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A Big Heart Open to God

America coverThere has been immense media coverage of Pope Francis' extensive interview published in America and fourteen other Jesuit magazines Sept. 19.


You can read the Pope's entire interview here.

In this issue ARCC News presents some reactions as well as links to several more.
The Pope's Progress
America Editors      Sep.30, 2013

We begin, as St. Ignatius recommends, with gratitude. We are thankful to Pope Francis for embracing his role as pope with a "big heart open to God." The joy he takes in his ministry is abundantly evident. Called by his brother cardinals to the Petrine office, he took up his new role with surprising energy. His heart was open to the workings of the Spirit, and he has in many ways been transformed. The pope offers a lesson to Christians of all ages: always be free enough to answer God's call, as the fishermen did by the Sea of Galilee.

. . . .

Pope Francis has been subject to mostly gentle criticism thus far. Some had hoped for more lay involvement in a reform process that now includes only eight prelates. Others have noted that Pope Francis' winning style and instinct for collaboration may not be enough, on their own, to bring about necessary changes in the Curia. These questions are worth exploring, but we should be careful not to burden the pope by placing in him all of our hopes for the flourishing of the church in the world. He would be the first to remind us that the work of Christ begins with us and that our hope rests in God alone. 

Read more

A Jesuit reflects on the Jesuit pope's interview by Jesuits
Thomas Reese     Sep.19, 2013

As a Jesuit, I was overwhelmed by the interview of Pope Francis by my Jesuit brother, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal based in Rome. Congratulations to Antonio, my former colleagues at America, and the 14 other Jesuit publications for this extraordinary exclusive. That all of these Jesuits could keep such a coup secret until publication almost makes me believe in Jesuit conspiracy theories.


In the interview, Pope Francis speaks from his heart as one Jesuit to another. While reading the interview, I felt like I was in a Jesuit living room having a conversation with a brother. The interview demands careful reading and reflection, but let me share with you my first reactions.

In the interview, Pope Francis explains why he was labeled a conservative by many Jesuits in Latin America. He confesses it was his own fault.
. . . . 

But unlike many, Jorge Mario Bergoglio learned from his failures and followed a completely different style of governing as archbishop in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That some Jesuits never recognized this conversion and failed to embrace him as our brother is our sin.

. . . .

Discernment is going to be important to him as pope. Decisions will not be deducted from ideological positions; rather, "great principles must be embodied in the circumstances of place, time and people." He then quoted Blessed John XXIII with regard to the government of the church: "See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little."

. . . .

Francis then goes on to explain how he sees St. Ignatius' exhortation to "think with the church." "The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God," he said. 

. . . . 

But he is quick to note that he should not be understood to be talking about a form of "populism." "No; it is the experience of 'holy mother the hierarchical church,' as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God's people."


But he has no patience with restorationists.  

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal 'security,' those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists -- they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

For Francis, three words sum up the mission of Jesuits today: "Dialogue, discernment, frontier." 

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The media's mind-boggling failure to understand Pope Francis
Edward Morrissey       Sep.24, 2013

As a practicing Catholic working in the media, perhaps the five most frightening words I hear are, "Pope Francis gave an interview." They aren't scary because of anything Pope Francis actually says; the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio spent decades choosing his words carefully as an Argentinian priest and then prelate of Buenos Aires, emphasizing the pastoral care of the Catholic Church while the extremes of politics from both left and right engulfed Argentina for decades. The first Jesuit pontiff knows how to speak about faith and clearly enjoys doing so - and Catholics aren't alone in their enthusiasm for listening.


So where does my anxiety come from? Well, from having to read what the media thinks Francis said.

. . . . 

But here's the truth: The media seems incapable of understanding the Pope, and Catholicism itself.

. . . .

Even with the exasperation and dread of having to explain that Francis isn't actually rewriting the doctrine of the Catholic Church, we Catholics do have to admit that we benefit from the media failures in one respect. Suddenly, cheering the Pope is hip in a way we haven't seen since John Paul II took on the Soviets early in his papacy. The gentle pastor of the Vatican has made Catholicism cool again, thanks to the press' futile attempts to pigeonhole him. The Lord works in mysterious ways - even more mysterious than the media, it seems. 

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It will be hard to go backward after Francis' papacy
Richard Rohr     Sep.24, 2013

"The top person can never be wrong."


I remember being totally shocked, insulted and in full disagreement when I first heard this statement from an organizational consultant years ago. Only in asking him to explain was I finally forced to concede and reluctantly agree.


By this statement, governance experts mean that when the CEO, founder or president of any group offers any public statement or action, it must be dealt with as such. It stands, and the burden of disproof is elsewhere. It is now a datum that must be responded to, refined, changed or proven wrong. It can never just be dismissed as if it did not happen.

. . . .

In my secret world, I have always been convinced this is the only helpful meaning to papal infallibility. In this sense, the First Vatican Council was totally right, and in this sense, Pope Francis is surely infallible. 


I begin with this perhaps controversial ideal because I think the world recently received from Francis some infallible statements. He has forever changed the Catholic conversation. We can never go completely backward. No one can ever say a validly elected pope, with all that implies in anyone's mind, did not say the things Francis said in the interview published Thursday. They will be quoted for a long time to come. It is now a part of the authoritative data, like the Gospels themselves, and must be reckoned with.


He did this not so much in terms of doctrinal or moral assertions, but simply in terms of a radical change of style, persona and emphasis, which ironically has huge substance. For once, we have a pope talking personally, honestly, pastorally, without crossing every t and dotting every i. A pope being vulnerable! Has this ever been heard of before? Did history even allow it up to now? By historical record, maybe only when Pope Peter said, "Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8).

. . . .

Francis has become a living and happy invitation to all of humanity, even beyond the too-tight boundaries of Christianity, instead of an exclusionary bouncer standing at the always open gates of heaven. In that alone, he has changed the papacy -- perhaps forever. It will be very hard to go completely backward again.

Yes, it is true, the top person can never be wrong. The pope is still and somehow infallible. 

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A Letter from a Ewe to Pope Francis
Ewe with a lot of deep questions     Sep.20, 2013
Dear Francis,
I write this as an open letter via my blog because it stands about as much chance reaching you this way as it would if sent via traditional postal service.  Additionally, I make it a public letter because many people tell me they take comfort in reading my expressed sentiments of angst and concern that they share.  So, I think perhaps this letter is mostly for them since the chances of you reading it are slim.
 . . . . 
I read the English translation of your interview with Antonio Spadaro and am encouraged by many things you said but deeply grieved by your words about women.  It is difficult to know where to begin expressing myself because your words violated me so profoundly.  Yet I hold little hope that you will understand why your words abraded my soul because they reflect the male hegemony that is the Roman Catholic hierarchy in which you have chosen to live.  When one dwells within a hegemonic culture, the resulting hegemonic praxes and ideologies are often accepted as "natural." 
. . . .
You say the church needs to ascertain women's role in the church.  Why would my role be any different than yours?  Why would it be any different than a man's?  Why do we even need to have this conversation at all?
Men and women have some differences but more similarities than differences.  Why does the hierarchy begin with, cultivate and fixate upon gender differences rather than similarities?  Furthermore, when is a difference just a difference versus a limitation? 
. . . .
You say one should not confuse the function of women with the dignity of women. Function and dignity are inextricably intertwined unless you subscribe to a "separate but equal" mentality that has been soundly rejected as sinful with regards to race. 
. . . .
You say that a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops.  Yet, your publicly acknowledged advisors, whether the bishops' synod, Curial Dicasteries, or your special group of eight cardinals, are all men.  Francis, who are your prominent female advisors? Do they look anything like the many women fleeing the church at accelerating pace? Where is your collegiality with women?    
Canon Law excludes women from hierarchical leadership or voting on any hierarchical leaders.  Please help me understand how disenfranchisement and exclusion from leadership demonstrate women are more important than bishops?  By the way, I do not think women are more important than men or bishops.  I think we are all of equal importance.  When men like you say such things, I think they are just trying to ply women's egos and pride in hopes of them remaining docile in their marginalized and discriminated state. 

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Catholic Whistleblowers' response to Pope Francis' interview

Catholic Whistleblowers Steering Committee      Sep.23, 2013


We realize that the interviewer determined the questions for the interview thus perhaps restricting the comments made by Pope Francis. Yet, we say: while we warmly welcome Pope Francis' refreshing spirit of understanding and compassion, we note with profound disappointment the absence of any comment in this interview about the clergy sexual abuse crisis and scandal that plagues the Catholic Church. Indeed, the clergy sexual abuse issue challenges the church at its core: a commitment to a love that truly protects children and to a sense of justice that truly holds the culpable accountable. Where does Pope Francis stand on this specific and major crisis and scandal?


Moreover, on behalf of all victims/survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse, we reiterate the plea that we expressed to Pope Francis in our letter to him last April 29: "Please, Pope Francis, do not pass us by". All too frequently bishops and other church leaders have ignored the trauma and pain of victims/survivors. We trust that Pope Francis will be different, but he needs to act, now.


We call upon the pope for three immediate actions: 1) personally initiate ongoing dialogue with victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse because no one knows their plight better that they themselves; 2) hold accountable bishops who have deliberately frustrated or ignored the cause of truth and justice in this issue (Archbishop John Myers of Newark being a primary example); and 3) publicly support efforts to alter church and civil laws, retroactively and proactively, to protect children and to foster justice.

More on the interview with Pope Francis
Other things we have been reading  
Message for reform sent to pope, cardinals
Joshua J. McElwee       Sep.19, 2013

About 100 church reform groups from around the world have teamed together to circulate a petition asking Pope Francis to give Catholic lay faithful an "effective voice" in church decision-making.


The petition, styled as an open letter to the pope, is being mailed to the Vatican Friday in hopes it can impact Francis' Oct. 1-3 meeting with a group of eight cardinals he has appointed to advise him on the reforming of church structures.

. . . .

In their letter, the reform groups suggest five areas the pope and cardinals might consider in those changes:

  • Focusing the church on a social justice mission that places "dignity and equality of every person at the heart of its lived mission;"
  • Opening up avenues for dialogue and "freedom of reasoned inquiry" inside the church;
  • Recognition of the equality of all people, including rejection of "the sexist exclusion of women from full participation at all levels of the Church;"
  • Inclusion of lay faithful in the choice of bishops;
  • More effective measures to confront clergy sexual abuse globally.

Read more

Ed.:  Catholic Church Reform was started by Robert Blair Kaiser, a journalist who covered the Vatican and church issues  for  TIME magazine and The New York Times and has written several books,  and Rene Reid, a former Catholic nun with an M.A. in Theology who became an expert in network marketing after holding a number of church positions.  The letter has been signed by most of the major reform groups including ARCC.

John L. Allen Jr.  |   Sep. 24, 2013333

Francis' papacy only just reached the six-month mark, so it's probably premature to be talking about make-or-break moments for his legacy. That said, the Oct. 1-3 maiden summit of eight cardinals from around the world, tapped by the pope to advise him on governance and reform, profiles as a potentially critical turning point.


When those eight cardinals, plus a bishop-secretary, sit down with Pope Francis in a meeting room in the Apostolic Palace, the expectation is that some serious sausage will be ground on a variety of fronts:

  • An ongoing cleanup of Vatican finances;
  • Reorganization, and potential downsizing, of the Vatican bureaucracy;
  • Ensuring that the right people end up in the right Roman jobs;
  • Vexed pastoral questions such as annulments and divorced and remarried Catholics.

. . . . 

One threshold matter is the identity and mission of the G-8 itself. Is it a permanent body, for instance, or merely a temporary expedient to help Francis get a reform off the ground?


Assuming the group will be around, its membership may have to be tweaked. Already some critics have pointed out that Francis failed to name a prelate from any of the 22 Eastern churches to the body, an especially glaring omission given current alarm around the Catholic world about the fate of Christians in places such as Syria and Egypt. 

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Shakeup at Newark Archdiocese Could Spell Beginning of the End for Myers
David Cruz      Sep.24, 2013

. . . .  Myers said the idea for a coadjutor - basically an assistant archbishop - was his and that he had reached out to Pope Francis "some time ago." He says Hebda, whose most recent post was as Archbishop in tiny Gaylord, Michigan, was brought in to lend a hand with a number of church initiatives, including a restructuring of the church's elementary schools. The coadjutor is generally considered the eventual successor to the current Archbishop. Today, Hebda said he was eager to serve in a supporting role.

. . . . 

Critics, like sex abuse survivors' advocate Robert Hoatson, who has been dogged in his calls for Myers to step down, say they're hopeful that Hebda's arrival will mean the beginning of a transition toward the end of Myers' tenure. But Hoatson said Hebda will need to act quickly.


"He's coming to an archdiocese in crisis, serious crisis, we all know that," said Hoatson. "Hopefully, Archbishop Hebda did the polite thing by congratulating his predecessor but hopefully will now say, 'This is my show and I've got to heal something that is very critical, very serious here.'"

Read more

For Newark, Enter Bernie... For the Bench, Enter Francis
Rocco Palmo      Sep.26, 2013

For all the smiles at the cameras and talk of a smooth transition, the difference between Newark Catholicism's present and future can be boiled down to this: while John Myers prefers to be addressed as "His Grace" - the British/Canadian style for archbishops - whatever title his successor might be saddled with, the next metropolitan of New Jersey will forever be known to all as, simply, "Bernie." 

The mottoes are instructive, too: the incumbent chose for himself the refined, maybe even esoteric "Mysterium ecclesiae luceat" ("Let the mystery of the church shine forth"), a reference to the Vatican II constitution Lumen Gentium. His coadjutor's is straightforward and in English - two words: "Only Jesus."


Shot into the stratosphere as shepherd-in-waiting of the nation's ninth-largest diocese, Bernie Hebda's ascent to North Jersey has been described as "the first truly Francis appointment" on these shores: a distinctly pastoral, nonideological figure with a penchant for sharp ideas, hard work, close ties and creating oceans of goodwill across all sorts of divides. 

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Newark Archbishop John Myers turns up at Bergen County courthouse
Hannan Adely      Sep.27, 2013

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers visited the Bergen County Courthouse on Thursday, months after a local priest was arrested on seven counts accusing him of violating a lifetime ban on ministering to children, charges that were referred to a grand jury.

. . . . 

It's unclear why Myers was at the courthouse, which also is where the Prosecutor's Office is located.


The archbishop was seen at 11:20 a.m. outside the courthouse with Jim Goodness, archdiocese spokesman and vice chancellor. Goodness declined to comment about the appearance.

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Cardinal Burke Still At It
Michael Sean Winters     Sep.26, 2013

This interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke, published at the Wanderer, makes for painful reading. It would be difficult to find someone whose words are less like those we cherished in Papa Francesco's interview. The G-8 cardinals are gathering in Rome this weekend for their meetings next week with the Holy Father. I am not privy to their agenda. But, I humbly suggest that at the top of that agenda they recommend a muzzle for this Prince of the Church. 


Pope Francis Denounces Big Business' 'Idolatry Of Money' In Sardinia Address
Gianfranco Stara & Nicole Winfield      Sep.22, 2013 

Pope in hard hatPope Francis denounced what he called big business's idolatry of money as he traveled Sunday to one of Italy's poorest regions to offer hope to the unemployed and entrepreneurs struggling to hang on.  "Where there is no work, there is no dignity," he said.


Francis left aside his prepared remarks and spoke off the cuff to thousands of people in Sardinia's capital, telling them he knew well what it was like to suffer from financial crisis. He recalled that his Italian parents, who immigrated to Argentina before he was born, spoke about it often at home.

. . . .

Sardinia, known for its pristine beaches and swank vacation homes, has been particularly hard-hit by Italy's economic crisis, with businesses closing and more and more of the island's families forced to seek charity. The island's desperation made headlines last year when a coal miner, participating in an underground sit-in to protest the planned closure of the mine, slashed his wrists on television.  

Read more

Pope Francis on the spirit of true charity
Pope Francis in Sardinia
Dominican Republic asks INTERPOL to arrest Polish priest
Tablet       Sep.24, 2013

The Justice Ministry of the Dominican Republic on Sunday said it has evidence of paedophilia against nuncio Józef Wesolowski, while a deacon has confessed to "pimping" minors for the senior prelate as well as of being his sexual partner, the has reported.


The Deputy Procurator and the case's lead investigator, Bolivar Sanchez, said there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the nuncio, whom the Vatican recalled last month, committed child abuse. Mr Sanchez said he was ready to present the evidence to the Vatican, but noted that Wesolowski cannot be extradited because of his diplomatic status. The Vatican has said it will cooperate with the Dominican Republic authorities, and has also launched its own internal investigation.

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Vatican removes deputy bishop in Peru after sex abuse allegations
Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino      Sep.21, 2013

The Vatican, under Pope Francis' "zero-tolerance" policy for paedophile priests, removed an auxiliary bishop from his post in a Peruvian province because of allegations he sexually abused children, a bishop said on Friday.


Luis Bambaren, the former president of Peru's bishops' and bishop emeritus of Chimbote, told local media that Gabino Miranda was dismissed as auxiliary bishop in the dioceses of Ayacucho, a poor Andean region in southern Peru, after he was accused of having sexual relations with minors.


"It is what the Pope said - zero tolerance," Bambaren said on RPP radio. "Those are very serious crimes, especially when it has to do with a bishop."


A Church official confirmed to Reuters that Miranda, 53, had resigned from Peru's bishops' conference but declined to say why.


The attorney general's office said on Friday that it was investigating Miranda and would announce actions soon. 

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Police: Pennsylvania priest caught with 15-year-old on college campus
Kevin Conlon      Sep.20, 2013

A Catholic priest in Pennsylvania has been charged with molesting a teenage boy after police said he was found in a car on a college campus with a 15-year-old who was wearing no pants, according to a police criminal complaint filed Friday in Lackawanna County.


The Rev. W. Jeffrey Paulish was charged with one felony count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and one felony count of unlawful contact with a minor after Dunmore police say they found him and the boy on Thursday in a car on the Worthington Scranton campus of Penn State University, according to the complaint.


Paulish, 56, of Scranton, was also charged with three misdemeanor counts -- indecent contact with a person under 16, indecent exposure and corruption of a minor. He is being held at the Lackawanna County jail on $50,000 bail.


Dunmore police officers say they discovered Paulish and the boy after responding to a call of a suspicious vehicle, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed with the court. 

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Argentine Priest Jailed for Sex Abuse
Shane Romig     Sep.24, 2013

An Argentine priest who was once defended by Pope Francis against sex-abuse allegations has been ordered to prison to complete a 15-year sentence for sexually abusing an adolescent boy at a youth center over a decade ago.


Rev. Julio Grassi, a well-known priest who ran a shelter for troubled youth, was ordered to jail by a Buenos Aires provincial court late Monday, days after the priest lost his appeal to the province's high court. Father Grassi was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse in 2009, but had been allowed to stay in his house across the road from the center while he appealed the case.

. . . .

The case is the most prominent abuse case in the pontiff's native land. Father Grassi was a high-profile figure in Buenos Aires during the 1990s and 2000's, running the Fundación Felices los Niños, or Happy Are The Children Foundation. He was frequently seen on television and rubbing elbow with celebrities, politicians and businessmen as he sought backing for the foundation. 

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Philly Priest Sexually Abused Altar Boy for Years: DA
Dan Stamm     Sep.26, 2013

A Philadelphia priest, previously accused of sexually abusing 20 boys, is now criminally charged for allegedly sexually assaulting an altar boy over a three-year period.


Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced the arrest Thursday morning of Rev. Robert L. Brennan.


"A serial predator is now behind bars thanks to brave actions of this young man," Williams said.


Brennan is accused of sexually assaulting the altar boy from 1998 to 2001 when the child was between 11 and 14 years old, according to authorities.

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Vatican sends mediator to fractious German diocese
Christa Pongratz-Lippitt       Sep.19, 2013

A German bishop who was criticized by his priests and laity for an extravagant lifestyle and authoritarian leadership has apologized for "misjudgments" and agreed to an outside audit of his diocese's financial records.


Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg issued the apology at the end of a weeklong Vatican-ordered "brotherly visitation" by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, a veteran Vatican diplomat and the Holy See's nuncio to Germany for eight years in 1990s. 

On Sept. 16, Tebartz-van Elst released a declaration signed by himself, Lajolo and Fr. Günther Geis, the cathedral rector, that calls on the German bishops' conference to appoint a commission to audit diocesan finances with special attention on the money spent redecorating the bishop's palace in Limburg. "The final report of the commission, which will examine and include all costs, finances and procedures involved, will be disclosed publicly," the declaration says.


It is highly unusual for a bishops' conference to audit the finances of an individual bishop in this way. Canon law has no provisions for such oversight. The power of supervision over individual bishops is reserved for the pope.   

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Pope Benedict challenges atheist, says he never hid abuse cases
Carol Glatz      Sep.24, 2013

In a letter to an atheist Italian mathematician, retired Pope Benedict XVI defended his own handling of allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and politely criticized the logician's total reliance on scientific facts for meaning.


"I never sought to conceal these things," the pope said of cases of clerical abuse, and lamented the scholar depicting the church as the only place where such "deviation" and "filth" occur.


The publication of the retired pope's comments Sept. 24 to an atheist scholar came the same month a written letter by Pope Francis to an Italian journalist concerning dialogue with nonbelievers was published. Both letters were published, with the two popes' permission, by the Italian daily La Repubblica. 

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Pope Francis announces changes in Roman Curia positions
Vatican Radio      Sep.21, 2013

The Holy Father has implemented the following changes in the organisation of the Roman Curia.


- He has accepted the resignation from the role of Major Penitentiary of Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, who has reached the age of retirement. He has confirmed as successor in the same role Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, who until now was Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy.


- In the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he has confirmed as Prefect Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, and as Secretary Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer. He has appointed as Adjunct Secretary Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, who until now was Vice President of the Pontifical Council "Ecclesia Dei". He has furthermore confirmed the Members and Consultants, and has appointed as Consultant Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, Adjunct Secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.


- In the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the People, he has confirmed as Prefect Cardinal Fernando Filoni, as Secretary Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, and as Adjunct Secretary Archbishop Protase Rugambwa. He has furthermore confirmed the Members and Consultants.


- In the Congregation for the Clergy, he has appointed as Prefect Archbishop Beniamino Stella, who until now was President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. He has confirmed as Secretary Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta. He has appointed as Secretary for the Seminaries Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, who until now was Bishop of Paplanta, elevating him at the same time to the dignity of Archbishop.


- In the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, he has appointed as Delegate of the Ordinary Section Msgr. Mauro Rivella, of the Clergy of the Archdiocese of Turin. 

Read more

Amid Newark Scandal, Pope Ships "Steel" - Bernie Hebda Named Next Jersey Abp.
Rocco Palmo      Sep.24, 2013

As only Lou Vallone could sum it up: "It just gets better and better, all the time." 

At Roman Noon this Tuesday, reacting with lightning speed to a considerable brutta figura in one of the nation's largest dioceses, the Pope made his most consequential Stateside move to date, naming Bishop Bernard Hebda, the 54 year-old head of Michigan's Gaylord diocese, as coadjutor-archbishop of Newark.


In New Jersey's 1.4 million-member principal church, the Pittsburgh-born star - a beloved, unassuming cleric, yet one armed with degrees from Harvard and Columbia Law and over a decade's experience in the Vatican's office for legal affairs - will eventually succeed Archbishop John Myers, 72.  

Read more

Pope names N.O. bishop Shelton Fabre to lead Houma-Thibodaux diocese
Dominic Massa       Sep.23, 2013!
Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans Shelton Fabre the Bishop of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, the Archdiocese of New Orleans announced Monday morning.

Fabre replaces current Bishop Sam Jacobs, who is retiring at the mandatory church retirement age of 75.  As is custom, the pope accepted his retirement and appointed Fabre as his successor.


For the past six years, Bishop Fabre has served as Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans.  A native of New Roads, Louisiana, he was ordained in Baton Rouge and served a variety of roles in that diocese before coming to New Orleans.  He will now lead the Houma-Thibodaux diocese's approximately 125,000 Catholics. 

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Bishop Brom of San Diego retires; Coadjutor Bishop Flores is successor
Catholic News Service     Sep.18, 2013

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego, and he will be succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Cirilo Flores.


Brom, who has headed the San Diego diocese since 1990, is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignations. Flores, 65, was named coadjutor in January 2012, and as coadjutor automatically succeeds Brom.


The changes were announced Wednesday in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. 

Read more

Separated Faithful - How Should the Church Handle Divorce & Remarriage? 
Todd A. Salzman & Michael G. Lawler      Sep.19, 2013

In a wide-ranging conversation with journalists on the flight back from World Youth Day, Pope Francis famously said of gay people who seek God, "Who am I to judge?"  That wasn't the interview's only surprise. When asked about the way the church treats divorced Catholics who, if they remarry civilly without benefit of annulment, cannot receive Communion, the pope declared that "this is the moment for mercy." More important, Francis revealed that his hand-picked advisers, the Council of Cardinals, would take up the matter when they met with him next month. Is change in the offing? 

. . . .

In the fourth century, a rigorist sect known as the Novations sought admittance to the Catholic Church, but they refused communion with Catholics who had remarried after divorce. The Council of Nicea (325 AD) ruled that before they could join the church, the Novations would have to "promise in writing to comply with the teachings of the Catholic and Apostolic Church and to make them the rule of their conduct. That is to say, they will have to communicate both with those who are married a second time and with those who failed under persecution but whose time [of penance] has been established and whose moment of reconciliation has arrived" (Canon 8, our emphasis). The question of divorce and remarriage in the Catholic Church was resolved by this ecumenical council, which decided to admit the divorced and remarried to communion after a period of penance and discernment.

About twelve hundred years later, the Council of Trent affirmed that the Orthodox practice of oikonomia, which literally means "household building," had as much claim to the gospel asakriveia, strict adherence to church law.  . . . .  Oikonomia flows from the scriptural injunction that "the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6). 

. . . .

Orthodox liturgy differentiates a second marriage from a first, noting that grace is always threatened by sin, that the Christian ideal is always at the mercy of human frailty. The second-marriage liturgy lacks the joy of the first. It ritually proclaims that no one present, including the priest, is without sin. The church is summoned to minister compassionately on behalf of a compassionate God.

The Catholic Church has much to learn from this practice.   . . . .  The church should not foreclose the possibility that in the difficult circumstances of irregular marriages God may be telling us something.

The Catholic hierarchy has been aware of these challenges for decades. Recognizing the annulment crisis, the 1980 Synod of Bishops presented to Pope John Paul II a request that the Orthodox practice of oikonomia be studied for any light it might shed on the Catholic approach. There has yet to be a response to that inquiry.

. . . .

Many irregular marriages have become so stable, so nurtured by Christian faith, that they cannot be dissolved without causing serious spiritual, emotional, and economic harm. The Catholic Church has at least two ways to address this problem. The first is to work out a Catholic oikonomia through prayerful, personal and relational discernment. The second is the church's canonical power to dissolve marriages. Either way, it is well past time to alleviate the suffering of thousands of Catholics who are confused by a church that teaches the indissolubility of marriages while regularly dissolving them.

Francis seems to recognize this: "Our duty is to find another way, the just way" to respond to Catholics in irregular marriages, he told a group of priests this month.  

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Brazilian rancher found guilty of ordering murder of nun
Lise Alves      Sep.23, 2013

Brazilian rancher Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura again has been found guilty of masterminding the 2005 assassination of US-born Sister Dorothy Stang.

A judge sentenced Moura to 30 years in prison after he was declared guilty just before midnight, the court in Para state said in a statement.


Moura has been tried three other times for the murder of Sister Dorothy, a naturalised Brazilian citizen who was a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Dayton, Ohio.


In 2007 Moura was sentenced to 30 years in jail for masterminding the assassination. In Brazil, if a person is sentenced for more than 20 years, he has the right to be retried with a new jury.


During the 2008 trial, Moura was declared innocent of the charges.


In 2009, the verdict was annulled by the courts of the state of Para, and Moura was tried again in 2010. He was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years. But the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that Moura's lawyers did not have enough time to prepare for the 2010 trial and ordered him to be tried again.


Sister Dorothy, 73 at the time of her death, had lived in the Amazon region for nearly four decades. She worked closely with the Brazilian bishops' Pastoral Land Commission in favour of land rights for the poor and for sustainable development in the region. 

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What The Church Needs More Than a 'Good Pope'
Mary E. Hunt       Sep.20, 2013

The Jesuit journalistic coup, quickly known as the Pope's interview-officially "A Big Heart Open to God"-will take years to parse. Early headlines heralding a new moment in church history are largely correct, but not necessarily for the reasons cited. While it is true that Pope Francis has downplayed some of the hot button issues: "abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," it's also true that in no way did he disavow them: "The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church..."


I would not advise holding one's breath until those official teachings are replaced with sensible, respectful recognitions that adults make their own choices on matters of personal morality. Rather, I observe that the trajectory that millions of lay Catholics have set is finally being joined by some clerics, including this most highly placed one. My caution is simpy not to miss the forest for the trees.

. . . .

  Three Things Leave Me Warm...

  • First, Pope Francis is a person who freely admits that he can change his ways.   . . . .
  • Second, the compassion, humanity, and simple lifestyle that Pope Francis manifests is refreshing after decades of John Paul II and Benedict XVI's personalities and actions.  . . . .
  • Third, postmodernity is not lost on Francis.  . . . . 

...And Three Cold  

  • The weakest part of the interview is the section on women.   . . . .
  • A second issue I find troubling is the lack of transparency about the shape of the institutional church.  . . . .
  • A third area of concern is the major matter of church doctrine-what this pope jesuitically says he affirms as a "son" of the church.   . . . . 

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Austria: Catholic diocese fined for mass texts asking followers to pay their membership dues
Associated Press     Sep.24, 2013

Austria's Roman Catholic church has learned its lesson. Mass is OK. Mass texting is not.


A diocese in the southern city of Graz says it has been found guilty of contravening Austria's telecommunications law by sending mass texts to the cellphones of followers asking them to pay overdue membership fees.

. . . .

Diocese official Hertha Ferk was quoted by the Der Standard newspaper on Tuesday as saying the diocese has agreed to pay a fine that is under 10,000 euros ($13,475). 

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Australian priest first to be excommunicated by Pope Francis 
Accused of heresy, throwing away consecrated host, speaking against church
Patsy McGarry      Sep.26, 2013

An Australian Catholic priest Fr Greg Reynolds (60) has been excommunicated by Pope Francis because of his views on women priests. It is understood to be the first excommunication of any kind to take place under this Pope since he assumed office last March.


In a letter the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said "the decision by Pope Francis to dismiss Fr.  Reynolds from the clerical state and to declare his automatic excommunication has been made because of his public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church and his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest."


Fr .Reynolds told the US National Catholic Reporter (NCR) website he believed the excommunication also resulted from his support for the gay community. He told NCR that in the last two years, he has attended rallies in Melbourne advocating same-sex marriage and has officiated at mass weddings of gay couples on the steps of Parliament, "all unofficial of course." 

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Emeritus Pope Benedict emerges and defends his abuse record
Nicole Winfield     Sep.24, 2013

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has emerged from his self-imposed silence inside the Vatican walls to publish a lengthy letter to one of Italy's most well-known atheists. In it, he denies having covered up for sexually abusive priests and discusses everything from evolution to the figure of Jesus Christ.


Excerpts of the letter were published Tuesday by La Repubblica, the same newspaper which just two weeks ago published a similar letter from Pope Francis to its own atheist publisher.


The letters indicate that the two men in white - who live across the Vatican gardens from one another - are pursuing an active campaign to engage non-believers. It's a melding of papacies past and present that has no precedent and signals that the popes - while very different in style, personality and priorities - are of the same mind on many issues and might even be collaborating on them.


Benedict wrote the letter to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an Italian atheist and mathematician who in 2011 wrote a book "Dear Pope, I'm Writing to You." The book was Odifreddi's reaction to Benedict's classic "Introduction to Christianity," perhaps his best-known work.

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Benedict denies concealing abuse; SNAP responds
Barbara Dorris       Sep.24, 2013

Pope Benedict now claims he never covered up for predator priests. He could not be more wrong.


Over a clerical career that lasted more than six decades, we can't think of a single child molesting bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian than Benedict ever exposed.


In the church's entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict. As head of CDF, thousands of cases of predator priests crossed his desk. Did he choose to warn families or call police about even one of those dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover up.


Benedict is a smart man. He knows that each one of those individuals should have been reported to law enforcement. Yet he never made those call. Nor did he order others to make those calls. Nor did he ever discipline or denounce - in even the slightest way - those who clearly hid clergy sex crimes from law enforcement (like Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City who was convicted for hiding clergy child sex crimes).


Only under intense pressure, and only in the waning months of his papacy, did Benedict begin to even make the most pathetic gestures regarding child sex crimes or cover ups. And they were indeed gestures - largely symbolic acts that had and have zero impact in protecting kids.


The opposite of "covering up" is "uncovering" or "disclosing." Again, we cannot name one predatory bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian who was publicly exposed because of Benedict. 

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Scores Are Killed by Suicide Bomb Attack at Historic Church in Pakistan
Ismail Khan & Salman Masood      Sep.22, 2013

A suicide attack on a historic church in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 78 people on Sunday in one of the deadliest attacks on the Christian minority in Pakistan in years.  


The attack occurred as worshipers left All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, after a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 people had attended and were leaving to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside when two explosions ripped through the crowd. "As soon as the service finished and the food was being distributed, all of a sudden we heard one explosion, followed by another," said Azim Ghori, a witness.


Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who arrived in Peshawar on Sunday evening, said that 78 people had been killed, including 34 women and 7 children.  

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Pope Francis, Vatican Are Subject Of Three Film Projects
The Inquisitr     Sep.26, 2013

Pope Francis has become an instant celebrity with his shake-up of the establishment in the Vatican and the Catholic Church. This has garnered the interest of filmmakers with at least two projects that deal with the Pope's life and one about the Vatican currently in their way to production.


The first film is from Argentine writer and director Alejandro Agresti and is titled Historia De Un Cura (Story Of A Priest), which is the story of a young Jorge Bergoglio, the Pope's real name.

. . . .

From Germany, the land of Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI, who shocked not only Catholics, but the rest of the world with his decision to resign from the post, an event that hadn't happened in modern times, comes another production aboutPope Francis.  

. . . .

At the same time, Ridley Scott is in post-production with his TV movie The Vatican, which is not directly related to Pope Francis, but the theme is close enough.  After the success of The History Channel's The Bible, Scott is banking on another religious themed hit for his series. 

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Archdiocese to lease 13 cemeteries to Levittown firm
Harold Brubaker      Sep.27 2013

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has agreed to lease its 13 cemeteries to a Levittown company for a total payment of $89 million over 35 years, officials announced Thursday.

The 60-year deal with StoneMor Partners L.P. includes an initial payment of $53 million, plus $36 million spread over years six through 35 of the lease.


Officials from the archdiocese and StoneMor, whose chief executive attended elementary school in the former Corpus Christi parish in Philadelphia, assured Catholics that the cemeteries would retain their character and that current practices and policies would continue. 

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Institute of Black Catholic Studies Seeks Director
Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies 

Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana, the nation's only Historically Black and Catholic institution of higher education, invites nominations and applications for the position of Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS). 

For more details visit the IBCS website, To apply, log in to our online system, Attach (1) a letter of interest, (2) a curriculum vitae, and (3) the names, addresses, and email addresses of three references. The letter of interest should be addressed to Dr. Pamela R. Franco, Chair - Search Committee.. Review of applications will begin on November 1, 2013. EOE/AA. 
Upcoming Event   
ACC Fall Leadership 
Development Seminar
Chicago / October 25-27  2013  


1800 East Golf Road 
Schaumburg, IL 60173
For More Information, contact :

Sheila Peiffer, ACC National Coordinator 
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Association for the Rights of Catholics in the  Church 



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