Catholics for Renewal


News 2017

                                  A broad and  diverse mix of Local, National and International faith-related News, Information and Opinions. 
                            Views expressed are those of the Authors and may or may not always represent those of Catholics For Renewal.

Previous Editorial: Bishops must engage their dioceses now (Here)
2nd last Editorial: Circling the Wagons (Here)
See earlier Catholics For Renewal EDITORIALS 
Editorial, 23 December 2017

A Christmas Message from the Royal Commission

Extract from Editorial, 23 December 2017

It was fortuitous, perhaps even providential, that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse published its Final Report just days before Christmas, for its many volumes contain one very simple and powerful message: we must all take responsibility for placing the child at the centre of our thinking and acting and, above all, for protecting the child from harm....Full Editorial HERE


Australian church must take abuse commission report seriously or risk irrelevance
Extract from Truth Justice and Healing Commission Newsletter, 21 December 2017
Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council writes in the National Catholic Reporter that this Royal Commission confirms previous reports that cite the lack of accountability and transparency within the church's culture, the propensity for clericalism to create a self-protective caste where power and privilege are the operating principles for addressing conflict and personal promotion, and, finally, where the image of the institution meant more than the welfare of children....(more)
Cardinal Bernard Law, the face of the (U.S.) church’s failure on child sexual abuse, dies at 86
Extract from Kevin Clarke,The Jesuit Review, 20 December 2017
As a younger man he was hailed for his courageous positions on desegregation and civil rights and his pastoral leadership of one of the poorest communities in the U.S. South, but his legacy is marred by his role in the cover-up and the persistence of the church’s sexual abuse crisis and the suffering it engendered. That scandal, smoldering for years, exploded into national view in Boston in 2002 after 18 years of Cardinal Bernard Law’s leadership. Cardinal Law passed away today in Rome after a lengthy illness; he was 86. His death was reported by local media and was confirmed by a church official to the Boston Globe.      After months of bad news emerged out of a Boston Globe Spotlight team investigation, Cardinal Law was subpoenaed in December 2002 to appear before a grand jury reviewing “possible criminal violations by church officials who supervised priests accused of sexually abusing children.” Just a few days later, a letter signed by 58 priests, many of them from his diocese, asked him to resign as archbishop. Not long after, on Dec. 13, 2002, he did.....(more)  Photo: The Jesuit Review, CNS / PaulHaring 
 Vatican says royal commission findings deserve to 'be studied seriously’
Holy see says it will support Australian church as it listens to and accompanies victims and survivors ‘in an effort to bring about healing and justice’            Extract from The Guardian, AAP, Saturday 16 December 2017
The Vatican and Australia’s Catholic leaders say they will seriously consider the royal commission’s call for sweeping reforms, although archbishops refuse to break the seal of confession to reveal child abuse.      It will be up to the Pope and his advisers to consider many of the inquiry’s far-reaching recommendations, including changes to canon law and voluntary celibacy for its priests.     The government of the Roman Catholic church, the Holy See, says the commission’s final report “deserves to be studied seriously”.        “The Holy See remains committed to being close to the Catholic church in Australia – lay faithful, religious, and clergy alike – as they listen to and accompany victims and survivors in an effort to bring about healing and justice,” it said in a statement.        The royal commission recommended a number of changes to canon law, finding the disciplinary system for dealing with clergy and religious who sexually abuse children contributed to the church’s failure to provide an effective and timely response to perpetrators.              It also criticised the Vatican for being slow to respond to petitions from Catholic church authorities in Australia to dismiss those found to have committed child sexual abuse.        “It is clear that their approach to child sexual abuse by clergy was protective of the offender,” its final report said.          The commission suggested new canons that frame child sexual abuse as crimes against the child, not as moral failings or breaches of the obligation to observe celibacy. It also called for amendments to remove the “pontifical secret” or confidentiality imposed during church investigations of child sexual abuse.           Other amendments include making it easier to take internal disciplinary action and permanently remove from ministry priests or religious against whom abuse complaints have been substantiated, or their dismissal if they have been convicted.     The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president, Melbourne archbishop Denis Hart, and Sydney archbishop Anthony Fisher rejected the inquiry’s call for priests to break the seal of confession to reveal child abuse.         Hart did not expect the church to change its stance on confession, saying the cardinal secretary of state confirmed as recently as last month that the seal is inviolable.     But he said Australia’s bishops have asked the Holy See to clarify the extent of the seal and what it includes, after questions about whether it applies to a child revealing their abuse.        The Vatican recently said the matter was still being seriously considered, the archbishop told reporters....(more)
Public relations responses to Royal Commission
Extract from Peter Johnstone, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue Website, 15 December 2017
The damning findings of the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the recent reports on the Catholic dioceses of Melbourne and Ballarat seem to have elicited a standard Church response: 1. Accept critical findings; 2. Express regret to victims and families; 3. Apologise for failings of the incompetent bishop at the time; 4. Accept responsibility.
The PR spin doctors have no doubt earned their keep: the message is that the scandal of clerical child sexual abuse is a matter of the past which has now been addressed by new protocols, and Church leaders will now get on with business as usual . . . but please don’t ask why so many bishops throughout the world, with the support of the Holy See, protected paedophiles and betrayed innocent children. The final report of the Royal Commission will demand answers.....(more)

Royal Commission's final report released today

Extract from Media Release,  Truth Justuce and Healing Council, Friday 15 December 2017

On 15 December 2017 the Royal Commission presented a final report to the Governor-General, detailing the culmination of a five year inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and related matters.....(more)

A copy of the report is available on the Royal Commission's website

Read Preface and Executive Summary of Final Report

Read section of report relating to Catholic Church
Read Commission recommendations relating specifically to Catholic Church

Read Commission summary on Catholic Church

Royal Commission report released - Catholic Church must act
Child abuse royal commission: Final report makes 189 recommendations
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recommended the establishment of a national strategy to prevent child abuse, as part of its final report.
Extracts from SBS News, 15 December 2017
The $500 million five-year inquiry into how churches, charities and other organisations handled abuse of children has made 189 recommendations.       Sir Peter Cosgrove received the final report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with the chair of the royal commission, Justice Peter McClellan, handing over the 17-volume report.         Criminal prosecutions have been launched against a string of alleged abusers during the course of the inquiry.      To avoid prejudicing court proceedings, two versions of the report have been submitted, one redacted and one unredacted.    Some recommendations have already been made and acted upon, including toughening background checks and establishing a redress scheme, which is still in progress.      Refusing compensation to survivors of child abuse who have gone on to commit serious crimes is of serious concern to advocates.....Independent senator Derryn Hinch, a longtime warrior against child abuse, says he has been asked by Mr Turnbull to chair a parliamentary committee overseeing the response to the royal commission.     However, Mr Turnbull says no such decision has been made.   "I've spoken to Derryn about all of these issues but the chairmanship of the committee is not something that's been finalised," he said.....(more)
[Ed: The Royal Commission's FINAL REPORT: Preface and Executive Summary may be downloaded HERE ]

A Catholic reflection on the Royal Commission as the curtain closes on Act One.
Extract from Frank Brennan, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue Website, 14 December 2017
On Friday, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which has been part of the Australian political and ecclesial landscape for the last five years, will cease to exist.  The commission will present its report to the Governor-General, and the commissioners will return to private life or to their previous public offices.  The task of implementation will fall to governments and institutions such as the Catholic Church.  The task of public scrutiny will fall to parliaments and the media but without the ongoing forensic activity of a royal commission.  The commission has unearthed a continent of human suffering and mountains of institutional obfuscation.  The task of change within the Catholic Church will fall mainly to committed Catholics, and not just the clerics.                Already and thankfully, many institutional responses which were routine in the past are now unthinkable because they did not put the interests of children first.  And yet, as a Catholic priest, I am still feeling perplexed.  My church, like all institutions caring for children, contained child abusers.  My church, more than many other institutions caring for children, failed to weed out those abusers and even harboured them in the name of maintaining the public standing of the institution and in the hope of protecting the abusers, giving them a second, third or tenth chance.  I think these lessons have been learnt.  BUT.  And it’s a big BUT.....(more)

Royal Commission Final Sitting
Extract from TJHC report with transcripts om the final sitting of the Royal Commission on 14th December
The Royal Commission held its Final Sitting in Sydney on Thursday 14 December 2017.     Justice McClellan said that for victims and survivors, telling their stories has required great courage and determination.   'Most are stories of personal trauma and many are of personal tragedy. It is impossible not to share the anger many survivors have felt when they tell us of their betrayal by people they believed they were entitled to trust,' he said....Links to Opening Address, Transcripts from today and Royal Commission's message to Australia.

The Seal of Confession: resorting to the Age of Christendom
Extract from Peter Johnstone, Pearls and Irritations, John Mendaue Blog, 13 December 2017
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recommended to Australian federal and State governments, that the Catholic ‘seal of confession’ should not exempt priests from a proposed offence of ‘failure to report’. The response of some Church commentators has been dismissive and disrespectful of the work of the Commission, foreshadowing defiance of civil law.      The Commission’s Criminal Justice Report in August 2017, proposed that people in institutions who ‘know, suspect or should have suspected’ that a child is being sexually abused and fail to act should face criminal charges. The Royal Commission, after thoroughly documented discernment, has decided that Catholic priests who know that a sexual predator is at large in the community should not be exempted from this requirement to report.      The Church is protesting that there should be an exemption from this provision to allow priest confessors to comply with its ‘seal of confession’, a church-made law. This protest comes from a church which has been shown, not only in Australia but throughout the world, to have failed to protect children from sexual abusers, indeed to have chosen to protect those abusers rather than vulnerable children. The arguments for exemption implicitly assert a moral superiority of canon law, instead of reviewing that canon law in light of the Commission’s substantial arguments. It would seem that my Church has learnt little from this criminal failure of pastoral responsibility that ruined the lives of so many children....(more)

TJHC calls for COAG committee to implement Royal Commission’s recommendations
Extract from TJHC Media Release, 12 December 2017
The CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council , Francis Sullivan , has called on the P rime M inister, state premiers and chief ministers to immediately set up a COAG committee to implement the recommendations in the Royal Commission’s final report .      Mr Sullivan says once the report is in the public domain , which is expected to be this Friday, all participants including the Catholic Church need to start working immediately on implement ing its recommendations .        “And it is up to Prime Minister Turnbull to lead the way ,” Mr Sullivan said . " The Prime Minister has to show that this report is going to be taken 100 per cent seriou sly, that it's not going to be put in a drawer," Mr Sullivan says.      " Governments should consider announc ing the establish ment of a joint COAG working party very soon after the release of the report , then institutions and others need to s et up their own implementation processes to engage with the government process .    
We cannot afford for this to get lost over the summer, to get shouted down by the current political point scoring that's going on....(more)
The Royal Commission Report on the Melbourne Archdiocese
Extracts from Kieran Tapsell, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue website, 8 December 2017
On 5 December 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released a redacted version of its Report of Case Study No. 35: the Archdiocese of Melbourne. It strongly criticized Church personnel for failure to protect children under its care. It blamed both the culture of secrecy and inadequate structures for the failure, and described those failures a number of times as “appalling.”     The Report was redacted so as not to prejudice current or future criminal or civil proceedings. An unredacted version of the report is expected to be tabled and published at a later date......The Commission does not discuss the historical reasons for this “culture of secrecy”, but is likely to do so in its final report. It has found that many other institutions covered up child sexual abuse to protect their reputations, but the Catholic Church is unique, because no other institution has imposed secrecy over child sexual abuse by writing it into its internal laws......No doubt we will be hearing much more about the above issues in the Commission’s Final Report expected on 15 December 2017....(more)
Sexual abuse survivors demand access to royal commission report
Victims’s lawyers say uncertainty over whether report will be publicly released when inquiry concludes next Friday risks creating ‘another round of trauma’.   The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse will sit for the final time on 14 December.
Extract from The Guardian, Friday 8 December 2017
With seven days until the royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse delivers its final report and recommendations to the governor general, survivors and their advocates have called on the government to reveal if and when the report will be made public....(more)

Pope concerned by U.S. move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Extract from Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, Melbourne Catholic, Thursday 7 December 2017  Following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump planned to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis expressed his concern that such a move would further destabilize the Middle East.     Pope Francis said he could not 'keep silent about my deep concern' for Jerusalem and urged respect for 'the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.'    The pope spoke at the end of his weekly general audience 6 December, the same day Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.     Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made the same promises during their campaigns, but once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.      Trump drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States' long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.    According to Vatican Radio, the pope received a telephone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas 5 December regarding Trump's plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic, Inside Edition.

 'Catastrophic institutional failure' to protect children
Extracts from CathNews, 7 December 2017
The abuse of hundreds of children at the hands of pedophile priests in and around Ballarat has been described as a “catastrophic institutional failure” of the Church, the Herald Sun reports.    Two years after it first started its probe of the Ballarat Diocese, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse handed down its much anticipated final report yesterday.      It came a day after the release of a scathing report into the Melbourne Archdiocese and its handling of sexual abuse complaints.     The commission was scathing of the late Ballarat Bishop Robert Mulkearns for orchestrating a widespread cover-up of abuse during his reign between 1971 and 1997.      It found on no occasion did the Bishop or any other member of the clergy report allegations or complaints of child sexual abuse to the police or other authority.    “The welfare of children was not the primary concern of senior members of the Diocese when responding to complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse,” the commission said.    “There is no doubt it should have been”.         It found the most likely explanation for the conduct of Bishop Mulkearns and other senior clergy was to minimise the risk of scandal and protect the reputation of the Church.       “This case study exposed a catastrophic failure in the leadership of the Diocese and ultimately in the structure and culture of the Church over decades,” the report found.    “That failure led to the suffering and often irreparable harm to children, their families and the wider community.      “That harm could have been avoided if the Church had acted in the interests of children rather than in its own interests.”          Current Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird said the mishandling of complaints against priests and church personnel and a lack of response to such complaints led to unnecessary suffering for many victims.        “Where the failures of my predecessors allowed abuse to occur, I offer my heartfelt apology,” he said....(more)

Archbishop Wilson stands trial in Newcastle
Extract from CathNews, 7 December 2017
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson attended court yesterday, accused of concealing information about the abuse of an altar boy by a priest in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s, AAP/Nine News reports.    Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the Newcastle Local Court that Archbishop Wilson had allegedly been involved in a number of cases where he had tried to prevent abuse claims being reported to police from between 1976 and 2004 to protect the Church.     In his opening address, Mr Harrison said the evidence would show the Archbishop had failed to report widespread child abuse by the Catholic clergy and a teacher.    The prosecutor said Archbishop Wilson had been a priest at a parish in 1976 when an altar boy came to him in the presbytery to reveal he had been sexually abused by James Fletcher when he was 10 years old.    The altar boy claimed Archbishop Wilson was shocked by the abuse claims and promised to look into it but nothing happened.   Mr Harrison said another altar boy, aged between eight and nine years old, went to see Archbishop Wilson in the confessional box in late 1976 to complain about being abused by Fletcher but Archbishop Wilson told the boy he was lying....(more)

Royal Commission delivers withering criticism of Melbourne Archdiocese
Extracts from Cameron Houston, Chris Vedelago, The Age, 5 December 2017
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has been found to have ignored, dismissed or covered up allegations of appalling child abuse by seven of its priests in a bid to protect the church's reputation and avoid scandal.     The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered a withering assessment of the Archdiocese's handling of clerical abuse, with much of its opprobrium reserved for former Archbishop Frank Little who died in 2008........Archbishop Hart said the mishandling of complaints against priests had led to unnecessary suffering for victims and their families.     "Where this abuse occurred  resulting from the passivity or inactivity of predecessors of mine, I sincerely apologise and accept responsibility," Archbishop Hart said.....(more) 
An update from Bishop Vincent Long about the Royal Commission
Extract from Bishop Vincent Long, Catholic Outlkook, 6 December 2017
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will shortly release its final findings on public hearings, and its recommendations, related to the Catholic Church in Australia.    These case studies included evidence around the pain and hurt that was inflicted upon victims of abuse by Church authorities, including Diocese of Parramatta personnel.    Once again, I apologise on behalf of the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Parramatta for the irreparable harm caused to people who were betrayed by clergy, religious and lay people who were entrusted to lead ministry in this Diocese. Our response and processes at the time were clearly inadequate. For these failings, I wish to express my profound sorrow.    Throughout the Royal Commission, the Diocese of Parramatta has strived to engage in their processes with openness, transparency and a commitment to learning about our history so that our child protection policies and procedures are strengthened and there is restored confidence in Church ministry.    As we await the final reports and recommendations to be handed down, I would like to remind you that should anyone wish to report abuse by Church personnel to the Diocese, or require support......(more)
Royal Commission delivers withering criticism of Melbourne Archdiocese
Extracts from Cameron Houston, Chris Vedelago, The Age, 5 December 2017
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has been found to have ignored, dismissed or covered up allegations of appalling child abuse by seven of its priests in a bid to protect the church's reputation and avoid scandal.     The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered a withering assessment of the Archdiocese's handling of clerical abuse, with much of its opprobrium reserved for former Archbishop Frank Little who died in 2008........Archbishop Hart said the mishandling of complaints against priests had led to unnecessary suffering for victims and their families.     "Where this abuse occurred  resulting from the passivity or inactivity of predecessors of mine, I sincerely apologise and accept responsibility," Archbishop Hart said.....(more) 
Report into Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne released
Extract from Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 5 December 2017
 A redacted version of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s report of Case Study 35 –Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne – was released today.    This report follows a public hearing held in Melbourne in November and December 2015 and in Sydney in February and March 2016 during which the Royal Commission heard about the response of Catholic Church authorities within or associated with the Archdiocese of Melbourne to allegations and complaints of child sexual abuse made against seven priests of the Archdiocese.      Redactions: The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference require that the work of the Royal Commission not prejudice current or future criminal or civil proceedings. For this reason, Commissioners recommended that at this time a redacted version of the report be tabled and published. It is expected that an unredacted version of the report will be tabled and published at a later date.      Archbishop Little’s response:  The Royal Commission heard that Archbishop Thomas Francis Little, who headed the Archdiocese from 1974 to 1996, dismissed or ignored serious allegations of child sexual abuse against a number of priests. He did not investigate the many allegations that were brought to his attention and did not report them to the police. He also moved offending priests to other parishes where they continued to offend......(more - with link to report)
Argentine interpretation of 'Amoris Laetitia' recognized as part of official Magisterium
Pope Francis has given his seal of approval to Argentinian bishops’ interpretation of his apostolic exhortation on the family.
Limited extract from Marie Malzac. subscription journal La Croix International, 5 December 2017
It amounted to four lines of Latin written by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and snuck into the more than 1,000 pages of Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official gazette of the Holy See.        This publication, issued about 12 times a year, contains documents the pope wishes to make public. The paragraph in question was dated June 5 but was published in texts going back to October 2016.       It bestows the character official Magisterium – or the teachings of the pope – on an exchange of letters between Francis and bishops of the Buenos Aires pastoral region on the subject of the bishops’ plans to allow....(source)  
Catholic women's exclusion from power points to church's malaise
Extract from Media Release, Concerned Catholics of the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese,
1 December 2017

The contrast between the number of women employed by the Australian Catholic Church and their absence from the central power structures, highlights the need for a deep rethink at the top of the Church, Concerned Catholics of Canberra Goulburn, says.        The Our Work Matters report for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference shows there are more than 220,000 employees in church organisations and 77 per cent of them are women.       "This statistic alone should prompt the bishops to question why the earthly authority of the church should be the preserve of men only," the chairman of Concerned Catholics, Emeritus Professor John Warhurst says.        "It is good that the Church has commissioned a report into the huge workforce given the many important ways the workers of the church contribute to society, in education, health and social support.         "The whole report reinforces once again how much the church relies on women to fulfil its mission.      "But it is telling that this overwhelming reliance on women is not reflected when it comes to the gender of decision-makers at the highest level.....(full Media release HERE)
Royal Commission final public hearing in Sydney
Extract from Truth Justice and Healing Council, Friday 1 December 2017
Sexual abuse of children has occurred in almost every type of institution in Australia where children lived or attended.
Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is to have a final public sitting in Sydney next month, on the eve of delivering its final report to Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on 15 December, to thank the community for its support.

Frankly speaking... (by Francis Sullivan)
This week I spoke at a plenary session of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference meeting in Sydney. Little surprise that the main topic was the forthcoming release of the Royal Commission’s final report. But even before the report is released the bishops and religious leaders must commit to a future that is not characterised by a ‘business as usual’ mentality.....(more).
Pope Francis names Fr Brian Mascord fifth Bishop of Wollongong
Extracts from Australian Catholic Bishops Cinference, Melbourne Cathjolic, Friday 1 Decenber 2017 ACBC
The Holy Father has today appointed Fr Brian Mascord, currently the Vicar General of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, the fifth Bishop of Wollongong.   Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Denis Hart said Bishop-Elect Mascord brings a wealth of experience in parish ministry, education, chaplaincy and governance. ‘Fr Mascord has been a fine, hard-working parish priest for many years and will be a worthy Bishop of Wollongong. I congratulate him on his appointment on behalf of the Australian bishops,’ Archbishop Hart said.       ‘I also wish to acknowledge Bishop Peter Ingham, who is in his 25th year as a bishop and has spent the last 16 years as shepherd to the faithful in Wollongong. Bishop Ingham has been a source of energy and joy and holiness for his people, his priests and his brother bishops.’      Bishop-Elect Mascord said priests who have spent time with Bishop Ingham have often sought to emulate his approach.    ‘I look up to Bishop Ingham as a pastoral priest and a pastoral bishop, and the example he gives in his ministry and life as priest and bishop is something I’ve admired,’ he said........‘I look forward to encountering people who have that ‘down-to-earthness’ that comes with the diversity of the people who live in coastal, city and rural areas,’ he said....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic, mn news.
Did Pope Francis succeed in Myanmar?
Extract from Bruce Duncan, Pearls amd irritations, John Menadue Website, Friday 1 December 2017, 2:00pm
Myanmar’s neighbours were watching closely the Pope’s visit, worried that the shocking treatment of the Rohingya Muslims could inflame inter-religious conflicts throughout the region. Francis has intervened personally to promote deeper mutual understanding among the major religions, urging them to draw from their traditions to protect those in distress and promote social inclusion and universal human values.            Some western groups, including Amnesty International, have criticised Pope Francis for not speaking strongly against the persecution of Muslims in Rakhine state and their expulsion into Bangladesh. His advisors, and especially the Myanmar Cardinal Bo, advised the Pope not even to mention the word ‘Rohingya’ lest it be seen as provocative in the agitated political climate, resulting in further conflict, including against Christians.     Pope Francis has protested about the plight of the Rohingya in Rome on several occasions, so his views are well known. He would have been foolish to ignore the advice of the local church in Myanmar, which asked him to avoid the possibly inflammatory word but speak to the issues nonetheless.          Few listening to the Pope in Myanmar during 27-30 November were in any doubt about the meaning of his talks, which were scrutinised very carefully. Moreover, the Pope’s visit is being closely watched by neighbouring countries that are also trying to deal with conflict between religious groups and need the support of religious traditions to develop social inclusion and a culture of religious dialogue and harmony.      Francis is alert to Asian culture and sensitivities. Attacking military people publicly could have caused them to ‘lose face’ and be seen as very offensive coming from a guest in their country. Instead he emphasised that Myanmar could take another path away from fanning a Buddhist-style populism, especially by drawing from traditional universal values in Buddhism...(more)   Fr Bruce Duncan is a Redemptorist priest who teaches history and social ethics at Yarra Theological Union, a college of Melbourne’s University of Divinity.
 Pope exhorts Myanmar monks to dialogue - compares Buddha and St Francis of Assisi
Meeting with Myanmar’s Buddhist leaders in Yangon, Pope Francis again pleaded for interreligious dialogue. Repeating what he had earlier told 150,000 faithful at a papal mass, he emphasized that religions need to work to “heal the wounds” of a still divided nation.
Limited Extract from Nicolas Senèze, Yangon, Myanmar, Subscription Journal La Croix International,  30 November 2017
In a meeting at the Kaba Aye pagoda in Yangon on November 29, Pope Francis challenged Myanmar’s Buddhist monks by comparing Buddha and St Francis of Assisi.  “Overcome anger with non-anger; overcome wickedness with goodness; overcome the miser with generosity; overcome the liar with truth,” Pope Francis said, quoting the Dhammapada, a collection of sayings of the Buddha.      He illustrated the parallel with the prayer of St Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.  Where there is injury, let me bring pardon…”      Against the background of a golden altar with a white Buddha illuminated by blinking multi-colored LED lights, the pope exhorted the local monks, who were seated opposite him, to play their role in promoting dialogue.      “It is the particular responsibility of civil and religious leaders to ensure that every voice is heard,” he told the Supreme Council of the Sangha, a body created in 1980 by the military junta to ensure closer control over the nation’s 500,000 monks.      During democracy demonstrations of 2007, it was the Sangha which admonished movement leaders while this year it acted slowly and feebly in condemning the ultranationalist Ma Ba Tha movement......(source). Photo: La Croix International, AP
Cardinal Müller 'bitter and concerned' with Church's direction
The former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has requested Church authorities to listen to the “fair complaints” of Pope Francis’ opponents, the Italian daily "Il Corriere della Sera" has reported.

Limited Extract from Narie Malzac,  subscription journal La Croix International, 29 November 2017
There is a front made up of traditionalist groups as well as a number of progressives, who would like to see me lead a movement against the pope, but I will never do it."         These were the words of Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Massimo Franco, columnist at the Italian daily Il Corriere dela Sera, in an interview published on Sunday, November 26.      Müller, who has previously distanced himself from a series of pontifical moves, revealed that he was both bitter and concerned with the direction the Church is taking.   Insisting that he believed in “the unity of the Church", Cardinal Müller nevertheless called on Church authorities “to listen to those who have serious questions and fair complaints".      We must not ignore them or, worse, humiliate them,” he emphasized.      “If not, without intending it, the risk of a slow separation may grow and lead to a schism by a section of the Catholic world that feels disoriented and disappointed," Cardinal Müller warned.   “The history of Martin Luther’s Protestant schism 500 years ago should indicate the kind of mistakes we need to avoid," he said.....(source)  Photo La Croix International, Alberti Pizzilo, AFP 
Clerical sex abuse disclosures skyrocket in Pope's Argentina
Extract from Voice Of The Faithful, Associated Press, 28 November 2017
The allegations are part of a growing trend: While Pope Francis struggles to make good on his ‘zero tolerance’ pledge to fight clerical sex abuse worldwide, victims in his native Argentina are denouncing abuses in unprecedented numbers.       An analysis by The Associated Press shows that the number of clerics publicly identified as alleged sexual abusers has increased dramatically in the last two years.” (The Associated Press)....(more).         Photo AP/Natacha Pisarenko.  (In this Oct. 11, 2017 photo, Karen Maydana, center, Mailin Gobbo, behind right, and Yasmin Detez, behind left, pose for a photo at San Jose Obrero church in Caseros, in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The schoolmates returned to the church and adjacent school they’d attended to describe to journalists what had happened, saying they hoped it would help protect children.)
Archbishop unable to face abuse hearing
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, has failed to appear in Newcastle Local Court less than a week after having had a pacemaker fitted.       Extract from  28 November 2017
A NSW court hearing involving the most senior Catholic official worldwide to be charged with concealing child sex assault has been delayed because of concerns about his physical and mental health.      Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, did not appear in Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday after having had a pacemaker fitted on November 22.    Defence barrister Stephen Odgers SC told the court Wilson had been advised by his doctors not to travel from Adelaide to Newcastle for at least a week.          Mr Odgers said a neurologist had also expressed concerns about Wilson's mental health and his ability to understand the case against him.      The case was briefly adjourned to give Magistrate Caleb Franklin time to read submissions from Wilson's lawyers.    Wilson, who claims he should be well enough to be in court on Thursday, has been accused of concealing information about the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in 1971 by the now-dead pedophile priest James Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region town of Maitland.     Wilson allegedly had information between 2004 and 2006 about Fletcher which might have helped to have the priest prosecuted.     The archbishop is the most senior Catholic official worldwide to be charged with the offence of concealing child sex assault.    Mr Odgers told the court Wilson was "very keen" to participate in the trial despite his recent heart surgery and hoped to fly into Newcastle on Wednesday night to be ready to attend court the following day.....(more)
’Mission in 360’ connects students around the world
Extracts from Melbourne Catholic, Friday 24 November 2017
The introduction of 360-degree virtual reality technology in Catholic schools throughout October has been hailed a success by educators around Australia.  Catholic Mission’s Mission in 360 technology, complete with custom viewing goggles, was a hit in schools in Sydney, the Gold Coast, and Melbourne, according to teachers and students alike.        ‘I think it’s really good to see things from a different perspective, and when we’re looking at Gospel values and showing compassion and love to other people, it’s important to see those who are living less fortunate than us,’ said Michelle Gear, Religious Education Coordinator at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Georges Hall, where the technology was piloted......Mission in 360 was equally popular in Melbourne, where Marymeade Catholic College in South Morang incorporated the technology into their student formation. ‘Being able to teach our students using real life examples that they can feel a part of rather than just listening to or reading is so beneficial,’ said Kelly Hack, a teacher at Marymeade....(more)  Photo: Melbourne Catholic 
Pell defence team seeks documents from journalist
Cardinal George Pell's legal team has requested documents from an ABC journalist, her book publisher and Victoria Police as the team prepares his defence against historical sexual offences, The Age reports.    
Extract from CathNews, The Age,  24 November 2017

Cardinal Pell, 76, is facing charges involving multiple complainants. Details of the charges are yet to be revealed. He has repeatedly denied the alleged offending.     Before the Cardinal was charged by Victoria Police in June, a book by ABC journalist Louise Milligan titled Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell was published.    At an administrative hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday, Ms Milligan was called on to provide documents relating to her book and the allegations in it.  The ABC and Melbourne University Press, which published the book, were also requested to provide documents, along with Victoria Police.     Defence counsel Ruth Shann said Cardinal Pell's team had been provided with some of the documents, and were awaiting other papers.    The court was not told why the documents were being sought.    Cardinal Pell was not in court yesterday as his defence team, prosecutors and lawyers for Victoria Police discussed the documents with magistrate Belinda Wallington.   The parties are due to return to court next month to continue discussing the release of the documents.   Melbourne University Press withdrew Ms Milligan's book from Victorian stores when Cardinal Pell was charged.    The Cardinal is due to front the court in March for a committal hearing, which will determine whether he stands trial.   Up to 50 witnesses could be called during that hearing, which is expected to run over four weeks....(more)
Brennan appointed to religious freedom panel
Extract from CathNews, 23 November 2017   
Jesuit priest and lawyer Fr Frank Brennan has been appointed to a panel tasked with reviewing protections for religious freedom in the wake of the same-sex marriage vote, the ABC reports.  The panel is to be chaired by former attorney-general Philip Ruddock, and will also include Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher and former Federal Court judge Annabelle Bennett.     The bill to legalise same-sex marriage contains provisions so that ministers of religion cannot be forced to conduct same-sex marriages, but some MPs have raised concerns these provisions do not go far enough.    Ministers have been at odds over whether religious protections should be dealt with this year, as amendments to the same-sex marriage legislation, or delayed until 2018.    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now asked Mr Ruddock to conduct the review of religious freedoms and report back by the end of March next year.....(more)    Photo: CathNews CSSA
Victoria's upper house passes assisted dying bill
Extract from CathNews, 23 November 2017
Voluntary euthanasia is poised to become legal in Victoria after an assisted dying bill passed the upper house yesterday following a marathon debate, The Age reports.      The bill passed with 22 votes to 18 in a conscience vote, after a 28-hour sitting that began on Tuesday afternoon and ended just after 4pm yesterday.        Victoria now looks set to become the first Australian state to legalise euthanasia or assisted suicide and the only jurisdiction in the country to have enacted such legislation since the federal government repealed the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1997.           The bill will allow terminally ill patients of sound mind with a life expectancy of six months or less to end their lives by taking a lethal drug prescribed by a doctor. Where a patient is unable to take the drug themselves, a doctor may be permitted to administer it.       That timeframe will be extended to 12 months for people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Motor Neurone Disease.   The scheme is scheduled to begin in June 2019.....(more)   
First opening of Christ's tomb in centuries documented using new media
Extract from The Tablet, Catholic News Service, 23 November 2017
National Geographic Explorer set up cameras inside the shrine, hanging above the tomb, to capture the moment when the slabs were lifted.   In 2016, when renovations around the site believed to protect the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem were underway, religious leaders agreed to the temporary removal of the marble slab covering the tomb so that restorers could install a moisture barrier to protect it. It would mark the first opening of the space in perhaps centuries.      team from National Geographic, which had been at the site to document the restoration, was allowed, during a relatively short window of time, to document the opening of tomb, in words, photos and video. National Geographic noted the interest by the number of clicks on the story and images the team posted about those 60 hours, which appeared on its website, not its iconic magazine, because of its immediacy....(more)  Photo: The Tablet
Catholic Church 2020 Plenary Council: bishops must tap into the grassroots without delay
Extracts from Peter Wilkinson, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue website, 20 November 2017
The Catholic Church in Australia is in the midst of a massive and existential crisis, the greatest in its history. The Catholic bishops have responded by proposing a Plenary Council in 2020. They say it will no longer be “business as usual” and have promised to consult the whole Church. But no changes to business as usual and no consultation plans have been announced, and no guarantees given that every bishop will buy in.       The consultation must begin without delay and start at the grassroots.      If Pope Francis approves, around 260-300 Catholic men and women, but mainly bishops and other clerics, will gather in a cathedral some day in 2020 to begin the 5th Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia.         This Council is coming after years of vacillating by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. They chose a plenary (national) council because this is the traditional forum for Church leaders to wrestle with contemporary issues in the light of the Gospel and respond in terms of faith, morals, governance, discipline and worship..... There is no question that consultation must begin at the grassroots, at assemblies in the local parishes where Catholics are most at ease and feel the greatest sense of belonging and community. It is here that every diocesan bishop must commit to engage with his people, and there should be no delay in getting it underway, preferably close to Easter 2018........(full paper and proposal here)
Peter Wilkinson is a member of Catholics for Renewal. He authored a 2011 report Catholic Parish Ministry in Australia: Facing Disaster?  and a 2011 study Catholic Synods in Australia: 1844-2011.  He is a missiologist and former Columban missionary priest.
Supporting the pope and his vision for reform
Reform-minded Catholics should ask God to bless Francis with good health and Benedict XVI with continued long life.              Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Letter From Rome, subscription jouurnal La Croix International, 17 November 2017
Whenever those of us who are known as Vatican-watchers are asked to give a talk on the pontificate, an enthusiastic supporter of Pope Francis who is in the audience inevitably raises this multi-part question:     “How is the pope’s health; who is the leading candidate to succeed him; and how likely is it that the successor will continue his policies for Church reform?”     This past week before a group in the Archdiocese of Detroit called, “Elephants in the Living Room”, that question came up again. It was to be expected.    The “Elephants” were founded in 2003 by a group of Detroit priests and quickly expanded to include many lay people who support their efforts to promote Church reform and renewal.          These people, like most Catholics around the world, really like the current pope and all the creative and exciting ways he is trying to bring their Church alive and make it dynamic. They are not confused by his teachings or his challenging efforts to help all the baptized become more personally responsible for their lives of faith as adult disciples of Jesus Christ.    But they sense that many bishops and priests are lukewarm or even hostile towards the pope. And this worries them.      How does a Vatican observer answer their questions and concerns about what might happen after Francis is no longer the Bishop of Rome?    First of all, it might be helpful to start out by quickly noting this fact: Francis has now served as pope longer than St John XXIII.....(source).   Photo: Subscription journmal La Croix International.
Yes-voting Muslims push minority solidarity
Extract from Irfan Yusuf, Ereka Street, 16 November 2017
Let's be honest. Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — find any behaviour outside what they deem the sexual norm to be a fundamental threat to family and community.      Muslim LGBTQI advocateThat doesn't stop Jews, Christians and Muslims from being gay, lesbian, bisexual etc. It also doesn't stop some religious leaders from overcoming their moral qualms and embracing LGBTIQ parishioners. But the fact remains that a fair few devout folk, as well as not-so-devout bigots, will take all lawful steps to stop the lawful recognition of same sex marriage.    Notwithstanding all the obstacles, despite the No folk having virtually the entire Newscorp press on side, Aussies expressed an overwhelming wish to have parliament change the definition of marriage to include Adam and Steve.     Most Aussies, but not all. I strongly doubt my mum voted Yes. A majority of her Sydney electorate of Bennelong, which has a huge South and East Asian population, voted No. Western Sydney electorates, including Parramatta, Reid and Blaxland, home to large Middle Eastern communities (both Christian and Muslim) voted No.     It wasn't just conservative Sydney Anglicans, Catholics or the Australian Christian Lobby that encouraged people to vote No. During the month of Muharram, sacred to Shia Muslims, the No message was being handed out at mosques and spoken from the pulpits....(more)  Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney based lawyer and blogger.
Ballarat Parish Priest speaks about his journey through the Royal Commission
Extract from Media Release, Truth, Justice Healing Copuncl. 16 Noveber 2017   
Fr Peter Sherman, West Ballarat parish priest, has spoken confrontingly about his journey over the past five years as the Royal Commission has exposed the shocking extent of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.       Speaking at a community gathering at Emmaus Catholic Primary School in Ballarat earlier this month Fr Sherman told a group of more than 100 local school parents, staff and community members of the challenges he has faced as he has tried to come to terms with the abuse crisis.      “If I want to see change within the church, then I know that I also need to have change within myself. A change of mind and heart,” he told the gathering.       “And this asks of me to continually return to the grand tradition of the person and the story of Jesus Christ.      “My faith is not in the Church. My faith is in Jesus Christ.  This relationship I must nurture above all, this is what gives me hope and sustains my faith.”    Fr Sherman spoke about what he has done within the Parish to rebuild trust for faith filled communities....(more)

SSM: 'Australians have voted Yes for love and fairness,' says PM Malcolm Turnbull
Extracts from political correspondent Louise Yaxley, ABC News, 15 November 2017
Malcolm Turnbull says it is time for MPs to "get on with it" and make same-sex marriage legal, after the Yes vote "overwhelmingly" won the national postal survey.     Almost 80 cent of Australians voted, and 61.6 per cent of respondents said gay and lesbian people should be able to marry.     The strongest vote was in the ACT, where 74 per cent of responses were for yes, followed by Victoria with 65 per cent, then Tasmania and WA with 64 per cent.    New South Wales had the lowest Yes vote with 58 per cent of people backing change and 42 per cent opposing it.      The Prime Minister declared that Australians had "voted Yes for love" and said it was now up to Parliament to "get on with it".    "It is up to us here in the Parliament of Australia to get on with it, get on with the job the Australian people have tasked us to do and get this done. This year, before Christmas — that must be our commitment," he said soon after the result was announced.....(more)

Any change to marriage law must include protections for religious freedom
Extract from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Media and Communications Office, Wednesday 15 November 2017
Today, the results of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey are in: 61.6 per cent of Australians have voted to legalise same-sex marriage with 7.8 million people responding Yes, and 4.9 million voting No. An estimated 79 per cent of Australians took part in the vote.     In light of today’s release of the results, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart released a statement on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Archdiocese of Melbourne.     ‘Parliament must work to unify Australians by respecting different views on marriage. The Catholic Church, and many others who sought to retain the definition of marriage as it has been understood for centuries, continues to view marriage as a special union between a woman and a man, which allows for the creation and nurture of children,’ Archbishop Hart said.    ‘A change in civil law does not change the Catholic understanding of the nature of marriage.   ‘The Catholic Church continues to respect the dignity of LGBTIQ Australians and our ministries will continue to care deeply about the dignity and value of all people we encounter.   ‘Parliamentarians must recognise and respect the concerns of the more than 4.8 million Australians who opposed a change to the definition of marriage by putting in place strong conscience and religious freedom protections....(more)

Pope Francis reaffirms primacy of conscience amid criticism of ‘Amoris Laetitia’
Extract from Nicole Winfield Associated Press, America Jesuit Review, 11 November 2017
Vatican City (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday reaffirmed the “primacy” of using one’s conscience to navigate tough moral questions in his first comments since he was publicly accused of spreading heresy by emphasizing conscience over established church teaching.     Francis issued a video message to a conference organized by Italian bishops on his controversial 2016 document on family life, ”Amoris Laetitia” or “The Joy of Love.” Francis told the conference that priests must inform Catholic consciences “but not replace them.” And he stressed the distinction between one’s conscience—where God reveals himself—and one’s ego that thinks it can do as it pleases.    “The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which must always be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of an individual with respect to his or her relations,” Francis said.    Pope Francis said that priests must inform Catholic consciences “but not replace them.”     Francis reaffirmed the centrality of “The Joy of Love” as the church’s guide to Catholic couples today trying to navigate complicated family situations.....(more)  Photo. America jesuit Review, (Tony Gentile/Pool Photo via AP)   
Pope Francis under attack
Edited Extract from Bruce Duncan, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 13 November 2017
Despite his immense popularity among most Catholics and many others, not just Christians, Pope Francis is meeting increasing opposition and outspoken criticism, even from some cardinals and bishops, as well as from some prominent academics and writers.   Contention centres on his views on the pastoral implications of moral theology on divorce and remarriage, and strident opposition to his criticisms of how the international economy generates such extreme wealth and inequality. Stung by his criticisms, the very wealthy in the United States in particular have been pouring billions of dollars into right-wing think tanks and networks to discount Church teaching on social justice.        Criticism of popes is not new in the Catholic world. Pope John XXIII lamented in the 1960s the opposition and ‘disobedience’ of his directions in the Vatican curia and among some bishops. Pope Paul VI also faced criticism of his handling of the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reforms, his Ostpolitik and dialogue with communist governments, his enlightened social initiatives, and of course the consternation following Humane Vitae.....(more).   Bruce Duncan is a Redemptorist priest who lectures in history and social ethics at Yarra Theological Union, within Melbourne’s University of Divinity. He is one of the founders of the advocacy network, Social Policy Connections.
An ill-informed plenary council for the Catholic Church.
Extract from Peter Johnstone, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 10 November 2017
Only those in blind denial could fail to realise that the Catholic Church in Australia is now in the midst of a massive and existential crisis. It is, above all, a crisis of governance. The Catholic bishops’ main response to this crisis in Australia has been to propose a ‘Plenary Council’ for 2020. Archbishop Coleridge, appointed by his fellow bishops to guide the preparation for the council, has recently said that the Church is facing “the biggest crisis in its history”. Yet the planning for this plenary council is already suffering from the poor governance that it is supposed to address eventually in 2020. The bishops of Australia are not consulting the people of their own dioceses on the issues. Not surprisingly many Catholics continue to desert the Church as they witness the substantial problems of the Church being kicked down the road to 2020 with little prospect of solution......(more)
Francis appoints lay women to key positions
Extract from CathNews, 9 November 2017
Pope Francis has appointed two lay women – experts in bioethics and canon law – as the first two under-secretaries of the mega-dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, CNA reports.      The appointment of Dr Gabriella Gambino for the section on life and Dr Linda Ghisoni for the section on laity, announced in a Vatican communique on Tuesday, brings the leadership of the dicastery more clearly into shape after its establishment in 2016.   The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life officially began its work September 1, 2016, replacing the former Pontifical Council for the Laity and Pontifical Council for the Family, which were dissolved.    The department is responsible for projects relating to the apostolate of laity, families, and the institution of marriage, within the Church, and is responsible for the organisation of events such as the World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Dublin in August 2018.......Dr Gambino, 49, is currently a professor at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, a professor of bioethics at the Faculty of Philosophy, and a researcher and associate professor in the philosophy of law at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata.”.....Dr Ghisoni, 52, works as a judge at the First Instance Court of the Vicariate of Rome, as a professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and as a professor of law at Roma Tre University....(more). Photo: CathNews (Zenit),
Like blind Bartimaeus, the Church longs to see: Philip Wilson
Extracts from CathNews,  9 November 2017
In discussing the Church's Plenary Council 2020, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has compared the Church in Australia to the blind man Bartimaeus who asks Jesus to give him his sight and then becomes his disciple, The Southern Cross reports.       In his latest monthly video podcast, Archbishop Wilson said the Plenary Council 2020 has been a long time coming, and was a fruit of the Church's Year of Grace in 2012.      "When we ask ourselves where the Australian Catholic Church is today, the Scriptures help us to understand our situation. In the Gospel there is a story about a blind man called Bartimaeus who was lying on the side of the road and as Jesus walked by, he asked him to give him his sight. What’s interesting about this is that Bartimaeus is the only person in the Gospel cured by Jesus who immediately began to follow him as his disciple," Archbishop Wilson said.     "The Catholic Church in Australia is like Bartimaeus; we are on the side of the road, Jesus is going past, we are calling out to Jesus in our prayers and in our actions to discover what it is he wants us to see and to help us to do what we need to do to be his best disciples today.      The Plenary Council is an opportunity for the bishops to lead and to carry out the responsibility they have as the shepherds of the Church but they are asked to do that in conjunction with all the people who belong to our faith."     Archbishop Wilson said there must be a comprehensive consultation process in the lead up to Plenary 2020.       "Any process towards a plenary council that is an action of the bishops must be something that is done in consultation, and with the engagement of, all our people. I know this is right at the heart of all the people and processes that are going on now as we clear the decks and get ready for the Plenary Council."....(more, including video).  Photo: Cathnews, The Southern Cross
‘Concerned Catholics’ lobby for change
Extract from, CathNews, 8 November 2017
A group of Canberra Catholics have stepped up lobbying efforts for structural change they say will address deepening disillusion and disaffection in the Church, The Canberra Times reports.     In a move welcomed by Canberra and Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse, the Concerned Catholics group has presented a submission to senior clergy ahead of a proposed plenary council for the Church in Australia in 2020.      It calls for Church leaders to establish pastoral councils in the Canberra Archdiocese, designed to give parishioners and lay partners an opportunity to participate fully in the response to next month's final report from the landmark royal commission into responses to child sexual abuse.        The plan also calls for reforms of the Church's canon law and better promotion of the role of women in leadership positions.           The submission, provided to the chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference's Commission for the Plenary Council, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, says the Church should end a culture of everyday Catholics as "prayers, payers and those subject to outdated canon law" and says compulsory celibacy for priests should be addressed......."There's a large number spread around the archdiocese who really want to be part of a group who stirs the pot. The issues raised during the hearings and preliminary reports of the royal commission make it clear there will be plenty adverse comment about the culture and governance of the Catholic Church and many Catholics want to have their say."      Archbishop Prowse said he welcomed the "thoroughly documented" submission.    "I see it in the first instance as listening to each other, which is a great sign of respect and a sign of seeing where God is leading us. The Concerned Catholics group have been quick off the mark and I am delighted they do want to participate," he said.....(more)
New Zealand Bishops Committed to Exploring Alternative Missal Translation
Extract from Editor,  Pray Tell, November 6
A statement released from the New Zealand conference of Catholic bishops on October 26 voiced support and thanks for Pope Francis’s guidance on liturgical translations, offered in his motu proprio, Magnum principium, which they describe as a “bold directive.”      They also expressed the desire to “explore prudently and patiently the possibility of an alternative translation of the Roman Missal and the review of other liturgical texts” along with the other English speaking conferences.     The full statement (see below) is signed by the president, Bishop Patrick Dunn, and secretary, Bishop Charles Drennan, of the conference, as well as Cardinal Archbishop John Dew, who serves as an adviser to the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome, and others.....(more)  Photo: Pray Tell
Redress bill makes it to parliament
Extracts from Francis Sullivan, Truth Justice Healing Council, 3 November 2017
Well it has finally arrived! Legislation to construct a redress scheme was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament last week. This is a vital first step on what looks to be a long, but hopefully fruitful path.       This Commonwealth scheme at present is, however, limited and unsatisfactory. Only 1,000 of the projected 6,5000 victims can have access to the scheme. Clearly that is not what the Royal Commission called for, neither is it what Church leaders and others committed to.     As we have known all along the success of this scheme lies plainly with the cooperation of the state governments. Without their buy-in national coverage will be impossible.        Churches and other private institutions need the state governments to facilitate their participation in the scheme. Where those states which have previously run limited schemes remain determined to stay out of this new proposal, they can still enable private organisations within their jurisdictions to participate.     Why they would render some victims within their state as worthy of access to the new scheme and others, namely those abused in state organisations, to be denied redress is their political call.......   Institutional child sexual abuse is a national disgrace. The Commission hearings have made that plain for all to see. It is a social blight that must be addressed beyond rhetoric and hand ringing. The Catholic Church leadership has committed, more than once, to a national redress scheme. It will pay its way. It cannot join what is currently on offer and only others with the power to change things can make it possible for the all churches, non-government organisations, private institutions and state-run facilities to participate....(more).  Image TJHC
Who’s confused by the pope?     And who’s really behind all this so-called “confusion” among Catholics?   Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 3 November 2017
Fr Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin priest with an impressive academic pedigree, this week became the latest Catholic theologian to criticize Pope Francis when he published a private letter he had written to the pope some four months ago.         In his letter, dated July 31st and published this past Thursday (November 1st), the 71-year-old friar and former director of the US bishops’ secretariat for doctrine (2005-2013) accuses the current Bishop of Rome of causing “scandal” and “chronic confusion” among the baptized faithful.       In perhaps the most scathing attack of its kind, he also indicts the pope – among other things – with intentionally promoting “ambiguous teaching”, sowing disunity and committing “calumny” against doctrinally conservative theologians while giving “license and confidence” to those holding “harmful theological and pastoral views”. He also accuses Francis of “demeaning the importance of Church doctrine” and being resentful (and vindictive) towards his critics.        “To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” says Fr Weinandy.     This charge of blasphemy is arguably the most serious, considering that Jesus is recorded in Mark’s Gospel as saying, “Anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mk 3,29).        Mgr John Strynkowski, Fr Weinandy’s predecessor as the US bishop’s doctrinal office, quickly rebutted the claims the Capuchin makes in his letter to the pope.    But that was not before the president of US bishops’ conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, forced Weinandy to resign from his post as a consultant to the doctrinal secretariat and distanced the bishops from the theologian’s letter to the pope.....(source). Image: La Croix International.
Pope raises prospect of married men becoming priests
Extracts from John Phillips, The Telegraph (U.K.). 2 November 2017
Rome: Pope Francis has requested a debate over allowing married men in the Amazon region of Brazil to become priests, in a controversial move that is likely to outrage conservatives in the Church, Vatican sources say.      The pontiff took the decision to put a partial lifting of priestly celibacy up for discussion and a possible vote by Brazilian bishops following a request made by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the president of  the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, Il Messaggero newspaper quoted the sources saying.    Cardinal Hummes reportedly asked Francis to consider ordaining so-called viri probati, married men of great faith, capable of ministering spiritually to the many remote communities in the Amazon where there is a shortage of priests, and evangelical Christians and pagan sects are displacing Catholicism.   The cardinal's request has been echoed by Monsignor Erwin Krautler, the secretary of the Episcopal Commission. He has also suggested that the bishops attending the synod in 2019 on the Amazon, now being prepared in Rome, should consider ordaining women deacons as priests....Francis said earlier this year that the Church should consider allowing married men to become priests in specific circumstances, effectively reversing the centuries-old practice that Roman Catholic priests must be celibate....There are already a limited number of married priests within the Catholic Church, including married Anglican ministers who defected to Rome, some Coptic Catholics and members of some Eastern rite Catholic churches.      The Pope has said that while he remains in favour of celibacy for priests, the principle is part of the discipline of the Church, rather than dogma, meaning that it can be discussed.     Monsignor Giacomo Canobbio, a leading Italian theologian, added that “the fact of having a wife or children does not limit at all working in a parish.”...(more)
Church can make errors of judgment: Nichols
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that the Church’s infallibility does not protect it from “errors of judgment”, the Catholic Herald reports.      Extract from CathNews, 2 November 2017
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Tuesday, the Archbishop of Westminster was asked by the presenter, Sarah Montague, about conflict within the Church over issues such as Communion for the remarried.       Cardinal Nichols, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, replied: “There is no doubt there is tension within the Catholic Church, but one of its great strengths is that we have a Pope – and we have a Pope who can say yes or no and then give you a hug.”      Ms Montague then suggested: “And is infallible.”     Cardinal Nichols replied: “The gift of infallibility is something that Christ gives to the Church which is expressed through the Pope. Now, that means that we will never, as it were, drift so far from the core revelation of God in Jesus as to get in a total mess. It does not protect us from every error of judgment, particularly in a conflictual situation.”    In 1997, the Vatican’s then doctrinal chief Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that it was not quite true that “the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope”; rather, “Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”....(more)  Photo: CathNews, CNS
Reformation commemoration an 'ecumenical camino’
A national commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on Tuesday has been described as an “ecumenical camino” by Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse, The Southern Cross reports.        Extract from CathNews, 2 Nov 2017
Hundreds of Catholics and Lutherans took part in the day-long program of events in Adelaide marking the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 theses in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.        Archbishop Prowse, who is chairman of the Bishops Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations, said the commemoration of the Lutheran Reformation was historic at a national and international level.    “It was wonderfully planned and beautifully brought together – I would describe it as an ecumenical camino,” Archbishop Prowse told The Southern Cross after he and Bishop John Henderson of the Lutheran Church of Australia signed a declaration of unity between the two churches.      “It’s been a journey not just today but also in terms of the future and the gratitude we have for all that has taken place to get to this point.    “There is a deep sense of repentance and regret for the terrible ways we have treated each other in the past.”       Referring to the impact of Vatican II and the Joint Declaration on Justification in 1999, Archbishop Prowse said it was as if an “impulse of the Holy Spirit” had taken over in the past five decades and a great deal had been achieved in a relatively short time.   In a presentation on the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue prior to the signing of the declaration, Rev Dr Dean Zweck, Emeritus co-chair of the Dialogue, echoed the bishop’s sentiments.     “Fifty 50 years ago, who would have thought Lutherans and Catholics would sit together in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” he said.    “Surely this is the work of Jesus Christ in our midst.”....(more) Photo: CathNews, Ben McMahon
Francis' correction of Sarah shows Vatican II is his 'sure compass'
Extract from Richard Gaillardetz, National Catholic Reporter, 31 October 2017
Vatican:       Pope Francis' letter to Cardinal Robert Sarah, correcting him on the procedures now in force for producing liturgical translations, has been both praised and denounced as an ecclesiastical "slap down." The publication of this letter, however, is an occasion for neither right-wing handwringing nor left-wing schadenfreude.     This is not about ecclesiastical one-upmanship. It is simply one more example of Francis' consistent determination to implement the vision of the Second Vatican Council. If his actions continue to surprise us, it is because, five decades out, there remains a substantial gap between the council's reformist agenda and its concrete realization in the life of the church. Let's begin with a little background.     This imbroglio has its remote origins in the momentous decision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) to give regional episcopal conferences, sometimes singly and sometimes banding together, primary responsibility for producing vernacular translations of liturgical texts. This was the common practice for more than three decades.      However, in 2001, the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued Liturgiam Authenticam, a document that shifted much of the responsibility for these translations away from episcopal conferences and back to the Vatican.      The revised translation process included a line-by-line Vatican assessment of all liturgical translations, often resulting in the imposition of thousands of amendments to the submitted translation. Liturgiam Authenticam also called for a much stricter "fidelity" to the original Latin text.     Unfortunately, the price of this stricter fidelity was often a diminishment in the texts' intelligibility and "prayability." In the English-speaking world, this problematic new procedure yielded the much-criticized 2011 English edition of the Roman Missal.      Enter Pope Francis.....(more)  Photo: NCR, CNS/Rhina Guidos
A mate's take on Rudd’s call to arms
Kevin Rudd is back. Last week he was blitzing the country with a whirlwind book tour, having flown in from New York where he continues his post-prime-ministerial life as President of the Asia Society. He is promoting volume one of his autobiography entitled Not for the Faint-hearted. I caught up with him at Australian National University where he met in conversation with Stan Grant in front of a large crowd.
Brief extract from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street,  29 October 2017
.........Having worshipped more with the Anglicans than with the Catholics once he married Thérèse, Rudd says his experience of Christianity 'has had very little to do with denominations of any form'. Rudd has exemplified nationally and internationally that 'there is a space for faith, tempered by reason, in the public place, and that those of us who are of faith should unapologetically engage in the public debate, in particular arguing the case for those without a political voice of their own, be they the poor of the human family or the distress of the planet itself.'       He acknowledges 'the simple truth' that 'Christianity no longer represents a shared epistemology for the common deliberations of a secular parliament, if in fact it ever did'. He concedes that 'the ethical views I might derive from faith must equally be explicable in the absence of some mystical recourse to divine revelation'......(more)       Frank Brennan SJ is the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia.  Photo:  Eureka Street,   
Dissent and consensus in the era of Pope Francis: petitions are not the answer
The Catholic Church is a Church of tradition and reception, not of petitions. Only with the passage of time will we be able to verify if the teaching of "Amoris Laetitia" has been received or not.     Extract from Massimo Faggioli, subscription joirnal La Croix International, 30 October 2017
How do people who believe the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was a period of great turmoil see the current situation of discord in the Catholic Church?      “Post-conciliar period” is a term that has become so vague as to be almost useless now. The transition from Benedict XVI to Francis is part of the post-Vatican II period, as was the pontificate of Paul VI and that of John Paul II.    Was one of these post-Vatican II periods more turbulent than the others?      The most obvious temptation in this situation is not just to take sides – all of us do, consciously or not – but to form a party. That is one of the reasons why I declined to sign the  “Pro-Francis petition”, among whose signatories there are theologians I greatly admire, such as Thomas Halik and Paul Zuhlener. The petition is a reaction to the “Filial Correction” against Pope Francis’ "heresies".     I wonder what non-Catholics and non-Christians make of this. Interestingly, there is also a sub-petition posted by, which claims to be “The World’s Platform for Change”. The website of the organization lists the address of the recipient of the petition: “Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis”.       This collection of petitions is serious, but it predates Pope Francis by at least a generation. It is helpful to revisit the afterword that Yves Congar OP wrote for the second edition of his seminal book, True and False Reform in the Church (1950), which was published just after the social uprising and students’ revolt in France in May-June 1968.  The famous French Dominican argued that “the council [Vatican II] was not responsible” for the social and theological upheaval, although he also said it was “true that the council opened up the Church to facing problems”.      Congar said the Church had to understand how to deal with revolt and dissent. And he put forth five criteria for doing so.      “There are certain things that the expression of protest can never do in the Church,” he wrote........Given this situation, it’s perfectly understandable why many of us would want to show support for the pope in all possible ways. But there are at least two reasons why it is a mistake to start an online theological war of petitions.        The first reason relates to ecclesial politics. Francis is the only legitimate pope (there is no dual papacy in the Catholic Church, despite what some may think) and a petition supporting him can hurt only his pontificate. The anti-Amoris and anti-Francis front needs to admit how few they really are. The burden is on them to count the exact numbers; all other Catholics embrace Francis as the pope and see no heresy in his teachings. A petition in favor of the pope risks giving the impression that the support for him is smaller, or more elitist or more geographically defined than what it actually is....(more) 
Disappointing response to Vatican's unprecedented youth survey
The online questionnaire in preparation for the Synod of Bishops' assembly on young people in October 2018 has received fewer responses than expected.      Limited Extract from Gauthier Vaillant, subscription journal La Croix Internatiomnal, 26 October 2017
More than 4 months ago the Vatican posted an online international poll for people 16-29 years of age. It was part of preparations for the Synod of Bishops' ordinary assembly, which is focusing on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment" and is to take place in Rome in October 2018.           The direct consultation was unprecedented for the Vatican. It was meant to take place in parallel with the contributions from bishops' conferences from each country around the world.....(source)
Panel of church leaders discuss child sexual abuse crisis and way forward for Catholic Church
Edited Extract from Media Release, Truth, Justice, Healing Council, 25 October 2017
A community forum at the Yarra Theological Union in Box Hill Melbourne earlier this month heard three respected Church leaders talk about the impact of the child sexual abuse crisis on the Church and the Catholic community.  The 300 - strong forum heard from Parramatta Bishop, Vincent Long, Director of Catholic Education in the Sale diocese, Maria Kirkwood and the CEO of the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan.            Parramatta Bishop, Vincent Long, a past student at the Union, spoke about the continuing danger of clericalism and the way in which it undermines the mission of Christ. “We must not divert from the task of listening, conversing and understanding each other in the spirit of mutual trust,” Bishop Long said.  “A healthier Church is not possible until its leaders have reclaimed the core Gospel values of powerlessness , vulnerability and servant leadership. These are not just private virtues but the antidote to the disease of clericalism. Much of what is unhealthy with the Church today stems from the travesty of Christian leadership and service.  “As far as I am concerned the sexual abuse crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. We must look for factors within this very culture of the church which have contributed to and aided and abetted , the sexual abuse crisis,” Bishop Long said.         Maria Kirkwood, Director of Catholic Education in the Sale diocese, spoke about the need for gr e ater inclusion within the decision making structures of the Church. “Inclusion needs to be absolute. Not just the inclusion of those who are deemed to be safe and the exclusion of those who are th ought to be trouble. It really doesn’t mean limited inclusion. It cannot mean the token female, the token young person, the token gay, the token married person. “ Collaboration immediately falls apart if we ignore the concept of authentic, honest, dare I say, even dangerous inclusion,” Ms Kirkwood said.        Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council , gave a summary of major learnings from the Royal Commission including the extent of the abuse and cover up within the Church over the past decades. He said factors including misused power and authority, failed governance and secrecy contributed to the crisis. Mr Sullivan said one of the major reasons for the crisis was the failure of moral leadership within the Church.     TJHC Media Release Here
Playing second fiddle to Magda on marriage
Extract from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 24 October 2017
........On the day the show was to go to air, the producers asked that we keep our answers to one minute in length. I replied, 'I will be very happy to play second fiddle to Magda.' I wanted my presence to assist a respectful dialogue on the panel and in the audience. I wanted to make it clear that a thinking and compassionate Catholic could have good reasons for voting yes. I wanted to insist that respect and endorsement of loving same sex relationships did not preclude consideration of issues such as freedom of religion.         I enjoyed the program and have been hugely flattered and affirmed by a lot of the feedback I have received. The downside has been the vile vitriol posted on my Facebook page and the nasty messages left with my staff and religious superiors. They make the Wik debate look like a walk in the park. The more vitriolic critics seem most upset that a Catholic priest would have the temerity to claim that a Catholic could vote yes. Archbishop Mark Coleridge, an eminent scripture scholar and vice president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, made the position clear when pressed by David Speers on Sky News a month ago. The archbishop said:        'Catholics, we're a big mob. Anyone who thinks we're monolithic does not know the Catholic Church. It's like herding cats. Catholics are going to vote yes, some are going to vote no, some are not going to vote at all. Some are going to vote yes for one reason, some for another; ditto with no. To think of a Catholic vote all going one way is just naïve. Of course, it's possible to vote yes. It depends why you vote yes. It's possible to vote no but equally it depends why you vote no. And we've seen some awful stuff on both sides of the debate, or all sides of the debate, because there aren't just two sides As a Catholic you can vote yes or you can vote no. I personally will vote no but for quite particular reasons. But I'm not going to stand here and say you vote no; and you vote yes and you're a Catholic, you'll go to hell. It's not like that.'              He's right that it's not like that. That's why I was happy to play second fiddle to Szubanski indicating why I am voting yes, and  what I expect of my politicians when it comes to voting on a law to extend civil recognition to all committed relationships of couples in the name of equality and with the name 'marriage'. This has to be about extending respect to all. Ultimately respect can be given only to those who show respect. We now need to ensure that the law accords that respect to all couples and to all religions. Let's get it done.....(more)  Photo: Eureka Street, rank Brennan and Magda Szubanski following their appearance on Q&A.                                                                 Frank Brennan SJ is the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia.
A Pope who is not afraid of open discussion and even dissent in the Church
Extract from Fr Noel Connolly SSC, Columban eBulletin, 25 October 2017
Pope Francis is an unusual Pope who is bringing real change to the church by encouraging open discussion and refusing to silence dissent. In fact, he has said, “Open and fraternal debate makes theological and pastoral thought grow…. That doesn’t frighten me. What’s more, I look for it.” Many people would like to see him clarify matters and crack down on dissent but Francis is patient and wants people to speak their minds because he believes in a synodal church. He trusts that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the right direction.     Pope Francis talking to the Bishops before the first session of the Synod on the Family told them, “You need to say all that you feel with parrhesia” [boldly, candidly and without fear]. “And at the same time, you should listen with humility and accept with an open heart what your brothers say.”....(more)    Fr Noel Connolly SSC is a lecturer in Missiology at both the Broken Bay Institute and the Catholic Institute of Sydney.

What Makes Australia’s Catholic Bishops Tick?
The Catholic Church is a clerical institution. Bishops are the top rung of the clergy. Where do they come from? What are they like? What is their future?       Edited Extract from Eric Hodgens, Pearls and  Irritations, John Menadue website, 25 August 2017
Bishops are: A very small proportion worldwide (5,000 out of 1.2 billion Catholics); All powerful in their own diocese; Yet, very constrained by law and custom.          Christianity started as a charismatic movement of Jews who were captivated by the preaching and healing of Jesus of Nazareth and looked forward to what Jesus called the kingdom of God. They came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead and foreshadowed life for all who believed in him. Faith, therefore, was a personal commitment to Jesus who was, in their view, the promised messiah of Jewish tradition.     The movement spread beyond Jewish confines and caught on in Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt – and even Rome. As it spread, it developed its own organisation much along the lines of a Jewish synagogue. The leaders who emerged were called bishops – literally overseers.       Then the emperor Constantine took the movement under his wing, canonised its scriptures and supervised its development from being a charismatic movement to being a religion with doctrines and rules. A fairly simple movement became a state-endorsed, highly organised clerical institution. This made bishops very powerful.    What had started as a matter of the heart became one of the head and has stayed that way – up till now.   Vatican II began to change the faith balance more in favour of personal encounter than acceptance of teachings; more heart than head; more existentialist than essentialist. After centuries of head over heart, this change of balance has alarmed some Catholics who are more at home with the certainty of propositions than the flux of encounter – especially if they are by nature doctrinaire or ideological..........(more)

Pope tells Sarah power is indeed shifting from Rome to the bishops
Extract from, Crux Staff. Crux. 22 October 2017
In a rare move, Pope Francis has issued a public letter to one of his own cardinals correcting his interpretation of one of the pontiff's decisions. In a missive dated Oct. 15, Francis tells Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, head of the Vatican's liturgical department, that the pope's recent document 'Magnum Principium' does indeed mean a power shift away from Rome and toward local bishops' conferences.     Sarah heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, making him in effect the pope’s top liturgical official.    “It’s important to clarify that a judgment about fidelity to the Latin original [of liturgical translations] and necessary changes was the competence of the congregation, while now the norm concedes to the bishops’ conferences the faculty to judge the goodness and the coherence of various terms in the translations from the original, although in dialogue with the Holy See,” Francis wrote to Sarah.     “The process of translating the relevant liturgical texts … should not lead to a spirit of ‘imposition’ on the bishops’ conferences of a translation carried out by the congregation, because that would offend the rights of bishops sanctioned in Church law.”    Noting that a commentary by Sarah on Magnum Principium had been published on several Catholic news sites, Francis directed the Guinean cardinal to send his letter to the same sites and also to relay it to all bishops’ conferences and the members of consulters of his own Vatican department.     Francis issued Magnum Principium in early September, and it was immediately seen as a significant reversal of tendencies under St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI to concentrate control over liturgical translation in Rome, and, in particular, in the Vatican congregation now led by Sarah.....(more).  Photo: Cardinal Robert Sarah Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Crux,  Bohumil Petrik CNA
Those pesky privileges: A question for critics of ‘Amoris Laetitia’
However uncommon in practice, the Pauline and Petrine Privileges demonstrate the tension between the Church’s actual tradition and the rigorists’ cut-and-dry reading of the Gospel.
Limited Extract from Matthew Boudway, subscription journa; La Croix International, 21 October 2017
In a brief commentary in the Catholic Thing, Fr Gerald E. Murray rebukes Cathleen Kaveny and Fr. Anthony Spadaro, S. J., for contradicting the “plain meaning” of Christ’s teaching about divorce and remarriage at a recent conference on Amoris Laetitia.       Murray, a canon lawyer, has been a vocal critic of Amoris Laetitia since its publication, and his criticism of Kaveny and Spadaro is really just an extension of his earlier criticism of Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper. Responding to Kaveny’s claim that “we do not need to disturb Jesus’ teaching in order to refine and develop it", Murray writes: Jesus’ teaching cannot be disturbed…but it can be ignored or falsified. The admittance of invalidly married couples to Holy Communion is not a refinement or development of that teaching, it is a betrayal. One can claim to uphold a teaching by refining and developing it in a way that totally changes its meaning, but such a claim is false.....(more)   Image: La Croix International, Christ Speaking to the Disciples, from The Story of Christ (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Grace M. Pugh)
Extract from Zac Davis,  America. The Jesuit Review, 19 October 2017
August 15 marked two important events for New York-area Catholics this year. It was the feast of the Assumption of Mary. It was also the start of the Subway Series between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. The Diocese of Bridgeport decided to celebrate both, with an event billed as “Baseball with the Bishop,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Young adults of the diocese were invited to attend the game. The group began the evening with Mass in Bridgeport, Conn., before boarding a charter bus bound for the Bronx.     In Yankee Stadium, section 427 is filled with young adults, who are cheering on their ball club alongside other young men sporting Roman collars. Bishop Frank Caggiano has come down with an illness and is nowhere to be found (as a Mets fan, perhaps the thought of being in Yankee Stadium was the cause). But none of the young adults in attendance seem to mind. There is a sense that they will see him another time.     In the top of the ninth, the Yankees have a one-run lead and one out to go, but John Grosso’s focus is divided between the game and telling me how much he loves working for his boss—Bishop Caggiano. “Working with him is an absolute joy. He loves the church, and he loves young people—and he’s so good with young people because he’s a real person,” Grosso says. Grosso is the director of social media for the Diocese of Bridgeport. As a 20-something himself, his perspective is helpful for determining what style of ministry might be useful for young people. As we talk, his eyes dart back and forth between me and the batter’s box. “Our goal is to make ourselves a little bit vulnerable, by putting ourselves out there in situations where you wouldn’t expect to see the church.” Like at a Major League Baseball game.       This type of outreach can be effective: Tanya Adler, 20, came to the game in response to an invitation. She motions toward her friends, Rich and John Kelly. “Yeah, we’re baseball fans, and we heard this announced after Mass and thought it would be cool to come out and meet the bishop.” The Kellys are brothers; one is a graduate of Fairfield Prep and the other is beginning his senior year there. Adler was raised Protestant, but she attended Catholic schools and goes to Mass occasionally with the Kelly family. Though she is not Catholic, she feels a pull to be more involved in church. “I’m not as active as I should be in a parish,” Ms. Adler said. “But it’s a work in progress. I’ll get there.”             At 24, I am well within the demographics that are of interest to John Grosso and his team, and I certainly understand what it means to be a spiritual work in progress. I go to Mass (most) weekends, try my best to pray during the week and have a small faith-sharing community in my parish that sustains me. But I wonder if I am a success story. I have spent plenty of time parish shopping—it took me a while to find a sacramental home. I have been the youngest person in the pews too many times. I can no longer count the number of churches I have walked in and out of without anyone saying hello and asking what my name was, or if I was new.....(more)  Photo: The Jesuit Review.
Historic euthanasia laws pass Victoria’s lower house after marathon sitting
Extract from Melbourne Catholic, Benjamin Preiss & Noel Towell,The Age, Friday 20 October 2017
Historic voluntary euthanasia laws have passed Victoria's lower house after MPs endured a marathon sitting overnight and well into Friday morning.   The legislation will now head to Parliament's upper house with assisted dying supporters hopeful they have the numbers to pass the momentous laws.  Victoria will be the first state in Australia to offer an assisted dying regime if the legislation is passed.    Exhausted MPs sat through a gruelling session as opponents moved hundreds of amendments in an effort to delay the passage of the bill.   Deputy Premier James Merlino a fierce opponent of the government's bid to legalise a strictly monitored euthanasia scheme, had proposed an amendment that would have killed off the bill, long-championed by Labor as a flagship policy.   All amendments were defeated.   The bill passed with 47 votes for and 37 votes against about 11.20am.   Debate over the divisive bill began at 9.30am on Thursday. It continued throughout the night, pausing only for two short 30-minute breaks.....(more).
Pope: If world insists on success, then make life more just, humane
Extract from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, Friday 20 October 2017
Do not fall for the allure of money, which can enslave and alienate like a cult, Pope Francis told business school students.      ‘And it is also important that you be able to learn today the strength and courage to not blindly obey the invisible hand of the market,’ he said.     Pope Francis arrives for an audience with a group of students from a private Catholic school, "Institution des Chartreux," in Lyon, France, at the Vatican on 19 October.      The pope spoke on 19 October at the Vatican to a group of students from a private Catholic school, ‘Institution des Chartreux,’ in Lyon, France. They are preparing for higher education in business and finance.     The pope said he was pleased they were receiving an education that touched on the ‘human, philosophical and spiritual’ dimensions of life and said these aspects would be essential for their future professional life.    ‘Learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery’ that befalls those who ‘turn it into a cult,’ he said.     He called on them to promote and defend more fairness and to manage the world's resources adequately and justly.     ‘You are able to decide your future,’ he said, urging them to feel and become more responsible for the world and human life.        ‘Never forget that every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and diminishes your very dignity,’ he said.      ‘Even if this world expects that you strive for success, give yourselves the means and the time to follow paths of fraternity, to build bridges between people rather than walls’ and to take part in the building of a more just and human world, he said.....(more)    Photo: Melbourne Catholic. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano) 
Census shows Catholic numbers falling sharply in Ireland
The data shows a 74 per cent increase in young people saying they have 'no religion'.
Extract from Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet,  19 October 2017
New census data in the Republic of Ireland has shown that the proportion of Catholics fell by almost six percentage points between 2011 and 2016, when the figure stood at 78.3 per cent of the population.   The report also reveals that people who say they have no religion are the fastest growing part of the Irish population, with a 74 per cent increase to 481,388 in 2016. The group makes up about ten percent of the population, and has an average age of 34 years.     The impact of the ‘new Irish’ is indicated by the sizeable proportion they play in the overall Catholic population. People born outside Ireland account for 12% of the total number. The overall population of the country in April 2016 was 4,761,865.    Commenting on the changing religious demography revealed by the latest census results, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the figures showed “a significant drop” in the number of those who consider themselves Catholic.   In his homily for the Brazilian community on the Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida, the Archbishop of Dublin said the most significant aspect of the findings was the drop in young people who consider themselves Catholic and the corresponding growth among people of the same age group who registered as having no religion.    Warning that much of the discussion about renewal in the Irish Church focused on structures and the role of priests and religious, Dr Martin said the crisis in the Irish church was not about numbers and structures but about faith and witness to faith.    “None of our structures will survive if we do not find ways of witnessing to faith in Jesus Christ as something vital and attractive for the young men and women of our modern society. The census results indicate that the Church in Ireland is not being successful in that,” he said.    According to the census figures, Church of Ireland numbers decreased by two per cent since 2011, to 126,414 members in 2016, with an average age of just over 40 years, three years above the average for the general population.    Both the Muslim and Jewish populations grew by 28.9 per cent. Other religions to experience significant increases were Orthodox Christians and members of the Apostolic and Pentecostal churches.....(more)
Methodist experience in closing congregations offers lessons to Catholics
Extract from Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter, 19 October 2017
Been there, done that.   Massive consolidation of Catholic parishes has a familiar ring to mainstream Protestants who have been shedding congregations since the 1970s.     Frequently Christian churches celebrate starting new congregations, reaping the benefits of growing, alive churches.   "But we have to have an equal conversation about how do we close existing congregations," Darryl Stephens, director of United Methodist Studies at the Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, told NCR.   Stephens, a United Methodist pastor as well as theologian, has written extensively about the best way to close congregations.     Catholic dioceses, such as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Hartford and, most recently, Pittsburgh, now considering consolidating 188 parishes into 48 groupings, are relative newcomers to the process of closing churches.     The buzzword among Protestant leaders is "congregational vitality," an idea popularized by evangelicals who promoted the idea of "affinity churches," in which new members are added via the outreach efforts of established members. The focus is on evangelizing among friends and neighbors. The paradigm has been "you contact the people you know," said Stephens.     It proved successful, particularly among more conservative members who gravitated towards social networks in suburbs across the U.S. Some argued that mainstream churches were unable to keep pace because they became too liberal. But, said Stephens, evangelical numbers are beginning a decline as well. The issues go beyond ideology and theology.....(more).  Photo: NCR,
Maverick image aside, sometimes Pope’s more evolution than revolution
Extracts from John L. Allen Jr. Editor, Crux, 17 October 2017
ROME - Two stories about Pope Francis over the last few days have elicited either praise or criticism, depending on one’s point of view, but also pivoting on a perception that’s actually questionable: To wit, that once again, this maverick pontiff is breaking the mold.    The first story came on Thursday, when Francis spoke at a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church under St. Pope John Paul II, and called for a firmly abolitionist stance on the death penalty in official Catholic teaching.   “It must be strongly stated that condemning a person to the death penalty is an inhumane measure,” the pope said.     “It is, of itself, contrary to the Gospel, because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred,” he added. “In the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor.”    Recognizing that such a position marks a step forward in official Catholic teaching, Francis added that “doctrine cannot be conserved without allowing it to progress.    “The Word of God cannot be conserved in mothballs as if it were an old blanket to be preserved from parasites. No. The Word of God is a dynamic reality, always alive, that progresses and grows because it tends towards a fulfillment that men cannot stop.”   The other story came on Sunday......Whatever one makes of the pope’s outlook, however, here’s the thing: Looked at in historical terms, there’s a good argument that both on the death penalty and on the Amazon, Francis isn’t breaking with tradition, he’s in perfect continuity with it.   On the death penalty, one could say that the entire arc of papal reflection over the last century and a half has been leading up to this moment.     On that score, there’s nothing quite like a visit to Rome’s Criminology Museum, where, in a back room on the first floor, 12 feet tall and looking to be in perfect working order, stands the papal guillotine. From its introduction in 1816, a gift of the French to the Papal States, it dispatched scores of convicted criminals by papal warrant. (Prior to that, papal executioners relied on the noose and the axe.) The guillotine’s final use came on July 9, 1870, just two months before Italian revolutionaries captured Rome.      Yet beginning in the 20th century, popes clearly began to shift....(more) Photo: Crux, AP Photo/Andrew Medichini   
 Can the Catechism of the Catholic Church evolve?
“A tradition, if it is not to die, must express its convictions in the language of the time: a language that will, therefore, be new.”         Limited extract from Céline Hoyeau, subscription journal La Croix International, 13 October 2017
Pope Francis recently stated that the death penalty is “inadmissible” and should be categorically banned. Speaking at a Vatican conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he clearly emphasized that “Tradition is a living reality”.     “Only a partial vision can think of ‘the deposit of faith’ as something static,” he explained. “One cannot conserve the doctrine without making it progress, nor can one bind it to a rigid and immutable reading without humiliating the Holy Spirit.”    Indeed, “since the very beginning of Christianity, the faith has been expressed anew according to new cultures, and new questions, sensitivities, and realities", states ........(source)
Poll shows Australians' negative attitude to religion
Extract from CathNews, 13 October 2017
An international poll has found Australians think religion does more harm than good, compared to people from most other countries, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.     But we are also more comfortable with religious diversity than the international average.     The survey of more than 17,000 people across 23 countries by polling firm Ipsos found opinion is evenly divided about the influence that religion has in society.      It showed 49 per cent of respondents across all countries agreed with the statement "religion does more harm in the world than good".     But the proportion of Australians agreeing with that statement was well above the international average at 63 per cent.      "Australia is one of the more negative countries regarding the perceived harm that religion does," David Elliott from the Ipsos Social Research Institute said.     Only Belgium (68 per cent) had a higher proportion than Australia who agreed religion does more harm than good, while Germany and Spain were on par with Australia.    Even so, Australia had an above-average share who felt "completely comfortable" being around people with different religious beliefs to their own (84 per cent).....(more). 
Overflowing House at   "Building a healthier Church: where to from here?"  evening
Thursday 12 October 2017

The evening of conversation with Bishop Vincent Long, Maria Kirkwood and Francis Sullivan at YTU Box Hill this evening was packed beyond capacity and an overflow room with video screen (and bad sound) had to be used. Details of transcripts and audio recordings are expected to be made available shortly and will be advised here.    The topics discussed were:
Francis Sullivan - What are the challenges that are coming from the Royal Commission?
Maria Kirkwood - Sharing leadership in a collaborative Church
Bishop Vincent - What sort of Church should we be?     How are you going to approach these issues in your Diocese?
Are we on the verge of another Reformation - 500 years later?
In some ways, Martin Luther’s world was not so different from ours. In 1517 old certainties were failing and politics was in turmoil. New discoveries transformed understanding and poisonous nationalisms emerged.
Limited extract from Ed Simon, subscription journal, La Croix International, 11 October 2017
October 31 marks the quincentenary of a certain Augustinian monk nailing his ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany - a perfect moment to consider having a repeat.       Pundits often claim that Islam needs its own Reformation. But maybe all of us - Christian and non-Christian, believer and non-believer - would benefit from a New Reformation, one that changes our sense of what the word “religion” means. Present conditions indicate that we might be on the verge of another Reformation anyhow.    In some ways, Martin Luther’s world was not so different from ours. In 1517, old certainties were failing, and politics was in turmoil. New discoveries transformed understanding, and poisonous nationalisms emerged. Media technology altered how people received information.....(source)
Photo: La Croix International, Luther Posting the 95 Theses (Detail) / Ferdinand Pauwels, 1872,
Australian archbishops meet with Vatican authorities amid sex abuse crisis
The World Today speaks to the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, who took part in the talks.
Audio recording from Thomas Oriti on The World Today, ABC Radio, 9min 52sec, Broadcast: Tue 10 Oct 2017, 12:27pm
As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse prepares to hand down its final report in December, Australian Catholic Church leaders have met with Vatican authorities.  The World Today speaks to the Archbishop of Brisbane.   Streamed audio HERE

Australian church facing biggest crisis in its history, says Brisbane Archbishop
The archbishop said the Church had been 'shaken to the core' by the abuse scandal and today was being called to a 'greater authenticity'. Australian church facing biggest crisis in its history, says Brisbane Archbishop.         Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 9 October 2017
A leading Australian bishop says the Church in his country is facing the biggest crisis in its history after taking part in talks with the Vatican over how to address the problem.     The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, who is Vice President of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, told The Tablet that he and fellow bishops were in Rome to discuss the fallout of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, and how the Church will adopt a new approach. This, he says, will look at how to include women in positions of “governance”.       High on the agenda at the Vatican summit was Australia’s Royal Commission inquiry into how institutions handled child sexual abuse. This has seen the Catholic Church facing unrelenting criticism for its response to the scandal. The problem has been magnified after the Australian police’s decision to charge Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican treasurer and former Archbishop of Sydney, with historic sexual offences.      It was the day after Cardinal Pell appeared for a hearing in Melbourne Magistrates court last Friday, the Vatican issued a statement that an Australian delegation had met with a range of Holy See officials to discuss the “situation” facing the Church. These included Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State and Pope Francis’ number two, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister equivalent whose previous job was papal ambassador to Australia.      Cardinal Pell has taken a leave of absence from his job as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy while he seeks to clear his name and the cardinal has firmly denied the charges against him. Archbishop Coleridge said the case was discussed with the Vatican officials but only to provide the Holy See with an insight "into the atmosphere in Australia around this case."     In the interview the archbishop said the Church had been “shaken to the core” by the abuse scandal and today was being called to a “greater authenticity”.     He explained: “In this, the call of the Royal Commission and the call of Pope Francis converge in what looks to be one of the strange disruptions of the Holy Spirit.”    The crisis, Archbishop Coleridge stressed, was “both threat and opportunity” but required the Church to adopt a new approach. To that end the bishops have announced a plenary council to take place in 2020 which will undertake a wide ranging review of it’s mission including how to give more responsibility to lay people. One of the major criticisms of the Australian church has been clericalism, which has seen too much responsibility placed in the hands of priests and bishops.     In the interview, the archbishop said that one to be discussed at the plenary council is how to involve women in the running of the Church, and not simply its “management” within which they are already heavily involved.    “It’s clear then that the Church here is passing through a time of deep, painful and permanent change – which is why the bishops have decided for a Plenary Council, which was also discussed in our meeting in Rome. The Plenary Council will have to make bold decisions about the future, taking into account the changed and changing facts on the ground,” he said.      Below is the full question and answer with Archbishop Coleridge.....(more)  Photo: The Tablet

Australian Church leaders meet with top Vatican officials
Australian Church leaders travelled to Rome last week to meet with Vatican authorities to discuss current issues facing the Church in Australia, CNA reports.
Extracts from CathNews, 9 October 2017
Australian Church leaders travelled to Rome last week to meet with Vatican authorities to discuss current issues facing the Church in Australia, CNA reports.         According to an communique from the Vatican on Saturday, the leadership of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) met with officials of the Vatican's Secretariat of State and other relevant offices of the Holy See “for a wide-ranging discussion concerning the situation of the Church in Australia at this time”.     Topics covered in the discussions included the ongoing investigations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which recently suggested that the Church be legally bound to break the seal of Confession when sexual abuse has been disclosed within the Sacrament.    The statement came the day after Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, attending a hearing over allegations of past sexual abuse in Australia.    Cardinal Pell has maintained his innocence over all allegations against him.       According to the communique, other topics covered during the meeting included the relationship between the Church and society as a whole, the re-establishment of trust following the abuse crisis and a call for greater participation of laypersons in decision-making roles in the Church in Australia.    Members of the Australian delegation were Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, president of the ACBC; Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, vice president of the ACBC; and Justice Neville Owen of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.....Key participants from the Vatican were the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin; the secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher; the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, PSS; and the secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.    The meeting fell just two months after the Royal Commission, established in 2013, released 85 proposed changes to the country's criminal justice system.....(more)  Photo: CathNews, Pixabay
Not just George Pell is on trial
It’s a story that would do the best Greek tragedians proud.
Limited extract from Michael Kelly, SJ, subscription journal La Croix International, 9 October
Here is the lead role in the tragedy – Cardinal George Pell – having to endure the humiliation of facing charges for alleged sexual abuse.      The October 6th “mention” at the Melbourne Magistrates Court did not specify charges but reported that there would be up to 50 witnesses testifying in court proceedings. The “mention” occurs to set a date for the committal hearing which establishes whether Pell has a case to answer and provides rules so that all parties have access to the available evidence.   The process is likely to drag on for a long time. After the committal hearing, trials may follow for each of the charges or clusters of them if there be a collection that can be broken up into different trials.      It’s a process that will attract intense, global attention from the media. Cardinal Pell’s profile has been high for decades. Now he’s an object of international interest after his web televised appearance before the Royal Commission into the abuse of minors in institutions.    Whatever the outcome of the legal process, charges against clerics, whether proven or dismissed, stick in the popular imagination. Once the finger is pointed at a cleric on sexual matters, the game is up and his life in the chosen profession is finished. What’s more, for Pell, his life in the Vatican is over as these court proceedings will extend well beyond his current contract there.    Here is the lead role in the tragedy – Cardinal George Pell – having to endure the humiliation of facing charges for alleged sexual abuse.    The October 6th “mention” at the Melbourne Magistrates Court did not specify charges but reported that there would be up to 50 witnesses testifying in court proceedings. The “mention” occurs to set a date for the committal hearing which establishes whether Pell has a case to answer and provides rules so that all parties have access to the available evidence.   The process is likely to drag on for a long time. After the committal hearing, trials may follow for each of the charges or clusters of them if there be a collection that can be broken up into different trials.    It’s a process that will attract intense, global attention from the media. Cardinal Pell’s profile has been high for decades. Now he’s an object of international interest after his web televised appearance before the Royal Commission into the abuse of minors in institutions.   Whatever the outcome of the legal process, charges against clerics, whether proven or dismissed, stick in the popular imagination. Once the finger is pointed at a cleric on sexual matters, the game is up and his life in the chosen profession is finished. What’s more, for Pell, his life in the Vatican is over as these court proceedings will extend well beyond his current contract there...(source)  
Pope announces pre-Synod for youth in Rome next March
Extract from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription Journal La Croix International, 5 October 2017
In the runup for the October 2018 gathering of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis has called a meeting for young people from all over the world to be held in Rome next March. The youths will there be able to make their voices heard in preparation for the 2018 synod.   Pope Francis has announced a pre-Synodal meeting for young people from all over the world to be held in Rome from March 19-24, 2018....(source)
New bishop in Austria favors women deacons, married priests
It is not “utopian” to hope that women will one day even be ordained priests in the Catholic Church, Bishop-elect Herman Glettler believes. "Structural changes and concrete measures to relieve priests are called for."
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Germany, subscription journal La Croix International, 5 October 2017
The newly appointed head of the Austrian Diocese of Innsbruck, Bishop-elect Herman Glettler, has surprised people by coming out in support of the ordination of women to the diaconate.        He has also suggested that it’s not too far-fetched to think that women may even be admitted to the priesthood in the future.       The 52-year-old priest, in a series of interviews following his September 27th appointment, further said he is also in favor of allowing married men to become priests and divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion.       Not only have these comments raised eyebrows, but so has the fact that Fr Glettler is not from the federal state of Tyrol in Western Austria where Innsbruck is the capital. Instead, he’s from the southeastern part of the country and a priest of the Diocese of Graz, as well as a member of the Emmanuel Community.....(source)  Photo: La Croix International  Caritas Steiermark
Pope Francis advised to use 'healthy realism' with Beijing
The former head of Vatican Radio's China section, nonagenarian Father Joseph Shih, posits that tolerance of China's Communist regime is not the same as compromise.
Extract from Michael Sainsbury, Dili (Timor-Leste) and reporter, Hong Kong, Chima, subscriptional journal La croix International, 5 October 2017
Father Joseph Shih, the former head of the China section of Vatican Radio, has sent a message to Pope Francis saying that the church needs to have "healthy realism" in its dealings with the Chinese government.      Fr Shih also explained that tolerance was not the same as compromise, so the Holy See should not be opposed to Chinese authorities as it continued talks aimed, firstly, at normalizing the appointment of bishops.      In recent decades the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Vatican have jointly appointed some bishops while others have only either Vatican or government approval.     "Compromise gives something away to the other party, up to a level that the other finds satisfying. Tolerance gives nothing away, nor does it.....(source)  Photo: Fr Antonio Spadaro (left) with Fr Joseph Shih, La Croix International, Fr Antonio Spadaro (left) with Fr Joseph Shih. (Photo supplied)
Conference weighs how 'Amoris Laetitia' rejects 'infantilization of laity'
This article appears in the Amoris Laetitia feature series. View the full series.
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 5 October 2017
Boston — Pope Francis is asking the Catholic Church not to see families as a kind of workshop to try out different pastoral strategies but as a "privileged place" where God is alive and at work in the world, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich said Oct. 5.       At a first-of-its-kind conference for U.S. bishops and theologians to consider how to better implement Amoris Laetitia, Francis' 2016 apostolic exhortation on family life, Cupich said the pope focuses on how "God has chosen to reveal the divine reality in the privileged place of family life."     "How true that is, if you look at the opening chapters of Genesis, all the way to the final scene in the Book of Revelation," Cupich said. "The context is always families, people coming together as families."     "That it is the privileged place that God has chosen in order for us to come to know who God is," he said. "It is not so much that we are treating families as a kind of a laboratory in which we do pastoral practice or theology, but rather it's a privileged place that we are graced to be a part of ... to see where God is active, where God is alive and God is doing something new."     Cupich is co-hosting the conference at Boston College with Jesuit Fr. James Keenan, a theologian at the university. During the two-day event, two cardinals, 12 bishops and 24 other invited participants are discussing what organizers call the "new momentum" Amoris Laetitia (in English, "The Joy of Love") gives local bishops to renew their pastoral practices toward families.....(more)
Benedict XVI: ‘Obscuring’ God from the liturgy has led to crisis in the Church
The former pontiff said liturgy had become too centred on man's 'activity and creativity'.  God has become “obscured” in the liturgy, resulting in a crisis for the Church, Benedict XVI has said.
Extract from staff reporter, The Catholic Herald, UK, 5 October 2017
In a foreword to the Russian edition of his book Theology of the Liturgy, reproduced in La Stampa, the former pontiff said a misunderstanding of the nature of liturgy has led to man putting “his own activity and creativity” at the heart of worship.     “Nothing precedes divine worship,” he says. “With these words, St Benedict, in his Rule (43.3), established the absolute priority of divine worship over any other task of monastic life.”       Even though agricultural and academic work were heavily time-consuming, St Benedict made sure the liturgy received maximum attention, emphasising “the priority of God Himself in our lives”.    Today, however, “the things of God and thus the liturgy do not appear urgent at all”.       The Church “lives from proper celebration of the liturgy” and is in danger when “the primacy of God no longer appears in the liturgy nor consequently in life”.     “The deepest cause of the crisis that has upset the Church lies in the obscuring of the priority of God in the liturgy,” he says.      “If God is no longer important, the criteria move which establish what is important,” the Pope Emeritus adds. If man sets God aside, he will end up a “slave to material forces, and thus opposed to his dignity”.....(more)
The Atonement: Lina's project
The Atonement: Lina’s Project was a victim-led community event of acknowledgement and repentance, that was held on Friday 15 September at Newcastle City Hall.
Edited Extracts from Joanne Isaac Diocese of Maitland Newcastle originally published 23 August. with updates, published here 28 September
Extract from message by Bishop Bill Wright, Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle
Message from Bishop Bill Wright:  As Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, I have listened to people’s agonising stories of how they were abused as children by clergy, religious, teachers and others in the church. For those children, their abuse often caused fear, confusion and shame that changed who they were and who they might have become. Their anguish was compounded when they were not believed and even punished for telling the truth. And so, through no fault of their own, they were left with a great hurt at the centre of their being that they have had to carry through life. Some have managed to bear the hurt, even if they are never free of it, but for others it was too much to bear and they took their own lives. To the people who were those children and to those close to them, a formal apology by the church can never really be adequate. I understand that, but still it needs to be said over and over: the diocese apologises for our failure to protect you, we apologise for the crimes that people working in the diocese inflicted on you. We are so, so sorry that our diocese let these things happen to you.......(more)        What is Lina’s Project? You can read about Lina and her brave vision for atonement and healing and watch a powerful video here 
Australian archbishop says same-sex love can't result in marriage
Senior Catholic warns there has always been "discrimination" against some forms of wedlock.
Extract from editorial staff, subscription La Croix International editorial staff
Australia, 26 September 2017
One of Australia's most senior Catholics has spoken out against same-sex marriage, saying it is similar to "the love of friends".      Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, in the eastern state of Queensland, said: "It is love and it is valuable but it's not and it can't be the kind of love that we call marriage."    People participating in the non-binding same-sex marriage postal survey currently underway in Australia should consider that same-sex couples were different, ABC radio reported the archbishop as saying. He said there had always been discrimination towards some forms of marriage.   "Parents can't marry their children, children can't marry their parents," Archbishop Coleridge said. "Sibling marrying sibling has always been ruled out. People underage have been disqualified from marrying but so too people of the same sex."...(more). Photo: Lar Croix International, (Stipo Karajica) / Wikipedia / CC BY SA 3.0
The Catholic option for 'yes' or 'no'
Extract from Frank Brennan S.J. Eureka Street, 24 September 2017
Australian voters are deciding which box to tick when asked, 'Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?' Unlike some bishops, I argue that a committed Catholic could vote 'yes' or 'no'.    For many Catholic voters, this has been a difficult issue because for the first time in their lives they have found themselves in the same position which our politicians find themselves every time they have to vote on contested moral and political questions in parliament. They don't find themselves getting all that much help from official church declarations. This is no criticism of our bishops. They are the custodians of a tradition which has been somewhat skewed on this issue for a long time.   In 1975, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of'. Then in 1986, under the leadership of Cardinal Ratzinger (as he then was), the CDF declared that 'special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.'   In 1992, the CDF identified 'some principles and distinctions of a general nature which should be taken into consideration by the conscientious legislator, voter, or Church authority who is confronted with such issues'. The CDF claimed that there was 'a danger that legislation which would make homosexuality a basis for entitlements could actually encourage a person with a homosexual orientation to declare his homosexuality or even to seek a partner in order to exploit the provisions of the law'.   Many Catholics nowadays find such declarations unhelpful and insensitive, perhaps even downright wrong. Even those Catholics who find such teaching helpful in determining their own moral stance might question the application of such teaching when deciding whether to tick the box 'yes' or 'no'. For most contemporary Catholics, Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air with his observation, 'Who am I to judge?'....(more)  Photo: Eureka Street

Pope Francis confirms his controversial vision of the family
The pope is broadening his approach to marriage and the family by replacing the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family with an institute focused on implementing "Amoris Laetitia". This is a contentious undertaking, given that his opponents on these topics are as vociferous as ever.
Extract from Nicolas Senèze, Rome, subscription magazine La Croox International, 25 September 2017.          In making this decision, Francis knew that he was touching upon the Polish Pope’s legacy with regard to the marriage and the family. The John Paul Institute, founded by John Paul II in 1982 to promote theological research on marriage and the family, had become a conservatory of Wojtylian thought, closed to any other vision of these subjects.     Pope Francis has therefore transformed the Institute into the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family.....(source) 
Photo La Croix International, Pope Francis backs the idea that "all families, without distinction, need to be assisted and accompanied to rediscover their historic mission", Archbishop Paglia told the Synod in 2014. / Alessia Giuliani/CPP/Ciric

Pope candidly admits Church 'arrived late' in confronting abuse
Extract from Philip Pullella, Reuters, 22 September 2017
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, in some of his most candid and personal comments on the sexual abuse of children by priests, said on Thursday that the Catholic Church had “arrived late” in dealing with the problem.     Francis, speaking in unscripted remarks to a commission advising him on how to root out sexual abuse, also acknowledged that early in his papacy he had made one bad call in being too lenient with an Italian priest who later went on to abuse again.    He also said he had decided to change current procedures for dealing with abusive priests by eliminating appeals trials in cases where there was definitive proof.    Francis surprised members of the commission by putting aside his entire prepared speech and chatting to them.    “There is the reality that the Church arrived at the consciousness of these crimes a bit late,” he said.       “When consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problems also arrive late. I am aware of this difficulty but it is reality and I say it plainly: We arrived late.”      Church sexual abuse broke into the open in the United States with reports of cases in Louisiana in 1984 and exploded in 2002, when journalists in Boston found that bishops had systematically moved abusers to new posts instead of defrocking them.     Thousands of cases have come to light around the world as investigations have encouraged long-silent victims to go public, shattering the Church’s reputation in places such as Ireland, and more than $2 billion has been paid in compensation.    “The old practice of moving people around and not confronting the problem made consciences fall asleep,” he said....(more)        Photo: Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley speaks as Pope Francis meets with members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors at the Vatican, September 21, 2017. Osservatore Romano/Handout via REUTERS  (Also see Deutsche Weller article here )

Müller criticises Francis papacy for lacking theological rigour, and hints at comeback
The cardinal criticised the Latin American approach to theology, in a thinly veiled critique of the Argentinian Pope Müller criticises Francis papacy for lacking theological rigour, and hints at comeback
Extracts from Christopher Lamb , Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 20 September 2017
The cardinal criticised the Latin American approach to theology, in a thinly veiled critique of the Argentinian Pope Müller criticises Francis papacy for lacking theological rigour, and hints at comeback.       The Vatican’s former doctrine chief has criticised Francis’ papacy for lacking theological rigour, while suggesting he is ready to make a comeback and work in the Roman Curia.    During a book presentation in Germany last Friday, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, dismissed from his job by the Pope in July, recalled how the Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) told Pope Clement VIII that he did not understand anything about theology.......In Mannheim, the cardinal criticised Latin American approach to theology, in what was a thinly veiled critique of the Argentinian Pope and his theological advisers from the continent.      “In Europe, theologians immediately have to have the exact council text ready when words like ‘faith’ or ‘mercy’ are used. This kind of theology with which we are familiar doesn’t exist in Latin America. They are more intuitive there,” Cardinal Muller said during a presentation of his new book 'The Pope - Mission and Task' at the Reiss-Engelholm-Museum at Mannheim.        “They look at a text without considering it as part of a whole. We must somehow respect and accept this style. But I nevertheless wish that as far as teaching documents are concerned clear theological preparation must take place.”     Müller also stressed that theology was getting a raw deal under this Pope and that the Holy See’s Secretariat of State was now the most important authority in the Vatican. In the past his former department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had a more authoritative role...(more)

Pope Francis redirects mission of John Paul II institute on marriage, family
Extracts from Gerard O'Connell, The Jesuit Review, 19 September 2017
As a follow-up to the publication of “Amoris Laetitia” and the two synods on the family, Pope Francis has refounded the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, giving it a broader mandate than it originally had to ensure that it does not just focus on moral and sacramental theology, but also takes account of the biblical, dogmatic and historical dimensions, as well as contemporary challenges......While acknowledging that the original institute carried out important work in past decades, Francis said the 2014 and 2015 synods have brought a renewed awareness of “the new pastoral challenges” regarding the family “to which the Christian community is called to respond.” In other words, much has changed in these past 36 years since John Paul II set up the original institute in 1981.    While the institute, with its branches in different continents, researched, taught and promoted the teaching on marriage and the family that came out of the 1980 synod, there is a need for this new institute because of the anthropological and cultural changes that have taken place in the world, which “require an analytical and diversified approach, and does not allow us to limit ourselves to practices of pastoral (ministry) and mission that reflect forms and models of the past.” That wider focus and vision of the family is reflected in the mandate for the new institute, which has “Amoris Laetitia” as its lodestar.....“In the clear proposal of remaining faithful to the teaching of Christ, we must, therefore, look with the intelligence of love and with wise realism, at the reality of families today in all of their complexity, in their light and darkness,” the pope wrote....(more)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexual abuse: Catholic priests must confess to regain our shaken faith
Extract from Nick O'Malley, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 August 2017
Father Michael McArdle was reportedly so distressed by his acts of child sexual abuse in Queensland that he would often seek the succour of the confessional. Over a 25-year period, before he was convicted in 2002, he confessed to sexually assaulting children an estimated 1500 times to 30 different priests. In keeping with Catholic tradition in Australia, the priests did not report his crimes to authorities, but moved him on to different parishes, to greener pastures.     McArdle's case resonates this week because on Monday the royal commission into child sex abuse released 85 recommendations on improvements to the criminal justice system. Among them was the proposal that the seal of the religious confessional be broken and that clergy who fail to report child abuse revealed in confession face criminal prosecution, just as anyone else in Australia would. Since the Catholic Church is the only major religion in Australia that still insists its canon law be held above secular law in this regard, this was rightly seen as a challenge, and the Catholic Church, defensive of its significant privileges, responded.       On Tuesday Melbourne's archbishop, Denis Hart, told the ABC: "I believe that this is an absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order which priests by nature respect, they don't ever want to do anything that would hurt children," he said.     Writing for Fairfax Media this week, Father Frank Brennan said he would go to jail before abiding by such a law and sought to explain his reasoning. "Common sense tells me that a sex abuser would be even less likely to present for confession if he knew that the confessional seal did not apply," he wrote. "If the seal of the confessional were maintained, there is a chance, just a chance, that a child sex abuser might be convinced by the priest to turn himself in. Take away the seal, and that ever so slim chance will be snuffed out."       Brennan's is a reasonable argument and once upon a time it might even have been a satisfactory one. Not now, not after we have learnt from the same royal commission that 7 per cent of priests working between 1950 and 2009 were accused of child abuse. Not after we learnt of the 4444 alleged cases of sexual abuse they stand accused of. Not after we learnt of the extraordinary energy the church dedicated to protecting itself and its priests from justice.   In this environment the church's case fails on practical and moral grounds....(more)
Sex abuse and the seal of the confessional
Extract from Opinion Piece, Kieran Tapsell, National Catholic Reporter, 18 August 2017
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has just released its Criminal Justice Report in which it deals with many matters relating to the way child sexual abuse within institutions is handled by the Australian criminal justice system. In the course of that report, it recommends mandatory reporting of all suspected child sexual abuse within institutions and the creation of new offences of failing to take proper care to prevent such abuse.       One recommendation that understandably created some media interest is that there should be no exemption to the reporting requirements for information provided in confession.         The commission’s report produces convincing evidence, not only in Australia, but also overseas, that priest sex abusers used confession as a means of assuaging their guilt. It made it easier for them to repeat their crimes because confession was always available.     Priest sex abusers used confession to assuage their guilt, making it easier for them to repeat their crimes.       In a response to the report, Jesuit Fr. Frank Brennan stated that a civil law requirement for priests to break the seal of confession was unlikely to lead to better protection for children because abusers would not confess such matters if they knew they had to be reported. Brennan said that he would disobey any such law and accept the consequences.     Archbishop Denis Hart, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, in his response said that the secret of the confessional is a “fundamental part of the freedom of religion…and it must remain so here in Australia.” In an interview on ABC Radio, Hart said he would go to jail rather than breach the secret.      It is surprising that no church representative has mentioned a way in which the church could significantly reduce the risk of breach of the seal by a fairly simple change to canon law based on a problem that has a long history.....(more)  Photo: A confessional booth at Old St. Mary's Church in Detroit. NCR, CNS photo/Mike Stechschulte.
 Outdated model for preparing priests needs major overhaul
"Whenever Pope Francis has talked about the selection and training of Catholic priests he has given every indication that he knows there are serious problems."
Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 18 August 2017
It is such a serious problem that, according to one noted Church historian, not even Pope Francis dares to speak about it.    It’s the outdated model of Catholic priesthood and, even more significantly, how candidates for the ordained ministry are selected and prepared for service among the People of God.      Professor Alberto Melloni of the John XXII Foundation for Religious Sciences (Bologna, Italy) recently pointed out that the archetype of today’s priest dates back to over 400 years ago and the reforms stemming from the Council of Trent (1545-1563).     “That remarkable 16th-century invention that shaped the politics, mentality and interior life, as well as the art and theology of the West and its former colonies, did not die out (there are still roughly 420,000 priests in the world)," noted Melloni in a March 22nd article in the Rome-based daily, La Repubblica.      "But in the last century, it has been in crisis.”     “Over the past ninety years in Italy we have gone from having nearly 15,000 to only 2,700 seminarians,” he pointed out.      But the enormous drop in numbers is not the most worrying sign of this outdated model of priesthood and seminary formation.    Instead, Melloni says it is the “drop in the intellectual quality” of the men who choose to join the priesthood and the bishops that ordain them. And, furthermore, it is the fact that the current system continues to be a breeding ground of the “vice” the professor correctly identifies as “clericalism".      Melloni, the leading voice of the so-called “Bologna School”, argues that the “diminished role and affective negligence” of priests have led to the “exaltation of celibacy, which traps sexuality in a search for sublimation and attracts people to the priesthood who have unresolved (problems) or are even sick”.     Pope Francis has said as much on the numerous occasions he has talked about the selection and training of candidates for ordained ministry.....(Source).   Photo: La Croix International, The Council of Trent /Wikimedia Commons 
PAUL COLLINS. An Open Letter to Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher
Extract from Pearls and iritations, John Mendaue Blog, 18 August 2017    
I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church… The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country.
Dear Anthony,  Like many Australian Catholics, I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church. No one questions your right to hold such views, but many are concerned when you identify them—or allow others, such as journalists—to identify them with the teaching of the Church. You must be aware that, as Archbishop, journalists will take what you say as authoritative and as pitching “the Catholic Church in a heated battle against Labor and key backers of the Yes campaign”, as reported in The Australian on 14/8/17. You may be involved in a “heated debate” with the Labor Party and the “yes” campaign, but most Australian Catholics are not....(more)
Cardinal's plan for laypeople to lead parishes
Parish clustering is no answer to priest shortage, says German Cardinal Reinard Marx, a top aide and advisor to Pope Francis.
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, subscription journal La Croix International, 17 August 2017
Cardinal Reinhard Marx has announced plans to allow laypeople in his Archdiocese of Munich to lead parishes where there are no priests.      In doing so he has strongly rejected the increasingly common option of coping with the dwindling number of ordained ministers by combining or “clustering” parishes.     The 63-year-old cardinal is a top aide and advisor to Pope Francis.     He recently told the 180 members of Munich’s diocesan council – its most important lay body – that it was important to preserve individual parishes as a way of guaranteeing the Church’s presence locally.    Speaking at the council’s plenary assembly on March 18th, the cardinal said the Archdiocese of Munich would introduce a pilot project in the fall with new models of parish leadership. Specifically, he said full-time and voluntary lay personnel would take over parishes....(source)  Photo: La Croix International, Wolfgang Roueka, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Church reform groups support call for Year of the Laity
Extract from Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter, 17 August 2017
U.S. Emboldened by Pope Francis, church reformers are endorsing a call by the Brazilian bishops for a Year of the Laity, expanded to include conferences and observances around the world from November of this year until November 2018.    The meetings will focus on why "the people of God need to be treated equally in the church" and "the people taking the Gospel out into the world," Rene Reid, director of Catholic Church Reform International, told NCR.     Groups lining up in support of the Year of the Laity include Catholic Church Reform International as well as Call to Action, she said. Participants from those groups will be urging an increased role for the laity in the church. They will promote lay participation in the selection of bishops, an end to mandatory celibacy for clergy and openness to allowing the Eucharist for divorced and remarried Catholics as well as the LGBTQ community.  Reid said the impetus for the movement comes from Pope Francis. "He wants the people of God to step up and take a leadership role, and we are," she said....(more)
Confession above the law: Archbishop Hart
Extract from CathNews, The Guardian, 16 August 2017
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said he would risk going to jail rather than report allegations of child sexual abuse raised during confession, The Guardian reports.   The Archbishop said the sacredness of communication with God during confession should be above the law.   He was responding to a report from the child sex abuse royal commission calling for reforms that, if adopted by governments, would see failure to report child sex abuse in institutions become a criminal offence, extending to information given in religious confessions.     Speaking to ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne, Archbishop Hart said he stood by comments he made in 2011 that priests would rather be jailed than violate the sacramental seal.        I believe [confession] is an absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order that priests by nature respect,” he said yesterday.    “We are admitting a communication with God is of a higher order,” he said. “It is a sacred trust. It’s something those who are not Catholics find hard to understand but we believe it is most, most sacred and it’s very much part of us.”    He said much of the abuse that occurred was historical and awareness of abuse was greater now, and he believed it was unlikely “anything would ever happen” today.    But if someone were to confess they had been sexually abused or they knew of someone who had been, Archbishop Hart said it would be adequate to encourage them to tell someone else outside of confession. For example, he would encourage a child to tell a teacher, who are already mandated under law to report....(more)  Photo: CathNews
Frank Brennan: why I will break the law rather than the seal of confession
Extracts from Sydney Morning Herald, 15 August 2017,
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published a 2000-page three volume Criminal Justice Report. One of its recommendations is that the states and territories "create a criminal offence of failure to report targeted at child sexual abuse in an institutional context".    If such an offence were created, those of us who work in an institution which cares for children would be required to report to police if we knew, suspected or should have suspected that another adult working in the institution was sexually abusing or had sexually abused a child.    Failure to report could result in a criminal conviction. The commission notes: "We acknowledge that if this recommendation is implemented then clergy hearing confession may have to decide between complying with the civil law obligation to report and complying with a duty in their role as a confessor."    Being a priest and a lawyer, I welcome the recommendation of this new criminal offence in most instances, but I will continue to comply with my duty as a confessor. The public, and not just my fellow Catholics, are entitled to know why.......Those who advocate the abolition of the seal of the confessional have a mistaken understanding of how confession is actually practised in the Catholic Church. If the law is changed, abolishing the seal of the confessional, I will conscientiously refuse to comply with the law because in good faith I will be able to claim that it is a bad law which does nothing to protect children and which may take away the one possibility that a sex offender will repent and turn himself in, making the world that little bit safer for vulnerable children. I will console myself with the thought that if police learn of my "wrongdoing", it will be because the confessing abuser has voluntarily turned himself in.....(more)  Father Frank Brennan SJ is chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia.
Pope providing 'inspirational leadership'
Extract from CathNews,. BBI-TAITE, 11 August 2017
Communities across Australia and as far away as Peru, Mexico and Japan yesterday engaged in an interactive discussion about the unique leadership style of Pope Francis, according to host BBI-The Australian Institute of Theological Education.     Held in partnership with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, BBI's 13th National eConference brought together prominent international and national speakers including the former NSW premier and foreign minister Bob Carr, the Editor at Large at The Australian, Paul Kelly and the Chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Elizabeth Proust, to reflect on the theme, 'Gospel leadership in times of chaos: the hope of Pope Francis'.   Vatican II expert Massimo Faggioli from the US, President of Catholic Religious Australia, Sr Ruth Durick OSU and the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sr Clare Condon SGS were also on the speakers list.    Professor Faggioli was the first speaker, reflecting upon the transformative effect Pope Francis’ leadership has had on the Church over recent years.   “As the first non-European Pope, Pope Francis has promoted a more inclusive Church for the modern world and one which is far less Eurocentric”, he said.        “He has also helped to re-contextualise the Church, so that it reads the signs of the times and stands firmly with the marginalised, including refugees”, he added....(more).
Pope saddened by 'perfect' Catholics who scorn others
Extract from CathNews, CNS, 10 August 2017
God did not choose perfect people to form his Church, but rather sinners who have experienced his love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said, CNS reports.   The Gospel of Luke's account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how his actions went against the general mentality of his time, a way of thinking that saw a "clear separation" between the pure and impure, the Pope said yesterday during his weekly general audience.    "There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect," Pope Francis said. "And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad."     Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the Pontiff reflected on Jesus' "scandalous gesture" of forgiving the sinful woman.       The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.       Although Jesus' love toward the sick and the marginalised "baffles his contemporaries," it reveals God's heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Francis said.      "How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes -- or better yet -- with the heart of God, meaning with hope," he said. But "Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices."....(more)

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

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

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

massive and possibly messy task but if we do it well it could change the nature of the church in Australia. To some degree the process of consulting and talking with one another will be more important than the decisions the Plenary Council may make. As Pope Francis is always keen to point out, “time is more important than space” or it is the process, the change of attitudes, the new style of consultation, the different type of church that this generates is as important as the results. What Pope Francis wants is a new synodal church not just an occasional “Synod”....(more)  Author photo: St Columbans eNews   Note:  The Francis Effect III: Mission of Love and Mercy together with Parts II and I are available for purchase online from the publisher HERE
Ordinary Catholics must help with reform
Extract from Kevin Liston*, Eureka Street, 30 July 2017
There are many reform movements active in the Catholic Church. Most seem to focus on changing the structures and systems of the church, on reshaping doctrinal positions and updating teachings. Organisational reform is necessary and long overdue but there is also need for a complementary movement among ordinary Catholics.       In recent decades, the sense of ownership that people have over their own lives has undergone a significant shift. Personal authenticity and autonomy are the order of the day. More people feel they each have unique ways of being themselves and seek forms of expression that frequently do not fit traditional moulds.        There is a historically unique process of individuation going on. Finding one’s identity and understanding one’s personal experience are core concerns. More often now we understand we have a role in and responsibility for what we are to be. The structures of communities are quite different and more varied and complex.     The relevance of community has not disappeared but it has taken a different shape. In modern Australia, community is often taken for granted and accepted as background, evidenced for instance in social media.      Parishes are important local realisations of the church but there are many Catholics who do not feel comfortable or at home with present structures and ways of operating. I regard myself as a faithful Catholic, steeped in the tradition, theologically and spiritually literate, seeking a relevant, supportive community of like-minded people. However, I do not find the weekend liturgies in our parish churches to be reflective or expressive of my understanding of Christianity; they just do not speak to my world....(more)  Image: Eureka Street   3765    Kevin Liston recently completed a Master of Theological Studies at ACU after a long career working with refugees and migrants.
German Jesuit urges the public to pressure bishops on abuse investigations
“The idea that the Church, the Christian faith, and even the Bible message would be harmed if one openly discusses the problems and calls a spade a spade has become too deeply rooted in Catholic circles,” Fr Wolfgang Beck said.
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt,subsxription al journal La Croix International, 29 July 2017
A young Jesuit theologian has called on the wider public to force Germany’s bishops into investigating Church structures that foment clerical power and lack of transparency, elements he said are directly linked to abuse of minors.   “Please help to keep up the pressure,” Fr Wolfgang Beck said on July 23rd while making one of his frequent appearances on the widely viewed “Word for Sunday” program on German state television’s flagship channel.    The 43-year-old pastoral theologian spoke about the shame he felt after the reading the recently published Regensburg Domspatzen report, which revealed that more than 500 choir boys had been physically and sexually abused.....(source)
The Roman Catholic Church continues to implode
In some ways, Francis seems to be deliberately hastening its inevitable collapse by implementing the principles and methods outlined in "Evangelii gaudium" (EG), his vision and blueprint for Church renewal and reform.
Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 28 July 2017
Some five years ago I was invited to speak at the City Club of Cleveland, Ohio.    “Since 1912, the City Club has served as one of the (United States’) oldest, non-partisan and continuously operating free speech forums,” says the organization’s website.    The topic of my talk was the Vatican implosion and, as a result, the long and gradual collapse of the Catholic Church’s monarchical structure of governance and ministry....(source)
Tackling post-abortion grief and distress
Extract from CathNews, The eRecord, Archdiocese of Perth,28 July 2017
A new post-abortion grief counselling service has commenced in the Archdiocese of Perth, The eRecord reports.   Initiated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, the service aims to provide support and healing without judgement to those who have experienced an abortion, including men.           Archdiocesan Research and Project Development Manager Tony Giglia, said the new service will be provided by the Fullness of Life Centre, Pregnancy Assistance, Centrecare Inc and Abortion Grief Australia, who have all signed a memorandum of understanding with the Archdiocese.   “The services provided will be free of charge and those seeking the counselling service can be assured they are getting confidential quality support,” said Mr Giglia.      “It is about following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, so that we can further provide a Christ-centred Church that understands the experiences of the people and where they are at in their life today,” he said....(more)  Photo: CathNews, eRecord pixabay
Nun celebrates Catholic wedding in Canada
The Vatican authorized Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence to officiate at a wedding in a rural diocese in western Quebec. And in spite of her initial apprehensions, the ceremony went well.      Extract from Mélinée Le Priol, Canada, subscription journal La Croix International, 27 July 2017
Cindy and David had their religious wedding on Saturday, July 22, celebrated by… a woman.     The exceptional ceremony took place in a Catholic church at Lorrainville, 650 km west of Montreal in Canada.    In the rural diocese of Rouyn-Norand in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, the lack of priests is such that the bishop called on the assistance of Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence....(source) 
Photo: La Croix International,   Lelik83/
Theologians studying development of Humanae Vitae given access to Vatican Secret Archives
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic Herald UK, 27 July 2017
Four theologians specialising in marriage and family life are studying Vatican archival material with a view of telling the whole story of how and why Blessed Paul VI wrote his encyclical Humanae Vitae on married love.   Mgr Gilfredo Marengo, leader of the group and a professor of theological anthropology at Rome’s Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, spoke to Vatican Radio about the study on July 25, the 49th anniversary of the encyclical’s publication.    Some bloggers, writing in the spring about the study group, described it as an initiative of Pope Francis to change the encyclical’s teaching against the use of artificial contraception.    Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of the John Paul II Institute, categorically denied the bloggers’ reports.   In reply to an email, Mgr Marengo told Catholic News Service that the study “is a work of historical-critical investigation without any aim other than reconstructing as well as possible the whole process of composing the encyclical”.   “Anyone who imagined any other aim should have simply done their work and verified their sources,” he said....(more)  Photo: Blessed Pope Paul VI (Photo: Getty)
Cardinal Pell to plead not guilty to historic sexual abuse charges
Extract from Mark Brolly, The Tablet, 26 July 2017
Magistrate Duncan Reynolds has refused the media's request for access to the court file, including charge sheets.   Cardinal Pell to plead not guilty to historic sexual abuse charges.    Cardinal George Pell has made his first appearance in a Melbourne court today (26 July) to face multiple charges of sexual abuse laid by Victoria Police last month. But the six-minute hearing ended without the precise charges being revealed.     The 76-year-old Cardinal, who last month was granted leave by Pope Francis from his post as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, was escorted into the Melbourne Magistrates' Court by police amid a large media pack for what was described as a filing hearing. Some journalists and camera crews had arrived at the court more than four hours before Cardinal Pell's arrival at 9am on Wednesday (Melbourne time).      He said nothing during the hearing or outside of the court.    Leading Melbourne barrister Mr Robert Richter QC told the court: "For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, might I indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has."    Prosecutor Andrew Tinney, SC (Senior Counsel), warned the media that all reports should be limited to "fair and accurate reports of the proceedings"....(more) 
Regensburg choir abuse report 'shatters' bishop
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 26 July 2017
'This is not a matter of individual cases of abuse as Cardinal Müller always insisted when he was Bishop of Regensburg'     The Bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, has asked the hundreds of victims in the Domspatzen choir scandal for forgiveness saying that he is “absolutely shattered” by the findings of the report released last week.    Published on 17 July, the report, commissioned by the diocese of Regensburg and compiled by the lawyer Ulrich Weber, stated that 547 boys were abused at the prestigious choir school in Regensburg, Bavaria, between the years 1945 and 1992.    Bishop Voderholzer’s response contrasted with that of former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, who was bishop of Regensburg form 2002 to 2012, who admitted that he “experienced shame for what has happened in the Church” but emphasised “everything that was possible and necessary was done” and refused to apologise....(more)
Why are German Catholics leaving the Church?
The Diocese of Essen has launched a major study into the reasons that Catholics are abandoning the Church. “Distancing” and “a lack of attachment” were found to be two primary reasons.   Extract from Delphine Nerbollier, Germany, subscription journal La Croix International, 25 July 2017
Altogether 162,000 Germans stopped paying their church taxes in 2016 and thus “left” the ranks of the Catholic Church.   Just over 4,000 people did this in the diocese of Essen (West Germany), which has launched a large scale study in an effort to understand the reasons for the departure of these former churchgoers.    What does the study consist of?...(source)  Photo: Frauenkirch in Munich, Germany, as viewed from the tower of Peter's Church. / David Iliff / Wikipedia / CC BY 2.5 
Curious Vatican article challenges right-wing US Catholics
Extract from Bruce Duncan, Pearls and irritations, John Menadue Blog, 21 July 2017    
Was Pope Francis aware that the Vatican newspaper was strongly attacking right-wing US Catholics for abandoning Church social teaching by political alliances with very fundamentalist Christian groups?     A mid-July article in a Vatican newspaper, Civilta Cattolica, provocatively argued that some right-wing US Catholics have compromised Church social teaching by political alliances with fundamentalist evangelical groups concerned with bioethical issues. The article attacked a fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture which depicted the world as a Manichaean struggle between good and evil, even looking to a ‘final showdown’ in an Armageddon ushering in a ‘new heaven and new earth’.    The article deplored demonising of opponents and notions of a ‘holy war’, particularly when Islam is equated with ‘Islamic terrorism’. It claimed such fundamentalist views influenced conservatives such as ‘Steve Bannon, currently chief strategist at the White House and supporter of an apocalyptic geopolitics.’ Bannon is a Catholic and former editor of the right-wing website, Breitbart.    Entitled ‘Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: a surprising ecumenism’, the article would not have attracted such attention except that it appeared in the Vatican newspaper with the authors its editor-in-chief, Antonio Spadaro SJ, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor and editor-in chief of the Argentinian edition of L’Osservatore Romano. Figueroa is a close friend of Pope Francis who chose him for this position, and Spadaro is also well known to the Pope.....(More)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishops Announce Appointment of Plenary Council Executive Committee
Edited Extract from Media Blog, Australian Catholics Bishops Conference, 29 June 2017
The Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council today announced the names of those who have accepted appointment to the Plenary Council Executive Committee. Their appointment followed an extensive confidential process of consultation across the Australian Church to ensure diversity. Together they bring a variety of gifts, competencies and experience to the work of the Executive Committee.          Archbishop Coleridge said that the Plenary Council will play a crucial role in shaping the Church’s future in Australia. ‘This is no time for the Church to be putting up signs that say “business as usual”. If we needed any proof, then the Royal Commission has shown that. We need to face the facts, and in the light of the facts, which aren’t always friendly, we have to make big decisions about the future. The Plenary Council will place the Church on a sound footing to respond to what is not merely an era of change but a change of era.’    The Committee will work closely with the Bishops Commission to ensure the successful preparation, celebration and implementation of the Plenary Council 2020. The Executive Committee membership with their home diocese is as follows:....(more) Photo: Archbishop Mark Coleridge, ACBC
 Pell's absence threatens Vatican financial reform plan
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 29 June 2017
....While the Holy See said today that the work of Pell’s Secretariat for the Economy will continue, a big vacuum has been opened up. The cardinal’s departure also comes hot on the heels of last Tuesday’s news that Libero Milone, a London-trained accountant who had led Italy’s branch of the accountancy firm Deloitte, was resigning as the Holy See’s first “auditor-general”.     It means the question many are left asking after today is: who will continue the work to sort out the Vatican finances, part of the mandate on which the Pope was elected?      In his statement today, Pell stressed he plans to return to his work in Rome after he has cleared his name, but Australian legal sources say the criminal proceedings being brought against him could take months, even years, before they conclude.     The cardinal has said he won’t serve past 2019 - the end of a five year mandate - and if proceedings are still ongoing by that stage, its hard to see how Francis can continue to have an absent economy prefect.    It wasn’t supposed to work out like this. Back in February 2014 Cardinal Pell was entrusted by the reform-minded Pope to undertake a root and branch shake up of money management at the western world’s oldest institution.       During his period in office the cardinal has made a number of changes. New accounting standards are being introduced; budgets are regularly checked; most Vatican departments now submit proper accounts. The Holy See’s financial watchdog is clamping down on suspicious transactions. And the Vatican bank, long a source of scandal, now routinely submits independently audited accounts. “The cardinal has broken the ice of the reforms,” one well-placed Vatican source told me.    But Pell encountered serious opposition. Many responsible for financial controls are reluctant to release details of their income and expenditure. Pell wanted one of the big four accountancy firms to conduct an independent, comprehensive audit. He was blocked. Milone, who had been in post for only two years had been given wide-ranging powers to investigate the Holy See’s murky finances, and reported directly to the Pope. Informed sources say he quit in frustration after getting on the wrong side of powerful vested interests....(more)
Archbishop Hart response to charges against Cardinal George Pell
Extract Media and Communications Office, Melbourne Catholic, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Thursday 29 June 2017
Archbishop Denis Hart is aware of the significance of the decision to charge Cardinal Pell.   Cardinal Pell has been a friend and brother priest of Archbishop Hart for more than 50 years. The Archbishop is conscious of the Cardinal’s many good works which have been acknowledged both nationally and internationally.    It is a matter of public record that Cardinal Pell addressed the evil of sexual abuse in the Church on becoming Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.   It is important all in society recognise that the presumption of innocence applies and that Cardinal Pell like all Australians is entitled to a fair trial.   In the interests of fairness and due process Archbishop Hart will not be commenting further....(source)</