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Pope's new abuse commission is another promise waiting to be broken
Thomas P. Doyle , O.P.                                          Mar. 25, 2014 


The countless victims of clergy sex abuse have been waiting for 30 years for the Vatican to show it really understands the depth of the problem and is willing to do something real about it. Judging by the latest move, naming members of a pontifical commission, victims will have to keep on waiting. Those who have been deeply involved in this issue for the long haul had little hope the promised commission would make a difference, and we probably won't be disappointed.


Putting Marie Collins on the commission was a brilliant decision. She is probably the only one with true credibility among the victims, who are clearly the most important people in this equation, not the bishops. She is also probably the only member who is independent and courageous enough to call out the real issues. Child protection in the future and seminary training are peripheral. Compassionate care for the countless victims should be the foremost concern, followed by drawing up an expeditious plan to fire the more egregious offenders from among the cardinals, archbishops and bishops who have enabled and continue to enable perpetrators.


While it is not totally clear what the commission's mission is, a recent interview with Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, one of the members, gives some clues. He said some nice things about putting victims first, but the victims have been hearing that from the last pope and from cardinals and bishops for years. They still aren't first. In fact, they aren't even in the lineup.


However, later in the interview, Zollner said the commission will look into church law to see what has worked then make recommendations. That says it all. The pope and the commission could save a lot of time and effort because this has already been figured out, and the answer is short: Not much has worked. Elsewhere, media stories said the commission will advise the church on best policies to protect children and keep abusers out of the clergy. So it seems that to avoid having to confront and do something about the real issues facing the church, the commission will be asked to reinvent the wheel.

. . . . 

The whole nightmarish cesspool would not have been uncovered were it not for the bravery and determination of the American victims. Yet the only American on the commission is a cardinal.


Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley's appointment, quite contrary to John L. Allen Jr.'s opinion in the Boston Globe, does not bring instant credibility to the effort. If there really is to be an effort to put victims first, then the appointment of O'Malley or any other cardinal or archbishop to the commission is a clear contradiction to that claim. Probably the only bishop on the planet with the authentic qualifications to serve, if the goal really is to help victims and help the church, is Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney.


The church doesn't need a commission with more meetings and more documents and more sympathetic statements to victims. The church -- and by "the church," I mean the most important members of the People of God, the victims and their families -- needs and wants action. They have been drowning in meaningless words for decades.
. . . . 

Finally, it is true that the church is responding effectively to this debacle, but it's not the institutional church, nor is it the clergy. It is the People of God, the victims, their families, their supporters, and a very few clerics and religious who have risen to the occasion. The hope for the future rests with them. 
Fr. Tom Doyle is an ARCC Presidential Advisor and former board member.     
Other things we have been reading  
Abuse survivor says new Vatican commission must achieve real change
Sarah MacDonald      Mar.25, 2014

The lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the commission needs to achieve concrete change in order to "show other survivors that the church is going to get it right."

Marie Collins, who was abused by a chaplain as a sick 13-year-old at Crumlin hospital in Dublin in the 1960s, told Catholic News Service that many survivors will be watching the new Vatican commission "with interest, but many will have written it off as merely a PR exercise."

"Survivors will not be satisfied with more words or promises, they need to see real change," she said. 

Read more

Papal advisor: Vatican should punish bishops who covered up child sex abuse cases
Associated Press       Mar.25, 2014

Sexually assaulted as a child by a hospital chaplain, Collins went onto become a leading Irish activist demanding justice for the victims of priestly abuse and a fierce critic of the Catholic Church's handling of the scandal.


Now she has been named to Pope Francis' commission on setting sex abuse policy, one of eight people -- half of them women -- who will help craft the panel's scope and advise the church on best practices to protect children.


In an interview with The Associated Press, Collins said her top priority was for the Vatican to punish those bishops who have covered up for priests who raped children.


"There's no point in my mind of having gold-plated child-protection programs in place if there's no sanction for a bishop who decides to ignore them," Collins said by telephone from her home in Dublin. "The reason everyone is so angry is not because they have abusers in their ranks. Abusers are in every rank of society. It's because of the systemic cover-up." 

Read more

VOTF: Pope's New Commission a Positive Step on Clergy Sexual Abuse
Press Release       Mar.25, 2014

. . . .  Perhaps this time the Vatican will match action to its rhetorical support for justice. VOTF sees the use of lay specialists on sex abuse and the inclusion of a survivor on the new commission as a critical first step. Next steps will be equally critical. VOTF will continue its part in healing the Church.  

Read more

See also  The Pope's Anti-Abuse Commission: Action or PR Stunt?

The 'sense of the faithful' is loose
Robert McClory      Apr.1, 2014

The cat is out of the bag. Thanks to reports from the worldwide questionnaire authorized by the Vatican and the Univision world poll, the "sense of the faithful" is alive and highly visible following a long exile imposed by the magisterium. Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., was one among many who acknowledged its liberation when discussing how Catholics in his diocese rated the absolute prohibition of contraception: "That train left the station long ago. Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) suggests the rejection of church teaching on the subject."

. . . .

Thanks to the outpouring of poll results, discussion about the sensitive issues is heard everywhere. We have a deeply divided global church. The head of the Swiss bishops' conference said the Vatican questionnaire results showed church teaching on sexual morality in general but particularly on "cohabitation, contraception and forbidding divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Sacraments was seen with great skepticism, if not rejected altogether or more or less ignored."

. . . .

I  believe we are now hearing as never before indisputable manifestations of the sense of the faithful. There's no longer any excuse to ignore them, dismiss them as mere public opinion or attack them outright as pernicious signs of secularism. The church of the 21st century is what it is; it will not be dragged back into an earlier time. In this age, it is silence and status quo that are "unthinkable." 

Read more

Francis a complete break from predecessors, conference says
Joshua J. McElwee       Apr.1, 2014

With his papacy passing the one-year mark last month, many Catholics are already asking how Pope Francis stacks up against his predecessors -- particularly Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

. . . .

Among different perspectives at a theological conference Friday at Jesuit-run Georgetown University that featured more than a dozen academics evaluating Francis, one theme was constant: Francis, the experts said, is a complete break from his predecessors, especially Benedict and John Paul II.


In the words of Gerard Mannion, a theologian who helped organized the one-day event centered on Francis' apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel"): "There is no sugar-coating [it.]"  

. . . .

"We have entered ... a moment of cognitive dissonance in the church where things are changing rapidly and yet many fear change more than anything else," said Mannion, a senior research fellow at the Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

. . . .

Organizers of the event say they plan to make videos of the presenters' talks available at their website

Read more

Francis removes German 'bling bishop'
Joshua J. McElwee       Mar. 26, 2014

Pope Francis on Tuesday effectively fired a German bishop who had attracted controversy for extraordinary expenses on a new diocesan center, sending a signal that he is willing to oust bishops who do not align with his vision of a "poor church for the poor."


The Vatican announced Wednesday the pontiff had accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who had reportedly spent some 31 million euro ($43 million) on a new residence and complex in his Limburg diocese in western Germany while at the same time reducing salaries for staff in the name of financial austerity. 

Read more

US archbishop to sell $2.2M mansion
Associated Press     Apr.6, 2014

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Atlanta said Saturday that he will sell a $2.2 million mansion just three months after he moved in as he tried to appease angry parishioners who insisted that he follow the example set by Pope Francis. 


Archbishop Wilton Gregory announced the decision following a closed-door meeting with members of several church councils at his headquarters. He publicly apologized Monday for building the Tudor-style residence and will move out in early May.


"I have decided to sell the Habersham property and invest the proceeds from that sale into the needs of the Catholic community," Gregory told The Associated Press after the meeting. He declined to take questions.

Read more

Archbishop Hebda may be as tone deaf as Archbishop Myers
Alfred B. Doblin      Mar.24, 2014

Newark Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard Hebda is loyal. Unfortunately, his loyalty is misplaced.

In an opinion piece published in The Record last Tuesday, Hebda takes Record Staff Writer Jeff Green to task for reporting on the different lifestyle choices made by Hebda and Newark Archbishop John Myers. Hebda is living in three rooms at Seton Hall University, while Myers is adding 3,000 square feet to a 4,500-square-foot home he intends to use as his residence in retirement.


Hebda wrote that Myers has saved the archdiocese much money by choosing to live for 13 years in the cathedral rectory with other priests. According to Hebda, Myers has only two rooms he can call his own and, he said, "they are in a ZIP code that few would consider enviable."


There was great hope that Hebda, who has been mainly silent during his first six months in the Newark archdiocese, would be a breath of spring after more than a decade of winters of discontent under Myers. The frosty chill induced by Hebda's opinion piece is palpable.


Myers is the archbishop of Newark. If living within Newark's city limits is such a sacrifice to either Myers or Hebda, they should leave for more desirable locales. Bishops should be men of God, not men of gold. 

Read more

How much is a bishop worth?
Mick Forgey     Apr.7, 2014 
$$$ miters

. . . . 

The website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a document titled "Diocesan Financial Issues," which includes a section called "Guidelines for the Retirement of Bishops."


For all bishops in retirement, the section recommends a minimum $1,900 monthly stipend. It also recommends that "in fraternal charity and solicitude," each diocese provide:

  • Appropriate housing and board;
  • Benefits covering the full cost of medical care, as well as home health care, assisted living facilities or long-term care facilities;
  • An office with secretarial assistance;
  • Transportation, including an insured automobile for personal use;
  • Travel expenses to attend official meetings;
  • A funeral and burial.

This is where it can get tricky.

"One of the issues here is that so much of the bishops' compensation comes in the form of perks," said Charles Zech, director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University.


"They live in a mansion rent-free. Meals and other things associated with the position are often not charged to them. They get a chauffeur driver wherever they go. A lot of what you and I would recognize as compensation really doesn't show up as such, because it's not part of their salary, and it's part of the overall running of the diocese, and it's hard to pull out as being compensation to the bishop, per se." 

. . . .

Two retired bishops, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, indicated that their retirement benefits reflected the national guidelines recommended by the bishops' conference. Both also said that their retirement pensions were at or near the same level as the priests of their respective dioceses.

. . . . 

Gumbleton said his pension was a little bit higher than that of priests in his diocese, though by an insignificant amount. He also said the Detroit archdiocese follows the guidelines from the bishops' conference.


"The diocese is to provide a retired bishop a salary that is enough to live on, but then provide these other things -- housing, transportation, and they would pay for a housekeeper, too, if you wanted," Gumbleton said.


Gumbleton's diocese provides him with a monthly retirement pension, a staffed office, and an apartment, rent paid. He drives a diocesan-owned car and the diocese pays for fuel.


He said the procedure for determining compensation is fair, but the only problem is "nobody ever asks any questions. If I wanted to live in a big house ... I guess I could do it, and nobody would say anything about it, but I prefer to have a small apartment in the city. I get what I ask for. And each bishop does."

Read more

Pope Backs Vatican Bank To Continue Operating After Fraud Probes
Associated Press       Apr.7, 2014

Pope Francis has given his backing to the Vatican Bank to keep operating as it strives to improve compliance with international best banking practices.

. . . .

In a statement Monday, the Vatican said "the valuable services that can be offered by the Institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor." 

Read more

At border Mass, bishops call for compassion, immigration reform
Patricia Zapor        Apr. 2, 2014

With the backdrop a few feet away of the rusted iron slats of the 30-foot wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and a dozen other bishops from three countries prayed April 1 for compassion and for a return to ideals that welcome immigrants.


More than 300 people formed the outdoor congregation on the U.S. side of the border and hundreds more participated on the Mexico side, receiving Communion pressed into hands that stretched between the slats, illustrating that, as one teenage member of the choir put it, "we are all one community -- we are all bilingual and bicultural."


Referring to a visit by Pope Francis last summer to the Italian island of Lampedusa where migrants from the Middle East and Africa try to enter Europe illegally, O'Malley in his homily quoted the pope's comments about the "globalization of indifference."

. . . .

The Mass at the intersection of International Street and Nelson capped a two-day experience of the border region for bishops from as far away as Atlanta and Guatemala. Beginning with a Mass the day before at San Xavier del Bac Mission outside Tucson, which dates from when the entire region was part of Mexico, the bishops then walked along rough desert paths used by migrants.


Crawling under strands of barbed wire, scrunching low to walk through a culvert beneath a road, dodging cactus and sticker bushes, the group came upon empty water bottles, backpacks and other belongings abandoned by the migrants who cross the hilly, rocky terrain as they try to get past the various security measures and agents used by the Border Patrol to try to stop illegal immigration.

Then the group met with the Border Patrol at their regional headquarters, before crossing into Mexico to serve dinner at a church-sponsored "comedor," or soup kitchen. The "comedor" serves people who have been deported or who are figuring out whether they want to try to sneak into the United States. 

Read more

Cardinal O'Malley's homily


Weigel criticizes +O'Malley, bishops over border Mass
Michael Sean Winters      Apr.7, 2014

On the most recent episode of ETWN's "The World Over," George Weigel voiced his displeasure with the Mass at the border celebrated last week by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, and the members of the Migration Committee of the USCCB.

 . . . . 

"To turn the Mass into an act of essentially political theater is something I thought we had gotten over in the Church, no matter how noble the cause might be." 

Read more

Would Jesus be at the border?
EJ Montini      Apr.1, 2014

WWJD?  He would have been at the Roman Catholic mass onducted at the border wall at Nogales by Catholic Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, and 10 other bishops.

. . . .

He wouldn't just be there for a few days, however, for a religious ceremony.


He wouldn't limit his work to conversations with those who tend to the immigrants who nearly die crossing the border (dozens actually do die) or speaking with the federal agents charged with stopping border crossers, or catching them when they try, or rescuing them when they get into trouble.


He'd have been there all along.

He'd have never left. 

Read more

Pope announces 1st members of sex abuse commission, including Irish victim and top papal aides
Nicole Winfield       Mar.22, 2014

Pope Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on sex abuse policy Saturday, tapping lay and religious experts - and an Irish woman assaulted as a child by a priest - to start plotting the commission's tasks and priorities.


The eight members, four of them women, were announced after Francis came under fire from victims' groups for a perceived lack of attention to the abuse scandal, which has seriously damaged the Catholic Church's reputation around the world and cost dioceses and religious orders billions of dollars in legal fees and settlements.

. . . .

The initial group named Saturday will define the scope, statutes and priorities of the commission and propose other members to better reflect the church's geographic diversity. 

Read more

The Odd Couple
John Wilkins   Mar.31, 2014

Odd coup;e

When the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints told Pope Francis that the conditions for the canonization of Pope John Paul II had been met, he asked about Pope John XXIII. His cause was not yet concluded, they replied, because the requisite second miracle had not been approved.
But Pope Francis was not prepared to allow John XXIII to be left behind.  
. . . .
So he took charge of the rules himself, waived the requirement for a second miracle in John XXIII's case, and will canonize both popes together on April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday (so designated by John Paul).
The Polish church is said to dislike the pairing, fearing that it diminishes the stature of their man. That only goes to show how important it was for Francis to supply balance in the opposite direction. Otherwise the impact would have been dangerously one-sided.
These were two very different popes. John XXIII had a programme of aggiornamento, or "updating." The Second Vatican Council he called redefined the church as a pilgrim with all humanity, and brought it out of the "long nineteenth century" when Pius IX repudiated "progress, liberalism, and modern civilization." But John Paul II was seen as bringing in a degree of Restoration-an orientation quickly spotted by the British journalist and historian Paul Johnson, who wrote a book about it. "The Roman Catholic Church is a divine autocracy," he began; he ended: "The holy, Roman, catholic, and apostolic Church...has been sick. It is now recovering its health and energy. John Paul has been its skilled and resolute physician." 
. . . . 
Now both popes are to be raised to the universal calendar of saints. But they leave behind serious division in the church. Those who favor change are in contention with those who favor continuity, and who sometimes speak as though the church had never changed at all.
. . . .

If wrongly received, the canonizations could make it worse. Can Francis use the occasion, instead, to build a bridge between the two wings? If so, with Pope-emeritus Benedict probably in attendance, he needs to do a few miracles of his own. Every word that he will say on April 27, when vast crowds are expected in Rome, will count.   

Read more

St. John XXIII, patron saint of Christian unity?
Andrea Tornielli     Mar.24, 2014

Influential representatives of the Orthodox Church were among the first to recognise John XXIII's saintliness in the days of the Second Vatican Council. They even wanted to proclaim the good Pope a "patron" saint of the ecumenical path. Italian journalist and essayist Stefania Falasca has just published a book about this based on testimonies gathered during the procedure for the canonization cause. "Giovanni XXIII, in una carezza la rivoluzione" (which roughly translates as: "John XXIII, a revolution came with a caress") runs through the history of Roncalli's canonization, explaining the reasons and pastoral opportunities that led Francis to approve, pro gratia, the full canonization of his great Lombard predecessor.


In convening the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII took on the task as Successor of Peter, to make it clear to all Churches that the journey towards full unity between all baptised Christians could not be put off any longer. "This is not an ideological ecumenism that wants to gloss over differences inherited from the past, but an ecumenism of truth and charity," Falasca writes. The desire expressed since the days of the Council for a return to unity, does not aim to bring about a forced uniformity but create "a building site for the future of the Church." This is not to be based on emotions and sentiments but on "one, common baptism and the same faith in Jesus Christ."

Read more

Pope Francis' hidden adviser
Andrea Gagliarducci     Mar.24, 2014

Pope Francis established a group of Eight Cardinals to advise him about a reform of the Curia and the government of the universal Church. He has several people he trusts working with him, like Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope's vicar for the diocese of Rome. But the most influential adviser is in fact Pope Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI. Pope Francis holds Pope Benedict in such a high regard that he sent to him the first copy of the interview he granted to the Jesuit-run magazine "Civilta Cattolica". And Benedict XVI, obedient and at the same time precise, responded with four pages of comments.

 . . . .

Certainly, there is also some of Benedict XVI's influence in the trust that the incumbent Pope is  increasingly placing on Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, formerly the Pope emeritus second secretary and now the first secretary of Pope Francis, thanks to a recommendation letter Benedict XVI wrote for him.
 . . . .

The last interview granted by Pope Francis also opens up new scenarios for the future. Pope Francis hinted that "perhaps" there will be other Popes emeritus, leaving open the possibility that he would resign as well in the future. If Benedict XVI is still alive at that time, will there be then a sort of college of Popes emeritus? 

Read more

See also The Pope's Third Embodiment

Vatican bank's ousted president comes out swinging
Nicole Winfield       Mar.28, 2014

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi ended a nearly two-year silence with a statement issued after a Rome judge threw out a Vatican bank-related investigation against him. The court ruled Gotti Tedeschi had nothing to do with daily operations at the Institute for Religious Works and was in fact working to bring the Vatican's financial institution into line with international anti-money-laundering standards when he was fired.


In a five-page statement entitled "The Rehabilitation of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi," the banker's attorneys said the ruling vindicated their client and "shows the unfounded ... accusations" made by the bank's board when it fired him.


The lawyers threatened legal action and said the ruling showed the board had committed "grave errors and thus grave damage to the Holy See" by firing their client when he was working to improve transparency and accountability. 

Read more

Disgraced cardinal's archdiocese subject of Vatican investigation
Joshua J. McElwee      Apr.4, 2014

The Vatican has appointed a bishop known for aggressively investigating cases of sexual abuse to take testimony of clergy alleging sexual misconduct in Scotland's archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, where Cardinal Keith O'Brien was archbishop until resigning under disgrace in February 2013.


The archdiocese's current leader, Archbishop Leo Cushley, announced the investigation in two letters sent to his clergy Tuesday.

. . . .

Tuesday's letters from Cushley state that Pope Francis has asked the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops to send Maltese Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna to "listen to and report the testimony offered by past and present members of the clergy ... concerning any incidents of sexual misconduct committed against them by other members of the clergy whomsoever." 


Scicluna, Cushley states, will visit the archdiocese April 8-10 and "will be available to listen" on those days. The Maltese bishop, Cushley writes, has also asked those who wish to speak with him to "prepare their narrative in writing."


Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, a noted canon and civil lawyer widely known for his advocacy and work on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, said in a brief interview Thursday he had "never heard" of such an investigation before.

. . . .

Doyle said that although O'Brien is not specifically mentioned in the documents, it seems the pope is asking Scicluna to begin building evidence specific to the disgraced cardinal.

"This is just a preliminary so that they're looking around but it's pretty clear what they're doing and why they're doing it," said Doyle. 

Read more

Farewell to Pell
Chris Geraghty      Mar.29, 2014

It was sad and painful, and no satisfaction, sitting at home in front of a computer, watching a senior prelate stagger around, wounded and bleeding. I sat glued to the screen, mesmerized, fiercely proud of our legal system, and watched a prince of the Church in humble street-clothes being tormented.


George Pell, Cardinal Archbishop, sat there day after day, an image of King Lear, a broken man, weary, slow and incompetent, a man who had spent his life climbing the greasy clerical pole, now at the tail-end of his life, being forced to answer questions and to confront his conscience, summoning hollow logic to assist in his defence, thrashing about blaming others, constructing academic distinctions, trying to exculpate himself and deflect the load which will inevitably be heaped upon him. His private secretary, Dr Casey, Mr John Davoren, the elderly man and ex-priest who used to be in charge of the healing service of the archdiocese, and Monsignor Brian Rayner, his former chancellor - all muddlers, all incompetent and unable to provide an accurate version of events, while he was macro-managing the show with his hands off the wheel. The board of any public company would have long since called for the resignation of its CEO.

. . . . 

But what should the archbishop have done? How could he have redeemed himself just days before he was abandoning his flock to take up a cushy appointment in the Holy City?


It would have been difficult and humiliating, especially for a cardinal, but the moment he entered the witness-box and swore the oath to tell the truth, he should have looked the viewers, the commissioner and all Sydney-siders in the eye and told them that he was truly ashamed of what he had done, of the choices he had made, the instructions he had given and leadership he had provided.

Read more
Chris Geraghty is a retired NSW District Court Judge and formerly a Catholic priest.  
See also  A cup of tea with the cardinal: what George Pell did in the Ellis case, an excellent summary of this heart-breaking case.
Italy cardinal defends controversial sex abuse policy
AFP      Mar.29, 2014

A leading Italian cleric on Saturday defended the decision to adopt a Vatican-approved policy which exempts bishops from having to report cases of suspected child sex abuse to the police.


"The Vatican requires national laws to be respected, and we know that there is no such duty (to report abuse) under Italian law," Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops' Conference, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting in Genoa. 

Read more

2 Italian Priests and a Canadian Nun Are Abducted in Cameroon
Gaia Pianigiani Apri.5, 2014

Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun were abducted early Saturday from their mission in northern  Cameroon, the Italian government and Vatican officials said. 


The Italian Foreign Ministry identified the priests as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri. A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the priests were from the Vicenza diocese in northern Italy.


Bishop Phillippe Stevens of the parish of Maroua, Cameroon, where the kidnapping took place, identified the nun as Gilberte Bissiere, according to Reuters. 

Read more

Deposition of Archbishop Nienstedt in clergy sex abuse lawsuit ends abruptly
Tom Lyden       Apr.2, 2014

Archbishop John Nienstedt testified Wednesday about his knowledge of clergy sexual abuse, but the deposition came to an abrupt end, according to the victim's attorney.  


"It ended quite abruptly and quite heatedly," Anderson recalled.


St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson told Fox 9 News that Nienstedt ended the four-hour deposition abruptly by walking out when asked to turn over the archdiocese's files of credibly accused priests.

"He tried to explain he's been doing an internal review, and I said, 'You've been doing an internal review for 20 years,'" Anderson said.   


A spokesperson for the Archdiocese contends that Nienstedt did not "walk out of the deposition," as attorney Anderson claims. Instead, the spokesperson says the deposition had run past its allotted time.


"The archbishop responded to all questions posed to him today during the four hour time period as prescribed by Ramsey County Civil Court," James Accurso said. "The archdiocese has made every reasonable effort to meet the production schedule established by the court last week."


In a statement released Wednesday night regarding the deposition, Nienstedt also "expressed regret for mistakes made in the past."  

Read more

Bankruptcy for Twin Cities Archdiocese considered
Jay Olstad      Apr., 2014

The closest to Minnesota to file was the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 2011, who reportedly offered around $6,000 dollars per victim two months ago. That's a fraction of what church officials likely would have had to pay outside of bankruptcy court.


"If you can file bankruptcy and pay everyone six thousand or defend it outside of bankruptcy and pay them a half a million, do the math," she said.


She suspects the archdiocese has not filed yet because attorneys are still going through the pre-filing process.


A spokesperson for the archdiocese would not answer specific questions about bankruptcy, only saying "all options are on the table at this time." 

Read more

Argentina's Cristina Fernandez Becomes Godmother to Lesbian Couple's Baby
 Ludovica Iaccino       Apr.6 2014

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has become the godmother of a lesbian couple's baby girl in a Roman Catholic ceremony.


Baby Uma Azul is the first child from a gay couple to be baptised in Argentina, where the church opposes gay unions. 


The ceremony took place in the Cathedral of Cordoba, 435 miles (700km) from the capital Buenos Aires.


The baptism was conducted by priest Carlos Varas, under the watchful gaze of parents Carina Villaroel and Soledad Ortiz, Reuters reported.


"Father Varas told us he had been waiting for a couple like us, a gay one, and we happened to come and he accepted us," Villaroel said. 

Read more

Prominent cardinals oppose reform-minded Kasper on treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics

Cardinal Walter Kasper's proposal to allow communion for remarried divorcees was given a negative reception from most of his confreres at last month's consistory according to an Italian journalist.


In an article for the Turin daily, La Stampa, last Monday, Marco Tosatti says that Cardinal Kasper's plan was greeted with a storm of criticism. In his address to the consistory on 22 February, the German cardinal argued that Catholic divorcees who remarry should, after a period of atonement, be allowed to seek re-admittance to the sacraments.


Tosatti claims the vast majority of cardinals who spoke in the subsequent discussion criticised the proposal.

. . . .

When given leave by Pope Francis to reply at the end of the discussion, Cardinal Kasper is said to have shown his "irritation" with his critics.


Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, also criticised Cardinal Kasper. "There are many difficulties with the text of Cardinal Kasper," he said in an interview with the Catholic television station EWTN.

 . . . .

Among those who have gone on record as sympathetic to Kasper's proposals are Cardinals Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Freiburg and Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras. Marx and Rodríguez are members of the C8 group of cardinals appointed to advise the Pope.

Read more

How the Catholic League president's gay parade stunt backfired
Robin Abcarian       Mar.24, 2014

What exactly was Bill Donohue, the cranky public face of the Catholic League and tireless critic of gay rights, trying to prove when he asked to be included in this year's gay pride parade in New York City? That the gays would reject him? Oh please.

 . . . . 

The parade organizers welcome him with open arms.


"As a fellow Irish New Yorker," says GLAAD President and Chief Executive Sarah Kate Ellis, "I'm hoping Bill will march with me at NYC Pride. I look forward to the day when I can march openly with Bill in the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade, and not be turned away because of who I am."


David Studinski, the parade's march director, also welcomes Donohue: "Straight is great - as long as there's no hate."


Friday, March 21: Donohue backs out.

"The purpose of my request was to see just how far they would go without forcing me to abide by their rules," he writes on the Catholic League website. "It didn't take long before they did."


"Today, I informed Heritage of Pride officials that I objected to their rule requiring me to attend gay training sessions, or what they call 'information' sessions. 'I don't agree with your rule,' I said. They responded by saying that attendance was 'mandatory.'" 


Saturday, March 22: In a story on the GLAAD website, Studinski reveals what is involved in the "gay training sessions."


"These trainings address line-up times, check-in locations, our moment of silence, dispersal activity, NYPD safety policies, attire and vehicle/sound permits," Studinski says. "It is imperative that group leaders know this information."


Does it get any more gay nefarious than that? 

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Activist nun: Change in the church comes from the bottom up
Janice Sevre-Duszynska      Mar.22, 2014

The image that surfaces when Sr.Teresa Forcades speaks is evocative of spiraling energy, bubbling in spirit, and of being on the ground with the needs of the people of God.


Forcades -- a Benedictine nun, activist, feminist theologian and physician from Catalonia in Spain -- and Francis -- a Jesuit pope from Argentina -- share a kindred vision of empowering the poor through nonviolence. Both understand the relationship between capitalism and poverty. Francis has denounced the "idolatry of money" and implored world leaders to assure all people "dignified work, education and healthcare." In a way, Forcades takes it further by advocating that the state must be challenged from the bottom up. The people must be the agents of change.

. . . .

She said she believes the Roman Catholic church must acknowledge aggiornamento, which means the church must open up the windows and accept change in line with the Second Vatican Council. Forcades suggested Francis might be an agent of change. However, she said it must be the people in the church who will promote the acceptance of contraception and an end to the church's homophobia and who become voices in the struggle for justice for women.


"We now have women priests with the people from the bottom up," Forcades said with a smile. "The people are ready." 

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No Comment So Far From Uganda Bishops
CNS       Mar.25, 2014

Weeks after a controversial bill against homosexuality became law in their country, there was still no official word from Ugandan Catholic bishops on how they perceived it, said a senior Catholic spokesman.


An informed Ugandan priest, meanwhile, suggested the bishops had opted to keep "safe" and silent over the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act.


"I am not aware that there has been an official statement ... nor that there should be," said Msgr. John Wynand Katende, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Kampala, Uganda's capital.


He noted that, in response to the law, different Catholic clergy had made "general statements" in line with "the official teachings" of the church regarding homosexuality. 

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In Uganda, an opportunity for Pope Francis to act on his words
Jamie Manson     Apr.2, 2014

Back in late February, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed anti-homosexuality legislation into law, it wasn't clear how members of the country's Roman Catholic hierarchy would respond.

 . . . . 

The Ugandan Catholic hierarchy opposed the original 2009 draft of the bill because it proposed the death penalty for some same-sex acts. But once that provision was removed, they did not condemn it.

. . . .

Members of the Ugandan hierarchy continued to be tight-lipped about their position on the new legislation. That was until Monday, when, at a "thanksgiving" celebration for the new law held in Kampala, their actions spoke louder than words.


International media outlets reported that the thanksgiving rally and ceremony was organized by a nonspecific "coalition of religious leaders." But a photo in one of Uganda's major newspapers revealed that Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala not only attended the thanksgiving celebration, he was part of a contingent of five clergymen (including a Muslim sheikh, a Pentecostal bishop and an Anglican bishop) who gave Museveni an engraved plaque to congratulate him for signing the bill.


A YouTube video also shows Lwanga offering prayers at the ceremony for those "led astray in this vice of homosexuality."

. . . .  

An estimated 44 percent of Uganda is Catholic, which suggests that the Roman Catholic hierarchy holds significant influence over the beliefs of the people and the development of public policy. By offering public praise of Museveni's signing of this law, Lwanga has given his blessing to legislation that violates the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexual orientation is not a choice and that gays and lesbians should not be subjected to violence or social discrimination. 

. . . .

The global crisis of anti-homosexuality laws calls Pope Francis not only to uphold church doctrine, but to act on his own pastoral words -- words that have inspired many to believe that the Catholic church has entered a new era of justice and dignity for the LGBT community worldwide. 

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Time for the Church leaders to stop pretending it's the same old game
ACP Editorial      Mar.24, 2014

Diarmuid Martin is right. The success of Pope Francis' agenda depends on all Catholic-Christians, and how far we are willing to make his agenda truly and comfortably or uncomfortably our own. He continued: 'The success of Pope Francis will not be the fruit of a process of reforms which he initiates and on which we, from our safe and secure positions, pass judgement as to how they fit with our own positions'.


Martin's comment is incisive. Because just as a rugby player, breaking the opponent's line, can become isolated if he moves too far ahead of his team-mates, so Pope Francis can become isolated unless he has his 'team-mates' supporting him, moving in concert with him. Ready to run with the ball he's offering them.


Was Martin giving a hint to his bishop-colleagues? Maybe he was giving them a dig in the ribs and effectively saying to them, 'Come on, let's take this tide that's being offered us in the 'Francis effect'.

And if he was then he was surely echoing a deep frustration in Irish Catholics and in many Irish priests and religious that our bishops, as our leaders, in this new dispensation need to start giving us a lead because surely we have a right to expect and demand that much. 

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Dominican nun at heart of Charlotte Catholic controversy takes leave from teaching
Patricia L. Guilfoyle      Apr.4, 2014

The Dominican sister who gave a presentation on sexuality to students at Charlotte Catholic High School that sparked controversy among students and parents last month is taking a sabbatical from teaching and cancelling her other speaking engagements.


The presentation March 21 by Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel of Nashville, Tenn., entitled "Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift," drew the ire of hundreds of students and parents over the past two weeks, and their emotions boiled over during a parents meeting with school and diocesan leaders Wednesday night.

. . . .

In an April 4 statement, the president of Aquinas College defended the school's curriculum and Sister Jane's credentials as a theologian, but acknowledged that the portion of Sister Jane's presentation of social science data about the alleged causes of same-sex attraction - which prompted many of the concerns from parents and students - was outside the scope of her academic background. 

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Pope and Obama discuss religious freedom, life issues, immigration 
Francis X. Rocca      Mar.27, 2014
Obama & Pope

In their first encounter, Pope Francis received U.S. President Barack Obama at the Vatican March 27 for a discussion that touched on several areas of tension between the Catholic Church and the White House, including religious freedom and medical ethics. 

During an unusually long 50-minute meeting, the two leaders discussed "questions of particular relevance for the church in (the U.S.), such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection as well as the issue of immigration reform," the Vatican said in statement. 

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Time for Pope Francis to talk to Jimmy Carter
Maureen Fiedler      Apr. 4, 2014

I had the great privilege of interviewing former President Jimmy Carter for Interfaith Voices, on Tuesday, April 1. The occasion was the publication of his new book entitled A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power. 


I came away convinced that Carter and Pope Francis should meet for a serious discussion of the plight of women in the world, and that that conversation should include women's ordination. In fact, I asked Carter directly if he would be willing to participate in such a dialogue, and he said, "Of course, I would."  

. . . . 
The overall thesis of Carter's book is this:  "... the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls. ..."  

. . . . 

But he goes further -- in a distinctly religious direction. He attributes the abuse of women largely to the "false interpretation of religious texts," whether those are in the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament or the Quran. In the case of Christianity, he makes clear that Jesus fully embraced gender equality, and in the case of Islam, he makes a similar point with the Prophet Mohammed. He is also quite clear that some men embrace these misreadings even after the errors in their interpretations are pointed out, simply because men all too frequently like their sense of superiority, however unfounded.


He also addressed the unequal treatment of women in religious denominations, and favors the full equality of women as pastors, preachers, priests, bishops, rabbis, imams, etc. In fact, he and his wife Rosalynn left the Southern Baptist Convention over issues about the roles of women in the year 2000 and affiliated with the more progressive Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.    

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The Colbert Report: 3/25/14 in :60 Seconds 

Stephen Colbert describes Jimmy Carter's finest achievement, and the former president shares his demands for the Catholic Church.

Priest: Ukrainian Catholics flee Crimea to escape threats of arrest
Jonathan Luxmoore      Mar.25, 2014

Members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church are fleeing Crimea to escape threats of arrest and property seizures, a priest has said.


"The situation remains very serious, and we don't know what will happen - the new government here is portraying us all as nationalists and extremists," said Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a parish rector and military chaplain from Kerch, Crimea, who was speaking to the Catholic News Service just four days after Russia finalised the region's annexation.


He said that officials from Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, had called him in for questioning about his community and to ask whether he "recognised the new order."


Father Milchakovskyi said that he and his family and at least two-thirds of his parishioners had left Kerch for Ukrainian-controlled territory on the advice of Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych.

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Kristina Glicksman    Apr.4, 2014

Every once in a while, a film is released that is so agonisingly ridiculous that one leaves the cinema wondering how such a project could have made it so far.  With its wacky theology, its lack of imagination and its contempt for attention to detail, Noah is every inch that movie.  For anyone hoping for an inspired retelling of the flood narrative with some creative insight, or a biblical blockbuster to rival the impact of classics such as The Ten Commandments, this film is sure to be a huge disappointment.  The greatest benefit for the thinking Christian is that, in its very ridiculousness, this film demonstrates the importance of an understanding of scripture that is rooted in a sound theological tradition.  Noah shows how stories and characters from the Bible can be warped out of recognition by a shallow culture which finds itself adrift in unbelief.


What is so perplexing about the movie is that director and creator Darren Aronofsky seems to have approached the project not by taking the story and finding its potential, but by deciding first what kind of movie he wanted to create and then plugging in a few details to make it resemble the account in the Book of Genesis.  This has resulted in a film which has little originality and reflects all of the worst post-apocalyptic, dystopian and fantasy movies that have disgraced the silver screen.  Noah the action hero is not a very credible figure, even if he is played by Russell Crowe.  Joshua or Samson would have fit the bill more easily; or, if it was conflict he wanted, Aronofsky could have turned to David and Saul. 

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Longtime peace activist removed from ministry after concelebrating Mass with woman priest
Brian Roewe     Mar.28, 2014

A longtime peace and human rights activist arrested countless times, Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada has been removed from public ministry for concelebrating Mass with a woman priest in 2011.

The letter removing the 76-year-old's public priestly faculties -- a copy of which NCR obtained March 21 -- came from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which reviewed documentation related to the Nov. 22, 2011, liturgy Zawada concelebrated with Roman Catholic Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszynska.


"Having carefully examined the acts of the case, and the vota of the former Minister General and the Rev. Zawada's Provincial Superior, this Dicastery has decided to impose on Rev. Jerome Zawada, OFM, a life of prayer and penance to be lived within the Queen of Peace Friary in Burlington, Wisconsin," the letter states.


In addition, Zawada cannot present himself in public as a priest or celebrate the sacraments publicly; however, he can concelebrate Mass with other friars at the friary and in private. 

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Ordinariate priest suspended after revelations of civil partnership
Abigail Frymann      Mar.24, 2014

A priest in the Ordinariate created for former Anglicans has been suspended after it emerged that he had entered a civil partnership.


An investigation by The Mail on Sunday revealed that Fr Donald Minchew entered into a civil union with Mustajab Hussain in 2008 while he was still a vicar in the Church of England. Fr Minchew maintains that he was motivated by a wish to help Mr Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant, to remain in Britain.

. . . .

Fr Minchew, 66, told The Mail on Sunday his civil partnership to Mr Hussain, 32, was "the only way I could see of getting him in the country", adding that he and Mr Hussain had not seen each other for "donkey's years".  

. . . .

Last night the Home Office said it was determined to crack down on immigration offenders. Mr Hussain faces an investigation and possible deportation and Fr Minchew could face prosecution for aiding unlawful immigration through the sham civil partnership.


The civil partnership certificate shows the event took place at the register office in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and was witnessed by David Nicholas and Edward Minchew, the priest's brother. It records Fr Minchew's previous marriage as having been dissolved.


Now a widower, the father of four insisted he was not gay and said Mr Hussain, a Muslim, had a wife.

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Opus Dei Priest's Secessionist Roadmap to Theocracy
Frank Cocozzelli      Apr.1, 2014
McCloskey Fr. C.J. ("John") McCloskey is in many ways the  American face of the secretive Catholic organization, Opus Dei.  He is a former Wall Streeter, who is well-connected on the Catholic Right and among the political and media elite of Washington, DC. There, he fosters his message of traditional Catholicism and supply-side economics framed with a reactionary view of the American people as being either "Bible Christians and faithful Catholics" or a "...culture of death."

McCloskey recently raised the stakes of his geo-political vision in an essay in which he considers secession in response to  the continuation of Roe vs. Wade as the law of the land, which he sees as epitomizing the "tyrannical regime" that is the government of the United States. 

"Then there is another possible course of action, which, while ranking low in probability with the bookmakers, should not be ruled out: secession. I wrote about this elsewhere some years ago and stirred up no small amount of controversy. The red state/blue state dichotomy could--perhaps sooner than we might think--result in states opting to pull out of the union. My guess is that if that were to happen, the armed forces of the United States (who tend to be more conservative and religious than the general population) would be reluctant to exercise military force to stop seceding states."  

. . . .
As startling as these assertions may be, they are not new for McCloskey.  As I observed in a post in 2013, the Opus Dei prelate is linked to Catholic neo-Confederate activist Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Indeed, McCloskey is no stranger to the concept of secession.
. . . .
Neither Woods nor McCloskey advocates the restoration of the institution of slavery. However, they do seek a different system of oppression: theocracy. Ideas such as nullification, secession and concurrent majorities can be used interchangeably to bring about theocracy as they were once used attempting to make permanent human slavery. And just as African-Americans were once denied a minimum standard of natural rights so too would those not practicing a traditionalist Catholic or fundamentalist Christian religious belief. Personal decisions regarding birth control, reproductive rights and marriage equality would be limited by the dictates of ultra-orthodox Christian Applications to secular law, not by the collective will of the nation.
. . . . 
It is disconcerting enough that zombie concepts such as nullification and secession are currently being casually bandied about in the public discourse. It is even more disconcerting when a priest who has the ear of the rich and powerful does so as well.  

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New Translation of the Roman Missal
Translating tweets into Latin 
Thomas Reese     Mar.29, 2014 

In a fascinating NPR interview, Monsignor Daniel Gallagher explains how he translates the pope's tweets from modern languages into Latin.


"Are the Latin tweets a straight translation of the English tweets, meaning is the Latin Twitter feed identical to the other Twitter feeds?" asked NPR's Audie Cornish.


"No," responded the Vatican Latinist, "it's always the same thought, but we do have a latitude of freedom as Latinists because we want to put it in language that is properly Latin, so not simply just a slavish translation from English or Italian or whatever language the tweet happens to originally be in."

. . . .

Too bad the English translators of the liturgy did not have the same freedom as the Latin translators of the pope's Tweets.

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 Fourth Sunday of Lent Collect



Father of peace,
we are joyful in your Word,
your Son Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to you.  Let us hasten toward Easter with the eagerness of faith and love.  


 In a wonderful manner, Lord God, you reconcile humankind to yourself through your only Son, the eternal Word. Grant that your Christian people may press on toward the Easter sacraments

with lively faith and ready hearts.  



 O God, who through your Word

reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, grant, we pray, that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come. 


Upcoming Events   

Webinar:  Ministering to families experiencing divorce or who have experienced it 

Host: Jim FitzGerald, Call To Action Executive Director

Presenter: Kate Kuenstler, PHJC, JCD, Canon Lawyer

Sunday, April 13         6:00pm Eastern/3:00pm Pacific

Information                 Register



West Coast Regional CTA Conference 

Empowering the People of God:

A Prophetic Call to Justice

May 2-4 in Sacramento, CA


Speakers Include:

 Sr. Simone Campbell, Matthew Fox, Jamie Manson, Brian Swimme, Edwina Gateley, Ched Myers, Bishop Peter Hickman, Rose Elizondo, David and Tom Stang, Liz England (from Future Church) and Ellen Euclide (from CTA-USA).


Plus "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" with Producer Jules Hart and Roman Catholic Women Priests Jane Via and Victoria Rue.
Pre-registration ends April 18 and the room block at the hotel closesApril 11.   Check for more information.
Association for the Rights of Catholics in the  Church 



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