Catholics for Renewal


News 2014

The various News items and Opinions expressed on this page are those of the Authors and whilst relevant to 'renewal' may or may not represent the views or positions of Catholics For Renewal


Videos of all 3 parts of the 29 October  Discussion "The Role of Church Law in the Child Abuse Issue: Help or Hindrance?" are now available for viewing.   Kieran Tapsell, Retired Lawyer and author of "Potiphar's Wife: the Vatican's Secret and Child Sexual Abuse" put the case that Canon Law has been a hindrance. Canon Lawyer, Rev. Professor Ian Waters, speaking in a private capacity, provided a critique of Kieran's arguments. Chair was Maria McGarvie.       The discussion was Jointly sponsored by Catholics For Renewal Inc. and Catalyst for Renewal in front of an audience at the Pumphouse Hotel Fitzroy.

Part 1 (here). Speaker: Kieran Tapsell, Retired Lawyer and author of Potiphar's Wife. 37'29"
Part 2 (here). Responder: Canon Lawyer Rev. Professor Ian Waters (speaking in a private capacity). 23'45"
Part 3 (here). Audience interaction with presenters and closing comments. 59' 12"                                                                                               -------------------------------------------------
Pope Francis and the Curia.
Extract from Michael Jelly SJ, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 26 December 2014

The tongues are certainly waging worldwide over the Christmas message of Pope Francis to staff at the Vatican – the priests, monsignors, bishops and cardinals gathered for an end of year assessment by the pope of the year that has passed. A few perfunctory words to round out a very busy year or a general expression for thanks for various contributions? Not at all! A full on, Gospel based account of the traps of bureaucracy, the hypocrisy that can beset professional Catholic administrators and an implied warning that more is to come when the anticipated plans to restructure the Vatican Curia are announced in the next couple of months. “Where did this one come from and why at Christmas?” is the understandable question on many minds, not least those whose tenure in their jobs depends on the one making the damning assessment. But there’s nothing new in what the pope said, observers of the Vatican and those who have worked closely with bishops and cardinals in Rome have told me (more).

Two reports from the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission.
Extract from Michael Kieran Tapsell, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 26 December 2014

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse published two reports on 19 December 2014. The first related to Case No. 11 dealing with four institutions run by the Christian Brothers Congregation in Western Australia from the 1920s until the 1980s for wards of the State, child migrants and children sent there privately. It made findings about the poor treatment and education of the boys, the many instances of sexual abuse by 16 named Christian brothers and 2 priests, the lack of supervision by the leaders of the Christian Brothers and by the State, the failure to report these crimes to the police and to dismiss these brothers. The second report was of Case No. 14 concerning Fr John Nestor in the Diocese of Wollongong where the issue was the inadequacy of the Church’s disciplinary system and the effect of the conflicts between canon law and the local Church protocol, Towards Healing. In the result, it took 15 years to dismiss a priest against whom many complaints of abuse had been substantiated (more).

Shrewsbury bishop underlines chastity as hierarchy urges clergy to accompany laity with patience and tolerance
Extracts from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 26 December 2014

The Bishop of Shrewsbury has reminded Catholics that sex belongs solely within marriage, as the bishops of England and Wales launches a consultation into how best the Church can accompany engaged couples, divorcees and gay Catholics. Bishop Mark Davies issued a pastoral letter to be read in churches on 28 December, the Feast of the Holy Family, called “The beautiful virtue of chastity”.In it he restated church teaching that marriage is an ”unbreakable union of man and woman”, and that sexual relations belong within marriage alone and must always be open to new life. His letter came days after the bishops’ conference issued a reflection document for clergy and a leaflet for laity entitled “The Call, the Journey and the Mission” inviting laity to join in a period of discernment ahead of next October’s follow-up Synod on the Family in Rome. Bishop Davies cautioned against misunderstanding the purpose of such an exercise. “To ‘discern’ means to make a right judgment. Pope Francis has made it clear, contrary to many stories circulating in the media, that the Church does not function like a parliament, nor can truth be determined by opinion polls,” he wrote.............The bishops’ letter to clergy called for patience in ministering to people whose lives did not fully reflect church teaching. It picked up on the notion of gradualism, which was frequently cited in discussions at last October’s synod. “Can charity allow us to live with difference, without diminishing what is essential to our Catholic faith? … In a rapidly developing world, particularly where moral autonomy is concerned, we need patience and tolerance before clarity and truth emerge in people’s lives.” (more).


 Happy Christmas to all 25 December 2014
Catholics For Renewal wishes everyone a peaceful and joyous Christmas, and in the spirit of Pope Francis return to a more open and Christ-like Church.

                                                                                                                                                                        The programme of Francis’ Papacy: changing the culture of the Roman Curia
Extract from Christopher Lamb, Blog, The Tablet, 22 December 2014

Three days before Christmas in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Roman Curia in what was considered to be a key speech of his pontificate. In it he set out what he saw as the correct way to interpret the Second Vatican Council - the 1962-5 gathering that brought forward a series of reforms in the Church - criticising a “hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture” that sees a split between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church. While how to interpret Vatican II was a recurring theme under Benedict, the reform of the Roman Curia has been high on Francis’ agenda. And his speech today, where he sets out the 15 diseases that can infect those who work at the global church’s central administration, is also likely to be seen as an important document for his papacy. Reforming the curia – or to others “cleaning it up” – was, after all, one of the reasons Francis was elected Pope.....(More)

2015 Synod on the Family - simplified Questionnaire  released                                                 Life, Marriage and Family Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Thursday 18 December 2015                                  Following the recent Extraordinary Synod on the family, Pope Francis and the Bishops’ Synod are again seeking input ahead of their October 2015 Synod. In response to feedback during the previous process, a simplified questionnaire has been developed for our local Church (here). The online survey can be found here.     A simple guide with the questions is available from the Life, Marriage and Family Office website here.

While not essential, people may also wish to read the Relatio Synodi - the final summary of the Extraordinary Synod in October 2014 - before responding. The final part of the Relatio also includes the full set of questions. The on-line survey will be open until midnight on Tuesday 10th February 2015. While using the on-line survey is preferred, hard copy responses can be submitted up to Friday 6th  February 2015.      To obtain a hard copy contact your Parish Office.   Any questions about the process can be directed to the Life, Marriage & Family Office on 03 9287 5579.

Pope Francis appoints leading Wollongong welfare worker to Vatican child protection commission
Extract from Diocese of Broken Bay, 18 December 2014

Pope Francis has appointed Kathleen McCormack, the founding director of CatholicCare in the NSW city of Wollongong, to the Vatican's child protection body. Ms McCormack is among eight new members of the commission, led by American cardinal Sean O'Malley, to advise him on safeguarding children from sexual abuse. The appointments were announced overnight in Rome. The 17-member Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was announced by the Pope in December 2013. It now consists of eight women and nine men, both clerical and lay, with new members coming from Australia, Britain, Colombia, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, United States and Zambia. It includes two survivors of child sexual abuse within the Church. Mr Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, said Kathleen McCormack will be a passionate and committed representative for people sexually abused in the Church in Australia and around the world. “This appointment is an important recognition of Kathleen’s life work spent in the service of children and other vulnerable people,” he said. “It also recognises the work being undertaken in Australia to address the crisis of child sexual abuse..........(Ms McCormac said) “This Commission is about best practice in the future, not just for the children in our Church, but for the children of our world. It’s about the Church wanting to lead in the safety of children,” Ms McCormack said. “We’ve been through a lot in Australia, and although we have many policies and procedures in place, we still need to do much better. I believe the wisdom we will gain from the Royal Commission in Australia will be invaluable to the Pope’s Commission (more).

Vindication of US Women Religious but further dialogue required
Catholics For renewal, Thursday 18 December 2014

Catholics for Renewal welcomes the vindication of the 50,000 sisters of the U.S. ‘Leadership Conference of Women Religious'  in a lengthy report issued 16 December 2014 in the Vatican by Cardinal Boaz de Aviz , Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life and Societies for Apostolic Life. The Vatican Investigation, formally known as an Apostolic Visitation, was launched under Pope Benedict XV1in 2008 and involved 341 women’s religious institutes involving 50,000 American Sisters.          The Report is claimed to be the longest and most comprehensive report ever in Catholic Church memory. It was originally conducted by Cardinal Rode (since retired)  into what he termed ‘some irregularities or omissions ‘ among U.S. Sisters and accused them of  "a certain secular mentality and perhaps a certain feminist spirit’’.           However the content of this final report was positive and praised the commitment of the sisters involved; their president Sr. Sharon Holland welcomed the report:  “our achievements have been recognised  with gratitude”.       We are still awaiting a further report from Cardinal Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, into the  same Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Catholics for Renewal in Australia welcomes the overdue recognition of these dedicated 50,000 American Sisters.         Whilst the Vatican report provides vindication and opens up fresh dialogue there remain some issues to resolve as Joan Chittister points out in her commentary "The ending should have been the beginning".

The ending should have been the beginning
Extracts from Commentary, Joan Chittister, Global Sisters Report (a project of the NCR),17 December 2014

I learned somewhere that “All spirit starts at the top.” The attribution may be apocryphal, perhaps, but in this case true, nevertheless. Tuesday, in fact, I saw the truth of that with my own eyes. Tuesday’s release of the final report on the apostolic visitation of American nuns launched in 2008 by Cardinal Franc Rodé, then prefect of the congregation for religious life, takes on a completely different tone than at its inception. The plan, as then defined, simply mandated the invasion of American religious congregations to look into the quality of life being lived by American sisters.        Launched without discussion or collaboration with the women religious involved, the plan took on the aura of a witch hunt and marked the entire process negatively. The process alone alerted sisters to the lack of trust and respect for them, even as institutions let alone individuals. It also alerted the laity, thousands upon thousands of them, whose own spiritual lives had been nourished by the changes sisters had made in their work and lifestyles over the years. It was the laity who knew up close and in a special way the potential disaster that could come to the church itself from blocking those changes in the future.        Like the drop of a medieval guillotine ordered from above and subject to no review, the harsh imposition of the process was met by appropriate resistance from one end of the country to the other. Women religious gathered in solemn conclave reiterated that the changes in religious life since Vatican II came directly out of their attempts to make ministry and evangelization to a Vatican II world possible. And, yet, they also knew it was for those very developments that they saw themselves being tried and convicted of religious malfeasance.        Nevertheless, today, six years later, under Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, this final report issued in response to that national evaluation has all but leached out the negative and punitive spirit that unloosed it. The spirit at the top has changed. The tone has changed. The degree of collaboration has changed. As a result, this final report becomes a standard for future dialogue, yes, but at the same time, its lack of transparency galls a bit................In fact, Tuesday’s report, with its recognition of the momentous effect of the American sisterhood on the development of the church in the United States, is precisely the document that should have opened the discussion rather than ended it (more). Photo:Nuns listen during Vatican press conference on the final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious.

A look back at 2014
Extracts from Archbishop Hart, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Wednesday 17 December 2014

AS I take some time out to reflect on the year that was, I realise that 2014 was a year of highs and lows for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC). Pope Francis asked us to be missionary disciples. In our work at the Bishops Conference we are called to take part in this new missionary ‘going forth’. Reflecting on the work carried out by the Conference and its staff over the past year, I think of the joy that Pope Francis refers to and which I have seen. Amid busy times with pressing obligations, the Conference and staff have worked with hearts full of faith. The Catholic Church in Australia hosted numerous informative and evangelising events this year including, the Pastoral Research Conference, Proclaim 2014 and the Youth Ministry Convention to highlight a few. On that note, great strides are being made in youth ministry across the country led by the newly established ACBC Office for Youth through the support of the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life...............Our annual social justice statement focused on sport, an issue that appealed to many. The statement entitled ‘A Crown for Australia: Striving for the best in our sporting nation’ sparked discussion and debate across the country. It was a momentous year for the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council as the organisation published ‘Building Bridges’, a collection of social justice statements from 1988 to 2013. The tradition of annual social justice statements is one of which all Catholics in Australia can be proud................The Australian Catholic Bishops have continued to fully cooperate with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. We are working jointly with Catholic Religious Australia through the Truth, Justice and Healing Council to allow the Church to speak with one voice. We are mindful of words to “trust in the Holy Spirit” to guide us in our decision making and to serve our people wisely. We pray that the outcomes of the Royal Commission will be reached with openness, courage and humility. Finally, representing the Australian Catholic Bishops at the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was both an interesting and challenging experience.The Australian Bishops will continue to pray for families everywhere, in particular reflecting on how we can bring people who are broken closer to Christ and the Church (more).

Church of England names its first woman bishop
Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 17 December 2014

Libby LaneThe first woman bishop in the Church of England was named today.
The CofE announced this morning that Revd Libby Lane is to be installed as the suffragan bishop of Stockport.In 2013 Bishop-elect Lane was elected as a female representative for the north-west region to House of Bishops and since 2010 has been Dean of Women in Ministry for the Diocese. She is a bishop’s Selection Advisor, advising and supporting those considering a vocation to ministry in the Church of England. Bishop-elect Lane has been parish priest of St Peter’s Hale and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in the Diocese of Chester, since 2007. She was one of the first women to enter the priesthood and was ordained a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994. She was ordained with her husband George, who is co-ordinating chaplain at Manchester Airport. In a brief video message on the Diocese of Chester website, she said her prayer was that she would be able to "use the authority vested in me to heal and not to hurt; to build up, not to break down". "I am committed to using this unique moment to build unity and to grow God's kingdom together," she said (more). 

Visitation report takes mostly positive tone toward US sisters
Extracts from  Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 16 December 2014

Vatican City. The final report of a controversial six-year Vatican investigation of tens of thousands of U.S. Catholic sisters takes a roundly positive, even laudatory, tone toward their life and work but also includes several couched but barbed criticisms of them. Using some form of the word "gratitude" eight times over its 12 pages, the report also acknowledges the suspicion many sisters had over the launching of the investigation and says the Vatican is seeking "respectful and fruitful dialogue" with those who refused to collaborate in the process............The Vatican investigation, known formally as an apostolic visitation, was launched by the religious congregation in 2008 with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. Likely the largest such investigation in church history, it involved inquiry into some 341 female religious institutes in the U.S. that include some 50,000 women (more).

UK Married priest replaces cleric who fell in love with parishioner
Extract from
CathNews, 16 December 2014
An English priest who left active ministry after admitting a relationship with a woman is being replaced by a married priest, reports The Tablet. Parishioners at St Thomas More Catholic Church in Coventry were informed in October that their parish priest, Fr Philip Gay, had decided “after careful consideration and for personal reasons” to step down from his duties in order to consider his future. A fortnight ago
, his departure was confirmed in a statement from the Archdiocese of Birmingham that said: “It is with regret that we must now let you know of [Fr Gay’s] decision to leave the priesthood.” According to parishioners, Fr Gay – who celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination earlier this year – left after falling in love with a female parishioner. The archdiocese also announced that Fr Gay’s replacement would be Fr Stephen Day, a 53-year-old former Anglican priest who is set to arrive at the presbytery next week, from his current parish of St Anne’s in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, with his wife and three children aged 10, 13 and 16 (more). Photo: CathNews, St Thomas Moore Church, Coventry  

Celibacy – Icon of Clericalism.
Extract from Eric Hodgens, Catholic View, December 2014

The Catholic Church October synod was surprisingly successful. Unlike previous synods the discussion was open. The focus was pastoral rather than legal. Questions like Communion for divorcees, living together without being married, homosexual relationships, contraception are now on the table. The objective is to seek solutions to complications rather than repeat the rules that most Catholics do not accept.  Common sense won over ideology.        For the first time in thirty five years the hierarchy are catching up on the rank and file who have been solving these dilemmas in practical terms for decades.  The laity solved the contraception issue in the 70s. They decided that Paul VI was wrong about contraception and changed their behaviour accordingly. Papal authority was undermined, Mass attendance became more casual and confession became a thing of the past. Over recent years many ordinary Church members have become open to unmarried couples living together and see divorce and homosexuality as normal. Communion in these conditions is not an issue.      A negative attitude to sex underlies all the synod questions.........(more)

Truth, Justice and Healing Council's challenge of celibacy falls on deaf ears
Extract from Kristina Kennealy, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 December 2014

Last Friday the Australian Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council released a ground-breaking report on child sexual abuse.  That morning, ABC's Samantha Donovan interviewed the council's chief executive Francis Sullivan and asked him if he had received any response yet from the Vatican. Sullivan laughed and said, "No, not at all.".  "You're laughing there?" said Donovan.Sullivan replied, "Well, I think they're all asleep at the moment ... [awkward pause] ... with it happening overnight." I know what Sullivan meant, but it is hard not to think that when it comes to child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, many in the Vatican are still asleep. The Truth, Justice and Healing Council's report publicly named two aspects of church practice as possible contributors to the sexual abuse of children by priests:  obligatory celibacy and clericalism (that is, that only ordained men exercise power in the Church). Most Australians, Catholic or not, likely responded with the equivalent of "well, duh …. yeah".  Though the council's observations may seem obvious, the Catholic Church has firmly refused to acknowledge that enforced celibacy can create serious "psychosexual development" issues in some priests. Combine that with the privileged position of unchallenged power that priests and bishops hold in the Catholic Church, and it isn't hard to see how the sexual abuse of children by clergy is a tragic consequence.........The council's report represents a landmark moment, but it is not speaking in a lone voice.  Former Bishops Bill Morris, Pat Power and Geoffrey Robinson argue that priestly celibacy should be optional. Even Cardinal George Pell, a year before the council's report, noted that there could be a link between celibacy and child sexual abuse. It's time current church leaders in Australia and in the Vatican wake up to these calls (more).
   Kristina Keneally is a former NSW premier and a Catholic.

Cultural and structural changes to universal Church need to follow TJHC Findings
Extracts from Peter Johnstone, Catholics For Renewal, 14 December 2014 (full article here)

The Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council has released an 'Activity Report’ describing the activities of the Council over the past two years to December 2014. The report is worth reading as it reflects the development of the Council as it has come to grips with the enormity of both clerical child sexual abuse and the institutional Church’s immoral cover-up and consequent exposure of further children to harm in order to protect paedophiles and its institutional reputation. The Church must acknowledge, face up to and establish a basis for working towards correcting its extraordinarily bad culture and dysfunctional governance. Also, canon law and local church procedures need reform.  Kieran Tapsell article  (extract below) in John Menadue’s ‘Pearls and Irritations’ is very informed on these issues.       The TJHC Activity Report recognises that the Church leadership as a whole must take responsibility, and quotes the Australian Bishops’ Commitment Statement “.  . . .  those in positions of authority concealed or covered up what they knew of the facts, moved perpetrators to another place, thereby enabling them to offend again, or failed to report matters to the police when they should have. That behaviour too is indefensible.        Too often in the past it is clear some Church leaders gave too high a priority to protecting the reputation of the Church, its priests, religious and other personnel, over the protection of children and their families, and over compassion and concern for those who suffered at the hands of Church personnel. That too was and is inexcusable."...................... Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini recorded the following trenchant critique of the Church’s governance just weeks before his death on 29 August 2012 “The church must recognize its errors and follow a radical path of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals compel us to take up a path of conversion.” He went on to say: “The church is 200 years behind the times."            Reasonable and achievable organisational change in the Church’s social structure will most likely only happen when laity, especially women,  are appointed to  senior positions in Church governance.     Only then will the wall of clericalism be breached"  We hope and pray that the TJHC will come to grips with these governance and cultural deficiencies as it seeks to develop a reform agenda for the Church. It needs to look at the whole universal Church, not just Australia. (more)

More Cracks in the Church Dyke?
Extract fromn Kieran Tapsel, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 14 December 2014

In December 2013, I wrote a piece for this blog entitled, Cracks in the Church Dyke at the Royal Commission, which posed the question: the real issue now is whether the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, (TJHC), representing the Church at the Royal Commission, will come clean over canon law, or the dyke will be opened by a thousand cuts (reference).  The dyke I was referring to was that erected by Pope Benedict XVI in his Pastoral Letter to the Irish people of March 2010, where he ignored the criticisms of canon law by the Murphy Commission in Ireland and its finding that “the structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated the cover up”. Instead, he blamed the bishops for failing to deal with these priests through “the long established norms of canon law.” That was an extraordinary statement because as far back as 1988, as Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had complained to the Vatican’s chief canon lawyer, Cardinal Castillo Lara about the inadequacies of canon law for dealing with child sexual abuse.  He set the strategy to be followed by the rest of the Church over the cover up: blame individual bishops, and do not mention canon law or the Vatican (more).

ABC: Cutting Religion or Science?  
John Costa, Saturday 13th December 2014

Friday the 13th could be a more appropriate date for this report. While Religion and Science are regarded by many thinking people as two of the more important areas of life they are reportedly  areas the ABC is currently juggling an axe over in response to budget cuts, according to a weekend report in The Age by Matthew Knott (ABC Religion, science show fears,13/12/2014). The report suggests that the highly respected 'must watch' Compass program is the more likely victim, with Catalyst likely to be diminished by time-sharing in future with Foreign Correspondent. All of these programs are part of what makes the ABC exceptional. They provide thought leadership and deep insights in a complex world that increasingly requires understanding, humanness, and original thinking. Mineral resources and primary production are no longer sufficient for cultural and economic sustainability. Eliminating or diminishing these ABC programs would seriously erode the value and original intent of our national government broadcaster. Without criticising commercial counterparts such programming has distinguished the ABC as a reference source for objective reporting, information provision and thought leadership. The ABC can never compete with commercial broadcasters, nor is there need to. The need is to source programming that more than ever is required to help lift Australia from the shadow of the Lucky Country and facilitate the originality needed for a high quality of life in competition with the rest of the developed world. Nations and greatness are not built out of cutting costs, but out of developing and exploiting capital. There is at least some consistency with current thinking, for example about the National Broadband Network which has been cut back in facility to 'cut costs' more than than to exploit its very substantial potential to help ensure Australia's future. In the human domain of 'life matters' losing Compass would significantly diminish our society.

New Synod questionnaire on family issues issued by Vatican
Extract from and link to Vatican 'Lineamenta' and Questions Aimed at a Response to and an In-Depth Examination of the Relatio Synodi of the III Extraordinary General Assembly, Association Of Catholic Priests, 12 December 2014

Preface. At the conclusion of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in 2014 to treat the topic, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Pope Francis decided to make public the Relatio Synodi, the document which concluded the synod’s work. At the same time, the Holy Father indicated that this document would be the Lineamenta for the XIV Ordinary General Assembly to take place from 4 to 25 October 2015 to treat the topic, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.           The Relatio Synodi, which is sent as the Lineamenta, concludes in the following words: “These proposed reflections, the fruit of the synodal work that took place in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate points of view that will later be developed and clarified through reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year leading to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” (Relatio Synodi, n. 62)               The Lineamenta has a series of questions aimed at knowing how the document is received and to generate an in-depth examination of the work initiated during the Extraordinary Assembly. It is a matter of re-thinking “with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation, transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family” (Relatio Synodi, n. 4). From this vantage point, we have “one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront” (Pope Francis, Concluding Discourse, 18 October 2014). The results of this consultation, together with the Relatio Synodi, will serve as the basis for the Instrumentum laboris of the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of 2015.           For this purpose, the episcopal conferences are asked to choose a suitable manner of involving all components of the particular churches and academic institutions, organizations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations (more).

Truth, Justice Healing Council Activity Report
Extract from CathNews, 12 December 2014

The Truth Justice and Healing Council today released a major report detailing its activities over the past two years, which documents the Council’s engagement with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. The Council's CEO, Francis Sullivan, said the document "demonstrates how far the Church leadership has come over the past two years. "What has transpired over the past two years has shocked, certainly most Catholics, and gone beyond even the worst expectations of many," he said. “The public hearings have exposed the failings within the Church to understand the extent of the crisis and, certainly in the early years, to put in place a pathway for survivors of abuse to be heard and to access justice. “What we have seen, however, over the past two years, and what is recorded in this report, is the willingness of the Church leadership to tackle the emerging issues head-on, to understand the need for change and for a new approach to the survivors," Francis Sullivan added (more).   Ed: TJHC Report here. Photo: Francis Sullivan

Celibacy may be linked to sexual abuse, Catholic Church concedes
Extract from Julie Power, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 2014

Obligatory celibacy may have contributed to sexual abuse in some circumstances,  the Australian Catholic Church has conceded in a report recommending that priests be given "psychosexual training". It also says the abuse of priests' powers over others - called "clericalism" - may also have contributed to the way the church responded to claims of abuse, including its tendency to disbelieve or turn a blind eye to allegations of abuse. "Church institutions and their leaders, over many decades, seemed to turn a blind eye, either instinctively or deliberately, to the abuse happening within their diocese or religious order, protecting the institution rather than caring for the child," the report said. The progress report by the Truth, Justice and Healing Council of the Catholic Church is at direct odds with a report by the Catholic Church in the United States that denied any link between child abuse and celibacy. The report recommends that all priests undergo psycho-sexual development to learn how to better control their sexual needs and passions (more).

Seven reasons some women wince when Pope Francis starts talking
Extract from  David Gibson, Religion News Service , National Catholic Reporter, 11 December 2014

When Pope Francis this month wanted to highlight his appointment of several women to a blue-ribbon theological commission, he called the female theologians "strawberries on the cake."  Yikes.  Two weeks earlier, when the pontiff gave a speech to the European Parliament, he used another lady-based analogy, this time underscoring the continent's demographic decline and cultural crisis by comparing Europe to a grandmother who is "no longer fertile and vibrant."   Ouch.   Yes, Francis is a veritable quote machine, tossing off-the-cuff bon mots that the public finds enormously appealing in large part because they are coming from a Roman pontiff -- not an office known for its improv routines. But when he speaks about women, Francis can sound a lot like the (almost) 78-year-old Argentine churchman that he is, using analogies that sound alternately condescending and impolitic, even if well-intentioned (more).

Rome instructs world's bishops to 'rethink' pastoral approach to family and consult all the faithful
Extract from James Roberts, The Tablet, 10 December 2014

The Vatican has instructed all bishops’ conferences to initiate wide-ranging consultations and discussions on matters arising from October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, in preparation for the Ordinary Synod that will take place in October 2015. The Office for the Synod of Bishops that issued the instruction contains 46 questions that will guide an “in-depth examination” of the work begun at October's Extraordinary Synod.                     The questions are designed, the bishops are told, to help them avoid “a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine”, as this might not “respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly” and risked leading to a “reflection far from the path already indicated”. The task now, the instruction says, quoting from the final document of the October Synod, is to “re-think … what revelation, transmitted in the Church's faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family”. “All levels” of the Church must be involved, the instruction stipulates, including “academic institutions, lay movements and other ecclesial associations”. "Every effort should be made not to begin anew, but to continue on the path undertaken in the Extraordinary Synod as a point of departure,” the instruction states.                       The pastoral approach already established in October must guide all future deliberations, it says, providing “concrete instances” arising from “specific situations”. The instruction quotes extensively from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), mentioning specifically the exhortation’s emphasis on mercy and journeying to the peripheries of society. “How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God and how can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity towards families, especially those that are wounded and fragile?” is one of the questions asked, according to a translation reported by Joshua McElwee of the US-based National Catholic Reporter (more).
Painting. Christ and the Samaritan Woman, Carl Bloch (1834–90)

Where some see resistance, Francis sees dialogue
Pope says he's not afraid of different points of view
Extract from Staff, Global Pulse, 9 December 2014

Vatican City. In an interview with an Argentine newspaper, Pope Francis said he isn't worried by some of the resistance he's faced since being elected pope 21 months ago. "Resistance is now evident. And that is a good sign for me, getting the resistance out into the open, no stealthy mumbling when there is disagreement. It's healthy to get things out into the open, it's very healthy," he told La Nacion. The pope said a healthy dialogue on important issues was integral to the Church fulfilling its mission. He said he saw resistance as an offering of "different points of view, not something dirty." "It all seems normal to me, if there were no difference of opinions, that wouldn't be normal," he said. The 50-minute interview covered a wide range of topics, including the pope's plan to reform the Roman Curia, which he said will extend beyond next year's projected complete date. He also downplayed reports of divisions among the bishops during the Synod of the Family, held Oct. 5-19 in Rome. ...(more)

For Pope, "The joy of the Church is going out to look for lost sheep"
Extract from Asia, 9 December 2014

Vatican. "The joy of the Church," the pontiff said, "is going out of itself to give life" and "look for lost sheep" because if it "turns inward, closes in on itself, it might be well organised, a perfect organisation, all right, all clean, but it lacks joy, merriment, and peace and so it becomes a discouraged, anxious, and sad Church, a Church that is more spinster than mother". (more)

Secretariat publishes 'Lineamenta' for next Synod on Family
Extract from Vatican Radio, 9 December 2014
(Vatican Radio) In preparation for the General Synod of Bishops on the family, set for October 4th to 25th 2015, the Synod Secretariat on Tuesday announced the publication of its preparatory document, known by its Latin name, the ‘Lineamenta’. Philippa Hitchen reports. While Pope Francis made clear, at the conclusion of last October’s Extraordinary Synod on the family, that the final report, or ‘Relatio’, from the two week encounter would serve as the preliminary document for next October’s Synod, the Secretariat said it has also drawn up a series of questions to accompany that ‘Relatio’. These two parts of the ‘Lineamenta’ have been sent, in the original Italian, to bishops conferences, the Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches, the Union of Religious Superiors and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Over the coming days they will be translated into other languages, in order that they can be shared as widely as possible for consultation with all those people and organisations concerned with the pastoral care of families. All the results of such consultation must be returned to the Synod Secretariat by April 15th so that the working guidelines, known as the ‘Instrumentum laboris’, can be published before next summer. The wide-ranging questions ask for reflections on all aspects of the promotion of authentic family values, the training of clergy in family ministry, the way the Church can be more present among those living far away from the Christian faith and the care of families that are wounded and fragile, including those who are divorced and remarried or seeking to care for homosexual members (more).

Holy See creates new judicial body for abuse cases
Extract from Vatican Radio, First published 11/11/2014. Reprinted 9 December 2014

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See announced the creation of a new judicial body within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Tuesday, for the specific purpose of dealing with the most serious crimes (delicta graviora), specifically: the sexual abuse of minors, and certain serious abuses associated with the Sacrament of Penance. The new body is to be a College composed of seven Cardinals or Bishops (who may be members of the Congregation, but are not required to be members thereof), chosen by the Holy Father. Paragraph 4 of the Rescript creating the new College offers a special provision for bishops accused of grave crimes: any bishop accused of grave crimes shall have his case examined by the whole body of members of the Congregation – the Ordinary Session – which may also examine other specific cases upon Papal request, and/or examine cases referred to it by the newly created College (more).

Australian abuse inquiry is no fishing expedition                                                                                 Public scrutiny of Church files will make the world safer for children
Extract from Kieran Tapsell, Gobal Pulse / Eureka Street. 8 December 2014

Jesuit Fr. Frank Brennan has criticized the U.N. Committee against Torture for making some gratuitous comments about Australia's response under the convention, and about the Holy See's response to the request for the production of documents from the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.  Some of the committee's comments were gratuitous: its members initially did not seem to understand that the Australian government has no power to tell a royal commission what to do; nor did they seem to understand that the royal commission only makes recommendations, and does not prosecute anyone. However, the assertion by Fr. Brennan that the royal commission’s request for the production of documents involved a “fishing expedition” is, with respect, equally gratuitous. This is a term used in civil litigation where one party, in seeking discovery of documents, hopes that they will reveal relevant evidence to support its case without any ground for believing that such evidence exists. If that kind of restriction were placed on royal commissions, their powers to investigate would be significantly shackled. Even assuming that the civil litigation discovery rules apply to royal commissions (and they don't), if fish are reasonably suspected of being in the pond, the discovery exercise is not a “fishing expedition.” The “fish” in this case are relevant documents in the possession of the Holy See that were not retained in Australia. There is hard evidence, publicly available, of the Holy See's practice of requiring local copies of documents to be destroyed, and of bishops being advised to send “sensitive” documents to the papal nuncio who could then claim diplomatic immunity over them (more). Photo: Catholics For Renewal. Kieran Tapsell (left) speaking at "The role of Church law in the child abuse issue: help or hindrance" Discussion with Rev. Professor Ian Waters (right) and audience in Melbourne, 29 October 2014

Making the world safer for children.
Extracts from Frank Brennan SJ, Pearls and irritations. John Menadue website. 6 December 2014

The United Nations has developed an elaborate system of committees to oversee compliance by nation states with a broad range of international human rights instruments. These committee processes are sometimes used by nongovernmental organizations pushing their own particular causes. Of late, a group called SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — have been making submissions to U.N. committees expressing dissatisfaction with the Vatican’s response to child sexual abuse..................In preparation for the committee hearing, Australia had provided a comprehensive 52-page report on compliance issues on July 31, 2013. Australia takes seriously these U.N. procedures. John Quinn, Australia’s permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva, was accompanied by a five-member high-level delegation of public servants from Canberra in addition to several colleagues from his own permanent mission at the committee hearing in November. Neither the 52-page report nor the eight-page opening statement of the Australians referred to child sexual abuse. That is not surprising. This is a U.N. committee with a very particular mandate. There are other U.N. committees that deal with children’s rights, women’s rights, the rights of those who suffer a disability, racial discrimination, civil and political rights etc. This committee as its name suggests deals principally with state authorized or state tolerated torture.................I have no expectation that a U.N. Committee against Torture peripherally concerned with the question whether Australian state officials have acquiesced in child sexual abuse committed by others would delve into all this detail of dealings between a royal commission and the Holy See. But I do have an expectation that such a committee would keep its nose out of the matter until the royal commission has run its course, until the Vatican has had the opportunity to honor its solemn commitments to assist the inquiry, and until the U.N. committee is in a position to see if its mandate is evenly remotely invoked. This sort of gratuitous reporting by U.N. committees at the urgings of NGOs like SNAP does absolutely nothing to make the world or the Catholic Church safer for children. It just gives the U.N. human rights machinery a bad name. You would think the Committee against Torture would have enough on its plate (more).

Full House for Emeritus Bishop Bill Morris Discussion in Melbourne
Friday 5 December 2014

Two full-house events within a month suggest that whilst the Catholic Church is in decline in the western world there are many highly faithful people of God critical of aspects of the church but eager to work within the Church towards returning it to a more Christ like organisation. Thank God Pope Francis is of the same view, which is another reason that despite his removal by Pope benedict in 2011 as Emeritus Bishop of Toowoomba "it has been determined b
y Pope Benedict XVI that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop"#1  he remains optimistic for the future, and Clearly his deep love for the church has in no way diminished. In speaking at a Catholics For Renewal Discussion event last night supported by ATF Press, amongst other things about the unprecedented openness of the recent Extraordinary Synod and, hopefully, the Synod process ahead, he related how in his own former diocese a process of actively involving and appropriately empowering lay people to make their own diocese a highly supportive Christian community had brought much new life and energy across the diocese, and return towards the type of church Christ first introduced. He mentioned that at Vatican II when the issue of a more open church was discussed someone asked "who are the Laity"? The resounding answer was given that a church without laity would look "very strange indeed".
During a very engaging 2nd hour of audience discussion last night a similar point was made by a younger audience member that a future church without youth would also look very strange!  In response to another audience comment Bishop Morris reflected encouragingly on many recent comments of Pope Francis, and particularly that a humbler, imperfect 'messy' church reflecting the doubts and uncertainties of the real world people live in would be far superior to a 'model' church that is of little use other than to the very few who feel secure in such an unquestioning, un-Christlike world. Bishop Morris observed from what he had experienced elsewhere and this audience that the people of God are well and truly 'adult' and capable of making the church what was originally intended. In response to another question he urged all to follow up on the opportunity to engage provided by the preparatory document (Lineamenta) for the Ordinary General Assembly next October, and if they haven't heard details by February as equal members of the Church to insist on the opportunity to be heard.  Emeritus Bishop Morris is indeed now continuing to serve the church in other ways.     Note: Copies of his recent book published by ATF Press 'Benedict, Me and the Cardinals Three', an account of the circumstances surrounding his early retirement from the diocese of Toowoomba in May 2011 were made available for sale at the event.     #1 The ACBC responded at the time “it was judged that there were problems of doctrine and discipline, and we regret that these could not be resolved. We are hopeful that Bishop Morris will continue to serve the Church in other ways in the years ahead”
Francis sacks 'authoritarian' Swiss Guard commander
Extract from CathNews, 5 December 2019

Pope Francis is removing the commander of the Swiss Guards, with the Pontiff reportedly unhappy at the officer's strict authoritarian style, reports the BBC. The news that Daniel Anrig would not be continuing as commander was published in the Vatican's daily newspaper. He will leave the Vatican after Christmas at the end of an eight-year stint, and be replaced by his deputy. Since his election Pope Francis has made efforts to reform the Church and make it more open. The notice in the L'Osservatore Romano said: "The Holy Father has ordered that Colonel Daniel Rudolf Anrig end his term on 31 January, at the conclusion of the extension of his mandate." Col Anrig's approach has riled colleagues, with one Swiss Guard telling Italian media "this is the end of a dictatorship," on news of his departure. No official reason has been given for the dismissal by the Vatican. The 110-strong Swiss Guard are responsible for the personal security of the Pope. They have served the papacy for five centuries, first coming to Rome to protect Pope Julius II in 1506 (more).

Unearthing the gender balance at the heart of our Catholic tradition
Extract from Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter, 4 December 2014

I love Advent. It's such a hopeful and consoling season for those who long to see God's values fully realized "on Earth as in heaven," as Jesus prayed. This is the season of the prophet Isaiah, whose proclamations permeate our liturgies and whose writings inspired both Jesus and St. Paul. We renew our belief in a God who brings "glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives and makes justice and praise spring up before all the nations" (Isaiah 61). Above all, we bask in a very special brand of prophetic hope that stretches back over 2,500 years.Recently, I was delighted to discover that female prophets and scribes helped shape the Isaiah tradition so important to early Christianity. Episcopal priest Wilda Gafney's book Daughters of Miriam uncovers the all-but-unknown fact that in ancient Israel, prophetic schools and scribal guilds were composed of both women and men. These gender-balanced groups created the prophetic writings attributed to Isaiah and many other prophetic figures. Gafney's doctoral study of ancient prophecy and its technical vocabulary is credited with beginning a new chapter in gender and biblical studies.......It is good news for our contemporary church to recognize the gender balance at the very heart of our Catholic tradition. God's Holy Spirit, at work throughout history in both women and men, brings forth liberation, compassion and justice to a waiting world (more). Image: NCR

'Hundreds of millions of euros off the Vatican's balance sheet'
Extract from CathNews, The Catholic Herald. 4 December 2014

Vatican reformers have discovered hundreds of millions of euros that did not appear on the Holy See’s balance sheet, according to Cardinal George Pell, who is charged with sorting out the Curia’s financial affairs, reports The Catholic Herald. Writing exclusively in the first issue of the new Catholic Herald magazine, Cardinal Pell says the discovery means the Vatican’s finances are healthier than they first appeared. “It is important to point out that the Vatican is not broke. Apart from the pension fund, which needs to be strengthened for the demands on it in 15 or 20 years, the Holy See is paying its way, while possessing substantial assets and investments. “In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular, sectional accounts, and did not appear on the balance sheet. It is another question, impossible to answer, whether the Vatican should have much larger reserves.” Cardinal Pell was appointed Prefect of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy in February, making him the most senior English-speaking official in the Vatican (more). Photo: Cathnews

Curia to set up two new congregations, lay leadership discussed
Extract from CathNews, The Tablet, 4 December 2014

wo new congregations will be set up and lay people could be appointed to lead some of Rome’s dicasteries, according to the Cardinal responsible for overseeing reform of the Roman Curia, reports The Tablet. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, co-ordinator of the so-called C9 (the Council of Cardinals set up to re-organise the Curia), told Vatican Insider that two bodies dedicated to the laity and to charity were in the process of being set up. These two congregations will be drawn from a merger of the existing Pontifical councils for the laity, the family, migrants, health-care workers, justice and peace, and the Church’s charitable arm, Cor Unum. Cardinal Rodriguez also said the Secretariat of State would probably undergo a “redistribution of internal tasks.” The Honduran Cardinal added that Rome’s congregations and Pontifical councils did not have to be led by clergy. “It is also not necessary for there to be a cardinal or a bishop heading every dicastery: There could be a married couple in charge of family affairs, for example and for migrants there could be a nun who has specific experience in this area, a member of the Scalabrinian missionaries for instance.” Asked if the Church’s judicial structures would be reformed as well, he said the issue was not due to be discussed until at least the next meeting of the C9, but added: “I think it would be a good idea to have one single ministry of Justice in the Church … with one single head” that would include the Apostolic Signatura and the Council for Legislative Texts." (more)

Pope’s rhetoric on women regretfully consistent
Extract from Kelly Stewart, National Catholic Reporter, 3 December 2014

The Vatican hosted an interfaith colloquium, “Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman,” last month that attracted considerable media attention, largely because it featured a number of prominent religious conservatives: Rick Warren, Tony Perkins, Russell Moore, N.T. Wright, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, among others.........In his opening address to the conference, Pope Francis said           "We know that marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable".         Liberal critics have focused on what Francis’ involvement in the colloquium means for LGBT people and marriage equality, and they have asked how we should understand the apparent contradiction between Francis’ recent defense of complementarianism and his famous line: “Who am I to judge?” In many cases, they conclude that Francis is affirming official teaching on gender, marriage, and family to appease conservatives (more).
Chicago archbishop will give pro-choicers Communion
Extract from CathNews, The Huffington Post, 3 December 2014

Hailed as a "moderate voice” in American Catholicism who is seeking to tone down the culture wars, Chicago's new Archbishop Blase Cupich has weighed in on Communion rights, immigration reform and gay marriage. When asked by a CBS television presenter whether he would deny Communion to politicians who support abortion, Cupich emphasised dialogue and conversation instead of confrontation. "I would not use the Eucharist, or as they call it 'the communion rail,' as a place to have those discussions or a way in which people would be either excluded from the life of the Church," he said on Face The Nation. "The Eucharist is an opportunity of grace and conversion. It's also a time of forgiveness of sins, so my hope would be that grace would be instrumental in bringing people to the truth." (more). Photo: Archbishop Cupich, CathNews
Pope Francis answered questions on the synod on his journey home from Turkey
Extract from Staff Reporter, Catholic Herald UK, 1 December 2014

Pope Francis has said that the Synod on the Family is not a parliament but a “protected ecclesial space” where “the Holy Spirit may speak”. According to Catholic News Agency, the Pope told reporters on the plane home from Turkey, “The synod is a path, it is a journey, firstly. Secondly the synod is not a parliament. It’s a protected space in which the Holy Spirit may speak.” Pope Francis also stressed that the final report of the Synod was “lineamenta”, or a starting point, for next year’s synod and is currently being discussed by the episcopal conferences so it can be amended and another ‘instrumentum laboris’ (official Vatican document) drafted. Pope Francis said: “It’s a path. For this reason, you can’t take (the) opinion of one person or draft. The synod has to be seen in its totality (more).

Francis and Bartholomew issue resounding, historic calls for church reunification
Extract from Joshua J McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 30 November 2014

Istanbul. Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leaders of the millennium-long separated Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, have issued resounding and historic calls for the reunification of their global communities. Speaking to one another after a solemn Orthodox divine liturgy in St. George, an historic Christian center, Sunday, both leaders pledged to intensify efforts for full unity of their churches, saying such unity already exists among Christians dying in conflicts in the Middle East. For his part, Francis made what appears to be the strongest and most encompassing call yet from a Catholic pontiff for unity. Seeking to assure Orthodox leaders that restoration of full communion between the churches would respect Eastern traditions, he said reunion would "not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation." "I want to assure each one of you here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith," said the pope. Continuing, Francis said: "The one thing that the Catholic church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome, 'the church which presides in charity,' is communion with the Orthodox churches." (more)

Francis decries forced uniformity, receives blessing from Patriarch Bartholomew

Edited Extracts from Joshua J McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 29 November 2014

Istanbul. Visiting the ancient Christian community that is now but a small minority in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, Pope Francis on Saturday called on the church to leave its "comfort zone" and to "throw off defensiveness" to overcome misunderstanding and division. (Here are some extracts including quotes from Pope  "The temptation is always within us to resist the Holy Spirit, because he takes us out of our comfort zone and unsettles us; he makes us get up and drives the church forward," the pontiff said at the Latin Rite church. "In truth, the church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit in as much as she does not try to control or tame him," said Francis. "We Christians become true missionary disciples, able to challenge consciences, when we throw off our defensiveness and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. He is freshness, imagination and newness.".  "In our journey of faith and fraternal living, the more we allow ourselves to be humbly guided by the Spirit of the Lord, the more we will overcome misunderstandings, divisions, and disagreements and be a credible sign of unity and peace," he continued (more). 

Benedict a touchstone for conservative discontent
Extract from Cath News, David Gibson Religion News Service, 28 November 2014

When Benedict XVI resigned it immediately raised concerns, quickly dismissed, that an ex-pope around could undermine the legitimacy of the new one. Those fears are emerging again, fuelled by the growing discontent of conservative Catholics with Francis. “Benedict is hanging back for now, but there’s no doubt that he could easily become a figurehead for traditionalists harkening back to the good old days,” Notre Dame New Testament professor Candida Moss and Joel Baden, Old Testament professor at Yale Divinity School, warned in a columnn in The Daily Beast earlier this month. Hubert Wolf, a Church historian at the University of Münster, echoed those thoughts in comments reported by a leading German newspaper last week, when he said there were worries that “around Francis and Benedict XVI, two competing power centres could come into being in the (Roman) Curia, with pope and anti-pope at the top of each.” (morePhoto: CathNews
Pope Francis Calls for Courage to Have 'Fearless Pastoral Ministry' Addresses International Pastoral Congress on the World's Big Cities
Extract from Junno Arocho Esteves, Zenit, 27 November 2014

Vatican City,  Addressing the International Pastoral Congress on the World’s Big Cities, Pope Francis called on bishops to give “concrete mercy and tenderness” in their pastoral ministry. The congress, which was held Nov. 24-26, was an idea developed by Pope Francis and Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, the archbishop of Barcelona. The three-day conference examined various themes regarding evangelization in major cities, especially pastoral ministry to those living in the outskirts. The Pope began his address to the participants by saying that he wanted to share his personal experience as a pastor of a “populous and multicultural city like Buenos Aires." Together with the bishops of the 11 diocese of that ecclesiastical region, the Pope said they were able to confront some of the pastoral challenges experienced by many of the major cities around the world. He also said that he wished to allay certain fears that might come in facing those challenges. “This is an excellent opportunity to explore the challenges and possible horizons of an urban pastoral ministry,” he said. “Challenges, that is, the places where God is calling us to; horizons, meaning, aspects to which I think we should pay special attention.” (more)

On the Church's Journey Towards Heaven
Extracts from Zenit, 26 November 2014 (translation of Pope Francis’ catechesis during General Audience in St. Peter’s Square)

"The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Church is not an end in herself, but that she is continually journeying through history to the kingdom of heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and beginning.".........In presenting the Church to the men of our time, Vatican Council II was very conscious of a fundamental truth, which must never be forgotten: the Church is not a static, still reality, an end in herself, but is continually journeying in history towards the ultimate and wonderful end which is the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and the beginning (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 5). When we turn to this horizon, we notice that our imagination is arrested, revealing itself just capable of intuiting the splendor of the mystery that surpasses our senses. And some questions arise spontaneously in us: when will this final passage happen? What will the new dimension be like, which the Church will enter? What, then, will happen to humanity and to the creation that surrounds it? But these questions are not new; they were already asked by the disciples to Christ at that time: “But when will this happen? When will be the triumph of the Spirit over creation, over the created, over everything …” These are old, human questions. We also ask these questions (more).

True and false reform of the Roman Curia
Extract from Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter, 24 November 2014

The blueprint for a major reorganization of the Roman Curia is ready. And Pope Francis on Monday called together all the current heads of the Vatican's major offices (the nine congregations, three tribunals, 12 pontifical councils and several other bureaus) to explain the plan, get their reactions and hear their suggestions. But if reports on the reform scheme are correct, the pope has already decided that several of the councils established after the Second Vatican Council will be merged into major congregations. Specifically, these are the various offices dealing with the laity and others focusing on human development and social justice. According to the Spanish news site Religión Digital, the pope wants to simplify and reduce the number of Vatican offices and establish a "council of ministers." An article over the weekend said this council would be made up of the heads of 12 congregations: nine that already exist and three more that will be newly created (laity, justice and communications). But Francis does not want merely to streamline the Vatican's bureaucracy and make it more efficient; he also wants to instill a new mentality based on service, synodality, better collaboration and interoffice communication, and respect for local bishops. He's also hoping to drive a stake through the heart of careerism and eliminate what he's defined as the "cancer" of clericalism.....(more).   Photo: Cathnews

Re-booting the relationship with Rome
U.S., Italian bishops' roles redefined in era of Francis

Extract from Massimo Faggioli, Global Pils, 25 November 2014
Pope Francis has definitely set a new tone for the Church. But when it comes to the world’s bishops, it’s still not clear if it has been music to their ears. It’s difficult to get a good sense of an overall reaction through the words and actions of thousands of individual bishops. But a look at the national episcopal conferences may offer a suggestive way of capturing the complex relationship that is shaping up between the pope in Rome and the rest of the hierarchy. National bishops’ conferences are emblematic of the Second Vatican Council’s thrust towards decentralization in the Church and their responsibilities grew considerably in the first few years after Vatican II. Even though John Paul II and Benedict XVI moved to re-centralize all authority in Rome, they did not strip the conferences of all the rights and prerogatives they gained in the early post-conciliar period. They still enjoy a higher profile than their fledgling predecessors before the Council, which the Vatican viewed as a threat to the perpetuation of absolute papal primacy. It is instructive to look at how the national conferences are responding to the eventful gathering of the Synod of Bishops that took place last month in Rome. A number of them held major meetings in the wake of the Synod’s “extraordinary assembly” on the family, but the deliberations of two in particular stand out. The Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offer an indication of some important trends in the redefinition of the papal primacy in relationship to the global Church under Pope Francis. These reactions have to do with the self-representation of these national churches in their relationship with the pope in Rome and everything in between..........(more)
.      Photo: Catholic News Agency


Francis appoints Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah to lead Vatican liturgical congregation
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter,24 November 2014

Vatican City. Pope Francis has appointed Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah as the new head for the Vatican congregation that oversees and determines liturgical practices for the global Catholic church. The appointment, made Sunday but announced by the Vatican on Monday, fills what had been an unusually long vacancy among the Vatican's highest offices and elevates Sarah to the most senior African in the church's governance. It also will likely be subject to much analysis and speculation, as the post in recent years has been the topic of much discussion among Catholics about how the church celebrates liturgy in the wake of the changes of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).....(more)

Archbishop Fisher’s Vision.
Extract from Eric Hodgens,John Menadue Website, 22 November 2014

............Archbishop Fisher’s self-presentation at his installation was personable, unpretentious and light-hearted. He sees himself primarily as pastor of the Sydney Church and pledged himself to that task. The church he envisages over the next twenty years is clerical – with seminaries, convents and youth groups teeming with new life as a result of the New Evangelization carried out by parishes, chaplaincies and educational institutions. He sees the three key factors in achieving this are the clergy and religious, families and young people. These views are typical of the symbolic utterances of the conservative power bloc under the previous two popes. Episcopal utterances are changing under the reality check of the Pope Francis regime.      In fact the clerical model of the Church has failed. Religious life is now marginal instead of mainstream. The seminaries have been virtually empty for forty years. Only a small out-group is interested in the clerical profession. Once strong social pressures to belong to the Church have vanished. Younger generations for the last fifty years have not needed the Catholic vision of life. The “New Evangelization” is simply a repetition of the old, rejected ideology. Jesus’s central message of life overcoming death and of love, mercy, justice and mutual support is still compelling. But it is obscured by an accretion of beliefs and rules irrelevant to life today – but held as sacred by the clerical power bloc...........(more)

Bp Peter Comensoli appointed Bishop of Broken Bay
Extract from CathNews, 21 November 2014

Pope Francis has appointed the Most Reverend Peter Comensoli as the third Bishop of Broken Bay. During the past nine months, Bishop Comensoli has served as the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Sydney. The position of Archbishop was vacant from February until last week when Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP was installed. Currently, Bishop Comensoli is a member of the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry and Bishops Commission for Evangelisation. President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, welcomed the new Bishop of Broken Bay: “For the Australian bishops, I congratulate Bishop Peter Comensoli upon his appointment as Bishop of Broken Bay. "After distinguished service in Wollongong, and as Auxiliary Bishop and Administrator in the Archdiocese of Sydney, he brings his great abilities and personal gifts to serve and care for the priests and people of Broken Bay. He will receive a very warm welcome. Ad multos annos.” (more)
  Photo: Cathnews

Vatican sending bishops' conferences documents for 2015 synod
Extracts from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 20 November 2014

Rome, Just over a month since the conclusion of October's keenly watched meeting of Catholic bishops on issues of family life, the Vatican has announced it's already gearing up for the next meeting in 2015. Within weeks, the Vatican said in a statement Thursday, bishops' conferences around the world will be receiving preparatory documents for the 2015 meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops........................Thursday's statement was made following a Vatican meeting Tuesday and Wednesday of the council of prelates who lead the Vatican's office for the Synod of Bishops. The statement said the Vatican office will send a preparatory document for the 2015 synod to the world's bishops conferences "at the beginning of December" in hopes that an initial working document for the next synod can be ready by summer 2015. While the initial preparatory document for the 2014 synod, sent in October 2013, made headlines because it contained a wide-ranging questionnaire that the Vatican synod office said was to be distributed "as widely as possible," Thursday's statement does not indicate if the document for the 2015 synod will also have such a questionnaire. The statement does, however, say that the new preparatory document will "be constituted" of the final document from the 2014 synod along with "a series of points that help in its reception and its deepening." Thursday's announcement from the Vatican marks the beginning of what will likely be a flurry of intense activity for the synod office as it prepares to organize what it expected to be a month long meeting of prelates and lay experts in October 2015.          While the 2014 synod saw an estimated 190 prelates take part in the discussion, the 2015 edition is expected to see at least three times that number, as the 2015 synod is open not only to presidents of bishops' conferences but also several members of each conference, who are being elected to attend by their peers. Thursday's statement noted the pope was present at the Vatican synod office meetings, saying he had attended those meetings to "underline the importance that he attributes to the synod, as an expression of episcopal collegiality, and to the family, theme of the two assemblies." The statement also said those at the Vatican meeting "agreed that the period now opening between the two Assemblies, which is unprecedented in the history of the synodal institution, is very important." The year between the synods, the statement said, "should take the path already done as a starting point and take this special opportunity to study issues and promote discussion at the level of Episcopal Conferences, finding the means and the tools necessary to further involve also the different ecclesial bodies in the synodal reflection on the family."

 Women Priests in the Catholic Church – Can we at least talk about it?
Extract from Frank Brennan SJ, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 19 November 2014

There was an interesting exchange on CBS 60 Minutes here in the USA on Sunday night between Cardinal O’Malley and Norah O’Donnell (see here) ...........................The claim that the matter “is not a question open to discussion” can not be maintained unless sacramental power also includes the power to determine theology and the power to determine canon law.  Ultimately the Pope’s claim must be that only those possessed of sacramental power can determine the magisterium and canon law.  Conceding for the moment the historic exclusion of women from the sacramental power of presidency at Eucharist, we need to determine if “the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life” could include the power to contribute to theological discussion and the shaping of the magisterium and to canonical discussion about sanctions for participating in theological discussion on set topics such as the ordination of women.  As Francis says, “Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded.” Sunday night’s CBS discussion got even more difficult despite the enormous good will and rapport between O’Malley and his interviewer. This is how it unfolded: (more)

Pope calls alleged abuse victim in Granada, where group of 10 priests has been suspended
Edited Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 19 November

...........“Good afternoon son, this is Fr Jorge,” the voice on the phone said. “Sorry, you must have made a mistake, I don’t know Fr Jorge,” the man answered. “Well, it’s Pope Francis.” The Pope reportedly continued: “I have read your letter a number of times. I couldn’t be more upset about it and feel huge pain on reading your story. I want to ask forgiveness in the name of all of the Church of Christ. Forgive this terrible sin and terrible crime that you have suffered.” He then told the man “there are already people working to resolve all of this.” The archbishop (Archbishop Francisco Javier Martínez Fernández of Granada in southern Spain) issued a statement on Monday saying he had followed the procedures outlined by the Vatican and investigated the allegations. He suspended the priests as a precautionary measure, passed the findings of his investigation to the Holy See and notified the civil authorities, who are now investigating the case (more). 

Vatican lifts marriage ban on Eastern Catholic priests in diaspora
Extract from Independent Catholic News. Tuesday 18 November 2014

Pope Francis has approved a decree, signed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, lifting the ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in Eastern Catholic churches outside their traditional territories, (mostly in the United States, Canada and Australia). The decree was signed on 14 June and published later online in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official periodical which documents Vatican rulings. Clergy in the Eastern Catholic churches have traditionally been allowed to marry, but in 1890, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples introduced a marriage ban on Ruthenian priests living in the USA,  in response to protests from Latin Rite Bishops at the time, Cardinal Sandri explained. In 1929, the Congregation extended the ban, 'Cum data fuerit' to South America and Australia. Cardinal Sandri's decree notes that soon after the law was promulgated, "an estimated 200,000 Ruthenian faithful became Orthodox." The document also notes that when Pope Benedict XVI issued Anglicanorum Coetibus, allowing for the reception of Anglican communities into the Catholic Church, he explicitly provided for the presence of married Catholic priests.....(more)
  Photo: ICN, Ruthenian Church of St Michael the Archangel, Pittston, Philadelphia

International Reform Network calls for more Synod Openness.  
Extracts from Media Release, Catholic Church Reform International, 18 November 2014

Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI), a network of groups and individuals in 65 countries committed to the renewal of the Catholic Church, is calling for more openness from the Synod of Bishops in its discussions on marriage and the family.  CCRI has recently written to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, asking that the Vatican not only permit local Episcopal Conferences to make public the summaries of responses they prepare on Synod questionnaires, but actually encourage them to be more open.  Last year, when Cardinal Baldisseri sent a specially prepared Synod questionnaire to bishops across the world urging them to circulate it widely and get grass-roots feedback on the issues it raised, he also instructed that their summaries of the responses be kept secret............As preparations get under way for the Ordinary General Assembly in October 2015, the Catholic faithful are again to be asked to reflect, this time on the contents of the 62-paragraph Relatio Synodi (Synod Report), and to provide feedback.  In a sign that Pope Francis understands the need for openness, he instructed that the voting results on each of the Relatio’s paragraph be appended to the document. But CCRI is asking for more.  When the grass-roots reflections on the Relatio have been gathered and summarized, CCRI wants every Episcopal Conference to be free, indeed encouraged, to make their summaries public and widely available.  Further, prior to the commencement of the new round of reflections, CCRI has also asked Cardinal Baldisseri to allow every Episcopal Conference to publish and disseminate the summaries of responses to the 2013 questionnaire. Those summaries could greatly assist the faithful in every local church to develop and clarify their reflections on the issues which the Synod is about to ask of them

Cardinal Burke lists issues Pope should not discuss at next Synod
Extract from Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet, 18 November 2014

Next year’s follow-up Synod on the Family must take issues such as extra-marital cohabitation and Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics off the agenda, US Cardinal Raymond Burke said. Burke, who has criticised Pope Francis’ handling of last month’s Synod on the Family, told 300 people at a conference in Limerick last Saturday that those issues had been a distraction at the meetings. “Even within the Church there are those who would obscure the truth of the indissolubility of marriage in the name of mercy,” he said, and added: “We are engaged in a very great struggle and it strikes at the very heart of the Church.” Burke, the former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, whom Pope Francis has recently moved to become Patron of the Order of Malta, criticised the confusion and error which he said became evident to the world during the synod (more).

Pope runs moral template over G20
Extracts from Bruce Duncan, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 17 November 2014

None of what Pope Francis is saying about the moral criteria for a more just economic system will come as a surprise to those who have been following his earlier criticism of abuses in capitalist and other economies. Indeed, the critique of capitalism by the popes has been consistent since Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 document, On the Condition of the Working Class, and more especially since John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council which finished in 1965.........What is new with Pope Francis is his ability to communicate refreshingly in a friendly and popular way, and articulate clearly a renewed moral perspective on our global economic plight. Even people who are not Catholic or Christian can hear his voice as a call to reason, humanity and sanity at this critical moment in the human story (more).

Francis Has His Hand On The Tiller — And He Will Not Change Doctrine
Extract from the journal of Robert Moynihan, published in The Truth Will Make You Free, 14 October 2014

......I attended a round-table the other evening, on November 11, at the Centro Ecumenica Russia on Borgo Pio, a few steps from the Sant'Anna Gate into Vatican City, at which Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke. Kasper, just back in Rome after a trip to the United States, was joined by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, one of the leading canon lawyers in the Church, and now President of the Vatican's most important canon law office, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (he was also, for many years, the private secretary of the late, and important, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan). The two discussed the October Synod on the Family for an hour and a half. About 25 people were present. One essential conclusion of the discussion was this: that the Church will not change her established moral doctrine. Both men said this: that next year, when the Synod reconvenes, there won't be any change in Church doctrine, only an effort to change the application of the doctrine in specific cases. Coccopalmerio put it this way: "We never wished to change doctrine, only to change the application of the doctrine to particular cases. The doctrine cannot change." Kasper concurred. This is important. There are many who are wondering, and whispering, about the chances of a "change in Church doctrine." Yet while they wonder, and whisper, the very protagonists of the alleged move to change Church doctrine, men like Kasper and Coccopalmerio, are saying quite openly that a change in doctrine is not in the cards. It is not going to happen. And this means that those who fear that the barque of Peter is sailing "rudderless," that there is no helmsman at the tiller, that Pope Francis is falling short in carrying out his mission to confirm his brothers in the faith and in assuring the unity of the Church, are wrong....(more)

Ireland accredits new envoy to Vatican, three years after Dublin closed its embassy following row over sex abuse probe
Edited Extract from Cath News. UCA News, Friday 14 November 2014

Ms Emma Madigan, who presented her credentials, invited the Pontiff to visit Ireland, adding that while such an invitation would come from Church authorities, the government would do everything "to make the visit a success," Irish foreign ministry spokeswoman Fionnuala Quinlan said. "Ambassador Madigan underlined that Ireland is a strong advocate for the freedom of religion or belief. The persecution of members of religious minorities, including Christians, in several parts of the world is a matter of serious concern to the Irish government," Quinlan added. The embassy shut in November 2011, ostensibly for economic reasons. But the move was interpreted in Vatican diplomatic circles as a snub by Ireland, which accused the Holy See of trying to cover up and interfere in a report on clerical pedophilia (more). Photo: CathNews

Vatican to build showers in St Peter's Square for the homeless
Extract from CathNews, Friday 14 November 2014

The archbishop who distributes charity on behalf of Pope Francis has announced that the public restrooms in St Peter's Square will include showers where the homeless can wash, reports the Catholic News Service. The service will require volunteers and donations of soap, towels and clean underwear, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner said yesterday. "We have to be evangelical, but intelligent, too," he added. Several people living on the streets of Rome or in tents say it is not difficult to find a parish or charity that will give them something to eat, but finding a place to wash is much more difficult. Barbara, a Polish woman who lives in a tent with her teenage son and a companion, said showers in the Vatican's public restrooms "would be good. We'd thank them if it works." (more)

Pope's G20 hospital pass to Abbott
Extracts from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka  Street, 13 November 2014

The news that Pope Francis has written a letter to Tony Abbott makes one pause. In the terms now used to describe the exchanges between leaders, was the letter a shirtfront, a head-butt, a big hug, or a yellow card? The letter, of course, was none of these things. It was written to Abbott as chair of the G20 Summit and was directed through him to the national representatives taking part. It is usual for Popes to write such letters: a recent example was one to the Secretary of the UN about the situation in Northern Iraq. They set out the views of the Vatican on significant issues. This letter begins by summarising uncontroversially the G20 Agenda. Any distinctive papal emphases may lie in the adjectives. The meeting aims not only at providing employment, but ‘dignified and stable employment for all’.  It demands a ‘fair and adequate’ system of taxation. The focus is not on narrowly economic goals but on the good of human beings. The letter then emphasises that ‘many lives are at stake behind these political and technical discussions’. People suffer from malnutrition, from rising unemployment, especially among the young, from increasing social exclusion leading to crime and terrorism, and from continued assaults on the natural environment. The Pope hopes that the meeting will lead to consensus, and that its results will be be measured, not only by global indices but also by ‘real improvement in the living conditions of poorer families and the reduction of all forms of unacceptable inequality’.........Many of the topics raised in the letter are subjects of controversy in Australia.  They include refugees, inequality, climate change, regulation of the financial sector and the need to focus on the needs of the poor. But Pope Francis does not prescribe policies to deal with them. So there is no implied rebuke for Mr Abbott or other members of the G20. But they are challenged to set their discussion within a broader framework that puts people first.  And their citizens are invited to judge their leaders and their policies by the extent to which they do put people first (more).

Sydney’s new archbishop vows to clean up Church’s record on abuse
Extract from by Abigail Frymann Rouch, Mark Brolly, The Tablet, 13 November 2014

Dominican bioethicist Anthony Fisher, who was installed as Archbishop of Sydney on Wednesday, vowed to improve the Church’s record on safeguarding and apologised for sexual abuse committed by clergy. Giving the homily during his installation Mass he told a packed St Mary’s Cathedral he spoke of survivors’ “harrowing” experiences, “the shameful deeds of some clergy and serious failures of some leaders to respond” (more).

In the last 50 years a pope has not been criticised so brazenly
Extract from Michael Phelan, The Tablet, 13 November 2014

Pope FrancisUS bloggers and “culture warriors” – even the now-former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Burke – have publicly laid into Pope Francis in the media, criticising the calling and content of last month’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. In language similar to that of Bernard Fellay’s, the head of traditionalist Society of St Pius X, who said the Synod had opened “the gates of hell”, Cardinal Burke went further and likened the Church under Pope Francis’s leadership to “a ship without a rudder”. Not surprisingly, rumours of Burke’s sideways move to a more ceremonial post have now materialised – thus allowing him to sail into the sunset. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said the concept of having a representative body of the Church voting on doctrinal applications and pastoral solutions “strikes me as being rather Protestant”. [not to be brow-beaten, we could add this and link to James’ story] And Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was reported as saying that he was “very disturbed” by the reporting of the debate concerning church teachings on gays and remarried Catholics, saying that the media coverage sent a confusing message and that “confusion is of the devil” (more).

Newly installed Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher backs calls from Pope for church to take more inclusive approach.
Extract from Michael Kenny, SBS, 12 November 2014

The 54 year old one time corporate lawyer has been installed as Archbishop during a ceremony at Saint Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. He takes over from Cardinal George Pell who left the position in February to become the Vatican's finance chief in Rome. Archbishop Fisher said he wants to use the role to reach out to those who have felt alienated from the Catholic Church, including gay people and the divorced. "I think the Catholic Church is and should be a church for the whole of humanity," he said. "Our arms are wide open for everyone. So whatever the struggles in their life, whether that's with their sexuality or their marital history or any other issues, I want to say to them: 'Come to the Church. The Church loves you because God loves you’." Archbishop Fisher said he had been moved by recent calls from Pope Francis for the Catholic Church to adopt a greater openness towards gay people and divorced Catholics who have remarried. "I have a consciousness now of the struggles of people with same sex attraction", he said. "Our concern should be there to help them rather than to be adding to their problems and I fully back the view that we should be compassionate to people with a same sex attraction or with other struggles in their life." The new archbishop said he also wanted to use his new role to reach out to younger Catholics and to restore public trust tarnished in the wake of recent paedophile scandals involving Catholic priests. "We have to be very honest with ourselves and with everybody else about what has gone wrong", he said. "We need to own up to that and show that we are genuinely ashamed and contrite and determined that that will never happen again," he added (more). Photo: 20140919001032967615-original

US bishops try to capture some of Pope Francis' media mojo
Extract from David Gibson, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 12 November 2014

Baltimore. Much of the private discussions at the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have focused on how the American hierarchy can shift its priorities to better track those of Pope Francis, especially on social justice issues such as poverty and immigration. But what they'd really like to do is channel the pontiff's media mojo. "With Pope Francis, we are tending to be identified by what we are for rather than what we are against," said Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Coyne of Indianapolis, who was elected Tuesday to oversee the bishops' communications strategy. In fact, since the moment he was elected pope last year, Francis changed the entire media narrative about the Vatican -- from a source of scandal and dysfunction under Pope Benedict XVI to the launchpad for Catholic reform and renewal based on a message of mercy (more).
Cardinal Pell issues financial rule book for Vatican
Extract from CathNews, 10 November 2014

Cardinal George Pell has made the first significant move in Pope Francis’s drive to clean up the Vatican’s finances, issuing a financial management manual to Church officials, reports The Guardian. The rule book, which will be binding on all members of the Vatican bureaucracy from January 1, is part of Cardinal Pell’s work to bring the Church’s financial management into line with international accounting standards. The manual was sent to all Vatican departments this week by the Secretariat for the Economy, a special unit set up earlier this year, according to an internal cover letter seen by Reuters. The letter said the manual contained guidelines “that are an essential first step in the reforms of the economic and administrative practices of the Holy See, being requested by the Holy Father.” All departments will have to enact “sound and efficient financial management policies” and prepare financial information and reports in a “consistent and transparent manner” that adheres to international accounting standards.....(more)

The Hammer Falls... And Then Some
Extracts from Rocco Palmo, Whispers In The Loggia, Saturday 8 November 2014
Foreseen for weeks, it's now come to pass – at Roman Noon this Saturday, the Pope named Cardinal Raymond Burke as patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, removing the Wisconsin-born prelate from his role as the church's "chief justice" as head of the Apostolic Signatura, where he's served since 2008.............In a surprise choice for Burke's replacement at the Signatura, Francis tapped his "foreign minister," the Corsican Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, 62, who's served as Secretary for Relations with States since 2006. Yet with the diplomatic role become ever more crucial given the Argentine Pope's concerted forays into geopolitical affairs, today's most significant move is neither of the above, but the even more astonishing choice of Mamberti's successor at the helm of the Holy See's foreign service: Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher (right), 60, the Liverpool-born Nuncio to Australia, who becomes the first native English-speaker ever to hold the post (more).
  Photo:Archbishop Paul Gallagher

Appointment of Two New Auxiliary Bishops of Melbourne
Edited Extracts from ACBC Media Release, 7 November 2014

The Holy Father Pope Francis has appointed as Auxiliary Bishops of Melbourne, the Reverend Monsignor Terence Curtin (Left) and the Reverend Father Mark Stuart Edwards OMI (Right). Mgr Curtin is currently Parish Priest of Greythorn and the Episcopal Vicar for the Eastern Region of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Fr Edwards is presently Rector of Iona College in Brisbane. Congratulating both priests on their appointments, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart said: “On behalf of the people of Melbourne, I welcome the Holy Father’s care for us in appointing bishops-elect Terence Curtin and Mark Edwards as auxiliary bishops.”........Born in Balikpapan, Indonesia on 14 June 1959, Fr Edwards was educated at Mazenod College, Mulgrave and Monash University, Melbourne. Entering the Noviciate of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Mulgrave in 1980, he made his final religious profession on 17 February 1984 and was ordained a priest on 16 August 1986. Fr Edwards has since worked as a teacher, novice master and lecturer in Melbourne. In 2010 he became rector of Iona College in Brisbane. Between 2001-2012, Fr Edwards served as Counsellor of the Australian Province of the Oblates of Mary Immacolate (more
).  Photos: ACBC

Pope named fourth most powerful figure in the world
Extract from CathNews, Friday 7 November 2014

Pope Francis has been named the fourth most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine in its annual list of the world's most powerful figures, reports  Russian President Vladimir Putin has been named the world’s most powerful person for the second year in a row, beating US President Barack Obama for the top spot, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping coming in third place. Francis was fourth, ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (more).

A call for victims of sexual abuse with experience of the Melbourne Response to come forward
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Thursday 6 November 2014

Retired Federal Court Judge, the Hon. Donnell Ryan QC, who is conducting an independent review of the Melbourne Response, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s process for managing sexual abuse claims, has called on victims of sexual abuse who have experience of the Melbourne Response to come forward and share their views on the compensation awarded, and how the process could be improved. (The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, announced in April that he would commission a Review of the process available under the Melbourne Response for compensating victims of sexual abuse by priests, lay persons and religious under the control of the Melbourne Archdiocese. He appointed Mr Ryan to conduct the review in August 2014). ‘The management of sexual abuse claims, particularly the impacts both positive and negative that the existing processes have on victims, is clearly a very important issue. Any recommendations which emerge from the Review will need to ensure that the Melbourne Response takes full account of what is required to recognise and, as far as possible, alleviate the suffering of victims. To that end, I am concerned to hear not only from victims but also from their relatives, counsellors, clinicians, legal advisers and others involved in the process.  This can be by written submissions or by private hearing or personal interview with me. Particular care will be taken not to create further trauma for anybody involved in the process, so the means by which submissions are received will be adapted as sensitively as possible to individual circumstances.(more)

A Liturgy of Lament and overcoming the specter of sex abuse
Extracts from Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 6 November 2014

......Jennifer is a canon lawyer and the whistleblowing former chancellor of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese. She resigned in 2013 after Archbishop John Nienstedt refused to take seriously her findings of an intentional cover-up of clergy sex abuse by archdiocesan officials. She hoped her resignation would "prompt an external investigation and lead to internal changes." When that failed to materialize, she collaborated with Minnesota Public Radio in a pivotal, and unprecedented, exposé of the archdiocese's callous mishandling of sexual misconduct by clergy. "For me, the decision to go public was an easy one," she said.  "After years of feeling embarrassed by the contradictions between the archdiocese's external positions and internal actions, I wanted to be able to look the people in my community in the eye again.".  As Jennifer spoke of the horrendous events still unfolding in St. Paul-Minneapolis, I recognized the all-too-familiar gut-punch Minnesota Catholics are now enduring as they cope with daily reports of betrayal by bishops and priests they had formerly admired................As the scandals filled Cleveland airwaves month after month, we found ourselves in desperate need of solace and healing. One day, a clergy sex abuse survivor, "Stephen," telephoned to say he had written original hymns for a special healing prayer service, but the diocese had refused to sponsor it. Would FutureChurch sponsor the service?.......What I did not understand at the time.........was how much the Judeo-Christian prayer tradition of lament could help us deal with profound psychological pain.......Laypeople have no corner on the market when it comes to honest and upright behavior in the execution of their responsibilities in the church.........Yet as St. Paul tells us in Romans 5:20, "Where sin abounds, there grace abounds all the more fully." We count on that grace as people and priests together work for transparent and accountable church structures to reflect the goodness of the God we serve.  Already in Minneapolis, 17 new child protection protocols exist because of Jennifer Haselberger's integrity and her action (more).
Photo:  Jennifer Haselberger at FutureChurch' event Sept. 19 in Cleveland 

New York to merge 112 parishes into 55
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 6 November 2014

In a long-awaited announcement, the Archdiocese of New York has indicated it will merge 112 of its 368 parishes into 55, effectively closing at least 31 churches by next August, reports the Catholic News Service. Twenty-four of the merged parishes will continue to celebrate scheduled Masses and sacraments at two sites. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said the painful reorganisation, announced on November 2, is a necessary adjustment to historic parish infrastructure that will strengthen the Church in the Archdiocese. "The parish is the people and the people have to be cared for. What's most important is the faith continues, the Eucharist continues and the sacraments continue," he said......(more)  Photo 0611newyorkmergers_19654artthumb

Beware religious and secular 'totalitarianisms:' Bishop Fisher
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 6 November 2014

Australia has to be vigilant in protecting the separation of Church and State from both religious and secular “totalitarianisms,” Sydney’s Archbishop-designate, Anthony Fisher, told community leaders in western Sydney last week. Speaking at a farewell gathering with civic and religious leaders at Parramatta, he said both fundamentalisms were at odds with the “healthy pragmatic co-operation between Church and State” Australia had been used to.  Islamic State and other religious extremists had a “faith that has become deaf to the voice of reason; a faith that imposes rather than proposes its doctrines,” Archbishop-designate Fisher said.  Such a faith “lacks the moral imagination to co-exist peacefully and to even live as friends with people who are different to ourselves”.  An intolerant secularism likewise threatened to “banish all those with whom it does not agree” in some Western countries; “to limit or abolish freedom of religion; and to end collaboration between Church and State in education, healthcare, welfare.”....(more)

Pope Francis has conservatives talking about a schism
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 6 November 2014

Last month’s Synod, which saw Francis and his allies try to translate a more welcoming view of gays and remarried Catholics into Church policy, has prompted some conservative observers to raise the spectre of a schism, reports the RNS. Many conservative Catholics have long viewed Pope Francis with suspicion thanks to his effort to shift the Church’s focus away from a culture war agenda and toward a more welcoming approach and a greater emphasis on serving the poor. But last month’s controversial Vatican summit on the modern family, with the push by Francis and his allies to translate that inclusive view into concrete policies on gays and divorced and remarried Catholics, for example, seems to have marked a tipping point, with some on the right raising the spectre of a schism — a formal split that is viewed as the “nuclear option” for dissenters....(more) Photo: CathNews

Francis codifies pope's ability to effectively fire bishops
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 5 November 2014

Pope Francis has codified his ability to effectively fire Catholic bishops, saying that in some circumstances, he "can consider it necessary" to ask them to resign their offices.The move, which the Vatican announced Wednesday, seems to be an attempt by Francis to clear up any ambiguity about the pontiff's power to replace prelates around the world. While Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, have effectively removed bishops in the past, their power to do so was not previously so explicit in the church's laws (more).

Pope calls for 'streamlined' annulments
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 5 November 2014

Pope Francis told attendees a course at the Roman Rota – the Church’s appeal court – that marriage annulments should be streamlined so that people are not left waiting for “justice”. Speaking on Wednesday the Pope said matter had been mentioned at the bishops’ Synod on the Family last month and he had already established a commission to look at the question....(more)

Francis attacks vanity of ‘peacock-like’ bishops and calls them to unite around him in humility
Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 5 November 2014

Pope Francis has criticised bishops who strut around “like peacocks” and live only for their “vanity”. In his General Audience catechesis today the Pope was speaking about the role of bishops and collegiality. He departed from his script to add: “The bishop is not an honorary role, it is a service.” “A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The bishop serves; it is not a position of honour, to boast about.” Of the episcopal ministry the Pope said “one does not ask for it, it cannot be bought, one accepts it in obedience, not in an attempt to climb higher but to lower oneself, just as Jesus "humbled himself and became obedient unto to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). He added: “It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does all he can to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.”. Francis also said that bishops were called “to express one single college, gathered around the Pope, who is the guardian and guarantor of this profound communion that was so dear to Jesus and His apostles themselves”....(more)

"The Bishop is not an honorary role. It is a service!"                                                                                   Full Text of Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Nov. 5th
Extracts from Zenit, Vatican City, 5 November 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning! We heard what the Apostle Paul says to the Bishop, Titus, how many virtues we bishops must have, we all heard, no? And it’s not easy, it’s not easy because we are sinners. But we entrust ourselves to your prayers so that we can at least hope to be closer to the things that the Apostle Paul advises for all Bishops.  Do you agree? Will you pray for us?............Therefore, we must understand that it is not about having a position of prestige, an honorific charge. The Bishop is not an honorary role. It is a service!  Jesus wanted it this way.  There must be no place in the Church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an  ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The Episcopate is a service, it is not a position of honor, to boast about. To be Bishops means to have always before our eyes the example of Jesus who, as Good Shepherd, came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45) and to give His life for his sheep (cf. Jn. 10:11). Holy Bishops – and there are so many in the history of the Church – show us that this ministry is not sought, it is not requested, it cannot be bought but it is received in obedience, not to elevate oneself, but to lower oneself, as Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does so many things to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity......(more)

Pope: A Bishop who shows off, is no good
Extract from Rome Reports, 5 November 2014

In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis explained that the Church is based on a hierarchy because Jesus designed it that way. But just as important, he said, the Church also has a maternal side through its Bishops.  "A Church cannot be healthy if the faithful, deacons and priests are not united with their Bishop. A Church that's not united with its Bishop, is an ill Church. Jesus wanted this union between the faithful and the Bishop.” He added that Jesus wanted His apostles to be close to Him as one unit and one family. Following that same model, Bishops, he said should stand with the Pope.......(more)

All heads of Vatican departments will be made to retire at 75
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 5 November 2014

A document authorised by Pope Francis has decreed that non-Cardinal heads of Vatican departments and officials automatically lose office when they reach 75. A “rescriptum” on the resignation of bishops and those appointed to positions by the Pope came into effect on Wednesday and takes on board recommendations of the Council of Cardinals, the group advising Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia also known as the “C9”....(more)  

Gender inequality is a man's problem
Extract from Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, 4 November 2014

The headlines are confusing. The questions they raise are even more so. For instance, we "empowered" women, right? After more than 2,000 years, the Western world finally woke up, in our time, to the astounding recognition that women, too, were human. Almost. By 1922, most English-speaking countries, including the United States, finally allowed women to vote for political leaders. The struggle was a fierce one, and churchmen and politicians alike considered that breakdown in society to be simply the beginning of the decline, "the nose of the camel under the tent" of civilized male society. As Cardinal James Gibbons is said to have reflected, "Imagine what will happen to society when women start hanging around polling places." And sure enough, the floodgates of immorality swung open: It wasn't long before women were allowed to own property, to work outside the home, to drive cars, to keep their own money, to get an education, to enter into legal contracts, to become "professionals" -- at first, teachers and nurses, but eventually even doctors and lawyers and now bankers and engineers, astronauts and college presidents. Not all at once, of course, but at least a little at a time. We don't know yet if a woman can be president of the United States, but we do know that some churches -- no names mentioned -- are still sure that God does not want to do business with a woman. And yet, a good number of other churches and countries have done both, and neither their steeples nor their statehouses have collapsed under the strain of it.....(more)

Pope Francis has conservatives talking schism. But a split is easier said than done
Extract from David Gibson, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 4 November 2014

Many conservative Catholics have long viewed Pope Francis with suspicion thanks to his effort to shift the church's focus away from a culture war agenda and toward a more welcoming approach and a greater emphasis on serving the poor. But last month's controversial Vatican summit on the modern family, with the push by Francis and his allies to translate that inclusive view into concrete policies on gays and divorced and remarried Catholics, for example, seems to have marked a tipping point, with some on the right raising the specter of a schism -- a formal split that is viewed as the "nuclear option" for dissenters. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a Catholic and a conservative, crystallized the peril in an Oct. 25 column warning the pope not to "break the church" to promote his goals, saying that if Francis continues to alienate conservative Catholics, it could lead to "a real schism." (more)

Synod's genie may be out of the bottle ...... but it still remains in the ecclesiastical kitchen
Extract from Fr Frank Brennan, Global Pulse, United States, 31 October 2014

The Vatican has now released the official English translation of the relatio synodi, the concluding document from the Synod of Bishops convened by Pope Francis to consider “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.”                  The earlier relatio post disceptationem was the punchy and slightly provocative discussion paper put together by Pope Francis's small hand-picked group, charged with putting the issues for discussion on the table.         That document indicated a novel acceptance of some "constructive elements" of couples living together without marriage, of the need to welcome homosexuals into the life of the Church, and of the possibility of admitting divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist. The Synod fathers agreed that they wanted to "offer a meaningful word of hope" to the Church. To do this, they needed to acknowledge that the genie is out of the bottle and that there is a need for a comprehensive rethink by the Catholic Church on its teaching about marriage, sexuality, and reception of the Eucharist.            The relatio synodi is much more than a discussion paper. It is a lengthy committee job cobbling together the many different strands of discussion over the week of the synod. Each of the 62 paragraphs was separately voted on by the 180 bishops in attendance who voted. It does not put the genie back in the bottle, but it does revert to much of the old style Vaticanese, trying to confine the genie to the episcopal kitchen. What’s refreshing is that unlike synod documents published during the last two papacies, this one actually reflects the divisions and differing perspectives. We are even given the voting figures on each paragraph.           Also published today is the official translation of Pope Francis's closing remarks at the Synod in which he speaks of “moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations.” He lists the “temptation to hostile inflexibility,” which is “the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called traditionalists and also of the intellectuals.” Then crossing to the other side of the street, he speaks of the temptation to practice “a deceptive mercy (which) binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.” (more)
    Photo: Frank Brennan SJ,  Global Pulse

Looking to the 2015 Synod
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, America - the National Catholic Review, 3 November 2014
The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which closed on Oct. 19, approved a final report that, with the pope’s endorsement, will soon be sent to the 114 Catholic bishops’ conferences worldwide and to the patriarchates and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches. The sending of that text from the secretariat of the synod to the local churches marks the opening of a most important phase in the new synodal process established by Pope Francis in 2013. The report, which will be accompanied by a questionnaire, is meant to serve as a working document for the discussion that is to take place in the local churches over the next year......(more)     Photo: America, the National Catholic Review

Full text: Official translation of final 2014 synod report
Extract, By Staff Reporter, Catholic Herald UK, on Thursday, 30 October 2014

1. The Synod of Bishops, gathered around the Holy Father, turned its thoughts to all the families of the world, each with its joys, difficulties and hopes. In a special way, the Assembly felt a duty to give thanks to the Lord for the generosity and faithfulness of so many Christian families in responding to their vocation and mission, which they fulfill with joy and faith, even when living as a family requires facing obstacles, misunderstandings and suffering. The entire Church and this Synod express to these families our appreciation, gratitude and encouragement. During the prayer vigil held in St Peter’s Square on 4 October 2014 in preparation for the Synod on the family, Pope Francis evoked, in a simple yet concrete way, the centrality [of the experience] of the family in everyone’s lives:  (read the full official translation here). Photo: CNS
.     The Vatican source document may be downloaded here

 Healthy Open Discussion on Church Law       Wednesday 29 October 2014
The Pumphouse Hotel function room in Fitzroy was filled to capacity this evening at a Discussion event "The Role of Church Law in the Child Abuse Issue: Help or Hindrance". Speaker was Kieran Tapsell, author of Potiphar's Wife, and  the Responder, speaking in a private capacity, was Canon Lawyer Rev. Professor Ian Waters. Echoing the spirit of the recent Extraordinary Synod in Rome the presentations were open, honest and respectful, but lively. The presentations were similarly followed by lively audience interaction with both speakers. Time ran out before Questions and Discussion were exhausted. Kieran's presentation may be downloaded here. The 3 part video-recorded event, jointly sponsored by Catholics For renewal Inc. and Catalyst For renewal is available for viewing on the CathFR YouTube channel - 1. Kieran Tapsell. 2. Rev. Professor Ian Waters and, shortly (after shortening)  3. Audience discussion with Presenters..   Photo: Kieran Tapsell left, Rev. Professor Ian Waters right front..

Pope Francis and living with messiness.
Extract from David Timbs, Wednesday 29 October 2014

Pope Francis and living with messiness. David Timbs Francis has been criticised by left and right, liberals and conservatives for lacking clarity in policy, for speaking in riddles and for leaving big issues dangling in mid air. Clarity in speech for Francis is largely a matter of suggestion, hinting, teasing, taunting, being parabolic. His ambiguities and lack of clarity even refusal to be definitive is perhaps an attempt to force people to think independently, not to be infantilised by doctrinaire authoritarian clerics of whatever colour the cloth.       It has created a new age of anxiety for many if not for all. While liberals seek the raging banditry of the risk-taking prophet, while the conservatives and Trads seek dogmatic assurances and catechesis,   Francis offers an uncomfortable Christ who disturbs all equally..........(more

The biggest unreported synod influence: human experience
Extracts from Eugene Cullen Kennedy, National Catholic Reporter, 30 October 2014

A torrent of words has spilled over the information dam of the just-concluded synod on the family. Nowhere, however, do we find explicitly reported the factor that threads through its documents as electricity does through a power line. I refer to that sacramental element of ordinary life and ordinary time, the critical baseline for the reception of belief: human experience.............. Our human experience, like the World War II Ultra code-breaking machine, catches the heavy traffic of messages about what we really do and what is done to us every day. Our experience sifts the true interpretations of what others do to us, and we to them, breaking the misleading code in which authoritarian forces press them on us as moral absolutes.  Most of the synod fathers realized that they could not issue a document that men and women would accept unless its words were true to everyday human experience -- unless, we might say, they were sacramental, reflecting back the truth of our humanity to us. The power in many of the synodal statements as well as in most of the pope's actions and statements issues not from their getting good grades in abstract theological theses, but from what we might term their confessor's grasp of gritty human experience (more). Eugene Cullen Kennedy is emeritus professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago.      Image: from multi-award winning Documentary "Human Experience"

Women In The Church And Society                                                                                                         Extract from Pastoral Research Online Newsletter, 28 October 2014  
This edition of Pastoral Research Online focuses on women in the church and Catholic women in Australian society. On page 2 we look at the leadership and ministry roles that women have in parishes, as well as the ‘Top 20’ occupations of female Catholics in Australia. On page 3 we briefly examine just a small amount of data comparing women’s and men’s reasons for attending Mass, and satisfaction with various aspects of their parish. The data is based on a workshop given by Claudia Mollidor at the Beliefs and Practices Conference earlier this year .  Did you know that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has an office dedicated to the participation of women in the Church? The Office for the Participation of Women (OPW) is a focal point for ongoing dialogue and the integration of ideas pertaining to women and their participation in the Catholic Church in Australia.  The Director of the OPW, Donella Johnston, has contributed to this edition of the Enews (here). Further information about the office can be found on their website:

Women in decision-making in the Catholic Church: within the context of Evangelii Gaudium.
Extracts from presentation by Marilyn Hatton to CCRI Forum in Rome preceding the Synod on the Family, republished 29 Oct. 2014

Thank you for inviting me to talk to you about women in the Catholic Church, and particularly about women in decision-making in the Catholic Church........One would expect then that the Synod in discussing these issues of concern to the faithful would be ensuring representation of husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and same sex couples.  We all know that this hasn’t happened and even after considerable lobbying from the faithful we have a few observers chosen from a particular segment of our Church rather than representatives from a broad range of views. The fact that women and men from across our Church have had no say in who represents them and that they are so underrepresented in a Synod that is making decisions about teachings that are absolutely central to their identity and lives, suggests that an exclusive and misogynistic culture of `clericalism `pervades our Church. This culture of `clericalism` stands in stark contrast to Pope Francis’s Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium in which he urges us to work for peace and reduction and prevention of poverty. (read full presentation herePhoto: Catholica

Marriages start in a church, but where is the church when one ends?
Extracts from Bill Tammeus, National Catholic Reporter, 29 October 2014

.........I confess that this is one aspect of Catholic practice that I, as a Protestant, simply don't understand well. Oh, I know the official explanation based on Canon 915 that says, as the author of the NCR analysis wrote, "civilly divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist at Mass because they are living in a state of grave sin, that sin being the adultery that they commit with their second spouse every time that they make love." But I've never understood what I consider the rigidity of that position. I agree that divorce happens too often in our culture, and sometimes for frivolous reasons. However, there certainly are cases in which divorce is the least evil of a series of terrible choices. Divorce can be an acknowledgement that something has gone terribly wrong and that opportunities to redeem lives are needed -- lives of both spouses and children.......My job is not to tell Catholics what to believe or to criticize Catholic doctrine and traditions just because they don't happen to match those of my Presbyterian faith. But sometimes it's my job to tell my Catholic brothers and sisters how things appear to those of us who are outside of Catholicism looking in. And in the case of the Catholic practice of marriage annulments, it looks like at times there must be lost opportunities for forgiveness, redemption and healing. (The recent interim report of the Vatican family issues synod suggests that at least some in the church think that, too. Good.) (more)

God was behind evolution and the Big Bang, Francis tells scientists
Extract from The Tablet, Catholic News Service,  29 October 2014
The Big Bang theory and evolution do not eliminate the existence of God, who remains the one who set all of creation into motion, Pope Francis told the Pontifical Academy of Sciences this week. "When we read the account of creation in Genesis, we risk thinking that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand, able to do everything. But it is not like that," he said. "He created living beings and he let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave each one, so that they would develop and reach their full potential." God gave creation full autonomy while also guaranteeing his constant presence in nature and people's lives, he said (more).

Pope calls Catholics and Protestants to get on with bridge-building without waiting for the theologians
Extract from Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 29 October 2014

Pope Francis told Pentecostal bishops visiting him in Rome that Catholics and Evangelicals should “walk together”, adding that focusing on differences amounted to “sinning against God’s will”. His meeting earlier this month with the ruling body of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches was in honour of Bishop Tony Palmer, a friend of Francis’ killed in a motorbike accident. He said Christians should not wait for theologian documents before forging closer ties. “We each have in our Churches excellent theologians. That’s another way to walk together also. But we shouldn’t wait for them to reach agreement! That’s what I think.” (more)

Cardinal Nichols sees ‘goodness’ in lives of people in irregular relationships
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet,  29 October 2014

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that cohabiting couples and those in second marriages often demonstrate lives of “real goodness” in a pastoral letter to mark the end of the Synod on the Family. In his pastoral letter read out in parishes on the weekend 25/26 October the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said the synod was not leading to a change in doctrine but seeking to show the “motherly love of the Church”, especially those families in difficulty. Cardinal Nichols pointed out that the synod was a journey – another, larger gathering is taking place in October 2015 – and said he would soon be outlining how ordinary Catholics can play a part in the process. In his letter the cardinal said a central principle of the pastoral care that emerged from the synod was walking alongside those in difficult situations and helping them come closer to the truth of church teaching. “This is especially true with regard to individuals who, for example, have decided to live together without marriage, or for Catholics in second marriages. These realities are part of their journey in life and while not in keeping with  the pattern the Lord asks of us, their lives are often marked by real goodness.” The cardinal also quoted Pope Francis who said that pastors have a duty not just to welcome those in difficult situations but to “go out and find them”. (more)     Image:

Scrap Halloween, says exorcist, warning of ‘spike in demonic possessions’
Extract from Hannah Roberts in Rome, The Tablet, 29 October 2014

The Church in Italy has called for Halloween to be scrapped and replaced with “Holyween”, a night in which children would attend prayer vigils and Masses. The Vatican’s first official conference of exorcists, which met in Rome at the weekend, has warned of a danger to young people at Halloween, when it said there is an increase in occult activity. Fr Aldo Buonaiuto, of the International Association of Exorcists (IAE) and director of a charity that assists young people who have become involved in satanic cults, warned: “Many say Hallowe’en is a simple carnival, but in fact there is nothing innocent or fun about it – it is the antechamber to something much more dangerous.”  (more)


A view from Excommunication in the Catholic Church - A Priest's story
Extract from presentation by Greg Reynolds to the Progressive Christian Network on Sunday 26 October 2014

Hello Church !! I greet you and address you as ‘Church’ because that is who you are. We are the Church – plus a couple of atheists, who are warmly welcome.  It intrigues me how often I, and others, continue to fall into the old habit of still referring to the hierarchy as the Church. The indoctrination has been so affective.............I am not an academic or a scholar, and I guess the main reason I have been invited to speak is because I have been a naughty boy. I invite you to listen to my sharing today mainly with your hearts more than your minds...............A couple of months ago Pope Francis verbally excommunicated the Italian Mafia. When I was excommunicated, a little over a year ago, one of the main comments made to me was that I was in good company with St Mary MacKillop, who also had been excommunicated. So take your pick !! I don’t think I fit appropriately in either camp...............The exciting future is that no one  has any idea what the new Risen Church might look like;  we may not even recognize her at first as she emerges from the empty tomb. We might mistake her for the gardener !! But we need to prepare; we need to be doing our pre-natal exercises; whatever that might entail.  But at least part of preparing the way will surely involve experimenting with new ideas, and new discoveries, in our brave new world. Surely to be ever more inclusive.  One might even go so far as to become Inclusive Catholics (read the full presentation here)     Photo:

Now the talking really begins
Extracts from  Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 23 October 2014

Pope Francis wanted frankness and openness and that is what he got. But there is also the sense that the real debate in the Church about marriage and families is only just starting Given the “pastoral earthquake” that took place halfway through the Synod on the Family, perhaps it was inevitable that there would have to be compromise at the end. On one level it is hard not to see the synod and its final document as three steps forward and two steps back, in the words of the German cardinal, Reinhard Marx. There are no guesses as to where Pope Francis’s sympathies lie. If there could be a theme for his pontificate, then it is his stress on God’s “mercy” – for the Church to stop being a “house of glass to judge or categorise people”. At the same time, he is keen to tread a middle path and in his final address on Saturday he criticised progressives who were tempted to “come down from the cross”......Despite the talk of “setbacks”, the final document should be seen within the context of a reformed and improved synod process that is in itself an achievement. Numerous participants at this gathering commented on how different it was to previous synods..........Cardinal Vincent Nichols, speaking at a press conference in London this week, said it was important the synod focuses on the “goodness in every person, whatever their sexuality, whether they’re cohabiting or in a second marriage”. He explained that “their lives continue to carry the hallmark of the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s what the synod is laying down as the starting point of pastoral care.” It should be pointed out that, while the final document could not get the two-thirds majorities on the hotly debated topics, there were significant majorities in favour of those paragraphs. That 104 Synod Fathers voted to allow communion for divorced and remarried in certain circumstances (74 were against) is noteworthy. Similarly, on the paragraph on welcoming gay Catholics, 118 were in favour while 62 against. It is also being suggested that the reason why that last paragraph did not get more support was that some Synod Fathers were unhappy that it did not go far enough and therefore voted against it. (more)

Schönborn: Get rid of 'tunnel view' when it comes to discussion of families
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 23 October 2014

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has appealed not only to the media but also to the church in general to take a closer look at the broader family environment -- including single parents, widows, children of divorced couples, and patchwork families -- rather than concentrate solely on Communion for divorced and remarried people and those in gay relationships. The media's "tunnel view" -- namely, its concentration on divorced and remarried people and those in same-sex relationships -- also to a certain extent played a dominant role at the synod discussions, he told the press on his return to Vienna. He then quoted the view of one of the only female participants at the synod, whom Pope Francis was especially invited to take part: Ute Eberl, 52, a married mother of three who has been responsible for family pastoral work in the Berlin archdiocese for over 20 years. (See below.) "Take a look at the living room first and not at the bedroom," Schönborn said Eberl told synod participants in her four-minute talk. "Once you start wagging your finger, you're no longer taken seriously." Schönborn said he agreed with Eberl and knew the pope did, too (more).

Francis' synod process is messy and fraught with fights, but it's necessary

Extract from Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 23 October 2014

Well, the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family lived up to its name. It was indeed extraordinary.
It was extraordinary not because of the synod's developing content, which seems disappointingly same-o, same-o so far. No, what is noteworthy is the process through which the bishops are now engaging one another. Pope Francis' synod is modeling an open process. He invited input from grassroots Catholics around the world, insisted that that participants voice their opinions boldly, no matter how controversial, and clearly expected the heated disagreements that inevitably ensued. News flash: For the first time in about 35 years, the pope is saying it is OK for church leaders to publicly disagree and discuss diverse points of view about pastoral issues. I was in Rome for two previous synods, the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005 and the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in 2008. Both were conducted with little opportunity for advance feedback from the People of God. Both featured stilted speeches that influenced hardly anybody and were quickly forgotten. And, God forbid, there was never a hint of internal disagreement that aired publicly. Still, each of those synods had some positive outcomes. For example, two final propositions of the synod on the Word of God praised women in the ministry of the Word and asked to open study of the lectionary with a view to updating lectionary texts. As nearly as I can tell, nothing ever happened with those two propositions or any of the others. They seemed to have disappeared down some curial rabbit hole, never to be seen again (more).

Retired Pope Benedict XVI: Interreligious dialogue is no substitute for mission
Extract from Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service, NCR, 23 October 2014

Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as "lethal to faith." He also said the true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the church's size but to share the joy of knowing Christ.....(more)

Cardinal Nichols on welcoming gays
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 23 October 2014

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who represented England and Wales at the Family Synod, answered questions at a press conference on Tuesday regarding his experiences and thoughts on the Synod. Cardinal Nichols discusses how he still harbours hope that the Church will be more welcoming towards gays (more).

Cardinal Sarah: Crisis of Today's Families Is How Concepts of Marriage, Family Have Changed
Says The Debate on Readmitting Eucharist to Divorced, Remarried Has Taken Focus Away From the Real Important Challenges Facing Families.
Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Vatican City, Zenit, 23 Octobe 2014 (Zenit)
While saying that the Holy Father sees that families today have been attacked and feels their pain and brokenness, Cardinal Robert Sarah has reaffirmed that we must strongly and firmly defend the Church teachings given to us, especially Jesus' words about marriage. In an interview with ZENIT this week, the president of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ says, “Stemming from effects of a secular and relativistic society, the crisis of today’s family is in how the concept of marriage and family has changed.” (more)

Seven lessons from the Vatican's wild and crazy synod on the family
Extract from Analysis, David Gibson, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 21 October 2014

Pope Francis and senior Catholic leaders wrapped up their two-week Vatican summit on the challenges of modern family life on Sunday without reaching a consensus on a number of hot-button topics. So where does that leave Francis' papacy? And the church? Here are seven takeaways:  (more)

Burke confirms he is to leave Vatican's top court
Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 21 October 2014

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, has confirmed weeks of rumours that he is being transferred to become patron of the Sovereign Military order of Malta. Cardinal Burke, whom Pope Benedict XVI appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in 2008, disclosed the move to the website Buzzfeed. Cardinal Burke has increasingly expressed dismay over what he perceives as failures to stress church doctrine on matters such as abortion, homosexuality and divorce (more).

ACBC welcomes concluding statement from Synod
Extract from CathNews. Tuesday 21 October 2014

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has welcomed the concluding message released on the weekend by the Synod Fathers at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome. In a statement yesterday, the ACBC said: "We support the Synod Fathers in their acknowledgement that as priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties. Their example of generous faithfulness in marriage stands as an example for every society." Following his contributions during the Extraordinary Synod, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Denis Hart said: “The Australian Bishops will continue to pray for families everywhere, in particular reflecting on how we can accompany and lead those in difficult situations, such as single women bringing up children and those who have divorced and remarried, towards participation in Church life.”Archbishop Hart said that Pope Francis’ concluding address to the Synod Fathers was encouraging and inclusive: “The Holy Father described our Church as one that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect!” (more)

Church legally liable for pre-1996 child sexual abuse
Extracts from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 21 October 2014

In August the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse turned its spotlight on the Melbourne Response, the protocol adopted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne after George Pell became the Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. Much of the media attention was on Cardinal Pell’s video link appearance from Rome (pictured), where he is now overseeing Vatican finances as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy........... Reviewing Cardinal Pell’s evidence, I have concluded that we Catholics need to accept moral responsibility and legal liability for all child sexual abuse committed by clergy prior to 1996, regardless of what might be the moral or legal position after 1996 when improved measures for supervision and dismissal of errant clergy were put in place. Ultimately, the High Court of Australia will be asked to reconsider the law of vicarious liability. But in relation to any abuse occurring before 1996, there is no way that we can argue that we had structures in place which gave priority to the well being of vulnerable children. That is why we are collectively responsible as a social institution. Reviewing Cardinal Pell’s evidence I have also concluded that he made a fair fist of trying to fix things after he became archbishop in 1996. Credit should be given where it is due, even though we are yet to hear why he decided not to co-operate with the other Australian bishops in drawing up a more robust national protocol. I have no doubt that further improvements can be made, both to the Melbourne response and the national protocol Towards Healing. Hopefully Justice McClellan and his fellow commissioners will be able to provide a politically achievable blueprint for all institutions (more including comments).
Photo: Eureka Street

Final Synod report strips out paragraphs welcoming gays
Extract from CathNews, Monday 20 October 2014

Pope Francis has suffered a setback as proposals for wider acceptance of gay people failed to win a two-thirds majority at the Synod, with paragraphs in a draft document stripped from the final text, reports the BBC. The draft issued half-way through the meeting of bishops had called for greater openness towards homosexuals, and divorced Catholics who have remarried. It said that homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community" but the revised document only said that discrimination against gay people "is to be avoided". All other parts of the draft report were accepted by the Synod. The Pope said the full draft document, including the rejected paragraphs, should nonetheless be published. Correspondents say the text welcoming gay people and remarried Catholics had been watered down in the final version that was voted on - but it appears that they still met with resistance from conservatives. Speaking after the vote, Pope Francis told attendees that he would have been "worried and saddened" if there had not been "animated discussions" or if "everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace", AP news agency reported. He also cautioned against "hostile rigidity, that is the willingness to close oneself inside the written word instead of letting God surprise us".......(more)

Kasper: Francis' map for reform will outlive his pontificate
Extracts from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, National Catholic Reporter, 20 October 2014

"The spirit of the [Second Vatican] council is blowing through the synod," Cardinal Walter Kasper underlined in his Oct. 15 lecture on "The Ecclesiological and Ecumenical Vision of Pope Francis" at the University of Vienna.................With Pope Francis, the recent, "somewhat pessimistic basic mood in which scandals descended on the church like a form of blight" have given way to a new joy, a spirit of optimism, and a new start, Kasper said................Even if some of the synod participants were skeptical and were "exercising restraint and pulling their punches in the hope of sitting out this pontificate," Kasper said the "Francis effect" was palpable. For the majority of the synod participants, this pontificate is a "new spring."....This new spring, however, does not mean satisfying Western expectations of speedy reform, Kasper added. He said it is only possible to do justice to the "Francis phenomenon" by taking a closer look at the paradigm shift the pope has brought about in the light of his theology................The pope's theology and his vision for the church is centered on the Gospel mandate, the good tidings of a merciful God, and the concept of the People of God, which Vatican II had underlined, Kasper said. Francis outlined much of this in his apostolic letter, Evangelii Gaudium, which was, so to speak, the blueprint of his pontificate. He wanted "the People of God, every single one them, to participate in the church" and for the church to be a "listening church which has an open ear to the People of God," Kasper said...............The reform program that Pope Francis has prescribed the church is a long-term program, Kasper said, "a program for a century or more," because it concerns all the dimensions of being a church, "right up to every individual Christian's basic attitude." This means Francis' road map for the future of the church will far exceed his pontificate, Kasper said.....(more)

Bishops pass synod document but fail to agree on three measures for care of remarried or gay Catholics
Extract from Elena Curti in Rome, The Tablet, 19 October 2014

The final document articulating the thinking of the bishops' Synod on the Family was passed – minus three sections relating to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and to the pastoral care of gay men and women. The three paragraphs failed to get the two-thirds majority required for them to be counted as the official conclusions of the synod. Support for the sections was insufficient to be passed, even though the wording was significantly diluted after the mid-term synod document that was published last Monday proposed a radical revision in the pastoral care of same-sex couples, cohabiting heterosexual couples and those in civil unions......(more)

Pope Francis invokes Paul VI's call for the Church to adapt to respond to changing 'needs of our time'    Extract from Hannah Roberts in Rome, The Tablet, 19 October
Pope Francis has urged the Church to be open to new ways as it faces up to the challenges of twenty-first century society, as he moved one of his most modernising predecessors a step closer to sainthood.
Speaking at the beatification of Blessed Pope Paul VI (r1963-78), Francis said that Catholics must “not fear the new” and must be open to previously “unexpected paths”. The Mass at St Peter’s this morning in front of 70,000 faithful, brought the at times heated Extraordinary Synod on the Family to a close. For the last two weeks bishops have been engaged in critical discussions on doctrine around marriage, sexuality, divorce and the start of life in order to best respond to the challenges facing Catholic families today. But in a vote yesterday Synod Fathers were unable to reach agreement on several key issues such as whether to relax the ban on divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving Communion, and on how the Church should respond to people in gay and other "irregular" relationships. In an apparent signal of support for those who favoured the more pastoral approach of the contested reforms, Francis said that the Church must look to the future, healing the "wounds of those that are hurt". He said: "God is not afraid of the new". "That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways." The Church "must waste no time in seeking to heal the wounds of those that are hurt and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope," he said. The Church was not a place to "escape from reality", he said, adding that "Christians must look at the reality of the future, that of God, with both feet planted firmly on the ground, and respond with courage to the numerous new challenges." (more)

Synod14 Final Briefing: Though We Still Are On a Journey, Pope Wanted This Document Available to All.  Fr. Rosica Also Speaks on Pope's Warning Against Temptations in Final Address to Synod Fathers.   Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Sunday 19 October 2014
Vatican City. Pope Francis has ensured that the world will be fully aware of results of this synod on the family and has warned the world’s top Church officials against various temptations, including being too rigid, as well as too soft..Speaking to the nearly 200 prelates gathered at the Synod of Bishops on the family’s final session Saturday afternoon, the Holy Father cautioned Synod Fathers against “a temptation to hostile inflexibility”. He also cautioned them to not fall into “destructive tendency" of being do-gooders, saying "that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them.”. The Pope’s final discourse, at the conclusion of these two weeks full of debate, not only wrapped up this synod, but seemed to lay the groundwork for the second phase of the synod on the family, set to take place a year from now. During the briefing at the Holy See Press Office Saturday night, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Fr. Thomas Rosica, and Fr. Manuel Dorantes spoke on this Synod's final outcomes. Looking at the text of the report, it was evident that the Relatio Post Disceptionem’s seemingly “more open” language, has been dialed back a step, retaining a more middle ground. Father Lombardi had noted that there had been some 470 proposed changes to that original released Monday. In addition to the text itself, the Vatican has included the figures on exactly how many voted in favor and against each paragraph. It was stressed by the Holy See Press Office director and the other spokesmen that “this is not a final document, but a reflection for the next phase of the synod,” one which can help the world’s Episcopal conferences prepare for the second phase. “The Pope wanted the text be published in full, even paragraphs that didn’t have the necessary 2/3 majority,” Fr. Dorantes said......(more)

Synod a win for Francis and for openness
Extract from Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 18 2014

 As people analyze and debate the final relatio or report from the synod on the family, there is a danger of missing the forest for the trees. It is true, the welcoming language toward gays was dialed back from what was expressed in the October 13 draft, and Communion has not yet been granted to divorced and remarried Catholics. But while we are spilling a lot of ink (or electrons) comparing the final report with the earlier draft, let's not forget the big picture: The synod was a victory for openness and discussion in the church and the final document is an invitation for everyone in the church to join that discussion. This is exactly what Pope Francis wanted. The bishops as pastors faced a fundamental conflict: How to have the church be a loving mother while at the same time being a clear teacher. Every parent can relate to that problem. True, there were some ideological traditionalists who did not want any change. Those the pope referred to in his final address as zealous traditionalists or intellectuals who have "certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve." But most of the bishops are pastors who worry that if they appear too welcoming or accommodating then people will think that all sexual unions are equal and there is no reason to get married in the church. These bishops simply need more time to figure out how to be a loving parent and a clear teacher. For too many years they only worried about being clear.....(more)

Synod report narrows open tone, Pope calls for middle path
Extract from Joshua K McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 18 October 2014
Vatican City. Wrapping up his global meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues -- which has seen both decisive shifts in tone from the Vatican and heated debates over the church's direction -- Pope Francis called on bishops to find a middle path between doctrine and reality. Emphatically calling on the prelates to "feed the flock" and to search for lost sheep, the pontiff also directed them to avoid the temptation to become either a "hostile rigorist" concerned only with enforcing church doctrine or a "destructive do-gooder" that advocates "false mercy" instead of truth telling.....(more)   Photo: Pope Francis talks with Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi as they leave the concluding session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 18. At right is Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Interesting quotes from Pope Francis himself in Joshua McElwee's report (above)
Extract from Brian Coyne, Catholica  on Joshua k McElwee article above "Synod report narrows open tone, Pope calls for middle path: 19th October 2014
There are some interesting comments by Pope Francis himself in Joshua McEwee's report. I think it's still difficult to work out if, at heart Pope Francis is a conservative (certainly in some respects he is) or whether we have here a man who genuinely doesn't yet know what the final outcome will be and does see this entire process as one being guided by the Holy Spirit. What follows is text taken directly from the end of Joshua McElwee's report:   (more)

Bishops indicate swing towards rewrite of Synod document
Extract from CathNews, 17 October 2014

It seems increasingly clear that the Synod of Bishops' concluding document, the relatio synodi, will be substantially different than the mid-term relatio which was released on Monday, reports the Catholic News Agency. After the issuance of the mid-term report, the Synod fathers raised their concern in 41 free interventions, which highlighted the absence of the word sin, the absence of the Gospel of Family, and some perhaps naive sentences of the document which could be subject to misinterpretation. “The issue at stake is whether the Catholic Church is going to shape the world with its teaching, the truth it reveals, or if it is going to be shaped by the world,” Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, who is president of the Polish bishops' conference, said on Wednesday......(morePhoto: CathNews

Archbishop Hart appointed to commission drafting final Synod document
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Friday 17 October 2014
After the synod’s small groups released their reports on Thursday 16 October asking for a substantial rewriting of the meeting's mid-term report, the Vatican has said the synod's final report will be prepared, and voted upon on Saturday morning.....(more)  

Updated: Cardinal Burke confirms Vatican ouster
Extract from Joshua  J McElwee, 17 October 2014

Update: In a brief interview with NCR Saturday at the Vatican, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke confirmed that he has been told he will be removed as the chief justice of the Vatican's Supreme Court. Asked who had told him he would be removed, Burke replied: "Who do you think?" The original blog follows. From Friday: U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a former archbishop of St. Louis known for his rigorist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, has reportedly confirmed rumors that Pope Francis is planning to remove him from his influential post as the chief justice of the Vatican's Supreme Court. Burke is reported to confirm the rumors, which have attracted attention in recent weeks as a sign that Francis may be preparing a tonal shift at the Vatican, in a piece Friday by BuzzFeed News. “I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke is reported to say in the piece, which goes on to say that the cardinal is yet to receive formal notice of his removal....(more)

Kansas City diocese settles 30 lawsuits to the tune of $10 million
Extract from Brian Rowe, National Catholic Reporter, 16 October 2014

After 11 days of testimony from three dozen witnesses related to a lawsuit alleging clergy sexual abuse, jurors here never received for deliberation the case brought by a former altar boy against the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese. Instead, a global $9.95 million settlement Tuesday night resolved the suit and 29 others against the diocese, just hours before closing arguments were set to begin Wednesday (more).

The Vatican Synod has let the genie out of the bottle.  Deo Gratias
Extract from Frank Brennan SJ.Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 15 October 2014

Let there be no doubt.  There is change, and a great deal of uncertainty, in the air in Rome.  And it is not just coming from Pope Francis.  The Catholic Church retaining some of the attributes of a royal court in its mode of governance provides its senior prelates with every opportunity to emulate the tone and substance of the remarks and the ambiguity of approach of the one they call “the Holy Father”.  The Pope has the opportunity even when convening a synod of 190 bishops to handpick those who steer the synod process, write the minutes and manage the media statements to the world.  On Monday, Cardinal Peter Erdo, the chief reporter (general rapporteur) of the Synod on the Family released the ‘relatio post disceptionem’ after the first week of the Synod.  This is not a final text.  It is simply a working document “intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches” in the year ahead. The document shows the way things are going, and that way is very different from any dictated path approved by the late St John Paul II and simplistically reaffirmed by those prelate who say they too like mercy but prefer the indisputable teachings of Jesus.   The document, which starts with a section on “listening: the context and challenges to the family” before then describing “the gaze on Christ: the Gospel of  the family”, lacks the judgmental certainty of the past and displays the moral ambiguity of any pastoral approach which is truly attentive to the complexity, and often the mess, of families and human relationships........ (more).  

Cardinal Pell says synod's 'relatio' document is tendentious and incomplete and is being revised
Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, 15 October 2014

A key document from the bishops' Synod on the Family calling for the Church to make radical changes to its pastoral approach to gays, divorce and remarried and those in civil marriages has been criticised by Cardinal George Pell as “tendentious and incomplete”. The text – known as the relatio – was released at the synod’s midway point and sought to summarise the discussions at the gathering so far. It has been described as a “pastoral earthquake” and suggests the Church should recognise the good in unions outside marriage. But Cardinal Pell, one of Pope Francis' close advisers, who has been tasked with reforming Vatican finances, said that the document was an “incomplete resumé” of what the Synod Fathers had said it needed to be “enhanced and corrected”.....(more)

Laws that don't lead people to Jesus are obsolete, Pope says
Extract from CathNews, Wednesday 15 October 2014

If laws do not lead people to Christ then they are obsolete, Pope Francis said in his morning homily, reports the Catholic News Service. In fact, the scholars of the law in Jesus’s day were so wrapped up in doctrine as an end in itself, they were unable to see that Jesus was leading people down a new and surprising path toward his glory, the Pope said during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae on Sunday morning. Jesus did “strange things,” like “walk with sinners, eat with tax collectors” — things the scholars of the law “did not like; doctrine was in danger, that doctrine of the law” that they and the “theologians had created over the centuries,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. The scholars were safeguarding the law “out of love, to be faithful to God,” the Pope said, but “they were closed up right there,” and forgot all the ways God has acted in history. “They forgot that God is the God of the law, but is also the God of surprises,” he said (more).

Bishops critique synod document, saying it may cause confusion
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 14 October 2014

Vatican City. Some prelates at the global meeting of Catholic bishops have expressed concerns about the landmark document the meeting released Monday, saying that it "may give rise to confusion.". The document, which calls for the church to listen more and to apply mercy much more widely, was released by the Synod of Bishops which is meeting in Rome on the subject of family life Oct. 5-19. It summarizes the state of the discussions at the synod so far and was read aloud Monday morning to the some 190 prelates attending the meeting by Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, who is serving as the synod's relator. Following that reading, 41 prelates at the synod made speeches about the text, suggesting additions or changes. Unlike previous synods, the Vatican is not releasing the texts of the speeches made by the prelates. According to an unofficial Vatican summary of those remarks, released Tuesday, the prelates praised Monday's document, but also raised some concerns (more).

Napier on synod document: 'The message has gone out and it's not a true message'                        Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 14 October 2014
Vatican City. One of the prelates participating in the Synod of Bishops on the family has sharply criticized the landmark document the meeting released Monday, saying its message of openness to modern society has put the prelates in "a position that is virtually irredeemable." "The message has gone out: This is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic church is saying," South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said at a Vatican press conference Tuesday. "And it's not what we're saying at all," Napier said. "No matter how we try correcting that ... there's no way of retrieving it." ."The message has gone out and it's not a true message," he continued. "Whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we're doing some damage control." Monday's document, which calls for the church to listen more and to apply mercy much more widely, was released as a summary of the synod's discussions so far and is known officially as a relatio post disceptationem......(more
      Photo: NCR, CNS/Paul Haring   

Interim Synod Summary Document                                                                                   Vatican, 14 October 2014
The Vatican Unofficial English translation of the Interim Synod Summary document is available here

 Prelates: Synod document is the fruit of Vatican II spirit
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 13 October 2014

Vatican City, Several prelates responsible for helping lead the Synod of Bishops on the family have said the landmark document the synod released Monday was the result of a newfound spirit of the Second Vatican Council in the prelates' discussions. Commenting on the document and the synod, Philippines Cardinal Luis Tagle said: "This morning in the free discussion, some of the synod fathers and participants said openly that they felt the spirit of Vatican II very much.". "I think what the participants were saying is this ... Vatican II reflected definitely on the church and its mission in the contemporary world," said Tagle, who is serving as one of three presidents for the synod.....(more).

A conundrum for Pope Francis
Extract from Paul Collins, Eureka Street, Monday 13 October 2014

It was unusually hot in Rome for the first week of the Synod on the Family. But that didn’t dampen the excitement surrounding Pope Francis of the unusually large crowds for October in the Piazza of St Peter’s. He has really struck a chord with people and, significantly, with the secular media. But that enthusiasm is certainly not reflected in a sizeable minority of the hierarchy attending the synod. As a result some seasoned Roman observers are pessimistic that anything at all significant will happen. They note that those who oppose any change in issues like communion for divorced remarried Catholics, or the contraception ruling, let alone the recognition of gay unions, are out in force making their views known.....(more)
Synod releases document with new tone, calling for mercy, listening
Extract from Joshua J, McElwee National Catholic Reporter, Monday 13 October 2014

Taking a decidedly different tone than many church statements in recent years, the worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues has released a document calling for the church to listen more, to respect people in their various struggles, and to apply mercy much more widely. Summarizing the work of the continuing meeting, known as a synod, the document acknowledges bluntly that the strict application of church doctrine is no longer enough to support people in their quest for God."It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations," states the document, released Monday morning. "This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy," it continues (more).

Archbishop Martin: Synod developing church doctrine
Extract from Joshua J, McElwee National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 11 October 2014

 Vatican City. The global meeting of bishops on the family must show that Catholic teaching can develop to address contemporary concerns of family life, an Irish archbishop participating in the event said Saturday. "This synod can't simply repeat what was said 20 years ago," said Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, referring to the Oct. 5-19 meeting, known as a synod of bishops. "[The synod] has to find new language to show that there can be development of doctrine, that there has been a willingness to listen to what emerged in the questionnaire that went out, and what was said in the synod itself," he said. Martin, who is attending the synod in his role as vice-president of the Irish bishops' conference, spoke Saturday during a Vatican press briefing. His comments seem to reflect a difference among prelates in whether the synod may result in changes to church family life doctrine or practices, as several other bishops and cardinals have said the synod is not intending to issue any such changes. In one example, Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama said Oct. 8 that the synod might only be changing the church's pastoral approach (more).

Why are young U.S. people leaving the Church in such numbers?
Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church by Christian Smith, Kyle Longest, Jonathan Hill, and Karl Christofferson, Oxford University Press

Edited Extract from Book Review, Thomas Baker, Global Pulse, Commonweal, United States
Here's the bad news for Commonweal readers, and we may as well get right to it: Just over half the young people raised by parents who describe themselves as “liberal” Catholics stop going to Mass entirely once they become “emerging adults”—a new demographic category that means either prolonged adolescence or delayed adulthood, defined here in Young Catholic America as ages eighteen to twenty three. But now, let’s put that sad trend in perspective: The picture isn’t all that much better for the children of “traditional” Catholics. Although only a quarter of those young adults say they’ve stopped going to Mass entirely, only 17 percent say they’re going every week, and in general, their allegiance to church membership and participation seems nearly as faded as the kids of so-called feckless liberals (more).
Vatican’s top lawyer outlines possible reforms of annulment process
Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 9 October 2014 18:38

The Vatican’s top canon lawyer chosen by Pope Francis to oversee a reform of the process of annulments signalled that he wants to see major change in the way that failed marriages are declared null. Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmiero is president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and a member of the commission Francis set up last month to study reforming the annulment procedure. He told journalists reporting on the Vatican’s Synod for the Family on Thursday that he favours letting individual bishops make nullity decisions after careful consideration based largely on the credibility of the couple, changing what has been an exclusively judicial process to an administrative one. He said care would be needed to ensure this procedure did not become superficial, but he said he was “very much in favour” of this approach (more).

Bishops rethinking development of theology, annulment process at synod
Extract from National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 9 October 2014
Vatican City. Bishops meeting at the Vatican to discuss issues of family life have to relearn how to d
o theology in order to address contemporary concerns, an archbishop attending the meeting said Thursday. Unlike in the past, when bishops or theologians would deduce theology from general, sometimes idealized notions of God or humanity, the prelates at the Synod of Bishops on the family are using inductive reasoning to instead examine theology in the reality of families today, Canadian Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said. "What's happening within the synod is we're seeing a more inductive way of reflecting, starting from the true situation of people and trying to figure out what's going on here," said Durocher, who leads the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The prelates, the archbishop said, are "finding that the lived experience of people is also a theological source -- what we call a theological source, a place of theological reflection." "I think we're learning to use the Harvard case study method in reflecting theologically on the lives of people," continued the archbishop, who also heads the archdiocese of Gatineau in Quebec. "And we're only, in a sense, starting to learn how to do this as church leaders," he said. "And this is going to take time for us, to learn to do this and together to come -- as we reflect on this -- to find what is the way that God is showing." Durocher spoke Thursday during a Vatican press briefing on the synod. His reflections, which came at the end of the 70-minute briefing, may suggest a change in how bishops develop theological thought, which in the past has typically followed deductive methods of authors such as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas over inductive methods used in systems like pastoral, or even liberation, theology.  Photo: CNS/Paul Haring,  Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, left, speaks with Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, before the Thursday morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican.

Synod: Jesus Didn't Meet General Cases, He Met Individuals, Says Canadian Prelate
Archbishop Durocher Says Synod Is Promoting 'Inductive' Thinking, Starting With Real Situations
Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Vatican City, 9 October 2014

Archbishop Paul Durocher of Gatineau, leader of Canada's bishops, is reminding people that Jesus worked directly with individuals, not generalities. He says the synod participants are now called to do the same as they bring the synod's eventual outcomes to their communities (more).

Family synod: We can soften language but don't expect us to rewrite church teaching, say cardinals
Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, The Tablet, Thursday 9ctober 2014

Two leading cardinals attending the synod on the family have said that while a change in language on church teaching on sexuality is necessary, it does not mark a shift in doctrine. Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Economy and close adviser to Pope Francis, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, made their remarks at the Rome launch of the Crux website at the North American College. They were reflecting on the discussions at the Synod on the Family which is taking place at the Vatican and which they are both attending. “Everybody wants to show God’s love and mercy but it also brings you to very difficult situations and as Christians we follow Jesus,” said Cardinal Pell. “I confess that I might have been tempted to hope that Jesus might have been a little softer on divorce; he wasn’t, and I’m speaking with him.”  (more)    Photo:The Tablet

Old 2014 News Here

News 2013 Here

News 2012 Here


Members Area

Subscribe To Our Site

Recent Blog Entries

Newest Members

Recent Videos