Catholics for Renewal

Subtitle

News 2019

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.
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EDITORIAL  "Getting Back on Mission"
20 March 2019
Painting: "on the right track",  Ruth Palmer

ABSTRACT: Today Catholics for Renewal publishes its 146-page submission to the Plenary Council 2020/2021, titled "Getting back on Mission". The submission outlines a vision for the renewal of the Catholic Church in Australia at a time of unprecedented challenges.

The Church in Australia went ‘off mission’ because its leaders collectively lost sight of its very purpose: The submission considers the Work of Christ, Counter-signs, and the 'Graced-opportunity' the People Of God collectively now have  to renew our Church. Importantly also it suggests how this might be achieved by the People of God.    

Full editorial including the submission HERE .          
Previous Editorials Here
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Ash Wednesday Reflection 2019 (republished)
Extract from (Bishop) Pat Power*, Republished here Friday 22 March 2019
If ever repentance and conversion are needed in the Australian Catholic Church it is at this very moment. Significantly, this urgent call for a change of heart is not coming from our Church leaders but from the wider Australian community, the media and, most importantly, from deeply committed Catholics and those who share their hopes and aspirations.          The harrowing revelations from the Royal Commission and, most recently, the conviction of Cardinal George Pell have rocked the Catholic Church in this country to its foundations. American Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is “spot on” when he says that Australians are deeply traumatised in the wake of all this.  But before we start feeling sorry for ourselves and the loss of reputation, we must clearly focus on the untold damage done to victims of abuse. Innocent lives have been irreparably damaged by such abuse which has been perpetrated by God’s representatives. This has led to confusion, guilt and shame on the part of the young ones abused, preventing them from sharing this with parents and others who might have been able to help them. Often when they did open up, they weren’t believed. At least now that it is all out in the open, there may be some hope of bringing belated healing and reparation to those so harshly treated along with their families and loved ones.         It goes without saying that it is not just individual “rotten apples” which have caused such destruction but a total system failure in the mentality and structures of the Catholic Church. Branch and root reform needs to be fearlessly undertaken if the Church is to return to the mission entrusted to it by Jesus.         In 1996, I gave a talk in which I expressed my hopes for the Catholic Church. They were that it would be....(more) *In June 2012, Pat Power retired as Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn but continues to exercise a pastoral ministry.      Photo: from cover of Joy and Hope, Pilgrim Priest and Bishop, Pat Power
After 100 years, Lord’s Prayer facing the axe
Extract from CathNews, ABC News, 21 March 2019
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged the idea of opening Parliament with a multi-faith ceremony instead of the Lord’s Prayer.    At the start of every day, the Speaker and President lead the Lord’s Prayer in the Upper House and Lower House. Greens MPs wait outside for the prayer to finish before taking their seats and have long advocated for change.       Crossbench MP Fiona Patten has also been calling for change, saying the Acknowledgement of Country should open parliament.     Yesterday, the government referred the Lord’s Prayer to the procedures committee for review.    “This is a secular society and most religious people I speak to are surprised to find out that this is how we start every day here,” .....(more)
Why is the Vatican’s process for holding bishops accountable still so opaque?
The Editors. America, The Jesuit Review, 21 March 2019
Since the summer of 2018, the church has seen three cardinals face specific consequences in connection with sexual abuse. Understanding these already complex cases has been made more difficult by unclear canonical procedures, by decisions reserved to Pope Francis himself and—most vexing—by limited communication from the Vatican about what process is being followed on what timeline.     Taken together, these cases illustrate why accountability for bishops has become a focus of the sexual abuse crisis in the church. Both process and communication need to be improved in order to rebuild trust among the people of God that the church is committed to healing and reform.     A quick review of the cases of the three cardinals suggests the challenges the church faces.....(more)
The Barbarin Case: An unfortunate image of a self-protecting institution
The Church has lost trust, particularly difficult for priests over 75 who have invested in this institution and are now seeing their world crumbling
Limited extract from Claire Lesegretain, subscription journal La Croix International, 21 March 2019
How can we try to understand the pope's decision to refuse Cardinal Barbarin's resignation? Danièle Hervieu-Léger a sociologist of religion and research director at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Higher School of Social Sciences - EHESS) answers that question.         The situation is difficult to comprehend, as much from an external point of view as from within the institution. Confusion did not begin with Pope Francis' decision, but with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin's appeal.       Barbarin, in an effort to clear his name (and under pressure from his lawyers) decided to appeal the court's decision. In doing so, he has compromised his dignity as a bishop whose primary responsibility is to ensure the unity of the community entrusted to him....(more)
Getting Back on Mission
Wednesday 20 March 2019
Today Catholics for Renewal publishes its 146-page submission to the Plenary Council 2020/2021, titled "Getting back on Mission". The submission outlines a vision for the renewal of the Catholic Church in Australia at a time of unprecedented challenges.  HERE
Church in Melbourne looks to St Patrick to rebuild
Extract from CathNews, Weekend Australian, 18 March 2019
The Church in Melbourne is experiencing its “darkest days” and is standing on “broken ground” in the wake of the sex abuse scandal, Melbourne Archbishop Peter A Comensoli has said.      Archbishop Comensoli called for a new way for the Church, suggesting the legacy of St Patrick could be a model upon which the Archdiocese of Melbourne could rebuild.     In a speech on Friday, he called on the Catholic faithful to embrace a future that moved away from the church’s institutional centre and relocated it among “our local neighbourhoods of grace”.                  Archbishop Comensoli said the Catholic presence in Melbourne had been great, presenting as a force for political good, underpinned by the foundations of St Patrick, who was the second bishop of Ireland, arriving in that country in 432AD.          He did not specifically mention the jailing of Cardinal George Pell but made clear that the Church was reeling after the events of last week, urging a new way ahead for the faith.         “I cannot deny that I also stand here tonight amid the darkest days of our proud history in this city,” he said.          An earthquake has occurred and the landscape has shifted permanently. What has been a source of pride and comfort, built by our forebears, no longer captures people’s minds and hearts, and leaves our children indifferent. At this time of deep crisis and humiliation, might it not be time to let go of the past and begin anew?”         Archbishop Comensoli drew on the experiences of parishes outside of the Melbourne CBD that are flourishing, with sometimes thousands of people attending each week.        This is the proposal I want to put to you tonight, wounded but proud, shaken but determined,” he said. “That the future of the Christian faith in our city lies in letting go of the old landscape of a Catholic Melbourne and instead re-beginning the work of Patrick, replanting our city with the seeds of the Gospel, rediscovering a knowledge, language and pedagogy that can transform lives....(more) 
Church reforms under influence of forces that may appear adverse
'Let us not be afraid and let the suffering linked to these well-founded critiques become an occasion of liberation,' says Swiss bishop
Limited extract from Céline Hoyeau, Switzerland, subscription journal La Croix International, 18 March 2019
How should we view the crisis that is currently challenging the Catholic Church?     Since many Christians have suffered from sex abuse caused by priests and bishops, "shining a light on these scandals deserves a positive judgment from the outset," said Bishop Charles Morerod OP of Lausanne-Geneva-Fribourg.    This is "welcome and necessary," said the 57-year-old Dominican in his Lenten message, because it is "the condition necessary for deep change."...(more)   Photo: La Croix International  Alessia Giuliani CPP Ciric
 Leading Benedictine nun in Germany calls for women priests
'Why shouldn't we pray for gender equality in the Church? It is most important that all discussions on reform be offered up to God,' says Sister Ruth Schönenberger
Limited extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt. Germany, subscription journal La Croix International
The leader of one of Germany's most important female religious communities has called into question the Catholic Church's exclusion of women from the ordained priesthood.      "It is surely only natural for women to be priests and I cannot understand the reasons given as to why not," said Sister Ruth Schönenberger, head of the Benedictine Priory of Tutzing, the Bavarian motherhouse of a worldwide missionary order.      "I am surprised that the presence of Christ has been reduced to the male sex,"...(more)   Photo: La Croix Int Sr Ruth Schönenberger, YouTube
French bishop backs ordination of married men
What is sacred is sacred to every human being, not just priests, says Archbishop Pascal Wintzer
Limited extract from Clémence Houdaille, subscription joirnal La Croix International, 15 March 2019
A French archbishop has announced publicly that he is in favor of ordaining married men and is calling on more reflection on the issue.     Archbishop Pascal Wintzer of Poitiers announced during a March 8 broadcast on RCF radio that he is in favor of ordaining married men, calling for further reflection on "ways of calling married men to become priests."    "I cho.....(more).
Canberra Catholics lay out church reform agenda.
Extract from Terry Fewtrell, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue blog, 15 March 2019   
Inclusive, transparent, accountable, non-clericalist and humble – characteristics not usually associated with the Catholic church, but ones the church must adopt. That is the view of a large group of Canberra Catholics in a submission to the church’s Plenary Council being organised in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis.       In the aftermath of the Royal Commission report, Catholics are confronting the reality that much of the behaviour and functioning of their church is not fit for purpose, and worse still, is contrary to gospel values. Catholics, rightfully, have been ashamed and disgusted by the efforts of church leaders who support a system that entrenches clericalism, denies truth and protects offenders. Accordingly, the submission by Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn makes clear to the bishops that the people of the church in Australia will no longer tolerate such failures of leadership. Change can and must happen and the document outlines how....(more)
Action flows from child protection summit
Extract from CathNews, Vatican News, 15 March 2019
The bishops who participated in the Vatican summit on the protection of minors in the Church last month have “taken some initiatives”, says safeguarding expert Fr Hans Zollner SJ.        The president of the Centre for Child Protection told Vatican News that some bishops have revised their guidelines to find and implement ways of “cooperating with civil authorities”.              Fr Zollner explained that the presidents of Catholic bishops’ conferences have sought the help of the Centre for Child Protection in the formation of Church personnel on the ground, after many of them were reduced to tears in hearing testimonies of survivors of child sexual abuse.        In the three weeks since the end of the Meeting, Fr Zollner said some bishops have not simply “communicated what happened during those three and a half days” of the meeting, but are beginning to act. This, he said, was “the most important outcome that I could have hoped for”, because it proved that the bishops “received a message”.       The message, he said, was: “Do everything you can to do justice to the victims. Listen to victims”, and do whatever you can to ensure that safeguarding is implemented “in your countries, in your dioceses and in your congregations”.      Fr Zollner emphasised the importance of both the voices of the victims and the media. Thanks to them, “the topic of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has come to the surface and is now present all over the world”.        “Nobody can avoid this anymore”, he said.     “This topic is not something that will go away easily and fast.” Instead, he said, “it will stay with us and it will need much attention, over years and probably decades.”...(more)  Photo: Cath News, Vatican Media ANSA Fr Hans Zollner  SJ 
(US) Catholics question Church commitment in wake of abuse crisis
Nearly half of (US) Catholics who seldom or never attend church have questioned whether they will remain
Limited extract from subscription journal The Tablet, Ruth Gledhill, 14 March 2019
Growing numbers of Catholics in the United States are questioning their commitment to the Church in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis.     According to a poll by Gallup*, non-practising Catholics are those more likely to question their religion. However, the majority of Catholics are still confident in their parish priest, and in Pope Francis.        Nearly one in four US Catholics, 37 per cent, say that the crisis has made them question whether they will remain members of the Catholic Church, up by more than a fifth from 2002.     However, Gallup also reports: "It is unclear whether Catholics who are questioning their church membership will actually decide to leave the church. Many Catholics may consider leaving the church but ultimately decide not to do so, or they may have no intention of leaving but simply be responding to this question as a way to express their frustration with the way the church has handled the problem."      The responses varied according to the existing level of commitment.           Nearly half, 46 per cent, of Catholics who seldom or never attend church have questioned whether they will remain. By comparison, fewer than one in four, 37 per cent, of those who attend church monthly basis and one-fifth of those who attend weekly are questioning their allegiance.....(more)  Photo: The Tablet, Ruth Gledhill Holy Name Cathedral Chicago     *Gallup interviewed 581 Catholics in January 2019.
Curia marks Pope’s sixth year in office
Extract from CathNews, Vatican News, 14 March 2019
Members of the Roman Curia attending their annual Lenten retreat with Pope Francis yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of his election, pledging him their support and closeness.      Before morning Mass on the third full day of the March 10-15 retreat at the Casa Divin Maestro just outside of Rome, Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the prefect emeritus of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, addressed Poe Francis on behalf of the retreat participants.       “On behalf of all those present, I would like to tell you, Your Holiness, that we rejoice and are full of joy in being able to celebrate this morning Mass together with you and presided over by you,” Cardinal Re said.       “I would also like to tell you that we ask that the Lord be your light, support, and comfort in your task of confirming your brethren in faith, of being the foundation of unity and of showing everyone the way that leads to heaven,” the 85-year old cardinal said.    Cardinal Re concluded by asking the Holy Father’s blessing and assured him they are truly close to him with great affection and sincere devotion....(more)   Photo: CathNews
NZ Cardinal confirms, no one to appoint as Parish Priest
Extracts from CathNews NZ, 14 March 2019
The lack of vocations to the priesthood is the reason Ohariu Catholic parish no longer has a resident parish priest.     “I simply do not have anyone suitable to appoint as Parish Priest”, the Archbishop of Wellington told a 400 strong crowd, meeting at the Uniting Church, Dr Taylor Tce in Johnsonville.      The Archbishop apologised for the quality of communication about the decision, telling the at-times vocal crowd the communication was not as good as he had wanted.          Archbishop Dew dismissed criticism that he dumped the decision on the parish just two weeks before Christmas, when no one would notice.       He said he had learned only very late in the year of Fr Fitzgibbon’s intention to retire.......Cardinal Dew informed the meeting of a report he received earlier in 2018 indicating a possible far-reaching way forward for the St Francis of Assisi Parish, but he understood the parish had not accepted the plan.      The optimistic Archbishop said new circumstances meant resurrecting that plan, at least as a starting point.     Describing the new parish team as “adventurous, creative people with initiative to lead the parish in response to community needs”, he thought that, along with the support of the Parish Administrator Fr Peter Roe SM, the St Francis of Assisi Parish “had an even better deal”.      Cardinal Dew noted that lay-led parishes are not new.....(more)
Cardinal Pell is sentenced to 6 years in prison for child sex abuse
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, America, The Jesuit Review,  12 March 2019
An Australian judge has sentenced Cardinal George Pell to six years in prison for the sexual abuse of two choirboys in Melbourne Cathedral in the late 1990s and has decreed that the cardinal has to serve three years and eight months in prison before he can be eligible for parole.      The sentencing took place at the county court in Melbourne on March 13. It was broadcast live on national television.       Chief Judge Peter Kidd, who delivered the sentence today, was the only one seen on camera, but Cardinal Pell was in the courtroom and the judge asked him to stand for the sentencing. A person present in the courtroom, which was packed with reporters and survivors of abuse, described the cardinal as looking “tired and almost disheveled,” without a tie or collar, and wearing an open black shirt.      The total sentencing came to almost 12 years, but Judge Kidd reduced the penalty on four of the counts. The judge said he had given the cardinal “a shorter sentence” because of his age, “so that you can live the last part of your life in the community.”       At the same time Judge Kidd said he had to impose a sentence that was a deterrent and a punishment for what he said was “intentional offending.” He told the cardinal that “you may not live to be released from prison.” He acknowledged that his case was unique given Cardinal Pell’s career in the church and his prominent position in Australian society.....(more)
Students ask bishops to keep the faith
Extract from Marilyn Rodrigues, The Catholic weekly, 12 March 2019
Around 600 Australian Catholic university students have called upon the country’s bishops to publically (sic) reject submissions to the Plenary Council 2020 which contradict Church teaching.     The request is one of nine recommendations made by the Australian Catholic Students’ Association (ACSA) in its submission to the council’s Listening and Dialogue phase, which ended on Ash Wednesday.        The Plenary Council must affirm the ageless teachings of Christ, the Church Fathers and the clear dogma of the Church and reject items for consideration by the Plenary Council which clearly breach those teachings,” they wrote.     “The Church should not discourage young people following its rules in love, nor its priests from teaching them.        Therefore, the bishops of Australia should make it clear to the faithful about what may and may not occur at this Council and emphatically reject heterodoxical proposals.”          Other recommendations of the student body led by president Christopher Wilks and gained through listening sessions held online and at various locations around the country focussed on spiritual formation of young people in schools and universities, with the student body calling for an increase in Eucharistic Adoration and promotion of the Liturgy of the Hours.     The students representing Catholics at around 26 tertiary institutions asked for more resources at university Catholic societies and the addressing of the “deterioration of the Catholic identity at Church-run residential colleges in secular universities”......(more) Image: The Catholic weekly

Why stay?
Extract from Francis Sullivan, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website,

11 March 2019
Since the conviction of Cardinal Pell I have been asked why I remain a Catholic. It is an obvious question. The extent of criminal behaviour and the active cover up by bishops and religious leaders of perpetrators has been breath taking. Ordinary Catholics have been played as mugs by the Church leadership. Why stay?       My answer is why not! The abuse scandal has rocked my confidence in the clericalist management of the Church but not my sense of the collective journey I walk with other Catholics. I believe the “assembled walkers” are the Church! I feel no compulsion to leave them. I feel participating in a faith community a vital aspect of my self expression. Being Catholic for me is less a religious tag or a member of a religion and more a chosen pathway of personal and spiritual discovery best undertaken in community. It is my way of living the Gospel.     I have found deep comfort in and direction from my faith tradition. I feel nurtured in the sense that I am part of a pilgrim people, ever moving into a better understanding of the divine in my life and an appreciation of what that means for me as person in society.      The clerical sex abuse scandal is a crisis primarily about the culture of the Church. It may well cause some to rethink their beliefs and practices, but for me it has been a call to deepen my spiritual practice. To commit to daily meditation and reflection. To draw on the sacramental life of the Church and the richness of scriptural practices like lectio divina. It has been a time to become mature in my faith development, less dependent and literally more adult in my engagement with the institutional Church.      I have benefited by being raised as a Catholic and being involved in social and spiritual apostolates of the Church. I have found the wisdom of the teaching and spiritual tradition a rich source of inspiration, information and discernment.       At the same time I understand that participation in the Church is a continuum of engagement......(more)

Listening and dialogue ‘landmark moment’ for church
Extract from Melbourne Catholic, Plenary Council,  Friday 8 March 2019
While people were still sharing their stories of faith and of God with the Plenary Council last night and the final numbers won’t be known for a couple of weeks, the Council’s Listening and Dialogue stage is considered a ‘landmark moment’ for the Catholic Church in Australia.      Plenary Council 2020 president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB expressed his gratitude for the faith, energy and generosity of people everywhere who have shared so honestly.      The bishops and the Plenary Council team are deeply grateful to all people who have participated,’ he said.        It is important to stop and acknowledge the significant moment that this is for the entire Catholic community. I have been very moved by the stories of faith, hope and resilience I have heard.’....(more)

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin resigns after conviction for abuse cover-up
Extract from SBS News, 8 March 2019
The archbishop of Lyon Thursday announced he was resigning just hours after being handed a six-month suspended jail sentence for failing to report sex abuse in a case that has rocked the French Catholic Church and added to the Vatican's woes.     Philippe Barbarin, 68, is the most senior French cleric caught up in the global paedophilia scandal which Pope Francis, just two weeks ago, vowed to fight in an "all-out battle".      A court in Lyon, in southeastern France, ruled that Barbarin, a cardinal since 2003, was guilty of failing to report allegations of abuse of boy-scouts committed by a priest, Bernard Preynat, in the 1980s and 1990s.      The priest, who was charged in 2016, is expected for his part to be tried this year.       Barbarin, who was not present for the verdict, said he "duly acknowledged the court's decision", but his lawyer said it would be appealed.      He is the third senior French cleric to be found guilty of failing to report sex abuse.     "I have decided to go to see the Holy Father to hand him my resignation. He will receive me in a few days' time," Barbarin told a news conference after the verdict.....(more)  Photo: Cardinal Philippe Barbarin SBS News AP

Renown reformer: 'Church has 5 years for a complete turnaround or it's over'
Father Helmut Schüller of Austria says the sex abuse crisis shows urgent need to 'desacralize' the Catholic priesthood and empower the laity
Limited extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Vienna, subscription journal La Croix International, 7 March 2019
One of the world's most credible reform-minded Catholic priests has warned that time is running out for the Church to make major structural changes if its leaders want to save it from collapse.      "If the Church does not accomplish a turnaround shift within the next four or five years, then it's over," said Father Helmut Schüller, a former vicar general of the Archdiocese of Vienna, at a press conference on Feb. 27 in the Austrian capital.      The 66-year-old cleric, a co-founder in 2006 of the Austrian Priests' Initiative (API), said the current sex abuse crisis must impel the Catholic Church to rethink (überdenken) its constitution, give lay Catholics more rights and introduce control mechanisms for those in positions of power.      Speaking to reporters during a meeting of Austrian Church reform movements, Schüller said one of the most necessary reforms is to "desacralize" the priesthood.          "We must get back to seeing the priesthood as a service and not as an office that gives the holder power, because that can lead to abuse," he said.     A related reform that is also urgent, he added, is to make those in....(more)     Photo: La Croix Internationl,  EFE Jordi Kuhs MaxPPP
New laws to force priests to report abuse confessions?
Extract from CathNews, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 March 2019
Laws compelling priests to break the seal of Confession and report child sexual abuse to police or face criminal charges are due in the Victorian Parliament before the end of the year.      The Andrews Government wants to remove legal privileges that shield priests from giving evidence about alleged crimes heard during the confession, arguing that the sacrament provides cover to pedophiles.      Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said removing that legal privilege would take away one more reason to not report child abuse.      Under the proposed laws, any priest who received a confession of child sexual abuse and failed to make a report would risk being charged.    The proposed change to the state evidence act, which also covers doctor-patient relationships, was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which concluded in December 2017.     “What we saw in the national royal commission was a sense that many people who committed child sexual abuse thought that they could cleanse themselves by simply confessing it,” Ms Hennessy said.     “And those offenders were then moved around into different places and were protected and the royal commission was really unequivocal that that protection resulted in years and years of abuse in many different communities.”....(more) 
The Vatican summit on the protection of minors is over. What’s next?
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, America, The Jesuit Review, 1 March 2019
The recent Vatican summit on the protection of minors ended on Feb. 24. Since then many have asked, “What’s next?”          The question often comes from representatives of survivors’ organizations who were very active during the summit. At its conclusion, many expressed disappointment at the apparent lack of the “concrete measures” that Pope Francis called for in his opening talk but did not deliver in his closing address. They felt “let down,” according to Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopsAccountability.org.           But the majority of bishops and religious superiors came away with a very different read on the summit and the pope’s closing talk. Several told me “a significant shift” in thinking had taken place within the meeting that augured well for their collective response to the grave abuse crisis that is eroding the church’s credibility and undermining its mission throughout the world.        Archbishop Charles Scicluna, in an exclusive interview with America at the summit’s end, put it this way: “We could see people maturing in their reactions as the days went by.... They were an intense three days, but the experiences of prayer, the listening to victims, the inputs we had were emotionally charged, so there was not only information but also an appeal to our emotional intelligence.”               The summit “spoke to the heart of people,” Archbishop Scicluna said. “I think that is where true transformation happens and where the motivation to do the right thing is born and develops.”         Pope Francis called the meeting precisely for this purpose—to bring about a change of hearts, a conversion, a cultural change among bishops and religious superiors worldwide because he knows that without such a change all the papal decrees and changes in Vatican law are unlikely to achieve the desired goal of defeating sexual abuse inside the church.     The summit focused on three aspects that are central to the role of bishops and religious superiors in addressing this crisis: responsibility, accountability and transparency. It also looked at the need for a collegial and synodal response at both the local and universal church levels to the abuse of minors.....(more)      Photo: America, The Jesuit Review, iStock.jpg
Pell conviction blows apart bishops' mantra
Extract from Francis Sullivan, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 February 2019
Yesterday’s announcement of the conviction of Cardinal George Pell has been shattering for many and a relief for others.     The fact that the most senior cleric in Australia has been found guilty is devastating on many levels. Not the least because he was such a high-profile proponent for the safeguarding children in the church and its provision of compensation to victims.     The Cardinal is no stranger to controversy. He revelled in the culture wars of the church and few ever wondered what he thought on matters of politics, religion and social change.    A lightening rod for discontent, the Cardinal soldiered through conflict after conflict with the resolve of an ideologue. His steadfast conservatism brought him institutional regard although it has been very divisive within the Catholic and wider community.  He is every bit a personification of the institutional church and is seen by the public as its head in Australia. Now he is convicted of crimes he has always denied. No wonder the reception in the Catholic community is so mixed.     The judicial process is yet to run its course. What can’t wait is real reform of the institutional church. And most tellingly, that reform cannot be left in the hands of bishops and religious leaders. For too long their chant has been that they are part of the solution, not the problem. This has been blown apart by the revelations of the royal commission and, if it sticks, the conviction of Cardinal Pell.       The secrecy and obfuscation that has characterised the church’s approach to the clerical sexual abuse of children cannot remain the default position when shocking news like the Cardinal’s conviction arrives....(more)
Statement from Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of ACBC
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Melbourne Catholic, Tuesday 26 February 2019
The news of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on historical child sexual abuse charges has shocked many across Australia and around the world, including the Catholic Bishops of Australia.     The Bishops agree that everyone should be equal under the law, and we respect the Australian legal system. The same legal system that delivered the verdict will consider the appeal that the Cardinal’s legal team has lodged. Our hope, at all times, is that through this process, justice will be served.    In the meantime, we pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones, and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable....(source)
Archbishop Comensoli’s statement on Cardinal Pell trial
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, Melbourne Catholic, Tuesday 26 February 2019
As is now publicly known, Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of historical sexual crimes relating to two young people at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. This follows two trials, the first of which could not reach a verdict.    While acknowledging the judgement of the jury, I join many people who have been surprised and shaken by the outcome of the second trial.      I fully respect the ongoing judicial process, noting that Cardinal Pell continues to protest his innocence. An appeal against the verdict has been lodged. It is important that we now await the outcome of this appeal, respectful of the ongoing legal proceedings.    All other charges relating to Cardinal Pell, except those subject of the appeal, have been discontinued.       My thoughts and prayers are with all victims who have been abused by clergy, religious and lay people in the Archdiocese of Melbourne at this challenging time, and I renew my personal commitment to do all I can to ensure victims of such abuse in Melbourne receive justice and healing.     At this time, I also acknowledge all in the Catholic Church who are walking with survivors and communities harmed by the scourge of abuse, and who are committed to building a culture of safety for our children and vulnerable people.    At this time, may I assure you that I keep all involved in my prayer....(source)
Vatican: Cardinal Pell news is ‘painful’ and he has right to defend himself to the end
Extract from Gerard O’Connell, America The Jesuit Review,  February 26, 2019
The Vatican responded Cardinal George Pell’s conviction of sexual abuse of minors by announcing that “to guarantee the course of justice,” Pope Francis “has confirmed the precautionary measures that were imposed by the local bishop on Cardinal George Pell on his return to Australia, namely: while awaiting the definitive verification of the facts, Cardinal Pell is prohibited in a precautionary way from the public exercise of ministry and, as according to the norm, any contact whatsoever and in any form with minors.”        The Vatican said the conviction is “a painful news that, we are well aware, has shocked very many persons, not only in Australia.” At the same time, “it reaffirmed maximum respect for the Australian judicial authorities.”
It said the Holy See “joined” the Australian Bishops’ Conference “in recognizing the sentence of condemnation of Cardinal George Pell in the first grade, and said it awaited the final outcome of the appeal.” It recalled that the cardinal has “reaffirmed his innocence” and “has the right to defend himself to the final grade.”.....(more)
George Pell has fallen, but the cardinal's legacy casts a long shadow
Extracts from Barney Zwartz, The Age, 26 February 2019
So Cardinal George Pell – by far Australia's best-known church leader of the past 25 years, the highest-ranked Australian ever at the Vatican, a confidant of prime ministers – faces a jail sentence for child sexual abuse. The dispenser of God's grace (through the sacrament) has surely reached the nadir of human disgrace.     At his peak, as archbishop of Melbourne, then Sydney, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Pell seemed an irresistible force. Trenchant, combative, supremely confident and with an imposing presence, he was a robust and forceful spokesman for authoritarian Catholicism and conservative social issues.       Such was his conviction and certainty, he relished being a polarising figure who was disliked by progressive Catholics and the many clergy whom he ruthlessly brought to heel when he thought them too liberal in their views or too flexible with the liturgy.     His reward was the near-adoration of sections of the church, a huge public profile, and a senior Vatican post.          His supporters admired his pugnacity at a time when most Christian leaders were reticent, and his willingness to defend what he believed in. He was a hard worker, committed to the church, extremely astute at church politics and, reportedly, genial company. His critics found him arrogant, ruthless – in both senses of relentless and lacking compassion – and a man who made protecting the institutional church his highest principle, over people, including abuse survivors......Pell was exactly the sort of resolute bishop beloved of popes John-Paul II and Benedict XVI because he shared their rejection of post-modernism and moral relativism.    Pope Francis does, too, but he sees clericalism – the idea that priests are specially entrusted with guarding the church's tradition and teaching and deserve deference – as the church's biggest weakness, while to his predecessors it was the natural order.       Francis calls it "a toxic sickness" and dislikes the inflexible dogmatism that was one of Pell's chief virtues to Francis's predecessors.           But Pell's legacy is still prominent in the Australian Catholic Church, especially among the bishops appointed to key dioceses who take the same view of Catholicism.     For example, it was a shock last year when his chief protege (in terms of churchmanship), Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, got as many votes as head of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference as Brisbane's Mark Coleridge (who won on seniority).     What now within the church? It presents an overwhelming challenge to the usually timid Australian bishops, who cannot publicly ignore the Cardinal's finding. How will they explain this to the faithful? Traditionally, they say the bare minimum – and this time it is hard to blame them. But they must say more.......(more)  Photo: Stefan Postles Reuters
Roma locuta? Ecclesiology of the Vatican summit on sexual abuse
The Church's current response to sex abuse is still in its early stages, and that is not just the fault of the Vatican or the ecclesiastical hierarchy
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, United States, subscription journal La Croix International, 26 February 2019
"The age of deference is over," Lord Altrincham tells a still-to-be-enthroned and furious Elizabeth II in the tv series "The Crown." He then convinces the young queen to modernize her court, if not the monarchy itself.     The scene could easily be applied to the Catholic Church and its hierarchy today.     Just as political revolutions and cultural upheavals from the 18th century onwards impacted the divine rights of monarchs, so the clerical sex abuse crisis is taking down the divine rights of the Catholic hierarchy. The crisis is much bigger than a massive problem of corruption and cover-up.    The scandal of sex abuse in the Catholic Church is not an isolated moment in history. Rather, it must be seen within a number of challenges that modernity has posed to institutional religion. On the horizon are huge, long-term consequences for the role and life of the Church.    They include the following: the effects of transparency and accountability on organized religion; the ability of the Church to handle the psychology of indignation in the age of social media; and the huge re-negotiation of the relations between Church and State, as Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge pointed out a during press conference at the Vatican's summit on clergy sex abuse.   The Feb. 21-24 summit — officially called a "meeting on the protection of minors in the Church" — will stand as an important moment the history of institutional Catholicism.     And while the most decisive part depends on follow-up to the four-day gathering, the summit itself has already offered an image of the Church that helps us understand the complexity of the crisis......(source).  Photo: Vatican, La Croix International
Vatican Summit
ABC TV News Report by Andrew Geoghegan, 25 February 2019 on Pope Francis' Child Sexual Abuse summit in Rome including an Interview  with Peter Johnstone, Convener of Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. ABC TV News
Truth and justice after the Pell verdict
Extracts from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street,  26 February 2019
The suppression order in relation to Cardinal George Pell has been lifted. In December, a jury of 12 of his fellow citizens found him guilty of five offences of child sexual abuse. No other charges are to proceed. Cardinal Pell has appealed the convictions. The verdict was unanimous. The jury took three days to deliberate after a four-week trial. The trial was in fact a re-run. At the first trial, the jury could not agree. The trial related to two alleged victims, one of whom had died.        Members of the public could attend those proceedings if they knew where to go in the Melbourne County Court. Members of the public could hear all the evidence except a recording of the complainant's evidence from the first trial. The complainant, who cannot be identified, did not give evidence at the retrial; the recording from the first trial was admitted as the complainant's evidence. The recording was available to the public only insofar as it was quoted by the barristers in their examination of other witnesses or in their final addresses to the jury, and by the judge in his charge to the jury. So, no member of the public has a complete picture of the evidence and no member of the public is able to make an assessment of the complainant's demeanour.       The complainant's evidence at the first trial lasted two and a half days. He had been cross-examined for more than a day by Pell's defence barrister, Robert Richter QC, who has a reputation for being one of the best and one of the toughest cross-examiners in the legal profession. Pell did not give evidence, but a record of his police interview, denying the allegations, was in evidence.     The complainant's evidence related to events that occurred back in 1996 or 1997 when he was a 13-year-old choir boy at St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne. Most other witnesses had been choir boys, altar servers or Cathedral officials in 1996 when Pell first became archbishop of Melbourne. The complainant claimed that the first event, involving four charges, occurred after a solemn Sunday Mass celebrated by Pell in the second half of 1996. It was common ground between the prosecution and the defence that the dates to which these four charges must be attributed were 15 December 1996 or 22 December 1996.             These were the dates on which the first and second solemn Sunday Masses were celebrated by Pell in the Cathedral after he had become archbishop in August 1996. The Cathedral had been undergoing renovations and thus was not used for Sunday Masses during earlier months of 1996.......Was the verdict unreasonable? Can it be supported having regard to the evidence? Those are questions for the appeal court. I can only hope and pray that the complainant can find some peace, able to get on with his life, whichever way the appeal goes. Should the appeal fail, I hope and pray that Cardinal Pell, heading for prison, is not the unwitting victim of a wounded nation in search of a scapegoat. Should the appeal succeed, the Victoria Police should review the adequacy of the police investigation of these serious criminal charges........When the committal proceedings against Pell first commenced in July 2017, Fran Kelly asked me on ABC Radio National Breakfast: 'Do you have concerns about this case, regardless of the outcome, and how it's going to affect the Church?' I answered: 'Fran, I think this case will be a test of all individuals and all institutions involved. And all we can do is hope that the outcome will be marked by truth, justice, healing, reconciliation and transparency. A huge challenge for my church, and yes a lot will ride on this case.          But what is absolutely essential is that the law be allowed to do its work. And let's wait and see the evidence, and let's wait and see how it plays out. And let's hope there can be truth and justice for all individuals involved in these proceedings.' And that is still my hope....(more).     Photo:Pell Cardinal Eureka Street 20190226, Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Catholicism’s Year from Hell
Extract from Paul Collins, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 26 February 2019    Without a doubt the last twelve months have been Catholicism’s annus horribilis and, let me assure you, there’s still not much light at the end of the tunnel. 2018 was the year in which the abuse crisis came to a head and it has absolutely stymied the pastoral governance of the church.      At first it was seen as an “Anglo” problem, but then reports of abuse appeared in Europe, Chile and other parts of Latin America. After several years of underestimating it, Pope Francis woke-up to the problem after he was deceived by church authorities in Chile and was forced into an abject apology in mid-2018. Now convinced it is a worldwide problem, he called presidents of bishops’ conferences to the Vatican last week for a three-day summit on transparency and abuse. What happened?        Even before things got underway, two anti-Francis cardinals, Raymond Burke and Walter Brandmüller, claimed that the whole problem was that priest-abusers were all gay. “The plague of the homosexual agenda,” they wrote, “has been spread within the church, promoted by organised networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.” There is not a scintilla of evidence to support this and Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, said these cardinals “are renowned for this kind of critique, which I…simply reject out of hand.” Spot-on!         Then there was Theodore McCarrick. A week before the summit, the pope expelled the former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington from priestly ministry (he had already resigned from the college of cardinals), after he was found guilty of abusing seminarians and under-age boys. Next came Frédéric Martel’s book In the Closet of the Vatican, published the day the abuse summit began. Martel claims that the Vatican itself is riddled with closeted gay priests. While clear that there’s no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, Martel says gay priests cover for each other and fear exposure....(more) Photo: Catherine Wiggins
Catholic Church leaders launch reform process
Pope Francis has succeeded in developing a much greater level of awareness among the world's bishops, many of whom who were a long way from sharing his vision
Limited extract from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription Journa; La Croix International, 25 February 2019
Vatican City. Did Pope Francis' closing speech at the meeting of bishops conference presidents on child protection on Feb. 24 come as a disappointment?       The long text he read out in the Sala Regia inside the Apostolic Palace did not in fact contain any significant new announcements.       On the other hand, he had already warned well in advance against "inflated" expectations from the meeting.
A Church that admits its faults and sins.     But the real point of his address had less to do with the concrete measures the Vatican has already started working on than the kind of Church that Pope Francis envisions.     In how it responds to sex abuse by priests, this will be a very different Church from the one that existed only a few years ago.       No longer will it be a besieged citadel but rather a Church genuinely in the world.            Instead of identifying the cause of abuse as society's "moral decadence," the Church will now perceive it as more deeply rooted in evil, or "Satan" at....(source)  Photo: La Croix Int Vatican Media Reuters.
Pope Francis calls for an ‘all-out battle’ against the evil of sexual abuse
Extracts from From Gerard O’Connell, America, The Jesuit Review, 24 February 2019
In his closing talk to the Vatican summit for the protection of minors, Pope Francis offered a wide-ranging analysis of the plague of the sexual abuse of minors in the world and the Catholic Church. He committed the church to do everything possible to eradicate it from within the church itself and from society as a whole.        “We are facing a universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone,” Pope Francis said in a 30-minute talk at the end of Mass, which he celebrated in the Sala Regia, next to the Sistine Chapel, with the patriarchs, cardinals, bishops and priests who had participated in the four-day summit on the protection of minors.........The pope sought to locate the abuse of minors by clergy in the wider reality by showing that the sexual abuse of minors is widespread in the world. “It is difficult to grasp the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors without considering power,” he said, “since it is always the result of an abuse of power, an exploitation of the inferiority and vulnerability of the abused, which makes possible the manipulation of their conscience and of their psychological and physical weakness.”           He urged all Catholics to help the church be liberated “from the plague of clericalism, which is the fertile ground for all these disgraces.”          “I make a heartfelt appeal for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors both sexually and in other areas, on the part of all authorities and individuals, for we are dealing with abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth,” the pope said.....(more).  Photo  America, Jesuit Giuseppe Lami/Pool Photo via AP
'We are our own worst enemy', Australian archbishop tells Pope
An Australian archbishop has warned a gathering of senior clergy in the Vatican, including the Pope, that the church has been “our own worst enemy” in failing to confront the abuse of children.
Extract from Nick Miller, The Age, 24 February 2019
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane delivered the sermon at a Sunday morning Mass at the end of a four-day summit at the Vatican on the protection of minors in the church.           In the Sala Regia, a grand antechamber to the Sistine Chapel, Coleridge said the church faced a revolution like the one it confronted when Copernicus revealed the Sun did not revolve around the Earth.      He said the church had at times “preferred indifference” to sexual abuse “and the desire to protect the church’s reputation, and even our own”.      “We have shown too little mercy and therefore we will receive the same,” he warned.     He said pastors of the church had been given a power to serve.         “Yet we can use this power not to create but to destroy and even in the end to kill,” he said. “In sexual abuse the powerful lay hands on the lord’s anointed, even the weakest and the most vulnerable of them… in abuse and concealment the powerful show themselves not men of heaven but of earth.”        Those who challenged the church to see abuse and its concealment for what they really were, were not the church’s enemy, he said.       Victims and survivors “have led us to the painful truth by telling their stories with such courage,” he said. “At times, however, we have seen victims and survivors as the enemy, but we have not loved them, we have not blessed them. In that sense, we have been our own worst enemy.”      Coleridge urged the church to act to bring justice for abuse survivors.      “A mission stretches before us – a mission demanding not just words but real concrete action," he said.      “We will do all we can to bring justice and healing to survivors of abuse; we will listen to them, believe them and walk with them; we will ensure that those who have abused are never again able to offend.      “We will call to account those who have concealed abuse; we will strengthen the processes of recruitment and formation of Church leaders; we will educate all our people in what safeguarding requires; we will do all in our power to make sure that the horrors of the past are not repeated and that the Church is a safe place for all.”      This would take time but “we do not have forever and we dare not fail,” Coleridge said.      The summit involves about 200 senior church leaders from around the world, almost all men.       On Saturday the summit heard tough criticism of the church.      Nigerian nun Sister Verinica Openibo said the clergy were hypocrites.      “Why did we keep silent for so long?” she asked. "We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place we find ourselves as a church.               And one of the most experienced of the Vatican press corps, 64 year-old Mexican TV reporter Valentina Alazraki, told the bishops they must no longer “play ostrich”.....(more)
The sex abuse summit and the Vatican's lack of transparency
Illustrative of the Church's fear of revealing the truth is the case of Msgr. Joseph Punderson
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, Vatican City, February 22, 2019
On the eve of the Vatican's summit aimed at getting the entire Church to face up to the ever-widening clerical sex abuse crisis, some in the media wondered if the meeting risked being overshadowed by other controversies.      One was supposed to be the issue of gay priests -- whom traditionalist Catholics have scapegoated as pederasts, and a French author has sensationalized in a just-released book in which he claims the Catholic hierarchy and the Roman Curia are full of gay men who are either leading double lives or are actually homophobic and militantly anti-homosexual.      Another looming controversy that was destined to detract from the abuse summit was the recent revelation that the Vatican has issued secret rules for priests who have fathered children.     And yet another was the issue of religious women (nuns) who have been sexually abused and raped by priests and bishops, something the Vatican has tried to keep quiet for a number of decades.      None of these controversies is directly related to the sexual abuse of minors; with apologies to our traditionalist brothers and sisters who are convinced that gay priests are prone to be child molesters.     However, there is an issue that is related to the abuse summit. And it is one that very few people are talking about. It's the Vatican's lack of transparency in dealing with credibly accused predator priests working directly for the Holy See.      Ensuring that all bishops and Church leaders commit themselves unwaveringly to a policy of transparency is one of the main objectives of the summit.     But how can that happen when transparency -- and not just concerning sex abuse cases -- has rarely been one of the Vatican's prime virtues?       External pressure leads to removal of Vatican officials accused of abuse........(source)

Vatican Summit on Clerical Child Sexual Abuse starts today, Thursday 21 January 2019

Ros Childs ABC TV News Interview today of Peter Johnstone, Convener Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, on the CCSA Vatican Summit.  (ABC TV)

Pray and light a candle for our church in crisis
Extract from Marilyn Hatton, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 21 February 2019
For years a small but expanding number of Catholics in Australia have been appealing for church reform and have struggled to gain attention from our bishops. Our prayers and entreaties for change in the clerical, male-dominated cloisters have fallen on unattentive ears.        The wind is changing since the announcement by Archbishop Mark Coleridge of the Plenary Council in 2020/21. Recently when receiving best wishes and prayers from the renewal movement for Pope Francis’s summit with the bishops, Archbishop Coleridge responded promptly, with thanks and appreciation and an invitation to ”light a candle for us as we gather in Rome”.         Now as the bishops from around the world gather at the Vatican to ponder how to respond to the hell of child sex abuse, recognising evidence of change, reform advocates are calling on the power of prayer as we launch a campaign of silent prayer, particularly in response to the invitation from our Australian representative, Archbishop Coleridge.          During the February 21-24 Rome meeting we are calling for national silent prayer to support Pope Francis and the bishops.    We expect the Rome meeting to focus on Australia, given the prosecution of two Australian bishops in connection with sex abuse (one of them since exonerated) and the ground breaking Royal Commission report into institutional child sex abuse which provided church leaders with a set of forensic and solidly-based recommendations for church reform.....(more) 
Not Afraid to Comment
Extract from J. A. Dick, Another Voice - Being a theologian,  20 February 2019    
This is an early post because Catholic bishops and leaders from around the world will be in Rome, February 21 to 25, for a summit on preventing sexual abuse in the church.  Someone asked me if I am afraid to comment about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. No. Not at all. Off and on I have already written about it; but I will quickly summarize my concerns, because they are part of the current third millennial reformation. I don’t want to bore my readers however with a long post……
       Acknowledge the Reality: The reality is serious and world-wide. Catholic priests, bishops, and religious have sexually abused children, adolescents, women and men. Some women religious, “sisters,” have become pregnant and some have been forced by churchmen to have abortions. The primary concern of too many in church leadership has been to cover up, deny, or ignore what is happening to “protect the good name of the church.”            Accountability of bishops: Pope Francis has disciplined the 88 years old former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He is now “Mr. McCarrick.” I can think of some other bishops who should be disciplined. The organization Bishop Accountability makes a strong case for the laicization of Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota; Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agaña, Guam; Bishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba, Brazil; Bishop Roger Joseph Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium; and Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Yes they should be disciplined. Frankly I have difficulties with the term “laicization.” Many still call it “a reduction to the lay state.” As a “lay” Catholic I find this derogatory, as if being lay is a lesser state in the church.     Clericalism is an old boys club problem: ....(more)
Melbourne Archbishop enlists LGBTI faithful as church tries to reset
Extracts from Farrah Tomazin, The Age, 17 February 2019
Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli has enlisted the LGBTI community to help the church set a new direction after years of scandal and internal unrest.     In an unprecedented move that has divided some within the church, the Archdiocese this month invited gay Catholics to a 2½-hour meeting at which they discussed how the institution should change with the times.     The session formed part of consultations for what will next year be the most significant conference Australian Catholic bishops have held in 80 years: the Plenary Council 2020.     But insiders admit the decision to seek the advice of the LGBTI community "stirred unease" among some hardliners who feared the conference could result in radical change, at a time when issues such as the the ordination of female priests and the relaxing of mandatory celibacy rules are already hotly contested.        Others viewed it as a positive step, hopeful that it would mark the start of a more inclusive relationship between the Archdiocese and LGBTI Catholics, following longstanding acrimony over same-sex marriage and religious discrimination in schools.          "It's not about opening the door to LGBTI people of faith, because we're already here," said the Andrews government's Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Ro Allen, who attended the session. "It's about including us and embracing us as equal.".......The Sunday Age understands that participants made it clear they wanted to feel more welcomed by the church, although some were more sceptical than others about the institution's ability to change........Asked about the meeting this week, Shane Healy, the Archdiocese's director of communications, said: "This was an opportunity for LGBTI people to speak of their hopes and fears, their griefs and joys in the life of the Church in Australia. I think it was a really positive experience for all who attended."      LGBTI Catholics have told the church they want to feel more welcome........Catholics for Renewal president Peter Wilkinson, who has warned for years that the church was facing an "existential crisis", said he was hopeful the Council would result in genuine reform.  "I think people believe that there is a real chance that something might come out of this Council, although there is also a healthy dose of scepticism," he said...........(more)
Senior canon lawyer at the Vatican revealed as sexual abuser
On the eve of the clergy abuse summit in Rome, U.S. diocese says No. 3 official at the Vatican's 'supreme court' has been 'removed from ministry'
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, Subscription journal La Croix International, 15 February 2019
Pope Francis has got a real mess on his hands.     In just a few days he will gather the presidents of the all the world's episcopal conferences in Rome to make them understand there must be "zero tolerance" for priests who sexually abuse minors. But on the eve of this important meeting, yet another long-serving Vatican official has been revealed as a perpetrator.       Msgr. Joseph Punderson, who has worked at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura since 1993 and its Defender of the Bond (DOB) since 1995, is expected to end three decades of service in Rome after his New Jersey diocese listed him among those "credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor."       Punderson, 70, was one of 30 people on a preliminary list of offenders published on Feb. 13 by the Diocese of Trenton.      The news comes only two weeks after Father Hermann Geissler, an Austrian priest accused of making sexual advances on a nun, resigned his post as section manager at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).      CDF officials had known about the accusations against Geissler since 2014. But it is not clear who in the Vatican knew what about the accusations against Punderson or when they knew it.        Allegations could go back decades.     The Diocese of Trenton listed his status as "Removed From Ministry" but it did not indicate when that action was taken or when the accusations were made......(source).  Photo: La Croix International,
Broaden the freedom discussion: Archbishop
Extract from CathNews, The Catholic Leader, 15 February 2019
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has urged lawmakers to support a broad, holistic re-examination of religious freedom, rather than a narrow focus on the treatment of students in schools.     Archbishop Coleridge raised the hot-button issue last week as he led a five-member Church delegation presenting evidence to a parliamentary committee examining Labor Senator Penny Wong’s private member’s bill dealing with religious schools and their capacity to “discriminate” against students on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.        “Our preference would be very strongly to set this particular issue about the treatment of students in schools within the much larger context … the broadest of which is the renegotiation of the relationship between religion and the state,” the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president told the committee in Brisbane on February 6.      “That’s a massive phenomenon that’s unfolding in this culture at this time and we don’t want to turn our back on it or put our head in the sand – we’re part of it.    “Our preference would be very strongly to set this particular issue about the treatment of students in schools within the much larger context which helps us to understand the implications of any decisions which we or the parliament may make.”....(more)    Photo: Coleridge ACBC
A new exposé on homosexuality in the Vatican is coming out next week. What can we expect?
Extract from Michael J. O’Loughlin. America, The Jesuit Review, 14 February 2019
A new book claiming to expose what the author alleges is hypocrisy from leaders of the Catholic Church over issues of homosexuality will be published next week, coinciding with the start of a much-anticipated Vatican summit to discuss the church’s ongoing problems in addressing clerical sexual abuse—leading some to worry that gay priests will be blamed for the crisis.       According to a press release from its publisher, Bloomsbury, In The Closet of the Vatican, by the French journalist Frédéric Martel, “exposes the rot at the heart of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church today.” Mr. Martel, also a sociologist, is reported to have spent four years conducting more than 1,500 interviews, including conversations with 41 cardinals and dozens of priests and other Vatican officials. That is according to the British journal The Tablet, which also says that the book claims 80 percent of priests working at the Vatican are gay, though not necessarily sexually active.   Photo: America, The Jesuit Review
An offer we must refuse
The wealthy can buy influence in politics, they must not be allowed to do so in the Church
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 11 February 2019
It was exactly 90 years ago that Fascist Italy and the Holy See signed the Lateran Treaty, thus settling the "Roman question" that had been created by the loss of the Papal States and the conquest of the Eternal City by Italian troops in September 1870.     The treaty of Feb. 11, 1929 was a diplomatic triumph for both Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI.     The fascist regime was assured the political support of Italian Catholics and the Holy See received minimal, but essential territorial sovereignty.     This would give the papacy necessary freedom to govern the universal Catholic Church, following the Holy See's humiliating exclusion from the 1919 peace talks.         Big money - an insidious threat to the Church's freedom.    Ninety years ago, the Church's freedom was essentially secured and threatened by the power of a nation-state that then tried to control and subjugate the spiritual power.    Today, the freedom of the Church is still at risk. This is true in some countries along the so-called "tenth parallel" in Africa and Asia where Christians face a growing threat to their freedom of religion. This threat is manifest and sign of our times.    But the Church faces another sign of our times, which is more subtle and insidious. It is the threat that big money poses to the Church's freedom, presenting itself in the language of offering......(MORE).  Photo: La Croix International
Pope wants bishops conferences to take responsibility for sexual abuse issue
During the Vatican summit from Feb. 21-24, Francis is looking for 'a meeting of pastors, not a study congress'
Limited extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, Vatican, subscription journal La Croix, 7 February 2019  
The presidents of the world's episcopal conferences as well as the primates of the Eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome will take part in the Vatican summit from Feb. 21-24.
 On Sept. 12, the Holy See announced that the pope had decided to call the summit, which will have an unprecedented format, "to discuss the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults."       Pope Francis will take part as will representatives of victims and religious communities, several members of relevant congregations of the Rome Curia and finally "men and women lay experts in the field of abuse."     However, the pope's prime aim is to sensitize and mobilize episcopal conference presidents on the issue. Why this priority?       A former director of Holy See Press Office offered this reason in November, 2018: The meeting "primarily concerns the bishops" because "they are largely responsible for this serious problem."     Concern to avoid scandal. "For a long time, we believed that the problem was simply that of 'bad priests' who abuse," said Father Stéphane Joulain, a White Father specializing in working with persons who have committed sexual assault.     "It is now clear that the pope regards the problem as systemic," he said. "The crisis is also a result of the failure of the bishops to deal with these affairs and their concern to avoid scandal."         The program for the three day conference confirms this analysis....(source)  Photo: La Croix Int. Henry Romero Reuters Francis Pope serious La Croix Int Henry Romero Reuters
Stuck in the middle
A seminar sponsored by Boston College addresses priestly formation
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 6 February 2019
The church's presence in education, culture, and social work may not be as visible as it once was, but the priest's role remains conspicuous. When most people think of Catholicism, they still think of a man in a Roman collar.   A seminar sponsored by Boston College that ran from September 2016 until the summer of 2018 has produced an interesting document on priesthood and ministry, with a noteworthy set of proposals on the formation of future priests.      The document, published in the last 2018 issue of Origins, is titled "To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry."     The group that produced it includes men and women, lay and ordained Catholics, scholars and pastoral ministers. It was chaired by Richard Gaillardetz of the Boston College theology department and Thomas Groome and Richard Lennan of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.     The introduction of the nine-thousand-word document makes clear that the focus is on the formation of diocesan priests, not members of religious orders or new ecclesial movements such as the Neocatechumenal Way. The focus is also on the United States: the authors acknowledge that some of their proposals may not be applicable to other countries.          The document's first part, "Ministry in the Life of the Church," addresses the ecclesiological foundations of ministry in the life of....(more)  Photo: La Croix International.
Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge, head of a Church beset by scandal
He came up with the idea of a Plenary Council, an opportunity for the Australian Church to reform itself
Limited extract from Gauthier Vaillant, Australia, subscription journal LaCroix International, 6 February 2019
In May 2018, the Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, 70, was elected as head of the Australian Bishops Conference. The conference is to organize a Plenary Council in 2020 in order to reform the Australian Catholic Church that has been undermined and discredited by cases of sexual abuse. This is the fifth of a seven-part series profiling heads of bishops' conferences.      At the beginning of 2017, the report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in the Australian Catholic Church was released.     Its figures were staggering: almost 4,400 cases of child sex abuse recorded between 1950 and 2010 and more than 1,800 perpetrators identified: that is, 7 percent of the Australian Catholic clergy....(source)
 Generation Z and the question of belief
Extracts from Barney Zwartz, CathNews, source The Age,  6 February 2019
A recent study into Australian teens’ attitudes to religion made headlines for its negative findings – that 52 per cent of teens do not identify with any religion and only 37 per cent believe in God, writes Barney Zwartz. Source: The Age.
The Australian Generation Z study by academics from the ANU, Deakin and Monash universities, released late last year, found that 38 per cent identify as Christian, with Muslims (3 per cent), Buddhist (2 per cent), Hindu (1 per cent) and other religions (2 per cent ) totalling 46 per cent. Two per cent weren’t sure.      The authors specified that not identifying with any religion did not necessarily mean no faith or spirituality, but that they did not see themselves identifying with any particular group. They found that 58 per cent of teens aged 13 to 18 never attend any worship service and only 12 per cent attend weekly.          I may be wearing rose-tinted glasses, but I think these findings are exactly what one would expect, and not desperately negative for religion. Despite the 52 per cent of “nones”, fewer than a quarter (24 per cent) reject the idea of God, while 37 per cent do believe in God and another 30 per cent believe in a higher being or life force (the rest are unsure).    Does it matter if Christian faith has lost its critical mass in Australia? One of my highest principles is freedom of conscience in religion, including freedom to reject religion, and I readily agree that one does not need religion to be a kind or good person. After all, many people reject religion for perceived moral reasons.      And yet … Christianity, with its focus on love of God and neighbour, expands the moral imagination, the social conscience and awareness of others. I have often argued that people motivated by Christianity have immeasurably enriched Australia. So I regret that the DNA of Christian virtues is receding in the general culture that shapes today’s teens....(more)
LGBTIQA Plenary session will be 'safe and inclusive'
Extract from CathNews, source The Australian, 4 February 2019
The Church in Melbourne has invited “all LGBTIQA+ Catholics, Christians and the broader LGBTIQA+ community, family, friends and supporters” to a “safe and inclusive” Plenary Council conversation this week.            The gathering will be held on Wednesday night, in partnership with the Andrews Government and Acceptance Melbourne, which describes itself as “open and affirming community” supporting “Catholics who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer”.          The meeting will be part of an ongoing national consultation process being undertaken by the Church across Australia, known as “Plenary Council 2020”.          Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards, who will attend, said the gathering was “a bit sensitive” following recent disagreements over issues such as same-sex marriage. But he said contrary to concerns raised in some Church circles, Catholic teachings on morality were not up for grabs.       Similar meetings have been held throughout the country, including in jails and in schools,” Bishop Edwards said.         He said the main role of Acceptance and the Victorian Government in the exercise was to encourage participants to attend. He said attendees would be divided into small groups, to discuss one main question: “What do you think God is asking of us at this time?”        Bishop Edwards said he would be interested to hear whether attendees felt well accepted in Church communities or “a bit marginalised”, at a time when Pope Francis was urging the Church “to reach out to all”. Discussions could also focus issues such as a greater role for women in the Church and religious education, he said.....(more)     Photo: Cathnews, Bigstock
German bishop says Catholic teaching on homosexuality should be rethought
Excluding certain groups is an expression of prejudice and leads to discriminating against them, says Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck.     
Limited extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Vienna, subscription journal La Croix International, 4 February 2019
A Catholic bishop in Germany who once took a hardline stance against active homosexuals has called for a thorough reappraisal of Church teaching on sexuality, saying it has especially caused "suffering" and "psychologically unhealthy repression" among gay people.     "The question is whether specific tenets (einzelne Inhalte) of the Catholic theology of the body have possibly led to a disastrous tabooing of the phenomenon of human sexuality," said Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen.     "This particularly applies to homosexuality because – according to this assumption — such a negative Church view (as that expressed in Church teaching) has promoted and encouraged a psychologically and institutionally unhealthy repression, or even denial, of this expression of sexuality," the 54-year-old bishop said.     Bishop Overbeck, who is also head of Germany's Military Archdiocese and a vice-president of COMECE (Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the Eu....(source) 
Five weeks left for Listening and Dialogue phase
Extract from CathNews, 31 January 2019
Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB says he’s expecting another flood of responses from across the country during the final five weeks of the “Listening and Dialogue” phase of the Council. Source: ACBC Media Blog.         In the eight months since the Listening and Dialogue period commenced at Pentecost, more than 40,000 people have either made a submission or participated in a group discussion that culminated in a submission.        Given it’s more than 80 years since the last Plenary Council in Australia and given, too, the changes in the Church and society since then, it was impossible to know how many people would take part in this historic process,” Archbishop Costelloe said.       “To stand here, five weeks from the end of this pivotal opening phase, it is both exciting and humbling to have heard from such large numbers of people and for them to have shared their stories of faith and hope, but also their stories of despair and heartbreak...........      “We knew that many people who have a longstanding connection with Catholic life and culture, if not the weekly ritual of the Church, would attend Christmas Masses and welcome the opportunity to consider the question, ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?’,” she said.           Ms Turvey-Collins said while the Listening and Dialogue phase will conclude on Ash Wednesday (March 6), collaboration – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – will be a constant throughout the three-year journey.      She said the National Centre for Pastoral Research will identify key themes that have emerged during the Listening and Dialogue period. They will be the focal points for the next step in the process, the Listening and Discernment phase......(more)     Photo: CathNews, ACBC Media Blog, Listening and Dialogue session WA CathNews
Global encounter of WYD challenges nationalism: Pope
Extract from CathNews, CNS, 31 January 2019
The joyous harmony of people coming together from so many different nations for World Youth Day stands in sharp contrast to today’s “sad” situation of confrontational nationalist feelings, Pope Francis said.      “It is a sign that young Christians are the leaven for peace in the world,” he said at his general audience yesterday in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.           The Pope dedicated his weekly reflection to his January 23-27 trip to Panama to celebrate World Youth Day.       The hundreds of thousands of young people from five continents who attended the events “formed a great symphony of faces and languages,” he said.     “To see all the flags flying together, fluttering in the hands of young people, happy to encounter each other is a prophetic sign, a sign (that goes) against the tide of today’s sad tendency toward confrontational nationalist sentiments that erect walls, that close themselves off from universality, from the encounter among peoples,” he said.     He praised the enthusiasm and prayerful reverence young people showed at the many events and recalled the dedication he saw on the faces of many who declared themselves open to God’s will and ready serve the Lord.     “As long as there are new generations able to say, ‘Here I am’ to God, the world will have a future,” he said.....(more)
How to combat clericalism?
Many laypeople remain convinced that an 'interior renovation' of the baptized will not suffice to remedy the clerical abuses of power condemned by the pope
Limited extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, subscription journal La Croix International, 31 January 2019
Laypeople and priests, during a workshop in France, have reflected on their experience of the exercise of authority in parishes and dioceses, highlighting the lack of regulations regarding governance in the Church.         The Catholic Institute of Paris hosted the training workshop on "Governance in the Church: Who decides and why?" on Jan. 28. Fifty priests and laypeople gathered to tackle the question.        Father Bruno Becker, who is responsible for formation programs in his diocese, is looking for proposals on how to build a "less clerical Church."      Having twice been a member of a parish animation team, a participant wants to understand why her initial experience was so rich, being based on "collegiality and co-responsibility"....(source)  Photo: La Croix International,
Catholic Culture Wars.
Extract from Eric Hodgens. Peals & Irritations, John Menadue website, 30 January 2019    
Culture Wars are a feature of today’s political life. The Catholic Church has likewise been through the wars. Here are some features of the last fifty years.        A clash of cultures was graphically dramatized in 1968 when Paul VI published Humanae Vitae. It was a major moment in a tumultuous year. Europe was split over the Vietnam War. Student riots paralysed Paris and alarmed a young theology professor in Tubingen, Joseph Ratzinger, into retreat to a fearful conservatism. The baby boomer generation was rejecting old certainties and exercising new freedoms, especially sexual, that alarmed their elders. Paul’s condemnation of contraception was accepted or rejected along the lines of this cultural divide.       The repercussions are still being felt 50 years later. And the focus of the debate is sex. Negativity on sex, which has dogged the Church in various ways from its earliest days, took centre stage again.        The papal voice has never had the same authority since Humanae Vitae. It was Paul VI’s seventh encyclical in four years– and his last. Ten more years without encyclicals.       Seeds of division were sewn in the Church during Vatican II. The open-up group won hands down at the council, but the stay-closed group bided its time. Paul could not cope with confrontation and shuttled between promoting the new and pacifying the stay-puts. This slowed, but did not stop, the reform.      The 1978 arrival of John Paul II reversed the flow. Restoration replaced the reform. This widened and consolidated the division. And, unlike Paul VI, he was a warrior who would act on his opinions. Culture warfare had arrived within the Church.      Sexuality was one of JP II’s dominant preoccupations. He re-asserted opposition to contraception and began a six-year exposition of his Theology of the Body at his Wednesday audiences. This was an exercise in apologetics – an attempt at rational explanation for his position on human sexuality....(more)
'National assembly ‘would give laity a voice’
A local parishioner is seeking support to hold a national assembly of the laity in Adelaide next year in order to give lay men and women a more united voice on the future of the Church.
Extracts from Lindy McNamara, Southern Cross, 30 January 2019
The “grassroots meeting” is being proposed by John Sabine, a parishioner from the Dulwich/Burnside community, who described it as a chance for the laity to “get their act together” and determine who would be responsible for actioning change in the Church.      “The Catholic Church today is in crisis; throughout the Universal Church there are calls for change. We, the laity, are everywhere being called upon to admit our part in the problem and to do something about it.        “The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has declared a Plenary Council to be called for in 2020/2021… this is entirely a clerical response. We, the Australian Catholic laity, have decided to act, to stand up and be counted,” Dr Sabine said.     He added that the “desired outcome” of the assembly would be “for an understanding of, and the creation of, an effective voice for the laity in today’s Catholic Church in Australia”.........“In the lead up to our 2020 Plenary Council much has been made about the laity needing to step up and be counted. For this to happen the laity needs to know more about what the problem is and how they, collectively and individually, might respond to it. What needs to be done and who needs to do it.”       In particular, Dr Sabine believes those laity who are formally invited to participate in the Plenary Council will need a much broader perspective than that of their own personal experiences if they are to be considered truly representative of “the laity” in Australia.      “The proposed assembly is not intended to be a talkfest, but rather an attempt to determine what we all need to be doing and who needs to be doing it,” he explained.      His personal opinion is that such work needs to start at the parish level.       “The laity can’t expect to be fully active in the running of the whole Church if they don’t participate actively in running their own parish. Properly constituted and effective pastoral councils at parish, diocesan and national levels, as advocated by Vatican II documents, would be a useful start.”....(more)
Concerned Catholics Chair appointed to major governance review panel
Extract from Media release, Concerned Catholics Canberra, 29 January 2019
Professor John Warhurst AO, Chair of Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn, has been appointed to a governance review panel on a key Church body tasked with overseeing the Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.         The Implementation Advisory Group was established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia shortly after the Royal released its final report in December 2017. Professor Warhurst sa ys he is looking forward to working alongside other members of the review team convened by t he Hon Neville Owen, former Chair of the Truth Justice and Healing Council.       “In their response to the Royal Commission released in August last year, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia accepted the Royal Commission’s recommendation that the Church reviews its governance practices ,” Professor Warhurst said . “It’s encouraging to see the IAG has made this review a priority by appointing this panel.         “Many of the Royal Commission’s findings identified the power of the bishops, the absence of transparency and accountability, and the ad hoc approach to diocesan structures (to name a few) as serious impediments to what the community might expect of a significant institution in Australia in the twenty first century.          “ This review is a n historic opportunity to establish nationally consistent mechanisms in local parishes and dioceses to enable g reater accountability and to ensure lay people, especially women are involved in decision making at all levels of the Church. “Many crucial governance processes, including the appointment of bishops, have been conducted behind closed door s for too long. “        I am confident that this review will expose  the need for grass roots reform and lead to significant change in the way the Church conducts not only its business practices, but many of the cultural issues which have been identified as central to the abuse scandal ,” Professor Warhurst said.....(more)
Priest accused of making sexual advances on nun resigns from CDF post
The move is being seen as an exercise in 'damage control' in the run-up to the Vatican's abuse summit
Limited Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, Vatican City, Subscription Journal La Croix International
A Vatican-employed priest who was accused in 2014 of making sexual advances on a former nun during confession, has officially resigned his post at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) where he had worked for nearly 26 years.        Father Hermann Geissler FSO, a member of a mixed male and female religious community called the Spiritual Family "The Work" (Familia spiritualis opus), resigned on Monday. IIt was apparently an effort at damage control in the run-up to the abuse summit Pope Francis will hold from Feb. 21-24 in Rome with presidents of the world's episcopal conferences....(source)  Photo: La Croix International.

Layperson to take charge of Munich archdiocesan services
Measure seen as not simply a response to the drop in the number of priests but as highly 'symbolic'
Limited extract from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner, Germany, Sibscription journal La Croix International
In a major recent interview with the German Catholic news agency KNW, German Bishops' Conference president, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who heads one of Germany's largest dioceses, let slip the surprise news that the new director of the diocesan curia may well be a layperson — man or woman.     "We began reflecting on this several years ago when my vicar general declared that 80 percent of his work could be done – possibly even better – by a layperson," he said.     Asked about the "qualities" he is seeking from the future candidate, Cardinal Marx noted that he is "still working on a post description."     "It is clear that managing such a large institution requires management experience, legal expertise as well as the capacity to organize and delegate," he said. "There surely must be a woman or man who has that experience.".....(source)

Pope Francis on Venezuela, Married Priests, and the Sex Abuse Summit
Extracts from Gerard O’Connell, America The Jesuit Review, 28 January 2019
.....The Possibility of Ordaining Married Men (Viri Probati) As Priests
There has been much discussion as to whether Pope Francis might allow the ordination of mature married men to be serve as priests in places such as Amazonia. When asked on the plane whether, following the tradition of the Eastern Catholic churches, he might allow married men to be priests, Pope Francis said:     “In the Eastern Catholic churches, they can do it. They make the choice between celibacy or marrying, before they’re ordained into the diaconate. When it comes to the Latin Rite, however, a phrase said by St. Paul VI comes to mind; he said, ‘I would rather give my life than to change the law on celibacy.’ He said this at an even tougher time [than today] in 1969-1970.”     Pope Francis declared, “Personally, I believe that celibacy is a gift to the Church. Secondly, I’m not in agreement with allowing optional celibacy. No!”     But he added, “there could only be a possibility in these far, faraway places, I think about the islands in the Pacific; it’s something to think about when there’s a pastoral need, there the shepherd has to think about the faithful.”.........The Vatican’s Sex Abuse Summit on Child Protection.     A reporter recalled how at the lunch with young people last Saturday, he spoke to one of them, a young American woman, who spoke about the sex abuse scandal and how many Americans have lost faith with the church over this crisis. In the light of this situation, he asked Francis what hopes he has for the February summit.      Pope Francis responded by disclosing that “the idea (for the February meeting with the presidents of the bishops’ conferences) was born out of the C9,” or the Council of Cardinal Advisors, the group of nine cardinal advisors that he appointed soon after becoming pope. He said the idea emerged, “because we saw that some bishops didn't understand [the problem] well, or didn't know what to do or they did something good or something wrong” and so “we felt the responsibility of giving them a ‘catechesis’ on this problem to the bishops' conferences.” He stated: “that is why we convoked the presidents (of the bishops’ conferences).”      ......He then went on to explain what would happen at the February summit. There will be “a catechesis” to help them first of all “become conscious, become aware of the tragedy caused when perhaps a boy or a girl has been abused.”.......He explained that the main thing at the February meeting is that “before thinking about what should be done, they first must be aware.” Then, “there will be prayer, there will be some testimonies so that they may be made aware and some penitential liturgy, to ask forgiveness for the whole church.”.......Significantly, however, he sought to lower the expectations for the February meeting. He told reporters: “allow me to say, that I perceived inflated expectations. We have to deflate expectations to these points that I have made because the problem of abuse will continue, it is a human problem, a human problem [that is] everywhere.” ....(more)
Vatican summit to create task force to aid bishops in safeguarding
Extract from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, 24 January 2019
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Since the work of child protection must continue after the February meeting at the Vatican on safeguarding, one organizer said they plan on creating a “task force” with teams on every continent.     The task force would be just one of a number of “concrete measures that we want to offer the bishops of the world,” Jesuit Father Hans Zollner told the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano Jan. 24.    “One of our main ideas,” he said, “is that this encounter is another step along a long journey that the church has begun and that will not end with this meeting,” which will bring presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men’s and women’s religious orders to the Vatican Feb. 21-24.    A task force made up of child protection experts “will probably be instituted in the various continents where the church is present,” and they will travel from place to place, said Father Zollner, who is a member of the meeting’s four-person organizing committee, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.    “They will be able to find out about the guidelines that the bishops’ conferences are about to implement, what point they are at in this process and what they may need,” he said....(more) 
Vatican accelerates extreme makeover of media department
The last several weeks have seen a steady rehabilitation of key Vatican Radio personnel
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Crois International, 18 January 2019
Vatican City. Only months after Msgr. Dario Viganò was put in charge of reforming and consolidating the various branches of the Vatican's communications department, the Milanese priest set about demolishing the organization's most valuable media asset, Vatican Radio.      Viganò was made prefect of a newly created Secretariat for Communication in June 2015 and tasked with implementing a reorganization plan drawn up by a special media committee led by Lord (Christopher) Patten of Great Britain.     The idea was to better coordinate the vast resources of some 650 people who had long worked in nine separate and independent offices involved in the various sectors of internal and mass communications.     Vatican Radio, which was founded by Pius XI in 1931 and had grown to employ over 400 journalists and sound technicians, was the largest of these agencies.     With subsections representing nearly 40 linguistic groups, it had an internationalized and well-formed workforce that was unparalleled at the Vatican. It should have been the launch-pad and most important resource for the media reform.     Instead, Msgr. Viganò all but gutted it. And he did so in a way that left deep wounds that have not been healed.    The first major blow to "the pope's radio" came in February 2016 when Father Federico Lombardi retired after more than 25 years of service, first as the director of programming and, then, as the radio's overall head.    The day after the Jesuit stepped down, Msgr. Viganò held a meeting with all the radio's personnel at which many had hoped the new prefect would offer details of the media reform......Instead, he spent the first five minutes in his hour-long talk criticizing Lombardi and the Society of Jesus, the religious order that had run the radio since its establishment....(source)  Photo: Vatican
Papal advisers say Francis will know right moment to act on women deacons
Extract from  Christopher White, National Correspondent, Crux, 16 January 2019
NEW YORK - Members of Pope Francis’s study commission on women deacons spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday, saying the pope has their report and expressing confidence that when the moment comes, he’ll make the right call.     “He will know the time to say something,” said Phyllis Zagano, a senior research associate-in-residence and adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University, who served on the commission.      In the meantime, Zagano suggested that rank and file Catholics also have a role to play in the discussions around the subject.      “It’s up to the Church to make noise,” she said, while also warning  that “to delay a positive answer” on whether women can serve as deacons “is a negative answer.”     Zagano’s remarks came during a panel discussion on “The Future of Women Deacons: Views from the Papal Commission and the American Pews,” at Fordham University’s Center for Religion and Culture and live streamed by Salt and Light Media........Both Zagano and Pottier discussed the historical evidence regarding women deacons, noting that for millennia, women were ordained in such a capacity. While acknowledging that there have been differing opinions as to the nature of the ordinations and whether one was considered “blessed” or “ordained,” they insisted that the terms have historically been used interchangeably.    Further, they recalled that there were specific liturgies for women deacons being ordained, with women and men serving different roles in their capacity as deacons.....(more)
Abuse summit ‘should include’ bishops’ accountability
Extract from CathNews, CNS 15 January 2019
A member of the committee organising Pope Francis’ summit next month on the sexual abuse crisis said the meeting should include discussing ways to hold bishops accountable for handling cases correctly.          Addressing members of the Roman Curia before Christmas, Pope Francis said the February 21-24 meeting of the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and leaders of religious orders will reaffirm the Church’s “firm resolve to pursue unstintingly a path of purification”.
In addition, he said, with the help of experts, the meeting will examine “how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries.”          Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the committee organising the meeting, told Vatican News that in addition to the goals outlined by the Pope, “we want to see how we also can put on the table the question of bishops’ responsibility, so there would be greater clarity about who must do something and who checks if the things the Holy Father and the Church – the dicasteries – have ordered be done are, in effect, done.”         Fr Zollner, president of the Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, said the Pope’s commitment to not undervaluing or covering up any case of abuse will require “a clarification of procedures, which aren’t so clear, especially when we are talking about the co-responsibility of a bishop or a provincial or head of an Eastern church with respect to what others bishops, provincials and superiors are doing.”        And, second, he said, there must be a change of attitude. “The rules, the laws as such, will not change hearts. We see this not only in Europe, but throughout the world. So, we must see how we can reinforce throughout the Church this attitude of openness and attention to the protection of minors because that is the attitude Jesus teaches us.”        Fr Zollner said he hoped the meeting would help everyone in the Church, everywhere in the world, realise “the urgency of making the protection of minors and bringing justice to the victims a priority.”....(more)  Photo: CathNews ACBC .
Pope Francis: a disruptive and prophetic voice
Even with his pontificate on the ropes, the pope continues to challenge the Church and the world
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, Vatican City, subscription journal La Croix Intermational, 11 January 2019
In his annual address to more than 180 ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis on Jan. 7 warned world leaders against the “resurgence of nationalistic tendencies” that were based on getting “quick partisan consensus” rather than “the patient pursuit of the common good by providing long-term answers” to today’s most vexing issues.       Instead, he called for a return to multinationalism rather than each country going it alone. If nations failed to pull together, he warned, humanity would again find itself on a course similar to that which led to the Second World War.      But just two days after Francis issued his manifesto on multinationalism, which included a call for the strengthening of the United Nations and the European Union, the interior minister and de facto leader of Italy’s ruling coalition was in Warsaw to forge an anti-EU alliance with Poland. It was yet another sign that the pope’s words continue to fall on deaf ears, even on the Italian peninsula that was once a cornerstone of the papacy’s political and moral power.     Iacopo Scaramuzzi, an Italian journalist whose sharp analysis of the Church and the Vatican often does not get the attention it deserves, wrote a brief article in Jesus Magazine just before both these events took place. It was titled “La voce di Bergoglio, profezia nel deserto” (The voice of Bergoglio, prophecy in the desert).     He noted that, since Francis was elected in 2013, ultranationalist leaders have been elected in a number of countries (including Syria, Egypt, Argentina, the United States, Chile, Austria and Brazil) and have maint....(source)
French Church shaken by Cardinal Barbarin's trial
'Justice never consists of redressing an injustice by another injustice,' defense lawyer argues
Limited Extract from Béatrice Bouniol and Céline Hoyeau, Lyon, France, subscription journal La Croix International, 11 January 2019
The trial of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and five other senior Catholic officials ended in Lyon on Jan. 10 after four days that shook the French Church.    “Thanks to Alexandre [Hezez] for having been the first to lodge a complaint, thanks for having freed the spoken word and for having allowed me to hear Christian [Burdet]. This was overwhelming for me. I am not the same man as I was before. Thanks for having shaken the Church. Changes must be made. This must not stop here.”       These were the serious words spoken by Bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard as he looked into the eyes of François Devaux, a plaintiff and founder of La Parole Libérée (Freed Speech) association, during a break in proceedings.      This short encounter, sought by the auxiliary bishop of Lyon on the morning of Jan. 10, symbolized the shocking effect on the Church of this unprecedented trial, a private prosecution of Cardinal Barbarin and his associates by nine victims of Bernard Preynat, a former scouts’ chaplain accused of sexually abusing more than 70 children from 1970-80.      All who heard the words that have resonated in the courtroom since Jan. 7 have been irrevocably changed by them.....(more).
Pope Francis comes out in support of Macron and Merkel in warning against the resurgence of Nationalism.
Extract from Christopher Lamb, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 10 January 2019    
The Pope said the ‘resurgence of nationalistic tendencies’ is at odds with the ‘vocation’ of international bodies
Pope Francis has warned that a return of 1930s era nationalism and populism is undermining the hard-won peace and international alliances of the post-war period.         The 82-year-old Argentinian Pontiff made his remarks during his annual “state of the world” address to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican representing the 183 states who have diplomatic relations with the Holy See.      During the speech, the Pope referred back to the League of Nations, an international alliance established after the devastation of the First World War but whose failure was down to the growth of ideological nationalism that sparked the Second World War.      In pointed remarks to European leaders, he urged the old continent not to “forget” the benefits that the “friendship and rapprochement” between countries in the post Second World War period, which saw the creation of the European Union.      In 2019, however, the Pope said the “multilateral system” – of which the United Nations and the EU are main players – is once again experiencing difficulty due to the “resurgence of nationalistic tendencies” at odds with the “vocation” of international bodies....(more)
Canon lawyer becomes the first layperson to be appointed as Brisbane archdiocese chancellor
Extract from Mark Bowling, Catholic Leader, 9 January 2019
Newly-appointed Brisbane archdiocese chancellor Pat Mullins says more lay people should step up to take on Church roles.     “It’s a good direction that the Church is going in, I think. It’s the way of the future,” he said.      Uniquely qualified for the role of chancellor, Mr Mullins is believed to be Australia’s only canon lawyer simultaneously practising as a common lawyer.      He becomes the first layman to hold the position in Brisbane, succeeding Fr Adrian Farrelly, chancellor for the past 10 years.     As the Catholic Church in Australia moves towards the Plenary Council 2020, Mr Mullins said it was clear that lay people had a growing part to play in the operation of the Church and its mission.     “Certainly the canon law provides that a lay person can have the office of chancellor,” he said.    “It really plays into the spirit of the Second Vatican Council – the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity – that lay people do have a part in the life of the Church and they certainly should do things that they are fit to do and qualified to do.    “The numbers within the clergy are limited. They have to fulfil their pastoral roles in the parishes and so there are other roles in the administration of the Church that lay people can do and should do because we have to save the priests for their specific role in pastoral work.”....(more).  Photo: Catholic Leader.
A Church within the Church
Behind the new integralism is the old intransigentism
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 9 January 2019
At the 1867 universal exposition in Paris, the Papal State chose to be represented by a catacomb. It was a time when the papacy, which had already lost the majority of the Papal State and would also lose Rome in 1870, was apocalyptic about the future of the Church in the modern world.     At the same time, the Catholic laity were entering a new age of mobilization and engagement with that same world, with the encouragement of the Catholic hierarchy, which knew it had lost much of its direct influence on modern society.     Today, during Pope Francis’s pontificate, we see something like the opposite situation: a pope who preaches “the joy of the Gospel” and has little time for nostalgia, and a rising cohort of Catholic intellectuals (a minority in the Church but especially active in the United States) who are looking forward to the 19th century.     The debates in conservative and traditionalist circles in the English-speaking Church — and in the United States particularly — provide a stark contrast to this pontificate’s view of the relationship between the Church and the modern world.     Some....(More). Photo: La Croix International.
World Day of the Sick: Pope calls for a culture of generosity
Extract from Inda Bordoni, Vatican News, Melbourne Catholic, 9 January 2019
Pope Francis says that those who care for the sick and give of themselves with generosity and straightforward love – like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta - are amongst the Church’s most credible evangelizers.
In his message for the World Day of the Sick, celebrated on 11 February, the Pope focused on Jesus’s words to the Apostles: “You received without payment; give without payment” (Mt 10:8).        Just as life is a gift from God, he said, and cannot be reduced to a personal possession or private property, he said that “caring for the sick requires professionalism, tenderness, straightforward and simple gestures freely given, like a caress that makes others feel loved”.        “Amid today’s culture of waste and indifference”, he said, “gift” is the category best suited to challenging today’s individualism and social fragmentation, while at the same time promoting new relationships and means of cooperation between peoples and cultures.        “Gift” he explained is much more than simply giving presents: it involves the giving of oneself and entails the desire to build a relationship.      “Gift is a reflection of God’s love, which culminates in the Incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit”, he said.    The Pope also mentioned dialogue – the premise of gift – that, he said, creates possibilities for human growth and development capable of breaking through established ways of exercising power in society.       Everyone needs care.       Pointing out that each of us “is poor, needy and destitute” needing the care of our parents to survive when we are born and remaining in some way dependent on the help of others at every stage of life, Pope Francis said a frank acknowledgement of our limitations “keeps us humble and spurs us to practice solidarity as an essential virtue in life”.          Urging believers to act responsibly to promote the good, he noted that “Only if we see ourselves, not as a world apart, but in a fraternal relationship with others, can we develop a social practice of solidarity aimed at the common good.” At the same time, he said, no one should be afraid to regard themselves as needy or reliant on others, because individually and by our own efforts we cannot overcome our limitations.....(More)
Reform Begins with Repentance
Extract from John Gehring, Commonweal, 7 January 2019
Confronting the most profound crisis the Catholic Church has faced in centuries, U.S. bishops are meeting for a week-long spiritual retreat at Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago to grapple with how clergy sexual abuse and a culture of cover-up have damaged their moral credibility. Pope Francis came up with the idea, urging bishops to go on retreat when he met with a delegation from the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Vatican in September. In a sign of how important the pope considers this unusual gathering, he sent Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, to direct it.          I’m not completely unsympathetic to those who argue we could use less prayer and more action from church leaders. Lay Catholics have every right to be angry and impatient with the episcopal malpractice, the sins, and the crimes committed by those who are supposed to be shepherds. I’ve also grown weary of the incompetence, the ugly scapegoating of gay priests, and the tone-deafness of bishops who seem to cast blame on everyone but themselves for the wreckage at their feet. But any authentic reform and renewal, whether personal or institutional, has to start with discernment, repentance, and conversion of heart. Dismantling a clerical culture that leads to abuse of power can’t simply be a technocratic endeavor, a managerial shuffling of the deck. In a lengthy letter he sent to the bishops on retreat, Pope Francis describes a “crisis of credibility,” calls for a “new ecclesial season,” and underscores core themes that have characterized his papacy since the beginning.           A few days of prayer and reflection won’t save the church or magically change bishops, but we could do worse now than beseech the Holy Spirit to set the church on a better course.          “Loss of credibility calls for a specific approach, since it cannot be regained by issuing stern decrees or by simply creating new committees or improving flow charts, as if we were in charge of a department of human resources,” Francis writes. “That kind of vision ends up reducing the mission of the bishop and that of the Church to a mere administrative or organizational function in the ‘evangelization business.’ Let us be clear: many of these things are necessary yet insufficient, since they cannot grasp and deal with reality in its complexity; ultimately, they risk reducing everything to an organizational problem.”            This is quintessential Francis; during his first in-depth interview as pope in 2013, he made the same point to fellow Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro:         “The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”....(more)   Photo: Commonweal  CNS Bob Roller
A response to Paul Collins’ “The real crisis of Australian Catholicism”.
Extract from Brian Coyne. Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 7 January 2019    
Paul Collins’ recent commentary, “The Real Crisis of Australian Catholicism”, raises some contradictory challenges for the future of the Catholic Church in Australia.      It is a massive contradiction that in so many ways the Catholic Church is in such a strong position – for example with the largest, most highly paid workforce it has ever had; with its physical infrastructure larger and possibly better maintained than it has ever been; financially it is probably in the best position it has been in its entire history in this nation – yet, at the parish participation level and regarding vocations, it is in a crisis situation. How do we explain and understand all this?    My sense is that the positive things are the legacy of a range of fortuitous decisions made back in the 1960s and 70s that led to the eventual huge injection of taxpayer funds into the education system, and the health and social welfare systems.          But there has been an accompanying crisis of leadership with the best leaders being either forced out or “seeing the writing on the wall” and leaving voluntarily. Even though the institution today has this massive workforce, they are also effectively gagged from providing effective leadership.          Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have to shoulder a massive amount of the responsibility for this as they tried to impose a certain style on the institution with the sort of leaders they were selecting and promoting. It was just a futile dream that the vision and culture of Polish and Bavarian spirituality forged in the furnace of the totalitarian experiments of Communism and Nazism could be the “saviour” of Catholicism in the rest of the world.          We have this deep culture in the Church that past popes cannot be criticised because that undermines the entire concept of the institution’s “infallibility” in the eyes of those Cardinal Ratzinger labelled the “little people” and “simple people” who need to be “protected from intellectuals” and thinking.  Ninety percent of the adult population in this country who do not think of themselves as either “little” or “simple” have simply disappeared out the door. Getting them back to listening, and participating, is a task that will take centuries if it is possible at all. As the statistics for the exit from participation of young people show, even the brilliant and well-funded Catholic Education system we have in this country today is doing nothing to reverse the decline....(more)
Vatican press office shuffle could mean age of  ‘papal spokesman’ is over
Extract from Charles Collins, Managing Editor, Cruxnow 4 January 2019
...When (Greg) Burke was appointed Lombardi’s deputy in 2015 (he took over the top spot when the Jesuit retired the next year), he was considered the best of both worlds. He had spent years covering Italy and the Vatican for Time and Fox, and since 2012, was the “senior communications advisor” for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. (No one was quite sure what this position entailed. When asked, Burke usually responded, “Putting out fires.”).        But Burke was not able to put out the fire caused by Pope Francis’s remarks accusing survivors of a Chilean abusive priest of “calumny” when they said a bishop had covered up for their molester. He also could do little to dampen the flames after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accused Francis of “rehabilitating” disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick even though Benedict had placed restrictions on him after he was accused of sexual misconduct with seminarians.      Like Lombardi before him, Burke often took the blame for not saying enough or saying the wrong thing as a crisis engulfed the Vatican.     This laying the blame at the press office was usually unfair - the press officer answered to the Secretary of State, and for decades their go to response to scandal has been “no comment.” Press officers around the world will tell you how important it is for them to have access to the head honcho and to be part of the decision-making process. This has not been the case at the Vatican since Navarro-Valls’s relationship with John Paul II.    Both Lombardi and Burke also had to deal with the unique problems posed by Francis, who loves to speak off-the-cuff on controversial subjects, and often does things without even telling his closest advisors, let alone the Vatican press office.    Which is why (Alessandro) Gisotti’s appointment indicates a change in policy, and an effort to take the pressure of being “papal spokesman” from the Press Office.....(More)   Photo: Cruxnow, CNS
German cardinal urges change in tradition ahead of celibacy discussion
Extract from Zita Ballinger Fletcher, Catholic News Service, 4 January 2019
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising called for change in long-standing church tradition as the German bishops’ conference prepares for a workshop debate to “review” the issue of celibacy for priests.     In his homily at New Year’s Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Munich, Marx said the church must, “in light of the failure” surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis, modify tradition in response to changing modern times.    “I believe the hour has come to deeply commit ourselves to open the way of the church to renewal and reform,” Marx said, according to a text of the homily posted on the archdiocesan website. “Evolution in society and historical demands have made tasks and urgent need for renewal clear to see.”....(more)
Three anniversaries in 2019 to better understand the Church
The papacy will continue to be one of the most interesting centers of thought and action in this age
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 3 January 2019
There will be a number of important appointments for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in 2019, beginning with more papal journeys to the peripheries of our world.     The 82-year-old pope will travel to Panama for World Youth Day in January before heading to the mostly Muslim-populated United Arab Emirates and Morocco in February and March. He will then go to the predominantly Orthodox countries of Bulgaria and Macedonia in May.     Also on the papal agenda in the early part of this year is the unprecedented Feb. 21-24 meeting in Rome of the presidents of all the world’s episcopal conferences to discuss the sex abuse crisis. Then next October the pope will convene a special session of the Synod of Bishops to focus on issues facing the Amazon region.     Francis is also expected to issue a new apostolic constitution in the first half of 2019 that will codify what has been a five-year process of reforming the Roman Curia.     And there will likely be some surprises given the turbulent state of the Catholic communion. Tension became evident in 2018 in the United States. For instance, two dozen bishops showed unprecedented and unimaginable support for Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò when he called on Francis to resign. The former papal nuncio to Washington did so last August by issuing a “testimony” while the pope was visiting Ireland.           But now we look ahead way into the future. And one way to do this is to ponder certain milestones of the recent and less recent past. As William Faulkner famously wrote, anniversaries can help us remember that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And this is particularly true for the Catholic Church....(Source). Photo: La Croix International, Wikimedia Commons
Pope Francis takes US bishops to task for cover-up, conflict, division
Extract from Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter, 3 January 2019
In a strongly worded, eight-page letter to U.S. bishops, Pope Francis has rebuked the prelates not only for covering up sexual abuse but for unhealthy conflicts and divisions among themselves, which have "gravely" and "seriously" undercut the church's credibility.       "God's faithful people and the Church's mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled, as well as the pain of seeing an episcopate lacking in unity and concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation," the pope wrote.      "Clearly, a living fabric has come undone, and we, like weavers, are called to repair it," Francis wrote to the bishops, who are gathered Jan. 2-8 for a week long retreat, which the pope had requested as part of the bishops' response to renewed attention on clergy sexual abuse.      That repair will require humility and service to restore trust, not self-centeredness, competition or "concern with marketing or strategizing to reclaim lost prestige or to seek accolades," the pope wrote.     Since last summer's revelations about alleged misconduct by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the subsequent Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed decades of alleged abuse by hundreds of priests, the country's bishops have failed to respond as a unified body, and debate in the church has degenerated into typical "culture war" fights.     The pope, citing the words of Jesus to his bickering disciples, makes clear that he believes "it cannot be like that with you," instead calling for a "collegial spiritual fatherhood that does not offer banal responses or act defensively."     "This approach demands of us the decision to abandon a modus operandi of disparaging, discrediting, playing the victim or the scold in our relationships, and instead to make room for the gentle breeze that the Gospel alone can offer," Francis wrote.     "Let us try to break the vicious circle of recrimination, undercutting and discrediting, by avoiding gossip and slander in the pursuit of a path of prayerful and contrite acceptance of our limitations and sins, and the promotion of dialogue, discussion and discernment."....(more)
‘Like Cleaning a Sphinx with a Toothbrush’
Greg Burke Resigns from the Holy See Press Office
Extract from  Paul Moses, Commonweal, 2 January 2019
The abrupt resignation of Greg Burke as director of the Holy See Press Office is one more disturbing sign that the Vatican is not up to the task of responding to the Catholic Church’s crisis over clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up.     Burke, a St. Louis native and an alumnus of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, brought an American way of doing business to a press office that not so long ago closed for the day at 1 o’clock p.m. He helped build what became an impressive presence for the church on social media, adapt the media operation to a twenty-four-hour news cycle, and create a positive image for a new pope.       But the veteran newsman could not push the Vatican bureaucracy into responding quickly and forthrightly to developments in the clergy sexual-abuse scandal, and this clearly frustrated him through much of his tenure as the press office’s director.    In a New Year’s Eve tweet announcing that he and his deputy, the Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia Ovejero, were resigning effective January 1, Burke exited with an expression of affection for Pope Francis but not much else to say other than that the job had been “fascinating.”       In a subsequent tweet, he apparently looked to dispel the notion that he was leaving because of personnel changes above his level in the Vatican communication dicastery, writing, “Just so you know, we had been praying about this decision for months, and we’re very much at peace with it. Grazie!”      “Fascinating” is a gentlemanly usage to describe what it was like to be the public face for the Vatican bureaucracy’s agonizing, incomplete response to fast-breaking international news on the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse. As a former Rome correspondent for Time and Fox News, Burke knows as well as any media professional that it’s important to respond right away to such a damaging situation. Clearly, his hands were often tied....(more)
Why I cannot even think about leaving the Catholic Church
We do not know what kind of Church there will be after this abuse crisis, but we must assume that it will probably get worse before it gets better
Limited extract from Massimo Faggioli, United States, subscription journal La Croix International,  (31 December 2018)
I am one of those Roman Catholics who had never heard or imagined that there were abusive priests sexually preying on children.      Neither could I have imagined a clerical system that protected abusive priests rather than their victims; a system that perpetuated the suffering of those abused.      Before moving to the United States in 2008, I spent more than 30 years of parish life in the mid-sized city of Ferrara in northern Italy. My Catholic experience there had been remarkably healthy and happy, despite the usual tensions with this or that particular priest or bishop.      I started to become aware of the epidemic of sexual abuses committed by clergy only in 2002, thanks to the investigative reporting of the Boston Globe.     Now as the parent of small children who attend a Catholic school in the Philadelphia area (one of the epicenters of the abuse crisis in the USA), I have been further educated about what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.    The sex abuse crisis is the greatest scandal in modern Church history, and we do not know yet what kind of Church will survive this protracted moment of public shame.    This crisis has understandably caused many to question whether they can stay in the Catholic Church. A number of Catholics known for engaging in public issues have written articles to explain why they remain.       No question, it’s becoming harder to justify the reasons why. But despite the shock and disgust over the revelations of historic cases of abuse....(Source) First published 24 Sept. 2018,   Photo La Croix International.
The Real Crisis of Australian Catholicism.
Extract from The Best of 2018:  Paul Collins, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 2 January 2019
It is patently obvious that Australian Catholicism is in crisis. The usual analysis is that this has been caused by the appalling mishandling and cover-up of child sexual abuse and the subsequent investigations of the Royal Commission. However, this is only a partial explanation. Catholicism’s problems have a much longer history and go much deeper. They won’t be solved merely by the application of the recommendations of the Commission. A much more radical root and branch reform is needed.           Yet, despite the abuse crisis, Catholicism is still enormously influential in Australia. In the 2016 census 22.6% of the population (totalling 5,291,834 people) self-reported as Catholic. The church employs more than 230,000 people, making it the biggest private employer in the country, bigger than Wesfarmers and bigger than all the banks put together.      It is a major player in the educational, health, aged care and social service sectors. Since the 1830s and for much of our history, it was Catholicism and the other churches that provided the lion’s share of all these services Government aid and participation was virtually non-existent.     Nowadays the Catholic Church maintains some fifty-two welfare organizations across a range of service provisions: homelessness, refugees, drug, alcohol, gambling, family violence, foster care, disability, counselling, overseas aid and employment. In 2016 the Saint Vincent de Paul Society had 20,736 members and 41,152 volunteers, making it the largest charity in the country providing an enormous range of services. Catholic schools educate some 765,000 students in 1731 primary and secondary schools, or 20.2% of all enrolments. It provides almost a quarter of health and aged care.        The striking thing about all this is that church and state work closely together in the provision of services across all these sectors, with the government providing about seventy percent of funding for all the church’s ministries, except parishes and dioceses. This relationship is unique, with no real parallel anywhere in the world.     But—and this introduces us to the heart of the Catholic crisis—this vast ministerial superstructure is based on increasingly weak ecclesial foundations. The simple fact is that the number of committed Catholics who do the bulk of the church’s work is contracting at an increasing rate. You see this in terms of affiliation with the church. Conscious affiliation, as reflected in the number of self-identifying Catholics in the census, is falling. From a high in 1996 when Catholics made up 27% of the population, in 2011 this had dropped to 25.3% and in 2016 to 22.6%, a drop of 4.4% in twenty years.        You can dig a little deeper and take Mass attendance as a sign of more than nominal commitment. From the 1850s to the 1940s regular Mass attendance sat somewhere between twenty and thirty percent of all Catholics.        Except for the immediate post Second World War period, when an extraordinary 75% of Catholics attended Mass on a weekly basis, affiliation has been steadily decreasing since the late-1960s, so that the 2016 figures show only about nine to ten percent of Catholics attend Mass regularly. Of these, 43% were born overseas and these new arrivals have saved Mass attendance figures from catastrophic decline. Even more worrying is the loss of young people: only 9% of fifteen to twenty-nine-year-olds are regular attendees.....(more)
Abuse expert: Catholic bishops risk losing all credibility
Extract from Michael Hall, Digital Journalist, RadipoNZ,1 January 2019
A leading world expert on clerical child sex abuse told RNZ that if Te Rōpū Tautoko remained top-heavy with Church officials it would "only do the bidding of the bishops" and would have no credibility.      Dr Peter Wilkinson, a former priest who acted as adviser to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, made his comments after the group was formed last month to provide a co-ordinated response to the commission from all its dioceses, religious orders and institutions in New Zealand.     The seven-person Te Rōpū Tautoko body was announced by the Church hierarchy after the government extended the terms of reference of the Royal Commission's state abuse inquiry in November to include faith-based institutions.    A similar group, the Truth Justice and Healing Council, was established by Australian bishops to do the same job in 2012, when the government across the Tasman announced its own abuse inquiry, which released its findings in December 2017.    That 12-person group was made up three clergy and nine Catholic professionals, including a psychiatrist and a number of academics with expertise and understanding of trauma.    It was chaired by former Supreme Court judge, the Hon Neville Owen. Its chief executive was Dr Francis Sullivan, former secretary general of the Australian Medical Association.    In contrast, Te Rōpū Tautoko is made up of six Church officials, including heads of religious orders in which there have been accusations of covering up abuse, and just one layperson - chairwoman Catherine Fyfe, who specialises in human resources management.     Dr Wilkinson said the Catholic Church now risked losing any credibility it had left if it decided to respond to the Royal Commission in a less-than-genuine manner.    "One thing that the New Zealand hierarchy will have to understand, and quick, is that despite what they may think, they probably have already lost a great deal of their credibility," he said.    "If they try to duck and cover, use the 'bad apples' defence, heap all the blame on their predecessors, insist that it is the media who are the cause of their troubles, or try to obfuscate, they will end up like the bishops here in Australia, who have lost all trust - from ordinary Catholics, from the general public, and from the politicians."     He also warned of dire consequences if the bishops established a body to liaise with the commission that was top heavy with Church officials.     "It will only do the bishops' bidding, it too will have no credibility," he said.     "Whoever is appointed its CEO has to be a person of complete integrity, courageous, and capable to standing up to the bishops.    "This person, and the members of the Council who support that person, must also be persons of courage and integrity."....(More).   Photo: RadioNZ 20190101  Peter Wilkinson.
News 2018 HERE