Catholics for Renewal


News 2017

                                  A broad and  diverse mix of Local, National and International faith-related News, Information and Opinions. 
                            Views expressed are those of the Authors and may or may not always represent those of Catholics For Renewal.

See previous Catholics For Renewal EDITORIALS 
Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia

Catholics for Renewal  prepared an Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of Australia in consultation with many Catholics strongly committed to the teachings of Jesus and their Church. People of the Church, including our bishops, have been distressed by the increasing failings of our Church, particularly in the context of the evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Australian Catholics have been and remain invited to consider and sign the Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia in the Open Letter page of this website.The Open Letter provides an opportunity, consistent with the Church’s Code of Canon Law, for the faithful - lay people, religious, priests, all members of the Church - to seek renewal of the Church. A Report sent to the bishops of Australia on the Open Letter on 2nd May has also been published on the Open Letter page.

Forthcoming Lectures   (Full details on the Events Page)

NEW EVENT        SIP - Integrity In Public Office - Is It Possible In The Age Of Spin?

Wednesday 7 June, 8pm, Pumphouse Hotel, 125 Nicholson Street Fitzroy,

Helder Camara Public Lecture.  The Opal & the Pearl: Two kinds of perfection.   Exploring a Christian spirituality for our times
Thursday 18 May, 5pm - 6.30pm Newman College, Melbourne University  (See Report on this event below, Friday 19 May)
Marist Underground Cathedrals. A Spirituality for the 21st Century, 30 May,  6-7pm, Christ Theatre, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne (and other Cities, Dates and Times around Australia)

Anthony Foster: campaigner for child sexual abuse victims dies
Extract from The Guardian, Saturday 27 May 2017
The chair of Australia’s child sex abuse royal commission has said he is “deeply saddened” by the death of tireless victims advocate Anthony Foster.    Foster, who became a relentless advocate after his daughters were raped by a priest, was reported to have died on Friday evening from a major stroke.     Foster and his wife, Chrissie, shared their torment to the media and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.     Justice Peter McClellan extended his condolences to the Foster family and praised their dedication to achieving justice for survivors of child sexual abuse.         “They attended hundreds of days of public hearings and participated in many of our policy roundtables,” McClellan said.       “With a dignity and grace, Anthony and Chrissie generously supported countless survivors and their families whilst also managing their own grief.     “Commissioners and staff at the royal commission are deeply shocked and saddened by this news.”     Foster’s daughters, Emma and Katie, suffered sexual abuse at the hands of pedophile priest Kevin O’Donnell at their Melbourne school between 1988 and 1993.   Emma took an overdose of her medication and died in 2008, while Katie was hit by a car and is now brain damaged and in a wheelchair.   Tributes poured in for Foster on Saturday, with many describing the father as a voice for survivors who struggled to discuss their personal experiences.   “Anthony was the person that stood up and he spoke in quiet but powerful words, and in many ways you know, he roared like a lion on this issue,” friend Paul Kennedy said.    Kennedy co-authored a book, Hell on the Way to Heaven, with Foster in 2010.         “It is just so sad for everyone that Anthony Foster has died,” he said.    Fellow victims’ advocate Manny Waks said he was devastated to hear of the death of his friend and colleague.      “Anthony, together with his dear wife Chrissie, has been one of my inspirations,” he wrote on Facebook.         “Despite all they endured, they maintained determination and dignity in their ongoing campaign for justice and reform within the Catholic Church – for them and for others.”...(more)    Photo: The Guardian, Photograph: Riccardo De Luca/AP
Archdiocese of Melbourne in sorrow at the death of Anthony Foster
Extract from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Saturday 27 May 2017
We have been greatly saddened and shocked by the sudden and unexpected death of Anthony Foster.   Mr Foster has been a devoted and loyal husband to his wife Chrissie and his daughters.    As a father and family man he faced and responded to the abuse of his two daughters, the tragic death of Emma and the lifelong injuries to Katie.    He was a tireless and fearless advocate for the cause and rights of survivors of abuse within the Church and the introduction of systems to prevent its repetition. We would expect nothing less from a father who loves his children.   Mr Foster was a mentor to survivors and families affected by abuse, and supported and encouraged them through many days and hours of hearings of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and Royal Commission.    Mrs Foster and her daughters Katie and Aimee are very much in our thoughts and prayers at this time...(more)
Death of a man who "crankily dwelt on the past"
Extract from James, Australia, Catholica,  Saturday 27 May 27, 2017
I met the Fosters at the Royal Commission and had a chat with them. A lovely, gracious and very brave couple. Anthony will be sorely missed.      Benedict XVI’s refusal to meet with the Fosters, and Anthony Fisher’s dismissal of them as crankily dwelling on the past said all that need to be said about senior clergy’s attitudes towards child sexual abuse by their colleagues.      There is an interesting passage in Louise Mulligan’s book about Bishop Mulkearns, universally condemned and pilloried by his fellow bishops and others at the Royal Commission. Mulkearns’ real fault was not doing what Geoff Robinson did by defying the Vatican and canon law. Here is the passage from Cardinal where Michael Costigan, a former priest, friend of Mulkearns and fellow canon lawyer tries to explain why Mulkearns acted the way he did.    “Costigan offers the explanation that Mulkearns had a ‘blind devotion to the papacy and to Rome…..If Rome told him to act in a certain way, he believed there was no alternative – it was almost a juvenile reaction..…Mulkearns confessed to him that he honestly did not know what to do about Ridsdale. He did not know how to handle it,” Costigan says. It culminated, Costigan says, with what is known as the ad limina visit, where bishops visit the Vatican for an audience with the Pope. Mulkearns appealed to Pope John Paul II about what to do about child sexual abuse – he wanted, says Costigan, ‘some direction or counselling.’ He said the Pope would not talk to him about it, Costigan says. “He said the Pope turned his back and walked out of the room.’   Costigan says Mulkearns felt completely at sea and the exchange radically altered his opinion of the Pope. ‘It wasn’t too long after he came back that he stood down as Bishop ,’ Costigan says.”...(more)
Pope, President Trump speak of hopes for peace
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, Melbourne Catholic, 25 May 2017
Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace 24 May, and as the president left, he told the pope, ‘I won't forget what you said.’      The atmosphere at the beginning was formal and a bit stiff. However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband ‘potica,’ a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland. There were smiles all around.      Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump is ‘a symbol of peace.’      Speaking in Spanish, the pope told Trump, ‘I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace.’      The president responded, ‘We can use peace.’     Pope Francis also gave the president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017 and told him, ‘I signed it personally for you.’ In addition, he gave Trump copies of three of his documents: ‘The Joy of the Gospel’; ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ on the family; and ‘Laudato Si,'‘ on the environment.    Knowing that Pope Francis frequently has quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump presented Pope Francis with a large gift box containing five of the slain civil rights leader's books, including a signed copy of ‘The Strength to Love.’    ‘I think you will enjoy them,’ Trump told the pope. ‘I hope you do.’    After meeting the pope, Trump went downstairs to meet Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister. He was accompanied by Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, and H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. The meeting lasted 50 minutes....After leaving the Vatican, the president was driven across Rome for meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.    Asked by reporters there how his meeting with the pope went, Trump responded, ‘Great.’   ‘He is something,’ Trump said. ‘We had a fantastic meeting.’....(more)  Photo: Crux,
Giving young people a voice
Edited extract from CathNews, 25 May 2017
Young people across Australia are being called to share their views about life, faith, and their experience of Church through an online survey, reports the ACBC Media Blog.      Published by the Australian bishops, the survey seeks to capture the opinions and perspectives of young people as part of a national consultation process that will inform an international conversation in Rome next year.    Australians aged between 16 and 29 are encouraged to complete the survey. The questions cover a range of topics including: the experience of being listened to, using social media and technology, friendships and influences in today’s world, opportunities for engagement with Church activities such as, outreach programs, youth masses, community leadership or parish events. [Ed: see details on the Youth Page HERE]          Image: Cathnews
Tasmanian euthanasia bill defeated
Extracts from CathNews, The Advocate, 25 May 2017
Legislation to allow for euthanasia to take place in Tasmania has been voted down for the third time in less than a decade, The Advocate reports.     Tasmania’s lower house defeated the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill last night, with eight members voting in favour and 16 against.   Politicians were given a conscience vote for the debate and many took the opportunity to share personal stories and convey the tragic losses of countless others......Earlier in the day, a rally on Parliament House lawns attracted hundreds of people in support of the bill while a petition signed by more than 800 people, tabled by government minister Rene Hidding, expressed opposition......Premier Will Hodgman did not support the bill, saying he had “grave reservations” about the bill’s efforts to ensure vulnerable people would be protected.     Similar bills were defeated in the Tasmanian parliament in 2009 and 2013....(more)
‘My Dear Friends’ – Bishop Vincent’s Homily from 15 April, 2017
Homily for the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night in Year A 2017 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.      Extract from Catholic Outlook, published here 25 May 2017
My dear friends, It is a great privilege for me to celebrate this first Easter Vigil Mass with you as your bishop. I’d like to welcome you warmly to our Cathedral as you have welcomed me to this great diocese. I’d like to welcome the RCIA candidates who will shortly be initiated into the full communion with the Church. With all the bad publicity around, one wonders if it is a good time to remain a Catholic, let alone to become one. Yet, here you are a proof, not of the Church’s success, but of God’s power in human weakness.         I want to thank you for living out your faith in a challenging environment. We have faced many challenges before: persecution, hardship, division, unbelief, hostility etc. But perhaps never in the history of the Church in Australia and in the Western world generally, have we ever faced the challenge of epic proportions like the current crisis. It strikes at the heart of the Church. It exposes the deep-seated cultural malaise of the institution. Some would even say that the Church is sick to the core.       Like the parable in the Gospel, we leaders in the Church at times have given the battered children stone instead of bread, snake instead of fish. No wonder many are disillusioned and have walked away.           We have to admit that we have drifted from the kingdom vision of Jesus. Instead of demonstrating that fundamental ethos of care for the most vulnerable, the Church has been shown to care primarily for its own security, reputation and interests. Like the parable in the Gospel, we leaders in the Church at times have given the battered children stone instead of bread, snake instead of fish. No wonder many are disillusioned and have walked away.      The Gospel tonight speaks of the frustration and disillusionment of the disciples as they find an empty tomb instead of their Master. Perhaps, their experience is not unique. Many also search for Jesus in the Church and instead find it empty and void of life and love. It is incumbent on us especially as leaders and ministers to gain your trust and to make the Church again the place where people can meet and experience the risen Lord.      In order for us to be like the re-gathered community in which the Easter Christ was encountered, we need to embrace and live fully the paschal rhythm. It is the most fundamental call of the Gospel. We cannot live life to the full if we gloss over the inconvenient truths about ourselves. As the Church, we need to die to that which is not of Christ in order to rise again to all that Christ and his Gospel stand for. We need to die to being an experience of exclusion and condemnation and to rise to being an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity. We need to die to worldly power in all its forms and rise to the Christ’s subversive way of simplicity, vulnerability and powerlessness....(more)  Photo: Catholic Outlook
A Complex Conversation: LGBT Catholics & the Francis Papacy
Francis has taken a dramatically different approach to speaking about gay and lesbian people than previous popes, who emphasized homosexuality as an “intrinsic moral evil".      Extract from John Gehring, subscription journal La Croix International, 25 May 2017
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been in Chicago and San Francisco talking to LGBT Catholics and hearing from theologians, Catholic school leaders, parents, and others about how the church can do a better job reaching out to and learning from gay Catholics.    One of the most hopeful messages I heard came from a Catholic bishop appointed by Pope Francis.    “In a church that has not always valued or welcomed your presence, we need to hear your voices and take seriously your experiences,” Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, told several hundred participants at the New Ways Ministry gathering in Chicago last month, “LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis"...(more)
Vatican-approved bishop seized for a fourth time in China
Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou was summoned to the religious bureau and has not returned.
Extract from reporter, Hong Kong, China, 25 May 2017
A Vatican-approved bishop has been detained by Chinese officials for the fourth time since he was confirmed Bishop of Wenzhou last September.    Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province was detained May 18, a month after he was briefly locked up during Holy Week.   Bishop Shao has been placed under detention or removed from the diocese four times since he automatically succeeded Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang, his predecessor, who died in September 2016....(source)
Catholic Citizens needed within Church
Extract from John Warhurst, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 25 may 2017    
Catholics must stand up and become active citizens not loyal subjects within their own church community. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has pointed to weaknesses in culture and governance within the Catholic Church in Australia.        Within the church the normal tenets of liberal democracy, including inclusiveness, transparency, equality and responsiveness do not apply.      The church hierarchy has responded in various ways to the revelations of the Royal Commission, including apologies, liturgies of lament, reparations and promises of new child safety regulations. But the bishops show no inclination to tackle these structural and cultural issues, so it is up to the Catholic laity to do so. This is the strong message of Francis Sullivan, the lay head of the church’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Council.    Unfortunately, historically the Catholic Church is not a community in which its lay members are called on to play such a role. Instead as Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta has pointed out on several occasions recently the church is a pyramid in which the ordained clergy are at the pinnacle and the laity at the bottom.    Catholics have been brought up to the constant refrain that the church is not a democracy. They are dissuaded from challenging its undemocratic structures and urged to accept church discipline from the top....(more)
The Catholic Church has at most 10 years to adapt’
Supporting values that the majority of people have rejected makes us irrelevant
Extract from Mark Patrick Hederman*, The Irish Times, 16 May 2017, republished here 25 May 2017
The Catholic Church, as well as everyone else, must understand that the world was hit by a cultural tsunami in the 20th century. We must humbly begin to pick up the pieces and put them back together again.   The 20th century was a crucible. The world which has emerged from this time-machine is changed, changed utterly. There is no going back; our only way is forward.   Discovery of the world of the unconscious; full acknowledgement and acceptance of the dimension of femininity, both inside and outside of ourselves, with all this implies in terms of gender balance and sexual diversity; recognition of the immensity of scientific discovery; and humble apprenticeship in a laboratory of ever-expanding technology; these are some of the characteristics required for access, capability and survival in the new world we have inherited.   It is as if our world were precariously poised, metaphorically speaking, on two tectonic plates as far as socio-political awareness is concerned. On the one hand you have the more advanced and sophisticated cultures, such as many of us in the so-called “first world” enjoy, where democracy has become the accepted idiom.   Then you have the Catholic Church, and many others who, in certain respects, have not yet moved out of the nineteenth century.   But, at this time, it is as if these two tectonic plates were on the move. The place where they could meet is called a plate boundary. Plate boundaries are commonly associated with geological events such as earthquakes. When previous tectonic plates separated, some millions of years ago, the cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland represented one half of the divide and Nova Scotia in Canada became the other, with the Atlantic Ocean in between.   We may have to experience an even greater divide if the two tectonic plates I have been describing collide before the Church realises that such danger is imminent.        Dr David Barker, responsible for the 2004 Report of the Church in America, refers to the “perceived wisdom that culture change takes 200 years in the church. This is no longer an acceptable point of view; it is an excuse for inaction,” he warns. The Catholic Church in Ireland has probably five or, at most, 10 years to take these realities on board before being reduced to a tiny irrelevant minority.     We have been slow to appreciate what the Pope’s core revolutionary strategy is. Francis is convinced that what is required for the third millennium is a “synodal church”, in which there is free and open debate and consultation. We don’t belong to a global organisation as such – we are part of an organism [wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them]....(more)   Image: Amish, The Irish Times, Getty Images.   *Mark Hederman is a monk of Glenstal Abbey in Limerick. His latest book is The Opal and the Pearl, Towards a Gyroscopic Ethics, Dublin,
The evolution of Catholicism in Africa
The Church is enjoying robust growth in Africa yet faces several challenges. “African Catholicism remains on the margins of global theological thinking,” an expert told "La Croix".
Extract from Élise Racque, subscription journal La Croix International, 20 May 2017

How big is the Catholic Church in Africa?   Vatican data revealed in 2015 that there were a little more than 222 million Catholics in the continent – one in every five inhabitants – representing 17 percent of all the word’s Catholics.  That’s two percent more than in 2010.....(source)
Francis and the new sultan: Trump, the Vatican and US Catholics
(Ed: News and opinion piece with further insight into the thinking of Pope Francis's 'Magellan's gaze')
Extracts from Massimo Faggioli, La Croix International, 15 May 2017. Extracted here 20 May 2017
Pope Francis will receive US President Donald Trump on May 24th at the Vatican in an audience that could be like no other in the previous history of US-Holy See relations...........There are clearly two different worldviews at play..............For instance, Trump represents nothing of the “compassionate conservatism” espoused by the previous Republican president. In fact, Trump is neither compassionate nor conservative.       Second, if there is a Catholic influence on Mr. Trump, it is certainly not one that is theologically aligned with Pope Francis. Among American Catholics closest to the current US administration, there are certainly the Knight of Columbus. They were among the most enthusiastic supporters of the executive order on religious liberty the president signed on May 4.          In contrast to all this, there is Pope Francis’ worldview, which can be synthesized – in the pope’s own words – as “Magellan’s gaze”.             “In the measure in which we go out from the center and distance ourselves from it, we discover more things and, when we look at the center of these new things that we have discovered, new places, from these peripheries, we see that reality is different,” Francis said in a 2015 interview with the Argentine shantytown newspaper, La Carcova News.           “One thing is to observe reality from the center and another to see it from the last place where you arrived,” he said.            “An example: Europe seen from Madrid in the 16th century was one thing; however, when Magellan arrives at the end of the American continent, he sees Europe from a new point reached and understands another thing,” the pope concluded.             In this geopolitical view, the center is redefined by the peripheries. This is true for the two centers of power, Rome, and the United States, which will be in play at the May 24th audience. The pope who is trying to bring an end to a “Rome first” mentality within Catholicism will be meeting with the president who inaugurated his term in office with a fiery “America first” speech.....(more)      Image: Ferdinand Magellan,
The pope, the bishops and Europe's new lease on life
The leadership groups of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) met Pope Francis this week.
Extract from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, La Croix International, 19 May 2017. Extracted here 20 May 2017
It has been a particularly “European” week for Pope Francis including his May 16 and 17 meetings with the leadership groups of the various institutions representing the bishops of the European continent.    The pope on Tuesday, May 16,  met at his Santa Marta Residence with the Permanent Committee of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).   This body comprises delegates from the bishops conferences of the member countries of the European Union.      Rethinking Europe:  Led by its president, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who is also president of the German Bishops’ Conference, the COMECE delegation’s purpose was to brief Pope Francis about a dialogue on “Rethinking Europe” that is being organized in Rome in collaboration with the Holy See from October 27-29.    “’Rethinking Europe’ is intended to be the beginning of a process of dialogue between representatives of the Churches (bishops and lay people) [Editor's emphasis] and the politicians who direct and bear political responsibility,” explained Cardinal Marx.    The Rome Dialogue also aims to promote deeper reflection on the future of the EU in a bit to reawaken the enthusiasm shared by Pope Francis, who will also take part in the dialogue, in his various talks, the cardinal added.        On Thursday, May 19, the pope also hosted the leadership of the Council of the Bishops Conferences of Europe (CCEE), which comprises all the presidents of the bishops conferences of Europe......The new CCEE leadership group, which was elected in October 2016, is planning to focus on “the issue of secularization, which presses us towards a renewed evangelization of our Churches and our countries", explained Cardinal Bagnasco......“Even more than that, the Church also loves the continent with its wealth of history, tradition, cultures and peoples who each wish to preserve their own identity as well as meet together in a spirit of unity and communion.....During each of these meetings, Francis will have heard a double European credo, namely the defense of the European Union in quest of a new lease of life (a project promoted by COMECE), and that of a Europe of peoples going beyond the EU.     The latter is encouraged by the CCEE.....(more)
Irish Benedictine monk delivers Helder Camara Lecture at Newman College
Extracts from Media and Communications Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Friday 19 May, 2017
On Thursday evening, before a packed out assembly gathered at Newman College on the Melbourne University campus, visiting Benedictine monk Mark Patrick Hederman delivered the Helder Camara Lecture. Mark Hederman has been a monk of Glenstal Abbey in Limerick for over 40 years, the last eight as Abbot. He has also been headmaster of the school attached to the Abbey......Father Mark’s lecture was titled ‘The opal and the pearl: Exploring a Christian spirituality for our times.’...The theme developed by Fr Hederman is that we are living, in the 21st century, in what he called a ‘cultural tsunami’, in which much of the ‘worthy architecture’ of our lives has been swept away, leaving us, as Christians, in a vacuum.    As Catholics we are, he compared, like his native Ireland, referred to once as ‘an island of virtue in a sea of vice.’     Developing the maritime theme further, he reflected that, today, it is more as if we were journeying on the Titanic, in which the infrastructure that has, until now, kept us afloat (he was referring to the Church) is no longer useful.    In fact, he warned, we are heading for an iceberg.    Fr Hederman stated that this is an iceberg we could have avoided if we were really in contact with the actual world, as it is around us, he emphasised, instead of clinging unshakeably to structures that now appear to be failing to represent what we truly are.    God has created us as human flesh, he pointed out, and every one of us aspires, indeed yearns, to live a life that is fully human. This tells us surely, he continued, that God, our loving Creator, must also want us to be fully human.    So our culture is, or should be, said Fr Mark, a co-operative work between ourselves and the Holy Spirit, a creative work, a work that is ‘a ‘a procreation of eternity and time.’.....(more)   Photo: Melbourne Catholic
Abuse scandal leaves priests feeling ‘betrayed’
Extracts from CathNews, The Southern  Cross, 19 May 2017
Clergy care co-ordinators could help priests come to terms with the child sexual abuse scandal, says Fr Greg Bourke, national director of the Office for Clergy, Life and Ministry, reports The Southern Cross.    Fr Bourke, who addressed the Clergy Healthcare Network Conference in Adelaide last month, said clergy care co-ordinators have an important role to play in helping priests by listening to how they have been affected by the scandal.    He likened the effect of the scandal on priests to a failed marriage, in so far as one partner feels betrayed by the other and can’t believe they didn’t know that the person they were living with was having an affair.    “We often hear clergy say ‘but these men were my friends, we studied together, we holidayed together and I never knew’,” said Fr Bourke.    “All of those affective emotions that a married person would conceivably experience can be conditionally translated to how a clergy person might be affected.”      Fr Bourke said for many members of the clergy the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had “rubbed our noses in it” and “we don’t like the affect it is having on us emotionally, mentally and spiritually”.    To prevent priests from moving too quickly to “defence mechanisms”, Fr Bourke said clergy care health workers could be positive agents......Fr Bourke said many priests were tempted to “shrink, draw down and lose their sense of worth”......Some reacted by refusing to visit schools or engage with children, even though child safeguards and policies provided them with a framework for appropriate interaction such as having contact with children when there were other adults around.   Fr Bourke said priests needed to understand that the norms and guidelines for working with children could help them to “flourish”.....(more)   photo: Cathnews
Cardinal-watch: Maradiaga bashes Burke, as Benedict lauds Sarah
Edited Extract from Staff, Crux, 19 May 2017
While the coordinator of the pope's 'C9' council of cardinal advisers has dismissed American Cardinal Raymond Burke as a 'disappointed man' upset with his loss of power, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has defended Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea as someone with whom the Church's liturgy is in "good hands."....Maradiaga’s comments on Burke came in a new interview book with his fellow Salesian, Father Antonio Carriero, titled Solo il Vangelo è rivoluzionario (“Only the Gospel is Revolutionary”), published in Italy by Piemme......Maradiaga also criticized conservative schools of thought in Catholicism, of which Burke is often seen as a symbol.    “These currents of the Catholic right are persons who seek power and not the truth, and the truth is one,” he said. “If they claim to find some ‘heresy’ in the words of Francis, they’re making a big mistake, because they’re thinking only like men and not as the Lord wants.   “What sense does it have to publish writings against the pope, which don’t damage him but ordinary people? What does a right-wing closed on certain points accomplish? Nothing!.....      ....Benedict’s vote of confidence is all the more striking given that when he resigned the papacy in February 2013, Benedict vowed to remain “hidden from the world,” and has rarely broken his silence since. The fact that he chose to do so now, many observers believe, reflects both his passion for the liturgy and also his support for Sarah....(more)
Russians fight ransomware virus with holy water
Extracts from Crux, Catholic News Agency, 18 May 2017
Following recent cyber attacks through a form of ransomware called “WannaCry” that have targeted more than 150 countries throughout the world, Russia is hitting back by blessing computers. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church will bless computers and servers with holy water......Aside from prayer and holy water, tech experts recommend avoiding cyberattacks by keeping computer software up to date....(more)
Conference identifies Church's mission to change
Extracts from CathNews, 18 May 2017
The need for the Church to be inclusive, open and adaptable was canvassed on the final day of a three-day mission conference held in Sydney, Catholic Mission reports.     Catholic Social Service Australia's Fr Frank Brennan SJ gave the closing keynote of the Mission: One Heart Many Voices conference, sponsored by Catholic Mission and Catholic Religious Australia. Fr Brennan's address tied together many of the diverse themes and elements of the conference, including reconciliation, mercy, leadership for mission and indigenous advocacy.....Charged with the task of presenting a vision for the Church, Fr Brennan reiterated Pope Francis’ assertion that we will not in the future see the Church as a “perfect society”.    "We are all members of a Church that has failed its most vulnerable," he said. "We are all in need of forgiveness."   Fittingly, Fr Brennan’s way forward was a nod to those who had spoken before him: "For us to be a Church of mission in 2030, we must provide a place at the table for all ... for indigenous people, for women, for refugees and for the abused. We must be adaptable and open to change."...(more)
Pell restates innocence and need for due process
Extract from CathNews, The Age, 18 May 2017
Cardinal George Pell maintains he is innocent of historical child sexual assault allegations, The Age reports.      Speaking to reporters in Rome yesterday, Cardinal Pell reiterated his rebuttal of all the allegations of abuse made against him, saying he would "just like to restate my innocence".    "I stand by everything I have said at the royal commission [into institutional responses to child sexual abuse] and in other places," he said. "We have to respect due process, wait until it is concluded and obviously I will continue to co-operate fully."    Meanwhile, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has defended Cardinal Pell from "relentless character attacks" in relation to the allegations. In a strongly worded statement yesterday, Archbishop Fisher said Cardinal Pell was entitled to the presumption of innocence.    "It is unfortunate that in the very week this happens, media and authors publish and repeat allegations, some of which have already been thoroughly answered. This cannot assist the impartial pursuit of justice. What is clear, however, is that Cardinal Pell has co-operated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and royal commission investigations," he said....(more)
Police to make call on Pell charges
Extract from CathNews, The Australian, 17 May 2017
The decision on whether to charge Cardinal George Pell with historical sexual abuse allegations now rests with Victoria Police after the Office of Public Prosecutions ­yesterday returned the brief of evidence, The Australian reports.
A police spokesman confirmed advice from Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions, John Champion SC, had been received.    “Detectives from Taskforce Sano will now take time to consider that advice,” police spokesman Charlie Morton said last night. “As with any ­investigation, it will be a decision for Victoria Police as to whether charges are laid.”    Cardinal Pell has strenuously denied all allegations. It is understood the latest ­development took lawyers for the Cardinal by surprise.        This was the second time a brief of allegations concerning Cardinal Pell had been sent to the OPP. A brief was referred last year but the OPP sent it back without recommendations.    Meanwhile, the head of the child sexual abuse royal commission has cautioned every major Australian church to better protect children or risk illegitimacy, reports ABC News.    In a speech to the National Council of Churches, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chair, Justice Peter McClellan, urged religious leaders to act on his recommendations.     "What we can be certain of is that any institution which does not acknowledge past wrongs and the need for change will lose the confidence of Australians," he said via a recorded video....(more)  Photo: CathNews,
 China's new internet rules further curb religious content
There are already cases of religious affairs officers deleting retweeted news about local church issues.
Extract from La Croix International, reporter, Hong Kong, China. 17 May 2017
Catholic webmasters are feeling claustrophobic a month before China's new internet regulations come into effect.
The Cyberspace Administration of China issued the Provision for the Administration of Internet News on May 2.      It requires online outlets using mobile apps, forums, blogs, instant messaging or webcasts as a medium to be licensed or face prosecution.    No one can produce, reproduce, publish or disseminate any prohibited information. News content providers and readers must register using their real names, according to the provision.     Though the regulation will come into effect on June 1 the tighter censorship has already been felt.    A church media source operating outside China uses WeChat to reach mainland readers but has failed repeatedly to avoid censorship when uploading audio-visual programs recently....(more)
Abuse survivor wants papal panel to push back on Vatican resistance
Extract from John Allen, Inés San Martín and Claire Giangravè, Crux, 16 May 2017    On Saturday, Pope Francis called Marie Collins, an abuse survivor who recently quit his Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors citing Vatican resistance to reform, a "great woman" and said she's "right on some things." In a Crux interview, Collins expressed gratitude but also said that the Church still needs uniform global standards and a way to hold bishops accountable.       A survivor of clerical sexual abuse and a former member of a panel created by Pope Francis to lead the reform effort said Monday that while she’s grateful for positive things the pope said about her over the weekend, she also wants the commission to push back against perceived Vatican resistance to reform that she insists led her to resign.        Marie Collins, an Irish lay woman, told “The Crux of the Matter” on the Catholic Channel, carried by Sirius XM, “If resistance continues, then the commission itself should speak. It shouldn’t be up to one member having to resign to make it public.         “If there is resistance, it’s got to be overcome, because there’s no place for resistance to change when it comes to child protection,” Collins said.     During his return flight from a trip to Fatima on Saturday, Pope Francis was asked about Collins’s resignation from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, a body he created to advise him on reform efforts regarding clerical sexual abuse.     “Marie Collins explained things to me well,” he said. “I’ve spoken with her: She’s a great woman. She continues to work on the formation of priests on this point. She’s a great woman, who wants to work.   “She’s right on some things,” Francis acknowledged......(more)      Photo: Crux, CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters.    
Pope says he will be 'sincere' with Trump ahead of historic meeting
Extract from Christopher Lamb,The Tablet, 16 May 2017
The potential for clashes between Francis and the President are ripe given their diametrically opposed views on migrants and the environment.  The Pope says he will be 'sincere' with Trump ahead of historic meeting.  They are two of the most captivating figures in global politics with bold, populist and radically differing visions about how to deal with the crises facing the world.      On Wednesday 24 May, Pope Francis and President Donald Trump will meet for the first time in a hotly anticipated encounter with the potential for fireworks.    At 8.30am, inside the grand, frescoed halls of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, the President of the United States will be brought into the same room as the Latin American pontiff where the pair will have a private discussion.    The Holy See are anxious to ensure the papal audience runs smoothly - and without any dramas - while the White House hope the meeting will show a statesmanlike Trump as he makes his first foreign trip abroad. His meeting with the Pope comes as part of a tour where he will meet world leaders in Sicily and pay his respects world’s three major religions. Along with Rome he is going to Israel and Saudi Arabia.    But the potential for clashes between Francis and the President are ripe given their diametrically opposed views on migrants and the environment. When Trump was campaigning the Pope said he was “not Christian” for wanting to build a wall on the US-Mexico border with the then republican candidate hitting back describing Francis’ remarks as “disgraceful.”....(more)
Continental Drift
Extract from By Massimo Faggioli, Subscription journal Comminweal, 11 May 2017
Il Tevere è più largo. Students of Italian history are familiar with the metaphoric expression describing the ever-growing distance between the Vatican and Italian politics: “The Tiber has become wider.” The distance between the papacy and the country it once ruled has been recalculated under every pontificate since the kingdom of Italy came into being in 1861. And under Pope Francis, the Tiber is perhaps the widest it’s been, thanks to his papacy’s hands-off attitude towards Italian politics.    But the widening of the Tiber is little compared to the spreading of the world’s oceans. The “Catholic Pangea” itself is breaking up, undergoing a kind of continental drift. The expanding gap between Rome and the world is perhaps best symbolized by the growing distance between Rome and the U.S. Catholic church, itself owing to the uncomfortable relationship between Francis and many American bishops—among other things.   First, there’s a gap in time between American Catholicism and the pontificate of Francis—not just the six- or nine-hour differences in time zones but what seems like a six- or nine-century difference in historical time. Institutional American Catholicism is longing for a relationship to a political power that is more medieval than modern or postmodern, hoping for protection from the persecution it feels in having lost cultural hegemony.....But beyond the “Christian America vs. secularized Europe” narrative there is a larger reality: both the U.S. and Europe are becoming more marginal, politically and in terms of global Christianity. This is even more true for Italy, and for Rome. Despite all-Francis, all-the-time media coverage of the pope, the role of Rome has changed for Catholics. The connection is now more emotional than intellectual, more spiritual and mystical than theological. What Francis does in Rome, what happens at the Vatican today, has less of an institutional impact on the lives of Catholics worldwide, including (if not especially) American Catholics.....(Source)  Photo: Commonweal, CNS
 Priests’ group accuses bishops of refusing to support pope’s openness to reform
The reformers recalled the so-called “Lobinger model” put forth some two decades ago by Bishop Fritz Lobinger of South Africa. He suggested that mature married men should only gradually be introduced into committed parishes.
Exreact from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, subscription journal La Croix International, 11May 2017
An internationally renown group of reform-minded priests in Austria has criticized the world’s bishops for not capitalizing on Pope Francis’ openness to make significant changes in Church ministry and pastoral practice.   The Austrian Priests’ Initiative (API) is urging the bishops to take up the leeway the pope has given them to look at such issues as the possibility of ordaining married men of proven virtue (viri probati) to the priesthood, women to the diaconate and allowing remarried divorcees to receive the Eucharist in certain cases.    At a press conference in Vienna on May 4th, the API, which was founded in 2006, said Francis had opened door after door for a new way of dealing with these urgent questions in our Church.....(more)
Bishops launch guidelines for permanent deacons
Extract from CathNews, 10 May 2017
The Australian Bishops officially launched new norms and guidelines for the permanent diaconate during their plenary meeting in Sydney on Monday, reports the ACBC Media Blog.        Columbans.    Deacon Tony Aspinall, National Co-ordinator of the Permanent Diaconate joined Bishop Peter Ingham, Outgoing Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry, to launch the guidelines following a special Mass with deacons at Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in Sydney.    Deacons Tony Hoban and Roberto Corpuz joined the bishops at the launch along with Fr Greg Bourke, Executive Secretary of the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry.   The "Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons and Guidelines for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons" were developed by the Australian Bishops following the publication of a Vatican document providing clarity about the formation of deacons. Each bishops’ conference was encouraged to develop its own guidelines.   The guidelines can be downloaded from the Clergy, Life and Ministry website.....(more)   Image: Cathnews.
Anglican orders not 'invalid' says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position
Extract from Christopher Lamb,The Tablet, 9 May 2017
Leo XIII’s remarks that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” have been a major stumbling block to Catholic-Anglican unity.    Anglican orders not 'invalid' says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position.    One of the Vatican’s top legal minds has opened the way for a revision of the Catholic position on Anglican orders by stressing they should not be written off as “invalid.”      In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”    “When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says in volume of papers and discussions that took place in Rome as part of the “Malines Conversations,” an ecumenical forum.     “This about the life of a person and what he has given …these things are so very relevant!”     For decades Leo XIII’s remarks have proved to be one of the major stumbling blocks in Catholic-Anglican unity efforts, as it seemed to offer very little room for interpretation or revision.    But the cardinal, whose department is charged with interpreting and revising Church laws, argued the Church today has a  “a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity” which could be revised on the Anglican ordination question....(more)
Frank Brennan on the Church, the Pope and the Federal Budget
Extracts from Melbourne Catholic, Media and Communications Office, Monday 8 May 2017
In Toowomba on the weekend, the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, Jesuit priest Frank Brennan, delivered the annual John Wallis Memorial Lecture.      Billed as a reflection on how Catholic social teaching and the leadership of Pope Francis can help us to find meaning in a chaotic and changing world, Fr Brennan addressed a number of issues facing the Church in Australia today. He also considered how the Federal Budget could be tailored to meet the needs of all Australians, including the poor and the marginalised.....Addressing the crisis of vocations in the Church today, in Toowoomba as in the broader Western church, Fr Brennan was optimistic that the Church is heading in new directions, ‘new pastoral ways of being Church.’    Referring to Martin Flanagan, who gave the John Wallis Lecture in 2012 and who confessed then to never having 'got' the Catholic Church, Fr Brennan said he is excited to find there are many people, especially young people, who do 'get it'. In particular, he referred to the passionate emphasis on social justice he sees in the community.     ‘It’s as if there’s a Catholic spirit in the world,’ he said, ‘that exists independently of the leadership of the Catholic Church. I think many more people are now ‘getting’ the Roman Catholic Church, even people who thought it was well beyond their interest or concern.’     Much credit for this, stated Fr Frank, goes to Pope Francis, a man he described as theologically orthodox, politically conservative, comfortable in his own skin, infectiously pastoral and truly committed to the poor.    Fr Brennan pointed to Pope Francis as a good example of how we find meaning in a chaotic and challenging world. 'Pope Francis has no time whatsoever for the notion of the Church as a perfect society,’ he said. Quoting the Pope, Fr Brennan said, ‘The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds. The Church is not a tollhouse, it is the house of the Father where there is a place for everyone.’     He candidly admitted that many of us, himself included, are confronted by the sexual abuse scandal within the Church. ‘The Royal Commission hearings have left us with heavy hearts.’ It’s a paradox, observed Fr Frank, that we all dare to profess the highest ideals, while at the same time being lowly sinners.....(more)
The Australian Church in 2030, what the research predicts
Edited Extracts from Brian Coyne, Editor Catholica, 8 May 2017
Attracting much comment on Catholica over recent weeks has been Archbishop Mark Coleridge's bleak prediction that "mass, civic Christianity is finished" [HERE]. Today we bring you some of the bleak statistics in a high quality video presentation by the Catholic Church's official sociologist and demographer, Dr Bob Dixon, to back it up. Our lead commentary today consists of the presentation Dr Dixon gave to the St Thomas More Forum in Canberra last Wednesday evening, and a written report on his presentation. This is "must read" information for anyone wondering about what the future for Catholicism is in Australia, and for those who are interested in trying to alter these bleak predictions.
Dr Bob Dixon's address to the St Thomas More Forum, Campbell, ACT
Church demographer outlines a bleak future for the Catholic Church in Australia
Dr Robert (Bob) Dixon has been running the Pastoral Research Office (PRO) for the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference since it was established in 1996 until his recent retirement as Executive Director. He continues to work for the Research Office and the Australian Bishops as a consultant sociologist and demographer. In a ground-breaking address he delivered in Canberra last week to the St Thomas More Forum, he outlined the bleak future for the Church in Australia over the next decade and a bit.     He predicts the participation rate of Catholics regularly attending Mass will fall to around 5% of the total number of adult Catholics in the nation before 2030.      His research suggests Confession will be a thing of the past for most Catholics.     His research also suggests the remaining congregations of religious brothers will disappear completely and there will be few nuns still serving the Church by 2030.....More        Image: Dr Bob Dixon, Catholica
Australian bishops gather in the light of the royal commission
Extracts from Andrew Hamilton SJ, Eureka  Street, 4 May 2017
The government and the Catholic Church both face difficulties when commending values. The difficulties will dog events during the next week in which both institutions are on public display — the bringing down of the budget and the meeting of the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference.       In each case the difficulty has its roots in defects of governance: a lack of leadership, authority, transparency and inclusiveness. When the government appeals to values with respect to the Australian community or education, its appeal is commonly assumed to mask electoral self-interest and internal party conflict. That underlying its rhetoric is a lack of transparency, inclusiveness and authority is taken for granted.    When representatives of the Catholic Church appeal to values in public life, in sexuality and in education, their appeal is often thought to mask hypocrisy — the assertion of high values that it does not practice — and amnesia about its record of betrayal of the principles of good governance in its exercise of authority. The revelations of the royal commission into child abuse hangs over the bishops' meeting.     Both the government and the Catholic Church will be tempted to carry on business as usual, postponing any concerted attempt to deal with the issues of governance they face until the election and the handing down of the findings of the royal commission respectively.    I believe that to delay would be a mistake, especially in the case of the Catholic Church. Even before the royal commission's report is made public there is enough known about the extent, causes and right responses to sexual abuse in the church, and sufficient work done on protocols and safeguarding children to enable an initial response by the whole Australian church.    The question Australians, including many Catholics, ask is whether the bishops and other public representatives of the Catholic Church have the stomach for the changes in governance needed to address the factors that led to child abuse. Delaying action until swamped by the harsh criticism that can be expected from the royal commission will make that action appear too expedient, too little and too late.....(More)       Image: Eureka Street

Report to the Bishops of Australia on an Open Letter from Catholics of Australia

Thursday 4 May, 2017

Catholics For Renewal submitted a Report on the Open Letter to all the Australian bishops during the evening of Tuesday 2nd May, with signatures up to that date to enable its consideration at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. The Conference plenary session meets 4 - 11 May 2017. We also published the Report to bishops on this Website today where it is available for download (HERE).               Thanks to all who have considered and signed the Open Letter and particular thanks to all the PPs, assistant priests and other parish people who have organised the completion and return of HARD COPY signatures. A number of priests showed considerable commitment to ensuring that their parishioners were made aware of the Open Letter and given the opportunity to consider it. Please post any outstanding forms as addressed on the form, or email them to [email protected]                We have advised the bishops that we will be continuing to accept written signatures and online signatures and comments, and that we will further advise them of details to keep them informed on thinking of Australian faithful.     The Open Letter remains available for consideration, online signing and optional inclusion of comments HERE.

Forget millennials. How will churches reach Generation Z?
By Jonathan Merritt  2 May, 2017
For the last decade, church experts have been wrestling over the best ways to reach and retain “millennials,” which is a phrase the describes individuals born from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s. Data shows that many millennials leave the church during their college years, and some never return. The fastest growing religious identifier among this generation is “spiritual but not religious.”     But as millennials age, get married, and start families, they are no longer the only “young people” that churches must consider. A new cohort has risen: “Generation Z” or individuals born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Generation Z diverges from millennials in many ways and presents unique challenges and opportunities for churches who hope to capture their attention.    For this reason, I decided to speak with Pastor James Emery White about his new book, “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World.” Here we discuss what sets these young people apart from their elders and what he believes it means for modern ministry, evangelism, and apologetics....(more) Photo:

 Parish responds to Pope's call
Extract from CathNews, 2 May 2017
Inspired by Pope Francis's call for parishes across the world to take in asylum-seekers, one group is celebrating a year in operation, Melbourne Catholic reports.    Encouraged by parish priest Fr Dennis Rochford, St Bridgid's Greythorn parishioner Robert Stewart approached his fellow churchgoers 18 months ago, asking how they could best respond to the Pope's request.    Thirty people put their names down to be involved in what would emerge as St Bridget’s Refugee Action Group, now a partnership between St Bridget’s and St Dominic’s in Camberwell, to provide secure accommodation and support to an asylum seeker family.         The group is now celebrating one year in operation.        Sr Brigid Arthur from the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project educated the group on refugee and asylum-seeker issues and various categories of need, which refocused the group’s efforts on asylum-seekers. Sally-Anne Petrie from CatholicCare’s Asylum Seeker Support Program offered training and input to develop the group’s guiding principles.    Xavier College in Kew offered its hall for a fundraising event in which over $16,000 was raised. The funds allowed St Bridget’s to partner with St Dominic’s in sharing the cost of a rental property in Box Hill, which has been home to an asylum-seeker family for nearly 12 months....(more) Photo: Cathnews, Bigstock photo

Letter from Rome
Don't say 'we have always done things this way'
Extract from Robert Mickens, Commonweal, 1 May 2017
Pope Francis, the pontifex maximus, went to Cairo on the latest and perhaps most important mission of his four years as Bishop of Rome to try to “build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice, and humanity.”    Those were the very words he used in a video message to the people of Egypt just days before his brief, Friday-Saturday visit to the nation’s capital.......“The ‘always done this way’ phrase has done so much damage in the Church, and it continues to do so much damage to the Church,” he added.      “We must always be changing because time changes. The only thing that does not change is what’s essential. What doesn’t change is the announcement of Jesus Christ, missionary attitude, prayer, the need to pray, the need to be formed, and the need to sacrifice. That does not change. You have to find the way, how to do it, but it does not change,” said Pope Francis.    Connected to this, he said, was a fixation some Catholics have who want to “regulate things and not allow freedom.”  He pointed to the twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus calls the “fixated” religious leaders of his time hypocrites....(more)
[Ed: sound familiar? See Evangelii Gaudium, para 33.]:
“33. Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.”

Indian Catholics frustrated over clergy sex abuse cases
Extract from Jose Kavi, National Catholic Reporter, 1 May 2017
New Delhi: A rash of recent alleged sex abuse cases involving Catholic priests in Southern India have left Christians distraught and frustrated over the local church's lack of response. More than 100 theologians, women religious, priests and feminists have written to India's bishops to demand they react quickly in accordance with the pope's call to end such transgressions.     "We are trying every way to get the bishops to act. We thought this is a good opportunity," says Virginia Saldanha, a theologian who was part of the team that drafted the March 22 letter to the bishops.    Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, another theologian who coordinated the letter's drafting, says the Feb. 28 arrest of a Catholic priest who allegedly raped and impregnated a young teenage girl in his parish in Kerala state spurred them to go to church authorities.    Police apprehended Fr. Robin Vadakkumcherry, 48, of the Mananthavady Diocese while he was trying to flee the country after the alleged crimes. Vadakkumcherry is now in jail awaiting trial, police said.    Fr. Thomas Therakam, another priest from the diocese, and five nuns were charged for allegedly helping Vadakkumcherry cover up the scandal. The six religious, along with a few alleged lay accomplices, went into hiding to evade arrest but later surrendered to authorities and are now out on bail.    The case outraged members of several Catholic religious and justice groups. They wrote to Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, saying they were "deeply concerned about the integrity and mission of the Indian Church."....(more)   Photo: NCR, CNS/Anto Ankara

Canberra Catholics call for reform at watershed meeting of Laity
Extract from Mark Metherell, Media release, Concerned Catholics of the Camberra-Goulburn Archdiocese, 28 April 2017
More than 200 Catholics meeting in Canberra last night strongly supported reforms to give the laity more power in the running of their church.    The standing room only event called on Archbishop Christopher Prowse, who attended but did not address the gathering, to take the reform message to next week's meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.    The gathering was convened by the recently formed Concerned Catholics of Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese group to press for changes that propose a big boost to lay representation, including women, in church decision-making, and the establishment of a diocesan pastoral council with significant lay membership.    The chair of the meeting, Professor John Warhurst, said today the large attendance at the meeting and the enthusiasm for change displayed by the overwhelming majority was an emphatic signal for reform.   Professor Warhurst put to the meeting a motion which asked if those attending supported the general goals of greater accountability, inclusiveness, transparency, women's participation in decision-making, lay leadership and collaborative working towards a reform agenda in the Archdiocese and more broadly.   This was passed with an overwhelming majority show of hands.....(more)

Catholic theology owes John Noonan a debt of gratitude
Extract from  Fr. Charles E. Curran, National Catholic Reporter, 2017
The opening sentence of The New York Times' obituary of Judge John Noonan provides an excellent illustration of what a topic sentence should be. "John T. Noonan Jr., a federal judge and polymath who defied ideological pigeonholing on profound issues like assisted suicide, the death penalty, civil liberties and illegal immigration" died on April 17 at age 90.       As a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for 30 years, Noonan wrote 10,080 opinions. As a polymath, his primary area of academic interest was history, but his subjects included jurisprudence, philosophy, theology and canon law. Few people have ever achieved such academic prominence in so many different fields...... In his doctoral dissertation at Catholic University on usury, he was totally engaged in this important issue of the development of moral teaching on the issue of usury (a loan) over an 800-year period. This story was one of basis principles, response to changing circumstances, fine legal lines, and close legal reasoning — the work of human beings adopting a moral rule to changing circumstances. This study helped to distinguish a variable rule from underlying values, thus explaining how change occurred. After his study at Catholic University, he went back to Harvard for his law degree.          An important aspect in his historical study of usury was the familiarity he acquired with the major figures in Catholic moral theological tradition. It prepared him for much of his future work in moral theology, especially in his subsequent work on contraception.    Noonan's working on a historical study of contraception became known and he was appointed as a historical consultant to the papal commission on birth control. At its fourth session in 1964, he gave a two-hour summary of his work.   In 1965, the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press published his 651-page Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by Catholic Theologians and Canonists. From this in-depth study, Noonan concluded that the Catholic teaching insisted on five important values — procreation, education, life, personality and love. "About these realities a wall had been built; the wall could be removed when it became a prison rather than a bulwark." As a careful historian, Noonan came to a conclusion that was quite modest.           There was, however, no doubt where Noonan himself stood on the issue. After the issuance of the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, I was the leader and spokesperson for the group of originally 87 Catholic scholars who concluded in a public statement that one could be a good Roman Catholic and still disagree in theory and in practice with the noninfallible teaching regarding contraception. Later that day, after releasing the statement, I talked to all the American lay members of the papal birth control commission, who all agreed to support the statement in light of their own competencies.....(more).  Photo: NCR file photo 

TED talk, pope urges people to make real connections
[Ed: TED video of Pope Francis HERE directly (17 minutes)] 
Extracts from  Keanine Griggs, Catholic News Service, NCR, 26 April 2017
...Many people in the world move along paths "riddled with suffering" with no one to care for them, the pope said. Far too many people who consider themselves "respectable" simply pass by, leaving thousands on "the side of the road."    "The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people," he said, the greater the responsibility one has to act and to do so with humility. "If you don't, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other."    "There is a saying in Argentina," he told his audience: "'Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.' You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don't connect your power with humility and tenderness."    "The future of humankind isn't exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies," he said, even though they all have power and responsibility. "The future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a 'you' and themselves as part of an 'us.'" ..... "Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women," he insisted. "Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility."    Francis also urged the crowd to hold on to hope, a feeling that does not mean acting "optimistically naive" or ignoring the tragedies facing humanity. Instead, he said, hope is the "virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness."   "A single individual is enough for hope to exist." he added. "And that individual can be you. And then there will be another 'you,' and another 'you, and it turns into an 'us.'"......More - and the17 minute video of Pope Francis  (HERE)   Photo: TED
Royal commission's truths demand that we Catholics must change our church
Extract from Mark Metherell,The Canberra  Times, 24 April 2017
Among the 150,000 or so people in the Canberra region who say they are Catholics, many are pondering the future of their church. The fallout of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shaken many practising Catholics who had already witnessed the steady departure of younger people from the pews.    There are, however, Catholics in Canberra who seek to reinvigorate their church by pressing for changes to its management and staying true to the example of Jesus Christ. The group, Concerned Catholics of Canberra Goulburn, says the royal commission provided the grounds for profound reform of the church's administration, and of its male-dominated, clerical culture.    The group seeks a strong role for the laity in church affairs to transform the often passive role of the parishioner to that of active citizens of the church.    Concerned Catholics wants to encourage discussion among the laity about strengthening their voice in the church. It is holding a public meeting in Canberra on Thursday (April 27) and proposes recommendations that it hopes will be considered by Archbishop Christopher Prowse and put to the plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference early next month.   Throughout the commission hearings, the lack of transparency and accountability, the absence of lay participation and a culture of secrecy and non-disclosure was shown to characterise the church's administration and governance.     It should be acknowledged that the church hierarchy in Canberra has demonstrated a willingness to change when it comes to child-sex abuse. Prowse submitted a 138-paragraph witness statement to the royal commission. The statement was a response to a battery of questions from the commission ranging from what reforms he had undertaken since the commission started, what policies and procedures he applied in relation to complaints of child abuse, and about the management of personnel subject to sex-abuse claims.....Concerned Catholics advocates a more inclusive church that engages laymen and laywomen in leadership and advisory roles, to bring Christ into their everyday lives by giving them a more active and involved role in their faith.     An Australia-wide movement is unfolding, with groups like Catholics for Renewal circulating a national petition urging bishops to make significant changes to cultural and governance structures in the church.....Mark Metherell is a member of Concerned Catholics of Canberra Goulburn. The group will meet on Thursday, April 27, at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Barton. Speakers will include Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan, former NSW premier Kristina Keneally and Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Renewal convenor Marilyn Hatton...
Springtime Reflections for Church Renewal
Extract from J. A. Dick*, Another Voice (Reflections about contemporary Christian belief and practice), 20 April 2017
Reform-minded people need to change their conversation about church reform. Otherwise they end up either talking to themselves or simply repeating what everyone else has been saying for the past ten years. Changing the conversation means looking at church life in new ways and developing new strategies and patterns for church life today and tomorrow. It means thinking creatively and asking challenging and deeper questions….      Some proposals for refection: (1)   Look less at the church as institution and more as a community of faith.....These are just a few thought-starters…… Creative and critical reflection is not a dangerous activity and it can be a source of life….....(more)    J. A. Dick is a retired professor of historical theology.
Are the bishops up to the pope’s challenge to build a synodal Church?
"Catholicism today still flirts with the dangerous tendency to rely on one man only - the pope. A year-and-a-half after Francis’ speech, how many bishops and bishops’ conferences have embraced his invitation for a synodal Church?"
Extract from Massimo Faggioli,  subscription journal La Croix International, 18 April 2017
There has been attention on Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation that elaborates on discussions regarding marriage and the family, which took places in 2014 and 2015 within the Synod of Bishops.      But something has largely been neglected. It is the reception of the pope’s focus on synodality and its importance for the Church in the world today.    The day after Easter marked one-and-a-half years since Francis gave one of his most important speeches to explain the need for a synodal Catholic Church.....(source)
 An Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of Australia
Extract from Peter Johnstone,  John Menadue website, Posted on 13 April 2017 by John Menadue

Most Australian Catholics have long been aware that the structures of their Church are autocratic; most were brought up accepting that Church decision making is unaccountable and often secretive, that bishops are remote from their people in their decision making, and that the views of laypersons count for little, particularly if they are women. In more recent times, Catholics have increasingly questioned this dysfunctional governance; many have walked away and many have witnessed their children walking away. The widespread disillusionment of Catholics has peaked with the revelations emerging from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.    The Royal Commission faced the question asked by many Catholics: How could the leadership of the Church behave in this way whilst continuing to espouse and teach the values of Jesus and the Gospel? Catholics are demanding reform. An Open Letter to the Australian Catholic bishops has now been launched, offering Catholics the opportunity to support the urgent reform of their Church in Australia and universally, asking their bishops: ‘Please Listen and Act Now’ (link here

Concerned Catholics ask Where to from here?
Extract from Statement by Concerned Catholics - of the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese, 13 April 2017
A group of concerned Catholics are holding a public meeting in Canberra on Thursday 27 April to explore how the Catholic laity in the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese can have an effective role and voice in the administration and direction of their Church. They invite Catholics to join them in discussion.      Chair: Prof John Warhurst AO, Emeritus Professor Political Science ANU.    Panel: Hon Kristina Keneally, former Premier NSW, TV host Sky News, Director Gender Inclusion Macquarie Graduate School of Management,  Marilyn Hatton, Convener Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Renewal, Francis Sullivan, CEO Truth Justice and Healing Council. It's at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (ACCC), 15 Blackall St, Cnr Kings Av Barton. 7.00pm, for 7:30pm - 9.30pm.   Further details in Flyer HERE
'A new era of transparency' foreshadowed
Extract from Francis Sullivan, CathNews, 12 April 2017
The official leading the Church response to child sex abuse has told a gathering of priests that “we created the abuse” and it's time for parish priests to listen to their communities, The Catholic Leader reports.         “We created the abuse. That is the harsh reality,” chief executive of the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC), Francis Sullivan said, addressing about 180 priests from the Archdiocese of Brisbane attending an annual convocation.       “Our culture grew the abusers and our culture protected the abusers and our culture for so long denied the victims. We didn’t listen. We didn’t believe.”         In February, the commission revealed that a total of 1880 priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people had been identified as alleged perpetrators in abuse claims made to the Australian Catholic Church by 4444 victims.      “There can be the tendency to compartmentalise that and simply say it was history. But it’s not history. We are living history.     “What matters is that we have to take to heart what it is saying about ourselves. It’s terribly difficult.”          Mr Sullivan said “the game has changed”, and priests must now engage in “the current realities”, including speaking directly with parishioners, some who may be abuse victims themselves, or feel angered and hurt by the Church.     Mr Sullivan foreshadowed a new era of transparency and accountability for priests, overseen by the newly created company Catholic Professional Standards Australia.       Mr Sullivan said new standards would apply “across the board in Church life”, and would include the formation of priests in seminaries, and ongoing support and training of priests during their careers.             Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge described Mr Sullivan’s presentation to priests as “very challenging, but very encouraging”.     “He spoke about the reality of the royal commission and all that has emerged there … where do we go in the future, a change of culture, and what does it mean in practical terms,” he said.     “What we are really talking about here is the future of the Church in Australia, not just the priesthood.”....(more)
 Pope wants episcopal conferences to decide on married priests, says cardinal
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, subscription journal La Croix International, 12 April 2017
Cardinal Walter Kasper has told German media he believes Pope Francis favors ordaining married men of proven virtue (known by the Latin term, viri probati), but is also sure the pope wants to leave the decision up to individual bishops’ conferences.   “The (vocation) situation differs so widely in different parts of the world that a uniform worldwide solution is not possible,” the cardinal said on April 6th in a long interview with the German Church’s Internet portal    The occasion was the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood....(source)

Chrism Mass: Archbishop Coleridge says God “will not fail” to raise men for the priesthood despite Royal Commission sorrow
Extracts from Emilie Ng , The Catholic Leader, 11 April 2017
Priestly vocations might be fewer in number and “chastened” by the Royal Commission’s hearings into abuse in the Catholic Church but “the gift of priesthood will remain”, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.     The Archbishop reiterated the anointed call of men to the priesthood during the Chrism Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral on April 6, where priests of Brisbane archdiocese renewed their vows publicly and oils used throughout the liturgical year were blessed.     The Mass coincided with the final day of the annual Convocation of Priests, where recommendations following the Royal Commission’s final hearing into the Catholic Church response to sexual abuse were discussed, including clericalism as a primary cause of abuse.     Archbishop Coleridge used his homily to explain a concept questioned by the Royal Commission, notably the profound ontological change that occurred in men ordained to the priesthood.      “It’s worth asking tonight what the Church was trying to say in speaking of ontological change in those ordained,” he said.    “It was an attempt to speak of the priesthood in a radical way, as something beyond the merely functional.     “When a man is ordained he is radically configured to Christ, the High Priest and Good Shepherd. This in turn changes the pattern of his relationships with other people. Those relationships become radically different because he’s ordained.”    In this way, a man called to the priesthood was “set apart” from other ministries in the Church.    “Now it’s true that no one in the Church is superior to anyone else; in that sense we are all of us, the baptised, equal before God,” Archbishop Coleridge said.   “But equal doesn’t mean the same – the fact that some of us are bishops, priests or deacons doesn’t make us in any way superior, but nor does it make us the same. ....... “Unintentionally the Royal Commission echoed at Pope Francis who, speaking from a very different angle, has left no doubt that clericalism is a disease in the Church that needs to be treated and treated without delay,” the Archbishop said.   But when the Pope spoke of clericalism, he was referring to a priesthood that “is geared to power rather than service”....(more)  Photo: The Catholic Leader, Alan Edgecomb

Catholic bishops urged to meet Pope Francis to push for reform
Open letter to Australian bishops about speaking out on damaging issues
Extract from Anne Lim, Eternity News, 7 April 2017
A call to Australia’s Catholic bishops to press for urgent reform of the church’s culture and governance could help Pope Francis achieve his own agenda, theology professor Neil Ormerod says.    He was commenting on an open letter that has called on Australian bishops to lead a delegation to Rome to seek urgent changes to the Catholic Church’s fundamental views on women, celibacy, governance and the handling of child sexual abuse cases.     We’re very concerned that our church fails to conduct itself in accordance with the teachings of Jesus.” – Peter Johnstone
Peak reform group Catholics for Renewal sent the letter to all Australian parishes with the hope that thousands of people would sign it.     The letter urged bishops to take immediate steps to “execute necessary reforms now”, rather than “deferring to the Holy See” (the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome) or waiting for the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.     Changes they could take now, according to Catholics for Renewal, include appointing women to more senior diocesan positions, eradicating the “corrosive” ‘Boys’ Club’ culture of clericalism, and reconciling fully and publicly with all abuse victims and their families.      In addition, the letter urged the bishops to send an urgent delegation to Pope Francis, seeking mandatory reporting of all child sex abuse cases to the police, as well as a review of priestly celibacy and the inclusion of women in top decision-making positions.    “I think Pope Francis wants to see things happen often, but at the same time he doesn’t want to be a dictator.” – Neil Ormerod.     Neil Ormerod of the Australian Catholic University’s Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, Faculty of Theology and Philosophy commented that the letter could help the Pope in his battle with the curia (the Holy See’s administration) over such reforms....(more)

Calvary cross a symbol of lament
Extract from CathNews, 6 April 2017
A Liturgy of Lament and Hope in response to child sexual abuse within the Church was held at St Christopher's Cathedral in Canberra on Tuesday night, Catholic Voice reports.     "We have come here tonight from pain and disillusionment, from anger and confusion, from sadness, looking for hope. We come together for one thing only: to raise our hearts and voices and very bodies to God, in the hope that the very act of raising them in lament yet in faith, they may be touched in their brokenness, and know the transforming and surpassing power of God’s love."     With this invocation, the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn conducted the liturgy, attended by approximately 200 people with a number of priests, deacons and religious present.    Archbishop Christopher Prowse led the liturgy which came about in response to the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, some of which happened at the hands of Catholic Clergy and lay people.....(more)  Photo CathNews, Catholic Voice

Reform movement says canon law must be amended
"The way the bishops and local Churches have reacted to "Amoris Laetitia" has been an acid test for the Church’s capacity to implement reforms."        Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt,subscription jounal La Croix International, 6 April 2017
A Germany-based group that pushes for change in the Church has called on bishops to support Pope Francis’ course of reform “far more consistently and above all jointly”.    In a two-page statement on April 3 the group, “We Are Church”, said the papal document on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia, had initiated the “long overdue paradigm shift on sexual ethics” and set in motion the discussion of issues that had long been stalled.   “This paradigm shift must now gain momentum so as not totally to dash the hopes of the great majority of Catholics that the Church’s teaching and practice will be developed further,” said We Are Church....(source)
Pope names new official to oversee processing of abuse cases
Extract from Catholic Herald, Associated Press, 5 April 2017
Pope Francis on Tuesday named a new official to oversee the Vatican office that processes clerical sex abuse cases amid mounting criticism over the backlog of cases and Francis’s handling of the problem.     The promotion of Mgr John Kennedy to head of the discipline section of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) was the second abuse-related appointment in recent days. Francis named Fr Hans Zollner, one of the Catholic Church’s top experts on fighting abuse and protecting children, as an adviser to the Vatican’s office for clergy on Saturday.    Francis and the Vatican have come under fresh scrutiny over their response to the abuse crisis since Irish survivor Marie Collins resigned from the Pope’s sex abuse advisory commission on March 1, citing “unacceptable” resistance to the commission’s proposals from the Vatican’s doctrine office.....(more)
Number of Catholics in the world continues upward trend, thanks to Africa
Extract from Sean Smith, The Tablet, Catholic News Service, 6 April 2017
African continent now boasts a 17.3 per cent share of the global Catholic population of 1.285 billion.        Number of Catholics in the world continues upward trend, thanks to Africa.      The number of baptised Catholics in the world grew to 1.285 billion an increase of 1 per cent year on year according to the Vatican's yearbook, the 2017 Annuario Pontifico published on Thursday.   The annual publication, which contains the most comprehensive snapshot of the Catholic church and includes: a list of every diocese and bishop in the world; all Roman Curia offices and their personnel; the diplomatic corps at the Holy See; the world’s religious orders; pontifical academies and universities.      The 2017 edition of the Vatican Statistical Yearbook reports that the countries with the most Catholics account for almost 56 per cent of the world's Catholic population. The top 10 Catholic populations are (in order): Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, United States, Italy, France, Colombia, Spain, Congo and Argentina....(more)  Photo: The Tablet
Reformists urge bishops to challenge Church teachings
Extract from CathNews, 4 April 2017
A group of Catholics advocating Church reform have called on Australian bishops to lead an “urgent delegation” to Rome seeking changes to Church teaching, reports the Newcastle Herald.    In an open letter released on Friday and sent to all parishes, Catholics for Renewal has urged bishops not to “defer to the Holy See” or wait for Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommendations before acting on serious issues that it says contributed to the crisis.   Catholics for Renewal president Peter Johnstone OAM said bishops needed to urge Pope Francis to require mandatory reporting of all child sexual allegations to police and immediately appoint women to the Church’s highest ranks.            Mr Johnstone said revelations from the royal commission had demonstrated the clear need for change within many institutions, but “the big question is: are Catholics ready and determined enough to reclaim their church?”   Mr Johnstone said the call for Australian bishops and archbishops to directly challenge Pope Francis on fundamental Church teachings might be perceived as a “revolutionary step”, but was "simply in accordance with Christ’s teachings”.          It had been a “great failure” that bishops in the past had been unwilling to give “honest advice” to Popes on the subject of child sexual abuse, he said.   The letter asked bishops and archbishops to end “the corrosive culture of clericalism” and for women to be appointed to senior diocesan positions, after figures revealed by the royal commission showed dioceses with women in influential positions with authority over priests had the lowest child sexual abuse rates.         In a statement yesterday Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president, Archbishop Denis Hart, said: “Many important issues for the life and renewal of the Church are currently being addressed in a systematic way by bishops in their dioceses, and by the national Bishops’ Conference. Some have been mentioned by Catholics for Renewal.”...(more)  Photo: Cathnews. Newcastle Herald.

Australian Catholic bishops must lead 'urgent delegation' to see Pope Francis, say church reformers
Extracts from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald, 3 Apr 2017
Australia's bishops must lead an “urgent delegation” to Pope Francis seeking changes to some of the church’s most fundamental views on women, celibacy, governance and the handling of child sex cases, according to Australia’s peak Catholic reform group in a call to arms to Catholics across the country.      In an open letter sent to all parishes, Catholics for Renewal has urged bishops and archbishops not to “defer to the Holy See”, or wait for Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommendations, before acting on serious issues that contributed to the child sexual abuse crisis.     Catholics for Renewal president and former senior Australian Government bureaucrat, Peter Johnstone OAM, said bishops needed to urge Pope Francis to require mandatory reporting of all child sexual allegations to police and immediately appoint women to the church’s highest ranks.    “The appointment of women would be revolutionary, but I would argue the Pope could do that tomorrow and that would be a catalyst for forcing ultra-conservative bishops to realise they’ve got no choice but to get on board,” Mr Johnstone said.   The push for an Australian delegation to the Vatican comes only days after the church’s most prominent spokesman throughout the royal commission hearings, Francis Sullivan, returned from Rome to say he was “astounded by the resistance in some quarters of the church” to address the child sexual abuse crisis.     Catholic parishioners were asked to support renewal within the church by signing the open letter to Australia’s most senior clergy, in a campaign that will run until May. It was released on Friday as the royal commission ended its 57th and final public hearing.     Mr Johnstone said revelations from the royal commission had demonstrated the clear need for change within many institutions, but “the big question is: are Catholics ready and determined enough to reclaim their church?”     "The appointment of women would be revolutionary, but I would argue the Pope could do that tomorrow and that would be a catalyst for forcing ultra-conservative bishops to realise they’ve got no choice but to get on board. - Catholics for Renewal president Peter Johnstone."      All Australian parish priests and pastoral councils were asked to make a copy of the letter to bishops available in churches from Sunday.    Mr Johnstone said the call for Australian bishops and archbishops to directly challenge Pope Francis on fundamental church teachings might be perceived as a “revolutionary step”, but was "simply in accordance with Christ’s teachings”.    “I don’t think the act itself would be revolutionary because it is very much within the provisions of canon law for bishops to have that close relationship with the Pope and to give honest advice to him. The church needs to start practising the teachings of Jesus,” Mr Johnstone said.    It had been a “great failure” that bishops in the past had been unwilling to give “honest advice” to Popes on the subject of child sexual abuse, he said.    “We believe what we’ve suggested in the open letter are reasonable but necessary steps for responsible bishops to take immediately, and it can be done, and to apply the sort of pressure that might in fact help the Pope. Bishops need to support doing what is essentially necessary for the church.”    Mr Johnstone’s group told Catholic parishioners it believed an Australian delegation would be welcomed by Pope Francis as he seeks renewal in the church.    “All the actions proposed are within the authority of the Australian bishops who are able to give some hope to the church by acting now. The Open Letter asks our bishops to lead the reform of our Church now, acting promptly and decisively,” the letter said......In a statement on Monday Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president, Archbishop Denis Hart, said: “Many important issues for the life and renewal of the Church are currently being addressed in a systematic way by bishops in their dioceses, and by the national Bishops’ Conference. Some have been mentioned by Catholics for Renewal.”....(more)  Photo: Newcastle Herald

Book Launch
John N Collins. Gateway to Renewal - Reclaiming ministries for women and men
Thursday 4 May, 2017 (5.30 – 7.00), The Swedish Church, 21 St Georges Rd, Toorak, Vic.
Your invitation by the publisher, Morning Star Publishing, and the author's family.  rsvp 30 April: [email protected]   Details and Flyer on the EVENTS page.
Cardinal Sarah attacks 'devastation and schism' of modern liturgy and praises text Pope wants to review  Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 3 April 2017
Cardinal Sarah attacks 'devastation and schism' of modern liturgy and praises text Pope wants to review.   A speech by the Holy See’s liturgy prefect has lambasted the liturgical changes which occurred following the Second Vatican Council while praising controversial guidelines on Mass translations that Pope Francis has reportedly called to be reviewed.    Cardinal Robert Sarah, who runs the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, argued in a message sent to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI that those promoting a “modern liturgy” had caused disaster, devastation and schism by trying to reduce the Mass into a “simple convivial meal”.     The 1962-65 gathering of bishops during Vatican II sought to renew Catholicism by re-connecting to the early Church while urging Catholics to engage in a dialogue with the world: and the church leaders who gathered in Rome at that time voted almost unanimously to reform the liturgy. But in the message sent this week to a German liturgical colloquium, Cardinal Sarah said "the post-conciliar Catholic Church" had "abandoned her Christian roots" which had seen her serious crisis in all areas of the Church’s life....(more) Photo: The Tablet.
The opposition to Pope Francis is not really about 'Amoris Laetitia'
"Many have forgotten that the opposition to Pope Francis started very early in his pontificate - at least two or three years before 'Amoris Laetitia' was published."
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 3 April 2017
It has now been a year since Pope Francis published his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (8 April 2016). And the Catholic Church is still in the process of receiving it.   The pope’s interpretation of and contribution to the long synodal debate on love in marriage and the family has certainly changed the Catholic conversation on some of the typical issues of the Church in modern times.     But it is still too early to draw conclusions about the document’s reception. That’s because the people most touched by its teaching – the lay faithful – are largely invisible to the Catholic media....(source)
Victim advocate: The abuse scandal has broken the heart of the Catholic Church in Australia
Edited Extracts from Gerard O'Connell, America, the Jesuit Review, 31 March 2017
In this exclusive interview with America, Francis Sullivan, the chief executive officer of the Australian Catholic Church’s “Truth, Justice, and Healing Council,” reflects on what contributed to the abuse of minors by priests and religious in Australia, and what he thinks the Royal Commission that has been investigating this abuse might say in its report at the year’s end.....He said that "The church is far more than an institution. The institution has been on trial but not the faith community and the faith community is what will ultimately nurture the changes that are required. In Australia, given our context, that means we need much more involvement of lay people, male and female, at all levels of decision-making. It doesn’t mean you replace bishops, that would be ridiculous, but it means a lot of mutual decision-making and engagement. It means we have to become much more a church for truth and justice than a pillar of the establishment, we have to be much more open and transparent. I think those sort of things will help the church in Australia at least to rebound.”     T.J.H.C. was set up by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia soon after the federal government announced on Jan. 11, 2013, the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It represents dioceses, archdioceses and religious congregations across the country. It was set up for the church to address the past openly and honestly, and to speak with one voice before the Royal Commission.....Mr. Sullivan was one of the speakers at the seminar on “Safeguarding children in homes and schools” held at the Gregorian University in Rome last week. He spoke with America on March 27.....(more),  Photo: CNS/Paul Haring 

Pope Francis appoints Fr Ken Howell an Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane
Extract from Media and Communications, Melbourne Catholic, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, 30 March 2017
The Holy Father has appointed Fr Kenneth Michael Howell as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. The announcement was made at noon Rome time today. The Auxiliary Bishop-Elect will serve alongside Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge.      On behalf of the Australian Bishops, Archbishop Denis Hart welcomed the appointment, ‘Father Howell has shown gifted service as Liturgist, Cathedral Administrator and Pastor, having recently overseen the construction and completion of the new Mary, Mother of Mercy Church in the Parish of Burleigh Heads.         Fr Howell’s gifts, knowledge and love of people will make him a welcome and respected member of the Bishops Conference, where I’ve no doubt he will provide generous service.’...The Bishop-Elect has been a long-standing member of the Council of Priests and Chairman from 2008 to 2013. He is also a member of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, which he currently chairs.         The Holy Father has also accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph Oudeman, O.F.M. Cap as Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane. Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge said today, ‘we thank Bishop Joseph for his years of episcopal service in the Archdiocese. We pray that his years of retirement will be fruitful and peaceful. May the Lord grant him good health and the reward of a faithful servant’.            The Ordination of Bishop-Elect Howell will take place on 14 June 2017 at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane....(more)   Photo: CAM, Emilie Ng, the Catholic Leader    

Hidden Figures: Is there enough space for women in the Church
Extracts from guest editorial by Tracey Edstein, editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, 30 March 2017
Director Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures tells the true – albeit massaged for maximum screen impact – story of the women whose mathematical genius was integral to the United States’ mission to explore space, ultimately seeing a man on the moon in July 1969.           The NACA (later NASA) program was predictably male-dominated and driven by the determination to beat the Russians into the last frontier.       The women to whom the film’s clever title refers are disadvantaged not only by gender but by colour. A cohort of African-American women, called impersonally, “computers”, is responsible for endless calculations that are part of the space mission. Dunst). Both they and the numbers they crunch all day are hidden, not only from the public but from most NASA personnel.             They have a ‘coloured’ canteen and ‘coloured’ bathrooms, yet their work is indispensable.    When one of their number, Katherine Johnson, is plucked from the pool to join the ‘big league’, she is all but ignored by her white male colleagues. A ‘coloured’ coffee pot is thoughtfully – and anonymously - provided for her exclusive use. While it’s clear that Katherine is more than up for the task, she is not merely ostracised by her colleagues – who seem dreadfully insecure despite their specialised skill set  − but her work is actively sabotaged. Vital documents have sections ‘blacked out’ and she is denied access to critical briefings.   When she explains to her supervisor that she cannot give of her best if information is denied her, he appeals to the man most threatened by Katherine’s expertise. Paul Stafford replies, “There’s no protocol for women attending [NASA briefing]” in a tone that brooks no further dialogue on the matter.           Katherine Johnson replies evenly: “There’s no protocol for man circling the earth either, sir.”...........A very significant number of the Roman Catholic Church’s adherents are women. Many are well educated, articulate, professional and resilient. Their faith in their Church, like that of their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, has been sorely tested by the revelations that a significant number of Church personnel – mostly priests and brothers – sexually abused children while other men in positions of power and influence, who preached the gospel  daily, failed to act.                Unlike the protagonists of Hidden Figures, these women are not hidden. In fact, it could be said that in the Australian Church, it is women who keep the wheels turning, even as the institution struggles.            Like NASA, the Church has a mission.    NASA realised that it needed the contribution of women with exceptional and rare skills to realise the mission.        The Church is yet to realise that same truth. Sure, there are countless roles for women, and no limit to our possible contributions. But in terms of official ministry, these contributions can only be made at the behest of an ordained man.    It’s time for the Church to take seriously Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 4: 27-28)       It’s time for change. It’s time there was a protocol....(more)  Image: ACBC National Office for the Participation of women
'Radical inequality' fuelled Brexit, Trump votes: Cardinal Pell
Extract from CathNews, 30 March 2017
Cardinal George Pell has said that Britain’s vote in favour of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump was fuelled by “radical inequality”, reports The Catholic Herald/CNS.    The Cardinal’s comments came as a letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May officially notified the European Union of Britain’s intention to leave the EU.       Speaking at the launch of a book about technology’s influence on society, Cardinal Pell said the votes for Brexit and Trump “have shown that a strong majority of elite opinion will not necessarily prevail with the majority of the voters”.....Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, made the comments at the launch of Connected World, by Fr Philip Larrey, a philosophy professor at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University.           Although new technologies can promote employment and new opportunities in an ailing economy, if used improperly, they can also lead to tragedy and affect the course of history, the Cardinal said.      As the use of modern technology and artificial intelligence increases in the world, those who suffer its effects due to lack of employment will be unable to “cope with additional misfortune,” he added.     “Drugs and alcohol enhance the tragedy, but certainly the decline in social capital; for example, family breakdown, extranuptial births, widespread pornography, addictive computer games and the decline in religious faith and practice,” he said....(more) 

Investigation accuses 25 French bishops of hiding abuse
Extract from Tom Heneghan, The Tablet, 29 March 2017
The French Bishops’ Conference spokesman has expressed his profound shame after a television documentary accused 25 bishops — five of them still in office — of shielding 32 priests guilty of sexual abuse from justice and moving them around France and other countries to keep their past out of the spotlight.    Conference president Archbishop Georges Pontier disputed some details of the broadcast on France 2 public television but admitted past errors and insisted the Church now put the interests of abuse victims first.    The 21 March broadcast by the news magazine Cash Investigation added new details to the debate about clerical sexual abuse in France, where the bishops’ conference recently said nine priests and deacons were in prison and 26 under investigation for sexual abuse.     Based on a year-long inquiry with the news website Mediapart, it examined abuse cases going back to the 1960s and said half of the 32 abusers were active after 2000, the year when the French bishops first agreed to tighten their anti-paedophilia guidelines.    The resulting database listed 339 victims and showed 228 of them had been under 15 and only 165 cases were reported to civil authorities. The programme also tracked the transfer of alleged abusers within France and abroad, especially to posts in Africa.    “I feel a profound sense of shame, humility and determination, because I am well aware that we have made mistakes,” bishops’ conference spokesman Mgr Olivier Ribadeau Dumas told AFP news agency.   Archbishop Pontier insisted the broadcast highlighted errors of the past but told La Provence newspaper: “We have evolved, even if this has not be fast enough.”....(more)

Argentinian church shamed by Grassi affair
A French investigative TV show claims the pope was too lax in the case of an Argentinian priest convicted of pedophilia.
Extract from, Éric Domergue, Buenos Aires and Nicolas Senèze, Rome, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 27 March 2017
The case of Julio César Grassi broke in 2002 when two young men accused the Argentinian priest of sexually abusing them while they were minors living under his care in the foundation he ran.    Grassi called his foundation Felices los Niños, “Happy Children". It housed several thousand poor children in the western suburbs of Buenos Aires.   Despite his protestations of innocence, Fr Grassi was sentenced in 2009 to 15 years in prison. His numerous appeals were all dismissed and, last Tuesday, the Supreme Court finally upheld his conviction. He has been incarcerated since September 2013...(source)

Outdated model for preparing priests needs major overhaul
"Whenever Pope Francis has talked about the selection and training of Catholic priests he has given every indication that he knows there are serious problems."
Extract from, Robert Mickens, Rome. Subscription Journal La Croix International, 24 March 2017
It is such a serious problem that, according to one noted Church historian, not even Pope Francis dares to speak about it.     It’s the outdated model of Catholic priesthood and, even more significantly, how candidates for the ordained ministry are selected and prepared for service among the People of God.    Professor Alberto Melloni of the John XXII Foundation for Religious Sciences (Bologna, Italy) recently pointed out that the archetype of today’s priest dates back to over 400 years ago and the reforms stemming from the Council of Trent (1545-1563)....(source)

O'Malley pledges pope still committed to rooting out clergy sex abuse
Extract from Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 23 March 2017
In the midst of a month in which the effectiveness of Pope Francis' measures to fight clergy sexual abuse has come into question, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley pledged Thursday that the pontiff is still "thoroughly committed to rooting out the scourge of sex abuse."    O'Malley, the head of Francis' Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told participants of an education seminar hosted by the group that "there is simply no justification in our day for failures to enact concrete safeguarding standards for our children."    "Let there be no doubts: no other topic is more important for the life of the church," said the cardinal. "If the church is not committed to child protection, our efforts at evangelization will be to no effect; we will lose the trust of our people and gain the opprobrium of the world."....(more)
Priests shouldn't marry, says married priest
Extract from CathNews, 23 March 2017
You might be surprised to know most married Catholic priests are staunch advocates of clerical celibacy, writes Fr Joshua Whitfield, a married Catholic priest from Texas, in the Dallas Morning News.     My wife and I, we have four children, all younger than seven. Ours is not a quiet house. A house of screaming and a house of endless snot, it's also a house of love, grown and multiplied every few years.      But here's what's strange about us: I'm a Catholic priest. And that is, as you probably know, mostly a celibate species.     The discipline of celibacy, as a Christian practice, is an ancient tradition. For priests, celibacy has been the universal legal norm in the Catholic West since the 12th century and the de facto norm long before that.  Yet there have always been, for good reasons, exceptions made, particularly for the sake of Christian unity. The Eastern Catholic Churches, for example, many with married priests, have since early modernity flourished in the Catholic Church.      Likewise for me, a convert from Anglicanism. I'm able to be a Catholic priest because of the Pastoral Provision of Saint John Paul II, which was established in the early 1980s. This provision allows men like me, mostly converts from Anglicanism, to be ordained priests, yet only after receiving a dispensation from celibacy from the pope himself.        But these are exceptions made, as I said, for the sake of Christian unity, because of Jesus' final prayer that his disciples be "one". They do not signal change in the Catholic Church's ancient discipline of clerical celibacy.           I, for one, don't think the Church should change its discipline here. In fact, I think it would be a very bad idea......(more)   Photo: Cathnews
Meetings, money and dress code: how Francis is trying to change curia, by one of his most influential advisors
Extract from by Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 21 March 2017 
Honduran Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga publiushes a new book about the reform process in the Vatican
Meetings, money and dress code: how Francis is trying to change curia, by one of his most influential advisors.    There are few who have this Pope’s ear in the same way as Honduran Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga. The 74-year-old saxophone-playing prelate is a telegenic polyglot who has been co-ordinating the important "C9" council of nine cardinals advising Francis on his reforms.     He’s just provided an insight into that work in a book by Italian journalist Francesco Antonioli compiling reflections on the Pope titled Francis and Us (Francesco e Noi). Among the contributors is Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman who died in January.    In his essay, Cardinal Rodriguez reveals how Francis was a reformer right from the moment of his election when, during the conclave, he scrapped the tradition of cardinals “paying homage” to the new Pope by greeting them himself.     Then, just four days after his election, Francis approached Rodriguez with a proposal about the new cardinal advisory body he wanted to set up.     “Can you coordinate it?” the Pope asked him. The cardinal, who has been a close friend of Jorge Bergoglio’s since 2007 when they worked on the Latin American church’s Aparecida document, replied: "If you ask me, I have to."    Since then, the 74-year-old Salesian explained that Francis has changed the exercise of the papacy through an “encyclical of gestures” such as washing the feet of Muslim women and migrants while insisting on living in the Casa Santa Marta. After looking around the palatial papal apartments Francis told Rodríguez they were like “a prison”.    While these gestures are important the Pope was elected with a clear wish from his fellow cardinals which the Honduran papal adviser sums up as follows: “the Vatican curia needs to be reformed”. Today he says Francis is pressing ahead with the mandate  “great sincerity and, at the same time, firmness”........... In the book Rodriguez also gives an insight into the informal - more Latin American - style of papal meetings. He explains that the C9 now gathers in Santa Marta on his suggestion. The first meeting, he explained, took place at the Vatican’s Apostolic palace requiring them to wear “official cassock and lace” and leave half an hour to arrive and another half an hour to leave. As a result Cardinal Rodriguez told the Pope they should use a meeting room in the Pope’s residence, and Francis agreed.    The discussions here taken place in a fraternal spirit and “a love for the Church”, according to Rodríguez, while the Pope happily stops to have a coffee break with his fellow cardinals. While Francis’ Vatican reforms are taking time to be implemented - however they do shake out, expect Cardinal Rodríguez to be playing a central role.....(more)
Cardinal Pell blasts Senate's 'unjust' attack
Extract from CathNews, 21 March 2017
Cardinal George Pell has accused the Senate of launching an “extraordinary and unjust” attack against him and interfering with due process, reports The Australian.    A Greens motion, agreed to by the upper house in February, called on the senior ranking clergyman to return to Australia to face allegations of misconduct.    “The use of parliamentary privilege to attack me on this basis is both extraordinary and unjust,” Cardinal Pell wrote in a letter tabled in parliament yesterday.     “Given that the investigation is ongoing, any calls from the Senate for my return to Australia can only be perceived as an interference on the part of the Senate in the due process of the Victoria Police investigation.”      Cardinal Pell has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, saying he was willingly interviewed by police in Rome last year and continued to co-operate with their investigations.   Police and prosecutors had not requested his presence in Australia, he said.    Cardinal Pell appeared on three separate occasions to give evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. “Any fair-minded person would conclude that I have made every effort to be available to the royal commission and to Victoria Police to assist with their inquiries,” he said.    The vast majority of allegations highlight in the Senate’s motion related to the period before his time as Archbishop, Cardinal Pell said.....(more)
Retreat, Escape, or Face the Challenge
Extract from J. A. Dick, Another Voice: Reflections about Contemporary Christian Belief and Practice, 18 March 2017     
Three recent books are energizing conservative-minded Roman Catholics and other Christians these days. The theme in all three is the end of Christian America. One of my traditionalist friends called them to my attention, hoping to lure me away from my “dangerous liberal thinking.”      I guess a variety of viewpoints has always been with us; and I really do respect other opinions. I do not agree with the authors of these three books, however, because they propose solutions to some genuine American problems that are either unhelpfully narrow-minded or simply utopian fantasies.     On the other hand, out of fairness to my friend who brought them to my attention, I guess one could indeed use these books for a very healthy and effective discussion about what it means to be a truly contemporary Christian… well as a contemporary American, deeply concerned about religion, values, and morality in today’s USA.     I begin with Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World by Charles J. Chaput, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia.     Archbishop Chaput offers a strongly negative critique of contemporary U.S. society. I suspect many readers who page through his book will shake their heads in agreement, as they read his lamentations that the United States has now been conquered by a secularist, pleasure-seeking, self-absorbed worldview that leaves little place for Jesus or traditional morality. Telltale signs of America’s “post-Christian” decadence, according to the Archbishop, are divorce, contraception, abortion, materialism, an invasive Obama-generated government, and gay marriage.     Considering my own religious tradition that has long valued the voice of the People of God, and thinking about the city where the Declaration of Independence was drafted, the first red light about this book started flashing for me, when I saw Philadelphia’s Archbishop asserting that “Democracy tends to unmoor society from the idea of permanent truths.” An alternative fact?....(more)  Image: Wikipedia, A cherub, as described by Ezekiel and according to traditional Christian iconography.
Timely papers in the Autumn 2017 Edition of The Swag
Friday 17 March 2017
A timely set of worthwhile paper in the Autumn 2017 Issue of The Swag, for those who subscribe to this Quarterly Magazine of the National Council of Priests of Australia,  includes amongst many others, "Towards a change of parish contours", a revised and updated extract by Aengus Kavanagh of a chapter from the book  "Will Catholic Schools be Catholic in 2030" co-authored by Patrician Brother, Aengus Kavanagh, and Ursuline Sister, Leone Pallisier, and Richard Curtain's paper "Having a say in selecting our Bishop" based on a recent Catholics For Renewal Survey on Parish Needs and desired attributes of Bishops.
A Protestant editor for the pope's paper
Extract from Subscription journal La Croix International, 16 March 2017
A Protestant at the head of L’Osservatore Romano? Until very recently, the idea would have seemed absurd. However, it has now become a reality under Pope Francis, who has just given the job of editing the Argentine edition of the Holy See daily to a 60-year-old Presbyterian.    “It is a little bit revolutionary… but he is a revolutionary pope!” Figueroa says with a smile. After four special editions, he is preparing to launch the first edition of L’Osservatore Romano designed for Argentina and Latin America....(more)
Pope's quotes: NCR favorites from the last 4 years
NCR Staff, National Catholic Reporter, 15 March 2017
How much room for democracy in the Church?
Pope Francis is currently consulting local priests and lay Catholics to choose his next Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, a decision which traditionally belongs to the pope himself. "La Croix" examines this unparalleled move.
Extract from Clémence Houdaille, La Croix International, 15 March 2017
In an unprecedented process for the Bishop of Rome, Vatican Insider is reporting that Pope Francis has launched a consultation with people in his diocese to select its next Vicar General.      This choice normally belongs solely to the pope.      The current vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini is 77 and will retire on April 17. Local priests and lay faithful have until April 12 to send letters with “suggestions on the profile of the next vicar and also eventually several names".       The consultation was launched by the pope at a private meeting with 36 leaders of the diocese, which has 334 parishes for its 2.8 million inhabitants.      Does the pope intend to make the Church more democratic?      He clearly showed his interest in the opinions of the Catholic laity  during the broad consultation that took place before the two meetings of the Synod of Bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015.     “However, that was not a matter of governance,” notes Fr Luc Forestier, director of the Institute of Religious Studies at the Catholic Institute of Paris.     Very ancient democratic practices in religious congregations     On the other hand, “consultation before appointing a bishop is, in itself, something quite normal," he emphasizes. “However, this process is organized by the nuncio and is secret. I have already been consulted several times myself and I know lay people who also have been confidentially consulted.”     The novelty of the current consultation is that it has taken place publicly among all the faithful even if they are not widely informed, Fr Forestier adds.....(more)    Photo:  La Croix, Riccardo De Luca/AP     
New horizons in sight following Royal Commission hearings on the Catholic Church
Extract from Mark Bowling, Catholic Leader, 15 March 2017
In the wake of the Catholic Church’s final hearing before the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, Church leaders from across Australia have held a day of “reflection and conversation” on child safety.      The three-week Royal Commission hearing investigated the Church’s response to a crisis of child sexual abuse by members over six decades, and particularly the Church’s plans for child protection protocols and institutional change.      The commission heard that over the past 35 years, 4445 people made complaints of child sexual abuse in Catholic Church institutions, and seven per cent of priests were identified as alleged perpetrators.     National Professional Standards Office executive officer Fr Tim Brennan said New Horizon Day, convened in Sydney on March 9, aimed to assist “in the work of safeguarding children” and “to grow in an understanding of the complexities in which we work at this point in the life of our nation, and our Church”.   “It is a moment of enormous transition,” Fr Brennan said.    The New Horizon Day brought together Church leaders from religious orders, diocese and some of the major groups which engage with Catholics across the country including parishes, schools, hospitals and welfare services.        “Clearly, while the Royal Commission has put the Church in the spotlight, now that has passed, it is important to continue the momentum, to discuss what’s going on and where we are headed – and to surface the million questions that people have as they seek to appreciate this confusing transitional period,” Fr Brennan said.    “It was not intended to make policy but to ensure a place for exchange of information and learning.”    The conference included discussion of Towards Healing protocols, how state professional standards might fit into future safeguarding arrangements, and how Church authorities can maintain a pastoral response while dealing with complex legal cases.     “People are galvanised for change and for reform,” Professional Standards Office Queensland director Mark Eustance said.    “They don’t want to lose the momentum.    “It’s about changing the conversation from the horrific history that’s been revealed to the Royal Commission and changing that to a more positive note around what’ll we do to rectify that.”...... (more) 
Child Sexual Abuse, Where to from Here?
Extract from speech by Francis Sullivan, CEO Truth Justice and healing Council, to Catalyst For renewal, Villa Maria Parish, Hunter's Hill Sydney, Friday 10 March 2017
What has shocked and confronted me the most about this sex abuse scandal is that it took place in a church. The very fact that the church was on trial, rips at the heart of what the church is meant to be. And that speaks to me of a profound loss of direction, integrity, purpose and meaning at the heart of the church. A spiritual wasteland.       It is my sense that so many Catholics share that shock.  People say the Church now needs to get its house back in order but I say we have to re-build the house. Let’s not put the same foundations in place that delivered us this scandalous history – this profound moral and criminal upheaval. Why was it that moral leadership failed so consistently, so pervasively?     Where was the wisdom and counsel we have been lead to believe comes from those on the spiritual journey? We must address this spiritual bankruptcy as much as anything else. Full speech (as written) HERE
Back to following The Way
"With Pope Francis, we are heading back to the beginnings of Christianity."
Extract from Eric Hodgens, La Croix International, 11 March 2017
......A member of the Jesus Movement of the first century would have found it hard to recognize the institutional Christianity of the end of the fifth century.    Ideas and laws have been front and center to Christianity ever since. Christendom was born under Constantine and reigned supreme till the 20th century.     The Great Schism in the 11th century and the Reformation in the 16th century left it fractured but still powerful. It was the 18th and 19th-century democracy movements which saw the loss of the Church’s political power with the rise of secular states. Christianity became just one faction in competition with others.    Power is still the Church’s stumbling block. Mind you, Jesus warned us: The gentiles lord it over their subjects – not so with you. The Church’s power to “lord it over” society has been curtailed by today’s pluralism but is still jealously guarded within the institution.     And ideas and laws are the instruments by which power is exercised. Doctrine and law are sacralised as the teaching of the Church – or even the teaching of God.    Then along comes a pope who says “Who am I to judge?” He has a dictum: reality is more important than the idea. Ideas, ideology, doctrine, law must be evaluated in the context of the wider life of the community.     For the theologian and the legislator, ideas determine and control reality. For the pastor, a changing reality calls for constant adaptation of our ideas and rules.      This reversal of priorities coincides with a new-found self-confidence in the people. The People of God have their own mind and heart on matters of faith and morals. Pope Francis sees the faith of the people as the most basic source - and more important than the idea......(more)
Shifting Church culture a "very long game"
Extract from CathNews, National Catholic Reporter, 10 March 2017
Pope Francis will celebrate his fourth anniversary of his pontificate on Monday. The National Catholic Reporter takes a look at his "very long game" in shifting Church culture.    In January, the Vatican office that oversees priests, sisters and brothers in global religious orders had a plenary session. Seven women attended as representatives of the world's women religious.   That fact may not seem significant for those outside the Vatican, but it was the first time in decades that women had been present at such a meeting, the result of a direct request to Pope Francis.    "We were invited and we could speak," said Sr Carmen Sammut of the Rome-based group of women religious called the International Union of Superiors General. "That was a real structural change."....(more)
Francis open to ordaining married men in some cases
Extract from CathNews, National Catholic Register, Die Ziet, 10 March 2017
Pope Francis says the issue of ordaining some married men as priests needs to be considered, reports National Catholic Register.   In an interview with Die Zeit, Germany’s leading left-leaning newspaper, the Holy Father said the shortage of priests around the world is an “enormous problem” that must be resolved, but stressed that “voluntary celibacy is not the answer”.     However, he said the issue of viri probati, married men proven in faith and virtue who could be ordained to the priesthood, is a “possibility” that “we have to think about”.    “We must also determine which tasks they can undertake, for example in remote communities,” the Pope said.     The Latin rite already allows some married non-Catholic clergymen who become Catholics to be ordained priests, such as former Anglican clergy. The Eastern Catholic Churches allow the ordination of married men as priests but like the Orthodox and Latin Catholic churches, they do not allow clerical marriage, that is priests to marry once ordained.    Last year, Pope Francis ruled out moving away from priestly celibacy, saying it should “remain as it is”. But he has mentioned the possibility of ordaining “proven” married men before, reportedly saying privately in 2014 it could be left for bishops to decide, depending on the situation. He referred to a diocese in Mexico where each community had a deacon but no priest.    The Pope is also understood to have wanted the next synod to discuss priestly celibacy, although it was voted down by the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops. The secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, further ruled out the possibility of the issue being discussed at the 2018 Synod on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”....(more)

Pope Francis' fourth anniversary: the centrality of mercy
Extract from Michael Sean Waters, National Catholic Reporter, 8 March 2018
.....In his focus on mercy, Pope Francis is not merely calling attention to a theological virtue we should practice. This is not about ethics only. It goes deeper. It is a quintessential example of ressourcement theology, which proposed a return to the sources, that was so central to the Second Vatican Council. The aggiornamento, or bringing up to date, that the Council took as its mission was not a mere indulgence of modernity, but an engagement with modernity, and an engagement based on a retrieval of the sources of Christian life rooted in the Scriptures and the early Church Fathers. It specifically aimed to question the cultural encrustations that had once revealed and explicated those sources, but now stood in the way.....(more)

The Catholic Dilemma.
Extracts from Eric Hodges, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue Website, 8 March 2017    
Clerical privilege took a heavy blow when Catholic bishops were summoned to appear at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse (RC).  The church answering to the state.        The drama climaxed with the appearance of Australia’s five metropolitan archbishops. They were being questioned rather than asking the questions – a dramatic role reversal. They were very chastened. In the words of one archbishop, they looked like rabbits in the headlights. The focus had moved from the abuse to the way bishops had responded. They were reduced to being suppliants before the RC being questioned by a female, secular counsel-assisting. How did they go?......(more) Eric Hodges is a retired Catholic Priest in Melbourne.
Youth leaders head to Rome to plan major events
Extract from Melbourne Catholic, 9 March 2017
Youth leaders will fly to Rome next month to help plan two major events for young people, reports the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference's Media Blog.   Ashleigh Green, from the Broken Bay Diocese, and Malcolm Hart, Director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Office for Youth, will head to Rome in the first week of April, to participate at an international meeting about World Youth Day (WYD) and the upcoming Synod on young people.    The five-day gathering will focus on the theme, "From Krakow to Panama – The Synod Journeying with Young People". It will include an evaluation of WYD in Krakow last year and will look ahead to WYD in Panama during 2019. Time will be spent on the pastoral and logistical preparations required. Members of both the Polish and Panamanian organising committees will be present.    Ms Green was part of the Diocese of Broken Bay’s WYD pilgrimage to Krakow....(more)
New female advisory group to counter 'lack of the presence of women' in leadership roles in Roman Curia
Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, The Tablet, 8 March 2017
The 37 female consultants will advise the Pontifical Council for Culture on matters ranging from neuroscience to sports.    New female advisory group to counter 'lack of the presence of women' in leadership roles in Roman Curia.      A new Vatican women’s advisory group has been launched to counter the “lack of the presence of women” in leadership roles in the Roman Curia which has no women in leadership roles despite representing a fifth of the workforce.     Announced a day before today’s International Women’s Day, the permanent consultative body will be made up of 37 women and will report to the Pontifical Council of Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the council told a press conference yesterday.     “I didn't have any women at the management level. They were only there in an administrative sense as secretaries,” Ravasi said.   The new group includes the president of the Vatican-run hospital for children, a Muslim theologian from Iran, the Irish Ambassador to the Holy See and the director of a female prison in Rome.   Donna Orsuto, a professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and director of the city’s Lay Centre also joins the group. Orsuto, who has recently been named as a member of the Vatican’s liturgy department, helped Ravasi to set up the new female advisory body back in 2015.    “It’s a first step but it’s an important one,” she told The Tablet. “To bring the expertise of these women to the work of the council is a great idea.”     She added: “You see these initiatives which are only a beginning, but its positive. As I like to say ‘nothing about us without us.’ If we can move in that direction in the Church, everyone is going to be better off. Men and women.”....(more)

International Women's day - What Islam really says about women
 Alaa Murabit, TED talks, YouTube, 8 March 2017
Any day would be a good day to view this 12 minute TED talk "What Islam really says about women", but it's especially appropriate on International Women's day, and applies to many religions, including our own.       Alaa Murabit's family moved from Canada to Libya when she was 15. Before, she’d felt equal to her brothers, but in this new environment she sensed big prohibitions on what she could accomplish. As a proud Muslim woman, she wondered: was this really religious doctrine? With humor, passion and a refreshingly rebellious spirit, she shares how she discovered examples of female leaders from across the history of her faith — and how she launched a campaign to fight for women's rights using verses directly from the Koran.

How clergy became scapegoats of the sex abuse crisis in the Anglican Church
Extract from Muriel Porter! The Conversation, 7 March 2017
As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings have made abundantly clear, Christian churches in this country scapegoated the victims of clergy abuse for decades in an attempt to protect their reputation. That was at best deluded, and at worst evil.     Some parts of the Anglican Church of Australia were complicit in this appalling behaviour until the levels of abuse came to light in the late 1990s. Since then, the Anglican Church has directed enormous energy into establishing procedures to ensure that abuse was a thing of the past, and that churches would be safe places for all children and vulnerable people.       In the process, however, in a frantic effort to restore the church’s damaged reputation by demonstrating it is “tough on (sexual) crime”, it has created another group of scapegoats – its own clergy.     This may seem a harsh assessment, and one that will not be popular with abuse survivors. Survivors have often been so scarred by their abuse that they have no sympathy at all for the clergy as a class.    Nevertheless, as I write in my new book, absurdly severe restrictions are now being imposed on the private lives of all Anglican clergy because the abuse crisis has opened the door to opportunistic interventions by puritan elements in the church. Always eager to impose rigid rules on all sexual behaviour, in this febrile climate no one dare challenge their demands. The clergy have become the new scapegoats.....(more)  Muriel Cooper os Honorary Research Fellow, Trinity College Theological School, University of Divinity.

Cardinal Wuerl: Pope Francis has reconnected the church with Vatican II
Gerard O'Connell, America - the Jesuit Review,  6 March 2017
Reconnecting the church “with the energy of the Second Vatican Council,” may be the pope’s greatest achievement, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington said in an exclusive interview with America as the fourth anniversary of the pope’s election approaches on March 13.     According to Cardinal Wuerl, the pope is changing the papacy and “completely refocusing the role of bishop.” He said Pope Francis has “picked up where we left off” on Vatican II themes of collegiality and synodality and has refocused the church on “a moral theology that rests on scripture and Jesus’ command to love” and on “an evangelizing discipleship.”    Cardinal Wuerl, who is archbishop of Washington, also commented on the pope’s post-synodal magisterial document on the family “Amoris Laetitia,” the opposition Pope Francis has experienced and the U.S. church’s stance regarding migrants in the face of challenges from the Trump administration.    An edited text of an interview given at the North American College in Rome on Feb. 22 follows.........(more)   Photo: America - The Jesuit Review,  (CNS photo/Bob Roller)  
John Menadue. Failed Leadership in Church and State!
Extract from Pearls and irritations, John Menadue Blog, 7 March 2017
We have an unfortunate habit of thinking that if only we could change our leaders we could solve our problems. Yet it is clear that after disposing of our PM’s one after the other we are no better off. Changing Popes by itself is unlikely to help much because the problems with bishops and clericalism are so deep seated in the Catholic Church.    From my experience and observation good leadership is about creating disequilibrium and a process to galvanise the group to change. Without disequilibrium there will be no worthwhile change.....(more)
Kieran Tapsell. Vatican Reform on Child Sexual Abuse in Disarray – Does Pope Francis get it?
Extract from Pearls and irritations, John Menadue website, 3 March 2017
Zero tolerance in a professional context almost invariably means dismissal, but Pope Francis’s claim that the Church has a “zero tolerance” policy is not borne out by the figures he presented to the United Nations: only one quarter of all priests found to have sexually abused children have been dismissed. That’s a 75% tolerance not zero.       On 1 March 2017, Marie Collins, the only abuse survivor on Pope Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, resigned because “what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was said in public.”  See article in National Catholic reporter ‘Survivor explains decision to leave Vatican’s abuse commission‘.    The week before three other members of the Pontifical Commission, Sheila Hollins, Bill Kilgallon and Kathleen McCormack gave evidence in a panel to the Royal Commission, and expressed their frustration with the Vatican.    The Chair of the Royal Commission, Justice McClellan told the panel that the work they were doing was of “fundamental importance to individual countries” because the work of the Royal Commission indicates that real change in the culture and practices of the Church in Australia will only occur if “it’s coming from Rome.”    After several hours of questioning in which the panel spoke about resistance in Rome to their recommendations and its lack of resources, Justice McClellan observed: “The picture you all paint, from an outsider’s point of view, is of a world organisation which is struggling to come to terms with the safety of children and its responsibilities in that area.”....(more)
Claim: Anti-reform cardinals want Pope to resign
Extract from CathNews, 3 March 2017
A group of cardinals who supported the election of Pope Francis are worried about his reforms and are planning to appeal to him to step down, a Vatican watcher claims, according to The Times.     "A large part of the cardinals who voted for him is very worried and the curia ... that organised his election and has accompanied him thus far, without ever disassociating itself from him, is cultivating the idea of a moral suasion to convince him to retire," Antonio Socci wrote in the Italian newspaper Libero.    The conservative Catholic journalist said that Pope Francis's election had been backed by progressive German cardinals and a curia faction impatient with the rule of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.    It was the latter faction who now believed that the Pope should resign and who would like to replace him with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, Mr Socci said. He believed that the group numbered around a dozen, "but the importance of the members counts more than their number".    "Four years after Benedict XVI's renunciation and Bergoglio's arrival on the scene, the situation of the Catholic Church has become explosive, perhaps really on the edge of a schism, which could be even more disastrous than Luther's [who is today being rehabilitated by the Bergoglio church]," Socci wrote.....Putting pressure on a pope to resign is a crime punishable under canon law, Socci added, so it was unclear how the moral suasion might be exercised....(more) Photo: CathNews
A church that young adult Catholics can believe in
Extract from  Nicole Sotelo, National Catholic Reporter, 2 March 2017
Where are the young people? It's a common question at Catholic parishes across the country, and soon church officials may understand why so many have left. The Vatican has invited bishops to fill out a questionnaire about young adults in preparation for the 2018 synod, which focuses on the theme "Young People, the Faith and Vocation Discernment." The questionnaire instructs bishops not only to look at the young adults who participate, but also at those who don't.    Among U.S. Catholics who have stopped participating and remain unaffiliated, nearly 80 percent did so before the age of 24, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center study. If bishops want to help the Vatican know why young adults in our country are leaving the church, they can start by looking at the research on Catholics who have left. They will find that it has less to do with a lack of belief and more to do with the fact that young people want a church they can believe in.     Reasons for leaving....(more)
People in Britain must feel able to speak about their faith in Christ, says Prime Minister Theresa May
Extract from Lorna Donlon, The Tablet, 1 March 2017
While the Church and Government will not always agree, Mrs May said there are many areas where they can work together.  People in Britain must feel able to speak about their faith in Christ, says Prime Minister Theresa May.      The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said she believes Christianity should be celebrated and that it has an important role in making Britain a country that works for everyone.      Speaking at Downing Street reception for religious leaders on Shrove Tuesday, she explained how growing up in a vicarage shaped her upbringing as she witnessed first-hand the “many sacrifices involved and the hard work that so many of you do.”
         Among those present were the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who is standing down after more than 20 years.     Mrs May’s anecdotal reference to her own religious background, if brief, is in contrast to the reluctance of some recent occupants of Number 10 to broach the subject of religion. Tony Blair’s Director of Communications, Alistair Campbell, once famously remarked: “We don’t do God.”        The Prime Minister said: “It is right that we should celebrate the role of Christianity in our country. We have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of. We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.”...(more)

Pat Power. The Royal Commission and the need for reform.
Extract from Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 1 March 2017
Despite all the warnings, I don’t know of anyone who has not been shocked by what has emerged from the Royal Commission. For twenty years or more, we have heard accounts of abuse, sometimes very close to home. But somehow the magnitude of it all has been almost beyond comprehension.      Often when I meet Catholics who are no longer practising their faith, they say to me without bitterness “I have not left the Catholic Church, the Church has left me.” While I have always felt I understood what those friends were saying, it is even more obvious to me now. So often because of a culture of secrecy or shame they have carried guilt for what have been the gravely sinful and criminal actions of those they should have been able to trust. It is not surprising that a number of those lives have ended in suicide......In my twenty six years as auxiliary bishop and in the nearly five years since my retirement, I have listened to many heart-wrenching stories of abuse. I never cease to be moved by these personal conversations, trying always to listen from the heart, but knowing that actions speak louder than words. Most of all, I try to a “companion on the journey”, helping the person concerned to find peace and to achieve whatever outcomes they are seeking. I hope through my own integrity and willingness to listen, they will have a very different experience of Church to what they previously negatively encountered.       I should add as well, that invariably I have been in great admiration of the courage, goodness and holiness of the people who have shared their often tragic stories with me.     It has taken the adverse publicity of the Royal Commission to make many in the Church leadership to look to those reforms which have been crying out for implementation for many years. Radical changes are needed at all levels....(more)

Lone survivor on Vatican abuse commission resigns in frustration
Extract bfrom Joshua J. McElwee1, National Catholic Reporter, 1 March 2017
Vatican City. The only active member of Pope Francis' new commission on clergy sexual abuse who is an abuse survivor has resigned from the group due to frustration with Vatican officials' reluctance to cooperate with its work to protect children.      Marie Collins, an Irishwoman who has served on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since March 2014, announced her resignation in a press statement Wednesday.        In a separate exclusive statement for NCR explaining her choice, Collins says she decided to leave the commission after losing hope that Vatican officials would cooperate with its work following a failure to implement a series of recommendations.     Collins says her decision to resign was immediately precipitated by one Vatican office's refusal to comply with a request from the commission, approved by the pope, that all letters sent to the Vatican by abuse survivors receive a response.    "I find it impossible to listen to public statements about the deep concern in the church for the care of those whose lives have been blighted by abuse, yet to watch privately as a congregation in the Vatican refuses to even acknowledge their letters!" Collins writes in the statement.....(more) Photo NCR,  (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)
500 years after the Reformation: End the schism!
Extracts from Hans Kung, National Catholic Reporter, 1 March 2017
It was most gratifying that the chairman of the Protestant Churches in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, accompanied by the president of the German Catholic bishops' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, officially visited Pope Francis in Rome together on the occasion of the Reformation Jubilee. The Pope spoke of "an already reconciled diversity." He said he greatly appreciated the spiritual and theological gifts that the Reformation had given us and that he wanted to do everything he could "to overcome the obstacles that still remained.".....(more)       Photo: MCR,  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Man sent as child from UK to Australia tells abuse inquiry: name the villains  Extract from Sandra Laville, UK Child Enquiry,  The Guardian, 28 February 2017
Chair Alexis Jay asked to name and shame perpetrators of abuse of British children shipped abroad from 1947 to the 1970s.        The UK national child abuse inquiry has been urged at the opening of its public evidence sessions to name and shame the perpetrators of the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of British children forcibly deported to Australia by the UK government and leading churches and charities.    David Hill, one of more than 4,000 children who were sent to Australia and other Commonwealth nations from 1947 to the 1970s, waived his anonymity at the opening of the independent inquiry on Monday to make an emotional call for justice for victims.       The national child abuse inquiry is hearing testimony from people who were shipped as children to Australia. Some children sent to former colonies between the 1920s and 1970s faced servitude, hard labour and Hill is one of 22 former child migrants who will give evidence at the hearing. Many will testify of the extreme sexual and physical abuse they experienced when they were sent to Australia as part of the child migrant programme.     He told the chair, Alexis Jay: “We will never be able to undo the wrongdoing to these children. But what is important to survivors of sexual abuse is where the inquiry is satisfied with the evidence, name the villains.   “Many of them are beyond the grave, but it would bring a great deal of comfort to the people who as children were their victims if they were named and shamed.”   Hill appeared in the inquiry hearing room in central London with a survivor who has also given up his right to anonymity, Oliver Cosgrove. Cosgrove was deported by the British state at the age of four. His lawyer, Imran Khan, said there would be no defence for institutions to say it had taken place a long time ago.   “When was it that the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children was OK? Not now, not then, not ever.”...(more)  Photo: The Guardian,
 Pope Francis back in firing line over how to deal with priests guilty of abuse
Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, The Tablet, 28 February 2017
Whether to laicise priests guilty of abuse is not always straightforward. Pope Francis back in the firing line over how to deal with priests guilty of abuse.     Pope Francis has made mercy the overriding theme of his papacy but he’s coming under fire for including abusive priests in his vision for a Church that offers forgiveness to all sinners.        It leaves the Pope open to accusations that he is soft on abuse or, as survivors are arguing, he simply “doesn't get” the problem while his critics argue that, when it comes to crimes against children, justice rather than mercy should be the priority.    The perception that Francis is not on top of the abuse problem has been reinforced by a recent story by Nicole Winfield of Associate Press, who reports that Francis has overruled the advice of the Vatican department calling for priest abusers should be defrocked.     Rather than defrocking - or laicising - the priests, the Pope has sentenced them to a lifetime of prayer and penance and removed them from public ministry, which victim groups and some of his advisers believe is too lax a penalty.......(more)
New-style 'ad limina' visits begin
Extract from CathNews, 28 February 2017
Abandoning the formalities of the past, Pope Francis has launched "a whole new style of 'ad limina' visits," according to a Chilean bishop, Crux reports.    Traditionally, bishops expected "to have a long meeting with a speech and then individual meetings," Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos of Santiago, secretary of the Chilean bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service.    Instead, the Vatican informed the prelates before their departure from Chile that they were going to have a group meeting with the Pope and the prefects of several Vatican congregations and offices.   "We were told that this was going to be a new way of doing things that was beginning with us, that looks for a more fruitful, more incisive dialogue between the representatives of the local churches and the pope with his main collaborators," Ramos said....(more)
Australian archbishops to ask Vatican for clarity on confession issues
Extract from Catholic News Service, Contrbutor, Crux, 27 February 2017
After years of scandals and commissions regarding the issue of clerical sex abuse scandals, Australia's five archbishops wish to ask Pope Francis for clarification on whether or not the seal of confession includes only the sins confessed and in what circumstances a priest could withhold absolution.         Sydney: Australia’s five archbishops said they would consider asking the Vatican for clarification on concerns raised in a government inquiry into sexual abuse of children in the church.      Among those concerns were whether the seal of confession includes only the sins confessed, not other information revealed in confession, and under what circumstances - specifically concerning an abuser - a priest could withhold absolution.      Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide said the permanent committee of the bishops’ conference would meet in early March to set the agenda for its May meeting. If the full conference approved, documentation could be sent to Pope Francis after the May meeting, asking the pope “to expedite it and deal with it,” Wilson said.     “These are two very specific issues where the church must do more work at clarifying its own position so that those of us who are responsible for the formation of priests can make sure that our priests are properly educated in these matters,” said Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth.    Wilson and Costelloe were among five archbishops who testified to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on February 23 and 24, the final two days of three weeks of public hearings.     The commission - which has spent nearly four years hearing testimony, including from victims of abuse - heard from a wide range of witnesses, including scholars, doctors, theologians and members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. It is expected to issue a final report by the end of this year.....(more) Photo: Crux  
ACBC reforms aim to prevent future abuse
Extract from CathNews, 27 February 2017
On behalf of the ACBC and Catholic Religious Australia, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart has promised "to do all in my power to ensure the abuse of the past never happens again" and that reforms will be implemented.    "As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concludes its final hearing into the Catholic Church, I acknowledge the co-operation of witnesses, agencies, religious institutes and dioceses across the Church in Australia," Archbishop Hart wrote in a statement.        "I particularly want to acknowledge the bravery of the survivors of child sexual abuse who have given evidence, not just in case studies involving the Catholic Church, but across the more than 50 case studies so far that have examined the many different institutions throughout Australia.     "Over the past three weeks, more than 70 Church leaders and professionals have appeared before the Commissioners sharing expertise, identifying failings and describing best practice for the future of our Church structure, culture and governance.     "The final hearing discussed many aspects and characteristics of Church and clergy life including: Canon Law, the confessional, celibacy, clericalism, formation, professional support and supervision.      "What we have learnt from our involvement in the Royal Commission case studies and our own work in coming to a better understanding of the many different issues that have contributed to child sexual abuse in the Church will inform our future policies and practices.    "The work of the Commission staff and the Commissioners themselves has no doubt been gruelling and challenging and, along with the rest of the Australian community, we owe them a debt of gratitude for their years of service....(more) Phot0: CathNews 0227-dh_28517artthumb.jpg
John Menadue. The Catholic bishops don’t understand their responsibility and accountability.
Extracts from Pearls and irritations, John Menadue blog, 27 February 2017
In any other walk of life or area of public administration, admission of criminal neglect would be a prelude to the tendering of resignations. The criminally negligent are not fit and proper persons to hold senior administrative responsibilities. Not so in the Catholic Church because it’s all someone else’s responsibility.        It’s very rare that an emperor tells us he has no clothes. But hats off to one that does. That’s almost what the Australian bishops have just done after being driven to their knees by the scale and reach of sex abuse in the Church. It was revealed in their ‘wrap-up’ before the Royal Commission.        Of course these emperors don’t admit that THEY have no clothes. It’s their predecessors who are shown to be naked before the truth. Their predecessors were ‘scandalously inefficient, … hopelessly inadequate … just totally wrong’ They were even found by one of their number with a law degree – Anthony Fisher of Sydney – to have been ‘criminally negligent’.      ‘Negligent and criminally so’ indeed! If they were still alive, a former archbishop and two former bishops would certainly face charges and in all likelihood have been sent to gaol.      In any other walk of life or area of public administration, admission of criminal neglect would be a prelude to the tendering of resignations. The criminally negligent are not fit and proper persons to hold senior administrative responsibilities.       Not so in the Catholic Church because it’s all someone else’s responsibility. It’s as if the world Donald Trump is creating in the USA has always been alive and well in the way the Catholic Church runs its affairs....(more)
Gough Whitlam and how Australia facilitated a child sexual abuse crisis  Extracts from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald, 26 Feb 2017
Gough Whitlam wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in October, 2012, nearly four decades after his government granted formal diplomatic recognition to the Vatican, and only weeks before another Labor prime minister, Julia Gillard, established a royal commission that would expose the extent of child sexual abuse within the Australian Catholic Church.      Diplomatic relations with the Vatican from 1973 was a “memorable and significant initiative” of his government, Whitlam told the Pope. The relationship was one “which has always been maintained with deep mutual respect and consideration”.     “The mutual hopes for closer relations between the Holy See and Australia have been fulfilled in abundance. I shall always have fond memories of visiting Pope Paul VI and of the great enchantment of Rome, the Eternal City,” one of the Labor Party’s great reformers wrote.      Whitlam died two years later, on October 21, 2014, only three months after Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin declined a request from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for files of all Australian alleged perpetrator priests held by the Vatican......Time and again the commission has returned to the church’s culture, and the need for change. And outside the commission, the need for change has prompted calls for Australia to renounce the church’s diplomatic status, and for the federal government to seriously consider those calls.    Catholics for Renewal president, and former chief executive and chair of federal and Victorian government departments and public sector organisations, Peter Johnstone, supported those calls after giving evidence at the commission about the need for Australians – Catholic and non-Catholic – to send a “hard” message to the Pope and the Vatican in response to the tragedy of abuse in this country.    “I have no hesitation in arguing the royal commission should say to the government that if the Catholic Church will not cooperate in making major changes – and the Australian church can’t change without the global church changing - then the government should say to the Catholic Church it will reconsider its diplomatic recognition of the Holy See,” Johnstone said this week.....In a blistering few words this week human rights lawyer and church critic, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, supported renouncing the church’s diplomatic recognition, saying “if we have any self-respect we should sever our ties with it”.    “Closing it now would send an important message to the Vatican that it must never again orchestrate child abuse, and it must not continue to cover it up by declining to cooperate with the Royal Commission,” Robertson said....(more)  Photo: Newcastle Herald    
Bishop Vincent Long’s Lenten Message 2017
Extract from Catholic Outlook, 25 February 2017
Lent is an important season for us Catholics insofar as it reminds us of the need for conversion. We cannot live life to the full if we gloss over the inconvenient truths about ourselves. We cannot grow to full maturity if we ignore the obstacles that prevent us from reaching our potential.     Pope Francis always asks people to pray for him because he says he is a sinner. It is characteristic of a true Christian who recognises the darker side of himself and seeks metanoia, a change of heart.         More than ever before, the Catholic Church in Australia needs to recognise the dark crimes of sexual abuse against children and vulnerable people under its care, and the untold damage done to them and their loved ones. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has delivered a shameful indictment not simply on the perpetrators and their enablers but the Church’s collective and systemic betrayal of the Gospel.     Nevertheless, I believe firmly that the Church must be grateful for the work of the Royal Commission. More importantly, we must seize this Kairos, this moment of grace, this opportunity as a catalyst for change and not treat this period as a temporary aberration. It can never be business as usual again. We must have the courage to see how far we have drifted from the vision of Jesus, repent of our sins, and face up to the task of reclaiming the innocence and the powerlessness of the Servant-Leader....(more)  Photo: Catholic Outlook
Child abuse royal commission: Review of Melbourne Response recommends redress scheme be separated from church
Extract from Karen Percy. ABC News, 24 February 2017
The Melbourne Archbishop should not oversee the Catholic Church's scheme to address sexual abuse within the archdiocese, a redacted report has recommended.       A 2015 report into the Melbourne Response by former Federal Court judge Donnell Ryan QC was released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse late this afternoon, at the conclusion of hearings featuring senior Catholic figures.     The report was suppressed by the Catholic Church for more than a year.      In it, Mr Ryan makes 17 recommendations, several of them suggesting those in charge of the scheme not be under the Archbishop's power, that files and archives be held separately, and that budget and administrative matters also be separated out.     But he points out "nothing has been revealed ... to suggest [anyone] ... has ever acted under the direction or influence of the Archbishop or any other church official".     The Melbourne Response was established by Cardinal George Pell in 1996, when he was Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne.    Mr Ryan has also recommended the scheme appoint qualified lawyers, psychologists and psychiatrists, and it be statewide.    He noted that apologies to complainants had "generally not been adapted to reflect a recognition of the harm done to each individual applicant".....(more)
Royal Commission: Response to allegations of child sexual abuse was 'criminally negligent'
Extract from Riley Stuart, ABC News, 23 March 2017
The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has told a royal commission the response by Catholic Church leaders to allegations of child sexual abuse amounted to "criminal negligence".    Five of Australia's most senior Catholic figures are fronting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney today.    It is the first time Archbishop Fisher has been questioned at the royal commission, which has been running for four years.    "It was a kind of criminal negligence to deal with some of the problems that were staring us in the face," he told a public hearing.   "In other cases, I think there were people that were just like rabbits in the headlights, they just had no idea what to do, and their performance was appalling."......The Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe, also gave a damning assessment of the way allegations of sexual abuse had been handled.  He said there had been a "catastrophic failure" in church leadership and that the abuse of children was at odds with what the Catholic Church purported to be.    "That leads me to reflect there has also been a catastrophic failure in keeping people faithful [like priests] to the commitments they made. I asked myself what can possibly have gone wrong, or what was missing, that could lead to, not just one, but countless people failing in this way," Archbishop Costelloe said.     The archbishops were grilled about what they had done to deal with those "catastrophic failures" in leadership they had agreed were at the root of the child sexual abuse.    They said they were taking a more collaborative approach to decision-making in their diocese.     "The problem will always be there to potentially rise again unless that issue is dealt with," Archbishop Costelloe said.      He said in the past, the Holy See believed itself to be "so special, so unique and so important" that it was untouchable.     "That's probably the way many bishops in their own dioceses might also think of themselves — as a law unto themselves, as not having to be answerable to anybody, as not having to consult with anybody as to being able to make decisions just out of their own wisdom," Archbishop Costelloe said........(more)  Photo: AAP/Catholic Church)  Catholic Archbishops giving evidence today, clockwise from left: Denis Hart, Philip Wilson, Timothy Costelloe, Anthony Fisher, Mark Coleridge. (AAP/Catholic Church)
UK cardinal says on ‘Amoris’, we follow the pope’s lead
Extract from Austen Ivereigh, Contributing Editor, Crux, 22 February 2017
Amoris Laetitia has not changed Church teaching and draws directly from Catholic tradition, according to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who has also praised Pope Francis’s “patience and reserve” in response to vehement criticism.      Asked in an interview with The Irish Catholic following a lecture in Belfast to respond to a threat made by Cardinal Raymond Burke to issue a “formal correction” of the pope, Nichols, 71, expressed his firm support for Francis.     “The pope is the one who has been chosen under the influence of the Holy Spirit to lead the Church, and we will follow his lead,” he said, adding that “the pope’s patience and reserve about this whole matter is exactly what we should observe.”     Asked if the exhortation modified church teaching, Nichols said: “There is no question of that…The issues raised by Amoris Laetitia are not core doctrinal issues, these are about how do we live, in very traditional terms actually, everything in Amoris Laetitia is drawn from the tradition of the Church: how do we live the mercy of God and how do we enable people who feel judged, feel excluded, feel as if they have no place, to begin to explore that.”    The cardinal attended both synods on the family, and now sits on the synod’s general secretariat.....(more)  Photo: Crux,  AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.)
Bishop Long recalls abuse
Extract from CathNews, 22 February 2017
Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen has made an impassioned plea for the Church to become less "elitist" while revealing he was sexually abused by clergy, The Australian reports.       Bishop Long was applauded during his evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday.    Survivors of sex abuse and their loved ones approached afterwards and some cried as they spoke with him.     "I was also a victim of sexual abuse by clergy when I first came to Australia, even though I was an adult," the former refugee said towards the end of his testimony in Sydney.    "That had a powerful impact on me and how I want to ... walk in the shoes of other victims and really endeavour to attain justice and dignity for them."    Bishop Long, who is the first Australian bishop of Vietnamese background, said titles, privileges and the Church's institutional dynamics "breed clerical superiority and elitism".    He says he cringes when parishioners call him "your lordship" and the Church needs to review mandatory celibacy - which he thinks separates the clergy from parishioners.      Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous and Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse said they would not insist on someone calling them by a title but would also not demand honorifics be dropped.    Bishop Porteous told the commission that while blame lies with individual perpetrators he agreed there had been a massive failure in Church leadership.....(more)
Royal Commission learns about Catholic Professional Standards
Extract from CathNews, 21 February 2017
A newly established national oversight body for the Church will have the power to publicly name dioceses or religious orders which fail to meet its robust standards, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.        The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was told the new body, Catholic Professional Standards (CPS), will also give bishops the authority to penalise priests who do not to comply with the new benchmarks.    The commission heard that the body, formed late last year, would set, enforce and audit new standards on the protection of children and vulnerable people.    Neville Owen, the chairman of the Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council, told the hearing CPS would publicly name the dioceses and orders which failed to comply.   "The teeth in this system is public reporting," he said. "The intention is public reporting will be the norm."   Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge told the hearing the body would give bishops the power to penalise priests who failed to comply.....(more)
The need for new Church Leadership
Extracts from Eric Hodgens, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue Blog, 21 February 2017
While the Catholic population is increasing, active participation in parish life is steadily decreasing. This means that the pool of future lay leaders is steadily getting shallower. If this decline is to be reversed, now is the time to select lay leaders, train them to lead parishes and then formally appoint them as Parish Leaders.      The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child sexual abuse has put the spotlight on the Australian Catholic Church’s priesthood and seminary training which is in need of an overhaul.      First some facts:.......No one person can excel at all of these tasks. Deputing capable others is essential.      Despite the importation of foreign-trained priests the total number of active priests has been steadily declining. This has been going on for 35 years so hoping for a quick reversal is irresponsible. More and more parish communities have to share a priest.    Consequently, lay leaders are gradually taking over parish leadership. This is necessary if parish communities are not to die out.    While the Catholic population is increasing, active participation in parish life is steadily decreasing. This means that the pool of future lay leaders is steadily getting shallower. If this decline is to be reversed, now is the time to select lay leaders, train them to lead parishes and then formally appoint them as Parish Leaders.      Lay parish leaders still need to call in ordained priests for the valid sacramental ministry of the Mass, Penance and Anointing of the Sick. If an ordained priest is not available they have to make do with a similar liturgy conducted by a lay person (referred to as a para-liturgy). The most pressing need for an ordained priest is to celebrate Mass because this has always been the very heartbeat of parish life.    The growth of lay leadership puts a spotlight on the seminaries. Seminaries are still geared to producing ordained priests as parish leaders of the old model. As lay leadership becomes more the norm, the purpose of seminaries will come under review.....(more)

Royal Commission final week of 'wrap-up' Hearings.
Friday 17 February 2017
Amongst others, listed witnesses for the final week of wrap-up Hearings for Royal Commission Case Study 50 - The Catholic Church - include Archbishops Denis Hart, Anthony Fisher, Mark Coleridge, Timothy Costelloe SDB and Philip Wilson. Hearings are streamed live and daily transcripts are available from the The Royal Commission website. The Commission will deliver its Recommendations in December.

Royal Commission’s release of full data report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church
Extract from Francis Sullivan, CEO Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, Melbourne Catholic, 16 February 2017
Today the Royal Commission has released the full report of its survey results on claims made against Catholic organisations for alleged child sexual abuse by their personnel.   As such, it is the composite of Church records since 1950, of claims of abuse.   As we know these claims comprise records of known offenders, alleged offenders and unidentified offenders.    Over the years, dioceses and religious orders have used a variety of processes to determine the veracity of these claims.    Some claims were too obvious to warrant any investigation and were accepted on the information provided by the survivor.    Others were substantiated by formal investigations, police referrals or corroborated evidence.   Others proved difficult to establish because victims couldn’t recall the actual names of their abusers or were uncertain over the extent to which some people were involved in their assault.   So, the data reflects the scope of alleged abuse within the Church. It does not break this abuse down into categories of certainty because Church Authorities themselves have struggled to be that accurate.    Today’s data provides new insight into some aspects of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church including:....(more)
What sort of bishops do Catholics want?
Extract from Peter Johnstone, John Menadue 'Pearls and Irritations', 17 February 2017
Concerned Catholics who responded to a recent Catholics for Renewal online survey showed widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of their local diocese and parishes. Their dissatisfaction referred to current governance arrangements, the need for a stronger pastoral focus and more effective leadership from their bishop based on his willingness to consult widely.     This year, some ten new Australian diocesan bishops could be appointed including a new archbishop of Melbourne. All the faithful have a vital interest in these selections but very few will be consulted. Catholics, both priests and laity, have too few opportunities to have their voices heard within the Church and the selection of a new bishop, the leader of a diocese, is a matter on which the people of each diocesan community should be consulted. Catholics for Renewal developed a proposal for including the people of God in the selection process with the help of a wide range of priests and lay people.   A role in the selection of bishops was key to the commitment of earlier Christian communities, and is critical today, consistent with Vatican II stressing the role of the people of God and the sensus fidei fidelium (the sense of faith of the faithful). What do informed Catholics have to say about the current state of their local church and what qualities do they think a new leader for their diocese should have? An online survey was set up, with some focus on the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The questions were simple and open-ended to enable respondents to use their own words to express themselves freely. This required detailed analysis but has yielded valuable insights....(more)

Church has paid out $276 million in abuse claims
Extract from CathNews, 17 February 2017
The Catholic Church has paid more than $276 million in claims to thousands of victims of child sexual abuse, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard, ABC News reports.    Close to 4500 people made claims for alleged incidents of child sexual abuse between January 1980 and February 2015, but the earliest incidents reported to a claim were in the 1920s.    Counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, told the Sydney hearing that figure included compensation, treatment, legal and other costs.    Of the total amount, $258.8 million was monetary compensation of about $91,000 per claim.   "The Christian Brothers who, at the relevant time operated a number of residential facilities, reported the highest number of payments," Ms Furness told the hearing.    "This order made 763 payments, amounting to $48.5 million, with an average payment of $64,000.    The Christian Brothers also issued a statement apologising to victims of abuse and their families.    "To those who were subjected to abuse at any of our facilities we express again our profound sorrow and enduring regret that their trust was so grievously betrayed," the statement said.    The hearing heard the most common institution type identified in claims was schools: they were identified in 46 per cent of all claims, and children's orphanages or residential facilities were identified in 29 per cent of claims. The highest number of claims of child sexual abuse concerned a residential care facility operated by the De La Salle Brothers in Queensland, with 219 claims relating to the facility.   Earlier, Francis Sullivan from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, told the hearing that things are very different now, and that parents should be aware that their children are in safe hands at Catholic schools....(more)    Photo:Cathnews
The smell of the sheep
Extract from paper by Peter Day, linked to source with permission of author, 17 February 2017
The catastrophe that is sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the cultural factors that have contributed to it are seriously complex, and unravelling the mess will take a generation… or two, or three!      One readily identifiable and accepted contributor to this disaster is clericalism. In essence, the abusive wielding of power by clergy - lording it over others, rather than serving them.      As Lord Acton said insightfully over a century ago, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And while many of our bishops seem genuinely keen to eradicate this dysfunctional power imbalance; is it not the case that the very culture in which they find themselves is at the heart of the problem? For instance, the process of selecting bishops is, itself, clericalism writ large: a series of generally secret actions bereft of transparency and overseen by a select few ordained males. It is emblematic of the Catholic hierarchical project; one that, for the most part, totally ignores and sidelines the people of God, thus, trashing the Vatican 11 notion of “the priesthood of the baptised”....(source)
A conversation about Amoris Laetitia
Extracts from mark Shea, Catholic Weekly, CathNews. 17 February 2017
What little I have gleaned is that this is controversy about a pastoral document that was deliberately intended to allow as much flexibility as possible to pastors and which presented to enemies of the Pope their hoped-for shot at suggesting he is heterodox. (My English friend writes:) I get what the article is saying and the whole "we can read this in a way that's okay" thing but I can say "this is the correct way" and somebody else can say "no, this is the correct way" and it's all down to individual interpretation which is nice and all but don't we have a magisterium to avoid that situationn.     Actually, very rarely do we have a Magisterium for the purpose of closing debate. Usually, we have one that helps us debate well and gives us a few ground rules to keep us from going out of bounds. There have been arguments in the Church that have lasted for centuries.....I can only answer for myself, but it seems to me that primary function of the Magisterium, through most of its history, has not been to conclude debates, but to make sure that no party to a debate and no partisan of a custom, school of philosophy, pastoral approach or political theory is allowed to tell everybody else "my way or the highway". This is the norm in the Church's history. Romans 14 in action.....(more)  Photo: Cathnews.
Facing blowback, Pope talks brotherhood, shadow side of criticism
Extracts froms Inés San Martín, Crux, 15 February 2017
In the face of ever more vocal criticism, Pope Francis has responded with talk about brotherhood and the shadow side of criticism, when it becomes "malevolent." Perhaps part of what helps Francis keep an even keel is the realization that he's hardly the first pope to face opposition and insults.....The pontiff, as he has often in the past, continues to respond by talking about the importance of brotherhood and the shadow side of criticism - more often than not, rooting his words in the day’s Gospel.      Take for instance this weekend. On Friday, news broke about a spoof version of L’Osservatore Romano making the rounds in Rome, distributed to Vatican officials through email, in essence accusing the pope of being wishy-washy on marriage and divorce.   Two days later, as he was addressing the crowd that had gathered for the Sunday Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Francis reflected on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew’s Gospel, and read in Catholic parishes across the world over the weekend.   According to Francis, the biblical passage is an invitation “not to establish a gradation of offenses, but to consider them all harmful, insofar as they are all moved by the intention to do harm to one’s neighbor.    “Please, do not insult! We earn nothing by doing so,” he said.........In a Mass concelebrated with the group of cardinals from around the world who advise him, and with many newly-ordained priests in attendance, Francis urged those present to be aware that “even within our episcopal colleagues” there are small cracks and rifts that can lead to the destruction of brotherhood.....This Monday, after the Mass, the group of cardinal advisors, known as the C9, released a statement signed by Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga saying that “In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals expresses its full support of the work of the Pope, while ensuring full adhesion and support to his person and his Magisterium.”    German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, member of the C9, stood by the statement during a press conference held on Wednesday about an upcoming meeting of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice foundation, a lay-led Vatican non-profit organization that promotes Catholic social teachings.  “We have discussion in the Church, that is clear, normal discussions, tensions,” Marx said. “It will be ever like this. But in a time like this it is also clear for us as Catholics that loyalty to the pope is substantial for the Catholic faith, for Catholic believers.”.....(more)
Report harrowing and humiliating: Fisher
Extract from CathNews, 13 February 2017
Ashamed. Humiliated. A kick in the guts. They're some of the words Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP used to describe his reaction to the extent of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, reports the Daily Telegraph.     Archbishop Fisher admitted that he and other clergy felt ­contaminated, betrayed and demoralised by the paedophiles in the Church.    He understood why Australians felt so angry.    "We knew (the report) would be bad, but it's humiliating, it's harrowing," he Fisher said.     "It really has hurt me and it has hurt a lot of priests and bishops, but that's tiny compared with how it's hurt the survivors."    Commission staff were still crunching numbers last Saturday, and senior bishops were not told the final figures until late on Sunday night ahead of their Monday release.    "I felt – probably this will be pretty universal among the bishops and the clergy – quite winded," ­Archbishop Fisher said of the ­moment he saw the figures.       He has since spoken to many ­clergy and they are "feeling ­betrayed, demoralised by it", he says.      Community reactions have ranged from defensiveness among some Catholics, to such disillusionment towards the Church from nonbelievers that, for some, the word priest has become synonymous with paedophile.    Archbishop Fisher said that, in a sense, they are both right.   "This is so awful that you lose perspective on everything else. On the really good things, the schools for poor kids, the orphanages, the hospitals where there were none, the ­wonderful things the church – and not just the Catholic Church – did in building the social infrastructure of Australia," he said.....(more)  Photo: CathNews
Cultural change the key to protecting children: Archbishop Coleridge  Extract from Mark Bowling, Catholic Leader, National News,8 February 2017
AS well as fronting the Royal Commission this week, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has spent time speaking extensively to journalists about child abuse and the Church.     Speaking to the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast, Archbishop Coleridge told presenter Fran Kelly, the Church was doing all it could to change the culture of the past to protect the children of today.     “The data is absolutely horrific,” Archbishop Coleridge said, following the release of Royal Commission figures revealing the extent of priest abuse.    “Sitting in the hearing room … listening to the litany of horror had an extraordinary impact. And it did on all of us.    “I for one never imagined the scale of the problem in years past. The data is there for all to see now.     “There is almost certainly more out there that has not come to light.    “I have long abandoned any suggestion of it being only bad apples, and I have said for years in fact now that we are dealing with something that is cultural and systemic.      “I began a journey on all this stuff from the mid 80s. Certainly back in those early days it struck me as being a weird exception and very much a case of bad or mad apples.”     Archbishop Coleridge said he had gone on “a journey of discovery … and it’s been painful and it’s far from over”.      “So I will be the first to say …..... this is not an exception it is something that relates to the culture. And that is why I say we’ve got to change procedures and protocols, and we’ve begun that … but if that doesn’t lead to cultural change then the likelihood is we won’t really grasp the nettle,” he said.    “And this is one of the things the Royal Commission is going to address in these three weeks – what were the cultural factors that led to the particular modulations of abuse and its mishandling in the Catholic Church.”    Archbishop Coleridge singled out clericalism – ministry in the church that is geared not to service but to power over other people – as being at the heart of cultural factors.    “And in many ways when we talk about sexual abuse it is abuse of power,” he said....(more) Photo: Catholic Leader
Time to repeal 'ugly' Mass translation
Extracts from Gerry O'Collins, Eureka Street, 8 February 2017
It is good news that Pope Francis has appointed a commission to revisit Liturgiam Authenticam (LA). This Vatican document, issued on 28 March 2001, provided the unfortunate guidelines that 'justified' the ugly, Latinised translation foisted on English-speaking Catholics by the 2010 Missal.     Roman MissalIn a swinging and detailed criticism of LA, Peter Jeffery, a professor at Princeton University, has described the document as 'the most ignorant statement on liturgy ever issued by a modern Vatican congregation'. Jeffery, a Benedictine oblate, places himself on the right of the Catholic spectrum, 'as conservative as one can get without rejecting Vatican II'.     In his Translating the Tradition: A Chant Historian Reads Liturgiam Authenticam, he charged the anonymous people who wrote LA with being 'seriously misinformed' and making many 'misstatements about the Roman liturgical tradition'.    LA claimed that the Latin Church as a whole shared a uniform tradition of starting the Creed with 'I believe', as if 'we believe were essentially an Eastern tradition'. As Jeffery showed, in the Roman Mass there have always been those who used 'credimus (we believe)' instead of 'credo (I believe)'.    LA required vernacular versions to maintain 'verbal equality' with the original Latin in which Paul VI issued the 1970 Missal. The translators went ahead and produced long sentences that belong to the Latin of Cicero but not to modern English.    LA proposed using a 'sacred vernacular' that differs from current speech and could sound strange and even 'obsolete'. Those responsible for the 2010 Missal followed this guideline by repeatedly preferring 'charity' over 'love', 'compunction' over 'repentance', 'laud' over 'praise', 'supplication' over 'prayer', and 'wondrous' over 'wonderful'.     Speaking of an 'oblation' rather than a 'sacrifice' or 'offering' can leave the congregation wondering whether the priest has stumbled over the word 'ablution'. 'Oblation' no longer has currency in contemporary English.    In the Creed, 'consubstantial', straight from the Latin consubstantialis, has replaced the genial translation 'of one being'. 'Consubstantial', like 'prevenient' grace, used by the 2010 Missal for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, belongs to theological discourse, not to the liturgy we celebrate together.    "The 2010 Missal slavishly applies the word-for-word principle inculcated by LA, rather than the meaning-for-meaning principle practised by all great translators from the time of St Jerome."...........I sincerely hope that Francis' commission will not merely revisit LA but strongly press for its repeal. The road will then be open to revisit the clumsy, difficult 2010 Missal and replace it.....(more) Photo: Eureka Street
Hearing update on Day 3 of the Royal Commission
Extracts from the Truth, Justice, Healing Council, Melbourne Catholic, 9 February 2017
On day 3 of the Royal Commission’s hearing panel members discussed structural and cultural issues, including accountability and transparency. The panel comprised Dr Maureen Cleary, Governance and Management consultant; Patrick Parkinson, Professor Law at the University of Sydney; Peter Johnstone, President of Catholics for Renewal; and Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane and member of the Supervisory Group and the Truth Justice and Healing Council.      Dr Cleary said the Church’s network of professional standards offices have been poorly resourced and inconsistently funded by local bishops, setting them up for failure.      Professor Patrick Parkinson has been involved in child protection for nearly 30 years.     He told the Commission that church structure undermines the Church’s capacity to respond to child sexual abuse. He said mandatory celibacy, combined with emotional and sometimes geographic isolation is causative and explains some of the shocking figures in the Royal Commission’s data survey.    And added that there is a need to find a way to engage the laity in the organisation and spiritual running of the church.      Peter Johnstone said that Catholics for Renewal is a group of committed Catholics established to respond to what they saw as the dysfunctional governance of the Church and its inadequate response to the sexual abuse of children.       He said the governance of the Church is dysfunctional. It failed to measure up against principles of good governance including accountability, transparency, leadership, listening and aligning the leadership of that organisation with its mission.      He expressed concern that bishops can take decisions in secret without any accountability.       Peter Johnstone said that for cultural change you need leadership change and recommended that the 2020 Synod be preceded by a series of synods where bishops of the country listen to the people.    Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, told the Commission that cultural change in the Church is extremely difficult. He said Pope Francis and the Royal Commission are catalysts for cultural change and that it won’t be business as usual post Royal Commission.     ‘I think that's probably true, that we haven't yet embraced adequately a transparency that is appropriate and even necessary for an unusual community of communities like the Catholic Church,’ he told the Commission.    He said there is ‘evidence of a lingering culture – that we do our own thing, we are a law unto ourselves. We hope the Royal Commission can help us with what that is and how we can go about it.’....(more)
German bishops’ interpretation of 'Amoris Laetitia' is broadest to date
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, La Croix International, 8 February 2017
They recall the pope’s words in 'Amoris Laetitia' that "no one can be condemned forever because that is not the logic of the Gospel!".    The Catholic bishops of Germany have declared that remarried divorcees can partake in the Church’s sacraments – including Holy Communion – if, after a long period of reflection, such Catholics decide they can do so in good conscience.     This is believed to be the broadest interpretation to date by a national episcopal conference on how to apply Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL).     The German Bishops’ Conference published guidelines for implementing the papal document on February 1st.     The Church leaders first interpret at length what Francis has to say on (a) marriage preparation, (b) the accompaniment of marriage and (c) strengthening the family. It is only afterward that they go on discuss (d) the accompaniment of remarried divorcees.    The order in which these four points are discussed is important since the guidelines were immediately and sharply criticized in conservative Church circles for only highlighting the subject of the remarried divorcees, which is not the case.    The bishops point that, while Amoris Laetitia leaves no doubt that the “indissolubility of marriage belongs to the Church’s essential deposit of faith”, it “likewise leaves no doubt about the necessity of taking a differentiated look at the particular situation people find themselves in”.    They recall the pope’s warning to “avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations”, citing his words that “no one can be condemned forever because that is not the logic of the Gospel!”(AL 297).      In their guidelines, the bishops say it is essential to respect a final individual decision of conscience. But they also make it clear that a serious examination of conscience and a longer process of deliberation accompanied by a priest must be part of the process.     However, they also admit that, even then, it may not be possible to allow the individual concerned to receive the sacraments “in every case”.....(more) Photo:La Croix, WolfgangRoucka /Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0
Six archbishops to be examined by Australian judge
Edited Extract from Michael Kelly SJ, La Croix International 7 February 2017
In a world first, the Australian Church is under the microscope for the next three weeks for its conduct and management of child abuse. Six of the seven archbishops in the country will all be called to give evidence and answer questions.    The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, established in November 2014, will focus on a “wrap up” of the study of the Catholic Church in Australia.      The Commission has reported 1,880 cases over the last two years for investigation by the police and this represents 40% of all cases the Commission has referred to the police.    The “wrap up” will particularly focus on the structural and cultural factors involved in the Church’s life that allowed and then covered up child sexual abuse. Some 40% of all referrals for investigation and prosecution have been of people working in Catholic institutions.   An extraordinary piece of evidence presented to the Commission is that up to 7% of Australian clergy have been child abusers.   The six archbishops (of Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane) are among the many officials who will be heard by the Commission in coming weeks. Amongst them are superiors of religious congregations, leaders of Catholic health, and welfare and educational services.    The focus of the Commission’s cross-examination of Catholic leaders will be twofold.....(more).        Proceedings are streamed live via the Royal Commission website (HERE) where daily transcripts may also be downloaded.    Photo: Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse
Commission reports 4444 alleged incidents
Extract from CathNews, 7 February 2017
More than 20 per cent of the members of some Catholic religious orders were allegedly involved in child sexual abuse, a royal commission hearing in Sydney has been told, ABC News reports. Nearly 2000 Church figures, including priests, religious brothers and sisters, and employees, were identified as alleged perpetrators in a report released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.          In her opening address, Gail Furness SC said a survey revealed 4444 alleged incidents of abuse between January 1980 and February 2015 were made to Church authorities.      Ms Furness said 60 per cent of all abuse survivors attending private royal commission sessions reported sexual abuse at faith-based institutions.    The royal commission's report found of the 1880 alleged perpetrators from within the Church, 572 were priests.    Ms Furness described the victims' accounts as "depressingly similar".      The Archbishops of Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra-Goulburn have congregated in Sydney to give evidence as part of the three-week public hearing.        In his opening statement, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, affirmed the commitment of Catholic leaders to repairing the wrongs of the past, to listening to survivors and putting their needs first, and ensuring a safer future. He expressed admiration and gratitude for the survivors who came forward to tell their story.    Mr Sullivan acknowledged the data which had just been presented by Ms Furness, saying that it must be reckoned with, and noting that the hearing would provide the opportunity for this reckoning.      He said that one child abused by a priest or religious was appalling to all faithful Catholics, calling it a hypocrisy "grossly unbefitting a Church which seeks to be, and should be, held to its own high standard."....(more)  Photo: CathNews
Seven per cent of priests in Australia involved in abuse of children, royal commission announces
Extract from Rose Gamble, The Tablet, 06 February 2017
Four in ten brothers in one Catholic order involved in abuse, shocking figures released today claim Seven per cent of priests in Australia involved in abuse of children, royal commission announces
Seven per cent of priests in the Catholic Church in Australia allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010, an inquiry examining institutional sex abuse in the country has been told.    The statistics were released during the opening address of a hearing of Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on 6 February. The commission - which is Australia's highest form of inquiry - has been investigating since 2013 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children over decades.       The commission has gathered scores of testimonies, which Gail Furness, the lead lawyer assisting the commission described as "depressingly similar" in her opening address.      "Children were ignored, or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [figures] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past," ABC Australia reports Furness to have said.      Furness said that 60 per cent of all survivors of abuse were from faith-based organisations. Of those, nearly two-thirds concerned the Catholic Church.      Between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 people reported they had been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia, said Furness.      The average age of the victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys. On average, it took 33 years for each instance of abuse to be reported.     The commission also details abuse claims against 10 religious orders in the same six decades.     Data published by the Royal Commission shows four orders had allegations of abuse against more than 20 per cent of their members....(more)
No pope or angel can change communion teaching: Muller
Extracts from CathNews, 3 February 2017
CDF head Cardinal Gerhard Muller has repeated that divorced and remarried couples must live in continence if they want to receive Communion at Mass and this teaching cannot change, writes Michael W. Chapman at CNS.     Cardinal Muller explained this point in an interview with the Italian magazine Il Timone, portions of which were translated into English in the newspaper L'Espresso and re-published in the The Catholic Herald. The topic is controversial because of Pope Francis's letter Amoris Laetitia, which not a few bishops have proclaimed permits the divorced/remarried, who are living as man and wife, to receive Communion, although they are objectively in a state of adultery, a grievous sin.    In the interview, Cardinal Muller was asked, "The exhortation of Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, stipulates that divorced and remarried couples that cannot separate, in order to receive the sacraments must commit to live in continence. Is this requirement still valid?"    Cardinal Muller said, "Of course, it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.     "The confusion on this point also concerns the failure to accept the encyclical Veritatis Splendor. For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the [2015] Synod, a simple vague analogy.  "No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in Heaven or on Earth, neither an angel, nor the Pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it."..... I don't like it, it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the Pope's teaching."...(more)
Restorationism brings traditionalist approaches to parish life
Extract from  Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter, 2 February 2017
Within church circles, restorationism, a movement to "renew the renewal" of Vatican II by bringing traditionalist approaches to liturgy and governance of parish life, is often denied and frequently argued about.     It might be akin to how a Supreme Court Justice famously viewed pornography: hard to define, but you know it when you see it.    In parishes across the country, young pastors, raised in a post-Vatican II world, are incorporating costumes, vestments, music and other elements that have their roots in practices preceding 1965.   For some, including Pope Francis, one of its most acerbic critics, the movement is rife with clericalism, asserting priestly powers in parishes where laypeople had grown accustomed to participation in ministries and governance. The pope has railed against a resurgent clericalism, in one case telling a group of religious formation directors about "little monsters" who use ordination to lord it over others.    Benedictine Fr. Anthony Ruff, associate professor of theology at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., told NCR that restorationism is a reaction to growing secularization and rapid social change, such as the widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage and declines in Mass attendance.  "There is fear of a rapidly changing world. I think it is driving people to bad solutions," he said..........(more) Photo: NCR, CNS/Nancy Wiechec

Royal Commission wrap up may be painful
Extracts from CathNews, The Catholic Weekly, 2 February 2017 
On February 6, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will commence Case Study 50, otherwise known as the "Catholic wrap up", writes Monica Doumit at The Catholic Weekly.    Scheduled to run for three weeks, the hearing is intended to look at factors which might have contributed to the abuse crisis in the Church, and to our response to the crisis.    The three weeks allocated to the Church is the same amount of time which has been allocated to wrap up all other institutions, government and non-government, combined.    This series of wrap-up hearings will complete around four years of public hearings for the royal commission, and it will be the last major news we will hear of the commission until it releases its final report, which is due to Parliament on December 15......Some of the topics which will be raised include the culture of the Church generally, its governance, including Canon Law, the role of the Vatican and the bishops, its doctrine and practices, including the Sacrament of Confession and discipline of mandatory celibacy, and the selection and formation of candidates for the priesthood.   There's no point in mincing words, it will be an unprecedented public shaming of the Church and much of it will be well-deserved.....(more)  Photo, CathNews, The Catholic Weekly.  

Stem parish closures and mergers, pleads US priests group
Extract from Dan Morris Young,  National Catholic Reporter, 31 January 2017
An association of nearly 1,200 U.S. priests is in the final development stages of issuing an urgent "plea" to the U.S. bishops to "formulate a plan now to meet this emerging crisis" of parish closings and consolidations.     In a working draft it calls a "Proposal for Pastoral Care In & Thru Priestless Parishes," the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests exhorts the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and "dioceses nationwide" to quickly address the issue.    Core to the plan is "new and more specific exploration" of lay ecclesial ministers to oversee non-sacramental aspects of parish life and administration, according to a proposed plan cover letter contained in an email to NCR.....(more)

Why Pope Francis is right to revisit the new Mass translation
Extract from Michael G. Ryan. America the Jesuit Review, 30 January, 2017
Recent news out of Rome that Pope Francis has given his blessing to a commission to study “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the controversial 2001 document behind the English translation of the Roman Missal, was surely music to the ears of many who love the church’s liturgy and to just about everyone who loves the English language. Seven years ago, I did my best to see that the translation got a test run before being mandated for general use. But, as the saying goes, timing is everything. Had Francis been elected just a few years earlier, it is likely that “Liturgiam Authenticam” would have died in committee.    At this point, I am not sure who to feel sorrier for: those members of the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, who, back in 1998, offered a worthy translation—the fruit of 17 years painstaking labor—only to have it unceremoniously consigned to oblivion by Vatican officials, or the faithful of the English-speaking world who have had to struggle since 2011 with a wooden, woefully inadequate, theologically limited Missal that is low on poetry, if high on precision.....

Peter Johnstone Facebook post on RC 'wrap-up' hearings into the Catholic church's response to clerical child sexual abuse
Monday 30 January 2017
The Royal Commission will conduct 3 weeks of 'wrap-up' hearings into the Catholic church's response to clerical child sexual abuse starting Monday 6 Feb. Following the submissions of Catholics for Renewal - - over the last couple of years, I have been summoned to give evidence on Wednesday 8 Feb. as part of a panel on ‘Structure, governance and culture’. The question that needs answering is: "How could the leadership of the Catholic Church effectively facilitate clerical child sexual abuse, whilst espousing Christian values that condemn such behaviour?"
Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 51st World Communication Day
Extracts, Vatican, 24 January 2017, Published here 28 January 2017

«Fear not, for I am with you» (Is 43:5):
Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time

Access to the media – thanks to technological progress – makes it possible for countless people to share news instantly and spread it widely. That news may be good or bad, true or false. The early Christians compared the human mind to a constantly grinding millstone; it is up to the miller to determine what it will grind: good wheat or worthless weeds. Our minds are always “grinding”, but it is up to us to choose what to feed them (cf. SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, Epistle to Leontius).......I am convinced that we have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on “bad news” (wars, terrorism, scandals and all sorts of human failure). This has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering, nor is it about a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil. Rather, I propose that all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits. Moreover, in a communications industry which thinks that good news does not sell, and where the tragedy of human suffering and the mystery of evil easily turn into entertainment, there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism.     I would like, then, to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamourize evil but instead to concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients. I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news”.....(more)

Maitland-Newcastle creates child protection advisory council
Extract from CathNews, 27 January 2017

The Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bill Wright, has appointed a new body to advise him on protecting children and vulnerable adults, reports The Newcastle Herald.     The nine-member diocese protection and safety council will help “rebuild a sense of trust within the community about Maitland-Newcastle diocese’s commitment to protect children and vulnerable adults”, said a statement released on Monday.   It came four months after evidence at a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing in Newcastle which revealed systemic failings in the Church’s responses to child sex offenders including Fr Vince Ryan and Marist Brothers Romuald (Francis Cable) and Patrick (Thomas Butler).   Bishop Wright said the council would foster a culture of continuous improvement throughout the diocese on the protection of children and vulnerable adults after a history which includes “allowing predatory individuals to continue to abuse”.       “It is this sad history which sees us now at the forefront of safety and protection as we aim to continually push forward with any activities which minimise the risk for people suffering in the future,” he said.      “The newly formed council will offer independent advice to ensure the diocese continues to develop its policies and practices in the field of professional standards.        “We have an absolute and enduring commitment to promoting and ensuring the safety of all who are connected with us – be it through our parishes, Catholic schools, early education or community outreach services.”   Council members were appointed by the bishop. The nine members are not employees of the diocese or clergy in the diocese.....(more)
Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery celebrates Mass after five-year ban
Extract from Sarah MacDonald, National Catholic Reporter, 25 Jan 2017
Dublin. Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery has said he is not anticipating any backlash from the Vatican over his celebration of a public Mass last Sunday in contravention of a ban on public ministry imposed on him by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.      The 70-year-old Irish missioner described the liturgy, which was attended by up to 800 people, as "emotional and beautiful."   "I have celebrated many big Masses over the years, at missions and novenas, but nothing that touched me to the core like this one." He added that the occasion "would come close to being the loveliest day of my life."   Flannery, who is a co-founder of the reform-minded Association of Catholic Priests, said he was "not worried about excommunication" by the church and didn't "anticipate" any excommunication under Pope Francis and "even less so in the context of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland next year."   Referring to the "volume of support and encouragement from people" at the Mass and those who had contacted him by email, letter and telephone, the priest said that for church authorities to do anything to him now would be "shooting themselves in the foot."     He regarded excommunication as a medieval concept and said it "wouldn't influence me or my life or my faith in any way," he told NCR.   Those who attended the Mass at a community center in Flannery's rural home village of Killimordaly in County Galway on Sunday afternoon were local friends, supporters of the priest, members of reform groups such as the Association of Catholics in Ireland and We Are Church Ireland. Some attendees had traveled from overseas to be there.    The strictures imposed on Flannery, which include forbidding him to minister publicly, relate to his liberal views on women priests, the Eucharist and the church's sexual teachings....(more)    Photo: NCR, Sara McDonald

Role of women a priority for Irish bishops during Vatican talks
Extract from Cathnews, 25 January 2017

The Irish bishops are finishing their first Ad Limina visit to Rome in 10 years, and one topic was mentioned in every meeting they had with Vatican departments: the role of women in the Church, reports the Catholic News Agency.      “I would say I don't think there was any congregation that we didn't mention it,” Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick told CNA.    He called the attention being given to women and their role “one of the signs of the times”.   The Holy Spirit “is saying something,” Bishop Leahy said, adding that what exactly the Holy Spirit wants is “the big question for us all", but one area that keeps coming up is engaging women more in decision-making processes....(more)

Never underestimate the courage and wisdom of women, pope says
Extracts from Junno Arocho Esteves, Crux, 25 January 2017
Women are more courageous than men," Pope Francis told an applauding crowd on January 25 during his weekly general audience. The pope added that the advice of courageous women should always be heeded and embraced and quoted the heroine Judith as an example of trusting God amidst turmoil......“This is my opinion, but women are more courageous than men,” the pope said to applause.....(more)
Knights of Malta leader resigns, pope to name delegate to run order
Extract from  Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 25 January 2017
Rome. The showdown between the Vatican and the Knights of Malta has come to a brusque end, with the leader of the historic sovereign order resigning at the apparent request of Pope Francis.    In a statement Wednesday, the Vatican said the pontiff would also be taking over control of the order with the appointment of a new papal delegate in the coming days.    News of Grand Master Matthew Festing's resignation was first reported late Tuesday evening by the Reuters news agency, which said Francis had asked for Festing's resignation in a meeting at the Vatican earlier that day.   The resignation caps an unusually tense month for the prestigious Catholic lay order, which had been openly resisting a Vatican investigation into Festing's firing of one of their top officials. At times it seemed that one of Catholicism's most storied organizations was challenging the authority and power of the pope.   Festing's resignation appeared to surprise the order's headquarters, which was unable to answer questions about the leader's status with the group until mid-Wednesday morning. The order's website was down throughout the morning, with visitors receiving a message that the server hosting the site was overloaded.....(more)
French bishops release new stats on child sex abuse in church
Extracts from Catholic News Service, Nationbal Catholic Reporter, 25 January 2017
Paris. More than 200 victims have reported child sex abuse to the French church in the past six years, according to data collected by the French bishops.     "More than 60 percent of these testimonies are about events that happened before 1970; 35 percent happened between 1970 and 2000; and 4 percent were abuse that have taken place since the 2000s," the conference said.    The bishops released the results of a national inquiry on pedophilia along with a new version of the "Fight Against Pedophilia" guide. It's the guide's third edition, after the original one from 2002 was updated in 2010. Last year, the bishops promised they would react to new sex abuse scandals in the church, especially in the Archdiocese of Lyon.    "The promotion and the diffusion of this work are part of the means taken to make the church a safe place for children and youth," said a statement from the French bishops' conference.   It said the conference also wanted to renew its 2010 "quantitative inquiry" about pedophilia.....The bishops confirmed that nine clergy members in France are now in prison for crimes related to pedophilia, 37 have been convicted and are now out of jail, and 26 are being investigated....(more)
Papal critic Cardinal Burke to headline canon law conference
Extract from Dan Morris-Young, 24 January 2017
A leading critic of Pope Francis' approach to ministry to divorced and remarried Catholics and of his reforms to church annulment procedures will be the headline speaker at a San Francisco conference for canon lawyers.   Cardinal Raymond Burke will be the featured presenter at the Western Region Canon Law Meeting March 14-16 at San Francisco's St. Mary's Cathedral.     A conference flyer lists titles of the cardinal's talks as "Mitis Index Dominus Jesus: One Year Later" and "Current Issues / Concerns/Observations Regarding American Tribunals."    Mitis Index Dominus Jesus ( "The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge" ) is one of two documents Francis issued in September 2015 aimed at reforming procedures for seeking declarations of marriage nullity. It addresses annulment protocols in the Latin rite Catholic church. The second, Mitis et misericors Iesus ("Clement and Merciful Jesus"), outlines reforms for the Code of Canons of Eastern Churches.    Burke has been a high-profile detractor of the annulment reforms as well as Francis' apostolic exhortation on marriage and family life, Amoris Laetitia, released last April....(more)  Photo: NCR, CNS/Paul Haring   
As recent guidelines show, ‘Amoris’ argument is far from over
Extract from Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, 18 January 2017
The fact that guidelines from bishops for the pastoral application of chapter 8 of Pope Francis's 'Amoris Laetitia' present opposite interpretations on the issue of access to the sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics confirms one truth: the argument is not yet settled.   ROME- Charged debate around the implications of footnote 351 of Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, the document with which he closed a three-year process involving two Synods of Bishops on the family, has been going on for almost 10 months, and there no signs it’ll wind up any time soon.    The footnote addresses access to the sacraments by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and while it appeared to leave the door open for a cautious “yes,” Francis also stressed he didn’t intend to change Church teaching or law, and left the implementation of the document up to local bishops.    It’s that ambiguity which has cleared the path for bishops to interpret the implications of the pope’s ruling differently, with some taking a restrictive approach and others a more permissive line.   Several bishops or groups of bishops have commented on this and many released their own set of guidelines for the “pastoral application” of chapter eight, at times providing strikingly different answers.    Here’s a round-up of what bishops and cardinals (though technically, a cardinal is a bishop) have said so far.....(more)  Photo: Crux, AP Photo/Andrew Medichini.  
Another bishop says chastity key to Communion debate
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, 17 January 2016
Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter, for ex-Anglicans, has issued a pastoral letter on 'Amoris Laetitia' holding that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may receive Communion only if they commit to "complete chastity."    In a new pastoral letter on the implementation of Amoris Laetitia, another Catholic bishop has concluded that the pontiff’s document on the family does not change the Church’s existing rules for the divorced and civilly remarried, and that Catholics in that situation may receive Communion only if they commit themselves to “complete chastity.”    “A civilly remarried couple, if committed to complete continence, could have the Eucharist available to them, after proper discernment with their pastor and making recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation,” wrote Bishop Steven Lopes, head of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a structure created to welcome former Anglican communities into the Catholic Church.     “Unless and until the civilly remarried honestly intend to refrain from sexual relations entirely, sacramental discipline does not allow for the reception of the Eucharist,” Lopes wrote....(more)  Photo: Crux, lopes
Another bishop says chastity key to Communion debate
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, 17 January 2016
Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter, for ex-Anglicans, has issued a pastoral letter on 'Amoris Laetitia' holding that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may receive Communion only if they commit to "complete chastity."    In a new pastoral letter on the implementation of Amoris Laetitia, another Catholic bishop has concluded that the pontiff’s document on the family does not change the Church’s existing rules for the divorced and civilly remarried, and that Catholics in that situation may receive Communion only if they commit themselves to “complete chastity.”    “A civilly remarried couple, if committed to complete continence, could have the Eucharist available to them, after proper discernment with their pastor and making recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation,” wrote Bishop Steven Lopes, head of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a structure created to welcome former Anglican communities into the Catholic Church.     “Unless and until the civilly remarried honestly intend to refrain from sexual relations entirely, sacramental discipline does not allow for the reception of the Eucharist,” Lopes wrote....(more)  Photo: Crux, lopes
Order of Malta chief withdraws cooperation after accusing Vatican's inquiry of links with fund in Geneva
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 16 January 2017
Grand Master Festing says Order won't cooperate with Holy See until own inquiry is complete, in letter seen by The Tablet.   Order of Malta chief withdraws cooperation after accusing Vatican's inquiry of links with fund in Geneva.      The leader of the Knights of Malta has doubled-down his opposition to a Vatican inquiry into his sacking of a top official by seeking to discredit members of the investigation and by setting up his own commission to investigate them.             In a letter the Grand Master, Matthew Festing, claims the make-up of the commission announced by the Holy See is unfit to investigate because they have links to a fund in Geneva, thus making them unable to objectively assess the situation.    The move is the latest in an ongoing battle between the Order of Malta and the Vatican over the sacking of Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, in a row about the distribution of condoms in Myanmar.....(more) 
Pope Francis' Letter to Young People 
Extract from Rome Reports, 13 January 2016
Pope's Letter to Young People on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Preparatory Document of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
My Dear Young People,
I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your "compass” on this synodal journey.            I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to "go”, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God's voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.    When God said to Abram, "Go!”, what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this "new land” for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?     But unfortunately, today, "Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23)............My brother bishops and I want even more to "work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: "Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).........(Read the full letter from Pope Francis to young people HERE Photo: Rome Reports).
With paternal affection,

Maltese bishops: Remarried Catholics ‘at peace’ can receive Communion.     Extract from Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, 13 January 2017
ROME- Bishops in the island nation of Malta, in percentage terms among the most Catholic nations on earth, have followed those of Buenos Aires, the pontiff’s home archdiocese, in their approach to Pope Francis’s document on the family, Amoris Laetitia.       Like their Latin American peers, they’ve produced a set of guidelines that clearly state the door to Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is open.      “If, as a result of the process of discernment,” the bishops write, “a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she is at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.”           Meaning, if a person, in good conscience, believes he or she is entitled to Communion, priests in Malta can’t exclude them from accessing the sacrament.    The Maltese “Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of ‘Amoris Laetitia’” was signed on January 8 by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo. Released on Jan. 13 through the bishops’ website, the document sent to the country’s priests included a copy of the divisive chapter at the end.   In their guidelines the bishops write that when a priest meets persons who find themselves in “irregular” situations, he must “enter in dialogue with them and to come to know them in a spirit of authentic charity.”.....(more).      NOTE: The Maltese linked document “Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of ‘Amoris Laetitia’” was signed on January 8 by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo. and released on 13 January 2017. Photo: Crux,
Young people to set agenda for Synod
Extract From Robert Mickens, La Croix International (subscription journal), 13 January 2017
In an unprecedented move, the Vatican has decided to by-pass national episcopal conferences and give the world’s young people a unique opportunity to help set the agenda for the next major meeting of the Church’s international Synod of Bishops.          Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Rome-based secretariat that coordinates the Synod’s activities, told journalists on Friday that his office was launching a website in March that will allow youngsters to honestly raise questions and share their views about life and faith inside the Catholic Church.    He said their input – in addition to a questionnaire sent to bishops and heads of religious orders – would then form a substantial part of the working document (instrumentum laboris) that will frame the discussions when Pope Francis convenes the XV General Assembly of the Synod in October 2018 around the topic, “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”....(more by subscription)

Priest sues diocese alleging persecution for reporting abuse
Extract from Terry Spencer, Associated Press, Crux, 12 January 2017
WEST PALM BEACH - A Catholic priest filed suit Wednesday against his former diocese, saying that the bishop pushed him aside and lied about him because he called law enforcement after another priest showed child pornography to a teenage boy and cooperated with the investigation.   Father John Gallagher said that Bishop Gerald Barbarito of the Palm Beach Diocese forced him from the church where he worked and publicly called him a liar after he refused to cover up for the other priest. Joseph Palimattom was convicted of showing obscene material to a minor, spent six months in jail and was deported home to India.    Gallagher told The Associated Press that his case shows the church has not reformed as promised after it became public knowledge that church leaders had covered up sexual abuse by priests for decades around the world.   “Any priest could be in this situation,” Gallagher said. “Any priest in this situation should know that if it happened to them, they will not get the support of the church. You will be ostracized.”   The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount, but Gallagher’s attorney Ted Babbitt said he will seek enough to cover Gallagher’s lost salary and benefits plus punitive damages for his lost reputation....(more)

A template for real Catholic reform in 2017
Extract from Thomas D. Williams, Contributor, Crux, 11 January 2017
One of the key principles of reform is the idea of return, or rediscovery. To reform is not to change one’s nature or alter one’s identity, but to return to the truth of oneself that may have become distorted or atrophied over time.          Among other things, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, an event-or series of events-that split Western Christianity into a series of factions, denominations and ecclesial communions.    While targeting real abuses and errors, the reformers ended by radically altering core Christian beliefs on issues ranging from the Canon of Sacred Scripture to the nature of the Church to the number and meaning of the Church’s sacraments.       The Church responded with her own “reformation,” which has been called variously the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Reformation and the Catholic Revival. Culminating in the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Catholic reform curbed abuses, clarified doctrine, purified practices, unified the Church and found new ways to present the beauty of Christian teaching.     In his address to the Roman Curia on December 22, Pope Francis once again centered his words on the need for continuous reform, and while he was speaking first and foremost of the reform of the Curia, he extended the scope of his words to the reform of the Church herself.    Reform, Francis said, “is first and foremost a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, of a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda, in need of reform because she is alive.” Or as the Second Vatican Council taught, “Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as she sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, in so far as she is an institution of men here on earth.”      One of the key principles of reform is the idea of return, or rediscovery. To reform is not to change one’s nature or alter one’s identity, but to return to the truth of oneself that may have become distorted or atrophied over time.....(more)  Image: Council of Trent, Crux, Wikicommons
Pope: Jesus amazed because he was humble, helpful, not a hypocrite
Extract from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, Crux, 10 January 2017
Pope Francis said in his homily, “Jesus, who is humble, who is at the service (of others), who is near, who doesn’t despise people and who is consistent, has authority,” unlike the traditional teachers. “This is the authority that the people of God sense.”      ROME - Jesus astonished people with the way he taught and interacted with others because he wasn’t aloof, domineering or hypocritical, Pope Francis said in a homily.    “Jesus wasn’t allergic to people. Touching lepers, the sick did not disgust him,” whereas the Pharisees - who strolled around in fine clothes - looked down on the people and considered them ignorant, he said at the Mass Jan. 10 in the chapel of his residence.      “They were removed from the people, they weren’t close,” the pope said of the Pharisees. “Jesus was very close to the people and this gave him authority.”    The pope’s homily centered on the day’s Gospel reading (Mk 1:21-28) in which people gathered at the synagogue in Capernaum “were astonished” at Jesus’s teaching because he displayed an authority that differed so greatly from that of the scribes.    The people would listen to and be respectful toward the doctors of the law and the scribes, but the people didn’t take what they said “to heart,” he said.   These teachers felt themselves superior, as if to say: “We are the teachers, the princes and we teach you. No service. We command, you obey,” the pope said. But Jesus “never passed himself off as a prince. He was always the servant of everyone and this is what gave him authority.”        The traditional teachers were hypocrites, declaring the truth, but not doing what they preached, Pope Francis said.   Jesus “lived what he preached,” he said, representing the harmonious union of “what he thought, felt and did.”....(more)  Photo: Crux, (CNS photo/Paul Haring.)
Vatican doctrine czar sees no need for ‘fraternal correction’ of Pope
Extract from Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, 9 January 2017
German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the Vatican's top doctrinal official, has said there's no need for a "fraternal correction" of Pope Francis, as suggested by American Cardinal Raymond Burke, because the pope's document "Amoris Laetitia" is clear in its doctrine.                ROME - The Vatican’s doctrinal czar believes Cardinal Raymond Burke’s threat to issue a “fraternal correction” of Pope Francis is “very remote,” because despite what the American prelate says, the papal document on the family Amoris Laetitia actually is very clear in its doctrine.      Speaking about a dubia letter Burke and three other cardinals sent to the pope late in 2016, urging him to respond to a series of yes or no questions regarding Amoris Laetitia and its provisions for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith acknowledged that everyone, “above all cardinals,” has the right to write a letter to the pope.   However, Muller added, “I am amazed that this became public, essentially constraining the pope to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I don’t like this.”    The letter was intended to be a private affair, but when Pope Francis refused to answer the questions, the cardinals gave it to the press, just a few days before October’s consistory for the creation of new cardinals.    Regarding a possible formal correction, which Burke said he was willing to do if the pope continued to refuse to answer the question submitted last September, Muller stated that “it’s not possible in this moment, because it doesn’t concern a danger for the faith as St. Thomas said.”    Amoris Laetitia, which some believe offered a cautious opening for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, “is very clear in its doctrine and we can interpret the whole teaching of Jesus on Matrimony, the whole teaching of the Church in 2000 years of history,” Muller said.....(more)
Pope decries ‘prophets of doom’ wanting only ‘the usual fare’
Extract from John L Allan Jr. Crux now, 6 February 2017
ROME - Bringing the Vatican’s holiday season to a close on Thursday with a Mass for the feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis delivered a strong homily on a “holy longing for God” as the answer to “prophets of doom” who think “nothing can change” and stubbornly cling to “the usual fare.”     Epiphany celebrates the New Testament story of the Three Wise Men, or Magi, who went in search of the infant Jesus. The pontiff said they were guided by a positive “inner restlessness,” which left them “open to something new.”    “A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom,” the pontiff said.   The phrase “prophets of doom” has a long history in papal rhetoric, including a famous address by St. Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962. In the decades since, it’s generally become used in Catholic parlance to characterize resistance to proposals for reform.    Francis said Thursday that “holy longing” draws people out of that reaction....“Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change,” the pope said. “Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need.”    Though Francis was speaking in a spiritual key, it was hard for many observers on Thursday not to hear echoes of some of the turbulence Francis faced during the past year, with some critics suggesting he’s introducing debatable or doctrinally unsound changes in Catholic life himself, notably with regard to the idea of opening Communion to some divorced and civilly remarried believers.     The pontiff made no reference to those debates on Thursday, but criticized a broad attitude of resistance to change......The Magi, the pope said, did not allow their hearts to be “anesthetized.”....(more)  Photo, Crux, AP Phoo - Gregorio

Mulling the practical pros and cons of married priests
Extracts from Fr Dwight Longenecker, contributor, Crux, 5 January 2017

There are plenty of historical and theological arguments for and against married priests, but few stop to consider the practical pros and cons. Yet Catholicism already has married priests, and here one of them shares his experience. Should the Catholic Church have married priests? Many people are surprised to find that the Catholic Church already has, and I’m one of them.    In the early 1980s, Pope St. John Paul II established the Pastoral Provision, allowing married men who had been ordained in the Anglican or Lutheran churches (and were subsequently received into full communion with the Catholic Church) to receive a dispensation from the vow of celibacy allowing them to be ordained as Catholic priests.    The dispensation from the vow of celibacy is permitted because celibacy for priests is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine. Doctrines cannot be altered. Disciplines can.    I received my dispensation from Pope Benedict XVI and, with my wife Alison and our four children in attendance, was ordained in 2006. I served first as a high school chaplain and assistant priest in a parish. I was then asked to be the administrator of a small parish.    After ten years serving as a married Catholic priest, I can report on the practical pros and cons.......But that’s just my opinion. The decision itself is above my pay grade....(more). Photo: Crux, Longenecker

Royal Commission to challenge the Vatican on Catholic Church law
Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald, 4 January 2016
POPE Francis has been accused of “doing nothing” to end the Catholic Church’s refusal to report child sexual abuse to police in most of the world after a papal letter to bishops on January 2, only weeks before a major Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse final hearing into the church.    The Pope condemned “the covering up and denial” of sexual abuse within the church, which he described as “a sin that shames us”.     But critics including Australian lawyer and author Kieran Tapsell, American priest and canon lawyer Thomas Doyle, abuse survivors and groups including Catholics for Renewal, have criticised the Pope for failing to change canon law which prevents bishops reporting child sexual abuse to civil authorities, including police, in most of the world.    Their criticism, in submissions to a public hearing into the Catholic Church from February 6 and comments after Pope Francis’s January 2 letter, is consistent with serious concerns raised by two United Nations committees about a canon law ban, and a request to the Pope to allow reporting to authorities in all parts of the world.    In September, 2014 Pope Francis formally refused the United Nations committees’ request.     In Australia only NSW and Victoria have comprehensive reporting laws where bishops are required, under a canon law exemption in 2010, to report all abuse allegations to civil authorities including police.    While Pope Francis was praised by many for condemning “the covering up and denial”, Mr Tapsell described the Pope’s letter to bishops as “more bella figura from Pope Francis on child sexual abuse”, with “bella figura” an Italian term for “keeping up appearances and hiding mistakes”.     The letter was another attempt at “covering up a dreadful mistake in canon law, condemning the abuse itself and the cover up, but doing nothing about canon law which is the legal foundation for it”, Mr Tapsell said.....(more) Photo: Former trainee priest Kieran Tapsell, far right, with other trainee priests before he left without being ordained. Mr Tapsell went on to write a book revealing the cover-up of abuse by six popes.
Pope Francis could face key choices on bishops in 2017
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor Crux,  4 January 2017
....With Francis, however, it’s often what you don’t see coming that really tells the tale.    Trying to predict what this maverick pope will do is a fool’s errand. Yet we can at least say that in 2017, he’ll have the chance to continue doing something arguably more important than almost anything else in terms of framing his legacy and shaping culture in the Church, which is naming bishops.    As a longtime friend of mine who works in the Vatican likes to say, in the Catholic Church a good bishop can do an enormous amount of good, and a bad bishop can do an even greater amount of harm!    Bishops generally enjoy wide latitude to run their shops as they see fit - a point that’s been given an exclamation point of late by the contrasting ways various bishops have chosen to implement the pope’s document on the family, Amoris Laetita. As a result, perhaps no single thing any pope ever does is more consequential than the kinds of bishops he appoints.   We got another small but telling reminder on Wednesday, when Francis replaced Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary in Canada with Bishop William McGrattan.       Henry is a hero to the strongly pro-life camp in the Church, among other things because of his refusal to permit a government-backed vaccination program against a sexually transmitted disease in Catholic schools because he believed it promoted promiscuity, while McGrattan is seen as a more “Pope Francis” kind of bishop whose focus is generally on dialogue and cooperation over confrontation.         In keeping with Church policy, every one of the world’s more than 5,000 Catholic bishops is expected to submit a letter of resignation when he turns 75. It’s up to the pope whether to accept it, but 75 is generally the threshold at which thoughts of a transition begin to beckon....(more) Photo: Crux, (Credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino.)  
Church in Kerala state forms support group for transgender people
Extract from Crux, Catholic News Service, 4 January 2017
COCHIN, India - The church in India’s Kerala state has formed a group of priests, nuns and laypeople to respond to the pastoral needs of transgender people, reported      Formed in Cochin under the aegis of Pro-Life Support, a global social service movement within the church, the ministry is significant as it is one of the few outreach programs for the transgender community by the institutional church in India.    “The whole church has a big role to play,” said Father Paul Madassey, who is in charge of pro-life support for the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council. He noted Pope Francis had talked about the need to give “pastoral care to the LGBT community.”    “There is an active sex racket from North India eyeing transgender people in Kerala. They are trying to exploit the discriminatory situation they face,” Madassey told    India has an estimated 500,000 transgender people. They are often ostracized from their families and - without adequate state support in terms of employment, health and education - end up on the street begging for money or are exploited in the sex trade....(more)  Photo: Crux,  (Credit: CNS photo/Jagadeesh Nv, EPA.)  
More Bella Figura from Pope Francis on Child Sexual Abuse
Extract from James, Catholica Blog, 3 January 2017
Bella figura is an Italian term for keeping up appearances and hiding mistakes and embarrassments. It is the Italian version of PR spin.     In an address on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Pope Francis has sent a letter on the issue of child sexual abuse in the Church.     “It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness.”        Francis condemned the sin “of failing to help,” of “covering up and denial” and the sin of “the abuse of power” that happened in many cases….. “Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to zero tolerance.”    He has often promoted a “zero tolerance” policy on abuse since his election, and has met with victims of clerical sex abuse and their relatives on several occasions.     He has also often praised the great efforts retired Pope Benedict XVI made in dealing with the crisis, saying on his February 18, 2016, return flight from Mexico that his predecessor “deserves applause,” because he “fought in moments when he had no strength to impose himself, until he managed to impose himself.”...........On 15 February 2016, the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Cardinal O’Malley, stated: "The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret for any longer... We, the President and the Members of the Commission, wish to affirm that our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed, but even beyond these civil requirements, we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society”     This statement was radically different from everything that the Roman Curia had stated, particularly in the period from 1997 to 2002 when five members of the Roman Curia made it plain that bishops should not report child sexual abuse by clergy to the police. Cardinals Castrillon and Re, the Prefects of the Congregations for Clergy and Bishops respectively had stated that reporting to the police breached canon law and Castrillon and Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said that bishops should prefer to go to jail than report sex abusing priests to the civil authorities.    Since then (in 2010) the Vatican has directed that bishops comply with civil reporting laws, but if there are no civil reporting laws, the pontifical secret stands. Even if there are civil reporting laws, the uncovering of further abuse after the commencement of a canonical trial has to be covered up, in accordance with the statement of Fr Lombardi in 2010 when announcing the direction to obey civil reporting laws......Pope Francis’s tolerance of child sexual abuse amongst clergy is 75% not zero..... Again, this is another disappointing statement from Pope Francis. ....(more)
Can Pope Francis’s legacy be rolled back? Well, yes and no
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor Crux, 2 January 2017
Some fans of Pope Francis seem anxious that his legacy might be "rolled back" when he's gone, but here's the thing: Catholicism isn’t a zero/sum tradition, in which veering in one direction for a while means repealing what came before.     ROME - Journalistic convention dictates that whenever we write about Pope Francis these days, we frame things in terms of his supporters and his critics. In reality that’s a bit misleading, since few people fall entirely into one of those two categories.    Even the most enthused usually can cite a few times they wish Francis had zigged rather than zagged, and even the most alarmed generally have at least something positive to say. Then, of course, there’s another vast pool of Catholics, to whom the question of what they think of a pope wouldn’t even occur.    I recall once asking my late grandfather his opinion of John Paul II, and he looked at me as if I’d solicited his view on the law of gravity: “He’s the pope, for God’s sake!” Conversation closed.    That said, there are undeniably large and vocal constituencies in the Church right now which are aligned, one predominantly skeptical of the Pope Francis revolution and the other ferociously devoted to it.   For that latter camp - who the Italians often call the bergoglisti, in reference to the pontiff’s given name of Bergoglio - a key question making the rounds at the moment is the following: Will he have enough time?    In other words, will Francis be able to implement enough of his agenda before the end comes, so that it won’t be able to be rolled back?   There’s no specific health crisis prompting that anxiety, but Francis did just turn 80 and has himself suggested several times his papacy may not go on terribly long, so one understands the concern.....(more)

Pope kicks off new year renewing ‘zero tolerance’ policy on abuse
Extract from Elise Harris, Crux, CNS, 2 January 2017
ROME - In a letter sent to bishops around the world for the feast of the Holy Innocents, Pope Francis lamented the many children who suffer from war, slavery and various forms of abuse, including within the Church.    The Church not only hears the “cries of pain” of her children who suffer from war, slavery and malnutrition, he said, but she also weeps “because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests.”     “It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness.”    Francis condemned the sin “of failing to help,” of “covering up and denial” and the sin of “the abuse of power” that happened in many cases.     In celebrating the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Pope Francis asked his brother bishops to renew “our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst.”    “Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to zero tolerance.”....(more), Crux, AP Photo/Andrew Medichini.

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