Catholics for Renewal


News 2018

    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.

"Response of Australian bishops and religious leaders is more dithering"
                                    - Full editorial Here -

"On 31 August 2018, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) released their official Response to 80 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  It came 259 days after the Royal Commission’s Final Report, and 123 days after the Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC) advised them on what to do....".....Full editorial HERE 

    Earlier Editorials Here
EVENT  - Western Spirituality  in the Pub
Clerical Abuse: the human cost to survivors/victims
Fr Kevin Dillon AM PP
7:30 pm, Wednesday, 28th November. Club Italia, Furlong Rd, St Albans                  (details on EVENTS page)

2020 PLENARY INPUTS: complementary 'Issue' resources for  online viewing / download
Primary resources explaining the 2020/2021 Australian Plenary Council and its preparatory processes are published on the Plenary Council 2020 website.  Additional complementary resources produced by Catholics for Renewal in collaboration with the Yarra Deanery collate selected short documents on key issues highly relevant to what is likely to be be considered during the forthcoming Plenary Council. These 'Issue' resources are intended to further assist collective discernment during the Plenary Council agenda setting process. The final documents in this set include a discussion paper "The Rights and Responsibilities of all Catholics" and comment on a potential 'Draft Charter for 'local Churches'". These indexed resources may be viewed online or downloaded HERE

Theologian: Postponement of sex abuse norms shows Francis-US Church ‘tensions’
In this interview extract Massimo Faggioli says and suggests why  "the Catholic Church could be facing its most serious crisis in 500 years".
Extract from Charles C. Camosy, Crux Contributor, 15 November 2018
Faggioli: As I wrote in Foreign Affairs, this could be the worst crisis since the Reformation, and the Catholic Church could be facing its most serious crisis in 500 years. It is a church in need of institutional reform and facing growing political, theological, and geopolitical rifts that go beyond a simplistic ideological rift between liberals and conservatives. It is the end of a world in which there was a parallelism between Church and State with the church in charge of religion and the state of politics. But it is also a very vital church, a very important point of reference in the global world, with an intellectual tradition that is being rediscovered and re-inculturated, and not at all forgotten.      The good news in the present moment of the abuse crisis is that nobody thinks that this crisis is induced by the media, or a conspiracy. There is a lot to do: the work done on policies and procedures has already a history and a track record. What still needs to happen is a theological reflection on the abuse crisis: what this crisis means for our understanding of the Church, of the sacraments, of the liturgy, of the relations between Church and State.      How should the abuse crisis change the way we teach theology, and in my field, Church history? This kind of reflection has barely started, and this is the task especially for the younger generation of Catholics. There is no systemic change without a theological reflection on the crisis - a reflection that changes the culture of the Church......(more)  Photo: Faggioli Massimo mic Crux
US Bishops’ meeting ends with no immediate action on abuse crisis
Extract from Christopher White, National Corespondent, Crux, 15 November 2018
BALTIMORE - On what was expected to be a climatic close to the U.S. bishops’ gathering on Wednesday, the much-watched meeting ended without any immediate action on the Church’s response to clerical sexual abuse.    Instead, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, concluded with a vow of “strongest possible actions at the earliest possible moment” in response to the crisis and a pledge of loyalty from the U.S. bishops to Pope Francis.       “I opened the meeting expressing some disappointment. I end it with hope,” said DiNardo, who was left to repackage the agenda news from the Vatican on Sunday that it was requesting a delay in planned voting on new standards for bishops’ accountability until after a summit with presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world in Rome Feb. 21-24.       DiNardo ended the three-day general assembly by saying they “are on course” to investigate former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, ease the process of reporting abuse or misconduct by bishops, and develop an independent and lay-led means of holding bishops accountable.        “I am sure that, under the leadership of Pope Francis, the conversation that the global Church will have in February will help us eradicate the evil of sexual abuse from our Church,” he said. “It will make our local efforts more global and the global perspective will help us here.”....(more).  Photo: Crux CNS
Panel examines how church culture enables abuse
Media briefing tackles sex abuse crisis, prior to US bishops' meeting
Extract from Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter, 15 November 2018
....Some of the bishops' reactions early on in the crisis resulted in part from inadequate church structures for dealing with the issue, what ultimately was revealed as bad information from the psychological community, and the clergy culture's insistence on "using the language of moral failure and sin and increasingly psychological health problems — and not crimes. To get there," said Kiley, "was going to take a major cultural shift. I'm still not sure the culture has quite moved."...(More)  Photo:  NCR
Seeking a plenary council fit for purpose
Extract from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 13 November 2018
The Bishops’ Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment has now concluded in Rome. Like the Synod on the Family, this synod which was focused on youth was more inclusive and democratic than previous synods. Pope Francis has been trying to make the church more ‘synodal’. He has been happy for synod fathers to vote on each paragraph of a document, publishing the voting figures, and taking forward only those paragraphs that gain a 2 out of 3 vote. But like his predecessors, Francis rightly insists that the church is not a democracy. A synod is not a Parliament. And the Roman Church is not trying to emulate the Anglicans.        Francis raised some eyebrows at this last synod when he allowed the male religious lay representatives to vote. His conservative critics are fond of pointing out that a synod is primarily a synod of bishops meeting with the pope and think only clerics should vote. Francis raised other eyebrows, and perhaps these eyebrows were raised a little higher, when he denied any vote to the couple of women religious lay representatives in attendance. Though youth were the focus of the synod, the youth participants had no voting rights. Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher was a member of the synod. A disproportionate number of the Australian youth in attendance came from the Sydney Archdiocese. Maybe they were better organised.          When interviewed after the synod, Archbishop Fisher said, ‘We had a group of 36 young people present throughout. They were delightful. They were lovely to talk to informally, and they were not backward in coming forward in the general assemblies and the small-group discussions. Most of them were very idealistic. It really added to the whole process, having them around. But at times I felt they hunted in a pack: They would clap and cheer and whoop comments that played to a very particular script.’              We Australian Catholics are now preparing for a Plenary Council. Hopefully there will be a large number of participants at the proposed plenary council who are not bishops. They won’t all be delightful. Some will be young. And they will be wanting to do more than talk informally. When those without a deliberative vote organise to make themselves heard, it will be important for them not to be perceived by those with a deliberative vote to be hunting in a pack.....(more)
Catholic women to engage in vision for Church
Extract from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Melbourne Catholic, Tuesday 13 November 2018
Catholic women from throughout Australia will gather in Adelaide early next year to explore how to create a Church that is inclusive, missionary and discerning. Registration is now open for the triennial Council for Australian Catholic Women Colloquium with the themes of the conference being drawn from the Plenary Council 2020 process.     The Stirring the Waters: Catholic Women Responding to the Spirit event, from February 22 to 24, will engage deeply with the vision of the Plenary Council and involve women in creating the Church of the future.....(more)
NZ Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care will now include churches.
Extract from Jason Walls, New Zealand Herald, 12 November 2018
An inquiry into the historic abuse of children in state care has been expanded to include abuse in the Church.      Speaking at her weekly post-cabinet press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it is important that the Government listened to the submitters who urged the Government to include faith-based institutions in its inquiry.     The inquiry has received a new name, the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions, to reflect its now widened scope.     The inquiry will be able to begin hearing evidence from January 2019. A final report containing the Royal Commission's findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Governor-General in January 2023.        It has a budget of $78.85 million over four years, including more than $15 million to help participants by providing counselling and related support.     Ardern said she knows some of the survivors and is proud to have played "even the smallest part" in the inquiry.     The duration of the Royal Commission has also been extended to four years to reflect the wider scope, Ardern said.    "Today paves the way for us to confront a dark chapter of our national history by acknowledging what happened to people in state care, and in the care of faith-based institutions, and to learn the lessons for the future," Ardern said.    She said of the 400 submissions received on the draft Terms of Reference, including faith-based institutions in the inquiry was one of the most strongly argued issues.    Cabinet confirmed the four other members of the Inquiry to serve with the chair Sir Anand Satyanand: Ali'imuamua Sandra Alofivae, MNZM; Dr Andrew Erueti; Paul Gibson; and Judge Coral Shaw....(more)
The calm before the storm
Anticipating a reforming pope’s radical plan to curtail the Roman Curia
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription Journal La Croix International, 9 November 2018
Vatican City. Some are cautiously looking forward to it with hopeful expectations. Others are fearing it with dread and despair. It’s the upcoming reform and restructuring of the Roman Curia.  As Massimo Faggioli recently pointed out, it could be one of the most significant structural changes Pope Francis makes in a determined effort -- contested by some members of the hierarchy -- to bring about a more decentralized and synodal Church.     The Jesuit pope has spent his entire pontificate working on curia reform with the help of an international group of senior advisors called the Council of Cardinals (C9).     When he announced the establishment of this unprecedented body just four weeks after being elected Bishop of Rome, he said its purpose was “to advise him in the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the apostolic constitution” that defines the curia’s purpose and structures.    Most observers made little of the C9’s primary mandate (to advise the pope on governing the worldwide Church) and focused almost exclusively on its second and more specific task at hand -- re-writing the apostolic constitution. They foresaw the project’s completion within a year or so.    Instead, the reform has not yet been concluded despite the fact that Francis has been in office just a few months shy of six years.   During this long period those who eagerly want the reform have expressed frustration with the 81-year-old pope for not acting more swiftly.   But, in actual fact, Francis has been rolling out major changes in the Vatican structures all along. By reducing and merging a number of offices, for example, he has already begun changing the complexion of the curia.   Because of this, once an all-encompassing reform is finally unveiled, it may not seem to be as jolting. But with a pope who has not been afraid to.....(source)  Photo: La Croix International
Open letter to the US Catholic bishops: It's over
Extract from Opinion, Editorial Staff, National Catholic Reporter, 9 November 2018
Dear brothers in Christ, shepherds, fellow pilgrims,    We address you as you approach this year's national meeting in Baltimore because we know there is nowhere left to hide. It's over.  All the manipulations and contortions of the past 33 years, all the attempts to deflect and equivocate — all of it has brought the church, but especially you, to this moment.  It's over.  Even the feds are now on the trail. They've ordered that you not destroy any documents. The Department of Justice is conducting a national criminal investigation of how you've handled the clergy sex abuse scandal. It is a point in our history without precedent. We want you to know that you aren't alone in this moment, you've not been abandoned. But this time it must be different.      This time it won't be easy.    From fable to sacred text, we know how this goes.   The point is reached where all realize the king wears no clothes, the righteous accusers read the writing in the sand and fade away, the religious authorities receive the Master's most stinging rebukes. As a class of religious rulers, the loudest among you have become quite good at applying the law and claiming divine authority in marginalizing those who transgress the statutes. The prolonged abuse scandal would suggest, however, that you've not done very well taking stock of yourselves.     We have no special insight into why this moment — the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the downfall of Theodore McCarrick — has so captured the public imagination and pushed the church to this outer limit of exposure and vulnerability. There are theories, not least of which is that the opportunists among us are attempting to use this moment to bring down the only pope who has actually dethroned bishops and a cardinal for their crimes and indiscretions.   But that's an issue for another time.    The reality, we all know, is that it has been going on for a long time. The first national story appeared across four pages of this publication in the summer of 1985.  The worst of it occurred during the pontificate of the hastily sainted John Paul II, a giant on the world stage, but a pastor who let wolves roam his own flock. His idealized concept of heroic priesthood apparently left him incapable of hearing the truth from credible witnesses, including the few bishops who dared disturb that idealized world with troubling reports. He promoted to the end Marciel Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, and a persona who came to represent the worst of the abuse scandal. Maciel, an accomplished sycophant, kept scrutiny at bay with his ability to spread a lot of young priests and a lot of money around the Vatican....(more)  Photo: NCR,  Dreamstime Kts
Jesuits to release names of accused priests in the west
Extract from Michael J. O’Loughlin, America, The Jesuit Review,  9 November 2018
Jesuits in the western part of the United States will release the names of all members of the religious order in that region with “credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors” dating back to 1950, Scott Santarosa, S.J., the provincial of the region, announced in a letter on Friday.       “While the Church in the U.S. has experienced significant reform in this area, we are now called to deepen that reform by becoming more transparent,” Father Santarosa wrote. “In issuing this list and calling for an independent review, we hope to offer victims and their families a step forward in the healing process.”....(more)
Pope says all citizens morally bound to engage in politics
Vatican issues teaser of Pope Francis’ World Peace Day message as US midterms dilute President Trump’s power
Limited extract from staff subscription journal La Croix International (with Catholic News Service) 7 Nov. 2018, republished 9 November 2018
Vatican City. The Vatican has released a teaser of Pope Francis’ message to celebrate World Peace Day on Jan. 1 and the focus will be on “good politics.”    The theme will be “good politics is at the service of peace,” stressing how all cit....(source)
(US) Elections Are Over: Leadership Challenge Continues….
[Ed: A 'leadership' reflection with timely global relevance]
Extract from J.A.Dick, Another Voice, Reflections on Contemporary Christian Belief and Practice, Being a Theologian, 9 November 2018
Our early American predecessors lived in times of tremendous social change. Sometimes we overly romanticize their lives, forgetting their environment of fear, social unrest, “Indian” atrocities, counter-reaction colonialists’ atrocities, slave rebellions, fear-mongering propagandists, intercultural conflicts, and the terrorism spread by rumors of foreign intrigue.       Almost two decades into the third millennium, our country and our world are changing even more dramatically. Fear and anxiety are byproducts. The pace of change is accelerating.      A bit ironically, a great many contemporary people are anxiously trying to maintain their identity as their very identity itself is changing. White Christian America, for example as I mentioned last week, is diminishing as a new form of American culture is evolving: multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious. These elements, in fact, are what makes America great.        The changing U.S. cultural landscape is more our challenge than our danger. We have always been a country of immigrants.    Human problems require human solutions, people need to work together. Otherwise, we disintegrate in feverish polarized chaos.      We all need to refine and exercise constructive leadership skills. At the same time, we need to critique and disempower those “leaders,” in religion as well as in politics, who do not lead but control. They are not real leaders, but self-promoting authoritarian managers, whose values and behavior oppose genuine Christianity and authentic democracy.         What qualities characterize genuine and constructive leaders?......(more)  Image: Another Voice
New reform group calls for Church to rethink sexuality
Extract from Sarah McDonald, The Tablet, 8 November 2018
A new group promoting church reform in a range of areas including sexuality, education and the role of women in the Church has been launched by a Dublin parish priest.      Fr Joe McDonald founded the Roncalli Community, which is named after Pope John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council. Fr McDonald is author of Why the Irish Church Deserves to Die, and was one of the victims of clerical abuse who met Pope Francis in Dublin in August.     “I think sexuality is the area where we as a Church have made the greatest mess,” Fr McDonald told The Tablet. “We need a major rethink of how we present sexuality.” He said this should bear on every level in the faith community, from school through to Catholic teacher training colleges.    “This rethink would also have something to say about how we present sexuality in the seminary,” he said. “For example, which is the most important question for a young man presenting for priesthood: are you straight or gay, or can you live celibacy healthily?”      The group’s reform agenda includes a call to replace seminaries with “satellite mini seminaries in frontline parishes”; shorter terms for bishops; inviting back where appropriate those who have left ministry; involving women in formation for ministry and at every level including governance....(more)
Guam archdiocese files for bankruptcy amid abuse claims
Archdiocese of Agana will remain operational as it seeks to overcome settlements totaling more than US$115 million
Limited extract from International staff, subscription journal La Croix International, 8 November 2018
The Catholic Archdiocese of Agana in Guam has filed for bankruptcy several months after Archbishop Anthony Apuron, 73, was suspended from office and barred from returning to the Pacific island after being convicted in a sex abuse trial.      The archdiocese said the filing would help it reach settlements with child sex abuse victims as it faces over 180 claims against priests in the U.S. island territory in Micronesia, the Associated Press reported.....(source) Photo: Guam Cathedral, La Croix International,  Abasaa
Catholic agencies closely monitor giving after clergy sex abuse shock
Extract from Dennis Sadowski, Crux Now, Catholic News Service, 8 November 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Leaders and fundraisers at Catholic organizations are cautiously monitoring the level of donations and gifts as the end-of-the-year giving season approaches, hoping that the clergy sexual abuse scandal won’t negatively affect their bottom line.    While most of the professionals contacted by Catholic News Service said it is too early yet to see what effect, if any, the abuse crisis may have on giving, some are taking steps to reassure donors that money contributed to vital ministries is not going for settlements to abuse victims or payments to attorneys....(more)
New bones found on Vatican property as others go for testing
Extracts from Melbourne Catholic, Crux Now Thursday 8 November 2018
Two days after bones found on Vatican property last week were sent for DNA testing and comparisons, more remains were uncovered in the same area, and are believed to belong to the same individual.     According to Italian agency ANSA, the new remains, found Tuesday, consist of part of a skull and jawbone. Authorities believe the fragments belong to the same partial-skeleton uncovered last week by workers carrying out restoration on a building attached to the Vatican’s embassy to Italy......For many Italians, the discovery of the bones has reawakened curiosity and speculation over the cold cases of Emanuela Orlandi, whose father worked at the time for the Vatican bank and lived on Vatican property, and Mirella Gregori, who went missing about a month before Orlandi.      Neither of the girls’ bodies were ever found, and in the years since their disappearance, Orlandi in particular has become the source of many varying conspiracy theories.              According to some theories, Orlandi was kidnapped in a bid to put pressure on the Vatican to conceal the financial misdealings of mafia members found to have ties to the Vatican bank, while others, including Rome’s famed exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth, insist that the youth was murdered after being coaxed into a sex ring which had the participation of members of the Vatican police force and diplomats close to the Holy See.     Still others have linked her disappearance to an attempt by international terrorists to force the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who shot Saint Pope John Paul II in 1981 in an assassination attempt.    None of these theories have ever been proven, and with the discovery of the bones, many are hopeful it will bring closure to the case.....(more)
Pope Francis' struggle to bring forth a synodal Church
Synodality for Francis is not just a form of Church government but a way of being Church
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, United States, subscription journal La Croix International, 5 November 2018
The most visible critique of the just concluded Synod of Bishops’ assembly on young people has focused on sections in the final document that call for a strengthening of synodality at all levels of the Church.         It is absolutely surprising how very little so many bishops know about synodality, a method Pope Francis has sought to develop throughout his pontificate and a concept Catholic theologians have been discussing for at least a couple of decades.      In order to understand how the pope’s ecclesiology is currently being received, we should look back at the concept of episcopal collegiality as it was introduced at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).      It is well known that this was a “new” concept for the Council Fathers, who debated and finally approved by principle most notably in the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, which was promulgated in November 1964.     Less known is that Catholic theologians had done substantial work in collegiality during the preparation phase of Vatican II. One notable example was the 1961 book edited by Yves Congar and Bernard-Dominique Dupuy, The Episcopate and the Universal Church.     During the actual sessions of Vatican II other theologians and historians published even more books and scholarly articles on the topic.        These were fundamental in convincing the bishops council at both ends of the sp....(Source) Photo: La Croix Int Fabio Frustaci EPA MAXPPP
Anti-abuse push still a ‘work in progress’
Extract from CathNews,Crux, 1 November 2018
Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli says the final document from the Synod of Bishops on youth left out a firm apology for the abuse crisis because not all areas of the world understand the severity of the issue.        “Certain parts of the Church in the world are [just] coming to understand what it means to take a position of zero tolerance, and the Synod is a reflection of the Church throughout the world,” Archbishop Comensoli told Crux.    “It’s not just Australia, it’s not just the United States, it’s not just Germany, or Chile or where the manifestations of abuse have been most intensely felt,” so the final document had to take this into consideration, he said.    For Archbishop Comensoli, a universal understanding of just how widespread sexual abuse is in the Church and the scarring effect that it has on victims is still a work in progress.   “Particularly for me in my context, zero tolerance is an absolute, and I’ll certainly go back to my own people to talk about this and say that no matter what has been said in terms of the final document, how we operate in the Archdiocese of Melbourne is that any form of abuse – from its very early stages in grooming [victims] through the horrors of physical activity – is not to be tolerated at all.”....(more)  Photo: CathNews, YouTube, Vatican News. 
Iowa diocese covered up priest’s abuse of 50 boys
Extract from Ryan J. Foley, Special to Crux, 1 November 2018
FORT DODGE, Iowa - A Catholic diocese acknowledged Wednesday that it concealed for decades a priest’s admission that he sexually abused dozens of Iowa boys - a silence that may have put other children in danger.    Father Jerome Coyle, now 85, was stripped of his parish assignments in the 1980s but never defrocked. And it was not until this week, after The Associated Press inquired about him, that he was publicly identified by the church as an admitted pedophile, even though the Diocese of Sioux City had been aware of his conduct for 32 years.     The diocese recently helped Coyle move into a retirement home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, without informing administrators at the Catholic school across the street.    In 1986, Coyle reported his “history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys” to Sioux City’s bishop, revealing that he had victimized approximately 50 youngsters over a 20-year period while serving in several Iowa parishes , according to a private letter written in February by the diocese vicar general and obtained by the AP.    The diocese told the AP on Wednesday that it never contacted police or informed the public after Coyle’s admission.    “The diocese admits it could have been handled better,” diocese spokeswoman Susan O’Brien said. But she said the policies in place at the time did not call for notifying police or the public.....(more).
Dublin Archbishop shocked by the lack of understanding in Rome
Church leaders were too slow to open up to victims and survivors, or understand the role they could play in addressing abuse, says Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Limited extract from International staff, subscription journal La Croix International,29 October 2018
Ireland. Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin says he is surprised by the lack of understanding in Rome that the basis of the current clergy sex abuse crisis lies within its religious culture....(source)
Closing the synod, Pope Francis highlights “the three fundamental steps on the journey of faith”
Extract from Gerard O’Connell, America, The Jesuit Review, 28 October 2018
There are “three fundamental steps on the journey of faith: to listen, to be a neighbor, to bear witness,” Pope Francis said in his homily at the closing Mass for the synod on young people in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 28.       He delivered his challenging homily about “the journey of faith,” as he concelebrated Mass with the 260 synod fathers from more than 130 countries. Also in attendance at Mass were the 36 young people from all continents who had actively participated in this historic event, and who processed into the basilica in front of the priests, bishops, cardinals and pope. During the Mass the young people read the first two Scripture readings in English and Italian, and later read prayers in Hindi, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese and Chinese.      Commenting on the story from the Gospel of St. Mark about the blind, beggar man, Bartimaeus, who called out to Jesus as he walked on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, the pope recalled that after Jesus stopped, listened to what he had to say and gave him back his sight, the man became a disciple and walked with him and the other disciples to the holy city.     “We, too, have walked alongside one another; we have been a ‘synod’,” he told them, before offering a roadmap for their future lives......Francis warned that “when faith is concerned purely with doctrinal formulae, it risks speaking only to the head without touching the heart. And when it is concerned with activity alone, it risks turning into mere moralizing and social work.”      The Jesuit pope explained that “faith, instead, is life: it is living in the love of God who has changed our lives.” He told the bishops and young people: “We cannot choose between doctrine and activism. We are called to carry out God’s work in God’s own way: in closeness, by cleaving to him, in communion with one another, alongside our brothers and sisters.” He emphasized that “closeness” is “the secret to communicating the heart of the faith.”      Moreover, he said, “being a neighbor means bringing the newness of God into the lives of our brothers and sisters” and “serves as an antidote to the temptation of easy answers and fast fixes.” Being a neighbor means rejecting “the temptation to wash our hands,” he said; it means “to imitate Jesus and, like him, to dirty our hands.” Francis reminded them, “Jesus became my neighbor: It all starts from there. And when, out of love of him, we, too, become neighbors, we become bringers of new life” and “witnesses of the love that saves.”....(full report HERE)   Photo: America, The Jesuit Review,  CNS Paul Haring 20181028
Synod urges ‘rigorous measures’ on abuse but stops short of ‘zero tolerance’
Link to report from John L. Allen Jr. Crux, 27 October 2018)
[Ed: For an accessible and relatively comprehensive overview of the Synod output document read this report HERE]
Synod ends, calling women's inclusion in Catholic leadership a 'duty of justice'
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 27 October 2018
Vatican City — A worldwide gathering of hundreds of the Catholic Church's prelates ended Oct. 27 with the issuing of some of the global institution's strongest language yet for the inclusion of women in its all-male decision-making structures, calling the matter a "duty of justice" that requires a "courageous cultural conversion."       Although the final document from the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops does not mention women's ordination -- neither to the priesthood nor to the diaconate -- it acknowledges that women have been excluded from decision-making processes even when they "do not specifically require ministerial responsibility."            "The absence of women's voices and points of view impoverishes discussion and the path of the church, subtracting a precious contribution from discernment," it states. "The synod recommends making everyone more aware of the urgency of an inescapable change."       A 60-page text that was the fruit of intense discussions among 267 male prelates and 72 lay auditors at the month-long synod gathering, the document however softens an earlier draft's language regarding the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis, retreating from a promise that the Catholic Church would practice "zero tolerance" on the issue.        Where the first draft, presented to the synod participants privately Oct. 23, had five paragraphs devoted to clergy abuse, the final version has three. Instead of the original reference to "zero tolerance," the final version says the synod "reaffirms the firm commitment for the adoption of rigorous measures of prevention" of abuse.      The final text says that revelations of abuse have become a "serious obstacle" to the fulfillment of the church's mission, and admits that many abuse cases have been handled in a manner "lacking responsibility and transparency."       The synod text also retreats on the issue of the church's ministry to gay people, both refraining from repeating the Vatican's earlier first use of the acronym LGBT and replacing the first draft's condemnation of violence based on "sexual orientation" with one against "sexually-based violence."      "The synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the church, renewing its commitment against every discrimination and sexually-based violence," states the final document.....(more)  Photo: NVR, CNS, Vatican Media
Letter From Rome - Something is happening on the way to the ‘forum’
With his latest Synod assembly, the pope has taken another step in reforming the Church. But are all the bishops with him?
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 26 October 2018
Vatican City.  The XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment comes to end this weekend and, no matter what the final document contains, one can already begin to draw up a balance sheet of what has emerged over its 25 days of meetings and events.      The critics of Pope Francis were already skeptical before the Oct. 3-28 gathering at the Vatican even started. And as the sessions unfolded over the course of these past few weeks, they have dismissed much of the deliberations as amounting to little more than a farce.      Some of them have accused the pope — who is the president of the Synod — and his top aides in the Synod’s general secretariat of “rigging” the assembly on youth, just as they denounced Francis and his supporters for “fixing” the procedures and outcome of the other two assemblies (on marriage and the family) that have taken place in his pontificate.     Even Francis loyalists like India’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a member of the pope’s C9 council of advisors, have raised questions over the process that’s been followed — or ignored — in this latest Synod assembly.   (We’ll get to that in a moment.)      But, as was argued here last week, the gathering has been “but a single step on a much longer and transformative journey,” marking “yet another necessary juncture on the road towards radically reforming structures of ecclesial governance and effecting a ‘conversion’ of the papacy itself.”      So, what are the early results of this latest episcopal summit in Rome?      'Synodality' still widely misunderstood.      The first thing that must be noted is that Pope Francis still has a steep challenge in clearing up the considerable confusion many Catholics have about the exact nature of the Synod of Bishops and the process of synodality he is trying to make a constitutive part of the Church’s very constitution.     Some of his critics have warned that the pope is trying to turn the Roman Church’s decision-making process into something similar to the way the Anglic...(Source)   Photo: Youth Synod end 20181026 M.Migliorato CPP Ciric.
Special Moment at the Youth Synod
Extract from Salt & Light, Melbourne Catholic, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Friday 26 October 2018
During the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth, a special moment happened. One of the young auditors, Yadira Vieyra, a research specialist in child development at the University of Chicago, was invited to read part of her small language group's report in the Synod hall.      The invitation came from the group's secretary, Bishop Mark Edwards of Melbourne, Australia. Here's the story in Yadira and and Mark's own words....(more - including 2'30" video)  Photo. Extract, Melbourne Catholic, CAM
Synod of Bishops: ‘Synodality’ is the keyword
Extracts from Melbourne Catholic, Vatican News, Friday 26 October 2018
On Thursday two main issues were discussed at the press briefing for the Synod of Bishops on Young People: Synodality as the way forward and the scandal of sex abuse in the Church.....Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, O.F.M., from Peru said that the Synod was an experience of great cooperation and that the Church’s understanding of synodality has been developed. He said that synodality is a keyword and that in these days it has been a true gift of the Holy Spirit. He said that he Church must work on this and practice it more so that it grows. He said that the bishops are all called to enhance cooperation in the Church. The Archbishop said that the bishops speak in communion with the Pope, in service of the people of God......Cardinal Arlindo Gomes Furtado from Cape Verde said that the experience of the Synod was one of communion. He said that the model is one that impressed him, he intends using it in his diocese. He said that the method of the Synod has helped participants progress in joy and communion and it is a way forward that the Church must pursue.....All those present at the press briefing spoke about the sexual abuse of minors.....Mr Galhardo said that as young people, it is very difficult because they have heard the testimonies of victims, their peers, which are terrible stories. He said that this is not the Church he knows, the Church that he experienced as a young boy or the one he believes in. He said that this is not the Church that he has experienced at the Synod, a Church that is journeying together. He said that young people (his friends) refer to abuse as if this is all the Church is in the world. He went on to say that it is hard to defend the Church in the situation of abuse and that the church of abuse is not the Church of Jesus Christ, ‘that is another church,’ he said....Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti from Italy said abuse has hurt the whole body of Christ; the whole Church has suffered because of what has happened. He said that the Church needs to take responsibility for this which includes cooperating with civil authorities and the judiciary......The Cardinal went on to say that prevention is key and that seminaries need to use all the instruments of the human sciences to assess candidates for priesthood and religious life. It is not enough to report on what has happened, the Church must now adopt all possible means to prevent this. He said that the Italian bishops will be meeting in November for a full day to discuss this issue in depth....(more)
Evangelizing the ‘digital continent’
Limited extract from Gauthier Vaillant, subscription journal La Croix International, 25 October 2018
In the final document of the Synod assembly on young people, the bishops are expected to take a balanced look at new technologies.      As expected, and as in any contemporary reflection on the youth, whether in the Church or elsewhere, the issue of new technologies, the Internet and social networks was a major topic of discussion at this year’s Synod assembly on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.     Many of the synod fathers issued enthusiastic declarations and powerful testimonies, such as Bishop David Bartimej Tencer of Reykjavik, Iceland, who explained that he used video-teleconferencing to give catechism classes in his very extensive diocese.....(source). Photo: La Croix International.     [Ed: The article goes on to highlight Archbishops who have conspicuously used digital media, amongst others including Archbishop Peter Comensoli who published his presentation on Twitter and uploaded a photo of the pope paying an impromptu visit to his working group. In numerous other ways Bishop Mark Edwards has made extensive use of digital media including video during the Synod.]
Realising the dream of Vatican II
Extract from from Fr Noel Connolly SSC, St Columban's Mission Society eBulletin, 24 October 2018
Earlier this year I read an excellent book, An Unfinished Council: Vatican II, Pope Francis and the Renewal of Catholicism by Richard Gaillardetz. In it he compares the pillars of the pre-Vatican II church with the new pillars of a Vatican II church. There is not space enough here to discuss them all so let me concentrate on the three more important changes relevant to our Plenary Council.       Before the Council, faith was understood primarily as believing in doctrine, a number of propositions or truths that the hierarchy taught to the laity who obediently believed without contributing anything. At Vatican II the bishops returned to the traditional understanding of faith. God reveals himself to us inviting into a personal relationship. Through faith we come to know not things about God, but God’s own self – in a personal, relational way. Since all Christians personally know God, all have the sense of the faith that Pope Francis keeps reminding us of. All can contribute to the teaching role of the church. Certainly, the official teachers need to listen to the sense of the faithful before teaching. This understanding of a shared sense of the faith also leads to one of the strongest themes of Vatican II, dialogue.            Following on Vatican I, the church became more papal centred. This was something the bishops at the Council wanted to balance. The bishops fought strongly for a say, especially about matters the Curia was deciding without reference to them. They wanted a collegial church. Collegiality was accepted in principle at the Council but has waxed and waned since. It is still developing and maturing in practice. Witness the changes Pope Francis is making to the understanding and practice of the Synod of Bishops. All in the interest of making them more collegial and not just consultative. Collegiality, strictly speaking, refers to bishops, “with and under Peter”. But it is informed by ‘Synodality” which includes the whole people of God. All of us journeying together, serving each other and listening to one another and in that way to the Holy Spirit.       A final pillar of the pre-Vatican II church was an emphasis on a sacral priesthood. Clerics were seen as special, separate from the rest of the people of God, superior in holiness and knowledge, the sole and indispensable channels of God’s grace, gifts and leadership. At Vatican II, the priority is given to baptism, not orders......(more).
What’s it like being the only female cleric at the synod on young people?
Extract from Luke Hansen, S.J. America - The Jesuit Review
A young priest in the Czechoslovak Hussite Church has been pleasantly surprised by the welcome and openness she has experienced at the Synod of Bishops on young people, she told America in an interview. A fraternal delegate, Rev. Martina Viktorie Kopecká, 32, has the distinction of being the only female cleric at the Synod of Bishops, which is taking place from Oct. 3 to 28 in Rome.         Dressed in the liturgical vestments of the Hussite Church—a black robe with an imprinted red chalice and white stole—she delivered an address to the whole synod body on Oct. 11, emphasizing the importance of ecumenical relations, calling the synod a “sign of hope” and affirming the capacity of young people to be bridge builders.        “The true ecumenical movement must be lived and shared together,” she said.        Rev. Kopecká did not go unnoticed. She believes the cardinals and bishops “were surprised, maybe shocked” to see her clerical attire, she told America. “They recognized me as the girl at dinner and now as a priest. It takes some time, but they have accepted me.”         Rev. Kopecká believes the cardinals and bishops “were surprised, maybe shocked” to see her clerical attire.    “After my intervention, a lot of people came to me in the hallways, saying they listened to me and were inspired,” Rev. Kopecká said. “I was surprised that they even listened to me. I am quite young and a woman. I wore a white stole. They are not pushing me away. They accept me as a member of the family.”           The fraternal delegates who represent other Christian churches can make interventions in the synod aula and participate in small group discussions, but they cannot vote. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has a delegate, as do ecclesial organizations like the World Lutheran Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council.         Rev. Kopecká is representing the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 350 member churches “seeking unity, common witness and Christian service.” Even at her young age, she has been entrusted with great responsibility at the W.C.C. She serves on their central committee and 20-member executive committee, and she moderates the ECHOS commission on youth in the ecumenical movement.     When a human being meets another human being, it doesn’t matter which denomination we belong to,” she said. “We believe in Christ and can find a way—as Pope Francis says—to work and pray together. We are from different cultures and societies, but we have something in common. Young people, through friendship, are learning how to move toward acceptance and respect.”....“For me, ordination is not a question of gender but human dignity and equal possibilities,” she said. “Women do a lot of work in the church today and should be considered as spiritual leaders and servants of God. They are doing the hardest work, caring for people in miserable situations. They make the face of the church more human.”......In the synod hall, she said, Pope Francis “is always very relaxed, ready to smile. He accepts fun, which is beautiful. When there is a joke, he smiles. He is not rigid in any way. We feel we are at home and can speak openly.    “He is really inspiring for many youth because he is not old,” she said. “He is incredibly young. He has openness, creativity and energy, and he also brings wisdom and experience, but not in the way that he is pushing anybody to anything. He just brings his values.”.....(more)......Photo: Rev. Martina Viktorie Kopecká, Vatican Media, America -The Jesuit Review.
From the Vatican II 'Church of the Poor' group to the Synod meet on young people
The way the group applied Cardinal Joseph Cardijn’s see-judge-act to their own lives can provide a model for participants at this year’s Synod
Limited extract from Stefan Gigacz, Australia, subscription journal La Croix International, 22 October 2018
“Twelve bishops gathered with Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier for the first meeting,” reads a contemporary report on the origins of group of bishops at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that took as its motto, “Jesus Christ, the Church and the Poor.”
        These prelates “reviewed their lives and their thinking, as well as that of their churches and the Church, on the issues raised for them by the poor and the workers, and more radically by Jesus of Nazareth, the Carpenter,” the report continues.
     Best remembered for the “Pact of the Catacombs” they later adopted, these bishops wanted to ensure that the Council tackled the “anguishing” issues of poverty, the working class and world development.     Convened by Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer of Tournai, Belgium and Bishop George Hakim of Galilee (later Patriarch Maximos V), the group first met on Oct. 26, 1962 at the Belgian College in Rome. Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier of Lyon was the group’s president.   Inspired by Pope John XXIII’s phrase “the Church of the Poor,” members saw themselves operating “as an extension of” John’s 1961 social encyclical, Mater et Magistra (Church as Mother and Teacher of All Nations), following the see-judge-act method pioneered and popularized by Joseph Cardijn.    Since.....(more)  Photo: Second Vatican Council Lothar Wolleh CC BY SA 3 La Croix International 20181022
Compassion and justice after abuse apology
Extracts from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street,  21 October 2018
.....The royal commission is over, but there is still a long way for us to travel so that we might stand together in solidarity committed to justice, truth and healing for all, for the living and for the dead. We are unlikely as a Church or as a society to get this right for quite some years to come.....We are fortunate that our bishops finally agreed to release the reports of our Truth Justice and Healing Council. One of those reports contained personal testimonies by members of the Council. This evening, I would like to quote from just four of those testimonies. I will not quote any bishop. I will not quote any man. Let me just quote from four of the women on the council.      Elizabeth Proust, Deputy Chair of the Council and Chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, said:      'It is clear from the royal commission's findings that the dysfunctional governance of the Church aggravated the harm done by sexual abuse. The need for reform in this area is long overdue and the delay and obfuscation in responding to the royal commission on this topic, and on many others, will only worsen the alienation felt by the people of the Church, and continue to make the Church an irrelevance in our society.'       Maria Harries, who is a professor of social work and the chair of my board at Catholic Social Services Australia, said:    'I still need to be convinced that the structures of the church implicated in their permitting of such abuse and the protection of perpetrators will really reform itself. Change is obligatory, and it is differentially confronting and frightening for various elements of our church. The recognition of the problems we face as a church is a good start to finding solutions.'      Marian Sullivan, a child psychiatrist, said:     'The royal commission has challenged many parts of Australian society and its institutions. The Catholic Church has been scrutinised extensively and critiqued harshly. As a member of the Council I have moved from a disposition of disappointment with the Church to one of satisfaction that the Church represented by the Council has unflinchingly faced the shame of its past behaviour and any inadequacies of redress. Although not widely acknowledged, the cooperation that the Council gave to the royal commission has been exemplary and is proof of our resolve.'     Maree Marsh, a Brigidine Sister and psychologist, said:     'The church cannot undo all of the harm done in the past, but it has the responsibility to do all that is within its power to create an environment in which people will treat other people with respect, dignity and justice. The healing that is necessary involves a long process and will take courage, compassion, openness and patience. Above all it will take faith — faith in one another and faith that God is with us in this journey.'......May the Lord have mercy on us all. May the day come when church officials and victims will be comfortable in each other's presence in our Parliament even if not in our Church. But let's dare to pray that all might belong both in the galleries of our Parliament and in the pews of our Church seeing the light in fullness of days...(read the full article here)
Cardinals: L.G.B.T. issues part of youth synod discussion
Extract from Michael J. O’Loughlin, America Then Jesuit Review,  October 20, 2018
With opinion polls consistently showing that young people are accepting of same-sex marriage and other rights for L.G.B.T. people, there were questions how the ongoing synod of bishops focused on young adults might approach the subject. In the early part of the nearly month-long meeting, one U.S. archbishop made headlines when he suggested that there is no such thing as “L.G.B.T. Catholics,” setting off a debate over whether the final document produced by the global meeting should include the phrase.     The issue has not been a primary topic inside the synod hall, but at a press conference in Rome on Saturday, three archbishops responded to questions from journalists by saying the topic has arisen and that the young adult delegates have largely urged church leaders to be more welcoming to L.G.B.T. people and their families.       “We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.     “We have to make sure that we don’t put obstacles in the face of God’s grace. We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said in response to a question. “Sometimes in that journey they stray or they take a step back, but we’re still with them in order to keep that journey going.”       Pope Francis handpicked Cardinal Cupich, who heads the Archdiocese of Chicago, to attend the meeting, which is beginning to wrap up its work in preparing a final document to submit to the pope next week.       Another synod delegate, Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea, said that the young people present at the synod talk about L.G.B.T. issues “freely,” urging church leaders to address L.G.B.T. people in their preferred way. He said the lay delegates “are really helping us to understand, to really see where they are at, and how they [want] to be heard, recognized and accepted.”       And Australian Archbishop Peter Comensoli suggested that L.G.B.T. Catholics should not be singled out.      “Very simply, aren’t we all sinners? And aren’t we all looking to be found by God? And being found by God, how we might then find our lives in him?” he asked.      Responding to another question later, the archbishop added that it is important for church leaders to respond in a Christian way to members of the L.G.B.T. community.        “When my friends who might be homosexual or lesbian or struggling with their gender, when I speak with them, I speak with them with the friendship of Christ as I ought to, and as a friend I say, how do we progress together toward the foot of the cross?” he said......(more)
A Synod seeking its path
Although there have been many interesting discussions so far, participants are having difficulty in coming up with concrete proposals
Limited extract from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 22 October 2018
Vatican City.   The Synod assembly on young people has already been in session for two and a half weeks. Over the last few days, participants have focused particularly on the third part of the Working Document devoted to pastoral proposals concerning young people.      But reading the reports of the 14 linguistic groups, which were published on Oct. 20, it appears that the Synod is having difficulty in translating its reflections into concrete action.    Certainly, the bishops have latched on to the need for a more incisive presence of the Church in the digital world. Here, they are looking particularly to the skills of young Catholics who have mastered the new technologies almost naturally....(source)
The Synod of Bishops: Missing the forest for the trees
Francis has put forth legislation that could allow him or a future pope to substantially transform the governing structure of the universal Church
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, Subscription journal La Croix International, 19 October 2018
Vatican City. The Synod of Bishops is soon to enter the final stretch of its 25-day gathering on matters pertaining to young people. But not everyone is happy with the way this XVI ordinary general assembly of the Synod has unfolded up to now.       Some critics have complained that the daily sessions (formally called “general congregations”) are being regulated by muddled, unclear and — according to some — even arbitrary procedures. They say this could jeopardize the credibility of whatever statements this assembly eventually produces.      Others have voiced alarm over the current assembly’s agenda, saying it is too heavily focused on sociological issues rather than those more strictly pertaining to the Catholic faith. That’s the same criticism they made of the gathering’s working document or Instrumentum laboris.    In addition, there are those who believe the conversations in the Synod Hall and small discussion groups are too dispersive. The beef here is that they are not focused narrowly enough on a manageable number of topics strictly related to the assembly’s theme, “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”    Again, the concern is that this will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the assembly to express anything except vague generalities in its final document.    All of these apprehensions are understandable to a certain extent. But what the critics (and even many people who disagree with them) have failed to appreciate is that this Synod gathering represents but a single step on a much longer and transformative journey.....(SOURCE).   Photo: La Croix International. 

NSW commits extra $127m to abuse prevention and support
Extract from Cathnews, The Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2018
The New South Wales Government has committed an extra $127 million to help implement key recommendations from the child sexual abuse royal commission.       The new money, which brings the government’s total contribution to the redress scheme up to $570 million, will mostly go towards the prevention of child sexual abuse but will also help improve support for children and adult survivors.      Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government passed laws on Wednesday allowing survivors to sue institutions where they had been sexually abused as children, closing a legal loophole that had previously prevented them from taking action.    “NSW has continued to lead the way whether it’s in relation to the redress scheme, whether it’s in relation to providing support to survivors,” Ms Berejiklian said yesterday.     “I want to make sure nobody else suffers at the hands of institutions or people who were there to protect the children – not commit those horrific acts which instead have ruined lives and caused so many in the community to have an adverse impact.”    Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said the package was about ensuring all NSW organisations “promote a healthy child environment” and that workers are properly monitored.     “We’re also strengthening the ability of parents to know whether or not they are enrolling their child in a child-safe organisation, whether that’s the local ballet school or the local swim club,” she said.      In a statement released yesterday, Catholic Religious Australia welcomed the government's commitment to strengthening and broadening measures to protect children....(more)

Editorial: Ouellet vs. Viganò exposes right wing's anti-Francis strategy
Extract from NCR Editorial Staff, National Catholic Reporter, 18 October 2018
Cardinal Marc Ouellet's concise and sharply worded refutation of the now infamous Viganò letter is the very point needed to burst the bubble of fabulist concoctions spinning around the Catholic far right. Those theories, which wouldn't pass for bad fiction, are easily unveiled as clumsy attempts to discredit the Francis papacy.        Ouellet's out-of-the-ordinary pronouncement is fitting for these extraordinary times. Its very existence signals with some finality the end of the pretense of unity with which the hierarchy in recent decades attempted to mask deep divisions in its ranks.        It also bares as pretenders those who previously claimed the high ground of "orthodoxy" as defined, in their world, by unquestioning loyalty to the pope and the magisterium. In fact, their orthodoxy extended only so far as their agreement with prevailing papal tendencies.      Ouellet dissected the letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former nuncio to the United States, who claimed a widespread cover-up of allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The letter was quickly found to be an ideologically loaded screed with claims that Ouellet termed "incredible and absurd" as well as "unjust and unjustified."       The letter had been fashioned with the help of several right-wing figures who attempted to make the case for Viganò apparently so they could, in turn, use the case with the authority of a former nuncio. The whole mess has backfired.       Ouellet, however, speaks with legitimate authority as the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. He is able to build his case from actual documents held by his congregation.....(more)
Synod of Bishops on Young People: Becoming digital missionaries
Extract from Melb Catholic, Vatican News, Thursday 18 October 2018
Today at the Synod briefing the press were told that a repeated theme in conversation in the Synod assembly was how the Church can be part of the digital world. For this, the Church needs ‘digital missionaries’.        Dr Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, started the briefing by listing a number of issues that had been spoken about in the general congregation of the Synod. He said that migration, both internally and externally in countries, was a hotly debated issue. Young people are, he said, concerned about the stewardship of creation. He said that the assembly heard that young people react negatively to corruption in politics. He also noted that it was said that young people want the Church to be a place of excellence.        Other issues that arose included conscience, truth and mercy, teaching in catholic schools and universities and how drug use and alcoholism often led young people to crime......Bishop Tencer said that one thing that struck him was that this Synod has been a great success because it was well prepared. Information has come from the whole world. he felt that the conversation has been very positive and that this Synod would certainly help the Church move forward.....(more)
Whose Rome? Burke, Bannon, and the Eternal City
Extract from  Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal, 18 October 2018
The Catholic opposition to Pope Francis is headquartered in the United States. It is a minority within the U.S. Church, but it is well organized. Its main intellectual organ is First Things, its episcopal leader Archbishop Chaput. But just as nineteenth-century European ultramontanists looked beyond the Alps to Rome, this movement is looking beyond the Atlantic. Besides the sympathetic Catholic journalists who spread archbishop Vigano’s “testimony” on August 27, there are also more overtly partisan leaders of this movement, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke and Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist. Burke and Bannon are collaborating on a new right-wing Roman Catholic organization in Rome, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute. Bannon is one of its leaders; Burke is president of its board of advisers. The institute has been described by its founders as an “academy for the Judeo-Christian West.”         The growing influence of these conservative American Catholics in Rome has something to do with the formation of a new xenophobic and populist Italian government, about which Bannon and Burke are both enthusiastic. And the esteem is mutual: a few weeks ago, the cardinal was invited by members of the new political élite to speak at the Italian Senate. But the Dignitatis Humanae Institute is also a reaction against the pontificate of Francis, and an affirmation of a particular idea of the relationship between the city of Rome and the Catholic Church.           This latest attempt by Catholic traditionalists to recapture Rome for their cause reminds us of the two biggest crises for the papacy in the twentieth century, both arising in France: Action Française in the 1920s and the Society of St. Pius X in the 1970s and ’80s....(more)
Move Vatican II forward, Francis tells Jesuits
Speaking to his brother Jesuits in Lithuania last month, Pope Francis solicited their support in moving forward the work of the Vatican II.
Extract from CathNews, Crux,  18 October 2018
I believe the Lord wants a change in the Church,” he told 28 Jesuits during a private meeting during his trip to the Baltics. “I have said many times that a perversion of the Church today is clericalism … I know that the Lord wants the Council to make headway in the Church.”        “Historians tell us that it takes 100 years for a Council to be applied,” he added. “We are halfway there. So, if you want to help me, do whatever it takes to move the Council forward in the Church.”       The Pope’s remarks were published in full yesterday by the Vatican-vetted Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica.     Among the other topics the Pope addressed were concerns of vocational burnout by Jesuit priests, the need for ongoing ecumenical dialogue, the importance of Jesuit education, and how the sacrament of confession must be marked by mercy.     Lithuanian Archbishop Lionginas Virbalas of Kaunas told Francis that the province had dwindled from over 1,000 members to just over 30 and will soon merge into a larger, singular province with Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary. Consequentially, some of the Jesuits now take on three to four jobs to support the work of the Society.     The Pope encouraged the Jesuits not to neglect their spiritual and physical health, warning, “the evil spirit does lead us to a sort of ‘not-working-enough complex’.”....(more).  Photo: CathNews Crux CNS
The Synod in Rome - Road to Emmaus
Limited extract from Christopher Lamb, subscription journal The Tablet, 17 October 2018
During his first sit-down interview, at the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis made some remarks about synods which, at the time, were largely overlooked.         “Synodality should be lived at various levels,” he told Antonio Spadaro SJ in August 2013, six months after election.  “Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops. Because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic.”            Five years on it is becoming clear that the Synod of Bishops has become one of the primary structures in Francis’ programme of church renewal. When it comes to youth, which the current synod is focusing on, the Catholic Church could be described as the IBM of the religious world.....(source).  Photo: Youth Synod delegates arrive for a session The Tablet. Christopher Lamb CNS
Help me do whatever it takes to move Vatican II forward, pope says
Speaking to Jesuits, Francis reiterates the need for prayers to make progress to move the Council forward in the Church
Limited extract from International staff, subscription journal La Croix International, 18 October 2018
Vatican City. What needs to be done today is to accompany the Church in a deep spiritual renewal and to help in implementing the Second Vatican Council, says Pope Francis....(source)
The unintended and horrible consequences of bad good intentions
The only way out of this mess is to admit that Catholicism is not basically about popes and bishops, rules and teachings
Limited Extract from Father Bill Grimm, Japan, subscription journal L Croix International, October 13, 2018
In the early centuries of the church's life, there were three so-called "mortal" sins: adultery, murder and apostasy. All three were sins against the life and unity of the community. They resulted in excommunication, separation from the community, until a penitential restoration of communion.       By the time, many centuries later, when I was learning the catechism, it seemed as if every transgression were mortal, and therefore cause for damnation, unless there were extenuating circumstances.
One of those mortal sins was violation of the church's rule of abstinence from meat on Fridays. In order to make a living, the hot dog vendor in my mostly Catholic neighborhood sold "Friday hot dogs" at a discounted price — buns with condiments, but no sausages in them. That ended in 1966,....(more)
Extract from J.A.Dick, Another Voice, Reflections about contemporary Christian belief and practice, 13 October 2018      
Authoritarianism has always bothered me because it uses and abuses people. It destroys human freedom to think, act, and live. It manipulates people and often destroys the “undesirables.”       The historical Jesus stressed that human greatness is based on compassion and service. His authority was used to motivate and guide people, to heal, support, and call to conversion. Some “Christian leaders” still don’t get the message.    In contemporary political and religious life, we are confronted with a creeping authoritarianism that seeks to dominate and control – and often displace and destroy. A very unhealthy kind of leadership.    It is not just in the United States, but around the world. We see it in Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and other countries. And I see it and study it in fanatic and fundamentalist manifestations of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Cultural change and human migration make some observers anxious and fearful. They feel threatened. They neither hear nor understand the words of Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Instead they prefer to circle their wagons, or build their walls, to protect “us against them.” In ignorance, fear, and anxiety they surrender to the exaggerated rhetoric and growing influence of authoritarian leaders.     This is becoming our contemporary leadership problem. “Leaders” who should be be trusted for wisdom, intelligence, and humanitarian service are becoming hard-nosed autocrats, surrendering to the psychological and mental disorder of authoritarianism.         Honesty and integrity are replaced by self-promoting deceit and dishonesty. Self-centered authoritarians are self-stroking and need to feel good. Life for them boils down to what one can get and what one can get away with. Life is jungle warfare in a world of lazy and evil “losers.”....(more)
Youth synod of old men
Catholic Church crises over youth, celibate clergy and a lack of leadership roles for women
Limited extract from  Myron J. Pereira*, Mumbai, subscription journal La Croix international, 12 October 20118
India. The synod assembly on youth is being planned and discussed by senile old men. Amusing, but also tragic.           It is sometimes said that the Catholic Church today faces three crises, all of its own making.           The first is the crisis of a celibate clergy, which has exploded into the crisis of paedophile priests and a corrupt hierarchy that colluded with them.          This used to be passed off as an "American" problem — until we realized that it is global — there are priest predators in Latin America, Europe, Africa and even in India, the sexual molesters of Catholic women.        The second crisis centers on the lack of leadership roles for women in the church. At this moment, this is still largely an issue in the West, but like the recent #Metoo movement, the social media makes its momentum felt....(more).   * Father Myron Pereira SJ is a media consultant based in Mumbai.  Photo: La Croix International, Andreas Solaro/AFP 
Rome synod seeks ways to bring youth back into Church fold
Synod of Bishops shows it is ready to change Church’s approach to draw back young people alienated by exclusionary policies
Limited extract from Arnaud Bevilacqua and Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 10 October 2018
After its first week of work, the Synod assembly on Young People in Rome that runs through October still has a long way to go to achieve its aim of rebuilding links between young people and the Church.         Nevertheless, the bishops have already begun to appreciate how the Church's culture has gradually distanced itself from young people.           Concern has began to spread among participants that the final document to be transmitted to Pope Francis will not be effective in reaching out to young people.          "We need to reflect on the way the synod is presenting itself to young people," said Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli.....(more)  Photo: La Croix International . Youth Synod Bishop Mark Edwards and youth,  La Croix Int. M. Migliorato Catholic Press
Sex abuse a recurring theme in Synod debates
The Synod has also highlighted other issues including migration and globalization
Limited extract from Arnaud Bevilacqua, Rome. subscription journal La Croix International, 9 October 2018
 A call by Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney to make the Church “a safe place for young people” has echoed the thoughts of many participants at the Synod assembly on young people, which is continuing in Rome.
In a lyrically worded and profound intervention on Oct. 5, Archbishop Fisher appealed for forgiveness for the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.  Making the Church safe for young people.....(more)
Revisiting the theology of clericalism
Theology tends to ramp up the status and certainty of its models and theories so that what starts off as a theory morphs into unquestionable truth
Limited extract from Eric Hodgens, subscription journal La Croix International, 9 October 2018
Australia. Clericalism is on everyone’s lips. The pope decries it. Australia’s Royal Commission judged it a major factor contributing to child sex abuse by priests. Some bishops have joined the chorus denouncing it, even though other bishops resentfully bite their tongues.      But, as the saying goes, you tell me what you do, and I will tell you what you believe. Follow that line and we find clericalism alive and well.    The factional divide in the Catholic Church is becoming ever more political and militant. It parallels the identity politics which is currently enveloping many of the world’s democracies.    One faction places its focus on the church as institution — with its system, doctrine, law and clerical control. The other stresses the Christian vision, and sees system, doctrine, law and clergy as its servants.    The 50 years since Vatican II have seen the pendulum first move from dominance of the clerical system....(more).
Cardinal Ouellet rebuts Archbishop Vigano who demanded Francis resigns
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops tells archbishop to repent as Vatican orders probe into McCarrick sex abuse case
Limited exract from International staff, subscription journal a Croix International, 8 October 2018
Vatican City. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican-based Congregation for Bishops, issued a public three-page letter on Oct. 7 censuring the former Vatican nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, for attacking Pope Francis. Archbishop Vigano on Aug. 26 demanded the pope step....(more)
The new 'Two Orders of Christians'
The line dividing clergy from laity has been blurred — having become a canonical distinction says little about what the two have in common and what separates them
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 8 October 2018
United States. In 1979, undercover FBI agents videotaped a U.S. congressman accepting a bribe, in which the crooked politician notoriously said, “Money talks in this business, and bullshit walks.”     This prosaic image could be used to describe what is presently happening in the Catholic Church in the United States.     It is here that we find the epicenter of Catholicism’s current crisis, but not because clergy sex abuse has not taken place in other countries.      Rather, it is because the crisis has created a vacuum of authority in the U.S. Church. It is not a vacuum of power, which is still in the usual hands (at least for now), but of authority, which is about trust and credibility.     Nature abhors a vacuum, and this vacuum is being filled by those with an open checkbook and a very clear ideological agenda. Money is talking loud and clear.    Catholics with abundant financial resources and strong connections to the leaders of the U.S. episcopate are trying to fill the vacuum with an agenda that is officially about reform. But, in fact, it is actually corrupting the Church even more, though in a different way.    Recently a self-appointed Catholic watchdog group emerged under the name “Better Church Governance.”        At a meeting on Oct. 3 at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., the group announced “plans to enlist the help of former F.B.I. agents to investigate the cardinals who will vote for the next pope and assess how they handled allegations of sexual abuse and whether they have remained faithful to their own vows.”      In the very same week, another event.....(More).  Photo:  La Croix International.
Pope warns youth against populism, at Synod in Rome
Suggests smartphone culture can erode family ties, urges them to seek counsel from older relatives and not 'close their minds'
Limited Extract from International staff, subscription journal La Croix International, 8 October 2018
Vatican City.   Pope Francis received a white envelope bearing the concerns of young people at a youth-focused Synod in Rome on Oct. 6, and warned them about the dangers of populist ideologies that exclude others.     He signed arm.....(more). Photo  La Croix Internationa; M.Migliorato CPP.
Mooted Vatican youth body needs more 'joy of Gospel'
The late Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, founder of the Young Christian Workers movement, proposed a 'Roman center' to act as 'the summit of dialogue between Hierarchy and laity'
Limited extract from Stefan Gigacz, Australia,  subscription journal La Croix International, 8 October 2018
Australia. The Synod with the theme Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment has got off to a lively start. Already there have been at least two suggestions for a permanent Vatican commission to deal with issues facing young people, observers have reported.     As I wrote several months ago, this idea dates back at least to 1962 when Joseph Cardijn, founder of the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne (JOC) or Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement, presented a similar proposal to Pope John XXIII on the eve of Vatican II.     Although the notion did not progress at the Council, perhaps it is an idea whose time has finally come. In this context, it is worth recalling that Cardijn did in fact set out the principles and methods for such a Vatican center in a 1964 paper for “a Roman Center for the Apostolate of Lay People.”     As a member of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate for the Council, he was already frustrated by the obsession of many bishops and Roman Curia members with hierarchical control. Tagged as “hierarchology” by the theologian Yves Congar, it was an extreme form of the “clericalism” recently condemned by Pope Francis.    Rejecting this, Cardijn proposed a “Roman center” that would act as “the summit of dialogue between Hierarchy and laity . ....(more)  Photo: La Croix International, JOC
Questions from a Ewe - Requesting a private discussion with the pope...
"Test everything; retain what is good.” (1 Thes 5:21) A laywoman expresses concerns about issues in the Roman Catholic Church to foster positive dialogue by posing and exploring questions. Please remember that Canon Law says it is not only a right but a duty to question the church. Also, Canon Law provides an over-riding power to the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful). By this, Canon Law says that if the sensus fidelium (collective of the faithful) reject a law, it is not valid.
Extract from questionesfromaewe.blogspot 6 October 2018
....About a month ago I wrote regarding needed changes to Canon Law that would help eliminate the Church’s globally systemic sexual abuse coverup scandal.  I received a lot of encouragement to share my ideas with hierarchy officials.  Thus, I sent it to my bishop.  He thanked me for offering my ideas. However, I do not know what other actions it will inspire beyond sending me a nicely worded email message.         As luck would have it, I have a business trip scheduled to Rome later this month.  Therefore, I replied to my bishop that I would like his help requesting a private discussion with Pope Francis regarding my ideas.  He kindly responded, “I don’t have the foggiest idea how such can be arranged,” but wished me luck.  I’m not sure I believe that a bishop doesn’t know how to request a discussion with the pope but, maybe he meant he doesn’t know how to request one for a mere lay woman.             Regardless, that’s a tragedy because either he truly doesn’t know how to ask for a discussion with his own boss or he doesn’t want to and is comfortable prevaricating about it.        Rather than be discouraged, I donned (my) imaginary thinking cap, in this case a pointy bishop’s mitre, to ponder what I would do if I were a bishop desiring a discussion with the pope.  I decided to write Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., since he is the pope’s emissary in the U.S.      Here is the text of my email, sent September 15, 2018 to the papal nuncio:....(more) 
Towards credibility and a clean conclave
Extract from Gail Grossman Freyne, Eureka Street, 5 October 2018
Instead of engaging with the pain of profound change, the institutional Catholic church is still mired in a program of damage control. We are witnessing a double deflection. Globally, the topic of choice is Archbishop Vigano, Cardinal McCarrick and Pope Francis, the biggest bomb shell to explode into the Catholic news media since the death of John Paul I.      Pope Francis speaks to cardinals and bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Italy in Vatican City on 21 May 2018 (CNA)Locally, we retreat to a commitment around the seal of confession, the one definitive response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission made by the church. Both events evidence a willingness to talk about political cliques and red-herrings rather than what really matters: the re-establishment of the Catholic Church as an inclusive and trustworthy leader in the modern world.     Admittedly a hard topic to address, because it will require nothing less than a return to the Christian scriptures to undo centuries of bad theology which produced the sinful social structures defined by clericalism. As one small step towards this great ambition the fascinating question is, how can we find a cardinal to elect as pope who has not been involved in the cover-up of sexual abuse?.......The numbers show this is not a witch hunt, merely the tip of a conclave. What we need to recognise is that any man who becomes a seminarian, who becomes a deacon, who becomes a priest, who becomes a bishop, who becomes a cardinal, will almost certainly have bumped into, bounced off or blindfolded himself to the endemic, pandemic problem within the Church of the sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable persons. Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide is not alone.....(more). Photo: Eureka Street,  CNA
Cardinal Marx calls for 'fundamental, systemic change' to confront abuse crisis
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 5 October 2018
Vatican City — The German prelate who serves on Pope Francis' advisory body of cardinals has called for the Catholic Church to adopt "fundamental, systemic change" in order to address the continuing clergy sexual abuse crisis.      Cardinal Reinhard Marx, one of nine members on the Council of Cardinals, suggested discussions about such change could focus on three areas: adoption of "good governance" practices, compliance with safeguarding norms, and a focus on creating a "higher degree of accountability" for church leaders.     "There can be no restoration of the church's credibility without fundamental, systemic change," Marx told participants of an Oct. 5 event at the Pontifical Gregorian University for the inauguration of the institution's new graduate-level degree in safeguarding.    The cardinal also praised survivors of clergy abuse for coming forward.    "We must be grateful to the public pressure, the criticisms and the voice of the survivors … which help us to improve," he said.    Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, also serves as the president of the German bishops' conference, which recently released a report indicating there had been an estimated 3,700 sexual abuse cases in the country over the past seven decades.    At the Sept. 25 press conference releasing that report, the cardinal apologized for the abuse, saying it had been "covered up for far too long."    During his address at the inauguration of the new degree program at the Gregorian, being offered by the university's Centre for Child Protection, Marx said the abuse scandals "have plunged the church into one of its most serious crises worldwide, raising many questions and challenges for the future."    "This is challenging, exhausting, but at the same time without alternative," said the cardinal. "We must help together to promote a variety of constructive initiatives and create synergies."      Describing the three areas he suggested for change in the church, Marx said that good governance practices should acknowledge that priests and bishops are not granted leadership skills "automatically, simply by ordination."....(more).  Photo: Marx Reinhard Card NCR 20181005 CNS Paul Haring
A pope under siege tries to revive a paralyzed Church
Francis’ credibility and ambitious program of reform will be greatly affected by whatever does or does not happen at the synod
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 5 October
Vatican City.   The Synod of Bishops is officially back in session and more than 300 participants of the closed-door meetings are taking up Pope Francis’ mandate to focus on young people, the faith and vocational discernment.  But if the early days of this 25-day gathering in Rome are any indication, this XV Ordinary General Assembly will not be free of controversy any less than the previous two assemblies Francis presided over in 2014 and 2015, which concerned marriage and the family.     A whole host of groups and individuals, including some from inside the Synod Hall, seem intent on using this Vatican summit of Church leaders as an opportunity to pressure the 81-year-old pope to address a number of issues that have long divided Catholics.     The English-speaking part of the Church, especially from the United States, is the driving force behind the side-shows at Synod 2018, as the assembly is being called. It is a partisan effort being carried out by both the so-called “orthodox” or traditionalist Catholics and those who call themselves “reformers,” “progressives” or “Vatican II Catholics.”       A number of bloggers and digital media-savvy activists in the first group have descended on Rome, some even posting anonymous articles and opinion pieces on conservative Catholic websites and other social media.       Those in the second group include organizations staging protests and holding conferences aimed at gaining a greater role for the laity (particularly women) in Church decision-making bodies, some going as far as demanding the ordination of women and married priests.  A cross-section from both the traditionalist and reform-minded groups....(more). Photo: La Croix International.
At synod, Sydney archbishop apologizes to young people for church failures
Extract from Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service, 4 October 2018
VATICAN CITY -- Australian Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney used his speech at the Synod of Bishops to formally apologize to young people for all the ways the Catholic Church and its members have harmed them or let them down.         In the presence of Pope Francis, he apologized Oct. 4 "for the shameful deeds of some priests, religious and laypeople, perpetrated upon you or other young people just like you, and the terrible damage that has done."         He apologized "for the failure of too many bishops and others to respond appropriately when abuse was identified, and to do all in their power to keep you safe; and for the damage thus done to the church's credibility and to your trust."       Later, at the synod briefing for the press, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, said several of the 25 bishops who spoke that morning asked young people to forgive the church and its members.    Some spoke specifically of cases of clerical sexual abuse, he said, while others asked forgiveness for not welcoming migrants -- most of whom are young -- or for trying to "tame" young people rather than recognize their energy and enthusiasm as a gift.    Chiara Giaccardi, an Italian professor of sociology working with the synod, told reporters "at least five or six" of the 25 speeches "emphasized asking forgiveness in a strong way." Most of those, she said, mentioned "the church's lack of living its mandate fully."....(more) Photo: CNS
Synod should promote 'the capacity to dream,' Pope says
Francis appeals to Synod Fathers to come up with a series of 'concrete pastoral proposals'
Limited extract from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 4 October 2018
Vatican City, Pope Francis opened the Synod on the theme 'Young People in Rome with a Mass at St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday Oct. 3.     The ceremony took place almost two years to the day after the pope first announced the Synod and following intense preparations including a broad worldwide consultation process involving many young people. The first discussion followed in the afternoon.         The Synod needs to “broaden our horizons, expand our hearts and transform those frames of mind that today paralyze, separate and alienate us from young people, leaving them exposed to stormy seas, orphans without a faith community that should sustain them, orphans devoid of a ...(more)
Pope opens youth Synod with a warning to bishops
Extract from CathNews, The Tablet, 4 October 2018
Pope Francis opened the Church's youth Synod by urging participants to take their lead from younger generations and to avoid “falling into moralistic or elitist postures”.       The month-long Synod of Bishops gathering started yesterday and will focus on young people, the faith and vocational discernment. But the event takes place under a cloud of Church sexual abuse scandals and its assorted cover-ups by members of the hierarchy. Some had called on the Pope to cancel the event arguing the bishops have forfeited the ability to offer guidance to young people in the light of the crises.         But the 81-year-old Latin American Pontiff, who did not mention abuse during his homily at the Mass to open the Synod, said bishops will have credibility if they approach the event with a disposition of listening and that the youth of today cannot be abandoned to the “pedlars of death” of the contemporary world.          This listening, Francis told the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square, must be done “sincerely and prayerfully, as free as possible from prejudice and conditioning” and without an attitude of “self-preservation and self-centredness which gives importance to what is secondary yet makes secondary what is important”.            He explained: “This disposition protects us from the temptation of falling into moralistic or elitist postures, and it protects us from the lure of abstract ideologies that never touch the realities of our people.”          Francis urged the Synod fathers, many of whom are in their 60s and 70s, to remember their vocations which, for a lot of them, came to fruition during Vatican II, the 1962-65 gathering of bishops which set the blueprint for the contemporary Church.       The Synod, Francis stressed, must “broaden our horizons,” avoiding a conformist mentality of “it’s always been done like this,” and rekindle a “Gospel ardour and passion which lead[s] to an ardour and passion for Jesus.”      “We know that our young people will be capable of prophesy and vision to the extent that we, who are already adult or elderly, can dream and thus be infectious in sharing those dreams and hopes that we carry in our hearts,” the Pope stressed.....(More)   Photo: CathNews, Vatican Media, Pope Francis Youth Synod CathNews 20181004
Silence surrounds abuse crisis on day one of Synod of Bishops
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter, 4 October 2018
ROME - Heading into an Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment, one big-ticket question on the Catholic street was whether the 300 or so prelates gathering in Rome would acknowledge the elephant in the room: clerical sexual abuse scandals, and what they mean for the life and moral integrity of the Church.       Judging solely by the official verbiage delivered on the opening day, which may be a premature measure, the answer would appear to be that if such an acknowledgment happens, it’s going to have to come from the floor and not from the event’s official hosts.       (more)
Synods Aren’t Just for the Bishops - How the Laity Can Help Reform the Church
Extracts from Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal magazine, 1 October 2018
Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said that God granted American Christianity no Reformation. It’s also true that God granted America no Counter-Reformation. But with the latest phase of the abuse crisis in this country, that might be changing.          The depth and magnitude of this crisis—as well as its distinctive combination of clerical corruption and theological division— make it worse than any crisis since the one that rocked the church five centuries ago.     The current crisis may not lead to a formal division of the Church the way the Reformation did, but it could well lead to a long period of undeclared schism......On the other side of the Atlantic, the Vatican is now dealing with what has become a global crisis, one that is sure to draw much attention at the bishops’ synod on youth, which opens on October 3. The day before meeting with the USCCB delegation, Francis announced an extraordinary meeting of the presidents of all bishops’ conferences at the Vatican, scheduled for late February. Not a consistory of cardinals nor a synod organized by the permanent secretariat of the bishops’ synod, this will be the first meeting of its kind, and it can be understood as Rome’s acknowledgment that the abuse crisis cannot be dealt with adequately unless Rome and local dioceses work together. We don’t yet know what will be on the agenda for this meeting.      But we do know that Rome cannot wait to act. Nor can the church in the United States just wait to see what happens in Rome......So, where to start? Let me offer a few proposals......Synodality is the best ecclesiological model for a church that wants to get out of this mess. Francis’s pontificate has offered opportunities for a synodal church, despite some clear limitations and blind spots, which one can also find in the document on synodality published a few months ago by the International Theological Commission (an English translation was published on September 28.) Institutions of synodality already exist (e.g., the presbyteral council, the college of consultors, chapters of canons, and the diocesan pastoral council), but they have been gutted in the decades since the Second Vatican Council created them.             There are other institutions of synodality that still do not exist and must be created (e.g., national and diocesan committees representing lay Catholics, lay boards for the inquiries conducted for the appointment of bishops). Finally, there are institutions that were not built for synodality, but can provide a space for institutional reform in this extraordinary time, such as Catholic schools and universities. This moment of anti-clerical rage should not blind us to the importance of institutions.....(more).  Photo:  Commonweal, CNS, Paul Haring.
Catholic priests marriage: Bathurst Catholic Diocese of Bathurst Bishop Michael McKenna's view
Extract from Nadine Morton, Western Advertiser, 1 October 2018
Catholic priests marriage: CELIBATE priests may be more “available” than married ones Catholic Diocese of Bathurst’s Bishop Michael McKenna says.     A submission by the National Council of Priests to the Australian Catholic Church Plenary Council conference will argue that priests in remote parts of the country should be allowed to marry, and that priests who left the church to marry should be allowed to return to the priesthood.    There may be no married priests in the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst, but Bishop Michael McKenna says he is willing to seriously consider the issue....(more)  Photo: Western Advertiser, Chris Seabrook 
Francis defends response to clergy abuse
Extract from CathNews, The Tablet,  27 September 2018
The Church has grown in its understanding of the horror of clerical sexual abuse and of the “corruption” of covering it up, Pope Francis said yesterday. Source: The Tablet.    Returning to Rome from his four-day trip to the Baltic nations, Pope Francis was asked about his remarks to young people in Tallinn, Estonia, when he said young people are scandalised when they see the Church fail to condemn abuse clearly.    “The young people are scandalised by the hypocrisy of adults, they are scandalised by wars, they are scandalised by the lack of coherence, they are scandalised by corruption, and corruption is where what you underlined – sexual abuse – comes in,” the Pope responded.     Whatever the statistics say about rates of clerical abuse, the Pope said, “if there is even just one priest who abuses a boy or a girl, it is monstrous, because that man was chosen by God to lead that child to heaven.”    The fact that child abuse occurs in many environments does not in any way lessen the scandal, he said.    But it is not true that the Church has done nothing “to clean up”, Pope Francis told reporters. If one looks at the Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August or other similar studies, he said, it is clear that the majority of cases occurred decades ago “because the Church realised that it had to battle it in a different way”.    To understand what happened in the past, he said, one must remember how abuse was handled then.    "The past should be interpreted using the hermeneutic of the age," Pope Francis said. People's "moral consciousness" develops over time, he said, pointing to the death penalty as an example.    But, he said, "look at the example of Pennsylvania. Look at the proportions and you will see that when the church began to understand, it did all it could."....(more)
Chaput publishes critique of youth synod document
Extract from Ellen Teague, The Tablet, 27 September 2018
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has published a critique of the working document for the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”.    The archbishop says the critique, published in the journal First Things, was prepared by an unnamed but “respected North American theologian”, and is “substantive enough to warrant much wider consideration and discussion as bishop-delegates prepare to engage the synod’s theme”.     The writer of the critique feels that, in its emphasis on listening and dialogue, the synod document suggests that “the Church does not possess the truth but must take its place alongside other voices”, while “those who have held the role of teacher and preacher in the Church must replace their authority with dialogue”. Section 144 contains “much discussion about what young people want; little about how these wants must be transformed by grace in a life that conforms to God’s will for their lives,” the writer says. Most of the document “catalogues the socio-economic and cultural realities of young adults while offering no meaningful reflection on spiritual, existential, or moral concerns.”     The document is described as suggesting “that vocation concerns the individual’s search for private meaning and truth”. An example of this is section 139, which “gives the impression that the Church cannot propose the truth to people and that they must decide for themselves”. The writer laments that the role of the Church seems to be reduced to one of accompaniment.     Other complaints include “a false equivalence between dialogue with LGBT youth and ecumenical dialogue; and an insufficient treatment of the abuse scandal”.    Chaput is due to attend the 3-28 October synod at the Vatican. He says he has received much correspondence about the synod. Nearly all the letters “praise its intent” but raise concerns about “its timing and possible content”......(more)
“The Role of the Faithful in a post-Royal Commission Church in Australia”
Extract from Address by Bishop Vincent Long  to the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn Forum, Catholic Outlook, Diocese of Parramatta, 11 September 2018
Dear friends.......Thank you for the invitation to speak at this forum and to have the opportunity to listen to the voices of the Concerned Catholics of Canberra and Goulburn in the spirit of genuine synodality.     The events in these last few weeks, including the sensational accusations against Pope Francis himself by the former nuncio to the U.S. has caused great turmoil in the Church. The sexual abuse crisis is inundating the whole Church like a tsunami and it has the potential to cause long-term damage, chaos and even schism. (Mind you, there is already a silent schism in that the majority of Australian Catholics have simply walked away from the practice of the faith.)    It is the biggest crisis since the Reformation and it exposes the ideological conflict that runs deeply through the length and breadth of the universal Church.     The anti-Pope Francis forces who have accelerated their frontal attacks against him in a coordinated and virulent manner. The gloves are clearly off and they have seized this moment of turmoil as an opportunity to undermine his papacy and derail his reform agenda. How time has changed in the Catholic Church!     Only until recently, criticisms against a sitting pope were deemed absolute anathema.       Now the shoe is on the other foot and papal sniping is becoming quite a sport among some Catholic circles. (We are after all in the capital of sniping of a different kind!) They might even agree with Paul Collins’ view on papal power but for different reasons I would suspect.     What is interesting, too, is the number of bishops who have chosen to sympathise with these forces and therefore shown their not so subtle disapproval of the way the Pope is leading the Church. Clearly, Captain Francis will have to weather both the storm and the mutiny onboard. I just hope and pray that he stays the course because nothing less than a deep and comprehensive reform will restore confidence and trust in the Church.     I must hasten to add that in as much as I am pleased with the wind of change blowing from Santa Marta, I do not believe that it will sufficiently carry the deep and comprehensive reform the Church of 21st century needs. Let us be under no illusions about the change we seek which is not only in attitude of the office holders but the very structure and culture of the Church.     After all, Pope Francis might just be a banana slip away from his reform agenda and we might all end up sliding backwards....(More)
Presentation to the Australian Council of Priests
Extract from presentation 26 September 2018, Tony
National Council of Priests Convention, Ireland, 11 September 2018
I am a reluctant presenter at this Conference for many reasons but primarily because I am aware that, as a result of the horrendous abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy which was detailed at the Royal Commission, the morale of Catholic clergy – and especially the morale of the “good guys” – the many dedicated and selfless men who are the face of God to the people to whom they minister, has taken a battering throughout the five years of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and following the release of the report in December 2017.          I do not want to add to that burden, but we do need to have some painful conversations about critical issues that challenge us – as our Church is in crisis!          In written Chinese, the word for “crisis” in their symbolic language comprises the symbol for “Danger” and the symbol for “Opportunity” under the same roof. We live in dangerous times as a Church, but we also face an unprecedented opportunity to radically reformulate our lives and our Church by reclaiming the values proclaimed by Jesus and embedded in the Gospel.     My sharing today is based on two old but wise sayings – Firstly, “Hurt people, hurt people” and secondly, “If nothing changes, nothing changes”.        Some of what I will say and recommend today may be uncomfortable, challenging and even confronting. I don’t mind if you disagree with my reflections and recommendations – I don’t mind if you feel uncomfortable – even angry – because anger is an energy for change. Out there are many victims whose anger mobilised the Royal Commission to help us to reflect on our reality as a Church. So! Let’s talk!       My contribution to the Royal Commission in interview on 13th February 2017 was mostly clinical opinion based on almost 30 years of working with Catholic clergy and religious in both the USA and Australia.        The Royal Commission’s task was to listen and bear witness to what happened to children in Institutions, to provide compassionate and just responses to those who were abused, and to recommend changes to Church structure, culture and processes in order to prevent abuse. The bottom line of these deliberations – No more victims!...(more)
What can we say about the Synod of Bishops? The optics are not good
Phyllis on the systematic institutional muting of women’s voices in the Church:
Extract from Phyllis Zagano, Opinion, Vatican, NCR, 22 Sep 22, 2018
As for who will create the document, most voting delegates are bishops. The group representing men religious is sending two brothers — laymen — among its 10 voting delegates (they broke the rules last time and the time before by electing lay brothers and nobody complained.)      But the women's International Union of Superiors General ( link inserted) was not invited to send voting delegates, even though non-bishops can be and are included. Specifically, "others who are not honored with episcopal duties can be called to the synod assembly."     According to Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, "As for women, they are already present as observers and participate in the synodal assembly and the small groups and have a right to speak."     What a breakthrough! Women allowed to speak!    Male religious superiors who are not bishops (including, remember, two lay brothers) are voting members. Can the authority of female religious superiors, especially the abbesses of territorial abbeys, not be recognized?    In medieval times, territorial abbesses had equivalent rights to secular bishops. One, the Cistercian abbess of the 12th-century Royal Abbey of Las Huelgas in Spain, had only the pope as religious superior. For seven centuries, she, not the local bishop, granted sacramental faculties. Pope Pius IX quashed hers and others' authority and jurisdiction in 1874. Certainly, up to the Council of Trent, and even longer, some abbesses in Sweden, France and Italy were similarly powerful.   .....    ...... The working document notes that the synod's March 2018 preliminary meeting, at which young people were able to voice their opinions, found great distance between what the church says and what the church does. It states that the preliminary meeting "gave specific attention to forms of discrimination impacting young women" including in the church. "Therefore," it continues, "young people ask themselves 'what are the places where women can flourish within the Church and society?' "    Translation: The young members asked, what's the point? Women have no place in the Catholic Church.....(More)  Photo NCR, CNS Paul Haring
Pope Francis recognizes Chinese bishops ordained without papal approval    Extract from Gerard O’Connell, America, Then Jesuit Review,  September 22, 2018
The Vatican announced on Sept. 22 that Pope Francis “has decided to readmit to full ecclesial communion all the remaining ‘official’ bishops who were ordained in China in recent years without the pontifical mandate,” that is the pope’s approval.     There were eight such bishops, three of whom were declared excommunicated during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.        Although one of the eight died in 2017, Francis nevertheless included him among those reconciled.          The Vatican explained that Pope Francis took this decision “with a view to sustaining the proclamation of the Gospel in China.” The statement did not mention that China had insisted on this as a prerequisite for the signing of the provisional agreement. Nor did it say that before Francis took his decision, all these prelates had explicitly asked to be reconciled with the pope.         The eight bishops who are fully reconciled with the pope are: Bishops Joseph Guo Jincai, Joseph Huang Bingzhang, Paul Lei Shiyin, Joseph Liu Xinhong, Joseph Ma Yinglin, Joseph Yue Fusheng, Vincent Zhan Silu and Anthony Tu Shihua, O.F.M. Bishop Tu Shihua, who died on Jan. 4, 2017, had expressed the desire to be reconciled with the Apostolic See.         For the first time since 1957 (when Beijing began to ordain bishops without Rome’s approval), all the Catholic bishops in China today, around 100 in total, are in communion with the pope.....(More)Photo: America, The Jesuit Review, 22 September 2018  CNS Reuters.
Launch marks another step forward in child protection
Extract from CathNews, Broken Bay News,  20 September 2018
Broken Bay Diocese officially launched its new Diocesan Office for Safeguarding last night, following an extensive review of its safeguarding structures.       The new office forms part of the diocese’s commitment to fostering a culture of safety and care for children and vulnerable people.          Robert Fitzgerald, a commissioner with the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and more than 80 clergy, principals, parish representatives and staff from across the diocese attended the launch in Waitara, in Sydney's upper North Shore.       The office is part of the diocese's integrated model of safeguarding that will draw together the work being done in the areas of safeguarding, child protection and professional standards across all sectors. It is a significant direction for the Diocese put in place by former Broken Bay Bishop Peter A. Comensoli, before his appointment as Archbishop of Melbourne.      Diocesan Administrator Fr David Ranson welcomed the new structure.    “It is very fitting and appropriate that we make this announcement during our diocesan month for safeguarding awareness and education,” Fr Ranson said.     “This new structure and organisation – along with a Safeguarding Charter launched tonight, represent Bishop Peter’s resolute commitment to this area and are one of his most enduring legacies to our diocese.”....(More)
Francis reworks the Synod of Bishops
The pope has sought to involve lay people more closely in Synodal reflection
Limited extract from Nicolas Senèze, subscription journal La Croix International, 19 September 2018
Vatican City - The Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio, published on Sept. 18, is much more than an updating of the Synod of Bishops, the institution created by Pope Paul VI in 1965 and which Pope Francis has transformed into one of the tools of his missionary reform of the Church.     Essentially, the document engraves in marble the innovations born out of the experience of the 2014 and 2015 Synodal assemblies on the family and the preparation for the forthcoming assembly on young people.     However, it also innovates in giving greater scope to Synod decisions.    Concerning Synod functioning, Pope Francis has sought to involve the....(More)
Australian bishop who was victim of sex abuse speaks on U.S. church’s crisis
Extract from Jim McDermott, America - The Jesuit Review, 18 September 2018
Bishop Vincent Long is the Bishop of Parramatta, a diocese northwest of Sydney. A former Assistant General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, he is Australia’s first Asian-born bishop and the first Vietnamese-born bishop to head a diocese outside of Vietnam.     In 2017 Bishop Long testified before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In his testimonyhe revealed, “I was also a victim of sexual abuse by clergy when I first came to Australia, even though I was an adult, so that had a powerful impact on me and how I want to, you know, walk in the shoes of other victims and really endeavour to attain justice and dignity for them."      This is the third in a series of interviews Jim McDermott, S.J., is conducting on the sexual abuse crisis. This interview was conducted by e-mail.    Bishop Long, what are your reactions to the events of the last three weeks in the United States and beyond? What do you see happening in the church right now?              The events in these last few weeks, including the sensational accusations against Pope Francis himself by the former nuncio to the U.S., has caused great turmoil in the church. The sexual abuse crisis is inundating the whole church like a tsunami and it has the potential to cause long-term damage, chaos and even schism. It is the biggest crisis since the Reformation and it exposes the ideological conflict that runs deeply through the length and breadth of the universal church.           The anti-Pope Francis forces...have accelerated their frontal attacks against him in a coordinated and virulent manner. The gloves are clearly off and they have seized this moment of turmoil as an opportunity to undermine his papacy and derail his reform agenda. What is interesting, too, is the number of bishops who have chosen to sympathize with these forces and therefore shown their not-so-subtle disapproval of the way the pope is leading the church.....(More)  Photo: America - The Jesuit Review, NNS photo courtesy ACBC.       
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops
Extracts from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, Vatican, National Catholic Reporter, 18 September 2019
Vatican City — The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern for the entire church and a means of expressing all the bishops' unity with the pope, Pope Francis said.      Replacing Blessed Paul VI's 1965 document that established the Synod of Bishops and building on changes made to the synods over the past five decades, Francis issued an apostolic constitution, providing a theological explanation of the synod's role in the church and updating rules for how a synod is prepared for, conducted and implemented.          The constitution, "Episcopalis Communio" ["Episcopal Communion"], also states for the first time that voting members of the synod do not necessarily have to be priests. In preparation for the October synod on young people and vocational discernment, the Union of Superiors General, the organization of leaders of men's religious orders from around the world, elected two religious brothers to be members of the synod.    Discussing the normal voting members of the synod, Francis' new rules, which were published only in Italian Sept. 18, said that "according to the theme and circumstances, others who are not honored with episcopal duties can be called to the synod assembly with a role to be determined by the Roman pontiff."         Asked if that meant that women or women religious could be full voting members of the synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, said that according to the new rules the men's Union of Superiors General "can elect any male religious, even nonpriests, as the pope had permitted by exemption in the last two synodal assemblies. As for women, they are already present as observers and participate in the synodal assembly and the small groups and have a right to speak."          "At the moment, it is established that the men's union of superiors elects members," but the women's International Union of Superiors General does not. Fabene said, "For now, that it how it is."          But the main changes Francis made to the synod are less visible and more profound........"While in its composition it is configured as an essentially episcopal body, the synod still does not live separated from the rest of the faithful," he wrote. "On the contrary, it is an instrument suitable for giving voice to the whole people of God precisely through the bishops."    Obviously, the pope said, the synod is not a Catholic parliament. "In the church, in fact, the aim of any collegial, consultative or deliberative body is the search for the truth or the good of the church," so prayerful discernment and openness to the Holy Spirit is key at every stage......(More)  Photo: NCR, CNS Paul Haring  
Royal commission questions about overseas priests puts more pressure on Australia's bishops
Extract from Joanne McCarthy Newcastle Herald, 18 September 2018
A DRAMATIC increase in overseas priests from countries where the church is “largely in denial” about clerical child sexual abuse poses a risk for Australian communities and increases pressure on Catholic bishops to respond to a critical priest shortage, critics say.        Australian-born priests are estimated to make up half the 1300 full time priests working today, with priests from West Africa, India, the Philippines and Vietnam “filling the vacuum caused by the dramatic decline in the number of local priests”, said former priest David Timbs in a paper released as the National Council of Priests of Australia called for bishops to support debate on optional celibacy and married priests.     Many overseas priests lacked “critically important skills” needed for effective ministry, had little or no experience working with women and in some cases had “inflated expectations of clerical privilege and entitlement” that made it “near impossible” for them to lead, Mr Timbs wrote in a paper for Catholics for Renewal.       Former priest Peter Wilkinson, who co-authored a landmark study into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in 2017, said the Australian church’s reliance on overseas priests was a form of “ecclesiastical colonialism” that was “refusing to face up to the issues that have to be confronted here”.        Australia’s Catholic bishops could not wait until a 2020 Plenary Council conference to debate a National Council of Priests’ plan to ask Pope Francis to allow married priests in remote and regional Australia, Mr Wilkinson said.         “It should be happening now. I have to congratulate Australia’s priests for being so forthright and outspoken, but I don’t think they’re being listened to by the bishops,” he said.....(More)

New research shows Australian teens have complex views on religion and spirituality

Extract from Andrew Singleton, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Research, Deakin University; Anna Halafoff, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Deakin University; Gary D Bouma, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Monash University (and friend of The Conversation); Mary Lou Rasmussen, Professor, School of Sociology, Australian National University, The Conversation,  September 18, 2018

It’s perhaps not surprising that few Australian teens are engaged in formal religion and its practice. But, according to a new national study, many young people are nonetheless interested in spirituality, taking a complex and broad-minded approach to the issue. As researcher Andrew Singleton writes, the findings further challenge the idea that Australia is largely a Christian country, with teenagers at the forefront of overturning old ideas and constructing new ones.           The researchers found that teenagers broadly fit into six groups on matters of spirituality, from those with strong convictions to those questioning and discovering. And what is also striking is that they are remarkably tolerant of others’ views on the matter. As the researchers often heard: “it’s all good”.           The 2016 Census suggested about a third of Australian teens had no religion. But ask a teenager themselves about religion, rather than the parent or guardian filling in the census form, and the picture is slightly different.            According to our new national survey, at least half of teens say they are “religious nones” - those who do not identify with a religion or religious group. Digging deeper, we found a more complicated picture of faith and spirituality among young Australians. Most Gen Z teens have little to do with organised religion in their personal lives, while a significant proportion are interested in different ways of being spiritual.         Migration, diversity, secularisation and a burgeoning spiritual marketplace challenge the notion that we are a “Christian” country. More than any other group, teenagers are at the forefront of this remaking of Australian religion. Their daily experience of secondary school and social media sees them bumping into all kinds of difference. Teens are forming their own strong views about existential matters.          Our national study by scholars from ANU, Deakin and Monash – the AGZ Study – comprises 11 focus groups with students in Years 9 and 10 (ages 15-16) in three states, a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,200 people aged 13-18, and 30 in-depth, follow-up interviews. …(more)  Image: Teenagers, abstract collage, Katrina Frazer

Father Hans Zollner: Post abuse crisis, how can we get back to our Christian roots?
Extract from Jim McDermott, America, The Jesuit Review, 17 September 2018

Hans Zollner, S.J., is a licensed German psychologist and psychotherapist with a doctorate in theology and one of the church’s leading experts in the area of safeguarding minors. He is the president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a member on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a consultor to the Congregation for the Clergy. 

America spoke with Father Zollner in July and followed up recently as the sexual abuse crisis in the United States continues to roil the church. This is the first of three interviews James McDermott, S.J., is conducting about the abuse crisis.

What is your reaction to what we’ve seen in the United States and elsewhere over the last month?

The strongest impression I have is that it has now reached another level. The discussion and the awareness and the intensity, especially in the United States, is very surprising because you have gone through this for many years already. And it brings out the American [social and political] divisions that are visible in the country and in the church.

But why is it so shocking for so many, left and right of the divide? It is because the extent of the cover-up by church leaders in the past and their co-responsibility for it (no matter what their ideological persuasion) are becoming clearer now. And then the question is how people deal today with all these issues.....(More)

US bishops tell P ope abuse scandal ‘lacerated’ Church
Extract from CathNews, NCR Online, 14 September 2018
The meeting yesterday between Pope Francis and the leaders of the US bishops’ conference on the clergy sexual abuse scandal resulted in a “lengthy, fruitful and good exchange”, the American prelates said.           Conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said in a statement that he and the three others taking part in the encounter told the pontiff how the Church in the US had been “lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse,” and that the Pope “listened very deeply from the heart.”        Cardinal DiNardo met with the Pope alongside Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the conference vice president; Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the papal commission on clergy abuse; and Msgr Brian Bransfield, the conference’s general secretary.            The Vatican did not release any information about the encounter, aside from official photos and a brief video of its beginning. The statement from the US bishops came about four hours after its scheduled start at noon-time in Rome.      Cardinal DiNardo first requested the encounter with Francis las month, two days after the August 14 release of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed that more than 300 priests had been accused of committing sexual assault in six dioceses in the state over seven decades.     Release of that report came shortly after Archbishop Theodore McCarrick renounced his place in the College of Cardinals in the wake of revelations that he sexually harassed or abused several young men during his rise to become one of the US Church’s most senior prelates.....(more).  Photo. CathNews CNS Vatican Media 
It is time for Archbishop Viganò to meet the press
Gerard O’Connell
Extract from Gerard O'Connor, America, The Jesuit Review, 13 September 2018
News that the Holy See is preparing the “necessary clarifications” to the allegations of cover-up and corruption made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò against Pope Francis and more than 30 past and present senior Vatican officials has been widely welcomed in the church.       As the Vatican prepares its response, many reporters in Rome say Archbishop Viganò also has many questions to answer. Since dropping his bombshell letter, however, he has gone into hiding and acted like an insurgent, making intermittent sniper comments or statements to those journalists and news outlets who share his opposition to Francis. Isn’t it time for him to come out of hiding and meet the press?....(More)
Pope Francis summons the world’s top bishops for sexual abuse prevention summit
Pope Francis has summoned the president of every bishops conference around the world to a summit meeting in the Vatican on the theme of “the protection of minors.”
Extract from America, The Jesuit Review, 12 September 2018
The Feb. 21-24, 2019 meeting is believed to be the first of its kind, and signals a realization at the highest levels of the church that clergy sex abuse is a global problem and not restricted to the Anglo-Saxon world, as many church leaders have long insisted.         Francis called the meeting after consulting the Council of Cardinal Advisors at their meeting in Rome earlier this week. A Vatican statement said the cardinals and the pope discussed at length the subject of abuse in the church.        Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists in a briefing that the pope has convened the meeting “to talk about the prevention of the abuses of minors and vulnerable adults.”   Francis’ decision comes in the wake of reports and revelations of abuse by priests and religious persons in countries throughout the world, including the United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Italy and also Asia.....(more)  Photo: America, The Jesuit Review, AP Alessandra Tarantino.
Erring Shepherds
Extract from Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland, 10 September 2018
It has pained me greatly to write this article. I deeply love the Catholic Church – which has an unconditionally loving, merciful and triune God at its centre.  I have great respect and love for Pope Francis and have worked closely throughout my life with many dedicated, hard working and deeply spiritual priests.       But something is deeply wrong within the Catholic Church as is revealed in the short history below of clerical and institutional abuse. The Church has lost much of its moral leadership around the world, particularly among younger Catholics in the northern hemisphere.          The problem, as clearly and frequently identified by Pope Francis, is a pervasive and toxic culture of clericalism throughout the Catholic hierarchy. Within clericalism I would include the related problems of the sexual abuse of children by a small minority of clergy, unaccountable power, careerism, imposed celibacy and a major lack of effective involvement of lay men and women at all levels within the Church.      Lay people must be given back effective ownership of their Church, in which they will work, in word and action and partnership with clergy, guided by the Holy Spirit and a deep knowledge of Sacred Scripture and strengthened divine Eucharist – to help bring about on earth God’s Kingdom of unconditional love and mercy for all human kind and all of nature. Let us have a Church of mercy which is “a field hospital after battle” for the wounded, as Pope Francis has said....(more)

NZ: What victims want most: justice
Extracts from Opinion, ODT Insight,  Otago Daily Times, 8 September 2018
..... But, most of all, they want the Catholic Church to answer for what happened.     Which is exactly why the Catholic Church, and churches of all stripes, need to be part of the Government’s pending Royal Commission into historic abuse.     And not just included, but put under the microscope. Investigated. Cross-examined. And compelled to answer questions.Because, even to this day, old habits die hard.        Dunedin’s new Catholic Bishop, the Most Rev Michael Dooley, seems like a good and honourable man.      He has fronted media and his parishioners, expressed shock and pain at recent revelations, apologised to victims and the city for past events and urged those still suffering in silence to come forward.       But he remains reluctant to answer some tough questions.       Bishop Dooley won’t say how many complaints have been received, or how many past offenders he is aware of, within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin.      That information will only be revealed to police or the Royal Commission, not to media, the bishop  says.         He is also not yet prepared to discuss some allegations levelled against clergy, including those aimed at one of the most senior figures within the diocese in recent times.       Instead, he has insisted Dunedin’s problem remains small compared with  the shocking revelations seen in other countries, from the United States and Ireland to Australia.        But, as he does so, the list of alleged offenders from the Deep South keeps growing........New Zealand must follow in Australia’s footsteps, despite the extra time and cost involved, and include churches - and all of their various settings - in a truly inquisitorial Royal Commission.   Only then will we finally get to the bottom of who did what, and when, in this country.     Only then will sunlight finally expose the true extent of the problem.   Only then will victims have justice....(More)  Image NZ Maori Fern

PETER WOODRUFF. Open letter to Pope Francis on “The Pope as a Game Changer”
Extract from Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 7 September 2018
Greetings from Australia.  I am a priest who worked for many years in parishes in poor barrios of Lima, Peru.  I am now retired in Melbourne, Australia.           As you know, Pope John XXIII, despite the few years he was in the job (1958 to 1963), was a game changer.  He called the Second Vatican Council and, in the midst of the cold war, wrote a challenging letter to the world, titled Peace on Earth.  Pope Paul VI initially continued with his game plan but stumbled with his decision not to heed the advice of the commission he had formed to help write the 1968 letter on birth control to Catholics and all people of good will.  Then, Popes John Paul II (1978 to 2005) and Benedict XVI (2005 to 2013), chose to play a defensive game, which is more or less what our church leadership has been on about since the Council of Trent (1545 to 1563).      You have also been a game changer.    You have addressed the world, from the perspective of our Christian faith, on what is probably the major threat to life on our planet, namely, rapid, human induced climate change.  You have constantly urged us to become a church of service to life, especially that of the poor, marginalised and oppressed.  You have made a point of listening even when you are being told what you might not want to hear.         But, are you now hesitating?  Clearly, you recognise the evolutionary nature of our world and all that inhabits it, including us humans.  You know that much in our church must change in order to remain true to the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.  Society, both local and global, evolves; so too must the church.  However, there are aspects of the church that, at present, only you as Pope can change.....(MORE)
ANTHONY HOGAN. Can we start again please? Towards reform of the Catholic Church?
Extract from Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 7 September 2018
The Australian Catholics Bishops Conference have announced that they are open to change. This article scopes out what such an agenda for change might need to address.     In its response to the Royal Commission into institutional sexual abuse, the Australian Catholics Bishops’ Conference asserts that it is changing and that it is prepared to continue to engage in change (       However, its idea of change and the kind of change people in the Catholic community are looking for, may not be the same thing.      The Catholic Community looks at the culture and structure of its Church, and its governmental processes, and finds them wanting, while commentators like Chris Geraghty point out the need for root and branch reform (See Chris Geraghty’s piece of 24 May, 2018 on this blog).     The fact of the matter is that we are yet to see what an agenda for change might look like (beyond some undefined notion of an ‘increased’ role for women in decision-making). Moreover, if there is to be a change process it cannot be assumed that the Bishops would remain in control of it. In this short piece I wish to scope out some aspects of a possible agenda for change, noting that there are a number of basic social issues that have to be on the table in order to for such a process to be effective.....(MORE)
Prosecutors to appeal 'inadequate' sentence
Extract from CathNews, Thje Advertiser, 7 September 2018
Prosecutors are set to appeal the sentence handed down to former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson for failing to report child sexual abuse, arguing the sentence is too lenient.       The New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions has lodged an “inadequacy appeal” against Archbishop Wilson’s 12-month jail term, which was to be served on home detention. He must serve at least six months of the home detention order.      Archbishop Wilson has lodged his own appeal against his conviction, which will be heard next month.      However, prosecutors will put forward their own case against what they say is an inadequate sentence in the District Court in Newcastle on Wednesday, September 13.    Archbishop Wilson was found guilty in May of failing to report paedophile priest James Fletcher’s historic sex abuse against altar boys in the NSW Hunter Region in the 1970s and 1980s. He was found to have withheld information about the offending from police between 2004 and 2006....(more)
Paris archbishop sets new pastoral priorities to include lay people
Limited extract from subscription jouirnal La Croix International, 6 September 2018
Archbishop Michel Aupetit to redefine status of lay people by appreciating their pastoral role in assuming genuine responsibilities.   It is now nine months since Archbishop Michel Aupetit’s appointment to the Archdiocese of Paris. In a letter to priests and church volunteers this week, he shared the eight pastoral priorities for the diocese during the 2018-19 year.      Archbishop Aupetit officially presented the letter to the press flanked by his newly appointed vicars general....(source)
Archbishop Coleridge: U.S. needs to become “humbler church” in response to abuse crisis
Extract from Emma Winters, America, The Jesuit Review, 5 September 2018
In a conversation about sexual abuse in the United States and Australia, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, told America that “until there is a genuine restoration of trust, no apology is going to land.”     We have to accept now,” the archbishop continued, “restoring trust will only come over time if in fact we do the things we say we’re going to do.”        The Catholic Church in Australia was under inquiry by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2013 to 2017, when a final report was issued. Similar to findings of the Pennsylvania grand jury in the United States, the Royal Commission brought to light instances of abuse, as well as cover-ups by bishops and religious superiors.          The dominant mood probably is a sense of bewilderment, really, because this is a crisis the like of which we haven’t faced in our history,” the archbishop said in a video interview with executive editor Tim Reidy.     Archbishop Coleridge noted that there were advantages to having a national scope with the inquiry and response. He said the national approach was vital in preventing a “fragmented and at times contradictory response” to “an area as vital as child protection.” However, the archbishop stressed that the national nature of the response also had “enormous challenges” because with seven distinct jurisdictions “Australia in the singular doesn’t exist.”.....In Archbishop Coleridge’s eyes, there are many more effective ways to protect children from sexual abuse than changing church teaching about the seal or priestly celibacy, another issue the commission recommended the church to revisit. The archbishop stressed the importance of changing the church’s culture and listening to survivors......(MORE)   
600 people gather in Sydney to hear from Pope’s expert on child safety
Extracts from Catholic Outlook, from 3 September 2018
More than 600 people gathered in Sydney over two days to hear from the Pope’s expert on child protection and the prevention of abuse.  Fr Hans Zollner SJ, the recognised authority on safeguarding children, delivered lectures and led workshops at the Creating a Safe Church from Within conference which looked at why abuse occurred in the past, what has been done to fix the issue and what must be done to prevent it occurring again.        In attendance were victims and survivors of abuse, priests, nuns, school principals, teachers, parishioners, volunteers and Church employees.        Fr Hans pointed out that while the Catholic Church “has done a lot” to tackle abuse, there is “a lot to be done”.     “Pope Francis has put this on the agenda of the Catholic Church worldwide. It is a prime issue with which we have to deal with” Fr Hans said.     “A few years ago, not many local Churches [around the world] would talk about or even mention child abuse”. It was seen as a “Western problem, an Anglo-Saxon problem, a European problem”, however, this is an “issue that won’t go away anymore” according to Fr Hans.......Bishop Brian Mascord of the Diocese of Wollongong and Bishop Vincent Long of the Diocese of Parramatta were part of the opening welcome along with local indigenous children presenting a Welcome to Country and prayer and reflection from those affected by child sexual abuse.       Bishop Vincent stressed the Catholic Church needed “deep institutional change” to deal with abuse and that it is now “time to listen with great humility” to the victims and survivors of abuse and that “we owe it to the victims, their families and their loved ones.”       Bishop Brian was appreciative of the victims and survivors who attended and welcomed them to the conference. “Thank you for being here. It’s not easy, [I am] so grateful that you are here.”......German by birth, Fr Hans is a theologian, psychotherapist and psychologist. He has been a member of the Pope’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since 2014 and is head of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Fr Hans is also a member of the Society of Jesus, the same religious order that Pope Francis belongs to.  .........The Catholic Church in Australia is in the “top five” leading countries in the world adopting processes to safeguard children and vulnerable people, according to Fr Hans.    Fr Hans said that while this is a “difficult moment” for the Church in Australia dealing with the issue of historical abuse, it is a “necessary one”....Touching on trust, Fr Hans incisively pointed out that the trust that had been built over centuries and generations by the Catholic Church has been destroyed in a few years because of the child sexual abuse failures, even though most of the abuse, seen through the recent inquiries, had occurred during the 1960s and 70s. “Trust has been broken”, Fr Hans said.    He went on to explain how the Church cannot ask people to “trust us now” and that the only way of rebuilding that broken trust is to let victims and survivors see the Church as operating differently. Further, the actions of the Church will build trust and actions must be measureable, palpable and visible.    Fr Hans mentioned that since guidelines and proper screening processes had been put in place over the last two decades, there has been almost no new allegations of abuse reported in the Catholic Church in Australia.....In addition to the physical and psychological damage of abuse, Fr Hans pointed out the deep theological damage, “what we did was destroying the message of the Gospel”.     “One thing you can do is listen” to survivors and victims of abuse, according to Fr Hans, so their process of healing can begin. “We must listen to survivors of abuse”.    Fr Hans spoke about not waiting for the necessary changes in Canon Law or hierarchical governance shifts, but that we all have a responsibility to open the discussion and to act – to change ourselves no matter our role within the Church. This call to action was directed at all present, and not just the Bishops and clergy.....(MORE)  Photo: Catholic Outlook,  Flickr.
Hans Zollner* at Campbelltown - Pontifical Secret
Extract from James, Catholica Forum, 2 September 2018
Yesterday I attending a function put on by the Wollongong Diocese at the Catholic Club in Campbelltown in which Fr Hans Zollner spoke. He provided some interesting statistics on abusers in terms of their age etc and these will all be produced in a communique published by the diocese later.        During question time, I asked him that given that four independent judicial Commissions in the United States in 2003, Ireland in 2009, Victoria and 2012 and now the Royal Commission in 2017 found that the Church's secrecy laws contributed to child sexual abuse by covering it up, and given that the day before, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference stated that on advice from canonists, it did not think that these laws prohibited reporting to the civil authorities, isn't it about time that Pope Francis either changed canon law, or as the supreme interpreter of it, like out High Court in civil law in Australia, came out with a binding interpretation that the pontifical secret does not under any circumstances prohibit reporting child sexual abuse to the civil authorities.   Zollner said that....(MORE)
[* Fr Hans Zollner is a German theologian and psychologist, one of the leading experts on sexual abuse working in the Catholic Church]
What it will take to prove the Church gets it
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street, 1 September 2018
Many Catholics were glued to the screen to hear their leaders respond to the royal commission. The optics were immediately better because Sister Monica Cavanagh rsj, president of Catholic Religious Australia, was sitting beside Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and had a significant speaking part by reading their opening joint statement to the media conference.       Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Sister Monica Cavanagh rsj, president of Catholic Religious Australia.         Also welcome was the thanks offered to the media by Coleridge, as he signed off, for the role of journalists in uncovering the national tragedy of child sexual abuse and the unforgivable cover up by the church, as well as for giving voice to the survivors. Too often church leaders have treated the media as their enemy and encouraged Catholics to do likewise.    Survivors have every right to say 'too little too late' to this belated response by the church leaders. Broken trust cannot be rebuilt quickly and in the case of many survivors may not be rebuilt in their lifetimes. The church must show survivors by its pastoral actions that it has learned. That will take many years.    The question of the seal of confession and, to a lesser extent, of voluntary celibacy for priests, is interpreted by the media and the wider public as proof that the church leadership is still resisting rather than embracing the recommendations of the royal commission and that they still don't get it.    That impression can only be allayed if the church's record in a decade's time can be shown to be impeccable in responding to the other 98 per cent of the RC recommendations. But already that 98 per cent has been shown to be a rubbery figure, dependent on counting in-principle support and/or referral to Rome.    The media conference also showed how discussion immediately turns to the universal (international) nature of the church, either through church explanations that some matters must be processed through the Holy See, or through media questions about Pope Francis and international developments. The Australian Catholic Church, to its detriment, is shown not be a national church, like the Anglican Church in Australia, but a branch-office church with all the impediments to freedom of independent action that follow.....(MORE)    Photo: Eureka Street.
The joint response from Catholic Religious Australia and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference can be found HERE
The Truth, Justice and Healing Council reports can be found HERE
See "The Seal of Confession: civil law, church law and conscience" Peter Johnstone, on the Documents page
(Document No. 85) republished with Permission from The Swag, Spring 2018
See "Breaking the seal for the common good" Peter Johnstone, and comments, below (17 July 2018) 

Health and Integrity conference calls for a ‘reformation’ of Australia’s churches following Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Media Release, Friday 31 August 2018
In a week when the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults in church institutions has once again been making international headlines, a conference of Christian churches in Melbourne has called on Australia’s churches to embrace thoroughgoing reformation of their structures, governance and culture inthe wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.           The three-day ecumenical Health and Integrity in Church and Ministry conference on the task of rebuilding and renewal for the churches after the Royal Commission (27–29 August 2018), was hosted by the University of Divinity and sponsored by three leading Catholic religious institutes and Yarra Theological Union. The conference was attended by church members and leaders, academics, clergy and religious, ministers and church workers, survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates, and groups advocating church reform.....(full Media Release HERE)

Where from and where to: The Truth Justice and Healing Council, the Royal Commission and the  Catholic Church in Australia
Final Report April 2018, made public 31 August 2018  Report HERE
Extract from Introduction
The Royal Commission has laid bare the extensive history of  the Church in the sexual abuse of children in its institutions and of the devastating failure of the Church to put the interests and the protection of children and vulnerable people first.      An almost inevitable conclusion is that too many of those who were in a position to protect children instead looked to the preservation of the reputation of the organisation and thus to the shielding of perpetrators.      The lives of victims and of their families and loved ones have been devastated by the effects of clerical sexual abuse and that must be, and remain, at  the forefront of the Church’s thinking and actions as it tries to come to grips with the tragedy and to deliver justice to those who have been harmed while in its care.      One of the major consequences of the abuse crisis has been the loss of trust in Church leadership and their moral influence.       One of the great challenges for the future will be the restoration of that trust.   There have been some landmarks on the tortuous journey of the Church towards recognition and acceptance of its part in the scourge of institutional child sexual abuse and to deliver compassionate justice  to the victims and survivors of these crimes.    Report HERE

Archbishop Comensoli meets mother of abuse victim
Extracts from CathNews, ABC News,  31 August 2018

In his first public speech since his installation as Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli has been confronted by the 93-year-old mother of an abuse victim who took her own life in 1994. Source: ABC News.           Eileen Piper asked the Archbishop to look at a photo of her daughter Stephanie Piper lying dead in her coffin.      The Church has long denied Stephanie Piper was abused by Fr Gerard Mulvale in the 1970s, accusing her of fabricating the story due to mental illness. Mulvale was convicted the year after Stephanie’s death of abusing two boys from his youth group.    Mrs Piper’s lawyer, Judy Courtin, asked Archbishop Comensoli to “rectify this wrong”. “Please receive this dossier, read it, meet with Mrs Piper, and take action to bring an end to this horror,” Ms Courtin said.    The Archbishop walked from the stage to Mrs Piper and took the photo in his hand.    “I’d like to be able to meet with you,” Archbishop Comensoli said. “But then I need to consider your own circumstances and the circumstances of what happened to Stephanie, and then I’ll be able to respond further.”....In his speech, Archbishop Comensoli said the Church needed to lose its “corporate” image.....(more)

Pope Francis must lead on the sexual abuse crisis
Extract from The Editors, America - The Jesuit Review, 28 August 2018
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s 11 pages of accusations against Pope Francis and other church leaders have weaponized the church’s sexual abuse crisis, shifting the focus from listening to survivors to Vatican intrigues.         Yet these new accusations amount to more of the same problem the church already had: priests, bishops and popes who, when they learned of abuse, protected each other rather than the victims.          The recommendations we made when the McCarrick case was first revealed, in July, and after the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released, in August, still stand:             The church must prioritize listening to survivors of abuse and seeking justice for them. Clear public mechanisms to report abuse and misconduct and to discipline bishops who fail in their duties must be established. The church must undertake a comprehensive, transparent accounting of its tragic failures over the past decades and conduct and cooperate with any necessary investigations.         To achieve true reform, Pope Francis must give this crisis his full focus. His letter to the church and his statements in Ireland are a start, but he must follow through and make them concrete.      Francis’ refusal to respond to the Viganò accusations may be an attempt to stay above the fray rather than dignify a venomous ideological attack. Nonetheless, the pope’s refusal is an insufficient pastoral response for a church that is deeply wounded. The best way for Pope Francis to respond to the attempt to use the sexual abuse crisis as a weapon in the culture war is to be honest and humble himself, as he ultimately was in his response to abuse survivors in Chile, and to lead the church in caring for those who are hurting the most.....(MORE)   Photo: America - The Jesuit Review, CNS Paul Haring

Trent’s Long Shadow: The Abuse Crisis and Seminaries, Dioceses, and the Laity
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal, 23 August 2018
With the recent revelations about Theodore McCarrick, new investigations into the seminaries of Boston and Lincoln (Nebraska), and the grand-jury report from Pennsylvania, the sex abuse crisis has reached a new stage.     If this is, as many believe, the most serious crisis in the Catholic Church since the Protestant Reformation, then the analysis of this systemic failure of the institutional church needs to take the long view, comparing this period in the church’s history to others in order to discover where exactly things went wrong. Some—for example, Ross Douthat—think of the current period in the church’s history as a “settlement” established by the post-Vatican II pontificates that came before Francis, characterized by changes in the Catholic approach to sexual morality and by the huge social and cultural transformations of the 1960s.     This way of understanding the church’s recent history is popular with those who link clerical sexual abuse with the reforms of the Vatican II period, and who are, not coincidentally, suspicious of Pope Francis’s approach to issues connected to marriage, family, and sex, especially homosexuality.      This approach, starting as it does with Vatican II, tends to ignore the long history of institutions that presided over the church’s failure to deal with clerical sex abuse. To understand their role in the current crisis, one must look at three key elements that made possible the “Catholic reform” that began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563), elements that Vatican II did not change as much as we tend to think: the formation of priests at seminaries, the diocesan structure based on parish priest and bishop, and the role of the laity.           The seminaries for the formation of clergy. The curriculum at Catholic seminaries has changed a few times over the past five centuries, but the basic model, designed by the Tridentine Church, has not.....(more).  Photo: Commonweal, CNS photo/Jerry Naunheim Jr., St. Louis Review   
Immense work ahead to fix abuse damage: CRA
Extract from CathNews, 23 August 2018
Catholic Religious Australia yesterday declared its strong support for Pope Francis’ Letter to the People of God on sexual abuse in the Church.        In a statement, CRA said it shares the Pope’s “determination to keep all safe in our Church, especially the young and the vulnerable”.       CRA President Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ said the organisation recognised that “now is the time for action”.    “It is shameful that in the past, the response was one of omission and that people have been so deeply damaged that the wounds of the past may never disappear,”  Sr Monica said.    “While we cannot apologise enough for the damage done, we know that words are not sufficient. There is immense work ahead and Catholic Religious Australia is committed to working in solidarity with Church communities, agencies and organisations to undertake this work as effectively as possible.    “During the years of the royal commission, we have begun the work of implementing change to create a culture of greater care, accountability and transparency. This may not yet be visible, and much work is yet to take place, but it is a beginning and we are committed to action,” Sr Monica said.    The statement concluded with CRA stating it recognises “a change of culture within our Church is necessary; one that is seen, felt and experienced”.....(More). Photo: CathNews,
Statement from ACBC President Archbishop Mark Coleridge
21 August 2018
The Catholic Bishops of Australia welcome the Letter to the People of God that Pope Francis has written regarding sexual abuse in the Church. We share the Holy Father’s determination to protect young people and vulnerable adults .     What Church leaders in Australia have said in the past is consistent with what the Pope has written now:    “It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and co ndemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.”    These are important words from Pope Francis, but words are not enough. Now is the time for action on many levels. The Royal Commission has done much good for this country, especially in creating a safe place for survivors to be heard and believed.   We again thank the survivors who have so courageously shared their stories. Next week, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia will publish our response to the Royal Commission’s final report. (statement Here)
Letter to the Faithful from Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Tuesday 21 August 2018
Extract from Media and Communications Office, CAM, 21 August 2018 
To the Faithful of the Archdiocese of Melbourne,  Dear Friends,    ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.’ (1Cor 12:26) With these words from St Paul, Pope Francis overnight has written a letter to us all, the People of God. In the letter he expresses his own heart concerning the ‘culture of death’ that is clerical sexual abuse and the ecclesial cover-up that often has accompanied it, inflicting deep wounds of disgust, bewilderment, shame, and disheartenment. As the Holy Father says:     These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike… The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.’          I associate myself with these words, and the whole content of Pope’s Francis’ letter:
       No words of apology – while always needed – will ever be enough to right the evil done to those who have been abused, and those who were not listened to and believed. Efforts to repair the harm done – while entirely necessary – cannot overcome the evil perpetrated upon innocent children and vulnerable adults, and the harm experienced by families and communities.     Therefore, and looking ahead, it falls to me, as your Archbishop, to ensure that our local Church in Melbourne is unequivocally committed to attending to the harm done, prioritising the dignity and care of all who are young and vulnerable, rebuilding trust among our people, and creating safe environments in our communities, agencies and organisations. This is the way of Jesus Christ. It must be my way. And I invite you to join with me in making it our common Gospel way......To this end, I want to let you know that I am committed to exercising my responsibilities according to the framework offered by the Child Safe Standards articulated by the Royal Commission. I am also committed to working closely with the Commission for Children and Young People here in Victoria to implement policies and processes within the Archdiocese that comply with best practice. The Archdiocese has signed up to the National Redress Scheme, and we will join with national Church actions in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. In the two weeks since taking office as Archbishop, I have initiated a process of appraisal into our current policies, processes and structures to identify what further action can be taken to improve our transparency, compassion and accountability.     I am strongly committed to reporting to the appropriate authorities, and have already exercised that duty here in Melbourne. I am also strongly committed to upholding the seal of confession. I have begun conversations with our public authorities about finding a way in which these two principles can be upheld, for the sake of the safety of all.....(MORE)
Critics say Pope Francis needs to walk the walk after too many words on global Catholic child abuse scandal
Extracts from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald, 21 August 2018
POPE Francis’ vow to break the Catholic Church’s cover-up culture in a letter to “the people of God” after a damning American child sexual abuse report has been criticised after eight months of silence following release of the Australian child abuse royal commission final report.        Pope Francis condemned “atrocities” committed by priests against 1000 children in Pennsylvania and admitted the church abandoned “the little ones”, in a letter released on Monday after a US grand jury report revealed shocking child sexual abuse over 70 years.        He vowed that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated”, but provided no details about how that was to be achieved. The letter followed a similar statement from the Pope in May after a child sexual abuse scandal in Chile.        Australian critics said the recent letters were “just more words” and “hand-wringing” from the Pope whose response to the Australian royal commission final report in December, with recommendations that directly challenge child sexual abuse secrecy provisions within church law, was a two-line statement acknowledging the commission's “accurate efforts”.             “He can change the culture of the church with the stroke of a pen by changing canon law but he won’t,” said lawyer and former trainee priest Kieran Tapsell, whose submission to the royal commission on canon law was reflected in a series of recommendations for Australian bishops to raise with the Vatican.     “The church secrecy laws protect the perpetrators and increase the amount of child sexual abuse and yet when two United Nations committees in 2014 recommended the Pope change canon law to protect children, he rejected them,” Mr Tapsell said.      “How can he get rid of a culture of secrecy when canon law requires secrecy? Until he changes canon law, everything he says is hypocrisy. There’s nothing wrong with the words in his letter. I like what he says, but it’s still more hand-wringing.”....Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform convenor Peter Johnstone said the Pope’s letter “amazingly” promised “no reform of the unaccountability and toxicity of the church’s structure and culture” despite “voluminous evidence of cover-ups by bishops throughout the world over many years”.          “He says he is ‘conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world’ and acknowledges that the church has ‘delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary’,” Mr Johnstone said.     “Yet the Pope, while recognising the ‘filth’, ‘pride’, ‘self-complacency’ among the leaders of the church, fails to identify steps that need to be taken to reform the governance structure and culture that have nurtured this evil.”    Mr Johnstone said the Australian royal commission’s final report recommended action that went “far beyond procedural changes for child safety”.....Former priest, academic and Australian Catholics for Renewal president Peter Wilkinson said the Pope’s latest words, “so long overdue, are good, but more important is the follow-up action”.    “I would hope that when Pope Francis finally takes that action he notes carefully the recommendations of the Australian royal commission,” Dr Wilkinson said.....Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the Pope’s letter, and acknowledging the royal commission which had “done much good for this country”.       “These are important words from Pope Francis, but words are not enough. Now is the time for action on many levels,” Archbishop Coleridge said....(more)
Pope Francis issues new letter on sex abuse: ‘We showed no care for the little ones’
Extracts from Nicole Winfield - Associated Press, America The Jesuit Review, 20 August 2018
Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world Monday condemning the "crime" of priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up and demanding accountability, in response to new revelations in the United States of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church.        Francis begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said lay Catholics must be involved in any effort to root out abuse and cover-up. He blasted the self-referential clerical culture that has been blamed for the crisis, with church leaders more concerned for their reputation than the safety of children.    "With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives," Francis wrote.            "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."        The Vatican issued the three-page letter ahead of Francis' trip this weekend to Ireland, a once staunchly Roman Catholic country where the church's credibility has been damaged by years of revelations that priests raped and molested children with impunity and their superiors covered up for them.....In the letter, which was issued in seven languages and addressed to the "People of God," Francis referenced the Pennsylvania report, acknowledged that no effort to beg forgiveness of the victims will be sufficient but vowed "never again."     He said, looking to the future, "no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated."...."Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others," he wrote. "An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion."(MORE). Photo: America The Jesuit Review AP Gregorio Borgia  
India. Rape case against bishop: Priest booked for ‘trying to influence’ victim
In the voice clip, Aerthayil was heard asking the nun, that if they are ready to withdraw the complaint, they would be allowed to move to a new convent, which would be constructed somewhere under the jurisdiction of Kanjirapally diocese.
Extract from Shaju Philip, The Indian Express, Sunday 19 August 2018
Police on Monday registered a case against a senior priest for his alleged attempt to influence the nun who has accused Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal of rape. The case was lodged on a direction of the judicial first class magistrate court in Pala after the audio clip of a purported conversation between Fr Aerthayil and a nun close to the complainant came out in the media.           Catholic congregation Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) too initiated disciplinary action against Aerthayil. Aerthayil, a former chairman of Catholic Church mouthpiece Deepika, was removed as head of the CMI monastery at Kurianad in Kottayam a day after a voice clip came out in the media.       In the voice clip, Aerthayil was heard asking the nun, who is staying with the complainant at their Kuravilangad convent in Kottayam, that if they are ready to withdraw the complaint, they would be allowed to move to a new convent, which would be constructed somewhere under the jurisdiction of Kanjirapally diocese.           Aerthayil is also heard stating he was making a suggestion and the nuns should “think positively”....(more)    YouTube Audio recording here
The Catholic Church’s vocations crisis
Importing foreign priests is not the answer.
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Vatican City, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 17 August 2018   (first published  April 20, 2018)
Pope Francis this weekend will ordain eleven new priests for the Diocese of Rome. At a Mass in St Peter’s Basilica to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter, otherwise known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the pope will also ordain five other men for two different religious orders.      But only five of Rome’s 11 new priests are Italians, having done their formation at the diocese’s major seminary. The other six who will be incardinated into the pope’s diocese are non-Italians. They are members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way.      They did their preparation for ministry at the movement’s Redemptoris Mater Seminary and will likely be sent abroad to serve in one of its many missionary apostolates or parishes.     The ordination Mass is taking place on the 55th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. And in earlier-released message for the occasion, Francis said:  “Each one of us is called – whether to the lay life in marriage, to the priestly life in the ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration – in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now.”     “In the diversity and the uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is a need to listen, discern and live this word (of God) that calls to us from on high and, while enabling us to develop our talents, makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guides us to full happiness,” he said.     In short, the pope focused on all the various types of Christian callings. But he....(source).  Photo: La Croix International 
Catholic world has eyes on Australia’s Plenary Council, US theologian says
Wrestling with tradition: Richard Gaillardetz believes the work of the Plenary Council 2020 offers hope to the Church across the world
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, 17 August 2018
The entire Catholic world is watching as the Church in Australia moves towards the Plenary Council 2020, according to one of America’s leading theologians.      “I think this is one of the most important things that is going to happen in the Church – universal – in the next four or five years,” Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology, Boston College, Richard Gaillardetz, said.    Prof Gaillardetz, author of 18 books, is visiting Australia, and is one of the keenest international observers of the plenary process.    “If the plenary council is done well it could have a marvellous revitalising effect, both in the Church in Australia and give some hope to other churches in other parts of the world,” he said.    “I also fear that it could go in the other direction. There will be a great temptation for the bishops to sanitise the whole process – to say ‘well, we’ve made these mistakes in the past, we have to put that behind us and move forward’.    “I think that would be the worst thing they could do.    “If the plenary council can muster the courage to take a genuine act of ecclesial repentance it has a chance of restoring the credibility of the Church.    “I fear that they’ll not have the courage to do that though.”    Attending the Holy Spirit Seminary in Brisbane on August 4, Prof Gaillardetz delivered a day-long lecture and workshop session entitled “Reflections on power and    “His starting point is you’ve got to be mature in order to embrace what discipleship is demanded of us.”....(MORE)   Photo: The Catholic Leader, Mark Bowling    
Youth Festival to tune into what Spirit is saying
Extract from CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, 17 August 2018
More than 5000 young Catholics are expected to converge on Perth next year for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival.         As the largest Catholic youth gathering in Australia, the ACYF promotes and engages the life and voice of young Catholics, equipping them to live out their faith in the world.     The festival, to be held on December 8-10, 2019, will use the scriptural focus of the 2020 Plenary Council by adopting the theme “Listen to what the Spirit is Saying (Rev 2:7)”.     Prayers for and discussion about the Plenary Council will ensure vital consultation with Australia’s youth takes place in this important journey in the life of the Church.     Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB expressed his joy and hope for the festival.    “As God called St Francis of Assisi many hundreds of years ago to ‘go and rebuild the Church’, I pray our young people might hear this same calling,” Archbishop Costelloe said.    “It will be a fantastic experience and an opportunity for our young people to commit themselves to helping the Church become the Church that God wants it to be and the world needs it to be.” ....(MORE) Photo: Cath News, The Record/Jamie O’Brien
Vatican responds to Pennsylvania Grand Jury abuse report
Extracts from Vatican News, 16 August 2018
On Thursday evening, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, issued the following statement regarding the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury issued earlier this week in the United States over the sexual abuse of minors.         "Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow. The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced.       The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors.       The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.     Most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s......The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.     The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirt of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society.      Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent."....(more)    Photo: Vatican News, CNS
U.S. bishops say church needs lay Catholics to help address ‘moral catastrophe’
Extract from Chico Harlan, Bureau chief The Washington Post, 16 August 2018
ROME — Calling sexual abuse revelations within the U.S. Catholic Church a “moral catastrophe,” the head of the American bishops’ group called Thursday for wider investigations of a former Washington archbishop and said laypeople should have a greater role in holding clerics accountable.       The announcement, which also urges new steps to resolve complaints against bishops, provides the first sense of how a reeling church seeks to confront serial failures of its hierarchy to report abuse and remove predator priests.      Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for an investigation of the “questions surrounding” prelate Theodore McCarrick, a former Washington archbishop, who resigned from the College of Cardinals last month amid allegations that he abused seminarians and minors.        DiNardo said the U.S. bishops would ask the Vatican to conduct the inquiry, along with expert laypeople. Since McCarrick’s resignation, questions have included how the onetime cardinal ascended the ranks of the church despite rumors about his behavior.      DiNardo said the steps were not final and will be presented in more detail to the full group of U.S. bishops at a meeting in November.    “This is a moral catastrophe,” he said. “It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.”      His announcement comes two days after the release of a scalding Pennsylvania grand jury report that depicted decades of systemic abuse, in which leaders kept potential criminal behavior “in house” and prioritized avoiding public scandal over protecting children....(more)
We need a missionary rather than a perfect church
Extract from Fr Noel Connolly SSC,  St Columbans Missionary Society, 15 August 2018
As I travel around Australia promoting the Plenary Council I encounter both scepticism and hope. The most frequent question is “will the bishops listen?” At the same time there is a reservoir of hope in people. They love the church and want to be a part of its future. They want to talk and they want to be listened to. My hope is that we can build a church in which lay men and especially women can play their rightful role in the ministry and governance of the church, and where we can learn to trust one another, bishops and all the people of God.             But in recent weeks I have been giving more thought to the question posed for the Council, “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” The question refers to Australia not to the church. The Plenary Council is not just for our church but for our country.  Even if we were to come up with a transformed church, if the country does not benefit we will have “failed”. We will have failed because we will have failed to be church.    Pope Francis keeps reminding us to stop being preoccupied with ourselves and to go out into the streets as missionary disciples prepared to get dirty and bruised. There we will find renewal and transformation.   We must remember that the goal of mission is not primarily about the expansion or perfection of the church but the revelation of God’s love and the realisation of God’s liberating plan for the universe. It is a plan for a “Kingdom” larger than the church....(more)
Repentance, sadness, shame: US Bishops respond to PA abuse report
"Remorse," "sadness," "shock,” and "shame": these are some of the reactions of Catholic Bishops of the State of Pennsylvania following the publication of a report on sexual abuse presented by the state’s Attorney General on Tuesday.
Extracts from Fr Bernd Hagenkord, SJ, Vatican News, 15 August 2018
Six of the eight dioceses in Pennsylvania were investigated, while the other two have already been the subject of previous investigations. It was prepared by a jury, officially charged under U.S. procedural law in a non-public procedure and with the help of police investigating possible criminal behavior, and initiated by the State Attorney General.       The report is the most comprehensive ever produced by a U.S. government institution on abuse cases. In addition to the names mentioned, the dossier accuses the Church of following its own "script" in covering abuse cases.     Official reactions to Pennsylvania report on clerical sex abuse.     It took the Jury two years to complete the 900-page report which examines abuses committed by members of the Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania over the last 70 years. One thousand victims have been identified, although the overall number is thought to be higher still.     All eight dioceses in Pennsylvania have responded to the report.     Diocese of Pittsburgh     The Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, wrote in his statement that nowhere was there any desire to "diminish the pain that has arisen". A statement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia acknowledged, "It is painful for anyone who reads it, especially for survivors of sexual abuse and their families," and continued, "We are deeply sorry for their pain and remain on the way to healing”.....(more)
What can I say to my kids when they ask why we keep faith in this church?
Extracts from Kerry Weber, America - The Jesuit Review, 15 August 2018
I dragged my kids to 8 a.m. Mass this morning for the Feast of the Assumption. It was one of those days where the “obligation” part of the Holy Day felt particularly heavy. There is a small parish within a short walking distance of our home, but we are still adjusting to the logistics of leaving the house with two kids, so my husband, our 3-month-old, our 2-year-old and I managed to roll our stroller quietly to the back pew of the church around the time the first reading started. I pointed out the pictures in the stained glass of Jesus and Mary and Joseph to my son who snacked on Cheerios while my husband juggled my daughter on his shoulder, slowly becoming drenched in drool.            We make the effort, however imperfectly, because I want my son and daughter to know that our faith is important, because I want them to choose to live it themselves one day, because I believe it is good. And my belief in the good at the heart of our faith is why I have tried hard to contribute to the institution, too: to find community in our parish, to spend hours researching local Catholic schools, saving to pay for them, budgeting to make donations to the church, to Catholic charities.          And then I came home from Mass, and while the kids napped beside me, I started reading the grand jury report of sexual abuse in several dioceses of Pennsylvania. I could only get through a few pages before feeling physically ill and being filled with a sense of disgust and anger and betrayal that I know is only a fraction of what the abuse victims and their families must have felt for so long........I have found myself for the first time truly afraid of what it means to ask and to allow my children to be part of the church. Can I trust that they will be safe as altar servers or students or just going to Mass? And what I would say if my children were to one day ask me, why? Why in the face of such systemic horrors committed by the people supposedly leading the church did we stumble down the street to Mass each week?....(MORE)   Photo: America - The Jesuit Review.  
Catholic priests in Pennsylvania have sexually abused hundreds of children since the 1950s: report
Extracts from ABC News, 15 August 2018
More than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — were molested by hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses and senior church officials took steps to cover it up, according to a landmark grand jury report.      The grand jury said it believed the "real number" of abused children might be "in the thousands" since some records were lost and victims were afraid to come forward.     The report said more than 300 clergy committed th    "And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up," he said.    "These documents, from the dioceses' own 'secret archives,' formed the backbone of this investigation.".....Some current and former clergy named in the report went to court to prevent its release, arguing it violated their constitutional rights to reputation and due process of law.     The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania said the public had a right to see the report, but ruled the names of priests and others who objected to the findings would be blacked out pending a hearing on their claims in September.....(MORE) 

Ampleforth and Downside (English Benedictine Congregation case study) Investigation Report August 2018, UK
Extract from Executive summary with link to full report, 14 August 2018
There are 10 English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) monasteries in England and none in Wales. Some of the abbeys have schools associated with them, including Ampleforth and Downside. Both are regarded as leading Catholic independent schools, each with acknowledged academic and sporting achievement, and both are now co-educational.           The EBC is not pyramidical in structure; it has no recognisable line management oversight. Each abbot or abbess has responsibility for their own community, which is autonomous. Nor does the monastic order fit neatly into the Catholic diocesan structure, meaning that the relationship to a diocesan bishop is usually collaborative rather than hierarchical.              It is difficult to describe the appalling sexual abuse inflicted over decades on children aged as young as seven at Ampleforth School, and 11 at Downside School.            Ten individuals, mostly monks, connected to these two institutions have been convicted or cautioned in relation to offences involving sexual activity with a large number of children, or offences concerning pornography. The true scale of the abuse however is likely to be considerably higher. Some examples of the abuse are set out below......(full report)  

© Crown copyright 2018

Woman appointed to head battle against sexual abuse in Chilean Church
The appointment of Ana Maria Celis Brunet, a lawyer specializing in church law, illustrates Pope Francis’ commitment to ending clericalism
Limited extract from  Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, Chile, subscription journal La Croix International, 13 August 2018
Chile’s Catholic bishops have appointed Ana Maria Celis Brunet, an experienced lawyer and theologian, to lead the fight against clerical sexual abuse in her new role as president of the National Council of the Chilean Church for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Accompaniment of....(source)
Incisive book on fundamentalism paints nuanced picture
Award-winning text shows how extremism can be dangerously attractive and points to its place in specific religious traditions.
Limited extract from Father William J. Grimm MM, Tokyo, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 13 August 2018
It is not surprising that Christian fundamentalists are attracted to the apocalyptic aspects of the Gospels, epistles and of course the Book of Revelation.     They describe the end, and fundamentalists are people whose world appears to be in danger of ending, or may have ended already and is in need of resurrection.     That sense of a world having been lost or threatened is not limited to Christians. Gerald Arbuckle, a Marist priest who is a cultural anthropologist and theologian, shows in his latest book how the threat or reality of loss is a common thread that links the various forms of fundamentalism.    His book, Fundamentalism at Home and Abroad: Analysis and Pastoral Responses, was released by the Liturgical Press in 2017.     Such loss, whether real or imagined, can result from intellectual, theological, economic, political, demographic or ethnic changes to the established situation, and no one is exempt from the tendency.....(source)  Photo:La Croix International
Young Europeans increasingly distant from religion   While there are fewer young people, they are more committed,
Limited extract from Arnaud Bevilacqua and Gauthier Vaillant, 1st published 22 March 2018,  republished in subscription journal La Croix International, 9 August 2018
Statistics from a joint study by the Catholic Institute of Paris and St. Mary’s Catholic University at Twickenham in Greater London on the religious affiliation of young people aged 16-29 in Europe will undoubtedly make an impression on participants at the Pre-Synod now under way in Rome.     In 12 out of the 21 European countries studied, plus Israel, most young people say they have no religion. This figure rises to 91 percent in the Czech Republic.   This decline in religious affiliation, which should not be confused with belief in God, which can be distinguished from belonging to a religion....(source)
Restructuring parishes- A move from necessity to audacity
Limited extract from Gauthier Vaillant, first published 28 May 2018, republished subscription journal La Croix International, 9 August 2018
The Archdiocese of Albi offers an opportunity to reflect on new ways of evangelization.  Located in the Tarn region of southern France, the Archdiocese of Albi has been divided into 503 parishes since the Middle Ages.     Over the Pentecost weekend, however, Archbishop Jean Legrez, completely re-organized them into 21 new parishes.         It is an impressive change. In coming to this decision, the Archdiocese of Albi has followed a general trend among France’s 93 dioceses, two-thirds of which have already made major changes to parish boundaries and structures.   Sometimes, these developments are already longstanding. For example, in 1978, the Diocese of Le Havre, reduced the number of its parishes from 171 to 21.....(source)
What Francis Did Is Just Huge’
Extract from An Interview with Sr. Helen Prejean,  John Gehring, Commonweal,     7 August 2018
John Gehring: Pope Francis made big news last week by revising the Catechism to declare the death penalty inadmissible in all cases. Why is this so significant?
Helen Prejean: Pope John Paul II said that the times when the death penalty could be justified were so rare they would practically be nonexistent. But this did reserve the use of the death penalty in cases of absolute necessities. Pope Francis has now established a foundational principle that no matter the severity of the crime, it’s never legitimate. This is huge. In every death-penalty trial, the district attorney argues that because of the gravity of this particular crime the death penalty is required. So when the pope says it’s never admissible, it pulls the whole rug out from that kind of argument. During my dialogues and correspondence with John Paul II, I always argued we needed a principled stance opposing the death penalty without any exceptions. In St. Louis on his visit to the United States in 1999, John Paul spoke about the dignity of life no matter the crime, but he didn’t go as far as to establish the principle that under no circumstance is it acceptable. What Pope Francis did is just huge.       JG: A number of conservative Catholic commentators are upset about the pope’s decision, arguing that church teaching can’t change. What do you make of this opposition?           HP: Change happens when society grows and evolves, and we have alternative ways of keeping people safe. We’ve also learned from science. The fact that young juveniles’ brains are not yet as fully developed as adults influenced the Supreme Court’s decision to end capital punishment for juveniles. Teaching can change. The church endorsed slavery for a long time and quoted Scripture to do so. Jesus also had to deal with religious legalism. People were so attached to the letter of the law they missed the person and human dignity behind it.....(more).  Photo:  Commonweal, CNS photo/Paul Haring
Albany bishop says laypeople should investigate misconduct by U.S. bishops
Extract from Michael J O'Loughlin, America, The Jesuit Review,  6 August 2018
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., said today that laypeople, not bishops, should lead inquiries into allegations of misconduct by U.S. bishops. Bishop Scharfenberger was responding to an idea advanced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl in an interview published on Aug. 6 by The National Catholic Reporter. He suggested that the U.S. bishops might create a commission of bishops to investigate rumors of sexual misconduct by other bishops, passing concerns on to a Vatican office.         “Would we have some sort of a panel, a board, of bishops...where we would take it upon ourselves, or a number of bishops would be deputed, to ask about those rumors?” the Washington archbishop asked. “It seems to me that’s one possibility, that there would be some way for the bishops, and that would mean working through our be able to address the question of sustained rumors,” Cardinal Wuerl said. He added that U.S. bishops could not wait until their November general meeting to find solutions to address the fall out from allegations against his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick. The former cardinal, who was removed from public ministry and later resigned from the College of Cardinals, is accused of sexual assault and harassment.        Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said, “we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer.”             Reacting to Cardinal Wuerl’s interview in a statement, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said, “we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer.”         “To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised,” he said.             Bishop Scharfenberger has been vocal in encouraging victims of sexual harassment and assault by any church official to come forward. He publicly supported a priest in his diocese, the Rev. Desmond Rossi, who accused Archbishop McCarrick of harassing him when he was a seminarian.....(MORE)  Photo: America: The Jesuit Review, CNS Bob Roller
Chilean bishops beg forgiveness over sex abuse scandal
They also promised to involve greater participation of lay people, particularly women, in the decision-making bodies of the Chilean Church
Limited Extract from Mélinée Le Priol, Chile, subscription journal La Croix International, 6 August 2018
Concluding their five day extraordinary assembly, Chile’s 32 Catholic bishops apologized for “failing in their duties” in managing sex abuse cases.
“We have failed in our duties as pastors,” Chile’s 32 bishops admitted in a statement issued on Friday following their five day extraordinary plenary....(source)
The International Catholic Reform Network
Report by  David Timbs, 5 August 2018
ICRN is an international network of priest and lay reform movements that organizes pastoral dialogue-retreats to model and prepare the church for the future, to enable its members and invited participants to communicate and dialogue with one another honestly, to tell stories, to heal wounds from the struggles of reform, to give courage to all engaged, and to share energy, enthusiasm, ideas; and in some cases, to act.    The most recent meeting in Bratislava from 11-15 June 2018 was attended by David Timbs who compiled this report on its background, outcomes and ongoing work. The report is also available on the Documents page.
Bishops to release formal Royal Commission response this month
Extract from Media and Communications Office, CAM, Melbourne Catholic, Friday 3 August 
Following two days of meetings focused on the Catholic Church’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Australian Catholic Bishops Council has announced it will issue a formal response by the end of August.     The bishops have also agreed to release the four volumes of the final report from the Church’s advisory body during the Royal Commission.    The ACBC statement is as follows: The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has today agreed that it will release its formal response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse by the end of the month.    It will also release the four volumes of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council’s final report.    ‘After two productive days of meetings, the bishops have reached a common position on the Royal Commission’s recommendations relating to the Catholic Church and its various ministries,’ ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.     ‘The Bishops Conference and the president of Catholic Religious Australia agreed that the close collaboration between the two bodies during the life of the Royal Commission and in the area of the protection of children and vulnerable people should continue.’     The Catholic Religious Australia Council, which meets later this month, will work with the ACBC to finalise the Catholic Church’s response.....(MORE)
Wuerl presses bishops to greater accountability on abuse
Extract from Elise Harris, Senior Corres[pondent, CruxNow, 3 August 2018
With much of the U.S. Church still reeling from the abuse scandals involving ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, has said that while he believes the Church has made progress, bishops must strive for “greater accountability at the level of the episcopacy” in both addressing and reporting abuse allegations.        “Everyone recognizes that words, good intentions, and new policies, while important, are not enough,” Wuerl said in a pastoral letter, published Aug. 3. “We must not only denounce abuse and take steps to stop abusers. We must remove even the appearance of cover-ups as we investigate and address allegations.”         A practical way to do this, Wuerl said, is to cooperate with the pope and his representatives to ensure that bishops are held accountable. Quoting a recent statement from the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Wuerl said spiritual conversion is needed in order to “restore the right relationship among us and with our Lord.”        The current crisis, he said, “is an occasion to renew our own personal commitment to holiness, to constant conversion of heart, to generosity and fidelity, and to the highest standards of ministry - and to exhort our brother priests to do the same.” This task, Wuerl added, will require “the fortitude that has always been essential to fraternal correction.”....(more)
Chilean investigators target 158 persons in child sex abuse inquiry
Prosecutors call for Vatican assistance in investigating nine church officials suspected of pedophile acts
Limited Extract from Constance Vilanova (with AFP), Chile, subscription journal La Croix International,  3 August 2018
The Chilean Catholic Church is in turmoil after prosecutors investigating cases of sexual abuse of children and adults dating back to the 1960s identified links with 158 Catholics, including bishops, priests and laypeople....(source)
Welcome Archbishop Comensoli: Pope Francis’ new shepherd in Melbourne celebrates Installation Mass
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne Media and Communications Office, Thursday 2nd August 2018
Archbishop Peter Andrew Comensoli took his place on Wednesday night in one of the nation’s most influential Catholic pulpits as the ninth Archbishop of Melbourne.     Archbishop Comensoli, 54, is a former banker who has led the Diocese of Broken Bay for the past three and a half years. He was officially inaugurated in a liturgy of installation at St Patrick’s Cathedral rich in the symbolism and magisterial ritual of the Church; a ceremony based on more than 1000 years of tradition, solemnity and celebration.         Concelebrants included Melbourne’s Emeritus Archbishop Denis J Hart and Australian Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge, as well as archbishops and bishops from across Australia and clergy from the Archdiocese of Melbourne.      Archbishop-elect Comensoli then entered the cathedral at the West Door, where the Dean of the Cathedral John Salvano offered him a crucifix to kiss and holy water with which to bless himself and the congregation.             The new archbishop’s arrival represents a generational changing of the guard for the archdiocese, but he assured the faithful that the office’s commitment to Catholic teaching and tradition would continue unchanged.           In the wake of one of the greatest challenges to the Church, it is clear that Archbishop Comensoli shares the same passion for justice as the man he replaces, Emeritus Archbishop Denis Hart. In interviews, Archbishop Comensoli has previously vowed to ‘right the grievous wrongs of the past’ and rebuild trust following the widespread damage caused by the child sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Church in recent decades.....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic.   View live stream of the Mass Here (2'30")
US religious orders back women deacons
Extract from CathNews, Crux, 3 August 2018
A new survey has found that the majority of religious order superiors in the United States believe women should be allowed to serve as ordained deacons.        The survey lends support to an issue currently under study at the Vatican amid pressure for women to be given greater roles in the Church.     It found 77 per cent of both male and female superiors in the US believe such ordination is theoretically possible, and 72 per cent think the Church should go ahead and authorise it, according to the study released yesterday by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.    Only 45 percent, however, believe the Church will actually do it, the study found.     Deacons are ordained ministers, but not priests, though they can perform many of the same functions as priests. They preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals, and they can preach. They cannot celebrate Mass.    Currently, married men can serve as deacons. Women cannot, though some historians say women served as deacons in the early Church.....(more)
Vatican now opposes death penalty in all cases
Move will not go down well in countries with capital punishment
Extract from, Reuters, Thursday, 2 August 2018
The Roman Catholic Church formally changed its teaching on Thursday to declare the death penalty inadmissible whatever the circumstance, a move likely to be criticised in countries where capital punishment is legal.     The 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church had for centuries allowed the death penalty in extreme cases, but the position began to change under Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.     The Vatican said the change to its universal catechism, a summary of Church teaching, reflected Pope Francis' total opposition to capital punishment.    According to the new entry in the catechism: "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person."      The Church was working "with determination" for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, the new teaching says.     The new provision is likely to run into stiff opposition from conservative Catholics in the United States and other countries where capital punishment is legal and many believers support it. "By the end of last year, 106 countries worldwide had banned the death penalty".     Last year, 53 countries issued death sentences and 23 of them executed at least 993 people, according to Amnesty International, with most executions in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.     In the United States, 23 people were executed, a slight increase from 2016 but a low number compared to historical trends, Amnesty said, adding that it was the only country in the Americas that carried out executions.    Capital punishment is banned in most of Europe, with Belarus the only European country that carried out executions last year, Amnesty said. By the end of last year, 106 countries worldwide had banned the death penalty....(more)   Image: CAM
Bishops likely will need more to regain trust on McCarrick case
Extract from John L Allan Jr, Crux, 2 August 2018
Since news broke about sexual abuse and misconduct charges against now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June, the primary question had been what accountability measures would follow if the charges turned out to have merit. The widespread sense was that Pope Francis would need to set an example, to show that no one in the Catholic system is “untouchable” where child protection is concerned.    The second, and equally immediate, question was which U.S. bishops may have known of the charges against McCarrick, or at least suspected, and what they did with that information when they received it. It’s basically a tripartite inquiry: Who knew? When did they know? What did they do, either at the time or since?          The Vatican, for all intents and purposes, answered the first question on July 28, announcing that Francis had accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals - an historic first in the United States for any reason, and a first globally for a cardinal facing sex abuse charges. A statement also confirmed that a canonical trial is underway, which, if McCarrick is found guilty, could end in his expulsion from the priesthood....(more)
Homosexuality among the clergy: caught in a trap of dishonesty
The McCarrick affair
Limited Extract from James Alison, subscription magazine The Tablet, 1 August 2018
Would it shock you to know that the leading force behind the term “gender ideology”, and the campaign against it, was a gay cardinal? Or that a gay priest wrote the official 2005 explanation as to why gay men could not be priests?    I learned of the (now dead) Latin American cardinal’s reputation for violence towards the rent boys he frequented from a social worker in his home town, and later discovered that this and other outrages were open secrets in both his homeland and Rome....(source)
Bishops to release Catholic Church response to royal commission
Extracts from Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle herald, 26 July 2018
Australia's Catholic bishops will release the Catholic Church response to the child abuse royal commission “as soon as possible” after an extraordinary meeting in Melbourne next week.       Bishops will meet on August 2 and 3 after months of criticism from Catholic reform groups and some politicians about the failure to release a church-commissioned Truth Justice and Healing Council report handed to bishops in March.        The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference called the extraordinary meeting after Catholic Religious Australia, representing 150 Catholic orders including nuns and brothers, said it “favoured” the TJHC report’s release. The two church groups commissioned the TJHC report which is understood to contain recommendations that could challenge some Australian bishops.         The Truth Justice and Healing Council, headed by lay Catholic Francis Sullivan, was established in early 2013 to represent the church during the royal commission. It was disbanded in March after presenting its final report to the bishops....both the bishops’ response to the royal commission and the four-volume, 1000 page TJHC report. While the bishops’ response should be released “as soon as possible” after next week’s meeting, the ACBC is yet to confirm when it will release the TJHC report....(more)
Bishops to focus on Royal Commission at August meeting
Extract from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Melbourne Catholic, 26 July 2018
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has convened an additional plenary meeting for 2018 to expedite the Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.            The meeting will be held in Melbourne on 2 and 3 August, and will allow the bishops to consider, as a body, the Church’s formal response to the Royal Commission.         ‘The bishops hadn’t received enough advice at their May meeting to prepare our response to the Royal Commission’s final report,’ ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.    ‘Additional advice, including from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, the Implementation Advisory Group, Catholic Professional Standards Limited, local safeguarding experts and canon lawyers has now been received and is informing the bishops’ response.       ‘We have also begun discussions with the Holy See about issues that concern the discipline and doctrine of the universal Church.’   Representatives from Catholic Religious Australia, the Implementation Advisory Group and Catholic Professional Standards Limited will attend the meeting.           Archbishop Coleridge said he hoped the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s formal response to the Royal Commission would be released as soon as possible after the August plenary meeting.            ‘We decided we couldn’t wait until our next scheduled plenary meeting in late November to finalise our response,’ he said.....(More)
Bishop Barron calls for evangelization, apologetics in upcoming youth synod
Young Catholics say they want accompaniment, openness to new ideas
Extracts from Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter, 26 July 2018
The upcoming synod on young people is an opportunity for evangelization, especially to those who have left the Catholic Church or organized religion altogether, said one of the bishop delegates ratified by Pope Francis this week.        "I don't know any issue more pressing now in the life of the church than addressing the problem of the massive attrition of our own people, especially the young," Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron told NCR in an email interview.     "How to re-engage the 'nones,' and to prevent the rise of future 'nones,' should be, in my judgment, priority one in the Catholic Church," Barron said, referring to those who would check "none" on a survey of religious affiliation.     Approximately one third of all Americans ages 18-33 are characterized as religiously disaffiliated, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center.      For that reason, Barron believes the worldwide Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, to be held Oct. 3-28 at the Vatican, is even more significant than the previous two synods on the family held in 2014 and 2015.......Barron, who is chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said he will argue for the need for "a new apologetics and for substantial improvement in our catechetical outreach," because he believes young people do not adequately understand church teaching.      But young people themselves and the synod's working document call for accompaniment, not apologetics. In fact, the purpose of the synod is "to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love," according to Instrumentum Laboris, the synod's working document, which was released in late June.     The synod calls for a "spiritual attitude" of discernment, characterized by "openness to new things, courage to move outwards and resistance to the temptation of reducing what is new to what we already know," the working document says.        Several bishops' conferences also noted that traditional catechesis "does not always enjoy a good reputation among young people, because it reminds many of them of 'a compulsory and unchosen path in their childhood,' " the working document said, quoting a response from an online questionnaire of youth and young adults conducted last year....(more)   Photo: NCR, CNS/Jeffrey Bruno
Concerned Catholics in Canberra want to know where the bishops stand on the Royal Commission’s recommendations
Extract from Media Release, Concerned Catholics Canberra, 25 July 2018
A large group of Catholics in the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese has called on Australian bishops to release their response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as a matter of urgency.     Speaking ahead of an extraordinary meeting of Australian bishops next week, Concerned Catholics Chair, Professor John Warhurst said the bishops received a report from the Truth Justice and Healing Council in March this year, but the report remains under wraps.       “We were alerted to this extraordinary meeting via the media and so far, it’s difficult to find anything on the ACBC’s website to suggest a meeting is taking place,” Professor Warhurst said.     “Bishops must be more transparent and up-front about their processes and in their communications with their Catholic community.      “As a movement which has drawn support from 450 Canberra Catholics, we stand with survivors, a number of bishops, Catholic religious orders of men and women nationally, state and federal politicians and with the many individuals who have called on the bishops to release the report.    “The Royal Commission has exposed a crisis in our Church, and many of the recommendations released in December last year go to deeply imbedded cultural and structural issues which must be resolved as a matter of urgency in consultation with lay Catholics.    “Waiting for the outcome of the 2020 Plenary Council is not the answer. We have just had a historic five-year inquiry. It is now over seven months since those recommendations were delivered.     “Canberra’s lay Catholics demand action,” Professor Warhurst said......(see full Media Release HERE)

Members of Women's Wisdom in the Church (WWITCH) respond to 'synodal' Church call for comments in relation to Institutional Sexual Abuse, Tuesday 24 July 2012
On 22nd July, the Feast of of Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles,  members of Women's Wisdom in the Church (WWITCH) submitted a response to the Synodal call of the Church in relation to the Australian Catholic Church’s role in, and response to, the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse.        The response calls for a complete apology from the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the National Council for Catholic Religious Australia wherein they take full responsibility for past acts of systematic concealment of the crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable individuals.          Together with other comments the response also calls for the immediate release of the final Statement of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council to all Australian Catholics.     A copy of the full statement including details of their group is available HERE.     Image: Saint Mary Magdalene, Icon by Br. Robert Lenz OFM

Spare a thought for the new archbishop
Where bishops once had the last say, they are now just another voice in public debate
Limited extract from Eric Hodgens, subscription journal La Croix International, 23 July 2018
A bishop’ job is part shepherd, part leader, part ruler, part manager. Pope Francis insists that pastoral care is the primary role.     The Melbourne Catholic Church is getting a new bishop. At 54 he can look forward to 21 years in that post. What is the scenario Archbishop Peter Comensoli is walking into?    It is not a good time to be a bishop.     Over the last 50 years Western culture has dramatically changed. Contemporary culture is secular and pluralist. Authority, once derived from status, now must be won. Where bishops once had the last say, they are now just another voice in public debate.    The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference (ACBC) has problems. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has diminished episcopal authority in the public forum.    Meanwhile, within the church institution, some bishops take a strong, conservative line on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and dying with dignity, asserting that their views are “the church’s teaching.”....(source)  Photo: La Croix International, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
What’s behind the Latino priest shortage?
Extract from J.D. Long-García, America, The Jesuit Review, 23 July 2018
Gilbert Guzman is 51 and, in a way, he began a new career on June 2. He was ordained to the priesthood that day at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. While discernment is never easy, he said it was even more complicated as a Latino.       “You might get raised eyebrows if you say you want to be a priest. ‘What’s wrong with you that you don’t want to get married?’” Father Guzman told America. “We need to see ourselves as a gift to the community, not a scourge.”        Father Guzman, a self-described late vocation to the priesthood, said part of the struggle in his discernment was cultural. He was born in San Diego, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border. He describes himself as a Mexican-American and said his cultural background added “all sorts of complex forces” to the discernment process.         “Being Latino, there was a little more pressure to just go back and have a girlfriend and get married,” Father Guzman said. “I feel like that might have something to do with the number of Latino priests—the longing to really participate with family.”       The growing number of U.S. Latinos is not reflected in vocations to the priesthood. The Center of Applied Research for the Apostolate at Georgetown University reports that 20 percent of this year’s class of ordained priests are Hispanic. The number is a fraction of the estimated number of Latinos, who make up 34 percent of the nation’s Catholic population—and more than 50 percent of Catholics under 30.....(more)  Photo: America, The Jesuit Review, (Victor Alemán/Angelus News).
National Council of Priests of Australia calls on Pope to intervene in Philip Wilson case
Extracts from ABC News, Friday evening,  20 July 2018
The Executive of the National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) has "wholeheartedly" endorsed the appeals for Archbishop Philip Wilson to resign, and have called on the Pope to intervene.    The NPC says Archbishop Philip Wilson's position has been "compromised" since his conviction.      It follows a call by the PM for the Pope to sack him         He's the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse.     It follows comments made by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday that the Pope should "sack" Wilson.          Earlier this month, Wilson was sentenced to 12 months' detention after being found guilty of concealing the sexual abuse of children between 2004 and 2006 at the hands of paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the 1970s.      He is the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse.    In a statement, the body said his position had been "compromised" since his conviction.    "While the Archbishop is exercising his constitutional right to appeal his conviction, his tenure as Archbishop of Adelaide has been compromised," the statement read......"For the good of the Church in Australia and for the benefit of the People of God in the Archdiocese of Adelaide, the Executive of the NCP requests that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, removes Archbishop Philip Wilson from his See [position]."....(more)
Vatican expert: To fight sex abuse, the Catholic Church must invest in women
Extract from Michael J. O’Loughlin, America - The Jesuit Review, July 20, 2018
One of the church’s experts on protecting children from abuse says that while today “there is much more awareness about the issue,” the church has to invest more resources and include more women, especially in places where the church is growing fastest.     “What is still lacking is an understanding that the protection of minors and the justice done to victims is a priority within the church,” Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, told America on Thursday. He added that some bishops and other church leaders sometimes see combating sexual abuse as “one topic among others” and have not grasped that “this has to be a priority for the church.”      Father Zollner, a psychologist by training, launched the child protection initiative in 2012 in Germany and he moved to Rome in 2015 when Pope Francis requested that the center’s resources be used in the global church. He was then appointed to the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, and he is a consultor for the Vatican office that deals with clergy.       He said that when it comes to policies and protocols, the church has made great progress, especially in the decade and a half since widespread sexual abuse in the church came to light in the United States. Today, he said, cultural challenges and a lack of trained professionals in Africa, Latin America and Asia pose the greatest obstacles to fighting sex abuse.    “We need the voice of women here,” Father Zollner said, because women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society.”       He said even in places that have policies in place, sometimes the church has not invested in the kinds of professionals needed to implement the codes, such as canon lawyers and psychologists.....(more) Photo: America, The Jesuit Review, CNS Bob Roller
Sexual misconduct and the high clergy
There is an elephant in the sacristy no one is talking about, at least not in a healthy way
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome, subscription journal La Croix International,Vatican City 20 July 2018
Just three days before the 2013 conclave began I wrote a few brief words about Scottish Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien’s decision not to attend the papal election.     A few weeks earlier he had been accused of having forced a number of seminarians and young priests into having sex (one that turned into a relationship) in the 1980s.         O’Brien, who died this past March, immediately resigned as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh even though he was still months shy of his 75th birthday. He also announced, obviously under the Vatican pressure, that he would not attend the conclave.         “I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” the cardinal said.    I thought then – and articulated the reasons why a couple years later – that O’Brien should have participated in the conclave.         “Only a naïf could believe that he is the only man among the electors who has broken his solemn promise to remain celibate,” I wrote in the March 9, 2013 edition of The Tablet. “There are likely others. And even those who’ve done worse,” I warned.           Like so many other people I heard the stories about another cardinal, Theodore McCarrick from Washington, who was notorious for taking seminarians to a Jersey Shore beach house where he routinely chose a different one of them to share his bed.         He called this cadre of young men his “nephews.” I even knew a couple of these fellows, but they had always remained loyal to their Uncle Teddie and refused to report him or publicly declare what he had done.....(source)  Photo: La Croix International
Religious freedom can be protected with 'tweaks', says Ruddock review member
Frank Brennan says marriage equality requires changes to marriage, discrimination and fair work laws
Extract from Paul Karp, The Guardian, 20 July 2018
The legislation of marriage equality in Australia may only require “slight tweaking” to protect religious freedom, according to Father Frank Brennan, a member of the Ruddock review panel.       In comments to be delivered on Friday, Brennan issues a blunt assessment that he doubts the Coalition will legislate a religious freedom act, as minister Dan Tehan has suggested, and warning that religious schools should not discriminate against LGBTI staff and students.      The speech, seen by Guardian Australia before its delivery to the Castan Centre human rights conference, is the clearest indication yet that only minimalist changes to expand religious freedom have been canvassed by the Ruddock religious review.     Brennan speaks approvingly of adding religion as a category to be protected from discrimination in federal law, mirroring provisions in most states. He notes that change was supported by pro-marriage equality groups such as the Equality Campaign and the Human Rights Law Centre.     Brennan – who says he is constrained by the fact the government has not yet released the Ruddock review – expresses his personal view that “freedom of religion needs to be more than an exception clause found in various state non-discrimination legislation”.     When speaking about the consequences of changes to the Marriage Act to legalise same-sex marriage, Brennan refers four times to the need to “tweak” laws including the Marriage Act, Sex Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act to respond.      For example he questions whether a church boarding school should “be required to provide married quarters for a boarding master in a same-sex marriage”.      In another instance he suggests an expansion of LGBTI rights by questioning why a religious school should be allowed to discriminate against gay staff and students where “it can be demonstrated that the adherents of the particular religion or creed voted overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage”.     But he said legislators “might judge that the protections are already adequate” in these areas....(more)
Turnbull, Shorten urge Pope to sack Archbishop Wilson
[Ed: Reports on this news item have been widely published in major news bulletins around the world]
Extract from CathNews, Newcastle Herald, 20 July 2018
Bill Shorten has backed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s call for the Pope to sack Archbishop Philip Wilson as abuse survivors call for other institutional leaders to be prosecuted for concealing child sexual offences.         The Opposition Leader said he agreed with Mr Turnbull that Archbishop Wilson’s position was “untenable” after the archbishop refused to resign following his decision to appeal his conviction for concealing the child sexual abuse offences of New South Wales priest, Jim Fletcher.        “If he doesn’t have the decency to resign then his superiors in the Church should take action,” Mr Shorten said, less than two weeks after the two leaders expressed surprise and concern that Archbishop Wilson did not resign as soon as he was convicted on May 22, and after other bishops encouraged him to resign.       “The community has spoken. The courts have spoken. Now it’s time for the Church to truly listen,” Mr Shorten said.          His comments came after Mr Turnbull increased pressure on the Church to respond to the impasse yesterday as he prepared to meet with Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Melbourne Archbishop-designate Peter A Comensoli.    Mr Turnbull said “the time has come for the Pope to sack” Archbishop Wilson because it was “clear that he should resign”.....(more)   Photo: CathNews, ABC News.
Youth alienated by Catholic Church, says Dublin archbishop
Urges Irish parishes to seek new ways of relating to teenagers ‘disgusted’ by child abuse scandals
Limited extract from staff, subscription journal,  La Croix International. 19 July 2018
Ireland. Catholics should “learn new ways in which they can win new hearts” as young people increasingly feel alienated from the teachings of the church, according to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.     The Republic of Ireland capital is set to welcome Pope Francis in August as he will attend the World Meeting of Families there but concerns are growing as attendance rates at church services continue to dwindle.     Archbishop Martin sounded a wake-up call, saying Catholicism is becoming “foreign” to young people, especially in Ireland, The Irish Times reports.    “The main body of the membership of Irish Catholicism and its leadership belong to an age and cultural group that is in many ways foreign to the culture of young people,” he said.     “The Irish church needs to waken itself to the urgency of this situation,” he said, adding it “needs a radical overhaul in its outreach” and must “re-learn the ability to speak the language of faith authentically in a world where that language may be alien.”....(source)
Extract from Raifiel Cyril, Melbourne Catholic, Wednesday 18 July 2018
‘You did not choose me but I chose you and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’. (John 15:16).     Over 200 young adults from different parts of Australia made for a cozy bunch at Mannix College, Melbourne. The Jesus Youth Movement understands that new evangelisation is a priority for the Church. In one sense, the mission is simple and clear: To propose once again to young people the entire Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. In this context, Jesus Youth Australia organised a National Youth Conference named ‘CHOSEN’ to help young people encounter Jesus in a life changing way.    12 to 15 July was never meant to be just another ordinary youth gathering. From the first evening Rally on Thursday the 12th the mood was electrifying. Bishop Terry Curtin set it off with his lively inaugural address and MasterPlan gave the eager crowd a delicious dose of their talent.    Masterplan, an International Catholic band, is an initiative within the Jesus Youth Movement in the UAE. The Band had played centre stage at WYD Poland and WYD Spain and have performed in 3 continents! MasterPlan led the Chosen Morning and Evening Rallies, Impact Sessions, Soul Cafe and assisted with liturgical celebrations.....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic.
Melbourne's new archbishop says promoting the Church as an 'institution' allowed 'great evils' to happen
Bishop Peter Comensoli said the abuse crisis was 'paramount' and required a response at every level in the Church
Extract from Christopher lamb, The Tablet, 17 July 2018
The new Archbishop of Melbourne says that seeing the Church as an institution rather than the “people of God” allowed for “great evils” to be committed and has pledged himself to rebuilding trust in light of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.      Archbishop-elect Peter Comensoli, who will take up the leadership of Australia’s largest Catholic diocese on 1 August, said the abuse crisis was “paramount” in everyone’s thinking and required a response at every level in the Church.         Devastating findings by a recent royal commission found that 4,444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse against the Church, many of them covered up by bishops who had pursued a strategy of protection of assets against legal claims.      But speaking to The Tablet during a phone interview from Australia, the new leader of Melbourne archdiocese explained that protecting the institution rather than its people was a counter-witness to the Gospel.     “The Church is the pilgrim People of God, it is the Body of Christ, and in manifesting that there are institutional dimensions. In the same way there are institutional dimensions in a family: we have meals at a certain time and we do things at this time. So there is an institutionality to the Church,” the soon-to-be-archbishop explained.     “But when that became paramount and started to usurp the Gospel, and usurp the Church as the people of God, that’s when the great evils were manifested in that context. It led to a loss of following of the Gospel.”........The new Archbishop of Melbourne says that rebuilding trust in the Church requires looking at all governance structures while ensuring that safeguarding procedures are compliant..........The incoming archbishop will also be an important part of the “Plenary Council” - Australia’s national synod-style gathering taking place next year - which is to address questions such as the role of laity, governance, schools, healthcare, welfare agencies and the role of women. When it comes to women’s role in the Church, the bishop says “half of my own leaders” in the diocese are female including his senior adviser, chancellor and financial administrator.      “And they just get on with it at the service of the Gospel,” he said.    "The secular voice can’t be the only one: we are a pluralist country, not a secular country, where more than 60 per cent believe.....(MORE)  Photo: The Tablet. Twitter
Breaking the seal for the common good
Extract from Peter Johnstone, Eureka Street,  17 July 2018
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recommended that the Catholic 'seal of confession' should not exempt priests from a proposed offence of 'failure to report'. That offence would apply to any failure to report to police in circumstances where a person knew, suspected, or should have suspected that a person associated with their institution had sexually abused a child.      The proposed law is focused on likely continued offending and is intended to get paedophiles off the streets. The Royal Commission wanted to ensure that, wherever possible, known paedophiles are not at large and free to sexually abuse children.      The response of some Catholic commentators has threatened defiance of any such civil law by confessors, despite the Church's stated commitment to the more effective protection of children. At a time when the issue of religious freedom is receiving publicity, this issue goes to the heart of current state/church relations.     Though few Catholics today use sacramental confession, the seal is a key feature, providing a guaranteed assurance of confidentiality. Strict canon lawyers will argue that canon law forbids a confessor from disclosing confessed material regardless of the content, circumstances and consequences. Canon law can of course be changed.     The question raised is whether a religious confessor (Catholic or other religion) who obtains knowledge of the sexual abuse of a child, or of a child abuser, in a sacramental confession, should be bound by the proposed civil law. The Commission, having thoroughly examined the evidence before it, decided that no religious confessor should be exempted from the mandatory requirement to report.    Any person who sexually abuses a child is a continuing danger to children. The requirement to report is based on substantial evidence of the past failures of institutional personnel to report. The consequence was predators remaining at large and more abuse.    In April 2010 the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave permission to bishops to report child sexual abuse by clergy to the civil authorities, but only where there were civil criminal mandatory reporting laws. Up to 2017 such laws existed only in NSW and Victoria. The Royal Commission has recommended that such laws be introduced throughout Australia..."Governments legislate for the common good, for all citizens. They must not be thwarted by customs or laws of particular religions which could threaten the common good."....(more)  Photo: Eureka Street
Comments on 'Breaking the seal for the common good'  by former Jesuit Provincial Fr Steve Curtin SJ:
By the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent pardon. This happens whether or not the confession remains secret. Secrecy or confidentiality is very important and must be maintained in almost all circumstances out of respect for the relationship between God and penitents. Secrecy is not an essential element of the sacrament however and it cannot be absolute. A new catechesis around the limits of confidentiality would be something that the people of God would be perfectly capable of understanding and it would not touch the essence of the Sacrament. The seal of the confessional is a matter of positive law whereas the inviolability of the child is a moral absolute which obviously takes precedence.  (30 July 2018)

The form of the Sacrament has been changed down the centuries. Private and secret individual confession became the predominant form from the 7th Century. The Sacrament involves reconciliation with God and reconciliation with the Church community which is not a purely private matter. It is a matter for the Church community to work out what form the Sacrament should take. This Sacrament needs to be reformed to give it forms that takes account of our evolving understanding of human vulnerability and the capacities of the whole community to exercise its duties in relation to the most vulnerable.  (31 July 2018)
Let's talk about the Catholic bishops
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street, 16 July 2018
The Catholic bishops are by institutional design the centrepiece of the Australian Catholic community. This means a lot is happening in the name of ordinary Catholics whether they like it or not because the perception of the wider community is that the bishops represent all Catholics.      The future of the Australian church may have been put in the hands of the Plenary Council 2020, but any outcome of this process is half a decade away. Till then it is business as usual.    Prime among the bishops now in the news is the recently convicted Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, who is being called by the Prime Minister, the South Australian Premier and the new Archbishop of Melbourne to resign his position. The Australian community, represented especially by child abuse survivors and media commentators, interpret his resistance as an indication of the church's failure to learn the lessons of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.     Most bishops are actively resisting new legislation by some state and territory governments to remove the seal of the confessional as it relates to child sexual abuse. Many have also backed calls for new legislative or constitutional protections for religious freedom. The former of these issues has emerged from the Royal Commission while the latter has followed the new same sex marriage legislation. Both take the bishops into new territory.    At the same time the two most senior bishops, Archbishops Coleridge and Fisher, President and Deputy President of the Bishops Conference, are putting considerable energy into the traditional politics of education funding by seeking urgent meetings with the Prime Minister. No issue more defines the identity of the Catholic community in its own eyes and those of fellow Australians than Catholic schools. Education funding is for bishops their core practical business, to be safeguarded above all else.    In this context, Australian Catholics need a framework to help them comprehend the dynamics of church-state relations. While knowledge of individual bishops is helpful, what is more useful is a sense of how they operate and where they stand collectively.....(more)
 Clericalism is killing the Catholic Church — even in Africa
'We need to recognize that at this time in our history, we have failed as pastors'
Limited extract from Donald Zagoré SMA, subscription journal La Croix International,  Ivory Coast, 16 July 2018
We need to face the facts. The significant number of Christians who are leaving the church to join new communities is a sign that Christians are tired of what we Catholics have offered them.        So they are looking for something new that the classical parish pastoral framework is unfortunately no longer able to provide.      In fact, the Catholic Church’s classical parish pastoral program in Ivory Coast is currently trapped in a bureaucratic system that kills the prophetic spirit of pastoral ministry.     This has led to a spiritual vacuum among Catholics. Weighed down with the burden of endless socio-political suffering, they are desperately looking elsewhere for a new experience of God.     As the Psalmist wrote: “It is your face that I seek, Lord.”     Genuinely thirsty for the Holy Spirit, thousands of Christians have ended up deserting the bureaucratic classical parish pastoral framework in order to “descend into deep waters.”    As a result, they are joining the framework offered by many new communities, which seems to quench their spiritual thirst.     We therefore need to recognize that at this time in our history, we have failed as pastors.   As well as its roots in an outdated classical pastoral framework, this failure is also closely linked to a rise in clericalism. What’s more, it is a form of clericalism denuded of prophetic witness.   What more can we hope for from an ecclesial pastoral schema that has turned into a bureaucracy?    But laypeople have refused to allow themselves to be boxed in by the clericalism that we have unwittingly imposed on them.....(source)
Pope appoints presidents-delegate for Synod assembly on youth
All four cardinals come from the 'peripheries' — Myanmar, Iraq, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea
Limited extract from La Croix International staff, 16 July 2018
Pope Francis has appointed presidents-delegate for the October meeting of bishops focused on youth. All four cardinals come from the “peripheries” — Myanmar, Iraq, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea.........The XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which has as its theme “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” is scheduled from Oct. 3 to 28 in the Vatican.      The presidents-delegate take turns in presiding over the synod assemblies on behalf of the pope.    A president-delegate is responsible for guiding the work of the synod and assigning special tasks to certain members, when necessary, so that the assembly proceeds efficiently.  He also signs the documents of the assembly.    When there are several presidents-delegate, they all sign the final documents of the synod.     The choice of the four cardinals is consistent with the pope's pro-poor pastoral approach. They are cardinals Pope Francis himself has created in recent years, sidelining more economically advance countries....(source)   Photo: La Croix International.
Proclaim Conference explores new ways of contemplating the face of Christ
Extract from Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, 12 July 2018
This is a spirit moment for the Church, Archbishop Mark Coleridge has told the Proclaim 2018 conference in Brisbane, challenging Catholic delegates to renew and rejuvenate the Church in Australia.      “I am intensely conscious as I sat amongst you that I face the danger of being pale, male and stale,” Archbishop Coleridge said.     “Here at Proclaim what we set ourselves to do is to press the refresh button in the Church right across the nation.”      More than 600 delegates are attending the three-day conference, with the theme “Make Your Home in Me” (John 15:4) with an agenda to explore new ways of contemplating the face of Christ in community and to find new mission pathways.     The goal is to engage parishes and faith communities in a conversation focusing on five key areas – leadership, culture change, young people, belonging and evangelisation.    Drawing on the example of the young Thai soccer team – the Wild Boars – and their coach trapped in a cave for two weeks, Archbishop Coleridge said we were all intensely moved by the story, and overjoyed by their rescue.    “Because it is the truth of the human situation. Those boys are you and me. Others come to their rescue and finally they are set free,” he said.     “In that story we recognise a kind of good news that goes to the heart of the truth of where we are as human beings.     “We, the human race, are trapped. We mightn’t even recognize it, but this is the truth at least as the scripture has it.    “And we can do absolutely nothing down there in the darkness but wait and hope that someone comes.    “God comes to our rescue through Jesus who dies so that we might live.    “This is the good news that we have to proclaim.”    Archbishop Coleridge said the key to the journey began with listening to the Word of God. To proclaim was also to speak and to act, he said.    He said “the young” were the megaphone, and were posing many difficult questions about parish life.    “Are they (young people) saying we need a new paradigm?” Archbishop Coleridge said.   “Do we need a new paradigm of our local communities of faith?    “How can we imagine the parish as something new, something that doesn’t leave everything behind, but isn’t afraid to do it differently?....(more)   Photo: The Catholic Leader, Mark Bowling
Women push for more from Vatican, Francis
Extract from National Catholic Reporter, 11 July 2018
Dublin. Pope Francis' appointment of Italian journalist Paolo Ruffini as the first layperson to head a Vatican department on July 5 has been welcomed by Voices of Faith, a group promoting women's leadership in the church.      A spokesperson for the international network of Catholic women described the decision to appoint the 62-year-old Italian journalist as prefect of the Dicastery for Communication as a "precedent."     "It opens the door for laypersons of both genders to lead Vatican entities," Chantal Götz told NCR.     Explore Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment with this free guide.    But she added, "It is also an opportunity missed."    She said that women need to be leading dicasteries and councils because that is where decisions are made. "Actions or implementations are now expected if the Vatican is serious about women in leadership positions," she said.    Francis reportedly said in a June interview with Reuters, "I don't have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery." But he said it is difficult to find the right candidates and convince curial officials to accept women to leadership positions.    Götz, managing director of Voices of Faith, believes there are many women with excellent qualifications for such roles. The question is "Why is the Vatican not finding them?", she said.   She made her comments in the wake of a statement by Voices of Faith calling on Francis and the Vatican to adopt sustainable human resources policies that have been shown to jumpstart change, facilitate transparency and ensure accountability.   Voices of Faith has invited the Vatican to adopt open, merit-based and transparent hiring practices that work for business, government and other major institutions.    "We call on the Vatican to publicly announce any vacancies, openly list required qualifications for vacant positions and implement transparent selection and hiring policies," the group said....(more)
Cardinal Farrell claims laity best placed to advise couples
Extract from Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet, 11 July 2018
The Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has said priests are not the best people to train couples for marriage as they “have never lived the experience”.    Cardinal Kevin Farrell expressed his strongly held views in an interview with Intercom magazine, a publication of the Irish bishops.      The former Bishop of Dallas said priests “have no credibility” in this area and though “they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, to go from there to putting it into practice every day ... they don’t have that experience”.    The Cardinal was speaking about the role of the laity and the importance of not clericalising them. There are countries, such as the US, Cardinal Farrell explained where “the laity run the Church”.    Referring to his time as Bishop of Dallas, he said “we had one priest in a parish where 10,000 people would attend Mass at the weekend. We have parishes that have a $20 million annual budget. No priest is going to be able to run a parish of that magnitude without competent lay people.”    In Dallas, there are a million and a half Catholics and 75 priests, with a 45 to 50 per cent rate of Mass attendance. “Those 75 priests are not going to be interested in organising marriage meetings,” the Cardinal stated.    He said this meant many pastoral tasks usually left to priests in Ireland, such as marriage preparation, was done by members of the laity elsewhere.     Of his own dicastery, he revealed that Pope Francis had told him he wanted a department in the Vatican for lay people that is equivalent to all of the other congregations (for bishops, clergy and religious).    “And by lay people, he [Pope Francis] does not mean people who belong to ecclesial movements, rather the regular people who go to church,” the Cardinal said....(MORE)
Engaging with the hope of parishes
Edited extracts from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Friday 6 July 2018
Melbourne parish priest Fr Brendan Reed, supported by the Catholic Development Fund (CDF), has this week launched his newest book, volume two of a series, entitled Engaging with the hopes of parishes.
CDF sponsored the publication of Fr Reed’s extensive research and also hosted the book launch.     At the launch ceremony at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Centre in East Melbourne, Fr Reed was introduced by Archbishop Denis Hart, who congratulated him both on the book itself, and on the diligence of the research and long term commitment that gave rise to it.     Fr Reed describes the book as ‘a systematic, empirical and practical search for a parish engagement scale’, or, in acronym, SPES (Latin for ‘hope’). It’s primarily, he said, in acknowledging Archbishop Hart’s introduction, a book about parish life, offering a new framework and a new context for the core Christian community.     Fr Reed is proposing four new and different, but complementary, models for parish life.    The convinced parish',  The engaged parish,   The devoted paris,  The consumerist parish.        His book, he said, will help parishes better understand who they are and what they are capable of becoming, and offers new insights, new visions, on ways for the radical transformation of parish life to ensure the relevance, the power, the growth of Catholic community in an increasingly secular age.     Engaging with the hopes of parishes provides both pastoral and theological grounds for proposing the engaged parish as the future, the new model, for the ideal parish in a changed world.....(MORE)  Image: Melbourne Catholic.
'Only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign'
Despite Archbishop Philip Wilson’s conviction for concealing child sexual abuse only the Pope can force him to resign, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said yesterday.
Extract from CathNews, SBS News,  6 July 2018
Archbishop Wilson, 67, the most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of concealing child abuse, is likely to serve his 12-month sentence in home detention.      He stood aside as Archbishop of Adelaide in May after being found guilty of failing to report to police the historical sexual abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest, after a landmark magistrate-only trial in Newcastle Local Court.     However, he has indicated he plans to appeal his conviction and says he will only resign if that fails.    Archbishop Coleridge, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president, said an appeal was the right of "any citizen" but made it clear it would require intervention from the Vatican to compel Archbishop Wilson’s resignation.   "A number of survivors, prominent Australians and other members of the community have publicly called on Archbishop Wilson to resign. Although we have no authority to compel him to do so, a number of Australian bishops have also offered their advice privately. Only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign,” he said in a statement.    " We also recognise the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused."    Archbishop Wilson is now facing unprecedented calls from across the political arena to step down....(more). Photo: Archbishop Mark Coleridge, ACBC.
Hobart Archdiocese bans Jesuit academic from speaking at planned event
Extract from Sky News, 5 July 2018
Jesuit academic father Frank Brennan, CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia has been banned from speaking publicly in the Hobart Archdiocese for his defence of Catholics' rights to voice their own opinions according to their conscience with regard to same-sex marriage.     Father Brennan was banned from attending already advertised speaking events by Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous in a letter to the provincial of Jesuit Order.....(more)

Change of era in Australia
We are in a change of era and the shape of that era is only just beginning to be explored.
Limited Extract from Michael Kelly SJ, Bangkok, Subscription journal La croix International, 5 July 2018

In a line for his vision for renewal and change, Pope Francis captured something that is true for the church across the world but most especially for the church in Australia. The pope described our time in the church and wider society as “not so much an era of change as a change of era.”

The conviction and sentencing of the highest placed cleric in the Catholic world – Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide – and the forthcoming....(more)
Major Catholic church consultation ambitious - but will it succeed?
Extract from John Warhurst, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2018
The huge Australian Catholic community, the largest, the most clerical and the most hierarchical of our Christian churches, has just embarked on a potentially defining internal consultation process, the Plenary Council 2020, to discuss the future of its church. While its leaders, like Cardinal George Pell and the recently sentenced Archbishop Philip Wilson, attract media attention for all the wrong reasons, this major consultation gives lay Catholics a rare opportunity to express their views with some hope of having an impact.  It has been sold to the Catholic community by its leadership as a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to overturn business as usual and to start afresh. It comes, of course, after, and in part a response to, the revelations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse of the church’s criminality in that regard. The Royal Commission recommended that the church review its governance, structures and culture, in addition to making specific child-safety recommendations. This council is too broad to be such a review, but it does offer the chance for some action on governance and related issues.    The Australia-wide consultation began two weeks ago in Canberra with four well-attended, open listening and dialogue sessions held off church property in a gesture towards disenfranchised Catholics. It involves a three-stage process of dialogue, discernment and legislation, which will culminate in March 2021 when Australia’s bishops, sitting in splendid isolation, will distil the proposals which have emanated from a larger October 2020 Plenary Council meeting in Adelaide in which lay Catholics will fill up to one-third of the places, following a yet to be determined selection process.....(MORE)
The sentencing of Archbishop Wilson
Extract from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 4 July 2018
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been sentenced to 12 months' detention for concealing child sexual abuse. Magistrate Robert Stone adjourned the matter to 14 August while Wilson's home detention order is assessed for suitability. It's very likely that he will appeal his conviction and sentence.          Archbishop Philip WilsonAn appeal may well succeed, but that's not the end of the matter. This has been a six-year saga relating to events which occurred more than 40 years ago. The law is complex; and emotions are running high.         When bishop of Wollongong and later Archbishop of Adelaide, Wilson did a lot to improve the Catholic Church's national response to crimes of child sexual abuse committed by church personnel. But the present criminal conviction and sentence of imprisonment relates to his time as a young priest in the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle back in 1976. It was only later when he was Archbishop of Adelaide that some of his earlier behaviour came back to haunt him. Local residents in Maitland-Newcastle who were sexually abused as children by either Fr McAlinden or Fr Fletcher have been very outspoken against Wilson, regardless of his later behaviour as a bishop nationally committed to cleaning up the mess.          In 1990, the New South Wales parliament had amended the Crimes Act creating a new offence of concealing a serious indictable offence. Section 316(1) provides:....(more)  Photo: Eureka Street.
Statement on Sentencing Archbishop Philip Wilson'Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
Extract from  Media Release,  Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
The Catholic b ishops of Australia acknowledge that the effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime , but w e hope that today ’s custodial sentence brings some sens e of peace and healing to those abused by deceased priest James Fletcher. It takes great courage for survivors to come forward to tell their stor ies . Survivors have been vital in helping us learn the lesson of our shameful history of abuse and concealment, which was laid bare in the Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse and state inquiries, including the Cunneen Inquiry . The Church has made substantial changes to ensure that abuse and cover -up are no t part of Catholic life and that children are safe in our communities. We will continue to work with all those in the Church and beyond who are seeking to put in plac e strong and consistent standards of safeguarding throughout Australia , including how we respond to allegations of sexual abuse . The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has no further comment to make at this time....(source)
Statement on Sentencing Archbishop Philip Wilson'Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
Extract from  Media Release,  Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference, 3 July 2018
The Catholic b ishops of Australia acknowledge that the effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime , but w e hope that today ’s custodial sentence brings some sens e of peace and healing to those abused by deceased priest James Fletcher. It takes great courage for survivors to come forward to tell their stor ies . Survivors have been vital in helping us learn the lesson of our shameful history of abuse and concealment, which was laid bare in the Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse and state inquiries, including the Cunneen Inquiry . The Church has made substantial changes to ensure that abuse and cover -up are no t part of Catholic life and that children are safe in our communities. We will continue to work with all those in the Church and beyond who are seeking to put in plac e strong and consistent standards of safeguarding throughout Australia , including how we respond to allegations of sexual abuse . The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has no further comment to make at this time....(source)
Storms and Synods.
Extract from Eric Hodgens, John Menadue blog, 30 June  2018
The Catholic Church is facing a perfect storm. How well will an Australian National Synod deal with it?     The 19th century was a stormy period for the Catholic Church as the papacy battled to regain its European dominance undermined by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. How appropriate that the First Vatican Council final vote declaring Papal Infallibility was accompanied by thunder and lightning – a massive storm. Papal power won out in the long run as Paul Collins has shown in “Absolute Power”. But – at a price.          Four intertwining crises are currently creating a perfect storm for the Catholic Church.     The first crisis stems from the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment and its progeny – human rights. This brought us cars in the garage and democracy in the forum. Authority now came from the people, not from the king (or pope). It took time to catch on. The Amish stuck doggedly to the horse and buggy – the Church to monarchy. But when the ordinary punter woke up that he was being taken for a ride the game was over.           The second crisis is clerical sexual abuse. Priests have held consecrated authority for centuries, yet 7% of them have been found to be child abusers. Nothing deauthorises a consecrated class more than being found out harbouring criminals. No wonder that transparency is taboo for power institutions. Nowhere to hide.        This leads on to the third crisis – corporate coverup of the crime, blaming the victim and persecuting the whistle-blower. Today’s social sciences have a lot to say about crisis management, but monarchs don’t readily take notice of new ideas that are not their own.        The fourth is the inevitable outcome – the very culture of the institution is exposed as defective.    There have been signs along the way that something was wrong.....(more)
Pope Francis appoints Bishop Peter A Comensoli the ninth Archbishop of Melbourne
Extracts from Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Friday 29 June 2018
The Holy Father Pope Francis has appointed Most Reverend Bishop Peter Andrew Comensoli of the Diocese of Broken Bay as the ninth Archbishop of Melbourne.     Archbishop-elect Comensoli (b.1964) grew up in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and was educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters and Marist Fathers. He studied commerce at the University of Wollongong and worked for a time in the banking sector. He entered the seminary in 1986 and was ordained in 1992.       Following his ordination, Archbishop-elect Comensoli undertook postgraduate studies in moral theology in Rome and at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. After serving in a number of parishes in the Diocese of Wollongong, he was Diocesan Chancellor for six years prior to his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop to the Archdiocese of Sydney in 2011 and as Apostolic Administrator to the Archdiocese of Sydney in 2014. He has served as Bishop of Broken Bay for the past three-and-a-half years.       The life of Christian discipleship is a precious gift, developed through hearing and responding to God’s call. In accepting this call to be a new missionary among God’s people of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, I readily acknowledge the great responsibility entrusted to me, along with the frailties I carry,’ he said.         ‘To the good people of Melbourne, let me say that you are already in my prayers. As I come among you I place my trust in the tender encouragement of Jesus. We are pilgrims together in the Lord’s vineyard. As we take these first steps in friendship, may we anchor our lives to his Gospel.....In announcing the appointment, Pope Francis also accepted Archbishop Denis Hart’s resignation after 17 years as Archbishop of Melbourne. Archbishop Hart will serve as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the installation of Archbishop-elect Comensoli on Wednesday 1 August.....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic
Adelaide priest Fr Charles Gauci named Bishop of Darwin
Edited extract from ACBC, Melbourne Catholic, 28 June 2018
Pope Francis has appointed Fr Charles Gauci, currently administrator of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Adelaide, the seventh Bishop of Darwin.    Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge welcomed the appointment of a man who is known for his deep spirituality and real commitment to evangelisation.     ‘Fr Charles has ministered to people from many walks of life – as a pastor in parishes, a chaplain to schools, a spiritual director and retreat leader,’ Archbishop Coleridge said.      ‘He will be a great gift to the Church in Darwin with all its challenges and also a good addition to the Bishops Conference because of his long and varied experience as priest and teacher of the faith.’    Fr Gauci was born into a faith-filled family in Malta and arrived in Australia as a 13-year-old. He was ordained for Adelaide in 1977 and has served in parishes across the Archdiocese. He has also held a number of archdiocesan leadership roles, including as chairman of the Council of Priests.....Fr Gauci said he hopes to visit the Diocese – which takes in almost all of the Northern Territory – as soon as possible so he can meet the local people and speak with Bishop Eugene Hurley, who has served in Darwin for the past 11 years and as a bishop for almost 20 years.    ‘Bishop Eugene is a great man; I’m humbled to succeed him. He will help me understand the Diocese, its communities and ministries. With that knowledge and discerning what God is asking of me, I will seek to fulfil the task now entrusted to me,’ he said.    ‘I look forward to continuing to learn from all the people of God as their fellow traveller.’....(more) Melbourne Catholic ACBC
Sights and sounds as Pope Francis creates new Princes of the Church
Extract from Inés San Martín, Crux, Vatican Correspondent, 28 June 2018
ROME - Pope Francis will create 14 new cardinals on Thursday, 11 of whom will be in a position to elect, and be elected as, the next pope. They come from 12 countries, including Madagascar, Japan, Pakistan, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Spain and Italy, in another attempt by the pontiff to make the College of Cardinals a reflection of the universality of the Church.....(more)
French NGO founder priest dismissed from clerical state
The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy has issued a 'final' decision dismissing Heart’s Home founder Father Thierry de Roucy for 'disobedience'
Limited extract from Céline Hoyeau, subscription journal La Croix Internationals, 28 June 2018
France:  In a rare Vatican decision, the founder of the international association Points Coeur (Heart’s Home), which has been sending young volunteers on mission since 1990,  has been dismissed from the clerical state, La Croix has learned.       The Vatican decision brought to a close a ten year long process marked by a complex process between Father Thierry de Roucy, now aged 61, the Heart’s Home organization, the bishop of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon  and Rome.     In 2011, de Roucy was found guilty of abuse of ecclesiastical power, sexual abuse and absolution of an accomplice in the person a young assistant priest.    The latter was subsequently relieved of his priesthood at his own request after church authorities concluded that he had been subject to undue influence.    'Final' decision....(source)  Photo: La Croix International,  promesaartstudio/
Pope’s ex-chief of staff says ‘too early’ to judge Vatican reform
Extract from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, 27 June 2018
ROME - Perhaps Pope Francis’s most powerful aide for the last five years, who will be named a cardinal tomorrow, says it’s still “premature” and “too early” to judge the results of the pontiff’s much-ballyhooed reform of the Vatican.        “It’s still to early to judge the reform,” said Italian Cardinal-designate Angelo Becciu, speaking to reporters on Wednesday.      “Many things have changed, things have been modified in discasteries [a word referring to Vatican departments], but we’re still searching to find the best path,” he said.          The state of Francis’s reform has been questioned lately by observers who note that aside from the consolidation of some pre-existing Vatican departments and the creation of some new ones, there’s been little tangible change in Vatican structures and operations. In the meantime, the Vatican’s traditional centers of power, especially the all-important Secretariat of State, appears to have consolidated its role rather than seeing it diminished or redefined.        Becciu, however, counseled patience....(more)
Archbishop Coleridge demands greater accountability of Bishops during visit to Rome
Extract from  Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader, 27 June 2018
BRISBANE Archbishop and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Mark Coleridge has used a Vatican visit to publicly demand bishops “be accountable” in changing Church culture that made child abuse possible.         “We’re not above the law, we are not a law unto ourselves nor is the Church a law unto herself,” Archbishop Coleridge said following a conference on safeguarding and child protection held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University on June 18-21.       In Rome, Archbishop Coleridge also met with leading Church officials interested in the episcopate in Australia, the process of responding to the Royal Commission and preparations for the Plenary Council.     He used a lunch hosted by the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See and attended by the Vatican’s deputy foreign minister, to reiterate his key message: “… that the bishops are keen to work with the government in tackling child abuse at every level”.     “The presence of Vatican officials made it clear that the Holy See shares the same commitment,” Archbishop Coleridge said.     Archbishop Coleridge was one of several Australian keynote speakers at the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference, reflecting on the theme “Culture, an enabler or barrier to safeguarding”.      Some elements of Catholic culture had been “very destructive” and there were aspects of Church culture that had hindered progress in addressing allegations of sexual abuse, Archbishop Coleridge said.     “I’ve tried to identify the points at which Catholic culture made child abuse possible and also gave rise to the cover-up of the abuse that happened,” he said.     “One word that’s used to describe a large and complex phenomenon within the culture is clericalism – in other words, authority geared to power and not to service.     “In many ways, what happened in the Catholic Church was that our strengths became our weaknesses.”    Archbishop Coleridge said an example of those strengths was that closeness that Catholic clergy and religious shared with families.    However, he said, it was precisely that which, “in certain situations, gave them access to the children who were abused”.    Nevertheless, Archbishop Coleridge said that just as strength can become a weakness, a weakness could also become a strength.    “I believe that the agony we are passing through this time in fact is a purification of the Church that has already made us stronger,” he said.....(more).  Photo Catholic Leader, Emilie Ng
German bishops declare backing for mixed-marriage couples
Extract from James Roberts, The  Tablet, 27 June 2018
Pope Francis expanded on the issue in the press conference on the plane back from Geneva to Rome on Monday.      The leadership of the German bishops’ conference today issued a statement saying that they are determined vigorously to pursue the initiative on intercommunion that they launched after their plenary in February this year. The initiative, they said is aimed at producing “greater unity” between Christian Churches. In Germany the vast majority of mixed marriages, couples the handout seeks to accommodate, are between Catholics and Lutherans.     “It is important for us that we are on an ecumenical quest to achieve a more profound understanding and even greater unity among Christians, and we consider ourselves to be obliged to stride forward in this matter courageously,” the permanent council of the conference said. The council is made up of the current 26 diocesan bishops, out of a total conference membership of 66.    A decision to help mixed-denomination couples to both receive communion, and an associated handout for parishes, was approved at the bishops’ conference’s spring plenary on 22 February by a two-thirds majority, and has since proved highly controversial. One month later, on 22 March, seven bishops, including Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, Germany’s largest diocese, sent a letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome asking for clarification as to whether the issue was within the competence of a local bishops’ conference or rather a matter for the Universal Church.     Francis reaffirmed on the plane that under the Code of Canon Law, it is up to the local bishop to decide under what conditions communion can be administered to non-Catholics, and not up to local bishops’ conferences.     The problem with having an entire bishops’ conference deal with such questions is that “something worked out in an episcopal conference quickly becomes universal”, he said.        Whatever the German conference may come up with in the end, he said, will likely be “an orientational document so that every one of the diocesan bishops can determine by himself what the Code of Canon Law already permits.”.....(more)
Doctrinal chief Ladaria plays down possibility of female deacons
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 27 June 2018
Ladaria has said that the ruling against women being ordained priests was definitive, infallible teaching
The leader of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation sought to play down expectations about the possibility of female deacons today, arguing that a commission set up by Pope Francis was focussed on their historical role in the early Church rather than on ordination.       Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria told reporters in the Vatican on 26 June, that while women deacons existed in the early Church they were “not the same” as their male counterparts.      “The question the Pope has asked, and we have to answer, is what the situation for deaconesses was in the old Church. We know from the sources that they existed in the old Church: but what was the meaning of deaconesses? Was it the same as [male] deacons?” the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said on Tuesday.    The doctrinal prefect, who is to be created cardinal by Pope Francis in a ceremony in St Peter’s on 28 June, is president of a body formally established by Francis in August 2016 to examine women deacons.       Ladaria said that “the work of the commission is at a good point,” that they had studied the question the Pope had put to them and “passed to the Holy Father our conclusions.” His remarks are the first public comments about the body’s work since it was set up almost two years ago.     And he repeatedly underlined that the commission - made up of twelve theologians split equally on gender grounds - was not tasked with giving a yes or no to ordination.....(more)  Photo: The Tablet, CNS/Paul Haring