speak about his retirement? Is he relieved?

He is at peace with himself and convinced that the decision was right and necessary. It was a decision of conscience that was well prayed and suffered over, and in that man stands alone before God.

 

You struggled with Benedict's historical retirement in February of 2013. How do you look back on this step now?

It is true that the decision was difficult for me. It was not easy to accept it internally. I struggled to cope. The fight is now long since over.

 

You swore to be loyal to Benedict to the death. Does that also mean that you'll remain at his side, and also in the Vatican?

On the day of his election as Pope I promised to help him in vita et in morte. Of course I did not take a retirement into account at that time. But the promise is still true and remains valid.

 Read more
Who Might Follow Francis?
Robert Mickens      Jan.21, 2015

. . . .

There was a moment during the pope's recent pastoral visit to East Asia that must have turned more than one person's thoughts towards that unknown future date when it will be time to elect his successor. Standing side-by-side at one of the ceremonies in the Philippines were two of the top candidates - Manila's archbishop, Cardinal Luis Tagle, and Francis's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. 

 

The youthful Filipino would be the first pope ever from East Asia. Although he will be only fifty-eight next June, he has already become recognized as a wise and beloved pastor in the three short years he's headed the primary archdiocese of the region's only predominantly Catholic nation. Cardinal "Chito," as he's known at home, has the advantage of speaking quasi-mother-tongue English. He also has an exuberant personality and is an inspiring speaker. 

 

Cardinal Parolin, who turned sixty during the papal visit, would be the first Italian pope since 1978. Considered one of the best and brightest from the Vatican's meticulously prepared diplomatic corps, he's known for taking a decisively pastoral approach in a highly specialized line of work usually associated more with its bureaucratic and political aspects. A native from the same Veneto region in the north that produced the last Italian to sit on the Throne of Peter, John Paul I, he'd likely carry forward the program of the current pontificate, but in a gentler and less tempestuous way. 

 

A third candidate was back in the Vatican during the papal trip. He's Cardinal George Pell. Unsuccessful as the would-be "king maker" of Milan's Angelo Scola at the last conclave, the seventy-three-year-old Australian and head of the Secretariat for the Economy could emerge as "king" this time, representing the traditionalists in the college that are biding their time and hoping that Francis's pontificate will be a brief one.

Read more

Transgender man has private audience with Pope Francis
Michael K. Lavers      Jan.25, 2015
 

A transgender man from Spain had a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

 

Hoy, a newspaper in the Extremadura region of Spain, reported that Diego Neria Lejárraga and his fiancée had a private audience with the pontiff that took place at his official residence.

 

Neria told Francis in a letter that some of his fellow parishioners at the church he attends in the Spanish city of Plasencia rejected him after he underwent sex-reassignment surgery. He said a priest even called him "the devil's daughter."

 

Francis called Neria on Christmas Eve after receiving his letter.

The private audience took place a month later.

Read more

'Mass Mob' Fills a Manhattan Church With Hopes of Saving It
Vivian Yee      Jan.25, 2015
 

The priest looked out Sunday afternoon on a rare sight: Every pew in his church was packed, the crowd so thick that some had to stand.

 

They had come to show support for his church, Our Lady of Peace on the Upper East Side, one of 112 parishes the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York plans to close or merge as church attendance wanes and finances weaken. The sizable attendance was a moment that called for thanks, and perhaps, the priest said, for acceptance.

 

"We hope that your presence here today will strengthen us and make it possible for us to continue as Our Lady of Peace," the Rev. Bartholomew Daly said, standing beneath the church's ceiling of painted saints and Venetian glass chandeliers, imported from Italy after the church's founding in 1918. 

Read more

Dominican friars fight order to vacate parish
Mags Gardan      Jan.22, 2015
 

Dominican priests in Drogheda have vowed to resist a controversial order from Church authorities to leave and close down the church.

 

"We have a bit of a fight on our hands but we resisted Cromwell and we can overcome this," Fr Jim Donleavy OP told The Irish Catholic.

 

"We are making a stand and we are going to stay. They can call the guards or the bailiffs, but we can't in conscience walk away from the people," a determined Fr Donleavy said.

 

Dominican authorities announced in September that they were planning to withdraw from five communities across Ireland because of falling numbers and the aging profile of members. 

 

However, parishioners in Drogheda reacted with dismay and the sacristan began a hunger strike which led 20,000 locals to sign a petition calling for the decision to be reversed.

 

Fr Donleavy said the friars were determined to stand with the local people who the community has served for almost 800 years, despite repeated waves of persecution. He rejected allegations that the friars' stand against their superiors went against the order's vow of obedience.

 

"Theologically I have thought it through very carefully and my conscience is quite clear," he said.

 

The prior, Fr Tony McMullan OP, agreed saying the friars didn't believe they were disobeying, but doing what they feel is right.

Read more

Obama invokes Pope Francis in State of the Union address
Michael O'Loughlin       Jan.21, 2015
 

President Obama gave a papal shout-out in his State of the Union Tuesday night, the third president to reference a pope during the annual update to Congress.

 

Speaking about his administration's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, the president said:

"And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of 'small steps.' These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba."

Read more

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