Category: 2013
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8/6/1978 -  8/26/1978    20 days
John Paul I - John Paul II
9/28/1978-10/16/1978   18 days

Leonard Swidler, Ph.D,. S.T.L.       Feb.21. 2013

"All Catholic bishops ought to be elected by their constituents to limited terms of office." An argument by out-of step wild-eyed hyper-liberal Catholics? Not at all. It is the twofold thesis of a careful 1969 scholarly book edited and signed by Professor Joseph Ratzinger, still currently Pope Benedict XVI, along with his fellow Catholic Theology professors of the University of Tübingen.

[Alfons Auer, Günter Biemer, Karl Fink, Herbert Haag, Hans Kung, Joseph Möller, Johannes Neumann, Joseph Ratzinger, Joseph Rief, Karl Hermann Schelkle, Max Seckler, Peter Stockmeier, Josef Schoiswohl, eds., Tübingen Theologische Quartalschrift, 2 (1969); Leonard and Arlene Swidler, eds., trans., Democratic Bishops for the Roman Catholic Church (Philadelphia: EcumenicalPress,2011),

Already two steps in the direction of that second goal, a limited term of office for all bishops, were taken by his papal predecessor, Pope John Paul II, when he ruled 1) that cardinals could no longer vote for the next pope after they reached age 80, and 2) diocesan bishops had to resign their see when they turned 75.

Professor Ratzinger, Pope Benedict, has now taken a further momentous, and courageous, concrete step moving the Catholic Church down the path of a limited term of office for all bishops (including the bishop of Rome, the pope). If, as Pope Benedict has said, the bishop of Rome should not continue to serve as such if he no longer has the ability to do so adequately, the question suggests itself: Who is best able to make that judgment? The official himself? All our experience points in another direction.

We may not like the stark wording of Catholic scholar Lord Acton that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but certainly it is clear that the official himself is not unprejudiced in making that judgment! Clearly this is why Professor Ratzinger and his colleagues argued in favor of limited term of office for all bishops. He/they suggested (prophetically?) an eight-year term - which, it turns out, is exactly what Benedict's term will be).

As the reality of a limited term of office for the "bishop of bishops," the pope, begins to register on Catholic consciousness in the wake of Pope Benedict's leaving office, his and his colleagues' goal of a limited term of office for all bishops will become increasingly thinkable (according to the Roman principle: Ab esse, ad posse, If it happened, it's possible). Once it becomes widely thinkable, it will increasingly gain momentum toward realization. And that move toward realization then will be less and less thought appropriate on grounds of self-judged ability, but rather increasingly on predetermined, long experience-based reasons. Thus, when it begins to become more and more thinkable that bishops should serve for limited terms of office, it will ipso facto, automatically increasingly become more and more desirable-and eventually necessary!

That inevitable course (no predictions on timetable, but everything in today's world is increasingly changing at exponential speed) will willy nilly (a cool English translation of the not totally uncool Latin volens nolens) will bring up in Catholic minds the question of how bishops get appointed to their limited term of office.

Professor Ratzinger and his colleagues anticipated that question and answered it with typical Teutonic thoroughness in their 1969 volume: It all happened before in the Catholic Church. Even two of the most prestigious and influential theologians in the Catholic Church, St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Augustine of Hippo, were elected by their people as bishop: Nos [populi] eligimus eum! We [the people] elect him!

Hence, February 28, 2013, 8 P.M. will start a new era in the Catholic Church when Professor Joseph Ratzinger will as Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus leave his limited term of office as the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, setting a massively powerful example for all bishops' limited term of office-elected by whom? Nos [populi] eligimus eum!

Leonard Swidler (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), received a Licentiate in Catholic theology (STL) from the Catholic Theology Faculty of the University of Tübingen in 1959 and was a Visiting Professor there in 1970.  He has been Professor of Catholic Thought and Interreligious Dialogue at Temple University since 1966 and is co-founder and past president of ARCC.


When White Smoke Gets in our Eyes: 
How to Welcome the Next Pope    
John W. Greenleaf    Feb/22, 2013

In mid March (I presume) the proclamation "Habemus papam!" will launch a new papacy.


The next Bishop of Rome will be the 265th pope and launch the 267th papacy. (An earlier Bishop of Rome, Benedict IX, served multiple times, but with interruptions.....And then we have the little historical problem that Apostle Peter, the Rock, can only be considered "first pope" with a lot of symbolic imagination; but that is a discussion for another time......)


How should we react to Joseph Ratzinger's successor? I suggest a sevenfold spiritual path:

  1. We should welcome the new Bishop of Rome with respect; but not with self-negating, servile adulation for a new Catholic monarch. We are followers of Jesus of Nazareth and not some Jesus of Rome.
  2. In what we say and do, therefore, let's keep a healthy perspective on popes and Catholic life. Popes come and go. We the people remain the Body of Christ: the People of God. Let's not let the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel cloud our vision.
  3. Let's be honest and frank about our old institution. Our contemporary Roman Catholic Church has tremendous moral shortcomings and organizational problems. It is terribly dysfunctional right now. It rewards unthinking obedience and unquestioning loyalty instead of critical observation, respectful collaboration, and shared decision-making. Too many of its high level managers sacrifice principled behavior for self-survival and carrier advancement.
  4.  We cannot rebuild Rome. We can shape the quality of church life in our families, parishes, schools, and dioceses. Let's reject arrogant authoritarianism and unquestioning servile obedience and work toward a humble recognition of our mistakes and ongoing respectful collaboration.
  5. The current Roman Catholic scene can invite cynicism and sarcasm. Let's be firm and correct in our criticism but remember that no institution is perfect and without sin. We aren't either. Christians are people who believe in giving the other a second change. That goes for the men in pointed hats as well.
  6. Ignorance is not bliss. Let's take seriously our own responsibility to stay up to date: in our knowledge about contemporary life, our understanding of human evolution, our understanding of the Scriptures, and in our remaining open to ever new perspectives on Catholic faith and history. A lot of those old men in red and purple behind Vatican walls are woefully ignorant old guys. They prance around and pontificate in medieval theatrical grandeur and with rock-hard medieval understandings of what it means to be a woman, a man, or a happily sexual person. Let's neither be nor become silly ignoramuses like them!
  7. Let us not fall into the trap - into which so many "progressives" as well as "conservatives" fall! - of energetically TALKING about our Faith without humbly and genuinely LIVING our Faith. God's Spirit is closer to us than the air in our lungs and the blood in our veins.....She beckons and says: attune your ears and open your eyes. Walk with me!






Benedict XVI will be Pope emeritus
Vatican Information Service      Feb.26, 2013
Benedict XVI will be "Pontiff emeritus" or "Pope emeritus", as Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, reported in a press conference on th final days of the current pontificate. He will keep the name of "His Holiness, Benedict XVI" and will dress in a simple white cassock without the mozzetta (elbow-length cape). 

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After Benedict

Commonweal  Editors      Feb.20 2013

. . . .

In the modern era, but especially over the past half-century, there has been an unprecedented concentration of authority in the papacy and the Roman curia. Under the tireless and charismatic John Paul II, this focus on the pope seemed providential to many. Yet John Paul's commanding personality left little room for younger episcopal talent to flourish or alternative institutional structures of leadership and authority to develop. Only the most obdurate ultramontanists think the governance of a global church of more than 1 billion should rest principally on the shoulders of one man. In resigning for reasons of ill health and physical frailty, Benedict himself strongly suggested that the demands of the papacy have become a crippling burden, especially for a man of his age. Many think that the papacy is now a crippling burden for a man of any age-and that this is one of the many signs that ecclesial authority has become too centralized.

. . . .

It is possible to see Benedict's resignation as another gesture of discouragement. Certainly in his final remarks to the priests of Rome only days after announcing his resignation, Benedict struck a note of anguish over what he characterized as the "calamities" and "miseries" that followed the council. He blamed the media and secular politics for that disarray. But much of the responsibility lies with the Vatican, for guarding its own power and privileges too jealously. If we are not to despair of the worthy project pursued by the bishops at Vatican II, the whole church, and not just Peter's successor, must now be allowed to take responsibility for it.

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Kasper: "More collegiality needed in the Church"

Vatican Insider staff      Feb.21 2013

Ratzinger's resignation has "shed new light on the papacy" because the essence, the nature of the Petrine ministry is given by Jesus and cannot be changed" but "what changes is the sacred aura that surrounds the papacy which has mainly been gained over the past two centuries" and "has been lost some extent," Cardinal Walter Kasper explained to Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper. Cardinal Kasper, who was previously in charge of Vatican relations with other faiths, believes "the Pope's role needs rethinking."

What the Church also needs to do is "rethink the relationship between the Curia and local churches, how to hold communion and how to improve communication within the Church." "It is essential that the Curia be organised in a more suitable way so that it is better placed to face the challenges of our time.

Coordination between dicasteries needs to be improved, there needs to be more collegiality and better communication." The Church also needs to reflect on the role of the synods because sometimes when bishops meet, the topics addressed are too generic and they fail to discuss the concrete issues faced by the Church." A Church which is being affected by a growing secularisation in Europe. We know that most Catholics live in the southern hemisphere. This is a new situation and presents new challenge."

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Pope Benedict changes rituals for new pope's inauguration

Cindy Wooden    Feb.22, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI has ordered several changes to the Masses and liturgies that will mark the inauguration of the next pope's pontificate.

Rites and gestures that are not strictly sacramental will take place either before a Mass or in a ceremony not involving Mass, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, told the Vatican newspaper Feb. 22.

One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public "act of obedience" in which each cardinal present at the pope's inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance.

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Four Reflections on Benedict XVI's surprise decision

America Magazine Mar.4, 2013

1. A Humble Christian, a Complicated Papacy

At times, there seems to have been a disconnect between his formal decisions and his pastoral sensitivities. He condemned "the dictatorship of relativism" but genuinely appreciated the spiritual yearnings of unchurched young people and asked them to prod the church into authenticity. While the establishment of the special ordinariate for Anglicans who wanted to come over to Roman Catholicism offended many, including members of the Roman Curia, he soon resumed cordial relations with Rowan Williams, then archbishop of Canterbury.

. . . .

His encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," with its affirmation of structural reform as "political charity" and his call for a global authority to regulate the financial sector, may be the most radical since Pope John XXIII's "Pacem in Terris" 50 years ago. Though not a diplomat himself, he conducted extraordinary visits to Turkey, Britain and the Holy Land. His address to the British leadership in Westminster Hall was both a diplomatic and personal triumph.

- Drew Christiansen, S.J

2. A Man of His Words

Pope Benedict likely will be remembered as a pope who, in his relatively short pontificate, sought primarily to strengthen the orthodoxy of the church by a variety of means, who authored several important encyclicals notable for their theological depth and appeal and who continued an active schedule of public appearances. He also, despite his full calendar, published three well-received books on the life of Jesus. Never the media superstar that his predecessor was, Pope Benedict, a lifelong scholar, exuded his own brand of charisma, which came from his profound theological acumen and his personal relationship with Jesus. Perhaps his most often neglected contribution to the church was his series of superb Angelus messages, delivered regularly during his public appearances in St. Peter's Square.

His most lasting legacy, I would suggest may be . . . . omething far more personal: his books on Jesus. Far more people will most likely read those moving testaments to the person whose vicar he was-Jesus of Nazareth-than may read all of his encyclicals combined.
- James Martin, S.J.

3. The Humanity of the Papacy

. . . .

Benedict's resignation breaks with the modern papacy since Pius IX, but especially with John Paul II, whose sacral understanding of the office was most evident in his final years, when the increasingly infirm pontiff occupied the office as a martyr of sorts, a witness to fidelity even in the face of profound physical and mental infirmity. Some applauded this as a witness to the dignity of aging. But many people witness to this dignity without holding a demanding office that they can no longer properly dispatch. Benedict will continue to serve the church "through a life dedicated to prayer." Having ascended the Chair of Peter, he will now step down. The power of that humble act should not go unremarked. This could be the most important symbolic change to the papacy since Pius IX described himself as a "prisoner of the Vatican," surrounded by hostile secular forces. Benedict, a firm believer in the theological importance of the papacy, has with his resignation confidently and profoundly transformed it, leaving behind the monarchical trappings of holding office until death.

I recall a conversation with a European scholar who criticized Benedict for making the papacy "small." In some ways, that may be his intent. It is certain that Benedict is carefully refining the definition of the papacy even as he leaves it.

- Vincent J. Miller

4. A Man of Conscience
. . . .

Pope Benedict's unprecedented announcement is in itself an edifying teaching act that will leave its mark in history. The pope stresses the primacy of conscience in determining his decision. Prayer guided his exercise of prudence. Pope Benedict's authentic humility is revealed when he asks "pardon for his defects" and gives thanks to his brothers for their "love and work." He shows an ecumenical spirit when he refers to "the Petrine ministry" as a "spiritual work" serving the supreme pastor, Jesus Christ. The pope must truly serve and never cling to power and status.

It is also a progressive moment when Benedict states that his service in the papal office can be usefully evaluated in its effectiveness. Evangelical criticism of leaders is validated. Moreover, in the act of resigning, unprecedented in our age, the pope accepts that his term of office should have a limit. Term limits and the election of leaders are key requirements for collegial participation and church reform. Would that women and the laity would be taking part in the coming election. Yet reformers inspired by the Second Vatican Council can take heart. The pope's act of conscience reminds us once again that God is a God of surprises.

- Sidney Callahan

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Benedict's Surprising Progressive Legacy

John Gehring Feb.27, 2013

. . . .

While his papacy was less epic in scale, Pope Benedict leaves behind an important but frequently overlooked legacy on social justice issues. A pope largely viewed in the media as a staunch conservative for his opposition to gay marriage and abortion also trumpeted views to the left of most Democrats in Congress when it came to economic justice and the environment.

In his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict denounced the "scandal of glaring inequalities" and called for a more just distribution of global wealth. A defining theme of Benedict's papacy - especially after the 2008 global financial crisis - was an uncompromising critique of economic systems that subjugate the human person to the demands of profit. . . . . While free-market fundamentalists lobby for greater deregulation of markets and corporations, the Vatican's justice and peace council during the Benedict era called for a "minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market" and a "world reserve fund" to support countries hard hit by the economic crisis.

Benedict has also been called the "Green Pope" for defining environmental stewardship in stark moral terms and his frequent warnings about climate change. More than any of his predecessors, this pope has articulated a clear theology behind what he calls the "covenant between human beings and the environment."

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 Pope sacked 'two bishops a month'

Tablet    Feb.26, 2013

A Vatican diplomat said Pope Benedict XVI has achieved a "cleansing of the episcopate" during his pontificate, saying he has removed from office two or three bishops a month.

Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, the apostolic nuncio to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, said: "This Pope has removed two or three bishops per month throughout the world because either the accounts in their dioceses were a mess or their discipline was a disaster," Archbishop Maury said.

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Pope Benedict retired after inquiry into 'Vatican gay bishops', says paper

John Hooper       Feb.21, 2013

A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom - the report said - were being blackmailed by outsiders.

The pope's spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

The paper said the pope had taken his decision on 17 December that he was going to resign - the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called "Vatileaks" affair.

Last May, Pope Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.

According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising "two volumes of almost 300 pages - bound in red" had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope's successor upon his election.

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 Thoughts on the Vatican's 'gay lobby'

John L. Allen Jr.        Feb.22, 2013

. . . .

First of all, the paper that carried the story, La Repubblica, is not a scandal sheet. It's the largest circulation daily in the country, with a center-left editorial stance. It's sometimes critical of the church, but it's not the National Enquirer.

. . . .

In terms of the story's specifics, I don't know whether it's accurate that a commission of three cardinals created by Benedict XVI to investigate the Vatican leaks affair, composed of Cardinals Julian Herranz Casado, Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, actually considered possible networks inside the Vatican based on sexual preference, but frankly, it would be a little surprising if they hadn't.

Here's why. In 2007, Msgr. Thomas Stenico in the Congregation for Clergy was suspended after being caught on hidden camera making contact with a young man posing as a potential "date" in gay-oriented chat rooms, then taking him back to his Vatican apartment. In 2010, a "Gentlemen of the Pope" named Angelo Balducci was caught in a wiretap trying to arrange sexual hookups through a Nigerian member of a Vatican choir. Both episodes were highly public and caused massive embarrassment.

In that context, it would seem odd if the cardinals didn't at least consider the possibility that somebody with a big secret to hide might be vulnerable to pressure to leak documents or spill the beans in other ways.

. . . .
No, Benedict didn't quit under the pressure of a "gay lobby." But the perceived disarray in the Vatican, which may well be one part perception and one part reality, probably made resignation look even better. 
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Vatican accuses Italian media of false reports ahead of conclave

Philip Pullella     Feb.23 2013

The Vatican on Saturday accused the Italian media of spreading "false and damaging" reports in what it condemned as a deplorable attempt to influence cardinals who will meet in a secret conclave next month to elect a new pope.

Since Pope Benedict announced his resignation on February 11, Italian newspapers have been full of rumors about conspiracies, secret reports and lobbies in the Vatican that they say pushed the pope to abdicate.

"It is deplorable that, as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave ... that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions," a Vatican statement said.

The Italian reports have painted an unflattering picture of the Vatican's central administration, known as the Curia, depicting it as being full of prelates more concerned with their careers than serving the Church or the pope.
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Vatican denies sinister motives behind diplomat's transfer

Philip Pullella     Feb.22, 2013

Since Benedict announced his resignation on Feb. 11, Italian newspapers have been full of rumours about conspiracies, secret reports and lobbies in the Vatican that they say pushed the pope to abdicate.

Some reports hinted there were sinister motives behind the pope's decision to promote Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, an Italian who holds a post roughly equivalent to deputy foreign minister, to be the Vatican's new ambassador to Colombia.

The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the suggestion that the pope had made the appointment to get Balestrero out of the Vatican was "absurd, totally without foundation".
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UK's top cardinal accused of 'inappropriate acts' by priests

Catherine Deveney      Feb.23, 2013

Three priests and a former priest in Scotland have reported the most senior Catholic clergyman in Britain, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, to the Vatican over allegations of inappropriate behaviour stretching back 30 years.

The four, from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, have complained to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the Vatican's ambassador to Britain, and demanded O'Brien's immediate resignation. A spokesman for the cardinal said that the claims were contested.

O'Brien, who is due to retire next month, has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality as immoral, opposing gay adoption, and most recently arguing that same-sex marriages would be "harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved". Last year he was named "bigot of the year" by the gay rights charity Stonewall.

One of the complainants, it is understood, alleges that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counselling.
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Top British Cardinal Resigns, a Day After Charges of 'Inappropriate Acts'

Rachel Donadio & John F. Burns   Feb.25, 2013

Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric announced his resignation on Monday, a day after being accused of "inappropriate acts" with priests, saying he would not attend the conclave to elect a new pope.

The cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said that he had submitted his resignation months ago, and that the Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had accepted it on Feb. 18. However, the timing of the announcement - a day after news reports of alleged abuse appeared in Britain - suggested that the Vatican had encouraged the cardinal to stay away from the conclave.

"Everybody's been struck by how quickly Rome responded," said Austen Ivereigh, director of the British church advocacy group Catholic Voices. "Clearly Rome saw that there was sufficient substance to the allegations. They would not have told him to stand down unless they thought there was something worth investigating."

The move leaves Britain without a voting cardinal in the conclave and is bound to raise questions about other cardinals. It comes amid a campaign by some critics to urge Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles not to attend the conclave because of his role in reshuffling priests accused of abuse.
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Cardinal Keith O'Brien in better days


Venting and vetting: The brutal side of papal politics

David Gibson     Feb.25, 2013

If you want a crash course on how papal politics really works, look no further than the saga of Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

On Friday, Britain's most senior Catholic cleric grabbed headlines by telling the BBC that priestly celibacy was "not of divine origin" and that he'd be "happy" if priests had the option to marry.

On Saturday, O'Brien was back in the news, this time after four men reportedly accused him of "inappropriate acts" dating back to the 1980s.

By Monday, O'Brien had resigned as archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh and announced he would skip the conclave.

From champion of married priests to disgraced churchman within 72 hours, O'Brien's trajectory is stunning but also emblematic of the frenetic and fever-pitched campaigning that occurs during the tiny window between a pope's death or resignation and the election of his successor.

The interregnum lasts a few weeks at most, when church leaders and various interest groups can openly voice their views to try to influence the future course of Roman Catholicism. It is also a time when the media act as the chief means for vetting any potential candidate whose track record, views and character might otherwise remain a mystery to the public and even many of his fellow cardinals.

If the process is far less expensive and not quite as mind-numbing as the slog of a U.S. presidential campaign, the condensed papal version is not much gentler, or necessarily more effective. Instead it can be nasty, brutish and short.
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Pope Struggling to Tame Intrigue Won't Show Cardinals Report

Jeffrey Donovan     Feb.26 2013

Pope Benedict XVI, struggling to tame intrigue, won't give cardinals access to a secret Vatican dossier into leaked papal documents before they meet next month to elect his successor.

The 85-year-old Benedict, who will become the first pontiff in 600 years to retire on Feb. 28, met with the three cardinals tasked to investigate the case known as "Vatileaks," the Holy See press office said in a statement yesterday. The episode led last year to the arrest of the pope's personal butler in one of the worst security breaches in modern Vatican history.

The pontiff thanked Cardinals Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi for work that "made it possible to detect, given the limitations and imperfections of the human factor in every institution, the generosity and dedication of those who work with uprightness and generosity in the Holy See," according to the statement. Still, "the acts of this investigation," known only to Benedict, "will remain solely at the disposition of the new pope."

The German-born pope is preparing to make his last public appearance tomorrow amid a wave of controversy, including the resignation of Britain's most senior Catholic cleric following allegations of his "inappropriate" behavior toward priests.
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'Amateur hour': Vatican conclave drama is one for the history books, experts say

Tracy Connor     Feb.26, 2013

A lame-duck pope. A secret dossier. Rumors of a gay cabal. A cardinal accused of "inappropriate" behavior.

The Vatican is in an uproar, and church scholars say there hasn't been this much drama surrounding a conclave since 1800, when Pope Pius VI died while being held prisoner by Napoleon.

One Vatican watcher says you have to go back to 1730 - when Pope Benedict XIII's right-hand man fled Rome in disguise amid allegations of corruption - to find a conclave buffeted by this much scandal.

"This is not a healthy situation for any kind of institution," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, an expert on the Catholic Church at Georgetown University.  "It looks like amateur hour."
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Cardinal tipped to become first black pope in modern times blames gay priests for abuse scandals facing Catholic church

Simon Caldwell      Feb.22, 2013

The African cardinal widely tipped to be the first black pope in modern history faced a firestorm of criticism last night after he laid the blame for clerical sex abuse crises at the feet of gay priests.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, who comes from Ghana, told an American journalist that similar sex scandals would never convulse churches in Africa because the culture was inimical to homosexuality.

'African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,' he told Christiane Amanpour of CCN.
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Interview With Swiss Theologian: 'Benedict XVI Could Turn into a Shadow Pope'

Peter Wensierski       Feb .18, 2013

SPIEGEL: What will change now that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned?

Hans Küng: There is now a realization that a pope should step down when the time has come. Joseph Ratzinger made it very clear that he could no longer fulfill his duties. His predecessor felt he had to turn his death into a show. Fortunately, Benedict chose another way, in order to demonstrate that when a pope is no longer capable of doing his job, he should give it up. This is exactly how the office should be approached. In John Paul II's final years, we weren't led by a pope so much as by a curia, which governed the Church in his place.

SPIEGEL: Who would you like to see lead your Church as pope?

Hans Küng: A pope who is not intellectually stuck in the Middle Ages, one who does not represent mediaeval theology, liturgy and religious order. I would like to see a pope who is open first to suggestions for reform and secondly, to the modern age. We need a pope who not only preaches freedom of the Church around the world but also supports, with his words and deeds, freedom and human rights within the Church -- of theologians, women and all Catholics who want to speak the truth about the state of the Church and are calling for change.

SPIEGEL: Who is your ideal candidate for the office of pope?

Hans Küng: If I were to name anyone, he would most certainly not get elected. But background should not play a role. The best man for the job should be elected. There are no more candidates who belonged to the Second Vatican Council. In the running are candidates who are middle of the road and toe the Vatican line. Is there anyone who won't simply continue on the same path? Is there anyone who understands the depth of the Church's crisis and can see a way out? If we elect a leader who continues on the same path, the Church's crisis will become almost intractable.

SPIEGEL: Is there likely to be friction between the former pope and the incumbent pope?

Hans Küng: Benedict XVI could turn into a shadow pope who has stepped down but can still exert indirect influence. He has already assigned himself a place within the Vatican. He is keeping his secretary, who will also remain prefect of the papal household under the new pope. This is a new form of nepotism, and one that isn't appreciated in the Vatican either. No priest likes to have his predecessor looking over his shoulder. Even the bishop of Rome doesn't find it pleasant to have his predecessor constantly keeping an eye on him. 
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A Vatican Spring?

Hans Küng    Feb .28, 2013

The Arab Spring has shaken a whole series of autocratic regimes. With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, might not something like that be possible in the Roman Catholic Church as well - a Vatican Spring?

. . . .

To this day the Curia, which in its current form is likewise a product of the 11th century, is the chief obstacle to any thorough reform of the Catholic Church, to any honest ecumenical understanding with the other Christian churches and world religions, and to any critical, constructive attitude toward the modern world.

Under the two most recent popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, there has been a fatal return to the church's old monarchical habits.

In 2005, in one of Benedict's few bold actions, he held an amicable four-hour conversation with me at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in Rome. I had been his colleague at the University of Tübingen and also his harshest critic. For 22 years, thanks to the revocation of my ecclesiastical teaching license for having criticized papal infallibility, we hadn't had the slightest private contact.

Before the meeting, we decided to set aside our differences and discuss topics on which we might find agreement: the positive relationship between Christian faith and science, the dialogue among religions and civilizations, and the ethical consensus across faiths and ideologies.

For me, and indeed for the whole Catholic world, the meeting was a sign of hope. But sadly Benedict's pontificate was marked by breakdowns and bad decisions. He irritated the Protestant churches, Jews, Muslims, the Indians of Latin America, women, reform-minded theologians and all pro-reform Catholics.

. . . .

Might we get a cardinal or bishop who doesn't simply want to continue in the same old rut? Someone who, first, knows how deep the church's crisis goes and, second, knows paths that lead out of it?

These questions must be openly discussed before and during the conclave, without the cardinals being muzzled, as they were at the last conclave, in 2005, to keep them in line.

As the last active theologian to have participated in the Second Vatican Council (along with Benedict), I wonder whether there might not be, at the beginning of the conclave, as there was at the beginning of the council, a group of brave cardinals who could tackle the Roman Catholic hard-liners head-on and demand a candidate who is ready to venture in new directions. Might this be brought about by a new reforming council or, better yet, a representative assembly of bishops, priests and lay people?
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The Vatican is stuck in a monarchical past

Tom Roberts      Feb.27, 2013

A coincidental confluence of monarchical events occurred in 2005, during the period between the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI.

In a span of less than three weeks, John Paul died (April 2), Prince Rainier of Monaco died (April 6), Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were married (April 9) in England, and Benedict was elected pope (April 19).

Through all of it the international media followed the flow of mourners, celebrators and ornately bedecked imitations of bygone eras as they made their way from castles to famous churches and back. It was a manner of reverse time-travel. All of the braided gold rope and draped epaulettes, feathered hats, shiny silver helmets, chests full of medals, gilded coaches, and endless reminders of dead kings and popes was enough to almost convince one that an age of Renaissance princes had somehow been recreated.

. . . .
In Rome, the principals, privileged in their purple and red with matching skullcaps, in their fine lace and elaborate liturgical regalia, were ancient intruders trying to stave off 21st-century reality. In this monarchy, symbol is reality, or yet attempts to be, and the acting out daily occurs in the manner of court behavior and palace intrigue, much of it in secret and in service to a very alive clerical culture.

This triptych of monarchical display, England to the north, Monaco to the south and Rome in between, was itself an incisive analysis of the complex turmoil of the contemporary church. The Vatican is stuck, an ancient seed in amber waiting for someone to undo the encrustation and return it to the tradition's fertile soil.
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U.N. Faults U.S. For Failure To Prosecute Abusive Clerics

Caleb Bell      Feb.20, 2013

The U.S. is failing to pursue and prosecute clergy guilty of child sexual abuse, according to a recent United Nations committee report.

The U.N.'s Committee on the Rights of the Child, in a little-noticed Jan. 25 report, urged the U.S. to "take all necessary measures to investigate all cases of sexual abuse of children whether single or on a massive and long-term scale, committed by clerics."

. . . .
The U.S. Department of Justice did not return requests for comment, and the National Association of Attorneys General declined to comment. Abuse cases are typically handled by local and state prosecutors, not the federal government.
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Open Letter by Basque Priests' Forum on Women's Ordination

Iglesia Descalza    Feb.21, 2013

The Foro de Curas de Bizkaia ("Forum of Priests from Biscay") have posted an open letter on their blog to Msgr. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, regarding women in the priesthood. It reads:

Given the recent measures taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith against supporters of women's ordination, we, the Assembly of the Foro de Curas de Bizkaia, wish to express the following:

1. We regret that over recent decades the proactive line opened by John XXIII when he argued at the opening of Vatican II that the Church "meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations" (10/11/1962), has been forgotten.

2. Following the criterion proposed by Pope Roncalli, we want to express to you our disagreement (because they are inconsistent) with the arguments put forward in the Apostolic Letter "Ordenatio sacerdotalis" (1964) through which priestly ministry is reserved exclusively for men:

2.1. While it is true that "Christ chose his apostles only among men," it is also true that through his behavior and preaching, he lay the basis for the recognition of women's equality, including the possibility of access to the ordained ministry. The Pontifical Biblical Commission has already argued in its day that through the testimony of the New Testament alone, it cannot be inferred that a possible ordination of women would harm Jesus' plan on apostolic ministry. (1976)

2.2. The history of the Church shows -- as is argued in the Apostolic Letter "Ordinatio sacerdotalis" -- that "priestly ordination" has been reserved "exclusively for men." But also that it hasn't been a decision that has been peacefully taken -- as witnessed by the repeated condemnations for ordaining women and the repeated posture taking by the Catholic hierarchy in that respect. In any case, it is difficult to challenge the existence in the early days of home fellowships with host couples in charge of leading them. It has not been noted that women didn't preside, if necessary, at the shared table.

2.3. Allow us to doubt, at least methodologically, that "the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in harmony with God's plan for His Church." Such a doubt does not lead us to deny the unquestionable importance of the Magisterium in the life of the Christian community, but rather to demand its harmonization (more urgent each day) with the "sensus fidelium" and with theological research as has happened, for example, with the sacrament of reconciliation. Only then will we have a Magisterium that, besides being legitimately authoritative, would be welcomed and respected for its theological quality, ecclesial harmony and for being clear that the only absolute imposed on it is to care properly for its mission.

3. We wish and hope that the Catholic hierarchy would regain -- as was proposed at Vatican II -- not only greater episcopal collegiality and baptismal co-responsibility for this and other matters, but also a conception and praxis of the Living Tradition, and that, through it, it would pay more attention to the need to update to the present what Jesus said and did so that it might be a foretaste of the full fraternity that awaits us. It happens through clearly joining DV 10 ("the teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it") and DV 9 ("it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed"), by listening to the diverse ecclesial advice already existing on this and other matters, and not quelling the views of the baptized and the Christian communities in an authoritarian manner.

4. Finally, we propose that the ability of women to access the priestly ministry be something that is decided at an ecumenical council and that, meanwhile, ecclesial discernment and theological research be left open so that no one is condemned again for it, and that those who have been punished be returned to their responsibilities and state.

Bilbao, February 11, 2013


The crimes of the Catholic church: not in our names

Joanna Moorhead       Feb.26, 2013

The Catholic church is on its knees, and not in the way it would like. In fact, the last thing anyone would ask a bishop or cardinal about right now is prayer, or Christian witness, or how to live an upright, moral, God-trusting life. Why would you, when all they seem to know about is covering up sex crimes, inappropriate behaviour among prelates, political infighting at the Vatican, and the existence of a clandestine gay cabal at the highest levels in Rome?

All of which is, for ordinary church-going lay Catholics like me, profoundly disturbing. How could an organisation that professes a direct link to Christ - "You are Peter," Jesus told the first bishop of Rome, "and on this rock I will build my church ..." - have gone so far off the rails that it now seems a power-crazed, untrustworthy and corrupt institution, out to save its own skin at almost any cost?

. . . .
I am angry too because it seems to me - and, I think, to many of my fellow lay Catholics - that our church has come to be seen entirely in terms of the men who run it.  . . . .  One of the more unsettling moments of the pope's UK visit in 2010, for me, was when he called on "the whole church" to atone for its crimes.

. . . .

Well, not this time: this guilt is not mine; this is the guilt of the hierarchy, the guilt of the priests, the guilt of the ordained men who run my church and who have been determined for centuries that they would not share the running of the church with anyone who was not one of them.

And therein, it seems to me, lies the real root of our problems. Because what has gone wrong with the church is, at heart, about a concentration of power in the hands of one tiny group. A tiny group of ordained, mostly Italian, men, when we are an enormous church of ordained and unordained men and women of all nationalities, from right across the globe.

If the Catholic church is to survive - and those churchmen in Rome and elsewhere who smile in their superior way, and say the church has had many crises in its history have not, I think, quite understood the measure of this one - then that power must be devolved. Lay people - we, the vast, silent majority that makes up our church - are a gigantic, tragically untapped resource for leadership, for witness and for evangelisation.
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Morning-After Pills Don't Cause Abortion, Studies Say

Julie Rovner     Feb.21 2013

The most heated part of the fight between the Obama administration and religious groups over new rules that require most health plans to cover contraception actually has nothing to do with birth control. It has to do with abortion.

Specifically, do emergency contraceptives interfere with a fertilized egg and cause what some consider to be abortion?

. . . .The morning-after pill . . . . is sold under the brand name Plan B. The week-after pill, which actually only works for five days after unprotected sex, is called ella.

Both are classified by the Food and Drug Administration as contraceptives. Neither is the same as the abortion drug RU486, or Mifeprex. That pill isn't considered a contraceptive and isn't covered by the new insurance requirements.

. . . .
But it turns out, at least when it comes to Plan B, there is now fairly definitive research that shows the only way it works is by preventing ovulation, and therefore, fertilization. . . . .

Blithe says studies have also shown that ella, like Plan B, doesn't prevent pregnancy if a woman has already ovulated. Women who took the drug after ovulation got pregnant at the same rate as those who took nothing at all. She says that strongly suggests it does not have any effect on blocking implantation.

. . . .

But opposition seems to be waning in Europe.

Ella is now available in heavily Roman Catholic Italy, for example. And on Thursday, Germany's conference of bishops said both drugs are acceptable to give to rape victims in Catholic hospitals.
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New Translation of the Roman Missal


Allow the beauty of these prayers to lift your hearts to our loving God.

Each Sunday's Opening Prayer will be added, week by week.