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 were invited to consider and sign the Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia in the Open Letter page of this website.The Open Letter provided 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 and the Documents page.. A "Progress Report to Signatories of the Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia" was emailed to Signatories on 23 June 2017. The Progress Report was also copied to Parish priests and Parish Councils and is now available HERE.

Jesuit College of Spirituality Seminars (details on EVENTS page)
  • Key Meditations and Rules in the Spiritual Exercises, Monday 17th to Friday 21st July (Guest International Lecturer, Rev Dr Pavulraj Michael SJ)
  • Organisational Transformation and Ignatian Spirituality, Weekly throughout Semester 2 commencing 1st August (Available as an online unit also) Lecturer: Sr Therese Carroll.
  •  Peer and Group Supervision, Monday 11th to Friday 15th September (Dr Carlos Raimundo)
Cardijn Community Australia Events in Melbourne
Symposium 29th July 2017: ‘Promoting Lay Formation, Cardijn and the YCW in Australia’
Bishop Robert McElroy:   Details and  flyers on the EVENTS page
Wrestling with the Faith in times of Scandal:  Why belonging to the Church still matters." 
Catalyst for Renewal & Catholics for Renewal invite you to an evening with Richard Gaillardetz. Thursday 7th September, 2017. from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, YTU Study Centre Box Hill. Bookings essential. $25 pp limited numbers. Details and Flyer on EVENTS page


Curious Vatican article challenges right-wing US Catholics
Extract from Bruce Duncan, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue Blog, 21 July 2017    
Was Pope Francis aware that the Vatican newspaper was strongly attacking right-wing US Catholics for abandoning Church social teaching by political alliances with very fundamentalist Christian groups?     A mid-July article in a Vatican newspaper, Civilta Cattolica, provocatively argued that some right-wing US Catholics have compromised Church social teaching by political alliances with fundamentalist evangelical groups concerned with bioethical issues. The article attacked a fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture which depicted the world as a Manichaean struggle between good and evil, even looking to a ‘final showdown’ in an Armageddon ushering in a ‘new heaven and new earth’.    The article deplored demonising of opponents and notions of a ‘holy war’, particularly when Islam is equated with ‘Islamic terrorism’. It claimed such fundamentalist views influenced conservatives such as ‘Steve Bannon, currently chief strategist at the White House and supporter of an apocalyptic geopolitics.’ Bannon is a Catholic and former editor of the right-wing website, Breitbart.    Entitled ‘Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: a surprising ecumenism’, the article would not have attracted such attention except that it appeared in the Vatican newspaper with the authors its editor-in-chief, Antonio Spadaro SJ, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor and editor-in chief of the Argentinian edition of L’Osservatore Romano. Figueroa is a close friend of Pope Francis who chose him for this position, and Spadaro is also well known to the Pope.....(More)

Archbishop Denis Hart celebrates his Golden Jubilee
Edited Extract from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, CAM, Friday 21 July 2017
This weekend Archbishop Denis Hart celebrates his Golden Jubilee, marking the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination. On Saturday morning, he will celebrate a special Mass of Thanksgiving at St Patrick’s Cathedral. In the days leading up to his Jubilee the Archbishop sat down with Shane Healy, archdiocesan Director of Media and Communications to discuss the journey of his life and faith in anticipation of his ordination anniversary.         Highlights of the interview include Archbishop Hart describing the challenges and joys of his life as a priest, chaplain, bishop, vicar general, and archbishop as well as events that fostered his faith....Read more and access the video interview (37 minutes).

Kakadu dig rewrites Australia's history
Extract from CathNews, The Guardian, 20 July 2017
An archaeological discovery in the Northern Territory has extended the known length of time Aboriginal people have inhabited the continent to at least 65,000 years, The Guardian reports.   The findings on about 11,000 artefacts from Kakadu National Park, published today in the journal Nature, prove Indigenous people have been in Australia for longer than the much-contested estimates of between 47,000 and 60,000 years, the researchers said. Some of the artefacts were potentially as old as 80,000 years.     The new research upends decades old estimates about the human colonisation of the continent, their interaction with megafauna, and the dispersal of modern humans from Africa and across south Asia.    “People got here much earlier than we thought, which means of course they must also have left Africa much earlier to have travelled on their long journey through Asia and Southeast Asia to Australia,” said the lead author, Chris Clarkson, from the University of Queensland.   “It also means the time of overlap with the megafauna, for instance, is much longer than originally thought – maybe as much as 20,000 or 25,000 years. It puts to rest the idea that Aboriginal people wiped out the megafauna very quickly,” Associate Professor Clarkson said.    He said the Madjedbebe rock shelter where the artefacts were found – which has been excavated four times since the 1970s – had been controversial in the past but the processes used to date the artefacts meant the team could say “precisely” that the area was occupied 65,000 years ago and “hopefully put the controversy to rest”....(more) Photo: Cathnews, Chris Clarkson/Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation 
Vulnerable New Zealand children ‘failed by Church and state’
Extract from CathNews, Otago Daily News, 21 July 2017
New Zealand's most vulnerable children were failed by Church and state, says the head of the NZ National Office for Professional Standards, Otago Daily Times reports.    This week, the newspaper has run a series of stories on abuse within state and Church institutions, including within the Australian-based Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God.   Bill Kilgallon, of the National Office for Professional Standards, told the newspaper that the Church's New Zealand office, created in 2004 to investigate historic abuse claims, had fielded about 22 complaints a year since 2013.   About 20 a year related to "non-recent behaviour against children", either within a church setting or involving clergy within the state care system, he said.   "A number of the complaints we're dealing with would be children who were in state care but placed in an establishment run by the Church - Marylands, for example," he said.   The complaints of abuse, cruelty and very poor conditions showed the level of care by the state or Church was "very often very poor", he said.   And the Church, in particular, "should have achieved better than the state", he believed....(more)
Müller admits shame but denies responsibility following German Catholic school abuse revelations
Exttract from Daniele Palmer, The Tablet, 20 July 2017
He 'experienced shame for what has happened in the Church' but emphasises 'everything that was possible and necessary was done'.   Müller admits shame but denies responsibility following German Catholic school abuse revelations.   After being accused of bearing “clear responsibility” for the mishandling of over 500 abuse cases in a Bavarian choir school, Cardinal Müller admits that he feels “shame” but emphasises that he did all that was possible.   Published on Monday (17 July), a report states that 547 boys were abused at a prestigious choir school in Regensburg, Bavaria, between the years 1945 and 1992.  In the report, commissioned by the diocese of Regensburg and compiled by the lawyer Ulrich Weber, Cardinal Müller is accused of having mishandled the cases of abuse, despite them being well known.    In an interview with the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, bishop of Regensburg form 2002 to 2012 and ex-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, admits that he “experienced shame for what has happened in the Church” but emphasises “everything that was possible and necessary was done.”....(more)
Report confirms over 500 boys abused at top German Catholic school
Extract from Daniele Palmer, The Tablet, 19 July 2017
A report confirms the physical and sexual abuse of over 500 children at a prestigious choir school in Bavaria, Germany.    Commissioned by the diocese of Regensburg, a report has been published that states 547 children at the all-male boarding school in the Bavarian town were abused, either physically or sexually, between the years 1945 and 1992.   The report also states that all those involved must take responsibility, explicitly mentioning Georg Ratzinger, brother of the Pope emeritus and choir master at the school, and Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who was bishop of Regensburg before becoming prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in the Vatican in 2007.   Ulrich Weber, the lawyer commissioned by the diocese in 2015, said in a press conference yesterday that for many of the students at the choir school, the period they were there represented “the worst time of their lives, marked by fear, violence and helplessness."   The report makes explicit the practices that were in place at the choir school....(more)
Cardinal Schönborn: Moral theology needs both principles and prudence
Pope Francis has declared Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna to be the "authoritative interpreter" of 'Amoris Laetitia,' the papal document on marriage and family. Schönborn spent hours explaining it during a visit to Ireland this week.
Extracts from Austen Ivereigh, Contributing Editor, Crux, 15 July 2017
LIMERICK, Ireland - When Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna spent Thursday afternoon in the west of Ireland speaking about Amoris Laetitia in two talks and a Q&A - over four hours, in total - it was a fascinating immersion into the deep thinking behind the document, and a chance to be close to one of the key figures at the heart of the contemporary Church.       The Irish Church is about to start a year of preparation for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in August 2018 at which the pope has asked that families have a chance to reflect on and discuss Amoris.  Hence the invitation to the Archbishop of Vienna, the exhortation’s authoritative interpreter, who was tasked by Francis with presenting the document to the media when it was released in April 2016.      Among the dozens who turned out at “Mary I,” as Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College is affectionately known, was the WMOF’s secretary-general, Father Timothy Bartlett, as well as bishops, pastoral workers, and Religious working with families across Ireland.         Schönborn revealed that when he met the Pope shortly after the presentation of Amoris, Francis thanked him, and asked him if the document was orthodox.         “I said, ‘Holy Father, it is fully orthodox’,” Schönborn told us he told the pope, adding that a few days later he received from Francis a little note that said: “Thank you for that word. That gave me comfort.”........The difficulty in Amoris being grasped, he said, was the tendency to cleave to rigorist or laxist positions that fled reality and clung to principles alone.              In a letter to one of the dissenting cardinals, Schönborn had explained that of course Amoris upheld the constant teaching of the Church that a valid marriage was indissoluble, but “giving this answer is not an answer to all the single situations and cases that in everyday life we have to deal with.    “Much more difficult is discernment,” he said, “because you have to look closely, yes, in the light of the principles, but also at reality, where people stand, what is the drama of how did they come to a separation, to a new union, and so on.”  Schönborn expanded on this point in his first talk. “Moral theology stands on two feet: Principles, and then the prudential steps to apply them to reality.”          It was what parents had to do when raising their children, or teachers teaching young people, or politicians in governing a country, he said.      It was the classical field of what Thomists like Schönborn - a Dominican friar - call the virtue of application of prudence and which Francis, as a good Jesuit, calls in Amoris “discernment.” For Francis, says Schönborn, “the question of discernment is the key question for the right handling of right relation between principles and concrete application.”                Pope Francis, he says, “never questions the principles, because these are the principles of the Gospel, of Jesus’ teaching, but he clearly says again and again, and argues, clearly, that in practical matters we have to exercise discernment.”           It is clear that Schönborn believes this traditional, meat-and-potatoes capacity for prudential application of moral norms has been in decline and needs reviving. In the academic seminar, he recalled how in the 1980s “there was a great fear that the link between teaching and conscience would be weakened.”      The problem, he said, was that conscience came often to be seen merely as “the transposition of the Church’s teaching into acts” but in fact “the work of conscience is to discover that God’s law is not a foreign law imposed on me but the discovery that God’s will for me is what is best for me. But this must be an interior discovery.”         He was “deeply moved” when he read the famous paragraph 37 of Amoris, which complains that too often the Church fails to make room for the consciences of the faithful, and that the task of the Church is to “form consciences, not replace them.”             That meant understanding that people operated within constraints. In Amoris, he said, Francis “often comes back to what he said in Evangelii Gaudium, that a little step towards the good done under difficult circumstances can be more valuable than a moral solid life under comfortable circumstances.”    He said the key to understand what is “moving” Francis in Amoris is in its paragraph 49, which reflects the pope’s pastoral experience among poor families in Buenos Aires.          Francis says there the Church must offer “understanding, comfort and acceptance” to people in difficult situations rather than “imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy.”     “The bonum possibile in moral theology is an important concept that has been so often neglected,” said Schönborn, adding: “What is the possible good that a person or a couple can achieve in difficult circumstances?”.....(more)  Photo: Crux, CNS photo/Liam Burke courtesy Press 22.
'No religion' in Australia overtakes number of Catholics
Extract from Mark Brolly, The Tablet, 13 July 2017
'The growing percentage of Australia’s population reporting no religion has been a trend for decades, and is accelerating'.      'No religion' in Australia overtakes number of Catholics.   Australians who declared in last year's Census that they had "no religion" have overtaken the number of Catholics for the first time, although Christianity is still the religion of more than half the population.              Figures released recently from the Census held last August showed that 30 per cent of Australians reported that they had no religion in 2016, with Catholics making up 22.6 per cent of all Australians - more than 5.2 million people - down from 25.3 per cent in the previous Census in 2011. Anglicans have dropped even more significantly - from 17/1 per cent in 2011 to 13.3 per cent five years later.           Christianity is still the most common religion (52 per cent), down from 88 per cent in 1966 and 74 per cent in 1991. Islam (2.6 per cent) and Buddhism (2.4 per cent) were the next most common faiths reported.            The religious affiliation question was the only non-compulsory question in the Census and for the first time, "No religion" was the first option offered.  the Australian Bureau of Statistics said in a statement accompanying the release of the figures: "Australia is increasingly a story of religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and Buddhism all increasingly common religious beliefs. Hinduism had the most significant growth between 2006 and 2016, driven by immigration from South Asia.      "The growing percentage of Australia’s population reporting no religion has been a trend for decades, and is accelerating. Those reporting no religion increased noticeably from 19 per cent in 2006 to 30 per cent in 2016. The largest change was between 2011 (22 per cent) and 2016, when an additional 2.2 million people reported having no religion.....(more)  Photo: The Tablet
Police admit DNA error in cold case murder
Extract from CathNews, 13 July 2017
Police have admitted they used an incorrect DNA sample to rule out a pedophile priest in the brutal killing of Melbourne cold case murder victim Maria James, ABC News reports.   A bloodied pillow case, used to establish a DNA profile for the suspected killer of the Thornbury single mother, came from an unrelated crime scene.   Local priest Fr Anthony Bongiorno, as well as multiple other suspects in Maria James' 1980 murder, were cleared as a result of DNA testing against that incorrect sample.   James' two sons, Mark and Adam James, have now formally applied to the Victorian coroner to set aside the original finding and reopen the 37-year-old case. James was stabbed 68 times in her home behind her Thornbury bookshop....In 2013, it was revealed Fr Bongiorno sexually abused her 11-year-old son Adam, who has cerebral palsy and Tourette syndrome. Now 48, Adam said he told his mum of the abuse and believed she planned to confront the priest.    Mark James said he believed police should reinvestigate Fr Bongiorno, who died in 2002, as a key suspect. He also called for an investigation into Fr Thomas O'Keeffe, who once abused Adam James on the same day as Fr Bongiorno....(more) Photo: CathNews
Pope opens new path to sainthood
Extract from CathNews, 12 July 2017
Pope Francis has approved a fourth pathway to possible sainthood – giving one's life in a heroic act of loving service to others, CNS reports.    In a new apostolic letter, the Pope approved new norms allowing for candidates to be considered for sainthood because of the heroic way they freely risked their lives and died prematurely because of "an extreme act of charity".    The "moto proprio" document, went into effect yesterday, the same day it was published. The title, "Maiorem hac dilectionem", comes from the Gospel according to St John (15:13): "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."...(more)
Responding to sexual abuse and its aftermath
Extract from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, CAM, 12 July 2017
This morning Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) hosted a forum about responding to sexual abuse of children and its aftermath. The forum was chaired by Jenny Glare of MacKillop Family Services, who leads the CSSV Working Group on responding to abuse.   The two main speakers were Francis Sullivan, CEO, Truth, Justice & Healing Council and Patricia Faulkner, Director, Catholic Professional Standards. Jenny Glare kicked off the morning, saying ‘It is vital at this point in time that we are very clear, as organisations of the Catholic Church, what our responsibilities are to ensure the protection of children.’ She reflected on the beginning of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, as well as the anticipated release of the final report on 15 December.   Francis Sullivan thanked CSSV for the opportunity to talk, as well as the ability to give an update, ‘as we are literally in an interim period’. Francis delved into how the final report will affect the Church—from the creation of Catholic Professional Standards, the culture and relevance of the Church, and financial implications such as the redress scheme.    Patricia Faulkner followed, and explained how Catholic Professional Standards is set up, its financial structure, and how it will audit organisations, parishes and dioceses. She highlighted that the main goal is to ensure the Catholic Church and its agencies have properly implemented professional standards....(more)

Bishop gave 'fresh start' to abuser
Extract from CathNews, 12 July 2017
A bishop who later became archbishop of Perth knew a priest had abused boys but gave him "a fresh start" in his diocese, where the offending continued, documents before the child abuse royal commission reveal, reports AAP/      Fr William Kevin Glover received two warnings under canon law for "immoral and criminal sexual behaviour with boys and adolescents" while in the Marist Fathers - Society of Mary before being sent to Western Australia's Bunbury diocese in 1960.    Fr Glover was removed from a Victorian parish and given his first warning in June 1958 over the systematic sexual abuse of adolescent boys, tendered documents released by the child abuse royal commission reveal.    "In September of that year a Marist priest working in the parish expressed the view that Fr Glover had been involved with as many as 30 boys over a three-year period," a 1994 Marist Fathers incident report to its insurer stated.    Fr Glover was posted to another parish but was removed in July 1959, given another canonical warning and sent to Sydney for treatment at Richmond's St John of God Hospital. He transferred to the Bunbury diocese on a trial basis following an appeal for priests by the bishop, the late Sir Launcelot John Goody, who was archbishop of Perth from 1968 to 1983....(more)  Photo: CathNews,

Treasure in clay jars
In past times the Church cultivated a high image of itself because it believed that that was the best way to preserve its credibility. If that image of the church has been shattered—painful as it has been for all who love the church to accept—that is no bad thing. What will continue to give the Church credibility is its quietly going along the way of service.
From Fr Brendan Byrne SJ, published in Australian Jesuits 2 July, Extract published here 12 July
....It is, however, a time of public humiliation for the Catholic Church community — a humiliation that has been building up ever since the scandals about child abuse by clergy and other church officials became public over twenty years ago. The image of a heroic Catholic church that sailed unwavering and unsoiled through the centuries, outlasting all that persecution and hostile forces could throw at it, has largely been shattered. The pride in the Church that was drummed into us older members of the faithful in our early years has in many respects given way to shame—and there are doubtless many who have left off practicing the faith as a result.        In past times the Church cultivated that high image of itself because it believed that that was the best way to preserve its credibility, the credibility that it saw as necessary to carry out the primary task which had been given to it by its Lord: to preach the Gospel. But an unfortunate by-product of that image of itself as a sinless institution was the tendency to keep any scandals, especially in the sexual area, closely under wraps, and to defend and uphold the reputation of the Church and its clergy at all costs. Hence offending clergy were moved from place to place rather than being dealt with as justice and the safety of children required—with the devastating results of which we are now so acutely aware.               If that image of the church has been shattered—painful as it has been for all who love the church to accept—that is no bad thing. It is actually a process that began fifty years ago at the Second Vatican Council when the Catholic church accepted, as Protestants had been saying since the Reformation, that the church always stands in need of reform.        Why does the church stand in need of continual reform? Because, while holy because of its union with Christ, our Lord, it is made up of human beings who are prone to weakness and failure as much as to heroism and the wonderful love and generosity shown not only in our canonized saints but in countless millions of the faithful who just ‘get on with it’, largely unrecognized and unknown.....(more)
Christianity isn’t the answer
Extracts from Fr. Michael Kelly, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue blog 12 July 2017
....Narcissism is like any addiction: its victims remain unaware of its grip till it’s all but strangled them and then they feel it’s too late to do anything about it. The fatalism of the drunk who explains “I can’t beat it, it’s killing me, I may as well die of it” is the logic of this decline.     But there is another way. The path out of narcissism is not the appeal to a code (Christian values) or to extra effort of the will. It’s to be found in experience. It’s to be found in empathy.    But how do you learn empathy? Simple: we are given it by falling in love, by failing and accepting we’ve failed, by being grateful for completely unexpected blessings and opportunities, by being forgiven, by experiencing reversals that aren’t the end of the story but a prelude to new opportunities and grace. Sheer, unmerited grace......All the intellectual stuff – more information, codes of conduct and the like – pales into insignificance as ways out of those black holes. It’s experience and finding your heart and soul and living from that every day as you meet stricken humanity in all its need. It’s discovering that you’re loved.    And for Christianity’s future in Australia, a focus on that discovery for everyone that to me suggests the way forward....(more)
Church chooses plenary team behind closed doors while saying it can’t be business as usual
Extract from Mark Metherell, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue website, 10 July 2017
Amid the turmoil besetting the Catholic Church in Australia, the  announcement, after an in-house process, of a diverse team to advise the bishops on the 2020 Plenary Council has raised the hackles of reform advocates.        In a week of calamity for the Australian Catholic Church, there were mixed signals for those looking for reform from the hierarchy.   It is a time of existential challenges: the census revealed a sharp downturn in Catholic adherents and the Victoria Police finally dropped the long-speculated announcement of “historical” charges of sex abuse against Australia’s prince of the church, Cardinal George Pell, who has strenuously denied them.     But a separate development indicated how the church’s leadership is seeking to orchestrate change within its traditionally closed management structure.              That was the announcement of the names of 14 people who have accepted appointment to the executive committee to plan and prepare for the church’s most important national congress in decades, the 2020 Plenary Council.     Despite recent appeals from Catholic reform groups for more transparency and accountability in decision-making, the announcement came out of the blue, after an in-house process.       The announcement was made by the man emerging as the most senior figure in the Australian church, Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane.     The encouraging aspect of the committee’s make-up was its diversity:  eight women and six men including 10 lay people, several of them ACU academics, and officials in church agencies.   Coleridge said “their appointment followed an extensive confidential process of consultation across the Australian Church to ensure diversity”.....(more) 
Müller hits out at Francis, says the way pope dismissed him was unacceptable
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, subscription journal La Croix International, 8 July 2017
Cardinal Gerhard Müller has sharply criticized Pope Francis for the “unacceptable” way in which the pontiff recently dismissed him as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF).    “On the very last day of my mandate as CDF prefect, the pope informed me within one minute of his decision not to prolong me. He did not give a reason – just as he gave no reason for dismissing three highly competent members of the CDF a few months earlier,” the 69-year-old cardinal told the Bavarian daily.    “I cannot accept this way of doing things. As a bishop, one cannot treat people in this way,” he said in the interview, which was published on July 6th.      “I have said this before – the Church’s social teaching must also be applied to the way employees are treated here in the Vatican,” he added.     Pope Francis told Cardinal Müller in a private meeting at the Vatican on June 30th that his mandate as doctrinal chief would not be renewed. The five-year term officially came to an end on July 2nd......(source)   Photo: La Croix International, Dr. Meierhofer/Wikipedia/CCA BY SA 3.0  
Who's next to lose Vatican job?
Many heads could start to roll at the Vatican if Cardinal Ludwig Müller's statement is true that Pope Francis intends to replace curia chiefs at the completion of their five-year terms.
Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 7 July, linked here 8 July 2017
Who’s the next president or prefect of a major Vatican department that Pope Francis will let go?   In fact, many heads could start to roll. That is if Cardinal Ludwig Müller is right and the pope really has decided to replace Roman Curia chieftains at the completion of their five-year terms.   Francis must have adopted this new policy at the very last minute. Because a mere six days before Müller reached the conclusion of his quinquennium on July 2nd, Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP already completed his first five years as Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church.   Benedict XVI had appointed Bruguès to the prestigious post on June 26, 2012. And by doing so, he all but guaranteed the Dominican would become a cardinal, considering that every one of his librarian predecessors dating back to 1550 eventually got the red hat.....So who’s next in line to lose his Vatican job?....(source)
'Summorum Pontificum': After a rocky ten years the Tridentine Mass has found its place
Extract from Marie Malzac and Malo Tresca, subscroption journal La Croix International, 7 July, linked here 8 July 2017
Benedict XVI reached out to Catholic traditionalists a decade ago by liberalizing the extraordinary form of the Mass with his motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum". As a result, previously rocky relations between the French Church and traditionalists have greatly improved. But some bishops remain cautious....(source)

Why I am still a Catholic
Extract from John Menadue, Pearls and Irritations,  7 July 2017    
Cardinal John Henry Newman once said that there is nothing as ugly as the Catholic Church yet nothing as beautiful. It is hard to see that beauty at this moment. It is a time for sackcloth and ashes. But I will hang on. Below  is an edited and updated article  of mine that was first published by David Lovell Publishing in 2003.
G K Chesterton said, ‘I cannot explain why I am a Catholic, because now that I am a Catholic, I cannot imagine myself as anything else’. Personally, I now cannot imagine not being a Catholic either, yet I am more conscious and appreciative of my Methodist upbringing than ever before. As a Catholic, I reckon I am a pretty good Methodist, with a healthy skepticism about authority. And the more I see of the failure of Catholic Bishops the more skeptical  of ‘authority ‘I become.       Cardinal John Henry Newman described his feelings after joining the Catholic Church: ‘I was not conscious of firmer faith …  I had no more fervour, but it was like coming into port after a rough sea’ (Apologia).     I have found Newman very convincing and encouraging on many issues of concern to me. He also spoke of the pain he felt after ‘coming into port’ — mistrust and misunderstanding. He wasn’t one of the tribe. His critics suggested that if he could change once, he could change again and rejoin the Church of England. To some Catholic bishops he was much too independent and risky.   I have always felt an outsider in the Catholic Church. I am not tribal. But being an ‘outsider’ troubles me not at all.   Before I speak of the two main reasons why I am still a Catholic-the Eucharist and Authority -,           I would like to give a few impressions as a relative newcomer to the Catholic Church. Newcomers have some disadvantages, but newcomers sometimes see things with clarity and freshness. The Polish have a proverb that the guest to the house sees in one hour what the host fails to see in a lifetime....(more)

Flawed Catholic Church a test for the true believers
Extract from Geraldine Doogue, 3 July 2017, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue website, 3 July 2017 linked here 8 July    
The other day a visiting Israeli man bluntly asked me during a small dinner: was I religious? Well, yes, I replied, though not quite in the way I once would have ­answered. But Cardinal ­George Pell is not to blame for that.    Twenty years ago, I probably would have replied more confidently, as a cradle Catholic approaching her middle years, trying to live a good life and hand on the heritage and traditions to children. Because they matter to me. ­Indeed, they are part of my fabric.    My much-loved and late husband was an atheist, a good man of strong values, not overtly antagonistic to faith like some, but steeped in an anthropological sense of religion being “sophisticated crowd control”, he’d quip.   So there was a layered ­approach to Catholic institutional life in our household. Yet simultaneously within me, oddly, a growing sense of gratitude for being rooted in a belief tradition rather than not having one, even if I rejected parts of it. I realised it had bequeathed me a precious identity security plus an ability to ask deeper questions about meaning, even though I concede that it took years to fully develop that....So how does one synthesise all this? With difficulty. It is a work in progress. I will of course incorporate details of the cardinal’s coming court case but will probably not be blindsided by whatever may emerge, on the upside and the downside. Because as a source of ongoing consolation and meaning, of searching alongside others not merely alone, the broader Catholic Church simply has no peer....(more)

Catholic Leaders meet with World Bible Societies
"Christ in His word holds the Church together."
Selected extracts relating to Church renewal, from a report in Broken Bay Diocese 'News & Events'. 7 July 2017
We need to be a more Biblical Church", says Archbishop Mark Coleridge.         "It is clearer than ever that as a Church we cannot just put up a sign saying 'business as usual', we have to set out into new territory and do things in new ways - all of that with a view to becoming a Church that is more missionary at a time when we might be tempted to turn within."       "To be a more missionary Church we must be a more synodal Church, as Pope Francis has made clear. And, to be a more synodal Church we have to be a more listening church - a more contemplative Church, which means a more Biblical Church, listening to the word of God in Scripture in new ways."      "I would like the collaboration in this country to move into a new phase, as we move to the Plenary Council and beyond. The practical question is how can we at this time, and on this journey, work together in new and more powerful ways?”......(source)
Listening should be primary focus of Plenary Council, Queensland committee members say          Extract from Emilie Ng, The Catholic Leader, 7 July 2017
Queensland Catholics appointed to advise the Plenary Council Bishops’ Commission say the Church needs to listen to the experiences of the faithful in order to plan for a viable future.    Former Emmanuel Community moderator Shayne Bennett, ACU campus minister Sally Hood and Townsville theologian Fr Orm Rush are among 14 Catholics appointed to the plenary council executive committee.    This committee will work with the special Bishops’ Commission for the Plenary Council to prepare and implement the historic meeting in 2020.    With 40 years’ experience in mission work including youth evangelisation, Mr Bennett said listening to the experiences of Catholics, both the good and the bad experiences, needed to be a central part of the plenary council.   “I think one of the challenges is to engage with the reality of people where they’re at today,” he said.    “No one is pretending that there’s not a lot of disillusionment around, but in spite of that there are many faithful people who are seeking to work positively towards a future.”   As well as a more listening Church, Mr Bennett said there needed to be a refocusing on equipping lay people to be missionary or face the reality that “the Gospel won’t be heard”.   “Because ultimately people aren’t running into churches to hear the Gospel, so it’s either they hear the Gospel through their peers, or the mission of the Church needs to be rethought in fact in the light of our current experience,” he said.    “Historically we’ve thought about people coming to the Church but I think things have been flipped on their head a little bit and we are now talking about the Church going out.”   The plenary council is just one of the ways the Church in Australia hopes find out how to reach out to Australians on the fringes of the faith, or at least find out their struggles and hopes....(more)  Image: abstract, Theresa Parden [Ed: Hopefully a lot of listening has already taken place and will continue, openly and extensively, well before 2020.  Some decisions should be possible before 2020, with bigger decisions then, including adoption of ongoing synodal processes.)
 'For every person baptized, the U.S. Church loses six Catholics'
About 3,000 American Catholic Church officials are participating in a unique convention in Orlando, Florida, from July 1 to 4. The gathering is seen as an opportunity for the church leaders to reflect on how to spread the gospel and reach out to a country that is becoming secular.
Extract from  Céline Hoyeau, Orlando, subscroption journal La Croix International, 3 July 2017
He may be at the helm of one of the most dynamic Roman Catholic parishes in Florida, with the 3,000 families present each weekend at one of the seven masses at Saint Peter’s Church in Deland, but Father Thomas Connery is still worried.    “We have many retirees in Florida, so the churches are full but take them away and it’s a catastrophe,” says Father Connery.  “We’re not managing to reach the young generations.      "For every person baptized, the American church loses six Catholics," he laments. "We don’t dare talk about it among priests, doubtless because we do not know what to do, but it is past time to break this taboo.      "Imagine a company facing such a problem. It would immediately launch an emergency plan! What about us?”...(source)
Cardinal George Pell: Charges of historical sex offences will define Vatican official's legacy
Extract from Barney Zwartz, published in The Age 5:18pm Friday 30 June 2017
Five years ago, the news that Australia's most famous Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, was to be charged with historical sex offences would have been like a tsunami inside the church. Not now.          Today the mood is numbed acceptance, the feeling that this is the inevitable last act in the drama of a man who authored his own tragedy.         It was his appearances before the child abuse inquiries by the Victorian Parliament and the Royal Commission that really savaged his reputation, both because of the deficiencies they uncovered and because of his wooden, cold responses.      But in the Australian Catholic Church, the damage from clergy abuse was done long ago, and the latest development is merely cause for more disappointment. For years, most ordinary Catholics have focused on their local parishes and ignored the hierarchy, as dismayed as anyone by the shocking revelations of official cover-ups, moving paedophile priests and silencing victims.....(more).   Photo The Age, Photo: Gregorio Borgia  
 Will Cardinal Pell’s exit advance Pope Francis’ financial reforms?
The Bishop of Rome appears determined not to allow internal battles over the management of the Vatican’s material resources to derail his more ambitious reforms - that is, bringing about a colossal change in the attitude and ethos of what it means to be a Christian.
Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 30 June 2017
Cardinal George Pell’s time at the Vatican is over.     You can bet the Holy See’s huge financial and real estate assets that, de facto, he is finished as Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, the office that monitors those vast resources.     Pope Francis granted Pell an extended “leave” from his Vatican post this past Wednesday so the cardinal could return to his native Australia and face “multiple charges in respect of historic sexual abuse”.      The 76-year-old cardinal must appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 26th when it is expected that the exact nature of the abuse charges will be made public.    Accusations against the cardinal have circulated for many years but they have never stuck. Pell has always insisted on his innocence and this past week vowed to clear his name in what he’s called a “relentless character assassination”. Evidently, he’s hired Melbourne barrister Robert Richter, known as a “standout celebrity criminal advocate”, to defend him.    This will likely require a long and drawn-out courtroom battle that will last at least a year or more. And that’s far too long for a major Vatican office to be left without its head....(source)
A Different Scorecard on Pope Francis
Extract from Kieran Tapsell, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue website, 30 June 2017
Pope Francis has rightly been acclaimed for his stand on climate change, poverty, inequality and refugees, but on these issues he can only encourage others to act. When it comes to the role of the laity in Church governance and the cover up of child sexual abuse, Pope Francis’ rhetoric does not match his actions. He will never have the moral authority of a Nelson Mandela while he refuses to initiate changes to canon law that would bring them into line.    Bruce Duncan’s article sets out Pope Francis’ very positive scorecard on issues such as climate change, poverty, inequality, violence and refugees, for which he has rightly been acclaimed.    However, Pope Francis personally can do little about them. He can only encourage others to act. On the other hand, there are two issues about which he can do something within his own Church, namely the role of the laity in Church governance and the cover up of child sexual abuse, where his scorecard reveals that he has badly failed.    Popes are absolute monarchs when it comes to canon law. They have no Houses of Parliament to restrict them, and no Supreme or High Courts to set aside their laws. Their only “constitution” is Scripture and Tradition.    Pope Francis may feel restrained by Scripture and Tradition from having women priests. But there are three other significant positions in Church governance which have no sacramental or liturgical role, and which canon law says cannot be filled by lay people...(more)
Young Australians don’t say ‘I do’
Extract from CathNews, The Australian, 30 June 2017
There are now scarcely more than half a million married young Australians, continuing a decades-long downward trend that has seen the institution go out of fashion, perhaps never to recover, The Australian reports.     Shortly after World War II, more than two-thirds of people aged 25 to 29 were married in that year’s census; this figure dropped to almost one-quarter in 2016.    Despite migration and population growth, even the raw numbers went backwards for this age group between 2011 and 2016, from 447,413 to 447,236.    Matrimony among those in their early 20s has also reversed in absolute and real terms, with the total number in wedlock falling from 93,186 to 83,497 over the same period, dropping as a share of the total age group from 6.37 per cent to 5.3 per cent.   In 1947, more than one-third of people aged 20 to 24 were married.....(more)  Photo CathNews.
2016 Census results: Proportion of Catholics
Extract from The Age 20 June 2017
...results this week from the 2016 census showed the proportion of Australian residents identifying as Catholic has fallen from 25.3 per cent to 22.6 per cent since 2011....(source)

Pope calls on cardinals to 'look at reality' as their mission
Extracts from Nicolas Senèze, Rome,  La Croix International, 29 June 2017
At a service for the creation of five new cardinals on Wednesday, Pope Francis called on them “to confront the sins of the world and their consequences for humanity today". He has made an art of linking Gospel texts to current issues.....Thus, despite the pomp of yesterday’s ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis wanted to bring his cardinals back to reality.    Jesus, he warned them, “has not called you to become “princes” of the Church, to “sit at his right or at his left".     “He calls you to serve like him and with him. To serve the Father and your brothers and sisters,” the pope continued. “He calls you to face the sin of the world and its effects on today’s humanity, as he did himself.”    It was a message equally valid for the new cardinals as for the older ones, whom he had characterized a day earlier at a mass celebrating the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination as “grandfathers who transmit their dreams to the young people of today"....(more)   Photo: La Croix, Vincento Pinto/AFP

Bishops Announce Appointment of Plenary Council Executive Committee
Edited Extract from Media Blog, Australian Catholics Bishops Conference, 29 June 2017
The Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council today announced the names of those who have accepted appointment to the Plenary Council Executive Committee. Their appointment followed an extensive confidential process of consultation across the Australian Church to ensure diversity. Together they bring a variety of gifts, competencies and experience to the work of the Executive Committee.          Archbishop Coleridge said that the Plenary Council will play a crucial role in shaping the Church’s future in Australia. ‘This is no time for the Church to be putting up signs that say “business as usual”. If we needed any proof, then the Royal Commission has shown that. We need to face the facts, and in the light of the facts, which aren’t always friendly, we have to make big decisions about the future. The Plenary Council will place the Church on a sound footing to respond to what is not merely an era of change but a change of era.’    The Committee will work closely with the Bishops Commission to ensure the successful preparation, celebration and implementation of the Plenary Council 2020. The Executive Committee membership with their home diocese is as follows:....(more) Photo: Archbishop Mark Coleridge, ACBC
 Pell's absence threatens Vatican financial reform plan
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 29 June 2017
....While the Holy See said today that the work of Pell’s Secretariat for the Economy will continue, a big vacuum has been opened up. The cardinal’s departure also comes hot on the heels of last Tuesday’s news that Libero Milone, a London-trained accountant who had led Italy’s branch of the accountancy firm Deloitte, was resigning as the Holy See’s first “auditor-general”.     It means the question many are left asking after today is: who will continue the work to sort out the Vatican finances, part of the mandate on which the Pope was elected?      In his statement today, Pell stressed he plans to return to his work in Rome after he has cleared his name, but Australian legal sources say the criminal proceedings being brought against him could take months, even years, before they conclude.     The cardinal has said he won’t serve past 2019 - the end of a five year mandate - and if proceedings are still ongoing by that stage, its hard to see how Francis can continue to have an absent economy prefect.    It wasn’t supposed to work out like this. Back in February 2014 Cardinal Pell was entrusted by the reform-minded Pope to undertake a root and branch shake up of money management at the western world’s oldest institution.       During his period in office the cardinal has made a number of changes. New accounting standards are being introduced; budgets are regularly checked; most Vatican departments now submit proper accounts. The Holy See’s financial watchdog is clamping down on suspicious transactions. And the Vatican bank, long a source of scandal, now routinely submits independently audited accounts. “The cardinal has broken the ice of the reforms,” one well-placed Vatican source told me.    But Pell encountered serious opposition. Many responsible for financial controls are reluctant to release details of their income and expenditure. Pell wanted one of the big four accountancy firms to conduct an independent, comprehensive audit. He was blocked. Milone, who had been in post for only two years had been given wide-ranging powers to investigate the Holy See’s murky finances, and reported directly to the Pope. Informed sources say he quit in frustration after getting on the wrong side of powerful vested interests....(more)
Archbishop Hart response to charges against Cardinal George Pell
Extract Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Thursday 29 June 2017
Archbishop Denis Hart is aware of the significance of the decision to charge Cardinal Pell.   Cardinal Pell has been a friend and brother priest of Archbishop Hart for more than 50 years. The Archbishop is conscious of the Cardinal’s many good works which have been acknowledged both nationally and internationally.    It is a matter of public record that Cardinal Pell addressed the evil of sexual abuse in the Church on becoming Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.   It is important all in society recognise that the presumption of innocence applies and that Cardinal Pell like all Australians is entitled to a fair trial.   In the interests of fairness and due process Archbishop Hart will not be commenting further....(source)
George Pell, Catholic cardinal, charged with historical sexual assault offences
Edited Extract from ABC News, 29 June 2017
Cardinal George Pell says he is looking forward to his day in court after being charged with historical sexual assault offences.
Key points: Charges involve multiple complainants;  Pell has always maintained his innocence and strenuously denied any wrongdoing;    Victoria Police says charging process has involved "common and standard practice";    Australia's most senior Catholic cleric has been ordered to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on July 18, after Victoria Police served charges on his legal representatives.      "Cardinal Pell will return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors, who will also advise on his travel arrangements," a statement released by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said.    "He has again strenuously denied all allegations."    He is expected to make a further statement in Rome at 4:30pm AEST.   Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton earlier told reporters the charges involved multiple complainants.     A magistrate will decide next week whether to the release the details and the nature of the charges. A hearing will take place on July 6.     Last July, police confirmed they were formally investigating complaints about offences alleged to have occurred in Ballarat in the 1970s.     Pell has always maintained his innocence and denied any wrongdoing.      Deputy Commissioner Patton said the "process and procedures" being followed had been the same as those applied "in a whole range of historical sex offences, whenever we investigate them".     "The fact that he has been charged on summons — we have used advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions and also we have engaged with his legal representatives, which is common and standard practice."     As head of the Vatican's finances, Pell is considered number three in the Catholic hierarchy behind the Pope.....(more)
 At the heart of the resistance to Pope Francis on ethics
"These cardinals remain convinced that the Church can provide a 'one size fits all' moral and sacramental solution for all life’s mess and complexity."
Extract from Frank Brennan, subscriptiopn joirnal La Croix Intermational, 28 June 2017
Last November, four elderly Cardinals who were at the peak of their powers during the previous two papacies took the unprecedented step of publishing their concerns about Pope Francis’s teachings.     They quite rightly pointed out that some of the things being said by Francis are irreconcilable or at least inconsistent with previous clear statements by Pope John Paul II.    Cardinals Brandmuller (who previously chaired the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences), Burke (who previously headed the Church’s most supreme court), Caffarra, erstwhile archbishop of Bologna, and Meisner, erstwhile archbishop of Cologne think Francis is seriously in error when he teaches about mercy and justice, right and wrong, and the place of conscience.    The cardinals had written to the Pope on 19 September 2016 setting out five dubia in relation to Amoris Laetitia.    Not having received a response from the pope, they then published their letter two months later declaring that they had "interpreted his sovereign decision as an invitation to continue the reflection and the discussion, calmly and with respect".    They decided to inform "the entire people of God about our initiative, offering all of the documentation".    Here are two of the questions to the Pope published by the concerned cardinals:....(source)
Mysterious exit of Vatican auditor begs question: Is reform even possible?
Extract from John L. Allen Jr, subscription magazine Crux, 25 June 2017
This past Monday, phone lines across Rome began to heat up with rumors that something had happened with Libero Milone, a veteran Italian businessman and expert in auditing and tax services who had been hired in June 2015 as the Vatican’s first-ever Auditor General, billed as the final piece of the puzzle in terms of building a culture of accountability and transparency.       On Tuesday, the other shoe dropped: The Vatican released a terse, four-line statement saying that Milone had submitted his resignation, Pope Francis had accepted it, and, by “common agreement,” his relationship with the Vatican was over.     The statement wished Milone well, and said that a search will soon be launched to find his successor.        What the statement didn’t offer was any explanation of why Milone was walking away, two years into what was supposed to be a five-year term, and well before anything like an actual audit of Vatican finances had been brought to completion.    Given that the only force on the planet that abhors a vacuum more than nature is the Italian press, speculation immediately ensued about the backstory....(more)
Papal abuse commission member suggests changes to group expected in fall
Extract from  Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 23 June 2017
A member of Pope Francis' commission on clergy sexual abuse has suggested the composition of the advisory body may change at some point this fall, as the original three-year terms granted to individuals in the group expire. Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, who was appointed by Francis with seven others in March 2014 as the initial members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said the group is hosting its last planned plenary session in September.     "People know that the mandate of this commission comes to a close," said Zollner, speaking Thursday at the Pontifical Gregorian University. "The mandate is of three years and at the end of this year the mandate finishes."    "There is one more plenary session ... which will be the last plenary session," he continued. "From there, we need to see what will be the follow-up and how [the] commission will look and what will be the membership."...While Francis' creation of the pontifical commission was interpreted originally as a sign of his seriousness in confronting the continuing clergy sexual abuse crisis, the effectiveness of the group has come into question in recent months.....(more)  Photo: NCR
Pope restores yet another Catholic personality once cold-shouldered by the Vatican
Extract from Rivert Nuckens, Rome, Subscription magazine La Croix International, 23 June 2917
When Pope Francis places a red biretta on the head of Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez next Wednesday he will be rehabilitating yet another Catholic personality that was once shunned by the Vatican.     The 74-year-old Salvadoran is one of five men Francis will make papal electors when he formally adds them to the elite College of Cardinals at the June 28th consistory in St Peter’s Basilica.   Rosa Chavez has been auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Salvador since 1982 when he was only 39 years old. Today he serves as pastor of one of the city’s largest parishes.   Known for his tireless efforts to promote the prophetic message of the now Blessed Oscar Romero, the bishop was for years treated with suspicion by conservative forces in Rome – just like the martyred Romero. Both men were given the cold shoulder by John Paul II’s inner circle, which routinely blocked their requests for a private meeting with the Polish pope when they visited the Eternal City. Rosa Chavez, like Romero, was considered too close to the Marxists and other leftists in their small, war-torn Central American country....(Source)
Hart requests meeting with PM over school funding
Extract from CathNews, The CanberraTimes, 21 June 2017
Archbishop Denis Hart has intervened in the war over school funding to seek an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before the government's Gonski 2.0 changes come to a Senate vote, The Canberra Times reports.    Fairfax Media revealed that Archbishop Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, wrote to Mr Turnbull on Monday to seek a meeting to hammer out a peace deal.        Despite criticism from the Labor Party and unions, the government remains confident Gonski 2.0 will pass the Senate.    It came as the government agreed to delay introducing its new funding model for at least 12 months for Catholic schools in a bid to stop any of its senators from crossing the floor.    The concession – which has not been officially announced – will not win the support of the Catholic sector but is expected to be enough to placate Liberal senator Chris Back, who had threatened to vote against the government's changes.      The government was locked in intense negotiations with the Greens and Senate crossbench last night, ahead of the expected introduction of its bill into the Senate today.     In his letter Archbishop Hart expressed concern about the new funding model and the amount of money being made available to Catholic schools.    He asked for Mr Turnbull, Education Minister Simon Birmingham and other officials to meet with Catholics bishops to resolve the dispute over school funding.   Archbishop Hart's intervention is significant as it underscores the scale of the disquiet over the government's school funding proposal in the Catholic community...(more)  Photo: CathNews, The Canberra times, ACBC
‘If you don’t think Francis is the cure, you don’t grasp the disease,’ CL head says
Extract from subscriptional journal from John L. Allen Jr. and Ines San Martin, La Croix International, 21 June 2017
MILAN - Probably better than most, Father Julián Carrón, the successor of the legendary Italian Father Luigi Giussani as leader of the influential Communion and Liberation movement, whose natural base is among more conservative Catholics, understands that Pope Francis can be a shock to the system.       Yet he’s still an unabashed Francis fan, who insists that if you don’t think this pope is the cure, then you don’t understand the disease we’re facing in the post-modern world.       “Sometimes certain gestures of the pope may not be understood because we don’t understand the full implications of what he calls an ‘epochal change’,” Carrón told Crux on Monday.   “It’s like thinking a tumor is a simple case of the flu, so taking chemotherapy would seem too drastic,” he said. “But once you understand the nature of the disease, you realize you’re not going to be able to beat it with aspirin.”....(more)
Gary Diocese's first synod hopes to 'move the mission of the church'
Extracts from National Catholic Reporter, 20 June 2017
Mentioning the city of Gary, Indiana tends to evoke an image of dilapidated buildings, unemployment and crime. Following the steady decline of the steel industry in the late 20th century, Gary's population faced dramatic reductions. At its peak in 1960, Gary had almost 180,000 people. Now, U.S. Census estimates place the population at 76,424.     In 2013, it was estimated that 6,500 of the 7,000 properties the City of Gary owned were abandoned. The unemployment rate in Gary in Dec. 2016 was 8.2 percent, double that of the state.     Those numbers weighed on Gary Bishop Donald Hying's mind when initially proposing the synod.      "We have significant poverty here in our diocese. … That's something that's on everyone's hearts as well," Hying told NCR. "[The synod] will benefit not only the church but also the world as we live the mission of Christ."    Hying, who was appointed bishop by Pope Francis in November 2014, spent his first year visiting all 69 parishes within the diocese. On Feb. 25, 2016, after getting a feel for the needs of each parish, Hying released a pastoral letter "Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations." In the letter, he described his travels throughout the diocese and announced the diocese's first-ever synod.       "In my travels around the diocese, meeting thousands of people … I have served the Lord alongside you. I have prayed for and with you. I can honestly say that I have fallen in love with you and this diocese," Hying wrote in his pastoral letter.....The letter also outlined eight ecclesial mission areas that the diocese and synod would focus on moving forward: evangelization; sacraments, prayer and worship; discipleship/formation; social teaching; marriage and family; young Catholics; stewardship; and vocations and leadership formation.....(more)
 Dubia cardinals seek Papal audience
Extract from CathNews,  21 June 2017
The four cardinals who wrote to Pope Francis seeking clarification on disputed parts of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia last year have again written to him to request an audience, reports the National Catholic Register.      In a letter hand-delivered to the Pope in May, Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke and Joachim Meisner wrote asking for an audience, having received no response to the dubia they sent Francis in September last year. The Pope has yet to respond to this second request.     The cardinals’ dubia, which they made public in November are five questions, or “doubts,” seeking simple “yes” or “no” answers about Amoris Laetitia, the Pope’s summary document on the 2014 and 2015 Synods on the Family.    A long-established procedure aimed at clarifying doctrine, the cardinals used it to ascertain if controversial passages of the papal document are consistent with past papal teaching.    The most contentious dubium is whether some remarried divorcees without an annulment and living in an objective state of adultery are allowed to receive Holy Communion....(more)  Photo: CathNews,  (National Catholic Register/Edward Pentin)   
In Germany, a new ‘feminist’ Islam is hoping to make a mark
Extract from Anthony Faiola, Stephanie Kirchner, The Washington Post, 18 June 2017
Inside the red-brick building that now houses the German capital’s newest and perhaps most unusual mosque, Seyran Ates is staging a feminist revolution of the Muslim faith.    Allahu akbar,” chanted a female voice, uttering the Arabic expression “God is great,” as a woman with two-toned hair issued the Muslim call to prayer. In another major break with tradition, men and women — typically segregated during worship — heeded the call by sitting side by side on the carpeted floor.       Ates, a self-proclaimed Muslim feminist and founder of the new mosque, then stepped onto the cream-colored carpet and delivered a stirring sermon. Two imams — a woman and a man — later took turns leading the Friday prayers in Arabic. The service ended with the congregation joining two visiting rabbis in singing a Hebrew song of friendship.     And just like that, the inaugural Friday prayers at Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque came to a close — offering a different vision of Islam on a continent that is locked in a bitter culture war over how and whether to welcome the faith. Toxic ills like radicalization, Ates and her supporters argue, have a potentially easy fix: the introduction of a more progressive, even feminist brand of the faith. ...(more) 
Vatican statistics track church health indicators
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, Melbourne Catholic,  Friday 16 June 2017
The health of the Catholic Church can be measured in many ways, and the Vatican has a special office just for that purpose.     The Central Statistics Office, which operates under the Vatican Secretariat of State, conducts a variety of studies for the Roman Curia throughout the year. But one of the office's biggest projects is compiling the annual, 500-page Statistical Yearbook of the Church.    Of course, the yearbook tracks the Catholic population, both by a head count of the baptised in each country and as a percentage of the world's population. The latest report, based on numbers gathered on 31 December, 2015, tallied 1.28 billion Catholics, which is about 17.7 percent of the global population.    Ten years earlier, according to the statistics office, the Catholic community numbered just over 1.1 billion, which was 17.3 percent of the population at that time.     Worldwide Catholics operate close to 118,000 hospitals, clinics, and homes for the aged, orphanages, counselling centres and rehabilitation facilities. Ten years ago, the number of such facilities was less than 115,000....(more)

Pope and cardinals discuss loosening the strings
Extract from CathNews, CNS, 15 June 2017
Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals have discussed the possibility of allowing local bishops rather than the Vatican decide on certain matters, including the marriage or priestly ordination of permanent deacons, CNS reports.      It is "what the Pope calls a 'healthy decentralisation'," said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office.     Briefing journalists on the council's June 12-14 meeting, Mr Burke said the Cardinals and Francis looked specifically at the possibility of allowing bishops to determine whether a permanent deacon who is widowed can remarry or whether a permanent deacon who is unmarried or widowed can be ordained to the priesthood without having to "wait for a decision to be made in Rome" as is the current rule.      Such decisions regarding permanent deacons now are handled at the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, but could pass to the local bishops' conference, Mr Burke told journalists yesterday.       The Council of Cardinals advising the Pope on Church governance also discussed proposals to broaden the participation of lay people and members of religious orders in the selection of new bishops.    "It is something that already exists, but they want to do it in a more systematic, more extensive way," Mr Burke said.....(more).  Photo: CathNews,  CNS?Paul Haring.  

Pope Francis has shown he’s not afraid of women with power
Extract from Inés San Martín, Vatican Correspondent, Crux, 15 June 2017
ROME- When Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet on Saturday, it’ll be the fourth time the two see each other in Rome. For a leader who’s often recommended putting more women in leadership positions inside his own house, the meeting cements the fact that when it comes to dealing with powerful women, it’s par for the course for this pontiff.    As is the case between the Vatican and most governments around the world, Francis and Merkel sometimes disagree on matters of policy, but when it comes to personality, he has a life-long experience of seeing women in charge.....(more)  Photo:Crux, AP.

Vatican releases online questionnaire for youth
Extracts from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, Crux, 15 June 2017
ROME - To involve young people in preparations for the Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018, the Vatican has released an online questionnaire to better understand the lives, attitudes and concerns of 16- to 29-year-olds around the world.        The questionnaire - available in English, Spanish, French and Italian - can be found on the synod’s official site and is open to any young person, regardless of faith or religious belief.     The general secretariat of the synod launched the website June 14 to share information about the October 2018 synod on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” and to link to an online, anonymous survey asking young people about their lives and expectations.    The answers to the questionnaire, along with contributions from bishops, bishops’ conferences and other church bodies, “will provide the basis for the drafting of the ‘instrumentum laboris,'” or working document for the assembly, synod officials said in January.       Young people from all backgrounds are encouraged to take part in the questionnaire because every young person has “the right to be accompanied without exclusion,” synod officials had said.   The list of 53 mostly multiple-choice questions is divided into seven sections: general personal information; attitudes and opinions about oneself and the world; influences and relationships; life choices; religion, faith and the church; internet use; and two final, open-ended questions.      The Vatican’s preparation for a synod generally includes developing a questionnaire and soliciting input from bishops’ conferences, dioceses and religious orders. This is the first time the Vatican’s synod organizing body put a questionnaire online and sought direct input from the pub              A synod’s preparatory phase seeks to consult of “the entire people of God” to better understand young people’s different situations as synod officials draft the working document. The synod on youth will be looking for ways the church can best and most effectively evangelize young people and help them make life choices corresponding to God’s plan and the good of the person....(more)  Photo: Crux, CNS photo/Bob Roller.      [Ed: An Australian Catholic Bishops Youth online Survey 2017 has also been prepared (HERE) to contribute towards the Australian bishops submission that will be considered by Pope Francis as part of the General Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment to be held in Rome in October 2018]

Controversial new appointments as Pontifical Academy for Life widens perspectives
Extracts from Daniele Palmer,The Tablet, 14 June 2017
By nominating members not strictly in line with traditional Church teachings, the Academy is creating a more heterogenous membership.          The Pontifical Academy for Life, the Vatican organisation devoted to the study of Catholic bioethics, has appointed new members in what seems both an act of continuation with the past, but also a widening of perspectives.
      After a wait of more than six months, the Holy See published its list of the new nominations to the Pontifical Academy for Life. Apart from significantly reducing the number of members of the Academy - which acts as a Vatican think tank on life issues - from 132 to 45, plus five “honorary” members, it has renewed the membership of many previous members.   Amongst those who saw their membership renewed are Anthony Colin Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney and the Dutch Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk; Carl Albert Anderson, Supreme Knight of the influential Knights of Columbus - all known for holding more conservative positions........The nomination which has caused the most controversy, however, is that of the English philosopher and moral theologian, Nigel Biggar. An Anglican priest, Biggar is one of several non-Catholic members elected yesterday (13 June) to the Academy.        His views on abortion directly contradict the anti-abortion policies not only those of the Church, but also of the Academy’s past members. In 2011, Biggar stated that it is “not clear that a human foetus is the same kind of thing as an adult or a mature human being, and therefore deserves quite the same treatment.” To this effect, he has supported the legalisation of aborting foetuses up until the 18th week.     Some have argued that this points to a change in the Academy’s policy line. However, sources close to the Academy’s president, Archbishop Paglia, have said that the nomination of Biggar is indicative not of a substantive change, but of a widening of perspectives. By nominating Biggar, and other members who are not strictly in line with traditional Church teachings, Paglia is seeking to create a more heterogenous membership and set of views.    Another nomination that does not sit well with some conservatives is Maurizio Chiodi, lecturer of moral theology at Milan’s seminary. In the past, Chiodi has criticised important passages of “Humanae vitae”, “Donum vitae”, and “Evangelium vitae” - all documents that make up the fundamental pillars of modern Catholic bioethics.          The Milanese theologian has also called for more “discernment” on issues relating to contraception, in vitro fertilisation, the question of “gender”, and sexual orientation in the Catholic theology....(more)

Dutch bishop allows Gay Pride service in his cathedral
Extract from  Tom Heneghan, The Tablet, 14 June 2017
Permission does not imply 'an endorsement of gay culture', writes Bishop in open letter to parishioners
Bishop Gerard de Korte of ’s-Hertogenbosch will allow an ecumenical prayer service to take place in his cathedral as part of the Netherlands Gay Pride events in late June, provided nothing is said there that contradicted the teaching of the Catholic Church.     At the request of the organisers, he is due to attend the “Pink Saturday” service on 24 June and conclude it with a short address and a blessing. In an open letter to parishioners, he said this did not mean an endorsement of gay culture.     News of the service prompted a debate in the southern Dutch diocese, the most populous in the country, with opinions divided even in the diocesan priests council, which asked him to clarify his stand.      “Things will probably happen in the city on Pink Saturday that Catholics and other Christians, including believing homosexuals, strongly disapprove of,” Bishop De Korte wrote in the letter.     But he said that, as one of his priests observed, things happened in Carnival season before Lent that were “hard to reconcile with Catholic ethics” but that was no reason for the Church to abstain from Carnival celebrations.    He said the Church defended traditional marriage and considered homosexual acts disordered but also insists that gays be treated with respect. “I am confident that the service will remain serene,” he wrote.    The bishop said there was a deep divide between “what the Church says and the experience of many people both outside and inside of our Church”. But he added that “we are not called on to throw stones. If God counts sins, nobody is left standing”....(MORE)
We’re watching Pope Francis institutionalize his vision
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, 10 June 2017
ROME - Pope Francis is now over 80 and not long ago marked his fourth anniversary in office, and although he’s showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, it’s natural that people have begun to talk about what his long-term legacy is going to be.                  By now it’s clear Francis’s vision for the Church is complicated, but two core elements are a desire to foster social activism, especially direct and concrete forms of service, and to put the poor in a position to be heard in discussions about how to solve their problems. The question is, how will Francis ensure that those priorities remain in the mix even after he’s gone?      One piece of the answer fell into place on Friday, as the pontiff formally opened a Vatican office for Scholas Occurentes, an Argentine group designed to bring wealthy and impoverished schools together in a spirit of partnership that he backed in Buenos Aires when he was the city’s archbishop, and he’s essentially brought with him to Rome and made it into a global brand....(more)

Making our parish mission possible: Melbourne clergy conference
Extracts from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Thursday 8 June 2017
The parish is not an outdated institution,’ writes Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, ‘precisely because it possesses great flexibility. It can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and community.’ The Melbourne Clergy Conference explored that flexibility with the theme: The Parish—Our Mission. Held at Peppers The Sands Resort in Torquay, the three-day conference started on Tuesday 6 June.    Every church and diocese struggles with its own issues. But the central problem clergy grappled with over the four days was this: How can we move parishes from a routine of maintenance towards embracing the mission of making disciples? And how do we effect that shift?     The week’s presenter was Daniel Ang, Director of the Office for Evangelisation in the Catholic Archdiocese of Broken Bay, NSW. What he learnt was the number of people receiving the sacraments in Mass each week shouldn’t be a primary concern. ‘The attendance of Mass doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has a personal relationship with Jesus’ Ang tells Melbourne Catholic. ‘Our call is to make disciples. Unfortunately today we tend to assume that receiving the sacraments will take care of that. But the church teaches that evangelisation, conversion and faith have to come first.’....Throughout the conference, Ang demonstrated an encyclopaedic knowledge of church history. And ultimately a message of hope was held up to the parish, the priests and the church at large. ‘The church has enormous capacity for renewal.’     Each day, clergy have celebrated the Eucharist, presided over by Archbishop Hart, Bishop Mark Edwards, and Bishop Terry Curtain respectively. The conference concludes today with a morning Eucharist, prayer, and a final session on practical steps to nurture renewal and growth in parishes. All to ensure that each—to quote Pope Francis—remained effectively a ‘community of communities, a sanctuary where there the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic.

The uncertain future of parish life
Extract from T. Howland Sanks*  America, The Jesuit Review, 2 June, U.S.         Extracted here 8 June 2017
.....Rethinking Parish Structure: William J. Byron, S. J., reinforces the notion that parish leadership must be shared in his recent book Parish Leadership: Principles and Practices, but he adds that the leadership must integrate Catholic social teaching in the life of the parish for it to be effective. (He also provides an excellent, succinct summary of Catholic social teaching in his second chapter.) For Byron, parish leadership, especially the pastor, must be “servant leadership” rather than the top of a pyramid, as the latter is abnormal and corrupting.     A much more comprehensive study of Catholic parishes is Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century by the staff of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), led by Charles E. Zech. Synthesizing data from a number of recent surveys, the authors use the 1989 Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life as a baseline of comparison. Trends that had begun at that time have continued and intensified, but the operative word in both studies is change. Following are the most significant changes in the last 30 years:  .....(more).   Photo, America the Jesuit Review, CNS photo/Jonathan Francis, Archdiocese of Detroit
*T. Howland Sanks, S.J., is the professor emeritus of theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University.

Court rules against Wilson appeal
Extract from CathNews, 8 June 2017
The NSW Court of Appeal has dismissed a bid by Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson to stop criminal proceedings against him over claims he did not report another priest’s sexual abuse of a young boy, AAP reports.    Lawyers for Archbishop Wilson, who has pleaded not guilty to the charge, had argued that his court attendance notice should be quashed or permanently stayed because the charge was not valid.    Court of Appeal justices Tom Bathurst, John Basten and Tony Meagher ruled the charge was valid because the offence, allegedly committed in 1971 by the now-dead pedophile priest James Fletcher, was a “serious indictable offence”.     Archbishop Wilson’s lawyer told the court: “The appellant is being prosecuted for failing to report information to the police (in essence an allegation) some 28 to 30 years after an alleged conversation that took place in 1976.”     Archbishop Wilson is accused of concealing information about Fletcher’s alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old in the NSW Hunter region town of Maitland.    Prosecutors allege that between 2004 and 2006, he failed without reasonable excuse to bring material information to police relating to the alleged indecent assault.    A magistrate in February 2016 refused to quash or permanently stay the proceedings.    In October, in the NSW Supreme Court, judge Monika Schmidt dismissed the archbishop’s appeal against that decision.    On Tuesday, the NSW Court of Appeal dismissed his third attempt to have the proceedings quashed or permanently stayed.....(more)

Catholics have a friend in Trump: Pence
Extract from CathNews, 8 June 2017
US Vice President Mike Pence and other speakers addressed the subjects of religious liberty and the sanctity of human life both in the United States and worldwide at the 13th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Tuesday, CNS reports.   Mr Pence spoke about President Donald Trump's commitment to the securing of all religious freedoms to more than 1200 attendees, following speeches by keynote speaker Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the US Archdiocese for the Military Services, and special guest Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart.   Mr Pence expressed his sorrow over the recent terrorist attacks in Europe. He said Mr Trump was committed to ending attacks on religious liberty around the world, as well as in America....(more) Photo: Cathnews CNS
Scottish Episcopal Church permits gay marriage in historic vote
Extract from Rose Gamble, The Tablet, 8 June 2017
The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) has voted to allow gay couples to marry in church making it in the first mainstream Christian church in the UK to allow same-sex marriages.  The vote to amend canon law on marriage, removing the stipulation that it is between a man and a woman, was carried by the Synod in Edinburgh on Thursday (8 June) afternoon.    The historic move means that gay Christians from any Anglican Church can now ask to be married in a Scottish Anglican Church.    Scottish Anglican ministers wishing to conduct same-sex weddings will have to 'opt-in.'   The church said this meant that those who disagreed with gay marriage would be protected and not have to act against their conscience....(more)

Schools apologise for abuse
From CathNews, 2 June 2017
Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) yesterday delivered an apology to former students who were victims of sexual abuse at its schools.      The national apology was delivered at the National Arboretum in Canberra during EREA’s National Principals’ Conference and was echoed by Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, Christopher Prowse. EREA has responsibility for more than 50 Catholic schools and entities, some of which were previously governed by the Christian Brothers. “The National Apology has been made by EREA on behalf of all its schools to the survivors and victims of sexual abuse by members of the religious community and lay staff in those schools,” said EREA Executive Director Wayne Tinsey.   Dr Tinsey said EREA had consulted widely on the apology, particularly with survivors, who had contributed to its development, and that the apology had the full support of the Christian Brothers and Archbishop Prowse.    “By acknowledging the suffering of survivors in our schools, we hope this apology demonstrates that we have listened to survivors and acted on their views, thoughts, and feelings,” Dr Tinsey said.    “It is our hope that this apology will go some way to addressing and healing this long-standing omission and hurt.”    Dr Tinsey said EREA realised its apology was just one step in the journey towards healing and the national event also marked the beginning of a series of apologies around Australia with EREA schools and their communities planning their own local ceremonies.   Archbishop Prowse, who is overseas attending meetings, asked his Vicar-General, Fr Tony Percy, to read out a statement from him at the EREA Principals’ Conference.     “I am profoundly sorry, the Archdiocese is profoundly sorry for what has happened. We ask forgiveness from God, and forgiveness from the survivors,” he said....(more)

Australian Catholic Bishops 2017 Plenary: Summary Report
Thursday 1 June 2017
A summary report of outcomes from the 2017 Plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference from 4-11 May has now been published.  Amongst others, issues summarised include: Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; Providing Priests;  Marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation; Parish Revitalisation Project;  Synod on Young people; the Faith and Vocational Discernment; and Consultation and Discernment process regarding Plenary Council. The summary report is linked HERE

The New Zealand Synod 2017
Catholics For Renewal, 31 May 2017
 The Catholic Church of New Zealand is closely in touch with the needs of its people, and as far back as 2007 the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference published its first responsive and caring response to Child Sexual Abuse "A Path to Healing - Te Houhanga Rongo".  In keeping with the open thinking of Pope Francis  the NZ Bishop's Conference has also arranged to hold a Synod "Go you are sent" in September this year.  Synod 2017 will be held in Wellington from 15-17 September. The Synod Participation Booklet and related resources are available HERE.        The following edited extracts are taken from CathNews NZ and a recent Newsletter of St Mary of the Angels Parish in Wellington relating to the September Synod. The The first two outline Synod arrangements, the third is a prayer for the Synod.   

Photo: St Gabriel's Catholic Church Whangaope Harbour NZ 2013, Jacek Drecki,   Panoramio Google Maps,

New Zealand Synod 2017: Go you are sent
Extract from CathNews NZ,    Extracted here 31 May 2017 
An invitation to a workshop for Synod 2017 saw over 300 parishioners from the Wellington Archdiocese’s North Island parishes working together on Sunday.       This was the second Synod workshop for the Archdiocese. South Island parishes met in Nelson last week.        After opening the workshop with prayer and reflection, Cardinal John Dew provided a context for the Synod process and the topic workshop participants would reflect on.     Diocesan Synod’s are “noble institutions in which priests and laity co-operate with the bishop for the good of the whole church – in this case the church in the Archdiocese of Wellington,” he explained.     “We all need to learn how to work together, and to draw others into the life of our communities.        “We need to be in communion with one another, recognising the light of the Trinity shining in the faces of each other, to share joys and sorrows, see what’s positive in others and see gifts as gifts from God.       “Everyone can be involved and use their gifts. We’re all responsible for finding new ways to travel together through prayer, reflection and revelations from the Holy Spirit”.          “Not everyone can take part in the Synod in September as we are limited to 350 participants, but everyone can take part in the participation process. This process will decide what the Synod will consider, so it is very important.”    He explained during the workshop participants would come together in small groups using a “discernment process”, which would offer everyone an opportunity for “journeying together”.     This involved everyone considering what a parish that fully embraced the Synod theme ‘Go you are sent’ would look like, asking themselves what the Holy Spirit was saying to them, sharing the outcome and listening to others.     It is important to listen “inwards” before speaking – and to realise that when group ideas converge the Holy Spirit is active and present.      This is the process parishioners are being asked to use in reflecting upon their input to the participation process and participants will use during the Synod.   Summaries of group discussions at the workshops have been collected, and will form part of the input to the participation process which will decide the Synod agenda. CathNews NZ
NZ Synod Participation Process, SMOA Parish
The Parish has five delegates who will attend the Archdiocesan Synod over the weekend of 17 -19 September this year. While it is not possible for all of us to attend the Synod we are all invited to participate. We can do that in two ways; i) Praying for the success of the Synod;  ii)Participating in the process by attending the workshop in preparation for the Synod. This workshop for the North Island Parishes will be held on Saturday 27 May from 1.30pm tom 4;30pm at Bishop Viard College

St Mary of the Angels Parish Wellington NZ
Prayer for NZ Synod- 2017
God, whose power is at its best in weakness: You have entrusted us, in our frailty,
with the awesome privilege
of being your presence in our world.
You say to each of us: Go, you are sent
In naming and sending,
you honour our ability to serve.
Yet we know our need of you,
even as we travel in the
echo of your voice: Go, you are sent
Bless our Archdiocese of Wellington as we set out and, as you have done for so many,
strengthen our weariness; steady our trembling.
May we never forget that you are with us

and joyfully answer your call: Go, you are sent
We go, gifting your mercy, proclaiming your truth,
and celebrating your goodness;
our words and actions
revealing your face
to all we meet.
Blessed are you, God of the journey. Amen

'We're not trying to be provocative': Catholic schools to fight homophobia
Extract from Henrietta Cook, The Age, 31 May 2015
For the first time, a Catholic schools network is rolling out an alternative to Safe Schools which it believes will train teachers to stamp out homophobia and transphobia.    Edmund Rice Education Australia has distributed resources to its 52 schools and will soon run training to help teachers create a safer and more inclusive environment for gay and transgender students and LGBTI families....."Our core belief is that of inclusion – bullying, harassment and discrimination totally contravenes that and has no place in our schools."...(more)
Will Pope Francis' reforms last?
Francis’ Church is the complete opposite of a clerical Church. It is a Church at the service of the Gospel, not a Church preoccupied solely with its institutional survival. "La Croix" examines some crucial issues of his papacy.
Extract from Isabelle de Gaulmyn, Subscription journal La Croix International, 30 May 2016
“Hope is like a sail,” Pope Francis said at his Wednesday General Audience this week, referring to the feast of Pentecost. “It gathers the wind of the Spirit and transforms it into a driving force that either pushes the boat out to sea or back to the shore.”    Could this kind of hope enable Pope Francis’ reforms to lead the Church back out to sea? This is the kind of question that keeps recurring in conversation with people in Rome.    The reason is that, while Pope Francis’ reforms are clearly visible, people are wondering how much longer they will last. Or even more directly, they are asking whether the reforms will survive the death of a pope who is already eighty and who has not spared himself physically....(source)

Vale Anthony Foster
Extract from Bishop Vincent Long, Catholic Outlook, 30 May 2017
It is with much sadness that we learned of the sudden death of Anthony Foster in Melbourne over the weekend.      Anthony and his wife Chrissie dedicated their lives to seeking justice for victims of child sex abuse.      In 2010, when I was still living in Rome, I read the book Hell on the Way to Heaven in which they told the harrowing story of the sexual abuse of their daughters by a Catholic priest. I was deeply moved by their suffering but also inspired by their determination, courage and resilience.    Back in Melbourne as an Auxiliary Bishop, I sought them out and eventually met them on a number of occasions. I was kindly received into their home a few times and offered hospitality – a privilege I treasure. Each time we met, the Fosters would share with me their pain and suffering. They would also challenge me to do all I could as a church leader to treat victims and their loved ones with the Christian justice we profess.    I was especially touched by Anthony’s empathy – perhaps a virtue he nurtured during his own experience of suffering. At the end of the Royal Commission hearing of the five Metropolitans, the Fosters met with Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. After he had left the meeting, Anthony became very concerned how deeply affected Archbishop Fisher was. He contacted me and asked if I could check and make sure that the Archbishop was OK. I was only too happy to oblige.    I am privileged to have met Anthony and learned much from him. If the Church in Australia is to offer justice and healing for victims and a safer place for children, then it must respect the legacy of people like Anthony Foster.   May he rest in peace!  Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv.  Bishop of Parramatta  Image: Catholic Outlook 

The Catholic Church in post-Royal Commission Australia
Extracts from Bishop Vincent address delivered on 16 May at Mission 2017: one heart many voices, Sydney,  Catholic Outlook, 29 May 2017
...I begin this reflection with an Aboriginal story. It goes like this: “Once upon a time, there was an Aboriginal tribe that settled along a mighty river. It was teeming with all kinds of fresh water creatures that sustained the people and provided much security and well-being for them. They lived peacefully along its banks. Then, one day, a big flood came and submerged everything in its path. The people evacuated to dry land. When the flood subsided they returned and resettled where they used to. But then, things were not quite the same. The river flow became weaker and weaker. What was once a mighty river gradually was reduced to a billabong. The people sat daily around its edge and wondered what had become of their once mighty and life-giving river. It was all very sad and depressing until one of them decided to go upstream and explore. He returned later and told the rest of the tribe that their beloved river had not dried up at all. It had merely changed its course.”        In a way, I guess, we Catholics of today find ourselves in a place no longer familiar to ourselves. Like those Aboriginal people who returned to their beloved river and realised it was not the same any more after the big flood, we too are being confronted with a changing reality, a world that is increasingly alien to us....The Church is being reborn in ways beyond the traditional structures. Like the river that has changed its course, we have a choice to make. It is not in yearning for or holding on the known and the familiar but in reimagining the future and venturing into the unknown chaos like the old exodus, that we shall find new life.       The paschal rhythm summons us to a discipleship of humility, weakness and vulnerability, of dying and rising in Christ. As the Church, we must die to the old ways of being Church which is steeped in a culture of clerical power, dominance and privilege. We must abandon the old paradigm of a fortress Church which is prone to exclusivity and elitism. We must learn to rise to Christlike way of humility, inclusivity, compassion and powerlessness.     In the end, though, I firmly believe that we’re on the threshold of renewal and transformation. The Second Vatican Council set in motion a new paradigm that cannot be thwarted by fear and paralysis. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be put back. That new paradigm is one that is based on mutuality not exclusion, love not fear, service not clericalism, engagement with the world not flight from or hostility against it, incarnate grace not dualism.      May the Holy Spirit accompany us as we move boldly in the direction of the Kingdom.....(more)     Image: Hattah-Kulkyne National Park Information Centre 
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