Catholics for Renewal

Subtitle

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 
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Editorial:    A Synodal Church or 'Business as Usual'?
  • Plenary Council
  • Leadership
  • Seal of Confessions and Marriage Equality
  • Open Letter to Bishops
  • Further Feedback
  • Synodal Church or 'Business as usual'?
  • Belonging to the Church Still Matters    Click HERE
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EVENT  -   Building a healthier Church: where to from here?
An evening of conversation with Bishop Vincent Long, Maria Kirkwood and Francis Sullivan.
Yarra Theological Union, University of Divinity, 12 October 2017
An evening of conversation with Bishop Vincent Long. Maria Kirkwood and Francis Sullivan.
Francis Sullivan - What are the challenges that are coming from the Royal Commission?
Maria Kirkwood - Sharing leadership in a collaborative Church
Bishop Vincent - What sort of Church should we be?    

How are you going to approach.  these issues in your Diocese?   View or download flyer from Events page, or HERE   12 October 2017, 7.30pm - 9.30pm, YTU Study Centre. 34 Bedford Street Box Hill

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Catholics, can definitely vote ‘Yes’
Extract from Peter Johnstone,  Pearls and irritations, John Menadue blog, 18 September 2017
Two Catholic bishops have written pastoral letters to their dioceses in which they make it clear that Catholics should not discriminate against same-sex couples and should listen to their consciences in considering how to vote in the ABS survey, now landing in letterboxes throughout the country. Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta and Bishop Bill Wright of Maitland-Newcastle have effectively removed any ‘Catholic’ arguments against supporting marriage equality and stress the responsibility of Catholics to discern carefully in determining their ‘vote’.        Christians must be very confused about how their religious beliefs should influence their views on the current marriage equality survey, officially described in the ABS mail-out as “Your Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey”. Some so-called Christian positions seem to suggest that there is an inherent Christian exclusion of the possibility of civil same-sex marriage. The most careful and authoritative Christian analyses to date may have come from separate pastoral letters of Catholic bishops Vincent Long of Parramatta and Bill Wright of Maitland-Newcastle....(more)
Cardinal: Francis considers mandating consultation of laity in bishop selection
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 16 Jun 2017
Vatican City — One of the members of the Council of Cardinals said the group is considering whether to advise Pope Francis to make it mandatory for Vatican ambassadors to consult with laypeople before making recommendations for possible new bishops in the Catholic Church.     Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias suggested the nine-member group might recommend that ambassadors be instructed to consult with members of a diocese's pastoral or finance councils before passing on names of who to consider for bishop.     "This is a central matter for the church," Gracias said in a June 15 NCR interview. "The bishop is a central figure and the choice of a good bishop is very important for every church. If you choose the wrong person, things can be set back by years in the pastoral life of the church."     The pending recommendation from the Council of Cardinals could mark a significant shift for the church and for the role of Vatican ambassadors, known as apostolic nuncios.    While nuncios are currently allowed to consult laypeople when considering bishop candidates, they are not obligated to do so, and frequently put the focus of their consultations on current clergy members.....(more). Photo: NCR, CNS Paul Haring 
 Francis tells new bishops to be humble and open
Extract from CathNews, 15 September 2017
Pope Francis met with new bishops, including four Australians, at the end of their training course at the Vatican, reminding them to be both humble and open to better ways of evangelising other than just “the way it's always been,” CNA reports.    Pope Francis yesterday spoke in an audience with participants in the annual training course for new bishops held in Rome and organised by the Congregation of Bishops and the Congregation of Eastern Churches. The course was attended by Australian bishops ordained this year: Geraldton Bishop Michael Morrissey, Townsville Bishop Tim Harris Lismore Bishop Greg Homeming OCD and Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell.      “Discernment is a remedy for the immobility of 'it has always been so' or 'we take time,'” the Pope told the bishops.   “It's a creative process that is not limited to the application of methods. It is an antidote against rigidity, because the same solutions are not good everywhere. Do not be imprisoned by the nostalgia of having only one answer to apply in all cases.”    He continued, warning that to have an easy, one-size-fits-all answer might soothe our performance anxiety, but it threatens to make our lives “dried up.”   He reminded the bishops how important it is that they have humility, especially for the work of the Holy Spirit.....(more) Photo: Cathnews, 
Church working to protect children but long way to go: Coleridge
Extract from CathNews, 15 September 2017
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge says the Church in Australia is acting to protect children from sexual abuse although he concedes it has a long way to go, News.com.au reports.        Archbishop Coleridge says a lot has been and is being done around Australia to safeguard children.    "But it's very much a work in progress; we still have a long way to go," he said yesterday. "Because it's not just a matter of changing procedures and protocols but of building a culture, and that takes time."    An RMIT University report on child sexual abuse in the Church worldwide found Australia is significantly behind other comparable countries in developing policies and protocols to safeguard children.    Archbishop Coleridge said the report does not appear to be up to speed with the state of play in Australia, where some of the Church's work is under the radar.   He said other Church actions are very much on the radar, such as its new professional standards body that will set nationally consistent standards and audit compliance with them.....(more)  Photo: Cathnews, ACBC
Wuerl: Pope sees ’journeying together’ as essential to life of church
Extract from Mark Zimmermann, Melbourne Catholic,  Catholic News Service, 15 September 2017
The process of ‘journeying together’ during the Catholic Church's synods of bishops examining contemporary challenges on marriage and family life offers a map for the church's outreach, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said on 12 September.     This process reflects not only the pontiff's pastoral approach, but also offers a template for how priests and laypeople can accompany others to help them understand and live the faith, he said.      Cardinal Wuerl made the remarks at Georgetown University in an address on ‘Pope Francis: Fresh Perspectives on Synodality’ as part of the university's Dahlgren Chapel Sacred Lecture series.    Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl speaks during a 12 September lecture at Georgetown University's Dahlgren Chapel. The cardinal spoke on the topic ‘Pope Francis: Fresh Perspectives on Synodality’ as part of the university's Dahlgren Chapel Sacred Lecture series.    He explained that ‘synodality’ refers to coming together or journeying together, which he said is how those gatherings of the world's bishops tackled issues facing married couples and families.   The cardinal noted that Pope Francis emphasised the importance of dialogue as those discussions unfolded. ‘We can recall his advices to the bishops ... to speak with openness and clarity, to listen with humility and be open to the Holy Spirit.’  Cardinal Wuerl said that the pope's understanding of synodality, that journeying together, involved not only dialogue with bishops who teach and transmit the faith, but also drew upon insights from married couples and families in dioceses around the world.   The proceedings formed the basis for Pope Francis' 2016 apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ (‘The Joy of Love’)....(more)
Council of Cardinals says more youth, women needed in Roman Curia
Extract from Elise Harris, Crux, CNS, 14 September 2017
ROME - One of the key talking points in the latest round of meetings for the pope’s Council of Cardinals was the selection of personnel in the Roman Curia, with an emphasis on making it more international, and with a higher number of young people and women.    The cardinals gathered for the 21st time in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace from September 11-13 to discuss the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.    Commonly referred to as the “C9,” the group was established by Pope Francis after his election as Bishop of Rome in 2013 to advise him in matters of Church governance and reform.     Absent from this week’s meetings were Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa and Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.    In comments to journalists during a Sept. 13 press briefing, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that as of now, no one is stepping in for Pell during his leave of absence while facing charges for abuse in Australia.    Francis himself was absent for the first day of meetings due to his recent trip to Colombia, but was present for the rest of the sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he was at the weekly general audience....(more)
Pastoral letter on the same-sex marriage postal survey
Extract from Pastoral Letter by Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv Bishop of Parramatta, 13 September 2017
Dear sisters and brothers,       As I write to you, the national debate on same-sex civil marriage is in full swing. It is an issue that many feel passionate about and hence, it has potential to polarise the community. I appeal to all Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta to conduct this dialogue with a deep sense of respect for all concerned, and for the opinion and decision that each person is free to make.      It is important to remember from the very outset that the postal survey is about whether or not Australians want the legal definition of civil marriage changed to include same-sex couples. It is not a referendum on sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church.     Many years ago, divorce was legalised in Australia; but this change did not alter the law of the Church. Therefore, whatever the outcome of the survey or the eventual legislation by the government, the Church will continue to hold that marriage is a natural institution established by God to be a permanent union between one man and one woman, directed both to mutual companionship and to the formation of a family in which children are born and nurtured.      For many Catholics, the issue of same-sex marriage is not simply theoretical but deeply personal. These may be same-sex attracted people themselves or that may be the case with their relatives and friends. In such cases, they are torn between their love for the Church and their love for their same-sex attracted child, grandchild, sibling, cousin, friend or neighbour.....(more)    
Pope Francis moves to develop a more decentralized church
Extracts from subscription journal La Croix International, 13 September 2017  This week the pope met with his council of cardinal-advisors to reflect on “excessive centralization" in Church governance. Several possibilities are being considered for shifting to the local level decisions currently taken in Rome......Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach,” he lamented in §32 of Evangelii gaudium, the document that is the program for his pontificate.....(source)Image: La Croix International, "All roads do not need to go through Rome!" - Deligne 
Australian Catholic Church Falls Short on Safeguards for Children, Study Finds
Extract from Jacqueline Williams, New York Times, 12 September 2017
MELBOURNE, Australia — A study that examines child sexual abuse worldwide in the Roman Catholic Church has found that the Australian church has done less to safeguard children in its care than its counterparts in similar countries have.      The report, released on Wednesday by the Center for Global Research at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, also found that the church’s requirement that priests be celibate was a major risk factor for abuse. And it said that the possibility of abuse in Catholic residential institutions, like orphanages, should be getting more attention, especially in developing countries.     Experts said the report could put pressure on Pope Francis, and particularly the church in Australia, to do more to prevent abuse. The Australian church was rocked in June when Cardinal George Pell, an Australian who is one of the pope’s top advisers, became the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be formally charged with sexual offenses.      Desmond Cahill, the report’s lead author, said its findings pointed to an urgent need to rethink the priesthood in the 21st century. A professor of intercultural studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, he said the church should reconsider the celibacy requirement for priests.     “The Catholic Church is in a state of crisis, and pressure has to be put on the Holy See to take the necessary steps to change,” Professor Cahill said.        In nearly 400 pages, the report traces the history of child sexual abuse in the global church and tries to identify factors that have contributed to it, with a particular focus on Australia.         Professor Cahill and the report’s co-author, Dr. Peter Wilkinson, a researcher in Catholic culture, are both ordained priests who resigned from church ministry in the 1970s but remain practicing Catholics. Professor Cahill said that while in the ministry, he worked alongside some of Australia’s most abusive priests, but did not realize it until decades later.     “Our backgrounds have allowed us not only to understand in depth the workings of the church in Australia, but also the Holy See in Rome, where we both studied at postgraduate level in pontifical universities,” he said....(more). Photo: NYT, Byron Kaye/Reuters
Peter Johnstone: The Catholic Church is ‘Circling the Wagons’
In this paper Peter Johnstone responds to an article by Greg Craven "Besieged Catholic Church is wounded, but will not fall" published in The Australian, 19 August 2017
Extract, Tuesday 12 August 2017
.....When I read the title of Greg Craven’s piece, I expected to read a considered assessment of the lessons learnt by the Church following the devastating revelations of clerical child sexual abuse and its cover-up and protection of paedophiles by bishops throughout the world. As a Catholic observer who has been involved in submissions to the Royal Commission and given public evidence to the Commission, I expected that the conscientious and dedicated work of the Commissioners and their staff would at least have been respectfully acknowledged.....(paper HERE)
Clericalism is alive and well in the Catholic Church
Extract from Anne O’Brien, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue blog, 12 September 2017
The Royal Commission has provided few grounds for optimism concerning the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. The institution is moribund and its leaders are unable or unwilling to face reality.     Despite the history of criminal negligence dating back decades, Church leaders have absolved themselves from responsibility for the shocking manner in which victims have been treated. Bishops, clergy and religious have shown inadequate and insufficient compunction concerning such criminal behaviour: they owed allegiance solely to the Vatican and to no one else, neither their own Catholic community nor civil society....(more)
In Amoris Laetitia, Francis' model of conscience empowers Catholics
Extract from re-visited paper of 7 Sept 2016 by Michael G. Lawler, Todd A. Salzman, National Catholic Reporter, republished here 9 September 2017
Some have called Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia, or "The Joy of Love," his reflection on the two recent Synods of Bishops on the family, a "love letter" to families. We believe that Francis' teaching on conscience in that letter is one of the most important teachings in the apostolic exhortation. As various church bodies announced plans about how to implement Amoris Laetitia, it is instructive to see how they will present Francis' teaching on conscience.     To spread the teaching of Amoris Laetitia though U.S. dioceses and parishes, the U.S. bishops have appointed a working group led by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. The work of this group isn't yet public, but Chaput has issued guidelines for implementing Amoris Laetitia in his own archdiocese.....(more)  Photo: NCR
Particular Councils: a resource rarely used in Australia
Abstract and link to paper by Peter Wilkinson, originally published in The Swag, Spring 2017 (Vol. 25 No.3. pp 9-11). Republished here with kind permission from The Swag and the author, 1 September 2017
This is the first of a series of articles looking at particular councils or synods. It is a general examination of their origins, characteristics and capacity. Others will examine the seven particular councils, provincial and plenary, which have been held in Australia since 1844, as well as the preparations for the 2020 Australian Plenary Council, and what that council might have on its agenda:  Towards a synodal church.....(paper)
Preparing for the 2020 Australian Plenary Council
Abstract and link to paper by Peter Wilkinson, originally published in The Swag, Spring 2017 (Vol. 25 No.3. pp 9-11). Republished here with kind permission from The Swag and the author, 1 September 2017
This second article in the series looking at particular councils, examines the initial preparations for the 2020 Australian Plenary Council. Further articles will examine in some detail the seven particular councils  – provincial and plenary – which have been held in Australia since 1844, and a final one will attempt to imagine what the 2020 Plenary Council might hope to achieve.....(paper)
Archbishop Philip Wilson will face a two-week hearing in November on a conceal crime charge
Extract from Joanne McCarthy, Newvcastle Herald, 30 June 2017
Archbishop Philip Wilson – the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be charged with concealing the child sex offences of another priest – will face a two-week hearing in November.      Newcastle Local Court magistrate Ian Cheetham confirmed the November 27 special fixture hearing at Newcastle during a brief mention on Friday.    The matter is expected to be heard by a Hunter magistrate brought in for the hearing.      Confirmation of the date followed three unsuccessful appeals by Archbishop Wilson to have the charge against him quashed or permanently stayed.     He was charged in March, 2015 with failing to report information he knew or believed about Hunter priest James Fletcher to police between April 2004, when Fletcher was charged with child sex offences, and 2006 when Fletcher died in jail after his conviction.     Adelaide Archbishop Wilson, a former president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, has denied the allegation.    The Hunter-born priest is one of only a handful of Catholic clergymen in the world to be charged with concealing the child sex offences of another priest, and only the third in Australia after former school principal and fellow Maitland-Newcastle priest, the late Tom Brennan, became the first to face such a charge in 2012.    The hearing will consider evidence from a man who alleged that as a 10-year-old in 1971 he told the then Father Wilson that he had been indecently assaulted by Fletcher.....(more)
A credibly Christian church would respect gay employees
Extract from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street, 29 August 2017
Debates about social issues tend to bring out blanket statements, sweeping claims, dire threats and feverish reporting. They usually carry historical baggage that needs to be unpacked and the contents tested against contemporary reality. This is true also of the coming plebiscite on gay marriage.        A threat reportedly made, and later denied, by some church leaders was to dismiss from employment in Catholic organisations people who contract same-sex marriages. Regardless of what was said the threat will be featured in the coming debates. It may be helpful to set it in its broader context.     The argument for taking such action is that Catholic organisations must uphold the teaching of the church, and that this implies living in a way consistent with it. Where the public relationships of people working in Catholic organisations are inconsistent with Catholic teaching they call into question the teaching itself.....(more) Image: Eureka Street
Chinese authorities ban children going to churches
Restrictions on religion in China continue to mount under the increasingly repressive regime of Xi Jinping.
Extract from La Croix International,  ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong, China,  29 August 2017
Communist authorities are continuing to tighten their grip on practicing Christians with at least four regional governments across China issuing notices that restrict children from joining Christian groups and attending religious activities.         The ban includes turning children away from churches even if they attend with their parents and teachers. Additionally, the ban includes promises that officials will launch investigations into both government approved churches and underground congregations who operate outside the tightly controlled official Beijing-run Catholic and Protestant churches.     The latest move comes as part of a concerted crackdown on religion that began with a three-year cross removal campaign in the Christian stronghold province of Zhejiang.....(source). Photo: La Croix International 
I didn’t threaten staff over gay marriage: Hart
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart yesterday offered clarity on the Church’s position on same-sex marriage, and what it would mean for Church employees if same-sex marriage laws were passed in Australia, Melbourne Catholic reports.
Extract from CathNews, 30 August 2017
Earlier this month, Fairfax Media reported that staff working for the Church – including doctors, nurses, teachers – entering into a same-sex marriage would be at risk of losing their jobs. But in an interview on Melbourne radio station 3AW, Archbishop Hart said the comments which had drawn the most attention weren’t in fact spoken at all. "I said, 'that’s best dealt with at a local level'," he said. "I said nothing whatever about sackings."     When asked if he would be comfortable with nurses and doctors in a Catholic hospital who were in a gay marriage, Archbishop Hart replied, "I’ve got no difficulty about that." Schools were a similar matter. He said if gay marriage were legalised and a teacher entered into a marriage with a same-sex partner, there would be no question whether their position as a teacher was at risk. "We’re not entering into their private lives," Archbishop Hart said, adding that his concern was whether they were willing to teach Catholic teaching in schools.      "The Church, like many other organisations, has certain expectations of staff which have to be fulfilled … we exist to teach certain things and the people in our employ need to be able to do that."     Meanwhile The Australian reports the Coalition for Marriage yesterday launched its national television advertising campaign, encouraging parents to vote against same-sex marriage, warning that they could lose control of gender programs taught to schoolchildren.....(more)  Photo: CathNews, YouTube/3AW  
'Love is the primary gospel value': Elite Catholic schools defy church leadership on same-sex marriage
Extract from Michael Koziol, The Age, 30 August 2017
Two of Australia's most prestigious Catholic schools have cautiously endorsed same-sex marriage in messages to parents, staff and students, directly rebuking recent statements from church leaders.       While stopping short of advocating a "yes" vote, St Ignatius' College in Sydney and Xavier College in Melbourne appealed to Pope Francis' teachings on love, mercy and non-judgment, and urged the school community to dwell on their own consciences....(more)
Perth Catholic Archbishop Tim Costelloe says his mission now is to rebuild trust in the church
Extract from Kate Campbell, PerthNow Sunday Times, 27 August 2017
“IT’S more than shameful, because shameful is about how embarrassed in a sense you feel, it’s really horror that people’s lives have been so badly affected.”      Dealing with the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church to its core was Timothy Costelloe’s first priority when he became Archbishop of Perth in 2012.     Five-and-a-half years later and amid an ongoing royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, it’s still the biggest issue facing him and his church.      The 63-year-old former schoolteacher used words like “evil”, “shocking”, “confronting”, “shameful” and “painful” to describe how nearly one in 10 priests in the Catholic Perth archdiocese was accused of sexually abusing children between 1950 and 2010 and how “bafflingly inadequate” the response was from church leaders.   When asked if he could guarantee his archdiocese was now paedophile-free, Archbishop Costelloe said: “What I can guarantee is that in this archdiocese we’re sending out a message that today this is the most dangerous place for a paedophile to come because we’re on to them, we’re looking for them and we will deal with them.”...(more) Photo: Perth Now, Justin Benson-Cooper
Amid Italian abuse scandal, question remains of Church oversight
A lay Catholic association in southern Italy, under scrutiny after its leader was arrested on charges of sexually abusing up to six underage girls during a span of 25 years, managed to avoid being subjected to the authority of the local diocese -- raising concerns about Church oversight over such groups.
Extract from Claire Giangravè, Editorial Assistant, Crux, 25 August 2017
ROME - As a controversy in southern Italy surrounding a lay association whose leadership has been accused of sexual abuse continues to unfold, one question that won’t go away is how the group was able to act with basic independence from the diocese in which it’s located over several decades.        “Do we obey the Gospel or the bishop?” members of the group asked in an article published in a local newspaper back in January of 1978 - and, by all evidence, they chose their interpretation of the Gospel, spurning attempts at ecclesiastical oversight.    As practices in the group, known as the “Catholic Culture and Environment Association” (ACCA), drifted further away from official Church teaching - which would later lead, allegedly, to the sexual abuse of multiple young girls - the local diocese, Acireale on the Italian island of Sicily, seems to have allowed it to drop off its radar....(more) Photo: Crux, Leandro Neumann Ciuffo (Basilica dei SS. Pietro e Paolo) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.) 
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, 24 August 2017
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.    The opposite of a “creative minority”    One person close to the pope uses the image of a ship. The Church is like a bark that is stuck in the sand and cannot move forward, he says. It seems doomed to remain an immovable structure, ensconced in a centuries long tradition...(source)
Pope invokes ‘magisterial authority’ to declare liturgy changes ‘irreversible’
Extract from Inés San Martín, Vatican Respondent, Crux, 24 August 2017
Although acknowledging that more than fifty years after the Second Vatican Council there are still tensions and unfinished business in terms of implementing its vision for the liturgy, Pope Francis in a session with Italian liturgists on Thursday nevertheless invoked his "magisterial authority" to declare, "The liturgical reform is irreversible."      Addressing a group of liturgical experts on Thursday, Pope Francis said that after the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and a long path of experience, “We can affirm with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”      The declaration came in a speech on Thursday to Italy’s “Center of Liturgical Action,” which sponsors an annual National Liturgical Week.     By “liturgical reform,” Pope Francis meant the changes in Catholic rituals and modes of worship which followed from Vatican II, the most immediately visible elements of which included Mass facing the congregation, the use of vernacular languages, and a stronger emphasis on the “full, conscious and active” participation of the people....(more)
Archbishop Hart releases pastoral letter on same-sex marriage
Extract from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, 24 August 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We Catholics in Australia love our nation.    Indeed, so much of what is cherished as good in our society is, in fact, the fruit of Christian culture.       So, we want our ‘story’ to continue to be heard in all the great debates about the foundations of our society. Our voice is not the only voice but it is an important one.     One such debate currently concerning us all is the issue of same-sex marriage.    We have always sought to contribute to our society as good citizens. We strive to act and speak out for the common good especially for the poorest and suffering among us.    We seek to cherish the dignity of the human person and support all in need: especially families, our indigenous brothers and sisters, migrants, refugees and all who need the compassion and mercy of Christ.     We pledge ourselves to continue to do everything we can to contribute to the common good of all Australians. As Catholics, we want to build up and strengthen our great diverse multicultural community here in Australia.    Our point in relation to the current debate about same-sex marriage is simple. We make it in good faith according to the demands of our consciences.      The Catholic Church, along with other faith traditions, teaches that marriage is a natural institution established by God to be a permanent union between one man and one woman, intended towards the formation of a family in which children are born and nurtured.    Any legislation that changes this definition of marriage recognised by all the major cultures of the world demands careful consideration by all Australians.    It is vital that we Catholics vote, so that our viewpoint can be heard on this vital public issue.    Its outcome will affect our society and families profoundly in the future.     We understand that ours is not the only viewpoint in our diverse society. Many do not agree with it. Many people see this as an issue about ensuring equality for every and all relationships.    Yes, human rights are important. But so are human responsibilities. We are responsible for the impact of our decisions on future generations.    Therefore, we ask all to consider the profound implications of possible legislation that will embed this desire for equality of relationships in our laws.    This debate on same-sex marriage raises profound questions about who we are. Fundamental issues are at stake.    Why do humans exist as male and female? Is that distinction simply marginal? Is it simply a social construct?      Do our children also have rights? We are all children of a male and a female. Should not this be a central consideration in our decisions about the way children should be ideally nurtured and educated in our society.   We understand that these are complex issues. But certainly, no legislation should be enacted without a deep public conversation in which we all engage about such issues that goes beyond slogans and soundbites.....(more)  (photo: CAM)
Anglican Ordinariate heads to meet in Australia
Extract from CathNews, Cathilic Leader, 24 August 2017
The leaders of the three communities established for former Anglicans who sought communion with the Catholic Church, will meet in Australia next week, The Catholic Leader reports.     Monsignor Keith Newton, of the Ordinariate in the United Kingdom, Bishop Steven Lopes, of the Ordinariate in the United States, and Australia’s Ordinary Monsignor Harry Entwistle will meet in Brisbane for their first gathering in Australia.    A representative from the Holy See will also attend the meeting, which coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Australian community, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, which was formed on June 15, 2012.     In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI responded to a request from Anglicans asking to be united with the Holy See by promulgating the apostolic constitution titled Anglicanorum Coetibus, which allowed for the creation of the ordinariates.    Ordinariates, which function similarly to dioceses, are allowed to maintain traditions of the Anglican Communion, including liturgy, and spiritual and pastoral traditions, and use their own form of the Roman Rite approved by the Holy See called “Divine Worship”, which draws from Anglican sources....(more)
A Tale of Two Churches
Extract from PHIL O’DONNELL, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue Blog, 24 August 2017
Threats by Catholic bishops to dismiss employees who marry same sex-partners reveal not only a lack of compassion, but also a deep gulf between the authoritarian and conservative concerns of the church hierarchy and the pastoral and justice concerns of many of its priests, religious and parishioners.    The recent veiled threats to Church employees by a couple of bishops heightens the rift between the hierarchy and the Catholic community and risks further alienating not only Catholics but our society of “men and women of good will”.     Here we go, again, on the hierarchy’s obsessive morality/authority focus on anything connected to sex.  And the sad thing is this “marriage equality” issue is not about sex, but justice.      I often liken the Catholic Church to “A Tale of Two Cities” – the compassionate pastors in one camp and the authoritarian clerics in the other. In the 60’s and 70’s, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the compassionate pastors were more dominant, and since John Paul 2 the authoritarian clerics have regained control.           It is my experience that the pastors are inclined more to service and the clerics to power, the pastors to inclusion and the clerics to exclusion, the pastors to acceptance and the clerics to authority, the pastors to social justice and the clerics to Canon Law.   There is so much hope in our Pope who is clearly a pastor who has identified “clericalism” as a major problem of our Church.     But what can this man do when his next level management team, that he has inherited, are predominantly clerics?....(more)
A Guide to the Marriage Equality Plebiscite
Extract from Edmund Rice Centre, 23 August 2017
....One of the underpinning foundational principles of Australian society and democracy is the separation of Church and State. This is the fundamental point that must not be forgotten in the current debate. Faith-based teachings about marriage and people’s rights to hold beliefs based on these teachings should be respected. However, when it comes to civil laws, we believe there is no place for discrimination. Discrimination against LGBTQI people can only serve to cause them and their families’ pain and suffering.     There is nothing wrong with a mature, respectful and informed discussion about this issue. However, we are disappointed that a vocal group of political and community leaders are using false, straw man and in many instances, offensive arguments to campaign against change.....(more).

Papal abuse commission considers restructuring, survivors may lose direct role
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 23 August 2017
Vatican: Pope Francis' commission on clergy sexual abuse is considering whether to restructure itself so that it no longer includes the direct participation of abuse survivors. It is evaluating the possibility of creating instead a separate advisory panel of individuals who have been abused by clergy.    A member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors revealed the group's consideration of the idea in an NCR interview Aug. 14, saying that one of the commission's work groups has been tasked with weighing the pros and cons of such a change.   The commission appears likely to discuss the possible restructuring at its next plenary meeting in Rome in mid-September, when the original three-year terms of its members are set to expire.   "I think that may be a more productive [way] of ensuring the voice of survivors in the work of the commission," Krysten Winter-Green, the commission member, said of the potential change. "I do not know that it's critical that a survivor needs to be actually on the commission."    "No decision has been made about this," she stressed, adding: "I think the voice of survivors needs to be heard by this commission. They need to have input into every facet of the operation. How that is accomplished remains to be seen, but it will be accomplished."    Consideration of a change in structure for the papal commission comes as the group has in recent months faced public questioning of its effectiveness in stopping future abuse of children and vulnerable people in the Catholic Church. The group now appears to be in the midst of a significant phase of transition....(more)

Marriage equality – some thoughts for the perplexed.
Extract from Paul Collins,  Pearls and irritations,  John Menadue website, 22 August 2017    
Throughout human history all types of arrangements have evolved to nurture children, of which a common form is a reasonably stable relationship between woman and man. Whether or not this was seen as marriage varied widely.  So, use of the term “traditional marriage” is a misnomer.  What the Catholic hierarchy is presenting as “traditional” is really a romantic, bourgeois understanding of marriage.      Over the last five years, the Australian Catholic Church has experienced its worst crisis in its 200-year history.  The catastrophic fall-out from the evidence presented at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, the charging of “Australia’s most senior Catholic” with historic offenses, the 2.6% drop in the number of Australian Catholics between the 2011 and 2016 Census, the collapse in the number of younger people adhering to or practising Catholicism (among Catholics aged 25 to 34 only 5.4% attend Mass) and the continuing decline of general Mass attendance (it is now down to between 8% to 10%), is all evidence of a profound malaise effecting Catholicism.  The church’s proclamation of Christ’s Gospel has taken a series of body blows and Catholic moral authority is in tatters.    Have we heard a word from our bishops concerning any of these issues?  Certainly, I haven’t, and I listen pretty carefully.  Australian Catholics have been totally bereft of leadership on these fundamental moral, spiritual and belief issues.  That the church’s witness to Christ has been profoundly compromised seems not to trouble the bishops, at least if you take their public statements into account.  Yes, to give them their due, they have been reasonably good on refugees and human trafficking, but beyond that they seemingly have nothing to say...(more)

 Archbishops out of step with Catholic community and the Pope
Extract from Terry Laidler, The Age, 21 August 2017  
Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne and Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth are at least consistent. For many years, because of their beliefs and their actions in getting parliamentarians to give discrimination exemptions to religions, Catholic institutions have operated on a de facto "don't ask/don't tell" policy in regard to the employment of LGBTI people.    Insecurity and apprehension have festered under this veil of secrecy, as they had done for military personnel and others before them. Powerful moment for this politician.     A Liberal MP has challenged Christian MPs to devote as much time and energy to getting refugees off Manus Island and Nauru than they do to opposing same sex marriage.     But the archbishops' recent warning that if gay marriage is legalised they will fire teachers, nurses and other employees of the Church should they marry their same-sex partner will have sent new chills down the spines of many good people; perhaps they were intended to.....(more)

Church will not fall: Craven
Extract from CathNews, The Weekend Australian,  21 august 2017
Although deeply shaken, the Church in Australia will not fall, writes Greg Craven in The Weekend Australian.    Have things ever seemed worse for the Catholic Church in Australia? If it were a boxer, it would look tangled in the ropes, sliding towards the canvas and spitting blood.    The past four years have been horrendous. Endless, horrifying accounts of historical child abuse. A royal commission relentlessly critiquing failures of bishops and processes. The media baying for yet more blood. Cardinal George Pell charged with abuse offences. The Cardinal has the full presumption of innocence, but the communal trauma is palpable.    And now, a report from the commission eviscerating the Catholic sacrament of confession. How much worse can this get?    The entire spectacle has been relished by journalists, activists and downright bigots praying fervently to a non-existent God for the implosion of the Church. It would not be fair to say such critics have no interest in child abuse. No one can stomach the victimisation of children, by Catholics or others.    But to inveterate enemies of the Church, the appalling reality of the scandal is incidental. They have battled Catholicism bitterly for decades on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. This is their opportunity to kick the Church hard when it is down. In normal circumstances, you could make these points without tarring and feathering. But these are not normal times.       Despite assurances, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse overwhelmingly has conducted itself, and has been viewed, as an inquiry into Catholic child abuse.     Of course, there are the hobby atheists. Then there are various “progressive” Catholics, who see the situation as an opportunity to impose their own swinging view of Catholicism. There are even deeply traditional Catholics who take a gloomy pleasure in the “end days”: a bit like Evelyn Waugh’s fantasy to be the last altar boy at the last mass of the last pope.    Oddly enough, all these zealots are doomed to disappointment. The Church in Australia is deeply shaken but will not fall.....(more)  Photo: CathNews

The issue isn't the sanctity of the confessional, it's about church, state and power struggles
Extract from Joanne McCarthy, The Canberra Times, 20 August 2017
In October 1995, a Hunter Catholic priest took down a short statement from a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest from when she was eight, once while he was hearing her confession.       The child-sex-offender priest was Denis McAlinden, an Irish cleric sent to Australia at the age of 26.   The sanctity of the seal of the confessional has caused great conflict. Photo: Michael Rayner     The woman told of repeated sexual abuse over three or four years.      I've spoken with her many times. I've spoken with two other McAlinden victims who were also sexually assaulted by him while in the confessional.     If you go to the Vatican website and find the Code of Canon Law it includes Canon 1387. It says that a priest who "under the pretext of confession solicits a penitent to sin against the sixth commandment" – thou shalt not commit adultery – "is to be punished ... by suspension, prohibitions and privations". In graver cases "he is to be dismissed from the clerical state".       It's accepted by some theologians that the sixth commandment covers the whole of human sexuality, and not just the strict interpretation of adultery. In other words, sexually abusing a child in the confessional could invoke Canon 1387....(more)  Image: The Canberra Times.

Craven dismissal
Extract from Ynot, Catholica Main Forum, 20 August 2017, 20 August 2017
........Greg Craven says that a law requiring a priest to report to police anyone who confessed sexually abusing a child would (a) make it impossible to live fully as a catholic, and (b) make a priest who declares he would rather go to prison guilty of the offence of incitement.      Both positions seem to me manifestly false. To the first, the proposed law only affects one who confesses child sexual abuse. For the rest the secrecy of confession stands. The motive for making this one exception is not simply because child abuse is a 'crime' but because the safety of children is of such particular importance and pedophilia is a disease that inflicts such dreadful damage on its victims. Society is trying to become proactive for the safety of children, leaving no stone unturned in its search for effective measures.    The proposal does not affect the secrecy of the confessional in practical terms. The claim that this secrecy is either absolute and universal or it doesn't exist at all is a smoke screen. People using the sacrament of confession in the usual way would have no reason to think the priest would not be bound to secrecy as always.    As to the second, that to express disagreement with the law is to be automatically guilty of incitement: others will be able to explain this more surely than I, but it seems to me that journalists in particular may publicly declare that they will never divulge their source no matter what - and merely declaring their position does not amount to the crime of incitement. In fact, don't we all protest against some laws from time to time, declaring them to be bad laws?      In short, if this proposal is taken up and written into law, "that a priest hearing in confession that this person has sexually abused a child is bound to report this to the police", I would still presume that the secrecy of the confessional would be respected by the priest in every other instance. Hence it would not affect my religious practice in the least.....(more)

Sexual abuse: Catholic priests must confess to regain our shaken faith
Extract from Nick O'Malley, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 August 2017
Father Michael McArdle was reportedly so distressed by his acts of child sexual abuse in Queensland that he would often seek the succour of the confessional. Over a 25-year period, before he was convicted in 2002, he confessed to sexually assaulting children an estimated 1500 times to 30 different priests. In keeping with Catholic tradition in Australia, the priests did not report his crimes to authorities, but moved him on to different parishes, to greener pastures.     McArdle's case resonates this week because on Monday the royal commission into child sex abuse released 85 recommendations on improvements to the criminal justice system. Among them was the proposal that the seal of the religious confessional be broken and that clergy who fail to report child abuse revealed in confession face criminal prosecution, just as anyone else in Australia would. Since the Catholic Church is the only major religion in Australia that still insists its canon law be held above secular law in this regard, this was rightly seen as a challenge, and the Catholic Church, defensive of its significant privileges, responded.       On Tuesday Melbourne's archbishop, Denis Hart, told the ABC: "I believe that this is an absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order which priests by nature respect, they don't ever want to do anything that would hurt children," he said.     Writing for Fairfax Media this week, Father Frank Brennan said he would go to jail before abiding by such a law and sought to explain his reasoning. "Common sense tells me that a sex abuser would be even less likely to present for confession if he knew that the confessional seal did not apply," he wrote. "If the seal of the confessional were maintained, there is a chance, just a chance, that a child sex abuser might be convinced by the priest to turn himself in. Take away the seal, and that ever so slim chance will be snuffed out."       Brennan's is a reasonable argument and once upon a time it might even have been a satisfactory one. Not now, not after we have learnt from the same royal commission that 7 per cent of priests working between 1950 and 2009 were accused of child abuse. Not after we learnt of the 4444 alleged cases of sexual abuse they stand accused of. Not after we learnt of the extraordinary energy the church dedicated to protecting itself and its priests from justice.   In this environment the church's case fails on practical and moral grounds....(more)
Sex abuse and the seal of the confessional
Extract from Opinion Piece, Kieran Tapsell, National Catholic Reporter, 18 August 2017
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has just released its Criminal Justice Report in which it deals with many matters relating to the way child sexual abuse within institutions is handled by the Australian criminal justice system. In the course of that report, it recommends mandatory reporting of all suspected child sexual abuse within institutions and the creation of new offences of failing to take proper care to prevent such abuse.       One recommendation that understandably created some media interest is that there should be no exemption to the reporting requirements for information provided in confession.         The commission’s report produces convincing evidence, not only in Australia, but also overseas, that priest sex abusers used confession as a means of assuaging their guilt. It made it easier for them to repeat their crimes because confession was always available.     Priest sex abusers used confession to assuage their guilt, making it easier for them to repeat their crimes.       In a response to the report, Jesuit Fr. Frank Brennan stated that a civil law requirement for priests to break the seal of confession was unlikely to lead to better protection for children because abusers would not confess such matters if they knew they had to be reported. Brennan said that he would disobey any such law and accept the consequences.     Archbishop Denis Hart, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, in his response said that the secret of the confessional is a “fundamental part of the freedom of religion…and it must remain so here in Australia.” In an interview on ABC Radio, Hart said he would go to jail rather than breach the secret.      It is surprising that no church representative has mentioned a way in which the church could significantly reduce the risk of breach of the seal by a fairly simple change to canon law based on a problem that has a long history.....(more)  Photo: A confessional booth at Old St. Mary's Church in Detroit. NCR, CNS photo/Mike Stechschulte.
 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, 18 August 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).     “That remarkable 16th-century invention that shaped the politics, mentality and interior life, as well as the art and theology of the West and its former colonies, did not die out (there are still roughly 420,000 priests in the world)," noted Melloni in a March 22nd article in the Rome-based daily, La Repubblica.      "But in the last century, it has been in crisis.”     “Over the past ninety years in Italy we have gone from having nearly 15,000 to only 2,700 seminarians,” he pointed out.      But the enormous drop in numbers is not the most worrying sign of this outdated model of priesthood and seminary formation.    Instead, Melloni says it is the “drop in the intellectual quality” of the men who choose to join the priesthood and the bishops that ordain them. And, furthermore, it is the fact that the current system continues to be a breeding ground of the “vice” the professor correctly identifies as “clericalism".      Melloni, the leading voice of the so-called “Bologna School”, argues that the “diminished role and affective negligence” of priests have led to the “exaltation of celibacy, which traps sexuality in a search for sublimation and attracts people to the priesthood who have unresolved (problems) or are even sick”.     Pope Francis has said as much on the numerous occasions he has talked about the selection and training of candidates for ordained ministry.....(Source).   Photo: La Croix International, The Council of Trent /Wikimedia Commons 
PAUL COLLINS. An Open Letter to Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher
Extract from Pearls and iritations, John Mendaue Blog, 18 August 2017    
I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church… The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country.
Dear Anthony,  Like many Australian Catholics, I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church. No one questions your right to hold such views, but many are concerned when you identify them—or allow others, such as journalists—to identify them with the teaching of the Church. You must be aware that, as Archbishop, journalists will take what you say as authoritative and as pitching “the Catholic Church in a heated battle against Labor and key backers of the Yes campaign”, as reported in The Australian on 14/8/17. You may be involved in a “heated debate” with the Labor Party and the “yes” campaign, but most Australian Catholics are not....(more)
Cardinal's plan for laypeople to lead parishes
Parish clustering is no answer to priest shortage, says German Cardinal Reinard Marx, a top aide and advisor to Pope Francis.
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, subscription journal La Croix International, 17 August 2017
Cardinal Reinhard Marx has announced plans to allow laypeople in his Archdiocese of Munich to lead parishes where there are no priests.      In doing so he has strongly rejected the increasingly common option of coping with the dwindling number of ordained ministers by combining or “clustering” parishes.     The 63-year-old cardinal is a top aide and advisor to Pope Francis.     He recently told the 180 members of Munich’s diocesan council – its most important lay body – that it was important to preserve individual parishes as a way of guaranteeing the Church’s presence locally.    Speaking at the council’s plenary assembly on March 18th, the cardinal said the Archdiocese of Munich would introduce a pilot project in the fall with new models of parish leadership. Specifically, he said full-time and voluntary lay personnel would take over parishes....(source)  Photo: La Croix International, Wolfgang Roueka, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Church reform groups support call for Year of the Laity
Extract from Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter, 17 August 2017
U.S. Emboldened by Pope Francis, church reformers are endorsing a call by the Brazilian bishops for a Year of the Laity, expanded to include conferences and observances around the world from November of this year until November 2018.    The meetings will focus on why "the people of God need to be treated equally in the church" and "the people taking the Gospel out into the world," Rene Reid, director of Catholic Church Reform International, told NCR.     Groups lining up in support of the Year of the Laity include Catholic Church Reform International as well as Call to Action, she said. Participants from those groups will be urging an increased role for the laity in the church. They will promote lay participation in the selection of bishops, an end to mandatory celibacy for clergy and openness to allowing the Eucharist for divorced and remarried Catholics as well as the LGBTQ community.  Reid said the impetus for the movement comes from Pope Francis. "He wants the people of God to step up and take a leadership role, and we are," she said....(more)
Confession above the law: Archbishop Hart
Extract from CathNews, The Guardian, 16 August 2017
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said he would risk going to jail rather than report allegations of child sexual abuse raised during confession, The Guardian reports.   The Archbishop said the sacredness of communication with God during confession should be above the law.   He was responding to a report from the child sex abuse royal commission calling for reforms that, if adopted by governments, would see failure to report child sex abuse in institutions become a criminal offence, extending to information given in religious confessions.     Speaking to ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne, Archbishop Hart said he stood by comments he made in 2011 that priests would rather be jailed than violate the sacramental seal.        I believe [confession] is an absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order that priests by nature respect,” he said yesterday.    “We are admitting a communication with God is of a higher order,” he said. “It is a sacred trust. It’s something those who are not Catholics find hard to understand but we believe it is most, most sacred and it’s very much part of us.”    He said much of the abuse that occurred was historical and awareness of abuse was greater now, and he believed it was unlikely “anything would ever happen” today.    But if someone were to confess they had been sexually abused or they knew of someone who had been, Archbishop Hart said it would be adequate to encourage them to tell someone else outside of confession. For example, he would encourage a child to tell a teacher, who are already mandated under law to report....(more)  Photo: CathNews
Frank Brennan: why I will break the law rather than the seal of confession
Extracts from Sydney Morning Herald, 15 August 2017,
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published a 2000-page three volume Criminal Justice Report. One of its recommendations is that the states and territories "create a criminal offence of failure to report targeted at child sexual abuse in an institutional context".    If such an offence were created, those of us who work in an institution which cares for children would be required to report to police if we knew, suspected or should have suspected that another adult working in the institution was sexually abusing or had sexually abused a child.    Failure to report could result in a criminal conviction. The commission notes: "We acknowledge that if this recommendation is implemented then clergy hearing confession may have to decide between complying with the civil law obligation to report and complying with a duty in their role as a confessor."    Being a priest and a lawyer, I welcome the recommendation of this new criminal offence in most instances, but I will continue to comply with my duty as a confessor. The public, and not just my fellow Catholics, are entitled to know why.......Those who advocate the abolition of the seal of the confessional have a mistaken understanding of how confession is actually practised in the Catholic Church. If the law is changed, abolishing the seal of the confessional, I will conscientiously refuse to comply with the law because in good faith I will be able to claim that it is a bad law which does nothing to protect children and which may take away the one possibility that a sex offender will repent and turn himself in, making the world that little bit safer for vulnerable children. I will console myself with the thought that if police learn of my "wrongdoing", it will be because the confessing abuser has voluntarily turned himself in.....(more)  Father Frank Brennan SJ is chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia.
Pope providing 'inspirational leadership'
Extract from CathNews,. BBI-TAITE, 11 August 2017
Communities across Australia and as far away as Peru, Mexico and Japan yesterday engaged in an interactive discussion about the unique leadership style of Pope Francis, according to host BBI-The Australian Institute of Theological Education.     Held in partnership with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, BBI's 13th National eConference brought together prominent international and national speakers including the former NSW premier and foreign minister Bob Carr, the Editor at Large at The Australian, Paul Kelly and the Chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Elizabeth Proust, to reflect on the theme, 'Gospel leadership in times of chaos: the hope of Pope Francis'.   Vatican II expert Massimo Faggioli from the US, President of Catholic Religious Australia, Sr Ruth Durick OSU and the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sr Clare Condon SGS were also on the speakers list.    Professor Faggioli was the first speaker, reflecting upon the transformative effect Pope Francis’ leadership has had on the Church over recent years.   “As the first non-European Pope, Pope Francis has promoted a more inclusive Church for the modern world and one which is far less Eurocentric”, he said.        “He has also helped to re-contextualise the Church, so that it reads the signs of the times and stands firmly with the marginalised, including refugees”, he added....(more).
Pope saddened by 'perfect' Catholics who scorn others
Extract from CathNews, CNS, 10 August 2017
God did not choose perfect people to form his Church, but rather sinners who have experienced his love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said, CNS reports.   The Gospel of Luke's account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how his actions went against the general mentality of his time, a way of thinking that saw a "clear separation" between the pure and impure, the Pope said yesterday during his weekly general audience.    "There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect," Pope Francis said. "And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad."     Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the Pontiff reflected on Jesus' "scandalous gesture" of forgiving the sinful woman.       The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.       Although Jesus' love toward the sick and the marginalised "baffles his contemporaries," it reveals God's heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Francis said.      "How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes -- or better yet -- with the heart of God, meaning with hope," he said. But "Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices."....(more)

Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council Announces Appointment of Plenary Council Facilitator and Facilitation Team
Extract from Media blog,  Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 5:30pm Friday 4 August 2017
The Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council today announced the appointment of Ms Lana Turvey-Collins as the Plenary Council Facilitator.  She will work in partnership with members of the Formation Team of Catholic Mission, forming a Plenary Council Facilitation Team which will comprise Fr Noel Connolly SSC and Mr Peter Gates, Deputy National Director of Catholic Mission.     Ms Turvey-Collins and the Facilitation Team are humbled by the opportunity.  “We look forward to collaborating with leaders and their teams across the diverse ministries and works of the Catholic Church and all people in Catholic communities across Australia.  Over the coming years, we hope to support local Churches to lead and facilitate authentic and open dialogue about how we are, and how we can be, a community of missionary disciples in Australia.  Pope Francis’ writings, teaching and witness are inspiration for us, as he reminds us what Jesus in today’s society looks like.”     Plenary Council 2020 and the process of consultation and dialogue is an unprecedented opportunity for the Church in Australia.  It’s an opportunity to engage with all Catholics in Australia – those who lead, those who work in Catholic organisations, those who may feel they don’t have a voice, those who feel they are outside the Church and those who show up every Sunday for Mass – a process inclusive of all.  It’s about becoming the kind of Australian Catholic community which Pope Francis is calling us to be: “a community of communities…” (EG§28)....(more).

Women now pastoral directors in ten German dioceses
The German Bishops Conference has welcomed the fact that its target of 40% of women in posts as directors of pastoral work has been achieved.
Extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner,  subscription journal La Croix International, 3 August 2017
The German Bishops Conference has welcomed the fact that its target of 40% of women in posts as directors of pastoral work has been achieved.
Fifteen years ago, Daniela Engelhard became the first woman to take overall responsibility for pastoral work in the Diocese of Osnabrück in north-west Germany. Today there are ten women holding similar positions in different German dioceses.      The German Bishops Conference (DBK) welcomed the fact that its target of 40% of women in posts as directors of pastoral work has been achieved, it said in a statement published on July 31.       At the moment the 27 German dioceses now have a woman as the head of their pastoral work departments. The women are responsible for “multiple fields of pastoral work".....(source)  Photo: La Croix International, /Klaus Nowottnick/picture-alliance/dpa/AP      
Australia must help end slavery: Griffiths
Extract from CathNews, 3 August 2017
Australians must help end modern slavery in its own backyard, actress Rachel Griffiths has told a parliamentary inquiry, 9news.com.au reports.     The public hearing for the inquiry into Establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia was held yesterday.        The inquiry follows from the UK's 2015 Modern Slavery Act, and the findings of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's report into modern human trafficking.     Ms Griffiths told the hearing that Australians needed to stamp out "slavery-like practices" undertaken by businesses and organisations in Australia.   "It's astounding that so many still believe that slavery is a horror of the past," she said.   "It's the second biggest illicit trade, behind drugs, on our planet (and) it's happening mostly in our region."....(more) 
The Pope faces his adversaries
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta with whom he had been in conflict for more than a month. This marks a new chapter in the opposition to the Argentine pontiff.
Extract from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 3 August 2017
By obtaining the resignation on Wednesday of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Pope Francis has made an important point to those who call into question the deep reforms he is undertaking in the Vatican and the Church.      Not that Brother Matthew Festing is a personal enemy of the pope, but the conflict between Francis and the Knights of Malta represents the sum of all the opposition he is encountering in his will to reform.    The chronology of events is perplexing. In early December, the Grand Master of the Order demanded the resignation of Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager, who is accused of being "a liberal Catholic, unfaithful to the teachings of the Church".....(source) 
A smaller Church of outsiders?
Massimo Faggioli discusses the debate on the future of Catholicism.
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, United States, subscription journal La Croix International, 1 August 2017
One of the debates running through western Catholicism today concerns the role and position of the Church.     The Catholic Church has always been the ultimate insider of the social, political and cultural system of the Western hemisphere. But today some Catholics are tempted to solve the Church’s internal diversities and its struggle with secularization by leaving behind this “insider” status. These people want a smaller Church, an outsider postured against the political, social and cultural dispensation of the western world.    This is particularly visible in the United States where the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and the intellectual and political crisis of the religious right is a subset of the crisis of the clerical and intellectual leadership of the institutional Catholic Church.....(source) Photo: La Croix International, St Mary's Church, Lead / Andrew Whale / Wikipedia   

Preparing to be a synodal church in Australia
Extract from Fr Noel Connoly, St Columbans eNews. 18 July 2017. Published originally as an article in The Francis Effect III: Mission of Love and Mercy.   Reprinted with permission from the author, the publisher, Catholic Mission & Catholic Religious Australia, and St Columbans eNews. 31  July 2017
The Australian church is about to enter an exciting, challenging and hopefully rewarding three-year process of consultation.     Last August Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane announced that the Australian Bishops will convoke a Plenary Council at which “everything is potentially on the radar screen”, and at which a wide representation of the church, lay and clerical, female and male will be present. From now till the Plenary Council there will be a wide consultation of the entire Australian Church so that all voices can be heard.      This is going to be a

massive and possibly messy task but if we do it well it could change the nature of the church in Australia. To some degree the process of consulting and talking with one another will be more important than the decisions the Plenary Council may make. As Pope Francis is always keen to point out, “time is more important than space” or it is the process, the change of attitudes, the new style of consultation, the different type of church that this generates is as important as the results. What Pope Francis wants is a new synodal church not just an occasional “Synod”....(more)  Author photo: St Columbans eNews   Note:  The Francis Effect III: Mission of Love and Mercy together with Parts II and I are available for purchase online from the publisher HERE
Ordinary Catholics must help with reform
Extract from Kevin Liston*, Eureka Street, 30 July 2017
There are many reform movements active in the Catholic Church. Most seem to focus on changing the structures and systems of the church, on reshaping doctrinal positions and updating teachings. Organisational reform is necessary and long overdue but there is also need for a complementary movement among ordinary Catholics.       In recent decades, the sense of ownership that people have over their own lives has undergone a significant shift. Personal authenticity and autonomy are the order of the day. More people feel they each have unique ways of being themselves and seek forms of expression that frequently do not fit traditional moulds.        There is a historically unique process of individuation going on. Finding one’s identity and understanding one’s personal experience are core concerns. More often now we understand we have a role in and responsibility for what we are to be. The structures of communities are quite different and more varied and complex.     The relevance of community has not disappeared but it has taken a different shape. In modern Australia, community is often taken for granted and accepted as background, evidenced for instance in social media.      Parishes are important local realisations of the church but there are many Catholics who do not feel comfortable or at home with present structures and ways of operating. I regard myself as a faithful Catholic, steeped in the tradition, theologically and spiritually literate, seeking a relevant, supportive community of like-minded people. However, I do not find the weekend liturgies in our parish churches to be reflective or expressive of my understanding of Christianity; they just do not speak to my world....(more)  Image: Eureka Street   3765    Kevin Liston recently completed a Master of Theological Studies at ACU after a long career working with refugees and migrants.
German Jesuit urges the public to pressure bishops on abuse investigations
“The idea that the Church, the Christian faith, and even the Bible message would be harmed if one openly discusses the problems and calls a spade a spade has become too deeply rooted in Catholic circles,” Fr Wolfgang Beck said.
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt,subsxription al journal La Croix International, 29 July 2017
A young Jesuit theologian has called on the wider public to force Germany’s bishops into investigating Church structures that foment clerical power and lack of transparency, elements he said are directly linked to abuse of minors.   “Please help to keep up the pressure,” Fr Wolfgang Beck said on July 23rd while making one of his frequent appearances on the widely viewed “Word for Sunday” program on German state television’s flagship channel.    The 43-year-old pastoral theologian spoke about the shame he felt after the reading the recently published Regensburg Domspatzen report, which revealed that more than 500 choir boys had been physically and sexually abused.....(source)
The Roman Catholic Church continues to implode
In some ways, Francis seems to be deliberately hastening its inevitable collapse by implementing the principles and methods outlined in "Evangelii gaudium" (EG), his vision and blueprint for Church renewal and reform.
Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 28 July 2017
Some five years ago I was invited to speak at the City Club of Cleveland, Ohio.    “Since 1912, the City Club has served as one of the (United States’) oldest, non-partisan and continuously operating free speech forums,” says the organization’s website.    The topic of my talk was the Vatican implosion and, as a result, the long and gradual collapse of the Catholic Church’s monarchical structure of governance and ministry....(source)
Tackling post-abortion grief and distress
Extract from CathNews, The eRecord, Archdiocese of Perth,28 July 2017
A new post-abortion grief counselling service has commenced in the Archdiocese of Perth, The eRecord reports.   Initiated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, the service aims to provide support and healing without judgement to those who have experienced an abortion, including men.           Archdiocesan Research and Project Development Manager Tony Giglia, said the new service will be provided by the Fullness of Life Centre, Pregnancy Assistance, Centrecare Inc and Abortion Grief Australia, who have all signed a memorandum of understanding with the Archdiocese.   “The services provided will be free of charge and those seeking the counselling service can be assured they are getting confidential quality support,” said Mr Giglia.      “It is about following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, so that we can further provide a Christ-centred Church that understands the experiences of the people and where they are at in their life today,” he said....(more)  Photo: CathNews, eRecord pixabay
Nun celebrates Catholic wedding in Canada
The Vatican authorized Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence to officiate at a wedding in a rural diocese in western Quebec. And in spite of her initial apprehensions, the ceremony went well.      Extract from Mélinée Le Priol, Canada, subscription journal La Croix International, 27 July 2017
Cindy and David had their religious wedding on Saturday, July 22, celebrated by… a woman.     The exceptional ceremony took place in a Catholic church at Lorrainville, 650 km west of Montreal in Canada.    In the rural diocese of Rouyn-Norand in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, the lack of priests is such that the bishop called on the assistance of Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence....(source) 
Photo: La Croix International,   Lelik83/stock.adobe.com
Theologians studying development of Humanae Vitae given access to Vatican Secret Archives
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic Herald UK, 27 July 2017
Four theologians specialising in marriage and family life are studying Vatican archival material with a view of telling the whole story of how and why Blessed Paul VI wrote his encyclical Humanae Vitae on married love.   Mgr Gilfredo Marengo, leader of the group and a professor of theological anthropology at Rome’s Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, spoke to Vatican Radio about the study on July 25, the 49th anniversary of the encyclical’s publication.    Some bloggers, writing in the spring about the study group, described it as an initiative of Pope Francis to change the encyclical’s teaching against the use of artificial contraception.    Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of the John Paul II Institute, categorically denied the bloggers’ reports.   In reply to an email, Mgr Marengo told Catholic News Service that the study “is a work of historical-critical investigation without any aim other than reconstructing as well as possible the whole process of composing the encyclical”.   “Anyone who imagined any other aim should have simply done their work and verified their sources,” he said....(more)  Photo: Blessed Pope Paul VI (Photo: Getty)
Cardinal Pell to plead not guilty to historic sexual abuse charges
Extract from Mark Brolly, The Tablet, 26 July 2017
Magistrate Duncan Reynolds has refused the media's request for access to the court file, including charge sheets.   Cardinal Pell to plead not guilty to historic sexual abuse charges.    Cardinal George Pell has made his first appearance in a Melbourne court today (26 July) to face multiple charges of sexual abuse laid by Victoria Police last month. But the six-minute hearing ended without the precise charges being revealed.     The 76-year-old Cardinal, who last month was granted leave by Pope Francis from his post as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, was escorted into the Melbourne Magistrates' Court by police amid a large media pack for what was described as a filing hearing. Some journalists and camera crews had arrived at the court more than four hours before Cardinal Pell's arrival at 9am on Wednesday (Melbourne time).      He said nothing during the hearing or outside of the court.    Leading Melbourne barrister Mr Robert Richter QC told the court: "For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, might I indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has."    Prosecutor Andrew Tinney, SC (Senior Counsel), warned the media that all reports should be limited to "fair and accurate reports of the proceedings"....(more) 
Regensburg choir abuse report 'shatters' bishop
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 26 July 2017
'This is not a matter of individual cases of abuse as Cardinal Müller always insisted when he was Bishop of Regensburg'     The Bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, has asked the hundreds of victims in the Domspatzen choir scandal for forgiveness saying that he is “absolutely shattered” by the findings of the report released last week.    Published on 17 July, the report, commissioned by the diocese of Regensburg and compiled by the lawyer Ulrich Weber, stated that 547 boys were abused at the prestigious choir school in Regensburg, Bavaria, between the years 1945 and 1992.    Bishop Voderholzer’s response contrasted with that of former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, who was bishop of Regensburg form 2002 to 2012, who admitted that he “experienced shame for what has happened in the Church” but emphasised “everything that was possible and necessary was done” and refused to apologise....(more)
Why are German Catholics leaving the Church?
The Diocese of Essen has launched a major study into the reasons that Catholics are abandoning the Church. “Distancing” and “a lack of attachment” were found to be two primary reasons.   Extract from Delphine Nerbollier, Germany, subscription journal La Croix International, 25 July 2017
Altogether 162,000 Germans stopped paying their church taxes in 2016 and thus “left” the ranks of the Catholic Church.   Just over 4,000 people did this in the diocese of Essen (West Germany), which has launched a large scale study in an effort to understand the reasons for the departure of these former churchgoers.    What does the study consist of?...(source)  Photo: Frauenkirch in Munich, Germany, as viewed from the tower of Peter's Church. / David Iliff / Wikipedia / CC BY 2.5 
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/News.com.au      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  Image:patterni.net
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 ucanews.com 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,  cebudailynews.enquirer.net
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, ucanews.com 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 herehttp://www.catholicsforrenewal.org/open-letter).

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 katholisch.de.    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)