Catholics for Renewal


News 2021


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.

Editorial: Renewing the Archdiocese of Melbourne

Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, now accepts that his diocese is in a huge existential crisis. He told his diocesan clergy on 28 April 2021 and parish lay leaders on 22 May 2021 that the diocese is on a ‘threshold’ and either we do something or ‘sink into the sunset’.

But Melbourne is not unique among Australia’s dioceses. It is the reason why a Plenary Council has been called.

FULL EDITORIAL  HERE        Abstract Image: Steve Johnson.Unsplash. (Into the Sunset)        Previous Editorials  HERE

News 2021
Let’s go to where the people are: Archbishop Comensoli
Extract from CathNews, The Weekend Australian, 26 July 2021
A mission renewal process in the Melbourne Archdiocese has reinforced a shift in city populations, with the once-dominant inner-city parishes being overtaken by outer suburban churches in the city’s growth areas.       The archdiocese is undertaking a major internal review of how it sells the Gospel in a changing society, with moves to set up a series of missions that will attempt to serve more than one million mainly Melbourne Catholics.        Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli is overseeing a process of renewal that includes a reordering of resources and an expectation of considerable changes to the way the Church functions in the future.          He said a key aspect of the mission renewal was making sure that resources were allocated to growth areas without forgetting inner areas; six of the top-10 parishes with the smallest Catholic population are now in the inner city.        “I’m saying let’s go to where the people are,” Archbishop Comensoli said. “Where do you go to plant the seeds? Go plant them where the people are.”         Census data shows that five of the top-10 parishes are in Melbourne’s north and the other five in the west, which coincide with some of Australia’s highest population growth, fuelled by cheaper housing and immigration.        The mission renewal process is being greeted with concern by clergy, many of whom are ageing and facing uncertainty over their futures and how they will spend their final years as priests.....(more).   Photo: Archbishop Peter Comensoli with Fr Fabian Smith and the Samoan Divine Mercy Choir at outer-west parish of St Anthony CathNews 20210726
Who are our Plenary Archdiocesan members?
In the lead-up to Australia’s Fifth Plenary Council, the Catholic Voice sought the views of some of our Archdiocesan members. They discuss their Plenary journey, reflections, expectations.
Extract from Catholic Voice, Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, 6 July, republished here 25 July 2021
John Warhurst          What has your role been?      In terms of the official plenary process my role hasn’t been to do very much yet. I have a set of core beliefs about greater equality for lay people in the church especially women. I am a believer in increased transparency, accountability and co-responsibility in the church. I am an open-minded good listener. I believe the church is at a crisis point and there has to be some bold reforms taken.        What do you expect to come out of the plenary process?      The honest answer is, I don’t know. It’s a process that has been made much more difficult by the fact that we aren’t all meeting together, we are in multimodal hubs and online so in terms of the logistics that’s difficult and we haven’t had our training sessions yet and the agenda hasn’t been published yet. The aspirations have been set very high and I think there has to be something substantial across several areas in terms of the church’s internal operations and the church’s relationship with the wider world.        What do you believe are the perceived expectations from those in the Archdiocese?        Some people are more or less happy with business as usual with some tinkering around the edges, but a whole lot of people are unhappy in terms of the place of women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the church, dealing with the ageing of the church, and it’s a necessity to do something about those.     What do you tell people who believe nothing will change?       I tell them that this is a great opportunity and try to put your scepticism on the backburner for a while to give the process a chance.       How confident are you that the outcomes of the plenary will represent the changing demographic face of the church?          The church is changing around us and in my own parish it is more multi-cultural than ever. The church has to engage with the hopes and aspirations of recent immigrants and the multicultural community. That depends on a willingness and confidence of the multicultural community to speak up for themselves and to engage and also listen to other delegates.        Do you feel you are a voice for a particular group of people in the Archdiocese?         I hope to be a voice for everyone. Having said that there’s no doubt because of my background and age I am a Vatican II Catholic and I hope to speak for the aspirations of Vatican II Catholics who have had a lifetime of hoping for church reform including a voice of the laity................(More  - including from Sally Fitzgerald,  Brigid Cooney).     Photo: Canberra Goulburn Archdiocesan Plenary members L R Monsignor John Woods  Brigid Cooney  Archbishop Prowse  John Warhurst  Sally FitzGerald  Fr Tony Percy VG
Parishes: Leadership and other issues associated with clustering and mergers
Extract from Brendan Daly*,  CathNews NZ 23 July 2021
Today the most common experience of church and Christian community is in a parish. In many dioceses and archdioceses, parishes are being clustered into pastoral areas,2 and often the number of Masses in these pastoral areas is being rationalised and timed so that it is easier for neighbouring priests to celebrate Masses in the other parishes for which they are responsible.      When parishes are clustered, priests sometimes find it difficult with the number of meetings they now have to attend, because there is a parish council and a parish finance committee in each parish.        Also, throughout New Zealand and Australia, parishes are being combined or merged with other parishes. Major questions arise concerning leadership and the role of priests. Church buildings are sometimes being sold for profane use or used as educational facilities, rather than as places of worship.      These changes in parishes raise a number of pastoral and canonical issues concerning leadership, ownership of property, consultation and the procedures required. In fact, suppressions and alterations to parishes elsewhere in the world have been successfully challenged by recourse to the Holy See.       Scripture.........(more)
*Brendan Daly is a priest from the diocese of Christchurch and a Doctor of Canon Law. He taught at Holy Cross College, Dunedin and then at Good Shepherd Theological College, Auckland. In 2002 he became principal at Good Shepherd College and is now a Lecturer at Te Kupenga. Brendan is a judge on the Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand.
Nathalie Becquart explains synodality
In lengthy interview in Germany, the first-ever woman undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops says Church decisions must involve listening to as many Catholics as possible
Limited extract from  Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Subscription Journal, La Croix International, 22 July 2021
Nathalie Becquart, the French religious sister who was named undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops last February, says Church leaders need to include a plurality of opinions in decision-making processes to avoid endorsing one limited view of the world.        The 52-year member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters is the first-ever woman to be appointed to an executive position in the Synod secretariat.             And when the Synod of Bishops holds it next plenary session in October 2023, she will make history again by being the first woman ever to vote at such a gathering.        Becquart is keenly aware of how greatly symbolic that will be for many Catholics.      But in a 12-page interview published by German Catholic Podcast Himmelklar, she insisted that if the decision-making process is truly synodal, then the vote at the end will be "more or less a formality".      A Church in which everyone has a voice       "To put it quite simply, synodality means walking together along a common path and being an itinerary Church in which all the baptized work together," she said.       The undersecretary said a synodal Church is one in which everyone has a voice. She called it an inclusive Church concerned with relationships.         And she explained that the people in the secretariat in Rome have made efforts to be in contact with as many different Catholics as possible in order to really listen to what they have to say.             They had already arranged meetings with bishops' conferences and Catholic associations on the continental level.       "Pope Francis has made it clear that the coming Synod must result from a process that emanates from the very roots of the Church," she noted......(source) Photo: Sister Nathalie Becquart in Rome, ALBERTO PIZZOLI AFP, La Croix Int 20210722
Women believers changed the Roman Empire — now we must change the Roman Church
Extracts from Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter, 22 July 2021
On the feast day of the "apostle to the apostles," St. Mary of Magdala, I want to reflect on something I suspect this first witness to the Resurrection and foremost leader in the early Jesus movement might find puzzling. Namely, what is the big deal about recognizing women's leadership in today's Catholic faith communities?        We live in a very different cultural context than did Mary of Magdala and other early Christian women, but our own times are no less in need of Christ's healing energy than the ones in which they lived.         The Jesus movement spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire because of the initiative of female prophets, evangelists, missionaries, heads of house churches and widows, and financial support from Christian businesswomen such as Mary of Magdala and Joanna (Luke 8:1-3) as well as Lydia (Acts 16:11-40), Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), Olympias, a fourth-century deacon (whose feast day is July 25) and others.       Pope Benedict XVI himself acknowledged as much on Feb. 14, 2007, when he said the "the history of Christianity would have turned out very differently without the contribution of women" and noted the "female presence that was anything but secondary."          Church historians tell us that the domestic networking and evangelizing efforts of women led to the remarkable expansion of early Christianity. Early house churches were led by women of status such as Grapte, a second-century leader of communities of widows and orphans in Rome. Through the house church, early Christians gained access to social networks that brought them into contact with people from diverse social classes.           When a female head of household, perhaps a wealthy widow or freed woman, converted to Christianity, Christian evangelists such as Prisca (Romans 16:3-5) or Paul gained access not only to her domestic household but also to her patronage network. This meant that her slaves, freed persons, children, relatives and patronal clients would convert as well. ...........In their exhaustively researched book A Woman's Place, Carolyn Osiek and Margaret Y. MacDonald demonstrated that within their Christian social networks, these lower-class Christian women had money, high status and freedom of movement, especially throughout the extended household of antiquity.        This is affirmed by a notorious critic of the early church, Celsus, who took a dim view of women's evangelizing activities.....(More)  Photo:Christ's Appearance to Mary Magdalene Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov CNS Wikimedia Commons, NCR 20210622
The challenges of representing Catholic Australia
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street,  20 July 2021
The Plenary Council First Assembly is only two months away, but uncertainty still remains about the role that its 282 members will play. Not just about what work they will do but what conception of the role they will bring or will be imposed upon them by the authorities. Their designation has changed from delegate to member, freeing them somewhat from the expectation that they will be tied to the views of their diocese or other ‘sponsoring’ body. But it has not resolved some perceived role confusion both among the members themselves and within the wider Catholic community. This confusion has important consequences.             My member formation session last month was told, in the context of discussion about the part that connection with the wider Catholic community would play in the assembly, that the Plenary Council Assembly should ideally be a community but not a bubble.  I was struck by this description because it nicely encapsulates the possibilities.  There is a sense in which the membership should bond together to do its “job”, but not to the extent of shutting out the general community. This leaves room for individual members to be a bridge to the broader Catholic community and raises expectations that the Catholic people have a right and duty to communicate with them.                 My impression is that the Plenary Council organisers have always leant towards a narrow vision of the assembly.  Members have been advised that they have no responsibilities beyond official PC duties. The PC authorities have also not tried to take obvious steps towards encouraging connections between members and the community. For instance, they have not provided public contact addresses, such as email addresses, which would enable the community to contact PC members directly.  They have also allowed several members to continue in their role although they have left their dioceses temporarily for travel or study. This breaks the desirable link to community as they are no longer present among “their people”....(more).   Image: Woman in church face mask praying Gabriella Clare Marino Unsplash Eureka Street 20 July 2021

Pope Francis announces a requiem for the Old Latin Mass
Francis boldly overturns Benedict XVI's most significant legislative act, takes steps to eventually eliminate use of the Tridentine Rite
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Letter From Rome, Subscription Journal La Croix International, 16 July 2021
In a truly gutsy move, Pope Francis has overturned one of the most significant (and many believed enduring) pieces of universal Church legislation that was issued by his still-living predecessor, Benedict XVI.        The 84-year-old pope on Friday severely curtailed the exclusive rights Benedict gave priests in 2007 to celebrate the Tridentine Mass at will and without permission from their superiors.       In a new "motu proprio" called Traditionis custodes (Guardians of the Tradition), the Jesuit pope nullified almost every key provision set forth in Benedict's own "motu proprio" of fourteen years ago, Summorum Pontificum.       The bishops are to limit use of the Old Mass.....(source).   Image: La Croix International 20210716

On the Latin Mass, Pope Francis pulls off the Band-Aid
Extract from  Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, 16 July 2021
Pope Francis is a patient pastor. Until he isn't.     His new apostolic letter, Traditionis Custodes, in which Francis communicates "the firm decision to abrogate all the norms, instructions, permissions and customs that precede the present [document] and declare that the liturgical books promulgated by the saintly Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II … constitute the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite" is the ecclesial equivalent of ripping off the Band-aid in one pull. It was also the only real option.      Four years ago, on the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic letter granting greater access to the Tridentine rite, I noted that it was clear the pope's hopes had not been realized. I wrote:        There are those who have made the extraordinary form the symbol of an ecclesial agenda that certainly runs counter to much of what Vatican II achieved. If you spot a bishop who likes to don the cappa magna, or a seminarian with a biretta, you can bet that they likely are inclined toward a triumphalist view of the church and a more rigid theological stance than the council required.          I also noted that Benedict:            totally failed to perceive the potential for the development of websites with a kind of cult following, sites that are ostensibly devoted to the extraordinary form of the Mass but that also serve as a conduit for a crimped, theologically unsophisticated form of Catholicism, combined with right-wing political agitprop. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Church Militant and Rorate Caeli all traffic in this nasty brew.        It turns out that I was not the only one who perceived that the situation had miscarried..........(MORE)
Francis reimposes restrictions on Latin Mass, reversing decision of Pope Benedict
Extract from Nicole Winfield, Vatican, The Associated Press, National Catholic Reporter, 16 July 2021
Pope Francis cracked down July 16 on the spread of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI's signature decisions in a major challenge to traditionalist Catholics who immediately decried it as an attack on the ancient liturgy.         Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass that Benedict had relaxed in 2007. Francis said he was doing so because Benedict's reform had become a source of division in the Roman Catholic Church and used as a tool by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 event that led to wide reforms across the global church.      Francis issued a new law requiring individual bishops to approve celebrations of the old Mass, also called the Tridentine Mass, and requiring newly ordained priests to receive explicit permission to celebrate it from their bishops in consultation with the Vatican.          Under the new law, bishops must also determine if the current groups of faithful attached to the old Mass accept Vatican II, which allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin. These groups can no longer use regular parishes for their Masses; instead, bishops must find an alternate location for them.      In addition, Francis said bishops are no longer allowed to authorize the formation of any new pro-Latin Mass groups in their dioceses.      Francis said he was taking action to promote unity and heal divisions within the church that had grown since Benedict’s 2007 document, Summorum Pontificum, relaxed the restrictions on celebrating the old Mass.....(More).  Photo:Latin Mass, Immaculate Conception Seminary NY CNS Gregory A Shemitz, NCR 20210716
Pope Francis and women's (church) work
Is the Jesuit pope paving the way towards women deacons or stopping it in its tracks?
Limited extract from Phyllis Zagano, subscription journal, La Croix International, 15 July 2021
Legions of female church workers at every level in parishes and chanceries, at episcopal conferences -- and even at the Vatican -- welcomed and welcome Pope Francis' efforts to eliminate clericalism.        The general perception that "they" (clerics) do not need "us" (women) seems to be fading. Or is it?          The great diversity of the "church workers" on which the Catholic Church depends fall into two main categories: paid and unpaid.        The great majority of paid professional positions are held by clerics. The great majority of volunteer, unpaid positions, whether professional or not, are filled by women.       Of course, there is cross-over, but the exploitation of women in what is loosely referred to as "church work" is a scandal that Francis seems ready to repair. For sure, restoring women to the ordained diaconate may be part of the answer, but it is not the only one.      Let us look at three points: 1) Francis' emphasis on lay involvement in the Church; 2) the problem of clericalism; 3) the possibilities for women deacons......(source).   Photo: Pope Francis and womens Church work, La Croix
Pope has a golden opportunity to substantially re-make the US hierarchy
As many diocesan leaders in America reach retirement age, Francis has a chance to select more bishops who enthusiastically support him and his vision of Church
Limited extract fron Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter, Subscription Journal LA Croix International, 15 July 2021
If personnel is policy, then a vote last month by the U.S. bishops to draft a controversial document on Communion that the Vatican had cautioned against reveals Pope Francis may have considerable work ahead of him in his efforts to get the American Catholic hierarchy to embrace his priorities.        Although the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken great efforts to walk back its own mixed messaging and now insists the eventual document will not address whether pro-choice Catholic politicians like President Joe Biden can receive Communion, the vote of 168-55 to move forward appears to indicate that, after eight years of the Francis papacy, the U.S. bishops' conference is still controlled by a majority of bishops out of sync with Rome.      "I thought that they had made more progress than that vote showed," said Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, a veteran Vatican observer and senior analyst for Religion News Service. "I was expecting the vote to be about 50/50."       While Reese noted that it is hard to know what was motivating each individual bishop, especially given the conflicting messaging about whether the document would address Catholic politicians, he told NCR it was still significant that a supramajority voted to move forward in light of the Vatican's doctrinal office urgingthe bishops to tap the brakes on their plans.       Yet if Francis, who turned 84 in December* and was hospitalized last week for the first major health scare of his papacy, is seeking to pick up the pace of episcopal appointments with bishops more aligned with his agenda, he does have a number of opportunities on the horizon.       To date, three dioceses in the U.S. are currently vacant, another nine bishops have already passed the age of 75, when bishops are required to submit their resignation to the pope, and there are several other dioceses that will soon open......(source).   Photo: Episcopal hierarchy US La Croix International 20210715
Cardinal Parolin says Vatican reform document is ready
Limited extract from Loup Besmond de Senneville, Vatican City, Subscription journal La Croix International, 12 July 2021
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the man Pope Francis chose earlier in his pontificate to be his Secretary of State, says the long-awaited constitution for a reformed Roman Curia is basically finished and is now undergoing a legal review by the Church's canon lawyers.       Curia reform is just one of a number of topics the 66-year-old Italian cardinal spoke about in this exclusive interview with La Croix's permanent Vatican correspondent, Loup Besmond de Senneville.      He also looked at how the Catholic Church continues to deal with the clergy sex abuse crisis, bioethical issues in society and the upcoming Vatican maxi-trial on financial corruption......(Source)
Much Ado About Nothing
Response from a Biblical Perspective to the themes of the Plenary Council, 12 July 2021
Video (20 minutes) of a paper on the 6 themes of the Plenary Council from a Biblical Perspective, presented to the Catholic Biblical,Theological and Moral Association Conference 2021 by Professor Mary Coloe pbvm, University of Divinity......(HERE).
Pope leads Angelus from hospital room balcony
Extracts from CathNews, Catholic News Service,12 July 2021
Pilgrims and well-wishers gathered at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital to greet Pope Francis as he made his first public appearance in a week after undergoing intestinal surgery.             Appearing on the 10th floor balcony of his suite of rooms at the hospital yesterday, the Pope was greeted with applause and shouts of “Viva il papa” (“Long live the Pope”) from the crowd that stood under the scorching midday sun to see him.      “I thank you all,” the Pope said. “I have felt your closeness and the support of your prayers. Thank you very much.”.......Pope Francis said that his time in the hospital gave him the opportunity to experience “once again how important good health care is” and that free, universal health care, especially for the most vulnerable, is a “precious benefit (that) must not be lost”.       Before praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful, Pope Francis expressed his “appreciation and encouragement” to the doctors, nurses and staff at Gemelli hospital. He also asked for prayers for the patients, especially the children, at the hospital, several of whom stood on the balcony with him.....(more)  Photo: Pope Francis Balcony Hospital CNS Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters, CathNews 12 July 2021

Real opportunity for radical change in the Church

Limited extract from Chris McDonnell, United Kingdom, Subscription Journal, La Croix International, 10 July 2021
There has been much talk in recent weeks about facing up to our responsibility in the Church.   The offered resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, which Pope Francis declined (thankfully), was one high profile instance.   It has brought to our attention issues that many of us have been avoiding for too long, often through concern with the possible consequences.      But there comes a time when we must face reality and ask the difficult question: where do I stand?           With the Synod of Bishops' next assembly now due to open in 2023, there is a real opportunity for radical change.       Do we wait for an invitation to contribute to the preparation for the Synod or do we open wide the door that is ajar and make a worthwhile contribution?        Maybe now is the time for individuals to approach their bishop and raise pertinent questions.           The question is, how? Where communities have functioning parish councils, there already exists a structure for formulating opinion that might offer a way forward.     It beggars belief that there are still so many places where there is no recognized structure for parishioners to have a voice, where the management of parish life is centered on one person.   What is the emerging Church going to look like?          We are paying the price for our casual acceptance of clericalism over so many years. You take people with you by offering the option for real participation, by hearing their voice and responding to their concerns.      Whether we like it or not, circumstances have changed. The monolithic structure that has been accepted for so long deemed by many to be no longer fit for purpose.       What will replace it? What is the emerging Church going to look like? How will we sustain continuity with the faith that has nurtured our lives?     The question of faith is ever-present in the Gospel narrative. The challenges that are so often posed by Jesus the Nazarene ask for a response that demands confidence and trust in his word. Sometimes that seemed too much to ask.      We are told when the gift of the Eucharist is first mentioned that many turned away from him. Rather than explain that they had misunderstood him, he turned to those near him and asked if they wished to leave him as well.     The reply given by Peter in the Gospel of John is well known: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life".            Without doubt, what would faith really be?.....(Source)

Pope, recovering well after surgery
Extract from  Nicole Winfield, National Catholic Reporter, The Associated Press, Jul 7, 2021
Rome — Pope Francis’ recovery from intestinal surgery continues to be "regular and satisfactory," the Vatican said July 7, as it revealed that final examinations showed he had a suffered a "severe" narrowing of his colon.     The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the 84-year-old pope was continuing to eat regularly following his Sunday surgery to remove the left side of his colon, and that intravenous therapy had been suspended.      Bruni said final examination of the affected tissue "confirmed a severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis."        Francis underwent three hours of planned surgery Sunday. He is expected to stay in Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic, which has a special suite reserved for popes, through the week, assuming no complications, the Vatican has said.      Among those offering get-well wishes was U.S. President Joe Biden, a Catholic who has cited Francis in the past. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing Tuesday that the president "wishes him well and a speedy recovery."         Bruni said Francis appreciated all the prayers coming his way.      "Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and the affection received in these days, and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer," he said.       Francis has enjoyed relatively robust health, though he lost the upper part of one lung in his youth due to an infection. He also suffers from sciatica, or nerve pain, that makes him walk with a pronounced limp....(more)
New Qld law forces priests to report child abuse
Extract from CathNews, The Catholic Leader, 7 July 2021
A new Queensland law requires priests to report to police any information about child sexual offences heard during confession.      According to the law, all adults will have a legal duty to report to police sexual offending against children, unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so.      The law came into force on Monday. It passed through the state’s Parliament with support from both major parties last September, despite the Church defending the seal of confession.      In a formal submission to a parliamentary inquiry, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge explained that stripping Catholics of the seal of confession made priests “less a servant of God than an agent of the state”.       The new law arose as a result of recommendations from the royal commission into child sexual abuse. The maximum penalty for failing to report belief of a child sexual offence is three years’ imprisonment.       Queensland joins South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory to have already enacted laws that make it a criminal offence for a priest to withhold abuse disclosures.     A Brisbane Archdiocese letter sent to all parish employees explained the changes “should be noted by all Queenslanders, including those within our parishes and schools and similar institutions”....(more)  Photo: Confession CNS CathNews 7 July 2021
Transgender group get COVID vaccinations at Vatican
Extract from CathNews NZ, 6 July 2021
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, July 1, confirmed about 50 transgender people were invited to have their COVID vaccinations at the Vatican. Their first shots were on 3 April and their second on 24 April.     The group came from a parish near Rome, where Fr Andrea Conocchia has been ministering to a transgender community for several years.      Last year Francis asked Krajewski to provide food and financial support to members of the transgender community who were struggling without work due to the pandemic.      “Life is life and you must take things as they come,” Francis says. Each situation is unique and must be welcomed, accompanied, studied, discerned and integrated.     “This is what Jesus would do today,” Francis said another time when asked about meeting a transgender man who said it would be a consolation to come and see him with his wife.      This Easter,  the papal almoner invited Conocchia to bring the transgender people under his care to the Vatican to have their COVID vaccinations.         The group reacted with “surprise” and “emotion” to the experience of entering the Vatican for the vaccination, Conocchia says.        Many are undocumented and unable to access Italy’s free health care services, he says.        “They were moved to tears and felt remembered, having experienced once again and in a tangible way the closeness and tenderness of the pope’s charity.”....(more)   Photo: Transgender people COVID vaccinated at Vatican CathNews NZ 20210706
Pope Francis' Herculean efforts to clean up Vatican finances
The announced trial of 10 people connected to risky investments, including a cardinal, is just one part of a long series of internal reforms that has provoked fierce opposition
Limited Extract from Loup Besmond de Senneville, Vatican City, Subscription journal, La Croix International,  5 July 2021
The scene is the medieval-looking tower of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), more notoriously called the "Vatican Bank".   It was here in March 2019 that a request for a 150 million euros loan landed before IOR's board of directors.     The applicant? The Secretariat of State of the Holy See.       Located in the Apostolic Palace and headed by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, this is the Vatican's equivalent of a combined ministry of the interior and of foreign affairs.       It is here that the Vatican's finances, in particular its real estate investments, are managed.       And it was precisely to cover an investment in a building in London that the Secretariat of State sent the request for a loan to the IOR.      However, according to La Croix's information, officials at the so-called bank immediately balked.        First, because the reason for the request was more than vague: "institutional purposes".         Then, because one of the consequences of the profound financial reforms Pope Francis began in 2014 is that the Vatican Bank no longer grants loans, at least in theory.        In recent years, the operation and structure of the IOR have been considerably cleaned up. For example, nearly 5,000 suspicious accounts were closed there in 2016.         But in the case of the Secretariat of State's request, the board of directors -- under pressure -- made an exception.       It asked for documents justifying the reason for the requested loan.       This was just the beginning of a struggle that would last several months.       The first documents that arrived at the IOR were four photocopied sheets of paper slipped into an envelope. The Vatican bankers were far from satisfied.         They quickly realized that the real estate investment in London was based on a series of holdings stacked on top of each other.        Several trips back and forth followed, during which the IOR-mandated auditors did not succeed in obtaining the necessary documents.       One of them, in charge of compiling the file, was even threatened. This IOR employee resigned a month later.... (source)  Photo: Pope Francis attends IOR board of directors AP La Croix Int 20210705
Bishop Vincent: ‘My hope for the Plenary Council’
Extract from Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Dom Helder Camera Lecture, Catholic Outlook, 30 June 2021
Plenary Council: Abundance of goodwill or the last throw of the dice?         With a few months to the first session of the long-awaited Plenary Council (PC2020), we are finally headed down the home stretch. The initial phase of listening drew nearly 220,000 people across Australia and 17,500 individual and group submissions. These submissions were distilled into the six national theme papers and then further distilled again into the working document and finally the agenda. Momentum for the Plenary Council ebbed and flowed during this process, which has been disrupted by the pandemic.       By and large, there has been considerable goodwill, enthusiasm and even a sense of hope for the future of the Church in Australia in the post-Royal Commission period. Robert Fitzgerald who – among other prominent roles – is the new Chair of Caritas Australia, once enthused that the Plenary Council is the only game in town. For a country of about five million nominal Catholics, the initial response was quite remarkable. Perhaps, for many of the disenfranchised, it is the last throw of the dice. I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket, though.        Some of you might have heard or even attended the first of the three convocation series organised by the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR). There were 3,000 participants, including myself. We heard a powerful and inspiring address by Sr Joan Chittister. Catholicism “must grow up”, she said, “beyond the parochial to the global, beyond one system and one tradition, to a broader way of looking at life and its moral, spiritual, ethical frameworks.”       That is the kind of stretching of the imagination and dreaming of the transformation of the Church that many Catholics are thirsting for. Few Catholics have any appetite left for cosmetic changes, mediocrity or worst, restorationism dressed up as renewal. We have struggled under the weight of the old ecclesial paradigm of clerical order, control and hegemony with a penchant for triumphalism, self-referential pomp and smugness. We yearn for a Church that commits to a God-oriented future of equal discipleship, relational harmony, wholeness and sustainability.       The revitalisation and convergence of many lay reform groups in response to the Plenary Council is no small development for the Church in contemporary Australia. It is a sign of the “growing up” that Joan spoke about. Australian Catholics are growing up beyond the passive, subservient to the co-responsible agents for the transformation of the Church. In Germany, there is a lay body called Central Committee, which plays a key role in their Synodal Assembly, including having one of its members as co-president of the said structure. Perhaps this unique feature is part of the legacy of the Reformation in the German Church.        Is the Church in Australia in pole position for deep reform?....(more).   Photo: Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Diocese of Parramatta 20210630
US priests' association looks toward a synodal future
"We have to help the Church in the United States to be a listening Church"
Limited extract from International Staff, subscription journal LA Croix International, 30 June 2021
The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) is helping members with a strategic planning process to focus on the future.       "It's our tenth anniversary assembly, but our focus is on the future," said Father Greg Barras, chair of the leadership team of the AUSCP, the country's largest group of Catholic priests, in a statement.      "Where do we go from here?" was the theme of the assembly, held June 21-24 in Minneapolis.     Part of 'the assembly was to delve deeper into the synodal model called for by Pope Francis, Father Barras said.       "The next synod at the Vatican will be on synodality itself, with diocesan, continental and universal phases over the next two years. We have to help the Church in the United States to be a listening Church."      Speakers to help the group with its strategic planning and to focus on the future included......(source)
Pope Francis' demanding program for new archbishops
At the annual pallium-blessing Mass, the pope warns recently appointed archbishops to avoid "hypocritical outward show" and "dubious associations with power"
Limited extract from Loups Besmond de Senneville, subscription journal LA Croix International, 30 June 2021
Pope Francis has told the 34 metropolitan archbishops he appointed within the past year that the Church's pastors "need to be set free time and time again" from worldliness, rigidity, dubious associations with power and fear of being misunderstood.      "For only a free Church is a credible Church," the pope said Tuesday as he celebrated Mass at the Vatican on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul and blessed a "pallium" for each of the new metropolitans.     The woolen ban signifies authority and the special bond of communion with the Bishop of Rome.      During the liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, which was almost back to its pre-pandemic atmosphere with a thousand faithful spread throughout the massive church, Francis exhorted the archbishops to let themselves "be set free" by Christ in order to better accomplish their mission.....(Source)

The Italian Church needs to find itself in a synodal state
Do we not feel the need for a kick from the Spirit today, if only to wake us up from our torpor? asks Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, Editor-in-Chief, La Civiltà Cattolica
Limited extract from International Staff, subscription journal LA Croix International, 30 June 2021
From May 24 to 27, 2021, the Italian Episcopal Conference held their 74th General Assembly. Pope Francis opened it with a prayer and a dialogue with the bishops present.      The work of the Assembly, under the guidance of Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, focused on the theme: "Proclaiming the Gospel in a time of rebirth.      Starting a synodal journey." In his introduction Cardinal Bassetti defined this journey as "a necessary process that will allow our Churches in Italy to continue to adopt a better style of presence in history that is credible and reliable."      The pontiff urged the bishops to take up the challenge proposed at the Florence Ecclesial Convention, and to improve a path that starts from below and puts the people of God at the center.      He has always complained of a certain "amnesia" regarding the directions he gave during his speech to the bishops in the Tuscan capital on November 10, 2015.       Clearly, the overlap between the calling of the Synod of the Universal Church – about which we will speak later – and the start of the synodal path of the Italian Church will be a unique opportunity to harmonize these paths.      The General Assembly then voted on the following motion: "The Italian bishops should initiate, with this Assembly, the synodal journey as indicated by Pope Francis and proposed in a first draft of the Charter of Intent presented to the Holy Father."     The Permanent Council of the Italian Episcopal Conference will establish a working group to harmonize its themes, timetable and forms.       The measured words of the motion summarize and relaunch a debate that has lasted six years.          It was the pope who opened the debate in Florence, suggesting the synodal method: "The nation is not a museum, but is a collective work under permanent construction in which the very things that differentiate, including political or religious affiliations, are to be shared," Francis said.      "I like a restless Italian Church," he added, "ever closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect."

The clericalist Church must be reformed root and branch
A lay-led initiative to re-define ministry, embrace diversity, re-think moral theology and share authority
Limited extract from Jon Rosebank, United Kingdom, subscription journal LA Croix International, 29 June 2021
In January 2020 the Catholic journalist Joanna Moorhead called for a synod that began with women rather than one that ended with them -- or excluded them altogether.        In retrospect she was just one in a growing chorus of voices calling for a new understanding of synodality. As we now know, Pope Francis would be another.      It seems that the Spirit has moved with exceptional agility. The pandemic led rapidly to new Catholic communities popping up on Zoom. They connected prayer and thinking, not just between parishes but across continents.       This made it possible for a movement to grow out of Moorhead's call – progressing quickly beyond the question of women's role in the Church to a much more profound consideration of ministry and authority, diversity and moral theology within the Catholic Church.      "Root and branch reform is necessary," states its website......(source)

The Vatican confesses: the hierarchical Church has lost the people
Holy See makes ill-fated, last-ditch attempt to alter proposed anti-homophobia law supported by most people in democratic Italy
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Vatican City, subscription journal La Croix International, 25 June 2021
Call it the Vatican or call it the Holy See.      It hardly matters anymore because the difference and nuances between the two terms (or entities) are lost on most people. That includes the majority of Catholics.       Increasingly, it seems, people don't care whether a distinction even exists.      Holy See and Vatican mean only one thing to most folks -- headquarters of the Catholic Church or bureaucratic center of a two-millennia-old religious behemoth.        And that behemoth, as I argued last week, continues to experience an implosion that dates back to at least the Reformation. Certainly by the time of the Enlightenment in the 17th century, this implosion became an ongoing process.      As the ancien régime arrangement of "throne and altar" in Old Europe was giving way to democracy, the Church -- especially the part tethered to Rome -- tried mightily with every weapon in its spiritual and worldly arsenal to barricade itself and its subjects against the modernizing trend.      The Church's futile attempt to make peace with modernity.          From time to time "enlightened" Christians raised their voice to warn the Church's hierarchs that this was futile. Then, finally, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) sought to make peace with "modernity", including democracy.        It is now obvious that the Council did not succeed, at least not completely. One need only observe the the continued attempts by Catholic bishops in various parts of the world to dictate to democratically elected governments and heads of sovereign states the course of political action they should pursue.....(source).   Photo: Vatican La Croix  International 20210625

Poland seeks Vatican's data for its church sex abuse probes
Extract from by Monika Scislowska, The Associated Press, National Catholic Reporter, 25 Jun 2021
Warsaw, Poland — Poland’s state commission for fighting sex abuse of minors said June 24 it has asked the Vatican for data on abuse by the clergy in Poland because Poland’s church is not providing the requested information.         Commission head Blazej Kmieciak said some 30% of cases of abuse of persons aged under 15 that the commission is analyzing relate to the clergy.         He said, however, that despite written requests made earlier this year to regional leaders of Poland's Catholic Church and of other churches, only one bishops' court made its files available to the State Commission for Cases of Pedophilia.         "We are receiving no documents, no information from Poland's Episcopate Conference that would allow for a substantive analysis of the cases that we need to clarify," Kmieciak told a news conference.       As a result, the commission sent a letter to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asking, among other questions, how many cases of alleged abuse by the Polish clergy it reviewed in 2000-2020, how many ended with convictions, what the punitive measures were and how many clergymen have been removed from the church......In recent years the Vatican punished and suspended a number of Poland’s Catholic bishops and archbishops over neglect of reports of abuse of minors by the clergy in their area of responsibility.      The commission was established in 2019 and endorsed by parliament in 2020 with the task to review reports and cases of abuse of minors under the age of 15, ensure punishment for the perpetrators and work out preventive and educative measures. It is reviewing the cases of 330 individuals and has also analyzed files of over 260 court cases that have led to convictions.         Meanwhile, a retired archbishop who was punished by the Vatican in March for failing to properly react to reports of alleged abuse of minors in his Gdansk diocese has successfully run for the lay office of the head of a district in the village of Bobrowka, where he was born 75 years ago.....(more) Photo:   People awalking to Mass in Kalinowka, Poland, CNS Kacper Pempel, Reuters NCR 20210624
The Church should learn from democracy’s spirit of equality and participation
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street,  22 June 2021
Democracy is a modern ideal, still fighting for acceptance in some parts of the world. It has had to be fought for by brave advocates. The church by contrast is an ancient pre-democratic institution, which shows in its hierarchical organisation and undemocratic internal processes.        Yet now Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, insists that the days of monarchical and autocratic leadership in the church must be consigned to the past.  Co-responsibility and synodality, alternative ideas expressed in distinctive church language, are the suggested way forward. But the democratic ideal of equal participation by all members of a society still has much to offer the church.      The hierarchical church’s aversion to democracy is shown in the way the term is used in ecclesiastical discussion. A clear example came in the recent announcement of Pope Francis’ declaration of new world-wide diocesan synods in the lead up to the 2023 Synod of Bishops on the theme of synodality. Quick as a flash this announcement was followed by an instinctive insistence by the Secretaries of the Synod of Bishops that these new processes were not to be mistaken for democracy or populism. Even by linking democracy and populism in the same breath the church betrayed its confusion of a virtuous model of community organisation with its dysfunctional abuse. The instinctive reaction against democracy treats it as a virus which the church must strenuously avoid.       This is to its own cost. Democracy has many virtues. Its principles and processes incorporate equal representation in assemblies and parliaments while guarding against both the abuse of executive power and the danger of the misuse of majority parliamentary power. The latter is done by the incorporation of democratic checks and balances.      There is already a strictly limited form of democracy within the church, though top-down appointment is the norm. Some leaders, including popes, presidents of bishops’ conferences and congregational leaders, are chosen by a vote. Even a limited number of members of the 2021 Plenary Council, including leaders of religious institutes, were chosen by their peers.      But at the basic level of democratic principles the church continues to fall short by embracing its traditional hierarchy and by failing to ensure equal representation of the People of God in the life of the church, including in its decision-making processes. The Plenary Council fails to adequately represent lay Catholics, although they make up the vast majority of church members.....(more)
Vatican Secretariat begins discussing new synod process with bishops
Extract from CathNews NZ, Vatican News, 21 June 2021
In preparation for the next world Synod of Bishops, leaders of the synod’s general secretariat held online meetings to discuss the process with the presidents and general secretaries of national and regional bishops’ conferences.       Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary of the synod, and the office’s two undersecretaries, Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart and Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, held the meetings June 14-18 in sessions divided by language.     Revisions to the synod process were announced May 21. Pope Francis asked that it begin with consultations with lay people on the diocesan level. The discussion and discernment would then move to a national level and then the 2023 synod assembly itself.    “Without this consultation, there would be no synodal process, because the discernment of pastors, which constitutes the second phase, emerges from listening to the people of God,” Grech had explained in May.    After the first couple of meetings with leaders of bishops’ conferences, the cardinal said the reaction was “surprising, very positive, and there is a lot of enthusiasm among the bishops we have heard.”      Grech told Vatican News, not much is set in stone. “We have some general ideas, but we are open, as this is not a fixed process. We are listening to our partners because the synod is not a project of the secretariat but of the church.”       The expanded consultation, listening and discernment, he said, is the desire of Francis. But it is based on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the church is the people of God.        The Synod, which presents itself as a real “synodal time”, will be opened by Pope Francis on 9-10 October 2021.     The synodal journey will then be marked by three phases:      - a diocesan phase (October 2021 – April 2022) during which each individual faithful can participate in the diocesan consultation. This phase will end locally with a pre-synodal assembly: the culminating moment of diocesan discernment; – a national phase during which discernment will be entrusted mainly to the Episcopal Conferences;  – a continental phase (September 2022 – March 2023) which will discuss the text of the first Instrumentum Laboris.          Finally, the synodal journey will culminate with the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”....(more)  Photo: Synod of Bishops preparation CathNews NZ 21 June 2021
US bishops flout Vatican request
Extract from CathNews NZ, National Catholic Reporter, 21 June 2021
Pope Francis has not commented about America’s Catholic bishops’ vote to deny US President Joe Biden Holy Communion because of Biden’s political support for abortion.      The US bishops are drafting new guidance on the abortion-communion issue, which they expect to release in November.      Their decision to vote about this matter flouts a letter from the Vatican in May.        The letter explicitly urged the bishops to avoid the vote.        The decision also disregards Francis’s pleas for them to de-emphasise culture war issues and expand the scope of their mission to climate change, migration and poverty.       The US bishops’ vote resulted in a large majority – 168-55 – agreeing to begin drafting guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist at the bishops’ virtual meeting last Friday. Six bishops abstained from the process.      Although the guidance’s details have not been divulged, it is assumed that conservative leaders in the U.S. church will use it as a vehicle to deny communion to prominent Catholics who support abortion rights. Biden is one such Catholic.      Church law, however, says for the bishops to pass a doctrinal declaration on banning communion, the conference needs either unanimous support – and at this stage not all US bishops are in agreement. The alternative is for the bishops to have two-thirds support and the Vatican’s approval.      Vatican approval seems unlikely.       “It’s not going to get to that point,” says a senior Vatican official with knowledge of the thinking inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s doctrinal watchdog.        Biden, who attended Mass on Sunday (pictured) and was named several times during the bishops’ debate, says whether he is allowed to receive holy communion is a “private matter”.        He agrees with the Vatican that it’s unlikely to happen.       The grave issue of Friday’s vote is that it particularly threatens the unity of the American church itself.....(more)

Plenary Council, 18 June 2021

As children of God, disciples of Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia are called to develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia at this time.

‘I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.’     -  Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 27             

Download  Agenda  HERE

Church implosion right on schedule
Pope Francis' push for synodality has further opened a process that will allow for the deconstruction of a long-outdated and anachronistic Church structure
Limited, edited, extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 18 June 2021
Nearly nine years I spoke to a civic group in Cleveland, Ohio, about the "Vatican implosion" and, as a result, the long and gradual collapse of the Catholic Church's monarchical structure of governance and ministry.      I argued that as the last absolute monarchy in the West (and almost anywhere else in the world) the organization of the Roman Church has become an anachronism.     It made sense when monarchies were a fundamental feature of human society. But no longer.      This outdated model of the Catholic Church's structure no longer incarnates the reality of the lived experience of believers, the staggering majority of whom live in societies that are becoming more and more, and to varying degrees, participatory and representative democracies.     A Church where the most important decisions are made almost exclusively by a celibate male clergy, and where bishops are held to little or no accountability, is unsustainable in a world where patriarchal and monarchical societies – begrudgingly, but steadily – are ceding rights and duties to those who are not part of the nobility, the clergy or one specific gender.     My talk in November 2012 came during the height of the so-called VatiLeaks scandal.      For more than a year the leaking of sensitive Vatican documents and the private papers of Benedict XVI had caused deep embarrassment to the still-reigning German pope and his top aides – especially Tarcisio Bertone SDB, the Cardinal Secretary of State at the time.      Pope Francis hastens an inevitable collapse.       It was a mess. And today one could look back and say: "Sure, it was easy back then for someone to spout off about a supposed Vatican implosion."       Indeed, some people have since told me that the election of Pope Francis has revealed that my analysis was way off base.       But nearly a decade later, I'm convinced that the thesis argued on that November morning on the shores of Lake Erie still holds. Because it was not based on what did or did not transpire in Benedict's pontificate.      Even despite the kairos – the special, providential moment – that many Catholics believe we've been experiencing since the election of the first-ever Jesuit pope, the Church continues to implode.       In fact, in some ways, Francis seems to be deliberately hastening its inevitable collapse by implementing the principles and methods outlined in Evangelii gaudium (EG), his vision and blueprint for Church renewal and reform.     Let's be clear, we're not talking about the demise of the Catholic Church.     God is not dead and the Holy Spirit will never leave Christ's faithful people. This we all believe.     Changing structures and mentalities through synodality       No, it's about the crumbling of the present governing and organizational structure, which continues to mirror certain features of the Roman Empire more than it reflects the organizational model of ecclesial life that is found in the New Testament or was experienced in the first couple of centuries of the Christian Church.     Francis is effectively laying the foundation for the "deconstruction" of the current model by patiently planting the seeds for the Church's structural conversion by "baptizing" and employing four, key sociological principles (EG 222-237): -Time is greater than space;   -Unity prevails over conflict;    -Realities are more important than ideas,   -The whole is greater than the parts.     Ultimately the pope's goal is to make the structures and mentality of the Church more reflective of the Gospel and person of Jesus Christ and to liberate it from a codified system of rules and philosophical ideas still deeply wedded to the culture of the ancient Greco-Roman world.     Through the process of synodality, he is opening up spaces for dialogue and discussion that involve all the Holy People of God and not just the male clerics.     He is not democratizing the Church, but he is creating a large and indispensable forum for all voices to be heard through the classic, but too often forgotten, process of discernment....(Source)
Pope Francis endorses Cardinal Marx and his ‘manifesto’ for Church reform
By Robert Mickens, Catholic Outlook, Diocese of Parramatta, 16 June 2021
The pope’s refusal to accept the German cardinal’s resignation further strengthens moves towards a substantial reform of the Catholic Church.         Cardinal Reinhard Marx tried to resign but, in the end, Pope Francis rejected the move and instructed the 67-year-old German to continue leading the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.        The news is a major blow to doctrinal hardliners and neo-traditionalists, and everyone else who is a part of the Catholic Church’s “no change” crowd.         Because Marx is not just any bishop or cardinal. He’s one of the most energetic and forceful proponents of ecclesial reform through synodality, a process of wide-ranging consultation of all the Church’s members that Francis is trying to make constitutive of Roman Catholicism.        And the cardinal’s an extremely influential papal aide as member of the Council of Cardinals and moderator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.        He’s also served from 2012-2018 as president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (COMECE) and until last year as head of the German Bishops Conference (DBK).      In short, Reinhard Marx is a big player.       And the Pope’s refusal to let him resign, has only made him all the more imposing as a leading figure in this current moment of Church history.        From this point forward, everything is now different.       By keeping Marx in place, Francis has endorsed the cardinal’s push for bold ecclesial reform and his desire to change a Church “system” that helped spawn the worldwide clergy sex abuse “catastrophe”.       Marx said he agreed to withdraw his resignation “in obedience” to the Pope, but he made it clear that, from this point forward, everything is now different.       “Simply going back to the previous agenda cannot be the way forward for me or for the Archdiocese,” he said on June 10, the very day Francis wrote him a warm and brotherly letter (in Spanish and German) telling him to continue in the post he’s held the last thirteen or so years.     “For me and our joint work in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, this also means considering which new paths we can go — also in the face of a history of various failures — in order to proclaim and testify to the Gospel,” Marx said.       A “dead end” Church that needs to be reformed        The Cardinal revealed on June 4 — with the Pope’s permission — that he had sent in his resignation on May 21 in order to “share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades”.       He insisted that beyond any personal failures, the abuse crisis was also the result of an “institutional or ‘systemic’ failure”.          Marx said this “requires changes and a reform of the Church”, a Church he described as being at “a dead-end”.        The Cardinal called out those in the Church who refuse to admit this and who “disapprove of discussing reforms and renewal in the context of the sexual abuse crisis”.        “A turning point out of this crisis is, in my opinion, is only possible if we take a ‘synodal path’,” he said........(More)   Photo: Pope Francis and Cardinal Reinhard Marx File Image Vatican News, Catholic Outlook 20210616
US bishops vote to limit debate on controversial Communion document
Pope Francis' US representative urges dialogue and unity
by Christopher White, Vatican,  National Catholic Reporter, 16 Jun 2021
On the opening day of a closely watched and at times chaotic virtual meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops on June 16, a majority of U.S. prelates voted to limit discussion on whether to proceed with drafting a contentious document regarding Communion and pro-choice Catholic politicians.       Following months of open discord among the bishops about the necessity of such a document, the prudence of advancing it in a virtual format and a Vatican intervention urging caution, Pope Francis' U.S. representative encouraged unity and dialogue, telling the U.S. bishops that "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together."       "The starting point, therefore, cannot be to shame the weak but to propose the One who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist," said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who has served as the papal nuncio to the United States since 2016.        "We are not a church of the perfect but a pilgrim church in need of the mercy offered generously by Christ," the nuncio said.....(more)
 Stage One of the Synod: Listening to the Faithful
Senior ecclesiologist warns that things could go terribly wrong at the Synod of Bishops next assembly if the listening stage is not carried out properly
Limited extract from George Wilson, US, Subscription Journal LA Croix International. 16 June 2021
In the large body of literature on the theme of leadership it has become almost trite to say that a good leader's first task is not to teach but to listen.        That same wisdom applies to synods and synod-like projects. In Church language it is called "consulting the faithful".        So it is encouraging to read that those designing this preliminary stage of the coming assembly of the Synod of Bishops have determined that "listening to the people of God" is the synod's first objective.        Much depends, however, on (1) what such listening is designed to discover; (2) who is to be listened to; and (3) what processes are employed in that discovery.         And the answers to those questions depends, first, on being clear just what a synod is.        What is a synod? Pope Francis offers the mantra: "A body walking together."        That is an attractive metaphor, to be sure. But if the three questions above are not carefully weighed before designing the first listening stage, "walking together" can be reduced to a warm fuzzy feeling, open to much mischief.       How this first step is designed and executed can determine the success or failure of the whole venture.           The fundamental issue        Long years as a consultant/facilitator for several diocesan synods and many synod-like projects have led me to view a synod as a wisdom-seeking effort undertaken by the people of God under the guidance of the Spirit of Jesus at a particular era in its engagement with surrounding society.       A synod is an assembly of the Church -- the People of God. That embraces persons who happened to be called to differing states of life within the community—ordained, lay or vowed religious. But they are all there by virtue of their baptism, in solidarity.       Baptism is the only ticket of admission. The Spirit is poured out upon the entire baptized community. Any structuring of the synod that diminishes the sense of equal agency of all its participants will insure the failure of the enterprise.....(Source).   Image: Lz Croix International 20210616       

Dead end or no end?   could synodality really be the "turning point"?
Limited extracts from Justin Stanwix*, Australia, Subscription Journal LA Croix International. 16 June 2021
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany made a noble gesture when recently he tendered his resignation to Pope Francis.              He stated his impression that the Church is "at a dead end". Quintessentially, he allowed the potential of a "turning point".        That is the essence of Jesus' message.         Thankfully, the cardinal's offer has been refused and for good reason. The pope reminded him that it remains time to tend the sheep. Probably more urgently than ever.         The generosity and undoubtedly prayerful discernment that preceded the cardinal's offer must be acknowledged.        The inherent rectitude and personal penalty involved as he shouldered vicarious responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis, in the interest of the whole Church, may appeal to many.           A missionary Church that has made many mistake throughout history       But his offer raises the question about how we see ourselves as Church.        Even for a reason of generous proportion is it acceptable to offer to quit in such circumstances?         No cavil about the sinful situation in which we find ourselves. My issue is about how we should respond, move forward and give example. How we live the Gospel message now.        We are not solely individuals in our Church, the institution is not only human and its fundamentally divine nature is not of our making.       We are a missionary Church and a pilgrim people. The People of God have accumulated plenty of missionary mistakes, repeated atrociously sinful behavior and have failed to learn even obvious lessons.       We wasted no time after the death of Jesus in Beatitudes-absent behavior. Given the history of the two thousand years since, we are highly likely to engage in some lamentable repetition.        At some point we must move beyond the sexual abuse crisis. Obviously, I don't mean ignore it or avoid the guilt, the shame and the ongoing responsibility we have in many ways to victims and families.       The Holy Spirit is in charge        As Church we have a rugged history. Our missionary Church has faced division, scandal and an abundance of challenge.       The whole while we have been blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. No doubt at times the Spirit has shuddered but the promise of Jesus to be with his Church until the end of time is no mean promise.        We may never gainsay that certainty because it is the Gospel message.        We can celebrate prayerful and beautiful liturgies for the great occasions of our Church – or not. But we cannot ignore the Holy Spirit in our lives and his presence in our Church and in the world............The pope seeks to encourage a synodal Church where we work together collaboratively at all levels, abandon clericalism and monarchical structures and operate much differently from the way we do at present.         In this context, the decision to defer the Synod of Bishops' assembly on synodality, while a world-wide consultation of the international Church takes place, must be embraced for the quantum change it represents.............(Source)     *Justin Stanwix is a deacon at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in the Diocese of Wollongong (Australia).

Melbourne Archdiocese Parishes Restructure
Set of recent papers associated with proposed restructure of Melbourne Parishes, 11 June 2021
The set of linked papers below relate to recently proposed arrangements for restructuring Melbourne Parishes in response to changing demographics of parishes and the priesthood in the Melbourne Archdiocese.      On 28 April Archbishop Peter Comensoli first spoke on this to a gathering of Archdiocesan clergy “The Way of the Gospel, Families of Communities” on restructure of Melbourne Parishes.      His paper is linked below. On 22 May and supported by others from the Archdiocese office the Archbishop spoke on the same topic to a meeting of Lay representatives (one from each Parish).       His presentation in text and slides are linked below together with a Pastoral Letter on the subject published on 23 May (Pentecost), together with a new  Vatican Instruction from the Congregation for the Clergy “The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church” launched by the Vatican Press Office on 20 July 2020).       Across the Church this Vatican Instruction has received mixed responses, including  criticism by Robert Mickens (reflecting that of others, also  linked below), Editor, La Croix International, 24 July 2020 “Not worth the paper it’s written on”, concluding from his analysis that "this new instruction on Catholic parishes is latest proof it will be hard to wrest control from the clericalists": (Image: manorparish co uk)

Cardinal Marx: Pope’s decision a ‘great challenge’
Limited extracts from Staff Reporter, Subscription Journal, Catholic Herald UK 11 June 2021
“In obedience, I accept [Pope Francis’] decision, as I promised him,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx in a statement following the pope’s decision to reject his resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.      Cardinal Marx offered to resign his See in a “confidential and personal” letter to the pope that was later made public with the pope’s permission. In his letter, Marx said, “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”        Cardinal Marx acknowledged that his own silence, neglect, and overemphasis on the reputation of the Church made him “personally guilty and responsible,” but also stressed the importance of accountability for “institutional and systemic failures.” In a personal statement released when the letter was made public, he added, “As a bishop, I have an ‘institutional responsibility’ for the acts of the Church in its entirety as for its institutional problems and failures in the past.”         Although agreeing with Cardinal Marx’s characterisation of the sex abuse crisis as “a catastrophe,” and on the importance of accepting responsibility for the crisis, Pope Francis refused to accept his resignation, instead asking him to stay on as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, confirming his mission and asking him to continue to work for “a spiritual renewal” in the Church.”.......... He described the pope’s decision as “a great challenge” and insisted “after that, simply going back to the agenda cannot be the way for me, nor for the Archdiocese.” He said that, with the faithful of the Archdiocese, it was necessary to consider “which new paths we can travel,” saying that “in the next few weeks about how, together, we can contribute even more to the renewal of the Church here in our diocese and as a whole,” especially as the pope essentially agreed with his analysis, as well as providing “important impulses” for reform....(Source)
Pope refuses Cardinal Marx’s offer to resign
Extract from CathNews, The Tablet, 11 June 2021
Pope Francis has refused Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s offer to resign over the sexual abuse crisis, saying although the German prelate had been courageous in taking responsibility for past scandals, he should stay in office.       Cardinal Marx has not been accused personally of mishandling cases but in a decision that sent shockwaves across the Church, he submitted his resignation to the Pope over institutional failings. The 67-year-old cardinal, who is eight years off retirement age, set out his reasons for stepping down in a letter on May 21.       In his response, Francis agreed with the cardinal that the abuse crisis has been a “catastrophe” and that “each Bishop of the Church must take it up and ask himself what should I do in the face of this catastrophe?” This includes, the Pope said, making a “‘mea culpa’ in the face of the many historical errors of the past … and before the many situations, even if we have not personally participated in that historical situation.”      The Pope praised Cardinal Marx’s offer to step down which he says displays a “Christian courage that does not fear the cross” and that reform in the face of the abuse crisis cannot consist merely of “words” but putting one’s life on the line. Jesus’ reform, Francis pointed out, is not contained in a particular religious project but is witnessed to “with his flesh on the cross”. Francis went on: “And this is the path, the one that you yourself, dear brother, assume when you present your resignation.”        Nevertheless, the Pope said he would not accept Cardinal Marx’s offer.      “That is my answer, dear brother. Continue as you suggest, but as Archbishop of Munich.”........(More).   
church's complicity in dehumanizing the LGBTQ community in Ghana
Extracts from Daniel P. Horan, National Catholic Reporter, 9 Jun 2021
The West African country of Ghana is one of the most homophobic countries in the world today. It not only refuses to recognize same-sex unions, but it also criminalizes consensual same-sex acts with imprisonment of up to three years. Those who are arrested for being gay are then often subjected to further physical, psychological or sexual abuse as a result of their captivity.      A 2018 Human Rights Watch report documents numerous accounts of horrendous anti-LGBTQ abuse and "corroborates that LGBT people are often victims of mob attacks, physical assault, sexual assault, extortion, discrimination in access to housing, education and employment, and family rejection on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In an environment in which homophobic views abound, and few are willing to publicly come to the defense of LGBT people, it is easy for violence to flourish."      Not only have LGBTQ individuals been targeted, harassed, denied basic human rights and assaulted because of their sexual orientations or gender identities, but those who have sought to advocate on their behalf through education programs or resource centers have now become the target of comparable treatment and discrimination. In February, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, a member of parliament and the Ghanaian minister for information, went so far as to propose formal legislation that would make advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ persons illegal.......According to the 2010 census, more than 70% of Ghanaians identify as Christian, making the rampant homophobia and anti-LGBTQ attitudes, laws and violence an inherently Christian problem. In an interview with the BBC, Anima Adjepong, a Ghanaian sociologist who is based in the United States, said: "The church also advances this argument that queer people in Ghana are abhorrent. And really the church promotes violent discourse against queer people about 'throwing them into the ocean', about how they 'don't belong here', about how they're 'bringing the downfall of the society'."....(more).    Photo: business area Accra Ghana, CNS Luc Gnago Reuters, NCR 20210609
The abuse crisis and the elusive horizon of a repenting Church
Words of regret and acts of penance are not enough to heal the wounds and right the Church
LImited extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription journal La Croix International, 8 June 2021
The Catholic Church enjoyed a bit of a renewed honeymoon with the global media after the May 21st announcement of the "synodal process 2021-2023".       But the love fest lasted only about a week.         It was brought to an abrupt and ugly end when law enforcement officials in Canada discovered 215 unmarked graves of indigenous children at a former Catholic-run residential school in British Columbia.        International organizations quickly demanded that the Church in Canada and the Holy See admit responsibility for the tragedy.      Pope Francis expressed his "closeness with Canadians traumatized by the shocking news", as he addressed pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at last Sunday's Angelus. But he stopped short of issuing a direct apology.     June 4th, that fateful day        Canada's Catholic Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, insisted that the Church and the Holy See must take responsibility for what happened at the school.        In a video statement on June 4 he even alluded to the possibility that Church officials could be taken to court.       That just happened to be the very same day that German Cardinal Reinhard Marx made the shocking announcement that he had asked the pope several days earlier to accept his resignation as archbishop of Munich and Freising......... The future will continue to be an elusive idea in the Church if the elevation of the existential dimension of the faith becomes just verbal esthetics; and if the pastoral dimension becomes clerical mannerism and thus the instrument for an institutional apologetics, a defense of the status quo, as Italian theologian Marcello Neri has noted in his latest book.      But that very well could happen to the synodal process if it is not open to institutional and theological reforms in response to the abuse crisis.       It is not clear whether courageous reform will get the Church out of its current predicament. But it is certain that, without such reform, the Church hardly stands a chance....(Source).  Image: La Croix International, 20210608
Pope Francis’ reforms the Church’s disciplinary system in response to royal commission
Extract from Kieran Tapsell,  8 June John Menadue website, 8 June 2021
One of the main reasons for the Catholic Church shifting around abusive priests was because its disciplinary system was dysfunctional. Far more children were abused than would have occurred if it had a decent one. The Royal Commission made recommendations for change, and Pope Francis has adopted some of them, but he has retained two of the most harshly criticized canons.        In its 2017 Final Report, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made recommendations for the reform of canon law, including the abolition of the pontifical secret over child sexual abuse by clergy, initiated by Pope Pius XI in 1922. In December 2019, Pope Francis abolished it.         The Royal Commission also criticized the canonical disciplinary system which made it virtually impossible for abusive priests to be dismissed. On 1 June 2021, when announcing the changes to that system in Book VI of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a Vatican spokesman said, “In many places, punishments were mentioned only as a possibility, and the whole text gave the impression that it was almost merciless to apply punishments…Today…due to the examination of the abuse of minors, the atmosphere is different.”      The purpose of this article is to examine how much has changed.        Child Sexual Abuse as a “Moral Failure”          The Royal Commissioners were baffled by evidence given by Church leaders that they considered child sexual abuse to be just a “moral failure,” a view reflected and reinforced by the Code of Canon Law which included it in a section dealing with breaches of celibacy, as if it were no different to masturbation or a consensual affair with an adult. The Royal Commission’s Recommendation 16.9a was that child abuse should be “articulated as canonical crimes against the child, not as moral failings or as breaches of the ‘special obligation’ of clerics and religious to observe celibacy.” The Vatican has adopted this recommendation and has now listed child sexual abuse in the section for “offences against human life, dignity and liberty.”..............(more)
Cardinal Marx submits resignation to Francis, citing church's 'systemic failure' on abuse
"I would like to show that not the ministry is in the foreground but the mission of the Gospel,"
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Jun 4, 2021
Rome — German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, one of Pope Francis' closest advisors, has asked the pontiff to allow him to resign as the leader of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising as a sign of responsibility for the "systemic failure" of Catholic Church leaders over decades in responding to clergy sexual abuse.        In a shocking letter to Francis, which Marx released to journalists June 4, the cardinal says he wants to "share the responsibility" for the way priests and bishops mishandled abuse cases. He also admits he feels "personally guilty" for trying to protect the reputation of the church when dealing with victims.       "To assume responsibility, it is … not enough in my opinion to react only and exclusively if the files provide proof of the mistakes and failures of individuals," writes Marx in the letter, dated May 21. "We as bishops have to make clear that we also represent the institution of the Church as a whole."       In resigning, states the cardinal, "I may be able to send a personal signal for a new beginning, for a new awakening of the Church, not only in Germany."        "I would like to show that not the ministry is in the foreground but the mission of the Gospel," Marx tells Francis. "I therefore strongly request you to accept this resignation."         Marx has led his archdiocese since 2007. He also serves as one of only seven members of Francis' advisory Council of Cardinals and as the coordinator of the Vatican's Council for the Economy, which supervises the financial activities of both the Vatican city-state and the offices of the Holy See.       The cardinal is 67-years-old, eight years shy of the traditional retirement age of 75 for bishops. His decision to resign over the actions of the church as a whole on clergy abuse, and not because of any known investigation into his personal actions, appears without precedent............In a personal declaration to journalists sent alongside the copy of Marx's letter to Francis, the cardinal said the pope had authorized him to release his letter and told him to "keep performing my service as bishop until [Francis'] decision is made.".....(more).   Photo:   Cardinal Reinhard Marx CNS photo Harald Oppitz KNA, NCR Online 20210604
Synodality is not a walk in the park
Extract from CathNews NZ, CNS, 3 June 2021
There are many ideas about what synodality means, says Pope Francis.        “It’s not a walk in the park”.         It is “an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no synodality,” he explains.        Francis is promoting a synodal process that involves the whole church. It will focus on listening to one another and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.        Last month, he approved major revisions to how the Synod of Bishops will work. It should begin with a bottom-up full diocesan-level process of consultation, he says.          “This will require patience, work, allowing people to talk so that the wisdom of the people of God will come forth …           “A synod is nothing other than making explicit what ‘Lumen Gentium’ says:           “The whole people of God — all of them, from the bishop on down — is infallible in belief. They cannot err when there is harmony among all.”        Listening and consultation may require managing a range of expectations or fears.         It may involve explaining to people who want immediate, radical change that discernment takes time and requires fidelity to God’s will.        It may involve explaining to those scandalised by the questions they are being asked that perhaps there are better ways to explain church teaching and live the Gospel.        Francis often underlines that a synod is not a parliament, but a process of discernment. St. Paul VI, who revived the Synod of Bishops for the universal Catholic Church, also made this point.       Over the past five decades, that special nature has increasingly involved laypeople, religious and priests. They are now consulted before bishops are elected or appointed to attend the synod assembly.       To support the pope’s wish to imbue the church with a synodal spirit, the International Theological Commission published a document in 2018: “Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church.”        It explains that synodality promotes the baptismal dignity and call of all Catholic and values the presence of different gifts given by the Holy Spirit.       It also recognises the specific ministry entrusted to pastors and bishops in communion with the pope for the preservation of the faith and the renewal of the church.......(More).        Photo: Pope Francis and people synodality Crux Now, CathNews NZ 20210603
Aussie Bishops name three priorities for work of Bishops Conference
Extract from The Record, Archdiocses of Perth, 3 Jun 2021
Formation, becoming more missionary and fostering collegiality have been identified as the top three priorities by Australia’s Catholic bishops.      In a recent week-long process of prayer and discernment, the three priorities were identified as a means to guide the work of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and arose following a structured review of Conference operations and financing in 2019.
     Earlier this year, the bishops were guided through a process of shared discernment, punctuated with prayer and conversation, by Br Ian Cribb SJ. Br Ian had earlier led the retreat the bishops made together immediately before their 2019 Ad Limina Apostolorum visit.        Following the three sessions, which involved the identification and ranking of possible priorities, the bishops approved the three priorities at their recent plenary meeting.         “It is important to note that these are priorities for the Bishops Conference to pursue, which includes the various bishops commissions, the work of the general secretariat and the biannual plenary meetings,” Bishops Conference President, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.        “These were not developed to be priorities for the Catholic Church in Australia, though many dioceses, parishes and other ministries are no doubt focusing on one or more of these priorities.”        The Conference’s ongoing priorities are also reflected in the work of its nine bishops commissions and two episcopal panels, which will take on new focus in light of the new priorities named.       Archbishop Coleridge said the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will have an important role in shaping priorities for the Church nationally.        “We’ve already seen during the three years of the Council journey so far how key topics and concerns are being identified, and the Council assemblies will help refine those further,” he said.        “These priorities we have developed specifically for the Bishops Conference will help the work we undertake as a college of bishops, to make important decisions and to tread a path that pursues formation, collegiality and a missionary disposition.”......(More).  Photo: Australian Catholic Bishops 2019 Ad Limina, CNS, The Record 20210603    [Ed: are formation, becoming more missionary and fostering collegiality all there are to hope for in renewal of a declining Australian Catholic Church?]   Photo: Australian Catholic Bishops Pope Francis 2019 Ad Limina, CNS, The Record 20210603

All New Zealand Catholics will get a say in upcoming synod
Extract from CathNews NZ, 3 June 2021
The NZ Catholic Bishops’ Conference says the views of all New Zealand Catholics will be sought during an expanded Synod of Bishops’ process announced by the pope.       Pope Francis has frequently called for the bishops, priests and people to walk together in a common mission of the Church,” says Conference president Cardinal John Dew.        “He believes it is imperative to listen to the People of God, which means going to local churches to hear what they say.”          Francis wants all Catholic dioceses to consult with parishioners from 17 October to get local-level views on the topic for the next synod, entitled a “Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.         “The Holy Father wants to hear the voices of all the baptised,” Dew says.......Most of these people consider they are no longer regular parishioners and wonder how limiting the process to going to parishes and consulting parishioners will work.        Jerome De Rosario is a 40-year-old Wellington professional. A “retired catholic”, he thinks the Church needs a different strategy and fresh ideas and hopes the Synod might accomplish this.         However, he expressed surprise the Church did not factor in what it already knows, that most Catholics don’t belong to parishes and do not go to Mass.         Alex Jordan, a university student from Massey, Auckland, also picks up on the parish emphasis.       “The voice of the bulk of baptised Catholics won’t be heard because they don’t belong to the outdated parish structure, he said.        “At most, they’re gathering 5% of the baptised.         “The data will be skewed from the outset”, he said.        “If this is worth doing it’s worth doing well. I hope the Church gets good advice.”         Non-parishioners also need to be considered says Richard McKenna, a 30 something manager in Wellington.          “By focussing on parishes many people who are still fringe Catholics but not regular parishioners, and may feel excluded. This statement seems to confirm our exclusion”.        He hopes it is not the ‘last word’ and the criteria and methodology will also consider non-parishioners may wish to contribute and have valuable ideas.         “I much prefer the Vatican’s focus, consulting with ‘The People of God'”, he said.....(more).   

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