Catholics for Renewal


Old 2014 News

This page comprises archived News & Opinion items from earlier 2014. Current News and Opinion items Items are published on the News 2014 page here



Synod: On the Indissolubility of Marriage, Communion, Cohabitation and Responsible Parenthood
Extract from staff,  Zenit,  Vatican City, 9 October 2014
The seventh general congregation of the synod of bishops, which took place this morning, Thursday, was divided into two phases: the first consisting of further general debate on the theme of the previous afternoon, “Difficult Pastoral Situations” (Part II, Chapter 3. Situations in Families / Concerning Unions of Persons of the Same Sex”, and the second regarding the subsequent issue, “The Pastoral Challenges concerning an Openness to Life”. In the first part, therefore, the Assembly continued its reflection on the matter of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons. Firstly, it re-emphasised the indissoluble nature of marriage, without compromise, based on the fact that the sacramental bond is an objective reality, the work of Christ in the Church. Such a value must be defended and cared for through adequate pre-matrimonial catechesis, so that engaged couples are fully aware of the sacramental character of the bond and its vocational nature. Pastoral accompaniment for couples following marriage would also be useful. At the same time, it was said that it is necessary to look at individual cases and real-life situations, even those involving great suffering, distinguishing for example between those who abandon their spouse and those who are abandoned. The problem exists – this was repeated several times in the Assembly – and the Church does not neglect it. Pastoral care must not be exclusive, of an “all or nothing” type but must instead be merciful, as the mystery of the Church is a mystery of consolation. It was in any case recalled that for divorced and remarried persons, the fact of not having access to the Eucharist does not mean that they are not members of the ecclesial community; on the contrary, it is to be taken into consideration that there exist various responsibilities that may be exercised. Furthermore, the need to simplify and speed up the procedures for the declaration of nullity was underlined (more).

Kasper's book: Mercy has been 'criminally neglected,' which is 'catastrophic'                                      Edited Extract from Opinion and Book Review by Thomas Ryan, National Catholic Reporter, 8 October 2014  |  
Cardinal Walter Kasper's most recent book (Mercy: The Essence Of The Gospel and the Key To Christian Life By Walter Kasper) translated into English (by William Madges) bristles with the claim that mercy has been "criminally neglected" in recent dogmatic theology, a "disappointing, even catastrophic" situation.
This neglect has not been universal. St. John XXIII sought "the medicine of mercy" over "that of severity" in inaugurating the Second Vatican Council. St. John Paul II dedicated his second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, to it and canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, known for her popular image of and devotion to Divine Mercy. The current pope also values mercy. During the most recent conclave and while still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, he received a copy of this book from Kasper and remarked, "Ah mercy! This is the name of our God." At his first Angelus, Pope Francis announced, as the cover declares, "This book has done me so much good." Mercy, Francis said, "changes the world … makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God," a task at which this book succeeds (more).

A pope of blurred boundaries
Extract from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street, 8 October 2014
Pope Francis is a leader out of his time. Generally the style and vision of governance in the Catholic Church correspond to those current in the broader society. He is out of sync. That has inevitably led many to ask whether his vision and style of governance will endure in the Catholic Church. Some indications may be found during the current Synod on the family.........The oddity of Pope Francis is that at a time when national governments have become increasingly authoritarian and have emphasised narrowly defined national identity and interests and strong boundaries, he has advocated local initiative and constantly blurred boundaries in his action and his speech. He sees the identity of the Catholic Church to lie in its going out to the margins.The question arises then is whether the Pope’s vision of mission and governance will shape the Catholic future, or whether his image of church leaders coming back from the badlands smelling like lost sheep will give way to sheep waiting in line in the designated paddock where their shepherds can feed them on sheeply food and protect them from danger. Sociologically, you would have to bet on the latter. But it is never a done deal. The current church Synod on the Family will be illuminating. It will show how far Pope Francis’ open and inclusive style can be reflected in the processes of the Synod which have become instruments of control. More subtly, because the family is a microcosm and an image of society and of church, the way the family is imagined at the Synod will also reveal what vision of the church is operative. In sombre times we would expect the Synod to focus on an idealised, true Christian family consisting of a husband and wife of faith duly married, living prayerful lives and blessed with children. The threats to this ideal would be identified and ways of sustaining it named. This would find expression in a high theology of Christian marriage and family life.......Discussion of the Synod has focused on allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. That is mostly a problem for the devout, often resolved by pastoral commonsense. But it points to the larger reality: that at Mass, the place where Catholics mostly meet, a strict application of church rules would exclude most baptised Catholics from full participation. That underlines the importance of the question Pope Francis has posed: how can people, on the borders of the Catholic Church or beyond, find from Catholics encouragement and support in their messy lives? In asking that question so insistently he is a man for all times. (read full article here)

Catholic press struggles to earn trust
Extracts from Tim Wallace, Eureka Street 6 October 2014
Last month Australia’s longest-running weekly newspaper, The Record, won a design excellence award. It was, however, somewhat belated recognition for the Perth Catholic newspaper, established in 1874, from its peers in the Australasian Catholic Press Association. The last edition of the paper rolled off the presses in July.........Appeasing both clerical and bureaucratic interests poses a considerable hurdle to producing an interesting, relevant newspaper. Add to the negotiation the raw differences between progressive and conservative tendencies within clergy and laity, with what one camp esteems as editorial heroism being reviled by the other. It is possible to produce journalism that satisfies both groups – take, for example the work of John Allen, the long-time Vatican correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter, a US title regarded as theologically liberal, whose reportage was also held in high regard by conservatives. But what distinguished Allen’s work was the epitome of good journalism – a rigorous adherence to accuracy, fairness and balance along with a deep understanding of his subject – with a scope unencumbered by the pettier considerations of institutional politics. Doing the same within diocesan-owned press, where the bishop is the publisher, is harder. Along with all the above tensions are existential questions over the proper function of a Catholic newspaper. Does it exist to report news or proclaim the good news, acting primarily as instrument of evangelisation? Should it seek to provide a perspective on the the big issues, covering global and national news, or devote itself to reflecting the life of the local community, covering parish fetes, ordinations, official appointments, obituaries and the like? Certain compromises have been glaringly evident. It would be difficult to cite one official Church publication in Australia that has, for example, done more than a perfunctory job in covering the issue of clerical sex abuse. Generally the issue has been politely avoided, aside from endorsement of the official line. For ordinary church-goers the deep disconnect between the coverage of the issue between their own religious and the secular media must be bewildering, feeding the very feelings of embattlement and persecution that Cardinal George Pell conceded to the royal commission had contributed to the Church’s institutional failure to face up to the problem. Given the general acknowledgement of the effect the sex-abuse crisis has had on mass attendance and collection-plate contributions, it would be hard to conclude there has not also  been a hit on the credibility of the Catholic press. Maintaining relevance in the light of experiences that show trust must be earned rather than assumed will take more than technical capability, slick headlines or social media sharing buttons (more).

Vatican's abuse panel plans to include more experts, another survivor
Extract from Carol Glatz Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter,Tuesday 7 October 2014
Vatican City. A papal commission on child protection will be expanding its nine-member panel to include more experts and another survivor of clerical abuse.The Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis established in December, is now awaiting the pope's approval of members' latest efforts as they aim to lay out a pastoral approach to helping victims and prevent future abuse. Marie Collins, a commission member and survivor of clerical abuse, told The Associated Press on Monday that the specially appointed group has agreed on its provisional statutes and finalized a list of potential new members, adding experts from other countries and disciplines as well as including another survivor. Currently the commission includes: U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, head of the commission; U.S. Fr. Robert Oliver, commission secretary; Collins and six, mostly European, experts in mental health, civil and church law, and moral theology. The group, which had its third meeting Oct. 4-5 at the Vatican, is awaiting the pope's final approval of their proposals (more).

Cardinal Nichols: Hoping for More Thoughtful Discussion of the Family                                                                                   Extract from Zenit, Tuesday 7 October 2014.                                                                                                                                              ........Says Ideas Being Presented Will Gradually Bring About the "Positive Language Needed to Properly Address Catholics". He added that with bishops from various continents sharing, they are learning from each other. “For me one of the most interesting things is how can this synod ... provoke in society a more thoughtful discussion on the importance of the family in society. ”On the atmosphere in the synod, he expressed, “It is a very light atmosphere,” one with active dialogue where people feel free to speak. He clarified that the synod environment is not tense or academic, but friendly, where reflections are given from their perspective as priests, often as parish priests, and as members of families (more)

Speakers tell pope, synod that parishes should welcome same-sex couples.                                        Edited Extract from Francis X Rocca, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter,  Monday 5 October 2014
Vatican City. A(n Australian) married couple told Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops on the family that Catholic parishes should welcome same-sex couples, following the example of parents who invite their son and his male partner to their home for Christmas. "The church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time," Ron and Mavis Pirola of Sydney told the synod Monday. "Take homosexuality as an example. Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home, too. They fully believed in the church's teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three [sic] words, 'He is our son.' ". "What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neighborhood," the Pirolas said........The couple called for emphasizing the positive dimension of Catholic teaching on sexuality. "Marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse. We believe that until married couples come to reverence sexual union as an essential part of their spirituality it is extremely hard to appreciate the beauty of teachings such as those of 'Humanae Vitae,' " they said in reference to the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church's teaching on contraception. "We need new ways and relatable language to touch people's hearts," the Pirolas said (more).



Vatican's abuse panel plans to include more experts, another survivor
Extract from Carol Glatz Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter,Tuesday 7 October 2014
Vatican City. A papal commission on child protection will be expanding its nine-member panel to include more experts and another survivor of clerical abuse.The Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis established in December, is now awaiting the pope's approval of members' latest efforts as they aim to lay out a pastoral approach to helping victims and prevent future abuse. Marie Collins, a commission member and survivor of clerical abuse, told The Associated Press on Monday that the specially appointed group has agreed on its provisional statutes and finalized a list of potential new members, adding experts from other countries and disciplines as well as including another survivor. Currently the commission includes: U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, head of the commission; U.S. Fr. Robert Oliver, commission secretary; Collins and six, mostly European, experts in mental health, civil and church law, and moral theology. The group, which had its third meeting Oct. 4-5 at the Vatican, is awaiting the pope's final approval of their proposals (more).


Pope's Angelus Address, Sunday Oct. 5th
Extract from Zenit, Sunday 5 October 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning. This morning, we opened the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops with the Eucharistic celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Together with me, the Synodal Fathers, who have come from all over the world, will live two intense weeks of listening and discussion, made fruitful by prayer, on the topic “The Pastoral Challenges on the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” Today, the Word of God presents the image of the vine as symbol of the people that the Lord has chosen. Like a vine, the people require so much care; they require a patient and faithful love. In this way, God works with us, and in the same way, we pastors are called to do the same. Taking care of the family is also a way of working in the Lord’s vineyard, that it will bear fruits of the Kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 21:33-43). However, for the family to be able to walk well, with trust and hope, it must be nourished by the Word of God...................I invite all to support the works of the Synod with prayer, invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. At this moment, we associate ourselves spiritually with all those at the Shrine of Pompey, elevating the traditional “Supplication” to Our Lady of the Rosary. May she obtain peace for families and for the whole world! (more)


Speakers tell pope, synod that parishes should welcome same-sex couples.                                        Edited Extract from Francis X Rocca, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter,  Monday 5 October 2014
Vatican City. A(n Australian) married couple told Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops on the family that Catholic parishes should welcome same-sex couples, following the example of parents who invite their son and his male partner to their home for Christmas. "The church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time," Ron and Mavis Pirola of Sydney told the synod Monday. "Take homosexuality as an example. Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home, too. They fully believed in the church's teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three [sic] words, 'He is our son.' ". "What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neighborhood," the Pirolas said........The couple called for emphasizing the positive dimension of Catholic teaching on sexuality. "Marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse. We believe that until married couples come to reverence sexual union as an essential part of their spirituality it is extremely hard to appreciate the beauty of teachings such as those of 'Humanae Vitae,' " they said in reference to the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church's teaching on contraception. "We need new ways and relatable language to touch people's hearts," the Pirolas said (more).


Pope opens Synod criticizing 'bad shepherds,' those who 'thwart' God                                                 Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Sunday 5 October 2014
Vatican City. Pope Francis opened a worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops Sunday -- a possible landmark of his papacy -- by warning against "bad shepherds" who unduly burden the faithful and who "thwart" God by not being guided by the  Holy Spirit. Francis was speaking in a homily during the opening Mass for the meeting, known as a Synod and focusing on modern struggles of family life, in St. Peter's Basilica. Referring to the Mass readings for the day and to the prophet Ezekiel’s warning about shepherds who care for themselves and not their sheep, the pontiff said some shepherds become tempted by "greed for money and power." "To satisfy this greed bad shepherds lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move," said Francis. The pontiff also laid out clearly what the Synod is not to do. "Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent," said the pontiff. "They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord's vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people." Francis' words Sunday are likely to be met with much speculation over what direction the pontiff hopes the Synod, in which some 190 bishops and cardinals will discuss family life topics in closed-door sessions Oct. 6-19, will take (more).


An open letter to those participating in the synod on the family
Extract from Michael E. Allsopp*, National Catholic Reporter Saturday 4 Oct, 2014
"Be not afraid ... "
This is my prayer for all taking part in the synod in Rome and to those, in particular, with the power to shape not only the synod's discussions, but its conclusions. As you prepare, I ask that you prayerfully read and reread Pope John XXIII's address with which he opened the Second Vatican Council and that you embrace his vision as well as his sense of urgency. The arc of history might tend toward justice, but it needs the help of women and men with courage, dedication, commitment -- and wisdom.(read Michael's Prayer here).  [Michael E. Allsopp is the editor of Ethics & The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1999) and the author of Models of Christian Ethics (2003) and Renewing Christian Ethics: The Catholic Tradition (2005).]


Reformers to Pope Francis: 'Don’t wait for the bishops'
Edited Extract from Ines Sans Martin, Crux, Friday 3 October 2014
ROME — A Catholic reform group meeting in Rome this week – a group that says it represents more than 100 organizations around the world — had a simple message for the Synod of Bishops that opens Sunday: “Listen to us.” American Rene Reid, president of Catholic Church Reform International, told Crux that the 100 organizations supporting reform have different opinions and methods, but they all have a common goal: “A Church that’s open, where everyone has a voice, the hierarchy, the priests and the laity.” In Reid’s opinion, every baptized person should have a voice in the Church, because “no one has a corner on the discernment of the Holy Spirit.” The group held a two-day conference in Rome as a way of supporting Pope Francis. According to Reed, whose life partner is an Episcopalian priest, it’s clear through the pope’s words and actions that he wants to change the Church. “We’re not a rebel group, we’re not protesters,” Reid said. In the run-up to the Synod, the group is sending a letter to Pope Francis requesting a review of the arrangements for the summit. “[We want] to ensure that there is within its membership a truly adequate representation from ordinary and diverse Catholic families, with appropriate provision for them to share their views, be heard, and to have a vote, the letter says (more).


Vatican: Synod will be 'original and innovative,' but with limited public information
Extracts from Joshua J McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Friday 3 October 2014
Vatican City Days before the opening of a global meeting of bishops to address family life -- an event that could be the signal moment of Pope Francis' papacy -- the Vatican stressed the "original and innovative" nature of the meeting but faced tough questions about the pervasive opacity surrounding the event...............speaking alongside Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, (Synod Secretary General Cardinal) Baldisseri said information about the upcoming Oct. 5-19 meeting would be limited, with no release of the bishops' texts or summaries of those texts, or even the names of those who are speaking.............Instead of providing texts or summaries of the discussions during the synod, the Vatican will host daily briefings with Lombardi, who will be present during the synod meetings and is expected to brief reporters in Italian on general themes discussed each day. He will be assisted by three priests and one woman who will summarize his remarks in English, Spanish, French, and German.Lombardi said Friday he would strive in his briefings to "underline the interventions that have happened in the morning" and to give "an effective feeling of what has happened in the room in the diverse languages with the diverse fathers." (more)


Catholics looking to global thinktank for touch of reality
Abstract of Kristina Keneally Opinion Piece, Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 3 October 2014
In this Opinion Piece ahead of the Family Synod in Rome commencing next Sunday Kristina Keneally reflects on the choices already made by many Catholics on Famiily matters. She says that Pope Francis has "gone out of his way to make the point that the Church needs to stop legalistically obsessing about marriage and sex and instead focus on welcoming and supporting people who love one another authentically" adding that she's not so sure the Vatican bureaucracy or the rest of the Church hierarchy agrees. Read the Opinion Piece here.


The synod without a script
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, The Tablet, 2 October 2014
As the Synod on the Family opens tomorrow, the fifth in our series looks at some of the 253 participants from around the world, and examines the gamble – perhaps a defining moment of his pontificate – Pope Francis has taken in encouraging open dialogue and debate. pope francis’ pontificate has two faces. Mercy is one. Acting tough in cleaning up the Roman Curia is the other. The Extraordinary Synod on the “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation” opens soon after the Vatican’s indictment of criminal proceedings for abusing minors against the former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, and the firing of the Bishop of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, Rogelio Livieres Plano, accused of protecting an abusive priest. When the Synod begins to debate matters of doctrine and church discipline we will begin to see how this mix of mercy and ruthlessness plays out. Its opening tomorrow is the first leg of a long journey that will include a year of further consultation throughout the Church and then an ordinary general Synod on the Family in October 2015 (more). Image: The Tablet

Media Release: October Synod on the Family – a challenge for Pope Francis
Thursday 2 October 2104
At the onset of the Extraordinary Synod On The Family in Rome from 5-15 October 2014 a Catholics For Renewal Media Release today highlights the challenge for Pope Francis given the thinking of many Catholics on Family issues and the already evident diversity of thinking and overall conservatism on key family issues in the Church hierarchy. It may be downloaded here 


Catholic Church Reform's alternate gathering on the family highlights lay vocation
Extracts from Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 2 October 2014
Catholic Church Reform International, an umbrella coalition of 100 Second Vatican Council renewal groups from 65 countries around the world, will journey to Rome on Thursday and Friday to support Pope Francis and his extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. But going to meetings isn't all members of the group do. In preparation for this event, they also wrote a public letter to Pope Francis, asking him to include representation from ordinary and diverse Catholic families with "appropriate provision for them to share their views, be heard, and to have a vote." While in Rome, the group will hold a Forum on the Family called "Listening to the Faithful" to share the results of the regional reports it has collected on the subject from around the world. Together there in Rome, members of the group will then deliver to the synod the testimonies of these groups as well as their insights and suggestions.............................This group, Catholic Church Reform, is there breathing one spirit, calling with one voice for the single issue that unites us all: the commitment of all facets of the church for the revival of the spirit of renewal in the church. Not just from the people up, but from the top down. That one voice says it all: This meeting is not the gathering of a group of faithless dissenters. This meeting is about faithful listening to the call of the church in Canon 212 that the laity "are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs." This group has not gone to Rome to be against anything. When will the clerical church ever understand that? This group has gone to Rome to be for what the church itself called for in Vatican II: It is about the recognition of "the vocation of the laity." There, in full display for all the world to see, they have gone to Rome to take their responsibility to breathe into the church the Holy Spirit who guides them, too (more). 


Cardinal Burke criticises Cardinal Kasper over Francis claims
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 2 October 2014
Cardinal Raymond Burke has hit out at claims that German Cardinal Walter Kasper “spoke for” Pope Francis when he backed communion for divorced and remarried people, reports The Tablet. Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, said in a conference call with journalists on Tuesday that he found it “amazing” that Cardinal Kasper claimed to speak for the Pope. “The Pope doesn’t have laryngitis. The Pope is not mute. He can speak for himself. If this is what he wants, he will say so,” Cardinal Burke said. “But for me as a cardinal to say that what I am saying are the words of Pope Francis? That to me is outrageous.” Cardinal Burke added that whatever Francis thinks about a more lenient approach on Communion for remarried Catholics, he cannot change current Church teaching – a view endorsed in the build-up to the Synod by Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Cardinal George Pell, as well as a number of other cardinals. Cardinal Kasper told The Tablet last month that it was his “impression” that the Pope would like to see an “opening” in the area of allowing Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics (more).


A place for women in church leadership
Extracts from Peter Kirkwood, Eureka Street, 30 September 2014
For two weeks from this Sunday, the much anticipated Synod on the Family will be held in Rome. Those attending include around 150 bishops, some specially appointed clergy, a number of lay experts and 14 married couples, a total of about 250 participants from all corners of the globe. Only the bishops and clergy will have voting rights at the Synod........Of course it is lay Catholics – not the bishops and clergy – who are living contemporary family life, and who will be most affected by Church teachings on the family. It seems obvious their expertise, experience and insights should be central to the upcoming Synod......Several progressive Australian Catholic groups under the umbrella of the Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Renewal made a push for women’s participation in the Synod. They nominated former NSW Labor Premier, Kristina Keneally as a possible participant, but she was not chosen. In this interview, she talks about her hopes and frustrations with the Synod, and more broadly about women’s and lay leadership in the Church (more).


Upcoming Synod of Bishops is about more than just marriage and family
Extracts from Robert Mickens,  National Catholic Reporter, 29 September 2014
...............Not everyone was pleased with the pope's effort to take the pulse of the wider church, however. For example, only a few national bishops' conferences around the world made a real attempt to canvass the views of individual Catholics. Instead, most of them seem to have relied on parish priests or heads of deaneries to complete the surveys. Such reticence would seem to belie a discomfort so many of today's bishops have in discussing any type of change in church discipline or practice. Whether that is based on prudence or fear, it certainly stands in stark contrast to Francis' clarion call in Evangelii Gaudium for "a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are" (25).In this apostolic exhortation, the pope says it is even necessary to "re-examine" various "rules or precepts" and "certain customs" when "considering a reform of the Church." This includes a generous, open and merciful attitude toward offering people the sacraments. Quoting St. Ambrose, he writes that the Eucharist "is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak." The pope emphasizes that this belief has "pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness" (47). This is not nothing! Francis says Evangelii Gaudium is a document with "programmatic significance" -- read: the program of his pontificate. Yet why do so many ordained leaders in the church, those once so eager to quote the previous two popes, simply ignore or downplay its real importance? The surprisingly audacious apostolic exhortation and the launching of the synod questionnaire have been attempts to shake all believers, including the bishops, out of a "tomb psychology" and "spiritual 'desertification.' " But there was yet another attempt to "make a mess" (or, as the pope has said before in Spanish, hacer lío)....................Francis is obviously intent on reintroducing lively conversation in the church, especially among the pastors, those who share pastoral and doctrinal responsibility with him...................In the 12 months between these two (Synod) assemblies, it will be essential for the Catholic faithful, their pastors and theologians (especially those married and non-ordained) to continue the discussions, the conversations and debates. This could replicate, in a somewhat different but no less fruitful way, a dynamic that was essential to the blossoming of Vatican II. Most of the work and developments at that great event were forged outside the aula of St. Peter's Basilica and in between the four sessions (more).


We are all Australians together, says Archbishop Hart
Extract from CathNews, Monday 29 September 2014
The next time you see a Muslim Australian say "hello," smile and start a conversation. We are all part of the same community, and we have to learn to understand each other and get on, writes Archbishop Denis Hart in The Australian. Brutal attacks by the forces of Islamic State on Christian, Yazidi, Muslim and other religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq continue to be a deep concern. We can feel so remote from the conflict it is hard to know how to help. But we can act in our own country to promote peace. A higher terrorism alert level, police raids on terror suspects, the deployment of Australian military forces, Islamic State urging ­attacks in Australia and a tragic fatality in Melbourne have led to increased tensions in the community. There have been reports over the past fortnight of abuse and threats directed at both Muslims and Christians. The challenge for Australians is how we relate to each other on a personal level. Do we replicate the divisions and threats seen overseas, or do we respond differently? We must not fall into the trap of adopting the conflicts of another region as our own. We shouldn’t isolate people so their grievances and resentments are allowed to fester. Rather than exclude or shun people because of their religious beliefs, we should reach out to them as fellow Australians (more). [Ed: Catholics For Renewal has written to Archbishop Hart Thanking and congratulating him you for the truly Christian leadership provided in this opinion piece published in in The Australian today]   Photo:CathNews


UK Cardinal plays down Communion for remarried
Extract from Cathnews, 26 September 2014
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said that changing the Church’s stance on Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried would require a “radical rethink,” reports The Catholic Herald. Speaking at a press conference in London on Tuesday, the Cardinal said: “I don’t see for myself where this area of manoeuvre opens up without quite a radical rethink of one or another [indissolubility or the Eucharist], so I go to this Synod intent on listening to what people have to say.” Cardinal Nichols, who as president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales will be attending the Extraordinary Synod next month, said he wanted to deliver the central message that any marriage which is “truly the place of the conscious, willing acceptance of God’s grace can no more be dissolved than the Eucharist can be returned to bread, because it is the work of God.” He said he wanted to emphasise at the Synod that the Church’s understanding of marriage needed to be grasped and refreshed (more).  Photo: CathNews


Scottish Archbishop Leo Cushley bans female Catholic theologian from speaking in archdiocese
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet,25 September 2014
A female Catholic theologian has been banned by the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh from speaking on Church property in his diocese. Acting on instructions from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Leo Cushley has ordered the Edinburgh Circle of the Newman Association to cancel an event at St Catherine’s Convent, Edinburgh, where Professor Tina Beattie was due to speak this month. In his letter, seen by The Tablet, the archbishop wrote: “Professor Beattie is known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching. I would therefore ask you to cancel this event, as it may not proceed or be publicised on any Church property in this archdiocese.” The archbishop also uses the letter – dated 11 July but only released this week – to rebuke the association for organising a talk by theologian Joe Fitzpatrick, who has written a book critiquing original sin and seeking to make Genesis compatible with evolution. “I wish to remind you that the Church’s teaching on Original Sin is a dogma of Catholic faith and it is not acceptable that it should be called into question at a public meeting on Church property,” the archbishop wrote, adding that to be told of these events by the CDF “is something of an embarrassment to me”. Archbishop Cushley then asked the Newman Association to take “more care” with their choice of speakers. Soon after receiving the letter the association replied in writing to the archbishop stressing it is “most certainly not in the business of undermining the Catholic Faith”. The group has asked for a meeting with Archbishop Cushley but so far has only been offered one with diocesan officials including Mgr Patrick Burke, one the archdiocese’s vicars-general and formerly of the CDF (more).


Francis appointment of new Chicago Archbishop indicative?
Edited Extracts from CathNews, 25 September 2014
Pope Francis has appointed a new Archbishop of Chicago, one of the most important sees in the US Church. Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich, 65, formerly the Bishop of Spokane, Washington, will be installed on November 18, reports The Tablet. His appointment to one of the most Catholic states in the US has been interpreted by observers as an indication of Pope Francis’ vision for the American Church.............. An article by Michael Sean Winters said that appointing him would signal a “new day” for the Church. “A native of the Midwest, Cupich is well regarded for handling the sex abuse crisis in Spokane, Washington. Considered one of the brightest bishops, if Pope Francis wants to send the signal that it is a ‘new day’, Cupich is the man,” he wrote. In an interview with the US-based National Catholic Reporter at the weekend Bishop Cupich said that Church leaders “cannot base decisions on a past era where things were different.” He said he intended to “work with the system” but wanted to look for ways “in which things have to move forwards” (more). Photo: Cathnews

Vatican Arrests Laicised Former Nuncio
Pope Francis Said to Want Case 'Addressed Without Delay'
Edited Extracts from Staff Reporter, Zenit, Vatican City, 24 September 2014
The Vatican arrested the Pope's former nuncio to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, placing the 66-year-old Polish native under house arrest. Józef Wesołowski served as apostolic nuncio in various countries since 1999; he was sent to the Dominican Republic in 2008, where he is accused of having engaged in sexual abuse of minors. He was recalled from the Dominican Republic in 2013. Wesołowski in June was laicized after he was found guilty in canon law proceedings, with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith handing down the strictest punishment, return to the lay state........."The initiative taken by the judicial departments of Vatican City State is a result of the express desire of the Pope, so that a case so serious and delicate would be addressed without delay, with just and necessary rigor, and with full assumption of responsibility on the part of the institutions that are governed by the Holy See," noted the Vatican statement (more).


Head of Vatican court says media is hijacking Synod agenda
Extract CathNews, Wednesday 24 September 2014
The head of the Church's highest court, Cardinal Raymond Burke, claims that next month's Synod on the Family has been hijacked by media sources fuelling expectations that impossible changes will be made to Church doctrine, reports CNA. “I don’t think you have to be brilliant to see that the media has, for months, been trying to hijack this Synod,” said Cardinal Burke, Prefect for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the office which, among other things, handles annulment cases in the Church. In particular, the media has been presenting Pope Francis as being in favour of allowing Holy Communion to be distributed to those who are divorced and remarried, and other such propositions, even though this is not the case, he said. The danger, Cardinal Burke continued, is that “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.” (more). Photo: CathNews


Are we looking at the American Pope Francis in Chicago?
Extracts from an analysis of recent and prospective papal appointments (20 September), John L Allen Jr. CRUX, 24 September 2014
..........................There’s nothing a pope does as fundamental to shaping culture in the Catholic Church as appointing bishops, and that’s especially true for major pace-setting venues around the world. Chicago is on a short list with Milan, Paris, and Westminster as spots where popes have a chance to put their stamp firmly on the church in a wide chunk of the world. To date, Francis has made a handful of those tone-setting choices, in Cologne, Germany; Madrid, Spain, and Sydney, Australia. His pick for Chicago brings the total to four, and by now we have a fairly clear picture of what Francis wants.............,,...(more)

What if the Pope doesn't have all the answers?
Extracts from Noel Connolly, St Columban's Mission Society E-News, Tuesday 23 September 2014
What if the Pope doesn't have all the answers? is a scary question. In 'The Joy of the Gospel' (Apostolic Exhortation, 'Evangelii Gaudium'), Pope Francis has a new and refreshing view of the Pope’s role. He doesn’t believe he should have the answers to all the questions facing local churches. "It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound 'decentralization’." ...................Pope Francis’ call for discernment will require a deeper faith and new skills and structures. It will be a challenge to Dioceses and Episcopal Conferences to discern for themselves the signs of the times and plan for the future. We will have to develop new structures for listening, consulting and deciding that involves everyone. This will involve structures such as national and diocesan Synods. At the moment we do not have such structures in the Australian Church. There have only been four national synods in our history and the last one was in 1937. It is mind-bending just to envision the education, experimentation and imagination that will be required to develop  truly participative and discerning structures of consultation but it is Francis’ clear call and our present need and it is a worthwhile challenge (more).  Fr Noel Connolly SSC is a Columban missionary priest. He is a member of the Columban Mission Institute in Sydney and a lecturer in Missiology at both the Broken Bay Institute and the Catholic Institute of Sydney.

Pope names five women to International Theological Commission
Extracts from Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 23 September 2014
Vatican City. Pope Francis, who has said the Catholic church has "not yet come up with a profound theology of womanhood," named five women, a record number, to the International Theological Commission. One of the women is U.S. Mercy Sr. Prudence Allen, former chair of the philosophy department at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, now a member of the chaplaincy team at Lancaster University, England. On Tuesday, the Vatican released the names of 30 theologians who will serve a five-year term on the commission. Women have served on the panel since 2004, but, until now, there have never been more than two. The five women appointees also include Australian Tracey Rowland, dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, who is a prominent authority on the theology of Pope Benedict XVI, and Moira Mary McQueen, a Canadian-British citizen who serves as director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute at the University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto.................The International Theological Commission was established in 1969 to study important doctrinal issues as an aid to the pope and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It has produced documents in recent years on such topics as "Christian monotheism and its opposition to violence" and "sensus fidei in the life of the church." (more)

Pope names panel to streamline marriage annulment process
Extracts from Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Tuesday 23 September 2014                 Two weeks before the start of an extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, the Vatican announced the formation of a special commission to reform the process of granting marriage annulments. "The work of the commission will start as soon as possible and will have as its goal to prepare a proposal of reform of the matrimonial process, with the objective of simplifying its procedure, making it more streamlined, and safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of matrimony," said a Vatican statement Saturday 20 September. The new body's work will address what Pope Francis has identified as a key challenge in the "pastoral care of marriage." ............... Pope Francis related the problem of annulments to the situation of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, whose predicament he said exemplifies a general need for mercy in the church today. According to church teaching, such Catholics may not receive Communion unless they obtain an annulment of their first, sacramental, marriage or abstain from sexual relations, living with their new partners as "brother and sister." A proposal to allow some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion without meeting either of those conditions, introduced by German Cardinal Walter Kasper at a meeting of the world's cardinals in February, is expected to be one of the most discussed issues at the two-week synod on the family, which opens Sunday 5 October (source).

My hopes for the new Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher
Extracts from Geraldine Doogue, SMH, CathNews, Monday 22 September 2014
As a Sydney Catholic, what am I seeking from Bishop Fisher? First, as Archbishop, he needs to be a pastoral man, a nurturer. He doesn't have to be an avuncular soul like Pope Francis, but revel in drawing lay people in, writes Geraldine Doogue. ...............He should revel in drawing lay people right inside the tent, by recognising their readiness to serve and the talents just waiting to be exploited on behalf of the Church. He should be humble enough to know that only skills from outside the hierarchy will save the Church's reputation and refresh it now in the eyes of modern Australia.  He should especially realise how much women are keen to be invited into the venture. They have been the long-term faithful and lament, more than most, the drift they see in their parishes. (more).

The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, Cardinal Pell
Extract from Blog, Fr Peter Day, The Tablet, 19 September 2014
I understand that in the lead up to next month’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, you and a number of your confreres are re-asserting the Church’s longstanding exclusion of divorced and remarried people from Communion. Your foreword to the soon to be published The Gospel of the Family (Professor Stephan Kampowski and Fr Juan Perez-Soba), appears to leave us with little doubt: outsiders are not welcome. As you say, "The sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realise that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated." Respectfully, I have a number of questions I’d like to thrash out with you, conscious, of course, that neither of us in our grappling can claim to really know the mind of Christ. (more)  Fr Peter Day, priest of Corpus Christi parish, Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia

Bishop Egan: Synod on the Family 'will not radically change church teaching'
Extract from Joanna Moorhead, published 16/09 in The Tablet,  Republished Friday 19 September 2014
Hopes that the forthcoming Synods on the Family will make radical changes to doctrine may be premature, a bishop warned. Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said it was “no secret that many progressive-minded Catholics are expecting fundamental changes in doctrine and discipline” as a result of synods in Rome next month and in October 2015. He also noted that Pope Francis’ desire to have a frank and open discussion about church teaching on family and his desire to show pastoral care of those on the margins had only increased those hopes. Moreover, he said, the media had often drawn attention to the issue of admitting those who had been divorced and remarried to Holy Communion. But, he said, the Pope’s vision of the Synod was “much broader”. “What is at issue is the Christian vision of the family,” Bishop Egan told delegates to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) at their annual conference earlier this month (more).

Church names Bishop Anthony Fisher as Cardinal George Pell's Sydney successor
Abstracted from The Age, 9.34pm, Thursday 18 September 2014
Anthony Fisher, Bishop of Parramatta has been appointed the 9th Archbishop of Sydney, and immediately committed the church to "doing better" in responding to victims of sexual abuse by priests and brothers. He replaced Cardinal George Pell who was appointed to a newly created Secretariat for the Economy in Rome, to clean up the Vatican's finances (more).

Doctrinal wars? Both sides fire over Communion for divorced, remarried
Extract from Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service, NCR, 18 September 2014
The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will not open until Oct. 5, but some of its most prominent members are already publicly debating what is bound to be one of its most controversial topics: the eligibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. In an interview published Thursday, a proponent of changing church practice to allow such Catholics to receive Communion answered criticism from some of his fellow cardinals, suggesting they are seeking a "doctrinal war" whose ultimate target is Pope Francis. "They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops," German Cardinal Walter Kasper told the Italian daily Il Mattino. "They want to crystallize the truth in certain formulas ... the formulas of tradition." (more)

Archdiocese of Sydney overturns Cardinal's abuse victims finding
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 18 September 2014
The Archdiocese of Sydney has overturned findings of a Vatican inquiry, conducted under Cardinal George ­Pell, which attacked the credibility of alleged child abuse victims and said they may have “fabricated” claims, reports The Australian. A “definitive final ­decree,” written by Cardinal George Pell’s interim successor, Bishop Peter Comensoli, found “with moral certainty” that the alleged victims were abused at a boarding school during the 1970s, as they claimed. Evidence available to the initial inquiry but not mentioned in the previous decree suggested a “pattern of allegations and admissions” about the priest that “substantially undermines the credibility of his claim to innocence,” Bishop Comensoli found. His final decree, issued this month, also raised “significant doubts” over the conclusions of the three senior Australian clerics appointed by Cardinal Pell to carry out the original investigation (more). Photo: CathNews

The challenges of being a Catholic today
Edited Extract from Retired Bishop Pat Power, CathNews, Thursday 18 September 2014
Retired Bishop Pat Power hopes that the Catholic Church will be a more human Church, a more humble Church, and a Church which is more intent on reflecting the person and the teaching of Jesus. Hardly a day goes by without some form of adverse media criticism being levelled at the Church or some of its members. Sometimes the criticism is vitriolic, unfair and replete with half-truths. At other times, I must admit, it is totally justified. It hurts me deeply to see the family of God which is meant to be a source of goodness and grace portrayed as a repository of evil. Much of the current negative publicity flows from the Royal Commission and other inquiries into institutional sexual abuse. Can such public discussion be an opportunity for the Church to endorse reforms needed for it to become its best self? (more). Photo: CathNews

Kasper says Pope Francis would like to see ‘opening’ on church teaching on divorced and remarried
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, Thursday 18 September 2014
A leading cardinal has said he hopes bishops at next month’s synod will listen to lay people and bring forward proposals to allow communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. In an interview published in the forthcoming issue of The Tablet Cardinal Walter Kasper adds that his “impression” is that the Pope would also like to see an “opening” in this area. “I hope the bishops will listen to the voice of people who live as divorced and remarried – the sensus fidei. They should listen and then next year they should decide what is possible and what is not possible,” he said. Next month bishops from around the world will gather in Rome for the synod on the family that takes place from 5-19 October. A year later another synod will take place when concrete proposals will be put forward. In February this year Cardinal Kasper was asked by the Pope to address a consistory of cardinals on the subject of the family, ahead of the synod. His address suggested ways that the Church could allow divorced and remarried couples to receive communion while maintaining the indissolubility of marriage (more).

Pell adds voice to growing opposition to Kasper’s efforts to relax Communion ban for remarried divorcees
Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, Liz Dodd, The Tablet, Wednesday 17 September 2014
Senior cardinals and bishops are taking firmly opposed positions on the question of barring remarried divorcees from receiving Communion, which is set to be a contentious topic at next month’s Synod on the Family at the Vatican. Cardinal George Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney and a member of Pope Francis’ advisory body of nine cardinals, said that to admit divorced and remarried people to Communion would be “impossible” and make pastoral practice incompatible with doctrine. A further five cardinals, who include Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, have jointly authored a book that defends the Church’s current position, arguing that it is the most merciful approach to the issue. Pell was writing the foreword to a book by Professor Stephan Kampowski and Fr Juan Perez-Soba, titled The Gospel of the Family, which is due out next month from Paulist Press just before the start of the synod (more).

Pope's advisers start first draft toward document overhauling Vatican
Extracts from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, Wednesday 17 September 2014
Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals has begun creating the first draft of a new apostolic constitution that would implement a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy. The Council of Cardinals, a papally appointed group of nine cardinal members, held its sixth meeting Monday through Wednesday with Pope Francis at the Vatican to help advise him on the reform of the Vatican's organization and church governance........In their three days of talks and study, the nine cardinals "focused on two principle hotspots," the Vatican spokesman said in his written statement.The first topic included the laity, the family, "the role of women in society and the church, youth, childhood, or matters related to lay associations and movements and so on," he wrote. The second topic combined the issues of "justice and peace, charity, migrants and refugees, health, and the protection of life and ecology, especially human ecology," the written statement said (more).

Philadelphia meetings, synods will be part of global debate on families
Extract from  Francis X. Rocca,  Catholic News Service,  National Catholic Reporter, 16 September 2014
Vatican City The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 will serve as a forum for debating issues on the agenda for the world Synod of Bishops at the Vatican the following month, said the two archbishops responsible for planning the Philadelphia event. At a briefing Tuesday, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, described the world meeting as one of several related events to follow the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, which will prepare an agenda for the worldwide synod one year later. Such events, including a January 2015 meeting in Rome with family and pro-life groups, will enable a debate on the synod's agenda "at the international, global level," Paglia said. "It is important that this text not remain an abstract text reserved to some specialists." "In this way, the debate at the ordinary synod will be enriched," the archbishop said.   Pope Francis has said both synods will consider, among other topics, the eligibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, whose predicament he has said exemplifies a general need for mercy in the church  today. "We're bringing up all the issues that would have appeared in the preparation documents for the synod as part of our reflection," said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, regarding plans for the world meeting. "I can't  imagine that any of the presenters won't pay close attention to what's happening" in Rome. Chaput said as many as 15,000 people are expected to take part in the meeting, whose program will be kept flexible to allow for topics that emerge from the bishops' discussions at the Vatican this October. "But we haven't approached this as a part of the synod," Chaput said. "It's a celebration of family life, the Catholic church's commitment to support families." (more)

Rome International meeting of Catholic Renewal Group members early October
Wednesday 16 September 2014
From October 2 - 3 this year Catholic Church Reform Int'l is hosting a two-day Forum on the Family at the Oratory of S. Francesco Saverio del Caravita in Rome. The group is the collaborative centre of a large number of international reform/renewal groups (including Catholics For Renewal) and will meet to discuss, and, as its gift, deliver to the Synod the testimonies and fruits of its comprehensive discernment on Family issues (including inputs from the Melbourne Forum and others). The Synod meets in Rome from 5-19 October. Photo: Caravita Community, CCR Int'l.  

Eric Hodgens. Will the Synod on the family work?
Extract from Eric Hodgens, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 16 September 2014                 Pope Francis has changed the focus of the Catholic Church from doctrine and rules to care and compassion. If people are at odds with the rules they should be supported and encouraged rather than condemned. Since many of the rules causing complications in today’s society are associated with marriage he has called a special Synod of Bishops to address “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. This meeting will take place in October 2014. The associated problems are many: (more)

Church on track to become a shrinking cult?
Edited Extracts from Opinion, Brian Cahill, National Catholic Reporrer, Tuesday 16 September 2014
Taking a break from his crusade against civil gay marriage, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is establishing an Oratory of St. Philip Neri at Star of the Sea Parish in the city. The Oratory of St. Philip Neri dates back to 1575 in Rome and includes a rich history of priestly fraternity, community, prayer and the Eucharist. The intent here, according to Catholic San Francisco, is to "create a stable community with at least two full-time priests." There will be outreach to young adults and "a focus on offering Mass, hearing confessions and creating a welcoming community.".........New pastor Fr. Joseph Illo, the former chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., says he really wants to concentrate on young adults, offering air hockey and pingpong, among other activities. There will be Sunday and daily Mass in Latin, although it's not clear how in 2014 Mass in a language no one understands will attract young adults. Perhaps the air hockey and the pingpong will. But the Holy Spirit works in all sorts of strange and wonderful ways, and any effort to attract young adults -- to keep them from leaving the church, should be praised, especially given the wholesale exodus of young Catholics over recent years. The Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project reports that four out of five Catholics who have left the church and haven't joined another church did so before the age of 24. One can point to an increasingly secular, materialistic culture as a factor in this exodus. But a closer look suggests that young Catholics are increasingly turned off by the attitudes and actions of some American bishops -- the failure to address the child abuse scandal, the harsh opposition to civil gay marriage, the cluelessness of church teaching on contraception, and the refusal to consider women priests.(more)   Photo: NCR (Reuters/David Ryder). Eastside Catholic High School students rally  at the Seattle Archdiocese in support of former Vice Principal who was asked to resign because he married his same-sex partner.

At wedding, pope says spouses make each other better men and women
Extracts from Francis X Rocca, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, Monday 15 September 2014
Presiding over the wedding of 20 couples in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated marriage as the union of a man and woman playing complementary roles during their common journey through life........ In typically frank style, Pope Francis admitted married life can be tiring, "burdensome, and often, even nauseating." But the pope assured the brides and grooms that Christ's redemptive sacrifice would enable them to resist the "dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment." Pope Francis also offered practical advice for dealing with marital discord. "It is normal for a husband and wife to argue," he said. "It always happens. But my advice is this: Never let the day end without having first made peace. Never. A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue."Speaking three weeks before the start of an extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, the pope emphasized the importance of the institution based on marriage (more). Photo: NCR, CNS / Paul Haring

Divorce, migration changing the face of families worldwide
Extracts from Nancy Frazier O'Brien, Catholic News Service, NCR, Monday 15 September 15, 2014
The family under discussion when the extraordinary Synod of Bishops convenes at the Vatican Oct. 5 will bear little resemblance to the family of 50 or even 20 years ago. The blended and extended families created by high rates of divorce, remarriage and cohabitation -- along with the worldwide migration prompted by economic turmoil and war -- have combined to change forever the view of family as limited to a mother, father and their children. But children are still most likely to live in two-parent families in all countries except South Africa, according to the World Family Map 2014, a research project sponsored by the Bethesda, Md.-based nonprofit Child Trends and a variety of educational and nongovernmental institutions from across the globe...........The blended and extended families created by high rates of divorce, remarriage and cohabitation -- along with the worldwide migration prompted by economic turmoil and war -- have combined to change forever the view of family as limited to a mother, father and their children............Randall Woodard, an associate professor of theology/religion at St. Leo University in Florida, told Catholic News Service that divorce is the biggest issue facing American families, "and Catholics in the U.S. generally aren't particularly distinct or different from the rest of the culture here." He said the synod will need to find a way to make divorced Catholics who have remarried feel welcomed into the church, even if their status might preclude them from receiving the sacraments. "Cultural issues are challenging to address for the church because (they) can make people feel alienated, but often it's the same people who need help," Woodard said. "What churches have [to be] better at conveying is, yes, these things happened, but you're still welcome here. It's the same message, with a different tone." (more)

The makeup of Synod of Bishops on the family is disappointing
Extract from Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 11 September 2014
The list of those attending the Synod of Bishops on the family is a disappointment to those hoping for reform of the Curia and for those who hope that the laity will be heard at the synod. The appointment of 25 curial officials to the synod on the family is a sign that Pope Francis still does not understand what real reform of the Roman Curia requires. It makes me fear that when all is said and done, he may close or merge some offices, rearrange some responsibilities, but not really shake things up (more).

Couples with kids, cohabitating are among those marrying at papal Mass
Extract from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, Thursday 11 September 2014
VATICAN CITY - Among the men and women Pope Francis was set to unite in marriage were Catholics who have been living together as well as couples who already have children. The pope, who is the bishop of Rome, will preside over his first wedding ceremony as pontiff during a nuptial Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Sept. 14. The event, which will see 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage, was organized by the vicariate of Rome. "Those who will get married Sunday are couples like many others," the diocese said in a press release Sept. 10. The ages of the brides and grooms range from the youngest being 25 to the oldest being 56, the vicariate said. It said the couples also come from all kinds of situations with some "who have been engaged for a long period of time or for not as long; there are those who are already cohabitating; who already have children; who got to know each other in church," it said. While cohabitation is not in itself a canonical impediment to marriage, it is contrary to the church's teaching on marriage and sexual love. The church urges that pastoral ministers help couples preparing for marriage by showing them the witness of Christian family life in such a way as they may regularize their situation before their wedding ceremony (more).

Newly-appointed Primate of All Ireland looks to lay-led renewal of Irish Church
Extracts from Sarah Mac Donald in Dublin, Then Tablet, Thursday 11 September 2014
Newly appointed Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, who also becomes Primate of All Ireland, says he wants to see a “humble renewal” of the Irish Church led from the bottom up by the laity. Speaking at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh this week, following the announcement that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of his predecessor, Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Martin pledged to be a “servant leader” and cautioned against expectations of a top-down leadership.
He called on the laity to take ownership of their vocation and mission to hand on the faith.........Archbishop Martin said he wanted “a church that is humble … a church on our knees, hopefully in prayer, recognising the terrible things that have happened in the past and the need to ask God’s mercy and to ask forgiveness of people” (more)     Photo: Archbishop Eamon Martin, The Tablet

Pope appoints two US priests to help tackle sexual abuse of minors
Extracts from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter. Thursday 10 September 2014
Pope Francis appointed two U.S. priests to top positions at the Vatican for dealing with the sexual abuse of minors.The pope named U.S. Fr. Robert Oliver to be the new secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and appointed Jesuit Fr. Robert Geisinger to replace Oliver as the promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- the Vatican's chief prosecutor of sex abuse crimes........A Vatican source told Catholic News Service there would be another announcement "soon" of more new members to be added to the commission, as it aims to expand the number of representatives from around the world, especially from Africa and Asia. The commission, which currently has eight members, including a survivor of clerical sexual abuse, mental health professionals and experts in civil and church law, is tasked with laying out a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse. The pope has said he wants the commission to help the church develop better policies and procedures for protecting minors (more).

Belgian bishop urges synod on family to hold real dialogue on moral issues
Extract from The Tablet, Wednesday 10 September 2014
Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny has published a long letter on the upcoming Synod of Bishops urging the assembly to have the courage to bring the Church’s moral teachings more in line with the lived experience of the laity. "The Church must step away from its defensive, antithetical stance and seek anew the path of dialogue" on moral issues, he wrote in the 22-page letter posted on his diocese’s website in five languages (more).  Statement by Bishop Johan Bonny "Synod on the Family, Expectations of a Diocesan Bishop"

Pope Francis is a game-changer.
Extract from Michael Kelly SJ.  Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue Website, Thursday 11 September 2014
There’s no doubting that Pope Francis is a game changer and not just for the Catholic Church. The question remains whether he can pull off the changes he’s foreshowed and many Catholics want. Three decades of people being made bishops more for reasons of their readiness to comply with directives from Head Office than for any evident leadership capacities means that Papa Bergoglio as the Italians call him has little to draw on in the way of resources and personnel to see the desired changes through. And five decades of resistance by the Vatican Curia to the changes mandated at Vatican II in the early 1960s means that the challenges start at GHQ. But beyond the resistance and lack of resources to manage the change lies something deeper. It really comes down to a difference in what one thinks the Church is. And about that Pope Francis is quite clear. An image of the Church that Pope Francis has made popular is that of its being a “field hospital”, something deployed to bring healing and care to battle scarred warriors (more).

Australian couple one of 14 to attend Synod of Bishops on family
Extracts from Cathnews, Wednesday 10 September 2014
Australian couple Dr Ron and Mavis Pirola are among 14 married couples who have been chosen from around the world to attend October's Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, reports the Catholic News Service. Dr and Mrs Pirola, chairs of the Australian bishops' Catholic Marriage and Family Council, will be joined by Christopher Meney, director of the Life, Marriage and Family Centre with the Archdiocese of Sydney, and Joan Clements, co-director of the World Organisation of Ovulation Method Billings in Australia. They are among more than 250 participants, including 114 presidents of national bishops' conferences, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic churches and 25 heads of Vatican congregations and councils. The Pope also appointed 26 Synod fathers to take part in the October 5-19 event. A list of the appointments was released yesterday by the Vatican. Almost all of the 26 Papally appointed voting members are from Europe. Of these, none of the 14 cardinals, eight bishops, and four priests appointed by the Pope is from North America or other English-speaking countries............However, among the non-voting members of 38 observers and 16 experts appointed by the Pope, the majority are laymen and laywomen, including 14 married couples, and they are more geographically diverse, with several coming from Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, as well as Europe......(more)  

Full house at Melbourne Discussion Forum on Family Challenges
Tuesday 9 September 20-14
In support of the Vatican 'Family Synod' in Rome from 5-19 October an open discussion on selected family issues was enthusiastically entered into at St Leonards Parish this evening in a joint arrangement with Catholics For Renewal. The four topics addressed were Cohabitation before and outside of marriage, Openness to Life; Birth control and contraceptive practices; Reception of the Eucharist for Catholics who have divorced and remarried, and The damage done to all families by clerical sexual abuse of children.  What was also very notable apart from deliberations was the open, honest, thoughtful and respectful way in which all participants spoke and listened to each other. A summary of the outcome is being prepared and will be forwarded  to the Synod of Bishops before their meeting in Rome, through Catholic Church Reform International of which Catholics For Renewal is a member, as are many other renewal organisations around the world.  CCRI are currently gathering responses from families at similar forums around the world on pastoral challenges facing the family. A concluding comment at the Forum from Peter Johnstone Chair of Catholics For Renewal strongly praised and reaffirmed the overwhelming majority of priests (such as those present tonight)  who despite this very difficult time in the Church remain focussed on providing outstanding pastoral care to the people of the Church, was supported with enthusiastic acclamation by those across the crowded room tonight.

Vatican Releases List of Synod Participants, Explains New Methodology
Extract from Staff Reporter, Zenit, 9 September 2014
In an announcement today in which it published the names of those taking part in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on marriage and the family, the Vatican also explained that the ecclesial body has a new methodology.The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (5-19 October) will be on the theme: “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation”. The aim of the meeting is "to propose to today's world the beauty and the values of the family, which emerge from the proclamation of Jesus Christ Who disperses fear and supports hope," the Vatican said. Referring to the preparatory stages of the synod, in which a questionnaire was unusually sent to dioceses around the world in order to prepare the working document for the two-week meeting, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said the synod "is developing in a new and renewed way, with concrete actions." The criterion for renewal is that of "first painting the picture and then adding the frame," he said. "The rules in force provide the track along which the train of renewal proceeds. As we go ahead, the steps necessary for changing the rules or eventually setting about a full reconstruction of the Synod as an entity will become evident." The cardinal said the synod will be divided into two phases: the Extraordinary General Assembly of 2014 and the Ordinary General Assembly of 2015. "A new working methodology will be applied," he explained, "rendering the process more dynamic and participatory, with speeches and testimonials, always with a view to continuity towards the second stage, after which the Synod document will be published”. Cardinal Baldisseri's comments were made in a statement on the Synod which we publish below (more).

Parolin indicates reform might not be Synod's main focus. Says family must be protected from dissolution
Extracts from Hannah Roberts in Rome, National Catholic Reporter, Friday 5 September 2014
Just one month before the start of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, the Vatican Secretary of State has given an indication that the main focus of the synod may not be the reforms that some in the Church hope for, but the legal and cultural threats to the family itself. The Church “understands the many threats to family life, in the form of policies and laws that allow or even hasten the dissolving of the family”, Cardinal Parolin told participants in the fifth annual conference of the International Catholic Legislators Network. He called upon those present “not only to live ‘in the midst of the world’ but also to be ‘a leaven in the world’ in favour of the family, the local community, and your respective nations.” He added: “This means, by your words, by your witness and by your legislative and political actions informed by faith, you are called to foster a more just society, centred on the dignity of the human person.”...........Cardinal Parolin is one of the Council of Cardinals helping to advise Pope Francis on doctrinal and practical reforms. His relatively conservative stance could disappoint those hoping for changes to Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, contraception, communion for divorced and remarried persons, and other controversial topics at the 5-19 October synod.(more). Photo: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, CNS/Paul Harding


Hard questions we’re not asking Pope Francis
Extracts from Aalysis by John L. Allen Jr., Associate Editor, Crux, Friday 5 September 2014
Pope Francis is an undeniably attractive figure whose concern for people at society’s margins can be awesome to behold. As a result, it’s almost impossible sometimes not to go soft on the man.............Yet precisely because there’s so much to like, Francis sometimes gets a free pass on the sort of legitimate questions any other leader would attract. In that regard he often seems the mirror opposite of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Because Benedict had a bad public image, he sometimes was blamed even for things that weren’t his fault. In contrast, Francis often is absolved even for choices for which he actually is responsible. Where Benedict was Velcro, Francis is Teflon. For Benedict everything stuck, for Francis almost nothing does. At least four hard questions we should be asking more often come to mind:  (more)


Pope hosts global video chat with young people
Extract from Cinir Gaffey, CatholicHerald UK Friday 5 September 2014
Pope Francis hosted a video chat with young people around the world yesterday morning. The Pope answered questions from pupils on five continents via Google Hangouts as he launched Scholas.Social, a global social network for schools. The call lasted almost 20 minutes and was broadcast at the third International Symposium for Education, which was organised by Scholas and held in Vatican City. Among the questions, a Turkish boy asked the Pope about his hopes for the future. Francis responded: “I don’t have that crystal ball that witches use to foresee the future. But I want to tell you something. Do you know where the future is? It’s in your heart, in your mind and in your hands.” (more)


Peres says Francis only leader capable of ending today's wars
Extract from CathNews, Friday 5 September 2014
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres has asked Francis to head a parallel United Nations called the "United Religions" to counter religious extremism in the world. Peres said Francis would be the best person to head such a world body, reports CNS. Peres said that “perhaps for the first time in history, the Holy Father is a leader who’s respected, not just by a lot of people, but also by different religions and their representatives, "In the past, most wars were motivated by the idea of nationhood. Today, however, wars are incited above all using religion as an excuse," Peres told the Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, ahead of the papal meeting yesterday. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, confirmed that Mr Peres, who ended his presidential term in July, had requested the meeting and told the Pope about his idea. Pope Francis, however, did not commit himself to the proposal (more).

What's eating Catholic women?
Extract from Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 4 September 2014
Two years ago, when Cardinal Gerhard Müller criticized the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for promoting radical feminist themes, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith offered a stark reminder that feminism has no place in the Roman Catholic church. In his most recent interview in L'Osservatore Romano (the Vatican's "semi-official" newspaper), Müller further indicates that any suggestion of misogyny on the part of the hierarchy is a claim best answered with a punch line. Sadly, it's a comedic lesson Müller likely learned from his boss, the pope. Back in July, when journalist Franca Giansoldati asked Pope Francis whether the pontiff's tropes about the "church as a woman" and the "the church as a feminine word" were misogynistic, he responded with a joke about women as Adam's rib. The pope then went on a roll of sorts, making another zinger about priests coming under the authority of female housekeepers (more).


An unspoken truth about US teens who flee the Catholic church
Extract from Jennifer Mertens, National Catholic Reporter, 4 September 2014
"So are you going to force religion on me?"  On the first day of class, a handful of teens express this sentiment. Three weeks in, countless more admit to having entered with this fear. Initially, the feedback startled me. Now, I expect it. Thanks to polarizing debates and preachy clichés, a significant percentage of young American Catholics express discomfort, flippancy and even boredom with their church.

"They don't get us."
"Church doesn't really matter to the rest of my life."
"Who cares what we think? No one listens to us anyway."


Typical teens? Adult Catholics often bemoan these comments as evidence of a rather grim forecast in the American church's future. "Oh, what a sad, lost generation!" With young people now fleeing church pews in droves, the concern is well-founded. And while today's graying parishes have become subject to intense study and debate, we frequently miss how it is precisely young people's spiritual hunger that leads many away. Look closely. Today's young people experience profound spiritual hunger. This hunger permeates my own millennial cohort and surfaces daily among my students. As teens struggle for wholeness in a fragmented world, such hunger compels them to fearlessly pursue tough questions: (more)  


Irish sisters changed child migrant's name to avoid tracing
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 4 September 2014
A child migrant believes his name was changed by nuns before he sailed from Northern Ireland to Australia in an effort to ensure he could not be traced, a public inquiry in Ireland has heard, reports AAP on Yahoo7. Seasick children vomited from the decks and cried on their way to a new identity and life in a country they knew nothing about. One nun said: "I hope that ship sinks on the way out there as punishment for misbehaving."  Once they arrived, some children were subjected to sexual and physical abuse by members of the Christian Brothers Catholic religious order at Clontarf in Western Australia, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry was told on Tuesday. The decision to change the name of one child was signed by a mother superior in Northern Ireland on behalf of the Catholic Council for Child Welfare.  He was told not to change it back when he arrived in Australia following the month-long passage from Northern Ireland. A witness statement said he was never askedif he wanted to go. "I had no idea where Australia was, my mother was never told about going there." The nuns fitted him out with clothes for the trip. "The last thing they did was change my name. I think they wanted to ensure I could not be traced." (more).  Image: Cathnews


NY Gay groups in St. Patrick's parade all right with Cardinal Dolan
Extract  from David Gibson, Religion News Service,  National Catholic Reporter, Tuesday 2 September 2014
New York After years of strong resistance, organizers of New York's St. Patrick's Day parade on Wednesday said gays and lesbians will be allowed to march under their own banner for the first time, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan -- the parade's grand marshal next March -- has welcomed the move. The decision is another sign of how quickly changing public attitudes toward gay people have pushed changes in state laws, government policies and the practices of private entities. Dolan's positive response may also point to a shifting dynamic within the Catholic church on gays and lesbians since the election of Pope Francis last year. Francis has made it clear he wants church leaders to highlight Catholicism's outreach to the poor and vulnerable rather than always fighting culture war issues on gay marriage and the like (more).


Vatican's doctrinal chief renews criticism of US nuns
Extract from David Gibson Religion News Service, NCR, 2 September 2014
The Vatican's guardian of orthodoxy and the force behind Rome's investigation of American nuns has renewed his criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, downplaying the group's size and importance and arguing that the Vatican is trying to help them recover their religious identity so they don't die out. "Above all we have to clarify that we are not misogynists, we don't want to gobble up a woman a day!" Cardinal Gerhard Müller told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper, in the edition published on Monday. Müller, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the newspaper that the sisters of the LCWR "do not represent all U.S. nuns, but just a group of North American nuns who form part of an association." (more)


Cardinal says more women to join theological commission
Extract from CathNews, 2 September 2014
More women will be joining the International Theological Commission, with the number rising from two to “five or six,” according to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reports Vatican Insider. Historian Lucetta Scaraffia, who conducted the interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller for L’Osservatore Romano, said the Cardinal “also informed me that the new International Theological Commission the Pope is about to make nominations for will include more women than previously. As far as I understood the number of women will go from two to five or six." That would be a significant increase (more).

N. Ireland inquiry into removal of children to Australia
Extract from CathNews, 2 September 2014
Children in institutions in Northern Ireland were exported to Australia like “baby convicts,” a witness has told a public inquiry into historical abuse in Northern Ireland, reports The Sisters of Nazareth were responsible for the removal of 111 child migrants aged as young as five before and after World War II, some of whom faced grave sexual and physical violence after arrival. Another 20 were sent by other institutions. In some cases parental consent was not sought, migrants were separated from siblings, and some deprived of their real identities by withholding of birth certificates, a lawyer for the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry said yesterday. Reasons for transport included boosting “Catholicisation” in Australia, propping up the number of white inhabitants of the Empire or saving money and emptying overcrowded workhouses, the investigation heard. A statement from one witness said: “We were exported to Australia like little baby convicts.” (more). Practice continued till 1950s 


Political models for the papacy
Extracts from Thomas Reece*, National Catholic Reporter, Friday 29 August 2014
Defenders of the status quo in church governance often say, "The church is not a democracy," with the implication that the church can learn nothing from civil governments. The truth is that the church has been borrowing government structures from civil society almost from the beginning. In fact, we know that bishops, including the bishop of Rome, were elected by the people in the early days of the church. Later in Rome, the Roman Senate was sometimes involved in selecting popes prior to the creation of the College of Cardinals. Not surprisingly, the cardinals for many centuries saw themselves as successors to the Roman Senate, and until the revision of the Code of Canon Law in 1983, the College of Cardinals was referred to in church law as a senate. During some periods, the cardinals were so powerful that the pope could not do anything without their approval...........Historically, the church changed its governance structures to match changes in civil society. Thus, by the 13th century, the Vatican had an Apostolic Chancellery, which matched the chancelleries in European countries. The chancellery handled appointments of bishops and abbots as well as bulls and rescripts. Before becoming pope, John XXII (1316-1344) had been chancellor to the French king. He used his expertise in organizing the chancellery to handle papal business (more).  *Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.


'Staggering' Church needs elixir of God, says Nuncio
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 28 August 2014
The Church does not need window dressing and public relations, it needs the living spirit of God, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Apostolic Nuncio in Australia, told delegates to the Proclaim 2014 conference for parish renewal. In a homily focussed largely on Ezekiel’s vision depicting Israel as a valley of dead and dry bones, Archbishop Gallagher last Friday told the conference in Sydney that the Church was presently “injured by innumerable self-inflicted wounds.” “She is bloodied but staggers like a drunken man, but a cold shower of sobriety is being administered,” he told the delegates, adding that “despite the pain, we must be grateful. We would not be here if everything was beautiful in the garden that is the Catholic Church,” he said.  “We know we live in painful, critical times. We recognise many have written us off as a shrivelled desiccated stump of a once healthy tree. “We are struggling on many fronts and it is not easy to maintain confidence that we will regain the vital flourishing of our foundation.”  But just like those elderly members of the community who, in spite of the limitations of old age, retained great vitality and intellectual vigour, so, too, the Church can be reanimated through its faith and hope in God (more). 


Why are we silencing women (and lay) preachers?
Extract from Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter, 28 August 2014
Bishop Salvatore Matano, the new bishop of Rochester, N.Y., is in the process of ending a 40-year custom of permitting lay ministers to preach at Mass. Most are women commissioned to preach by the former bishop, Matthew Clark. All have advanced degrees in theology and all have served for many years in various diocesan leadership positions. Many are or were parish administrators in a diocese where one-third of all parishes are without a resident priest. (And things are going to get worse. According to the diocesan website, the number of active diocesan priests is expected to decline from 140 to 62 by 2025 -- a decline of almost 60 percent.) Preaching at Mass by prepared and gifted laity, especially laywomen, flourished under Clark, who interpreted church law broadly, though the practice actually began under his predecessor, Bishop Joseph Hogan. Clark, who retired in 2012, was nationally known for supporting expanded roles for women in the church. In 1982, in "The Fire in the Thornbush," his first pastoral letter as bishop, he wrote:   (more)

Italian Bishops' Leader Backs Communion for Divorced and Remarried
Extract from Staff Reporter, Zenit,Rome, Thursday 28 August 2014
Addressing a national conference on the liturgy on Wednesday, Bishop Nunzio Galantino said the Church must make everyone feel at home, including "unconventional couples". "Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice," he said, according to Italian news agency ANSA. “The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination," the prelate maintained. Avvenire reported that he said the Eucharist “is and must remain a ‘universal assembly’”, and that it must also be an “eloquent sign of the divine and his free gift for the ‘uninitiated’.”The Italian prelate, who was appointed by Pope Francis, said a merciful Church is embodied in a merciful community in which “anyone can feel at home,” whether it is the poor, people with disabilities, migrants, or those who cannot receive Communion such as the divorced and remarried. He stressed the importance of taking an “attitude of charity in truth”, but added that when faced with such situations, “we must honestly admit that we have no longer insisted on the truth when we haven’t exercised charity (more). 


Towards a better world
Extract from Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Kairos Catholic Journal, CAM, Thursday 28 August 2014
This year, we celebrate the 100th World Day of Migrants and Refugees and Pope Francis has named its theme as ‘Towards a Better World’..........Ever since Pope Francis unexpectedly came onto the scene, he has challenged us to reclaim the spirit of the Gospel. For him, it has little to do with security, comfort, complacency and mediocrity. A self-serving and self-preserving mentality goes against the very nature of what it means to be a Christian and Church. In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel, he says for example: ‘I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.’ Earlier in Lampedusa, he appealed to Christians for a sense of responsibility in the face of a globalised indifference towards the strangers in our midst. Just as the Samaritan goes out of his way to become a neighbour to the wounded, we are called to be a Church that moves outside of itself and towards those on the periphery......(more

Going, going, gone: Books study exodus from religion
Extracts from two Book Reviews, Kaya Oakes, National Catholic Reporter, Wednesday 27 August 2014
1. Belie‪fs Without Borders: Inside the minds of the spiritual but not religious
By Linda A, Mercadante, Published by Oxford University Press US$29.95
The question of what is happening to organized religion in America remains unanswered, but one thing is clear: Larger and larger numbers of individuals are drifting away from traditional notions of church. In her book Belief Without Borders, Linda A. Mercadante, a Presbyterian minster and theologian raised in a half-Catholic, half-Jewish family, begins her exploration of the faith lives of the "spiritual but not religious" (whom she calls SBNRs) with a thesis about spiritual change. She writes, "No matter how organized religions try to ignore, challenge, adapt, or protest it, our society is being changed by this pervasive ethos."

2. Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out Of, And Gone From The Church
By Christian Smith, Kyle Longest, Jonathan Hill and Kari Christofferson
Published by Oxford University Press, US$29.95

So what is the place of young Catholics in this same "fragmented" world that Mercadante's SBNRs inhabit? According to the research done by the authors of Young Catholic America, young Catholics may be just as spiritually at sea as many of their religiously unaffiliated peers. Drawing on surveys and interviews conducted with the same cohort of participants from 2002, when they were young teenagers, to 2008, when they were "emerging" adults, the four researchers who co-authored this study began their work in a negative space. Prior to the National Study of Youth and Religion that led to this book, the research on young Catholics showed a story of "decline and loss." Young Catholic America attempts to pick apart some of the reasons behind that decline. Much of the first section of the book is focused on the role parents play in giving their children a Catholic identity, and the authors conclude that many parents of millennials were "poorly formed in Catholic faith and life." The reasons for this are manifold, but the authors point to a long era of "institutional weakening" of the church. (more)

TJHC Blog - Royal Commission
Extracts from Francis Sullivan, Thursday 28 August 2014
At the hearings at the Royal Commission this week in Melbourne, Archbishop Hart likened the Church to a family, a grouping of people under a common cause, dedicated to leading supportive relationships with a disposition to reach out, not only to support each other but also to support others in need. From my perspective he hit the nail right on the head. Earlier we heard Cardinal Pell try to explain how, in a legal sense, the Church is not liable for a crime committed by one of its clergy.  He used the analogy of a trucking company and its driver and whether the company could be sued for a crime committed by the driver during the course of his employment. Of course the driver can be prosecuted for the crime however the law generally does not make the company civilly liable in these circumstances.......Cardinal Pell stated that as it stands the law applies equally to all institutions, be they trucking companies or the Church. However the analogy was poorly chosen and was bound to be misunderstood. The reaction to Cardinal Pell’s evidence was swift. It sent the wrong signal to the community by implying the Church approaches child sex abuse as if it is just any other company in the community (more).

Leadership Conference of Women Religious avoids confrontation at annual meeting in US
Extracts From Michael Sean Winters, The Tablet, Tuesday 26 August 2014
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) wrapped up its annual meeting in Nashville, affirming their commitment to continued dialogue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and Archbishop Peter Sartain, the Vatican-appointed overseer of the organisation. In 2010, the CDF issued a doctrinal assessment that faulted the LCWR for hosting doctrinally questionable speakers, insufficiently focusing on life issues, and other matters.“Our study,  discernment, and prayer led us to reaffirm our strong belief that ongoing conversation with church leadership is key to building effective working relationships that enable both women religious and church leaders to serve the world,” the LCWR board said in a statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting. “It is our deepest hope to resolve the situation between LCWR and CDF in a way that fully honours our commitment to fulfill the LCWR mission as well as protect the integrity of the organisation. We will continue in the conversation with Archbishop Sartain as an expression of hope that new ways may be created within the Church for healthy discussion of differences.” The LCWR leaders offered the hope that the dialogue could become a model for those “thousands of persons throughout the country and around the world [who] long for places where they can raise questions and explore ideas on matters of faith in an atmosphere of freedom and respect.” (more)  Photo: The Tablet

Kieran Tapsell. George Pell’s logic on child sex abuse is flawed
Extracts from Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, Monday 25 August 2015
In his video appearance before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on 21 August 2014, the former Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, insisted that the Catholic Church should be treated like every other organisation in society. It should not be held responsible for the crimes of its priests in the same way as the “ownership or leadership” of a trucking company is not responsible if one of its drivers picks up a hitchhiker and molests her. Pell conceded that “if in fact the authority figure has been remiss through bad preparation, bad procedures or been warned and done nothing or insufficient, then certainly the church official would be responsible.” Pell’s analogy revealed the fatal flaw in his own argument the moment he used the word “company”.  If a trucking company had been remiss as he described, and people were injured as a result, the trucking company would be liable. Those injured would have access to the company’s assets to meet any judgment, even if its directors or officials were dead or had no assets (more),  or see Documents, No 21

Vatican asks Archdiocese of Sydney to review abuse investigation
Extracts from CathNews, Monday 25 August 2014
The Vatican has asked the Archdiocese of Sydney to review an investigation conducted under Cardinal George Pell, which criticised the credibility of two alleged victims of Church child sex abuse, reports The Australian. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is also investigating the matter, following the publication of the resulting Church decree in The Australian in April..........In April, following the revelation of the document’s contents in The Australian, the Royal Commission wrote to the Vatican requesting “copies of any documents regarding” the priest concerned. Last month, in a letter subsequently tendered to the Royal Commission, the Vatican replied, saying that the priest “is presently the subject of a canonical process which (has) been returned to ­ecclesiastical authorities in Australia for further review.’’ (more). Photo: CathNews.


Pope phones family of executed US journalist
Extract from CathNews, Friday 22 August 2014
Pope Francis phoned the bereaved family of a US journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria yesterday to console them for their loss and assure them of his prayers, reports the Catholic News Service. The call to the family of James Foley in Rochester, New Hampshire, came in the afternoon New Hampshire time. Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi SJ released no additional details (more).

PM confident Royal Commission will be extended
Extract from CathNews. Friday 22 August 2014
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse looks certain to be granted a two-year extension after Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed calls for additional funding, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The Royal Commission has sought $104 million in order to allow thousands more survivors of abuse to come forward. The request, which would extend the Commission’s deadline until December, 2017, would also fund 30 more public hearings and an extra 3000 private sessions. Mr Abbott gave his strongest signal yesterday that he’ll approve the request within weeks (more).


Cardinal denies MPs claim he ignored abuse report
Edited Extract from CathNews, Thursday 21 August 2014
The Herald Sun reports that Victorian State Labor MP Frank McGuire yesterday accused Cardinal Pell in the Victorian Parliament of glossing over crimes of former priest Peter Searson. But Cardinal Pell, (in a statement he issued) said that in his evidence to the inquiry he drew attention to Mr O’Callaghan’s investigation into Fr Searson (more).


Cardinal Pell appears at Royal Commission
Edited extract of report by Cameron Houston and Jane Lee,The Age, Thursday 21 August 2014
Countering criticism of the contentious Melbourne Response Cardinal George Pell claimed his 1996 Melbourne initiative was Australia's first comprehensive redress scheme for victims of clerical sexual abuse. Via video link from Rome Cardinal Pell appearing before the Royal Commission likened the Catholic Church's responsibility for child abuse to that of a "trucking company", whose driver had sexually assaulted a hitch-hiker. "I don't think it appropriate for the leadership of that company to be held responsible. If every precaution has been taken, it's I think not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figures," Cardinal Pell said (more).


Melbourne Response Hearing
Extract from TJHC Blog, Francis Sullivan, Wednesday 21 August 2014
The Royal Commission’s 16th public hearing began in Melbourne this week focusing on the Melbourne Response, the protocol established by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1996 to respond to allegations of clerical sex abuse against people under the control of the Archbishop of Melbourne. This is a chance for the Melbourne Archdiocese and the protocol’s Independent Commissioner and others involved to explain the principals, practices and procedures of this scheme (more).


Comment on Melbourne Response
See 16 August comment on the Melbourne Response by Kieran Tapsell published in Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website (also published under document 21 on Documents page).

Pope loses three relatives in car crash
Extract from Cath News, Wednesday 20 August 2014
Two infant grandnephews of Pope Francis and their mother have been killed after their car slammed into the back of a truck in Argentina, authorities have said, according to an AFP report on Nine News. The Pope's nephew Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, who was behind the wheel at the time of the crash, was in serious condition, they said. Mr Bergoglio's children -- aged eight months and two years old -- were killed in the crash along with their mother, Cordoba police commissioner Carina Ferreyra told AFP. Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, said the Pope had been informed about the accident and was "deeply pained. He asks all those who share in his pain to join him in prayer," Fr Lombardi added (more).

US theology professor fires back at Vatican
Extract from CathNews, Wednesday 20 August 2014
A religious sister who drew US Catholic bishops' ire over her writings says their investigation of women's orders is wasteful when financial mismanagement and sexual abuses are being covered up, reports the Religion News Service on Ucanews. Sr Elizabeth Johnson, a theology professor at Fordham University, accepted the Leadership Conference of Women Religious' top award last Friday and then lambasted bishops for criticism of her book Quest for the Living God, saying it appears they've never read it. "To this day, no one, not myself or the theological community, the media or the general public knows what doctrinal issue is at stake," she told the Nashville assembly of about about 900 sisters representing 80 percent of the nation’s nuns (more). 

Francis backs Romero cause and reveals details of life in Rome during Q+A on Papal plane
Extract from Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 19 August 2014
Pope Francis backed the beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero and spoke out on conflicts in Iraq and Gaza during in a conversation with journalists aboard the return flight from South Korea. During the press conference Pope Francis also addressed concerns that his hectic schedule could lead to burnout by assuring reporters that he holidayed “at home” and treated his neuroses “with herbal tea”.......“Once I read a book. It was quite interesting, its title was: Rejoice that you are neurotic.  I too have some neuroses. But one should treat the neuroses well. Give them some maté (Argentinian herbal drink) every day. One of the neuroses is that I am too attached to life.”(more).

Catholic Herald View: Pope Francis has created an extraordinary opening for Catholicism in Asia
Extract from Catholic Herald (UK), Tuesday 19 August 2014
It is always unnerving to hear a pope speak about his own mortality. When Francis told journalists on his flight home from South Korea yesterday that he expected his papacy to “last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father” it was certainly unsettling. Some reports say he laughed as he said it, but it can’t be dismissed entirely as a joke: ever since he was elected, at the age of 76, he has pursued his mission with an uncommon urgency. As the Pontiff completed his incredibly successful South Korean visit on Sunday, a Vatican spokesman noted that “Pope Francis has said clearly that Asia is a priority”. A quick glance at the Pope’s schedule confirms this: he will visit Sri Lanka and Philippines in January, meaning he will have visited Asia twice before he has set foot in any western country outside Italy. Why has a pope who is in such a hurry made a continent where only three per cent of the population are Catholic a priority?  (more)  Photo: Catholic Herald, CNS

Royal Commission witness testimony
Edited Extracts from James Lee, Cameron Houston, The Age, Tuesday 19 August 2014
Paul Hersbach kept his composure until the end (of his appearance of the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission in Melbourne yesterday). He, like all the 231 victims of child sexual abuse who have lodged claims to the Catholic Church Melbourne Response, had been forced to tell their stories to strangers before......."I do not need or want a personal apology. I do not want the church burned down...All I want is for someone from the Catholic Church to show compassion and give me a call one day and say 'Hi Paul how are you going these days..can I do anything to help?'" (more)

Former Adass Israel School principal to be extradited over alleged child sex abuse.
Extract from Jewel Topsfield., The Age, Tuesday 19 August 2014
The former head of an Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne will be extradited to Australia to face charges of sexually abusing her students (more).

Vic sex abuse claims cost Church $34 million
Extract fron CathNews, Tuesday 19 August 2014
Counsel assisting the Commission, Gail Furness SC, said data from the Archdiocese of Melbourne showed abuse claims had cost the Church more than $34 million. 'The total of ex gratia payments made under the Melbourne response for child sexual abuse claims and amounts paid for medical counselling and treatment amounted to $17.295 million,' Ms Furness said. 'The cost of administering the Melbourne response was $17.011 million.' (more)

Johnson to LCWR: Sisters ahead of hierarchy in living Vatican II renewal
Extracts from Dan Stockman, National Catholic Reporter, 15 August 2014
The Vatican and women religious are caught up in a tension with historical, sociological and ecclesiastical roots, but a solution could be found, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson said..............Johnson said historically, there has always been tensions between religious communities and the hierarchy because one is based on a radical living of the Gospel and the other is based on administration, which requires order. The issue is also sociological, she said. “The church did not start out this way, but as an institution, it has evolved a patriarchal structure where authority is executed in a top-down fashion and obedience and loyalty to the system are the greatest of virtues,” Johnson said. Finally, she said, the tensions are ecclesiastical because women religious have undergone the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council and the hierarchy has not.“Certainly, the LCWR and the sisters they lead are far from perfect, but they have got the smell of the sheep on them,” she said to heavy applause. “Post-Vatican II renewal has not taken place at the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith].” (more) Photo:St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson speaks to members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (Dan Stockman)

Update on CSA Royal Commission
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Thursday 14 August 2014
Archbishop Hart supports the concept of a mandatory national victims' redress scheme operated by the Government and funded by institutions responsible for the abuse, so long as the Church is dealt with in the same way as every other government and non-government organization. The Archbishop remains firmly of the view that the Melbourne Response has delivered compassion and fairness in understanding the needs of victims of sexual abuse in the absence of any statutory or government auspiced scheme.    It has served us well for the eighteen years it has been operating, but the time has come to look for a new model that meets the needs of victims, applies to all institutions involved with children and operates in accordance with current community standards (more).

Victims seething over planned cap for compensation
Edited extract from Deborah Gough and Jane Lee, The Age, Wednesday 13 August 2014
The Catholic Church wants to dump its maligned abuse compensation system, the Melbourne Response, and replace it with an independent national scheme, but victims are seething over a plan to cap payments. The church, on Tuesday, made a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which called for a new independent statutory body to investigate and compensate abuse claims. This would replace the Catholic schemes operated through the Towards Healing process and the Melbourne Response and deal with abuse by other institutions. The Royal Commission will begin a two-week sitting in Melbourne on Monday. The commission had asked institutions to provide proposals on how cases could be investigated and compensated.The federal government would operate the new independent body but institutions responsible for the abuse would pay for it, Francis Sullivan, chairman of the church's Truth Justice and Healing Council, said (more).

'Points of reflection' on consecrated life presented to LCWR members
Extract from Dawn Cherie Araujo, National Catholic Reporter, 13 August 2014
.... an undersecretary from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, presented U.S. women religious with a series of questions the Vatican is asking all religious congregations, male and female, to reflect on over the next year. In November, Pope Francis called for a special yearlong focus on consecrated life, asking the church's religious sisters, brothers and priests to "wake up the world" with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope. The Year for Consecrated Life is to run for a year beginning with Advent in 2015.The Vatican's congregation for religious developed eight questions, which it is sharing with religious throughout the world as a guide for reflection..........Presenting the questions, Lemocelli told the audience of about 800 sisters that he hoped the questions would "serve as points of reflection for you and for the members of your communities during the Year of Consecrated Life."The questions are:.......(more)

Don't let the 'sensus fidei' die
Extract from Robert McClory, National Catholic Reporter, Wednesday 13 August 2014
............I recognize the contradictions in " 'Sensus Fifdei' in the Life of the Church," but I agree with Mokrantz that we have here a first step. It would be wonderful indeed if the Synod of Bishops would consider some examples of church doctrines to which believers, "alerted by their sensus fidei ... may deny assent" even though it comes from their "legitimate pastors." Might it not be worthwhile for the assembled bishops to discuss contraception, which is No. 1 on the list of doctrines the laity refuse to accept from their "legitimate pastors" and have refused to accept for more than 60 years? (more)

Rome’s abuse prosecutor thanks media for keeping up pressure
Extract from Katherine Backler, The Tablet, 13 August 2014
The Vatican’s lead prosecutor on abuse cases has praised the media for keeping sex abuse cases in the public eye. Mgr Robert Oliver, Promoter of Justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times: “It’s hard for any group over time to keep up the kind of energy that's needed to do this work. What the media has been doing was to keep that energy up.” Mgr Oliver said that the Church had “much to seek reconciliation for … particularly in not listening to victims.” He spoke of how meeting survivors of sex abuse reminds him of the importance of his work. “You realise what this does to people… how deeply harmed they are.” His view is a far cry from the view held, if not voiced, by some clerics, that claims that clergy had abused minors were attacks on the Church designed to damage its reputation. At the height of weeks of abuse revelations from Germany in 2010, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, referred to reports of clergy sex abuse as “petty gossip” (more).

Cry out, sisters; cry out
Extract from Joan Chittister Mary Lou Kownacki. National Catholic  Reporter, Friday 8 August 2014
Not too long ago, the world barely noticed nuns, and then only in some anonymous or stereotypical way. Now there is hardly an instance when the world does not notice them. The irony is palpable. When we looked like "nuns," we weren't seen. Now that we look simply like ourselves, everybody sees everything we do. Clearly, witness is at least as powerful as uniforms. And nuns have given clear witness to contemplation, equality, and justice these last years. The problem with that kind of thinking, however, is that people who consider themselves full adults begin to act as if they are. However, there are consequences to witness like that. Next week, for instance, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will face decisions that will move the question of the agency of women in a man's church either forward or back......(more).

Much ado about nothing?
The 2014-15 Synod on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization
Extract from Paul Collins, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website. 6 August 2014
Around Christmas 2013 there was much ado in the Australian Catholic community about the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family called by Pope Francis for October 2014 and 2015. In preparation for this synod, for the first time ever, the laity as well as bishops were consulted and asked to respond to a document that covered a range of doctrinal and practical issues concerning family, personal relationships and gender. Many people put a lot of energy into responding to what was a badly formulated questionnaire within the context of a tight timeframe. I will return to these responses and their impact in a moment. First, some historical context is essential to understand what will probably happen at the synod...... (more).

Francis's Friendship with evangelicals holds key to reform zeal
Extract from Fr Dwight Longenecker,  CathNews, 6 August 2014
........The 'convergence church' can best be described as a para-church fellowship that is Evangelical, Charismatic, and Catholic. In other words, they embrace and endorse the best of these three Christian traditions. Without an organised structure or denominational bureaucracy, convergence church members move across denominational, national, and traditional boundaries. Loosely knit and forming alliances among sympathetic Christians in many denominations, they are often bright, zealous, positive, and pro-active in their Christian ministry. With an emphasis on a simple gospel message, they also appreciate liturgical worship, practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and a profound love of the Sacred Scriptures. The convergence church Christians sit lightly towards established denominations of all kinds and aim to preach and live a basic, radical Christianity. If we want to understand Pope Francis as a reformer, it is his appreciation of this new breed of Evangelicals which may shed most light on him as a person and the aims of his papacy. It is interesting to observe that the Pope has maintained cordial relationships with the leaders of the established Protestant denominations like Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, but when he meets with his Evangelical friends he invites them for breakfast or lunch, and sits around with them laughing, talking, and enjoying fellowship for hours (more). 
Photo: CathNews, Convergence church enthusiasm

Pope's finance chief talks Vatican reform
Edited extract from Francis X Rocca, Catholic News Service, 6 August 2014
Pope Francis wants a "poor church for the poor," but that "doesn't necessarily mean a church with empty coffers," said Cardinal George Pell, "and it certainly doesn't mean a church that is sloppy or inefficient or open to being robbed." A month after unveiling a "new economic framework for the Holy See," including a host of changes to the Vatican's financial structures, the cardinal discussed the meaning of those reforms and the challenges to their implementation in an interview with Catholic News Service. Cardinal Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney whom the pope named in February to the new office of prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, spoke to CNS about a range of issues, including Vatican financial scandals; the need for more transparency, "checks and balances" and oversight by laypeople; efforts to internationalize the Vatican bureaucracy while reducing its overall size; and the relative importance of his own role in the church's central administration, the Roman Curia. The cardinal, who sits on the nine-member Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on reform of the Curia and governance of the universal church, also spoke more generally about what the church can learn from, and teach organizations in the secular world (more).

Conflict with Vatican shadows upcoming LCWR assembly
Extract from Thomas C Fos, National Catholic Reporter, 5 August 2014
U.S. women religious leaders face an uncertain future as they gather Aug. 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn., for their annual assembly. More than 800 elected congregational leaders will discuss how they plan to react to continued charges of infidelity leveled by the church's top enforcer of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to the congregation's plans to take over the organization after the assembly. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents nearly all the women religious congregations in America, has been under attack by the congregation since 2012. The Nashville gathering will be the third consecutive LCWR assembly in which church infighting overshadows the business of the leadership conference. The issues are multilayered, involving disputes over the role of religious life, the relationship between religious and bishops, questions of obedience, and differing visions of church priorities and mission (more). Photo: CFR, (AP Photo/Seth Perlman) . Franciscan Sr. Nancy Schreck spaks at LCWRin St. Louis in August 2012.

Scandals causing more Germans to leave Catholic church, cardinal says
Extract from Catholic News Services, NCR, Monday 4 August 2014
A German cardinal warned that the number of Catholics leaving his country's church is "alarmingly high" and urged an end to "scandals and vexations" involving clergy. "There's no doubt these figures must make us think. We've obviously suffered a loss of trust and credibility which has rarely happened so violently," Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz wrote in a column published in the Aug. 3 issue of Faith and Life, the diocese's weekly newspaper. "The church isn't just another club, and all efforts must now be made to prevent more scandals through repentance and renewal," wrote Lehmann, a former president of the German bishops' conference.....(more)

Two Contrasting Arguments about the Sexual Abuse Crisis from ATF Press
Extract of Book Review of Reckoning: The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse by Kieran Tapsell, Catholica, 4 August 2014
Chris McGillion and Damian Grace's book, Reckoning: The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse is the latest publication to follow the lead given by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2010 Pastoral Letter to the people of Ireland: blame the bishops for the cover up, and deflect attention away from canon law, the popes and the Vatican. The introduction provides the drift...(more

Lay coalition nominates seven clergy to be new Twin Cities archbishop
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 31 July 2014
On the same day St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt doubled down on his commitment to remain leader of his apostolic see, Catholics elsewhere in the region discussed his possible successor. The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform announced Wednesday they had identified seven nominees believed to have the ability to lead the archdiocese into its future and likely out of the current clergy abuse scandal ensnaring the archdiocese since September (more).

Top 10 quotes from the Vatican's 'sensus fidei' document
Extract from Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter, 31 July 2014
In June, the International Theological Commission released a groundbreaking document, " 'Sensus Fidei' in the Life of the Church." The statement surprised many because it acknowledges the role played by ordinary Catholics in the growth and development (aka change) in church teaching throughout history and still today. Amazingly, the document also validates the not-infrequent experience of Catholics who find themselves unable to accept certain teachings "if they do not recognize in that teaching the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd." And it suggests actions to be taken on the part of both laity and clergy to resolve this potential impasse.While necessarily naming the magisterium as having the final say, the document also publicly acknowledges the reality of dissent (through denial of assent -- see No. 6 below) in the church....(more)

Flaminia Giovanelli Says Revolution in Church Isn't Just That of Women, But of Laypeople
Extracts from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Vatican City, Thursday 31 July 2014
A top Vatican official has said the revolution taking place in the Church is not just of advancing women, but also laypeople. In an interview with ZENIT, Flaminia Giovanelli, the under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a position appointed by the Pope, spoke on the role of women in the Church, stressing times are changing and that both the current Pope and the Pope Emeritus actively worked and continue to work to advance women’s role in the Church. A native of Rome, Giovanelli has worked for the justice and peace council since 1974. A graduate in political science from the University of Rome and holding diplomas in library science and religious studies, she has said her work is not about a paycheck, and rather it is a vocation. Moreover, she reveals to ZENIT the challenges she encounters, and what wisdom she would share with any woman wishing to serve within the Curia..............ZENIT: Do you believe Pope Francis is changing the role of women in the Church? Giovanelli: We shall both see! Many times Pope Francis has recalled the importance of women in the Church, from the Gospel, etc. He’s made some very big statements. But we also had heard some great statements with regard to women in the Church from Pope Benedict. In any case, we have already seen some very important appointments that the Holy Father has made to various Vatican committees and congregations. For instance......(more)

Obstacles riddle synod on the family's path
Extracts from Editorial, National Catholic Reporter, 30 July 2014
Church leaders, looking around the contemporary landscape, concluded that marriage is under assault in an unprecedented way, and they're determined to fix it right now. That assessment and desire are apparent throughout the 50-page instrumentum laboris, or working document, for the Synod of Bishops on "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization," scheduled for this October at the Vatican. The instinct may be understandable, even commendable, but the pathway to fulfilling it is riddled with complex obstacles. The bishops, unfortunately, seem unaware of the most threatening obstacles, many of them inherent in the very culture out of which they work.....(more)

Vatican intervenes to remove a priest in Paraguay accused of sex abuse in US
Extract from Josephine McKenna Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter,30 July 2014
The Vatican has ordered a Roman Catholic diocese in eastern Paraguay to remove a priest accused of sex abuse in the U.S. and to restrict the activities of the bishop who hired him. Pope Francis sent a cardinal and an archbishop to investigate Carlos Urrutigoity in the diocese of Ciudad del Este. The two men visited the country July 21-26. The removal is the latest demonstration of the pope's "zero tolerance" of clerical abuse, and it suggests priests suspected of child abuse in one country can no longer find shelter in other countries (more).

Church leaders slam 'State sanctioned child abuse'
Extract from CathNews,30 July 2014
A group incuding Catholic and Anglican church leaders has accused the Abbott government of 'State sanctioned child abuse' in the immigration detention system, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The leaders from nine Christian denominations (including Vice Chair, CRA's Sr Suzette Clarke, and Peter Arndt, Executive Officer, Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of Brisbane) have also called for Immigration Miister, Scott Morrison, to step down from his position as guardian for all unaccompaniedmminors. The group, the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, will release a report today that commends a raft of recommendations to the Abbott government to improve the wellbeing and treatment of children in onshore and offshore immigration detention centres. The claims were rejected by Mr Morrison. 'Claims of state sanctioned child abuse are shocking and offensive and the Minister rejects these categorically,' a spokeswoman for Mr Morrison said (more).

We’ve avoided being absorbed into the Catholic Church like sugar dissolved in water, says ordinariate leader
Extract from  Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 29 July 2014
The ordinariate has enabled former Anglicans to join the Catholic Church without their spiritual heritage disappearing “like sugar dissolved in water”, its leader said. Mgr Keith Newton told a congregation at Portsmouth Cathedral that Christian unity did not mean uniformity. "Many Catholics are not aware of or have misunderstandings about the Ordinariate," which he said represented “a new expression of Catholicism”. He said that people sometimes asked members of the ordinariate set up by Benedict XVI for Anglicans seeking communion with Rome why they couldn't become "proper Catholics". He said: "What they mean is why can't you just be absorbed into the wider Catholic Church so that what you bring disappears like sugar dissolved in water?" He stressed the importance of sharing a common faith while still preserving some liturgical distinctiveness, citing the Vatican-approved Ordinariate Use Mass, which integrates parts of the Book of Common Prayer. Mgr Newton....was speaking ahead of an ordinariate “exploration day” which will take place in various dioceses on 6 September.Pope Francis last week said he was “praying for the success” of the event (more).  Image: Coat of arms of the Very Rev. Harry Entwistle, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia for former Anglicans.

Changes in synod process designed to increase discussion, cardinal says
Extracts from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service. 24 July 2017
The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will be shorter than a usual synod and will include new rules aimed at helping the bishops really grapple with the issues together, said the general secretary of the synod. "We want a frank, open, civilized discussion," Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri told Catholic News Service July 25. The extraordinary synod will meet at the Vatican Oct. 5-19, bringing together the presidents of national bishops' conferences, the heads of Eastern Catholic churches and Vatican officials. The world Synod of Bishops, which will include more bishops -- many elected by their peers -- will meet at the Vatican Oct. 4-25, 2015, to continue the discussion on pastoral approaches to the challenges facing families today. Although the number of participants in the extraordinary synod is smaller, it will include a dozen or more voting members named by the pope, three priests chosen by the Union of Superiors General, a dozen or more expert advisers, about a dozen representatives of other Christian churches and up to 30 observers, more than half comprised of married couples -- who will be encouraged to address the assembly, the cardinal said. Cardinal Baldisseri said he is not surprised by all the attention the synod is getting in the church and the media, because "the problems of the family are what people are dealing with every day." He knows there are "great expectations," and he is pleased about that, although he has cautioned repeatedly that decisions about the church's pastoral approach to families are not expected until after the 2015 synod gathering (more).

Vatican revising canon law on abuse penalties, cardinal says
Extracts from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter,  24 July 2014
Church law has procedures and penalties for effectively dealing with allegations of clerical sexual abuse, but the Vatican is working to revise a section of the Code of Canon Law to make those norms and procedures clearer and, therefore, more effective, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. "We want to make this delicate material more accessible, more understandable and easier for bishops to apply," Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, council president, told the Vatican newspaper. In the interview published Thursday in L'Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said his office has been working since 2008 to revise "Book VI: Sanctions in the Church," a section of the Code of Canon Law. The penalties and punishments offered by church law should be applied, he said. "In the face of a negative action, which harms the good of a person and therefore the good of the church, penal law expects a reaction, that is the pastor inflicting a canonical penalty," the cardinal said. If a bishop does not react by imposing a punishment on a priest guilty of the crime of sexual abuse, he said, "in some way that would be, or would seem to be, consenting to the evil committed. A negative act necessarily must be condemned; it requires a reaction."  (more)

UK Church puts abuse survivors at heart of safeguarding as report discloses 10 years of data
Extract from Ruth Gledhill, The Tablet, 24 July 2014
The Catholic Church is to attempt to rebuild relations with sex abuse survivors, who pulled out of talks with the Church when the Church contested an abuse case from the Portsmouth diocese as far as the Court of Appeal. In an attempt to heal divisions, the Church in England and Wales will next year launch a new national advisory board involving victims a well as psychologists and other professionals (more). 

UK: Ten years of progress but the Church can never apologise enough for abuse
Extract from Danny Sullivan, The Tablet, Thursday 24 July 2014
It is ten years since the Church began reporting annually on allegations of abuse received by the Catholic Church in England and Wales and on standards of safeguarding. This year’s report was published this week and shows how far we have moved. The first year, 2004, was two years after Lord Nolan's report that laid out recommendations and a pathway for the Church to follow to become more robust and consistent in dealing with allegations implementing safeguarding protocols. The Cumberlege Review of 2007 reviewed the progress since the Nolan Report and made further recommendations to the bishops of England and Wales, which were accepted in their entirety. This included the setting up of an independent commission which would always be chaired by a layperson. Hence the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC) , of which I am chairman.............While we have rightly learned from the secular world about best practice, it is important to recognise that there is a theological heart to safeguarding and that it is integral to ministry. St John XXIII likened the Church to family, friends and neighbours gathered around a village fountain in Italy; all were welcome and there was a care and concern for each individual. This vision was shattered by the abuse scandal, affecting not only victims and survivors but others who had their idealised perception of the Church and the priesthood demolished by such criminal behaviour. The Church has apologised for getting things so wrong in the past but  in one sense it can never apologise enough, given the damage to the lives of individual victims and survivors. That is why we have been so determined in sustaining procedures that reflect best practice, including automatically referring any allegations to the authorities. Across the global Church, the Church in England and Wales is held up as a model of good practice in this area (more).

Royal Commission to review the Melbourne Response
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, 23 July 2014
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has announced that it will be holding a public hearing commencing on Monday, 18 August 2014 to examine the Melbourne Response.  The Royal Commission has allowed two weeks for the hearing. The scope and purpose of the hearing is to inquire into how the Melbourne Response has responded to victims of child sexual abuse and allegations of child sexual abuse against personnel of the Archdiocese, the experience of people who have engaged in the Melbourne Response and any other related matters.....(more)

Global Perspectives for Local Action: The European Perspective (from "Living the Joy of the Gospel, Archdiocese of Dublin) Dublin Archbishop Diarmid Martin in Melbourne on 14 July 2014, 23 July 2014
Speaking about Pope Francis and his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin addressed a Catholic Leadership Forum of priests, school principals and archdiocesan agency leaders gathered at the Catholic Leadership Centre, Melbourne on 14 July 2014.

“A few weeks ago I was speaking with a Parish Priest in my diocese who told me that he was a little worried about his Curate. He said that his curate was a hard worker and that he got on reasonably well with people, but that he had a problem. I asked what this problem was and the Parish Priest replied that the problem was with a person and when I asked further, to my surprise the answer was Pope Francis......(more)  Photo: Diarmuid Martin World Economic Forum 2013


Welby asks Catholic and Orthodox Churches not to give up on C of E after women bishops vote
Extract from Ruth Gledhill, The Tablet, 21 July 2014
The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to reassure other Churches that the Church of England is continuing on its "quest" for unity after concern and dismay was expressed about the decision to ordain women bishops. Archbishop Justin Welby said Churches "need each other". He said that the vote at General Synod last week was an "occasion of deep rejoicing for many", although "a source of disappointment and concern" for others. He acknowledged that while some Anglican Churches would welcome the result of the vote, “we are also aware that our other ecumenical partners may find this a further difficulty on the journey towards full communion" and that dialogue now faced "new challenges". But Welby emphasised that with “so much troubling our world today”, common witness to the Gospel was of greater importance than ever (more).

Pope calls on Middle-East leaders to stop fighting
Extract from CathNews, Monday 21 July 2014
The morning after Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Pope personally telephoned the two leaders on July 18 to express 'his very serious concerns about the current situation of conflict.' Phoning Peres at 10 in the morning and Abbas at 11.30am Rome time, the Pope told the leaders that the conflict was creating 'numerous victims and was giving way to a state of serious humanitarian emergency,' the Vatican said in a written communique on Friday. The Pope told the two presidents, whom the Pope 'considers to be men of peace and who want peace,' that constant prayer was needed (more). Photo: CathNews

Russian Orthodox Church Deeply Regrets Church of England Allowing Women Bishops
Extract from Zenit, Moscow, 17 June 2014
The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed its regret over the decision by the Church of England to allow women bishops, saying it is a diversion from the “initial church order” and follows “modern liberal trends.” Metroplitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Orthodox church's external relations, told Interfax-Religion July 17: "The Orthodox Church takes a negative stance on so-called female priesthood and female episcopacy. “We see this process as representing the diversion of the Anglican Church and a whole range of Protestant denominations from the initial church order and as following modern liberal trends. We regret that such decisions have been made." He said such a move does not bring Christian communities closer to the unity which ecumenical meetings claim to aspire to. "The space for dialogue is narrowing down at the fault of our partners,” he said, “and it is with great regret that we have to state this." "The presence of women in the episcopate shuts for us the door to any discussion on the issue of succession in the Anglican episcopate," Metropolitan Hilarion said, but added that the Russian Church would continue to maintain dialogue with Anglicans in the hope of its voice being heard (more).

Ballarat parish survey reveals desire for bold social change
Extract from CathNews (reporting on report in the Ballarat Courier), Wednesday 16 July 2014
A recent survey conducted by St Columba’s Parish in the diocese of Ballarat has found support for the inclusion of homosexuals, gay and lesbian marriage, and couples using alternative means of conceiving, reports More than 220 people were surveyed by the church as part of a worldwide review on Catholic families being conducted by the Vatican. St Columba’s is one of 51 parishes that make up the Diocese of Ballarat. The survey found almost 50 per cent of parishioners supported gay and lesbian couples getting married in a civil ceremony, almost 50 per cent were supportive of homosexual people having sexual relations and about 80 per cent of people were in favour of couples using alternative means for birthing a child including IVF and surrogacy.  Parish leadership team member, Derek Streulens, supported the results and said members of the parish were not surprised by the findings. 'I’ve always found the Catholic Church to be a rather broad umbrella in which a multitude of views are contained,' he said.  'It seems to me that some non-Catholic commentators see Catholics as unthinking automatons blindly following decrees from the top. I don’t think it’s ever been like that, to be honest. People have always made up their own minds and continue to do so.' (more) Photo: St Columba's Parish Church Ballarat

TJH Council says historically four per cent of Australian priests paedophiles
Extracts from Cathnews, 15 July 2014
The Truth, Justice and Healing Council says that, historically, four per cent of priests in Australia have been paedophiles, double the number which, according to an Italian report, the Pope believes to be in the Church, says ABC. Pope Francis has reportedly described paedophile priests as a leprosy infecting the Church, saying the problem will be met with severity. 'It's a no-nonsense, a zero-tolerance attitude,' Francis Sullivan the head of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said of the Pontiff's approach.  'He is probably ruffling feathers within the Vatican and good on him.' The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported Pope Francis as having said in an interview that 2 per cent of clergy............were paedophiles...........In Australia, the Truth, Justice and Healing Council is compiling statistics on abusers for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.'It's 4 per cent of men who have been a priest in the Catholic Church at some point in Australia have been sex abusers,' Mr Sullivan said. He emphasises the statistics are historical and do not include serving priests (more). Photo: Francis Sulli8van, CathNews

Francis interview: two per cent in the Church are paedophiles
Extracts from Hannah Riberts (in Rome), The Tablet, 14 July 2014
Pope Francis has reportedly claimed that "paedophilia inside the Church is at the level of two per cent" and includes “priests and even bishops and cardinals”. In an interview with the Italian newspaper la Repubblica he said that the statistic was provided to him by advisers in the Vatican.......He denounced the corruption of a child as "the most terrible and unclean thing imaginable", vowing to "confront it with the seriousness it demands"........He said the figures were supposed to reassure him, "but I have to say that they do not reassure me by any means. On the contrary I find them deeply concerning.......Many more are guilty of covering it up by keeping quiet, he said, adding, "This state of affairs is intolerable and it’s my intention to tackle it with the seriousness it deserves".......The Vatican quickly cautioned against taking the Pope's quotes at face value, and claimed the interviewer, Eugenio Scalfari, did not record the "conversation", but relied on memory.....Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that the newspaper’s overall message was faithful to Francis' words, saying it "captured the spirit" of the conversation. But he denied that Francis had said that there were some cardinals who were paedophiles (more).

Catholic Bishops' Statement on Women Bishops in Church of England
Extract from Archbishop Bernard Longley*, Zenit, 14 July 2014
The Catholic Church remains fully committed to its dialogue with the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. For the Catholic Church, the goal of ecumenical dialogue continues to be full visible ecclesial communion. Such full ecclesial communion embraces full communion in the episcopal office. The decision of the Church of England to admit women to the episcopate therefore sadly places a further obstacle on the path to this unity between us. Nevertheless we are committed to continuing our ecumenical dialogue, seeking deeper mutual understanding and practical cooperation wherever possible (more).
*Chairman of the Department for Dialogue and Unity, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Church of England votes for women bishops; move seen as ecumenical snag
Extract from Cindy Wooden (Vatican City), National Catholic  Reporter, 14 July 2014
The General Synod of the Church of England voted Monday to authorize the ordination of women as bishops and approved motions pledging to respect and work with people who believe that, theologically, the vote was a mistake. Before the vote, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, told the synod that "to pass this legislation is to commit ourselves to an adventure in faith and hope. Like all adventures, it carries dangers ... uncertainties and for success will require integrity and courage." One of those uncertainties is its impact on the search for Christian unity. The Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches teach that since Jesus chose only men as his apostles, only men can be ordained priests and bishops (more).

Accountability and sex abuse crisis
Extracts of review of 'Potiphar's Wife' by Brian Johnstone CSsR*, Social Policy Connections, Monday 14 July 2014
The author’s conclusion is that by imposing certain requirements of canon law since 1922, six popes and their Roman Curial advisers allowed enormous damage to be done to little children. His argument is that the key to the problem of the inadequate treatment of child sex abuse by the Catholic Church is the confidentiality that has been imposed on Bishops and others by a number of Vatican documents. The obligation to secrecy is still in force. This has effectively prevented Bishops from reporting abuse cases to police, which is the only effective way of protecting children from further abuse.............As far as I have been able to discover through my own research on this topic, the Vatican document requiring secrecy was not a significant factor in the discussions of the Australian Bishops on how to deal with child sex-abuse. The major problems were the refusal of Roman Congregations to respond to the Bishops’ requests and the inadequacy of the relevant provisions of Canon Law. These issues are well documented by Tapsell. For this reason the book deserves careful study by anyone who is concerned with these vitally important matters. Read full review hereDr Brian Johnstone CSsR has been professor of moral theology at the Alphonsian Academy in Rome and Catholic University in Washington. He is currently in Australia researching and writing. 

Rolf Harris and the Vatican.
Extract from Kieran Tapsell, Pearls and Irritations, John Mendue Website, 9 July 2014    (read full article here)
Rolf Harris, aged 84, was found guilty of sexual assaults on children in the long distant past, and was sentenced to 5 years jail. The judge took into account his age in determining the sentence. Many people still thought it was inadequate, and there is talk of an appeal by the Attorney General to increase the term. The policy widely accepted in society and reflected by the courts is that the sexual abuse of children should be punished severely, even if it occurred a long time ago, and the convicted man is in his eighties. That view seems to have little traction in the Vatican. The harshest punishment that the Vatican can impose on a priest under canon law is his dismissal from the priesthood, whose secular equivalent would be striking off the rolls or register for a lawyer or doctor (more).

Vatican Announces Curia Reform Plans
Extracts from Zenit, Wednesday 9 July 2014
Pope Francis’ first substantial reforms to the Roman Curia were revealed at the Vatican today.
The initial changes focus on four areas: the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) which handles assets belonging to the Holy See, the Vatican’s pension fund, the Holy See’s media operations, and the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as the ‘Vatican Bank’ (more).

NSPCC wants covering up abuse to be criminal offence
Extract from Sanchia Berg and Meirion Jones, BBC Today and BBC Panorama, BBC News UK, Wednesday 9 July 2014
The man leading a review into how the Home Office handled historical allegations of child abuse has said  people who cover up such crimes should be prosecuted. NSPCC chief Peter Wanless also said there should be a duty on institutions like hospitals, children's homes and boarding schools to report abuse. The charity had previously opposed all forms of so-called mandatory reporting. New inquiries into child abuse could consider possible law changes (more).  Photo: BBC News

Pope apologises, asks for forgiveness from abuse victims
Extract from CathNews, Tuesday 8 July 2014
Speaking at Mass in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Pope said: 'There is no place in the Church's ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.' He compared child abuse by priests and bishops to 'a sacrilegious cult' and said that such crimes had 'a toxic effect' on faith and hope in God. 'Some of you have held fast to faith,' he said, 'while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God. Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God's mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another's eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.' Six abuse survivors – two each from Ireland, Britain and Germany – attended the Mass. The Pope received them afterwards at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said Francis spent 30 minutes with each of the six visitors (more).

Priests 'most credible links' into the Catholic community
Extracts from CathNews, Tuesday 8 July 2014
In an address to priests in Sydney, the CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, has called for 'surgery on Church culture.' Mr  Sullivan has told more than 25 priests responsible for the pastoral care and support of clergy that local parish priests are the most sustainable and credible links into the Catholic community. Speaking at the National Conference of Directors of Clergy Life and Ministry at the Mary MacKillop centre in North Sydney, Mr Sullivan said priests and clergy need to help parishioners understand what the Church has done and is doing to protect children. 'It is incumbent on the clergy to tell the whole truth about the history and impact of clerical sexual abuse on survivors and on the Church,' Mr Sullivan said.'It is the parish priests who still have the credibility and the respect of parishioners. You are believed when you talk about what the Church is doing and how we are responding to the Commission............Mr Sullivan said local priests must help the Church 'work through the inertia' and help do 'the surgery on Church culture' so that the Church can face up to the crisis and come through the Commission stronger and more credible (more). Photo: CathNews

Pope meets sex abuse victims, says clergy actions cloaked in complicity
Extracts from  Carol Glatz Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter. 8 July 2014
Asking for forgiveness, Pope Francis told abuse survivors that "despicable actions" caused by clergy have been hidden for too long and had been "camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained." "There is no place in the church's ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not," and to hold all bishops accountable for protecting young people, the pope said Monday during a special early morning Mass for six survivors of abuse by clergy...................."It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of concupiscence," the pope said............He begged for forgiveness "for the sins of omission on the part of the church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse," adding that the neglect not only caused the victims more suffering, "it endangered other minors who were at risk.".................The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which the pope established in December, met Sunday at the Vatican. They discussed expanding the number of members, especially from Africa and Asia, before the next meeting in October, Lombardi said. The commission also said it was necessary to set up a permanent and staffed "working office" at the Vatican, he said. The commission, which currently has eight members, including a survivor of clerical sex abuse, mental health professionals and experts in civil and church law, is tasked with laying out a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse................In his homily, the pope said he was looking to the commission to help the church "develop better policies and procedures" for protecting minors. "We will continue to exercise vigilance in priestly formation," the pope told the victims, and "we need to do everything in our power to ensure that these sins have no place in the church." Just as Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep, the pope said, "I would add, 'Let no wolf enter the sheepfold.' " (more)

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's Speech at Anglophone Conference on Sexual Abuse
Extract from Zenit, Rome, 8 July 2014 (from an address to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome on 7 July).
..........The answers to all these multiple wounds will not come from slick public relations gestures or even from repeated words of apology.  They will come from creating a new vision of a healing Church.  A healing Church will not be from the outset a perfect Church.  The Church must first of all recognise within her own life how compromise and insensitivity and wrong decisions have damaged the witness of Church.  The art of healing is learned only in humility.  Arrogance is never the road towards healing. Healing is not something we can package and hand over safe and sound to someone else and then we can go off safely and happily on our own way.   Healing involves journeying together.  The healer needs humility and personal healing if he or she is to journey really with those who are wounded.  The duration of the process of healing is not measured by the time on our watch, but by the watch and the time of the other........(more)

Cardinal Pell to Update Press on Holy See's New Economic Framework
Extracts from Zenit, Vatican City, 8 July 2014
Cardinal George Pell, who heads the Vatican's new Secretariat for the Economy, is to hold his first press conference tomorrow since his appointment to the position earlier this year. The conference, whose theme will be the "New Economic Framework of the Holy See", is expected to reveal details of the second phase of reform of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as the 'Vatican Bank', and other relevant reforms..........“As set out in May 2013, we have focused on making the IOR compliant with financial regulation, safer and more transparent, so as to create options for the Holy Father to decide on the future of the Institute," said Ernst von Freyburg, president of the IOR's Board of Superintendence (more). 

Vatican rebuffs Justice Peter McClellan on sex abuse files
Brief introduction to article by Heath Gilmore, The Age, Sunday 6 July 2014
Although the head of the Royal Commission Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan, had personally asked the Vatican for information relating to sex abuse complaints against Catholic priests in Australia the Vatican had refused to hand over documents, other than in relation to two cases. Read article here

The future leader of the Church in Ireland seeks new language for church teaching on sex
Extract from Sarah Mac Donald in Dublin, The Tablet, 4 July 2014
The future leader of the Church in Ireland has said he does not believe change in the Church’s fundamental teachings on marriage and human sexuality are likely to follow the extraordinary synod on the family in October.However, Archbishop Eamon Martin told The Tablet that he believes the Church may need to look for a new language to communicate its “complex and very deep concepts” on marriage and human sexuality.He said the feedback to the Vatican’s questionnaire on the family had indicated a “certain deficit of understanding among people and even priests about the roots of the Church’s teaching” specifically in relation to natural law. The Co-adjustor Archbishop of Armagh said he could not detect in the synod working document, the instrumentum laboris, “any signal that change was in the pipeline”, though he did detect “a pastoral openness” to looking at the Church’s strictness on access to sacraments (more).

A theologian discusses the new ecclesial movements
Edited Extract from CathNews, Friday 4 July 2014
Later this year Liturgical Press will publish (Massimo Faggiolo's) latest book in English entitled Sorting Out Catholicism. A Brief History of the New Ecclesial Movements, so Philippa Hitchen sat down with the professor to discover more about the origin of these movements and the way they are changing the face of the Church. Faggioli says the Church has always been invigorated by movements....but the beginning of the 20th century saw the development of a big unified movement called Catholic Action that every Catholic was supposed to be part of it....between World War II and the 1970s, he says, Catholic Action fragments and out of this body other movements develop with more specialised charisms...Faggioli says it's hard to define them and though they usually begin informally or underground, these movements now are mostly recognised by the hierarchy. Listing some common characteristics, he says first they have a founder, in most cases a lay person, they have a rule, a common lifestyle that can be formally written or non-written, then they have an internal structure and then what defines them is a particular kind of relationship with the hierarchy...(more)

Will Francis still be the media’s darling after the Synod on the Family?
Extracts from Ben Ryan, Eureka Street, 3 July 2014
Francis has a real and instinctive gift for reaching out to people and it has been met with astonishing positivity by the Western media. His personal phone calls to people who have written to him cause a particular interest. One, to an unmarried mother promising to baptise her child if the parish priest refused to, was almost universally warmly received. Another though, in which he allegedly told a divorcee she could receive Communion led to a great deal of shock and criticism from parts of the Catholic press (though not from the majority of the mainstream non-Catholic media). His comment “who am I to judge” to journalists on the subject of gay priests was seized on as an example of a new, liberal Pope who would bring radical change to the Church. These separate incidents highlight a major potential problem for Francis in the coming months. A synod on the family will be held in Rome in October. Its working document known as the instrumentum laboris has already been published on the back of a consultation with Catholics around the world. The press coverage in papers like the Daily Telegraph has raised expectations that this could be what liberal commentators have been calling for – an end to “rigid teaching” on sex, contraception, marriage and homosexuality. Perhaps the Church will at last realise how few of its adherents follow its teachings and come to terms with the modern world. They will be disappointed, however, as Francis must already know. To be unambiguously clear; there will be no reversal of the views of the Church on the central importance of marriage and the opposition to divorce, co-habitation, contraception or the recognition of homosexual marriages. What there will be discussion on is the pastoral role of education and mercy in reaching out to a society which does not necessarily share those positions (more).

Catholic Church needs to show more than legal compliance
Extract from Michael Kelly SJ, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, Thursday 3 July 2014                                           It’s been a big few weeks for the clergy and their dealings with the police across the world. In legal matters in countries covering four continents – India, the Dominican Republic, Italy and Australia – clerics are being held to account by police and civil courts (more).

Invited or not, here they come
Extract from Joan Chittester, National Catholic Reporter, 3 July 2014
Watch the TV ads carefully these days. You may not have much interest in the particular product they're selling at any particular time, but if you listen carefully, you can certainly learn a lot there about ecclesiastical physics. One advert teaches: "A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion." And another one says: "Every action creates a reaction." So there you have it. That's exactly what's going on in the church right now. Whole bodies of people are moving forward while the bishops stay at rest. Most important of all, when the hierarchical church finally called for a response from the church at large about something important -- marriage, family, relationships -- material poured out of every lay group in the country. The data were clear: The laity was eager to respond. They wanted to be part of the conversation. They wanted to give back to the church the fruits of the sacrament the church has bestowed on them. But not in one area alone or from one group alone (more).

To understand Pope Francis 'we must think like Latin Americans', prefect of CDF says
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 3 July 2014
The main aim of Pope Francis’s pontificate is to draw the world’s attention to the poor and to change the global structures that lead to poverty, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a long interview last week. Speaking to the Austrian Pontifical Missions magazine Alle Welt, Cardinal Gerhard Müller insisted that it was not possible to truly understand Pope Francis unless one could understand the Latin American “mindset”. Cardinal Muller has long experience of Peru over several decades and is a close friend of the Peruvian liberation theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez. The Western world would have to learn to see problems from the Pope’s point of view, which was very different from the European one, Cardinal Müller said. On account of his many visits to Latin America, he was very familiar with the way Pope Francis thought. It was very good for the world Church not always to see things through European eyes, the cardinal said, and to discover how other people saw Europe (more).

The contours of an extended child abuse royal commission (read full article here)
Extracts from Frank Brennan SJ, Eureka Street, Wednesday 2 July 2014
On Monday, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses of Child Sexual Abuse produced its first interim report to government.  The commission has asked the Abbott Government for a two-year extension until December 2017 and an additional $104 million to complete its task.........................In the next three and a half years with this royal commission, the Catholic Church needs to be more proactive, more on the front foot, more unashamedly committed to truth, justice, transparency and compassion, regardless of what the royal commission might recommend and regardless of the continuing barbs of those sections of the media which are anti-Catholic.  The Church must have the confidence that in the end the truth will out.  Moving forward in hope with a commitment to assist and protect vulnerable children, the church needs fearless legal advisers to keep reminding church leaders about the fine ideals of scripture and the Church tradition which should animate, inform and shape every public utterance before the commission, no matter how adverse to the church witness’s personal self-interest (more). Photo: Eureka Street

Pedophile Brother sent overseas, told to 'stay there'
Extract from CathNews, Wednesday 2 July 2014
A pedophile Bro­ther has told the Royal Commission that the then-leader of his Order alerted him to a police investigation, sent him overseas four days later and subsequently told him to 'stay there and live your life.' Gregory Sutton, a former Marist Brother ultimately convicted of 67 sexual offences against 15 children and  released from prison in 2008, told the Commission the then-head of the Marist Brothers, Alexis Turton, met him in 1989 and told him there was a police ­investigation into his activities at a western Sydney school. Brother Turton directed ­Sutton to leave the country four days later, travelling first to ­Chicago and then to Canada for 'assessment' at an institute used by the Church, Sutton told the Commission..........The Commission has also heard Brother Turton received several previous warnings about Sutton's behaviour, including one occasion when Sutton himself admitted to having been 'sexually improper' with a boy, who later committed suicide. Brother Turton, who stepped down from his position as Sydney Provincial of the Marist Brothers in 1995, told the commission last month that he did not report this to the police in order to respect the wishes of the boy's family. He also said he did not 'have any recollection' of alerting Sutton to the police investigation into his alleged abuse (more).

Bishops must be servants and slaves, Cardinal says during ordination of new Bishop of Brentwood
Extract from Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 2 July 2014
Cardinal Vincent Nichols told bishops to reject power and prestige during a ceremony to ordain the new Bishop of Brentwood, Alan Williams on Tuesday. Echoing Pope Francis, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster said that bishops should be servants of their congregations and slaves to the Word of God. Outlining bishops’ three priorities – which he said were prayer, servanthood and the Word of God – Cardinal Nichols told the congregation at the Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Helen on Tuesday: “In a bishop, said Pope Francis, there can be 'no psychology of princes'. He is always to be a servant.” He called on bishops to be voices “of the truth of our faith in the public arenas of our society” (more).

The wrong kind of papal 'ribbing'
Extract from Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter, 2 July 2014
I'm sure Pope Francis did not mean to insult half the human race the other day. In his first-ever interview with a woman journalist, he "joked" that women are taken from Adam's rib and that women have power as rectory housekeepers. OK, so he's old, he's tired, and he's got a million things on his mind. But, hello, Holy Father -- the world is watching. Franca Giansoldati, Vatican correspondent for the Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero, asked the pope about women in the church. At first, he gave what seems to be his stock reply: Women are beautiful, "church" is a feminine word, we cannot do theology without femininity, we should work more on a theology of women. She responded: "Don't you see a certain underlying misogyny?" Francis replied: "The fact is, woman was taken from a rib." Giansoldati reports Francis laughed heartily as he called his comment a joke -- "una battuta" -- the same word he used months ago to characterize the idea of women cardinals. Continuing, the pope agreed that "we" should go deeper into the issue of women, because without doing so, "we" cannot understand the church itself (more - and see Replies after the source article).

Council of Cardinals focuses on another Vatican bank shakeup
Edited Extracts from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 2 July 2014

The group of cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforming the Catholic church's central bureaucracy has again focused its attention on the church's sometimes controversial financial practices, ahead of the expected resignation of the head of the so-called Vatican bank. The Council of Cardinals, a group of prelates appointed by Francis last year as a sort of advisory "kitchen cabinet," is meeting Tuesday-Friday at the Vatican . This week's meeting, the group's fifth, was anticipated to include discussion on a wide reshaping of the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia. But a press release from the Vatican on Wednesday focused mostly on financial matters and the Bank, an independent institution known formally as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR)............That council, known simply as the Council for the Economy, is part of a wide reform by Francis to create a new central authority at the Vatican for control of financial and administrative issues. It is pursuing its work alongside a new Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, which is being headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell. Next week, said the Vatican statement, "there will be a significant press conference ... relating to the scope of the powers of the Council and the Secretariat for the Economy, including even the IOR." Before next week's expected economic shakeup, the Council of Cardinals is to continue its meetings Thursday and Friday. Francis, the Vatican said, is taking part in all of the meetings (more).

Bishop warns Eucharist is getting 'perilously scarce'
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 1 July 2014

Bishop Helmut Krätzl, a former auxiliary in Vienna, has warned that the Eucharist is in danger of “drying up”. In two interviews on the occasion of his diamond jubilee as a priest, he called on bishops to take up the Pope’s request “to  make courageous suggestions” in order to stop this happening. “We are silently accepting a scarcity of the Eucharist, which is already to a certain extent perilous, because we are not prepared to change admission to the priesthood. In my opinion that is irresponsible. We must open new doors including discussing that of priestly celibacy”, Bishop Krätzl said. The Eucharist should be available where people lived, he insisted. He did not agree with bishops who said the Eucharist should be worth travelling a certain distance to (more).

How the Bishop was forced to resign because he played too much for the local team
Extract from Frank Brennan SJ, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, Tuesday 1 July 2014

I have followed the Bishop Bill Morris saga closely. My one new insight from reading Bill’s book – “Benedict, Me and the Cardinals Three” – is that he was sacked because he was too much a team player with his local church. By sacking their local leader, the Romans hoped to shatter the morale and direction of those who had planned the pastoral strategies of a country diocese stretched to the limits as a Eucharistic community soon to be deprived of priests in the Roman mould. He was the consummate team player who planned his pastoral strategies in close consultation with his presbyterate and the various consultative organs he set up in the diocese. As the people of Toowoomba continue to live faithful lives as Catholics, they still hold Bill in high esteem; meanwhile all the people in Rome are now gone. As Peter Dorfield, Bill’s Vicar General says, it was ‘a poor decision based on poor advice’ (more).

Royal commission into child sex abuse releases interim report
Extracts from ABC News, 30 June 2014

The royal commission investigating institutional responses to child sex abuse has handed down its interim report, but says it has not yet compiled enough information to make any recommendations. It is calling for an additional two years and $104 million in extra funding to complete the 70 public hearings they have identified as "essential". So far, only 13 of the hearings have been held. The commission has also conducted thousands of private sessions with individuals, but it says there are around 3,000 more on a waiting list. The interim report says that despite legal obligations to report child abuse, it remains significantly under-reported in Australia. The royal commission says it has identified several main themes from the many personal stories it has heard.The themes include repeated abuse and multiple perpetrators, barriers to reporting the abuse and adults that have systematically failed to protect children........The chief executive of the Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, is backing the commission's call for an extension. "It's essential ... this is the opportunity for our community to get to the real reasons why children haven't been safe in institutions," he said (more). Read the royal commission's interim report here.

Family Synod: Next Step and Prospects Prospects                                                                                                                                                               Extracts from David Timbs, Catholics for Renewal News commentary, Monday 30 June 2014 (full paper here)
On Friday June 27, the Vatican published the Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document) for the October Extraordinary Synod on the Family. The ordinary  members of this extraordinary Synod are a representative body of Bishops from the five continents. They are the ones with a deliberative vote. There are others, clerics, religious and laity, who have been invited to participate in the Synod, will join in subgroup discussions and even address the plenary meetings. There has been a great deal of criticism about makeup of participants for this Synod. Specifically many people are commenting that Pope Francis has missed a opportunity to make the composition of the Synod more representative of the actual People of God but to widen the avenues for participation, even voting, by non-bishops. This is a major negative especially since the Synod will be addressing a number of issues which have proven contentious for decades.............While sections of the document acknowledge the issues of authority and non-reception, the overwhelming number of responses indicate that the Catholic people have ‘not understood’ Church teaching, have been confused by  outside influences or the Magisterium (Popes and Bishops) has not taught Catholic doctrine properly or effectively.  The major challenge for the Magisterium continues to be that the Catholic laity heard the teaching loud and clear in the  first place and rejected it. This invites an adult to adult mature and Christ-like conversation between the Catholic laity and its Leaders. The hierarchy of truths comes to mind. The full paper can be read here

Influential Catholic economic theorists, philosophers and business people meet                                                                                               Extract from David Timbs, Catholics for Renewal News commentary, 30 June 2014 (full paper here)    
                                                                     A group of influential Catholic economic theorists, philosophers and business people met in Grand Rapids, Michigan, two weeks ago for the annual Acton Institute Conference. The Institute was co-founded in 1990 by Fr Robert Sirico and Kris Alan Mauren. The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is essentially a Catholic think-tank on history, philosophy, theology, economics and ethics from a neoconservative perspective. (See here)

The Institute has been cautiously critical of Catholic socio-economic teaching, especially the great Social Encyclicals since Leo XIII. This unease has become further elevated since Pope Francis has begun regularly to level rather direct and detailed criticism of free market capitalism. Follow the links to more discussion on what Pope Francis is saying and what the responses are to his restatements on Catholic Social teaching. [more]     Image:Rodin and co.

The Nestor Case
Extracts from Kieran Tapsell, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, Monday 30 June 2014

The Catholic Church hierarchy has now accepted that its attempts to cover up the sexual abuse of children by clergy facilitated further abuse. But there was a second reason for the increase in the abuse – the canonical disciplinary system was dysfunctional. It was dysfunctional enough prior to 1983, but Pope St. John Paul II made it useless with his 1983 Code of Canon Law. It became virtually impossible to dismiss these priests under the Code. They remained priests, and took advantage of their positions of power and authority to continue their assaults on children..............One of the most eminent canon lawyers from the United States, Nicholas Cafardi stated in 2010 that “no legal system…can be effective when its highest value is secrecy… when changes are made in the law, the revision needs to be clearly announced and explained…Secret laws serve no one.” Secrecy still rules in the Vatican and that means that the public can only be fed spin (more).  Kieran Tapsell is a retired lawyer with degrees in theology and law and is the author of Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse (2014 ATF Press).

Potiphar's Wife
Monday 30 June 2014

In his newly published book, Potiphar's Wife, Kieran Tapsell canvasses  the way in which papal decrees and canon law has frustrated action by Australian bishops to remove priests sexually abusing children from public ministry or dismissing them from the priesthood altogether. Tapsell also outlines how the "pontifical secret" has been used by the Church to keep the investigation and prosecution of offenders "in house" and avoid reporting such crimes to police unless a civil law is in place that expressly requires such reporting.

This well researched book is good but disturbing reading which offers positive suggestions for the process of healing the Church. Potiphar's Wife is available now or shortly will be at major quality book outlets in Australia and overseas.  One exception is that it is reportedly unavailable from the Pauline bookshop in Sydney. The recent Sydney launch of this book may be viewed online here.

Council of Cardinals to continue Curia review in upcoming meeting
Extract from National Catholic Reporter,  Joshua J McElwee, 28 June 2014

The group of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforming the governance of the Catholic church is set to meet with him for the fifth time, presumably to more seriously consider an overall blueprint for a new structure of the Vatican's central bureaucracy. While the cardinals have not indicated exactly what the group will be focusing on during its July 1-4 meetings, the Vatican signaled in an April statement that the prelates have already finished a review of the Vatican's nine main governmental bodies, known as congregations, and are now proceeding to review its 12 auxiliary bodies, known as councils (more).

Synod working paper is boring and joyless
Extracts from Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, 27 June 2014

A document "intended to provide an initial reference point" for the October Synod of Bishops on the family was released Thursday at the Vatican. The document acknowledges that "the primary task of the church is to proclaim the beauty of the vocation to love," but there is little beautiful or inspiring in this document. If married life is as boring and joyless as this document, I am glad I am celibate..........Despite the numerous problems cited by the working paper, it still has hope for "a new springtime for the family," which it believes will be led by young people who "see a value in a stable, enduring relationship and express a real desire to marry and form a family." How this jives with the fact that young people are delaying marriage, hooking up, practicing birth control, and living together before getting married remains to be seen. (more).

Vatican document for synod on family balances mercy and cultural blame
Extract from Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 26 June 2014

Struggles faced by faithful around the world in following Catholic teachings stem mainly from ineffective education in those teachings and the pervasive effect of a relativistic culture, states the guiding document for an upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. The document, anticipated by many Catholics as a barometer for what to expect from the synod, also strongly reinforces church teachings regarding the indissolubility of marriage, the restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples, and that partners must be open to having children. At the same time, the document states, the church must respond with mercy to the struggles of families to adhere to sometimes controversial teachings -- like those prohibiting divorce and remarriage, contraception, cohabitation, and same-sex marriage -- and "support her children on the path of reconciliation." (more)

Synod document cites cultural and economic threats to family
Edited Extracts from Francis X Rocca, Catholic News Service, 26 June 2014

The working document for the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops offers a picture of the Catholic Church today struggling to preach the Gospel and transmit moral teachings amid a "widespread cultural, social and spiritual crisis" of the family. The 75-page "instrumentum laboris," published by the Vatican June 26, is supposed to "provide an initial reference point" for discussion at the synod, whose theme will be the "pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.".................The document is based principally on comments solicited in a questionnaire last November from national bishops' conferences around the world. But it also reflects comments sent directly to the Vatican by individuals and groups responding to the questionnaire, which was widely published on the Internet. Topics in the working document include some of the most contested and controversial areas of Catholic moral teaching on the family, including contraception, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, premarital sex and in vitro fertilization. Bishops' conferences responding to the questionnaire attributed an increasing disregard of such teachings to a variety influences, including "hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; (and) the growing secularism." Recognizing that most Catholic couples do not follow the church's teaching against the use of artificial birth control, the document says that "for many Catholics the concept of 'responsible parenthood' encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control." The document says the use of natural family planning, condoned by the church, encourages responsible decisions about family size while respecting human fertility and "the dignity of the sexual relationship between husband and wife." Bishops expressed particular concern with the "ideology called gender theory, according to which the gender of each individual turns out to be simply the product of social conditioning and needs" without "any correspondence to a person's biological sexuality." The bishops see a need for better teaching of "Christian anthropology," the document states. Noting that contemporary culture dismisses or misunderstands theories of "natural law," which seek to "found human rights on reason," bishops increasingly prefer to invoke Scripture in support of Catholic moral teaching (more). Photo: Pufui Pc Pifpef I Synod Secretary Genera Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri releasing the 75-page working document for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family called for a world day of prayer on Sept 28 to prepare for the event,

Vatican to release family synod preparatory document Thursday
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 25 June 2014

The Vatican is set to release on Thursday the document that will guide Catholic bishops around the world in preparing for a global October meeting on the church's family pastoral practices. The meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops, has raised hopes that Pope Francis may be considering a change in the church's practices in a number of areas, particularly regarding the admittance of divorced and remarried persons to communion. Thursday will see the release of the synod's Instrumentum Laboris, a working document prepared for the meeting by the Vatican's office for the synod after a worldwide consultation unusual for the breadth of comment it encouraged prelates to seek from priests and laity. The Vatican is to release the document at noon Rome time (6 a.m. Eastern), after a press conference with three cardinals -- Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the synod office; Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in Hungary and the prelate who will be responsible for guiding the discussions during the synod; and André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris and a delegate to the meeting -- and one archbishop: Bruno Forte, the synod's special secretary (more).

Archbishop Wilson appears before Royal Commission
Extract fron Cathnews, 25 June 2014

There was much confusion about canon law procedures concerning the dismissal of a priest from the priesthood, Adelaide's Archbishop Philip Wilson told a Royal Commission hearing yesterday, the Daily Mail reports. It took almost 20 years for the Pope to defrock an Australian priest for allegedly indecently assaulting a boy, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard. And when his bishop banned him from saying Mass in public after complaints against the priest, the Vatican overturned the decision. John Gerard Nestor was found guilty in court but was later acquitted of indecent assault charges against the boy in the NSW Diocese of Wollongong. A series of investigations ensued, involving canon lawyers, Australian church processes, the NSW ombudsman, and the highest echelons of the Vatican. Ultimately, Pope Benedict XVI dismissed Nestor from the priesthood in October, 2008 (more).

US Archbishop hopes settlement brings victims closure, chance to heal
Extract from Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 25 June 2014

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said Tuesday that he hopes the settlement of 30 claims of sexual abuse will bring victims "closure and allow them to continue the process of healing." The Seattle archdiocese settled cases involving abuse that the victims said was carried out by members of the Christian Brothers at two institutions managed by the order in western Washington. The most recent cases in question were nearly 30 years old and some dated back almost 60 years, according to an archdiocesan press release announcing the settlement, which totaled $12.1 million (more).

US 'Vatican II priests' meet, express new hope
Extracts from Thomas C. Fox, National Catholic Reporter, 24 June 2014

An estimated 225 priests from the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests have gathered in St. Louis for a three-day conference aimed at carrying church renewal forward. The theme of the assembly is "Revelation in our Lives and Time," drawn from the Second Vatican Council document Dei Verbum, the primary Vatican II document on Scripture. The group was formed following an Aug. 25, 2011, meeting of 27 self-described "Vatican II priests" at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. The organization's inaugural assembly in June 2012 drew approximately 240 delegates from 55 dioceses to St. Leo University, northeast of Tampa, Fla.....The mood among these priests, whose average age is 69, is generally upbeat in the wake of the election of Pope Francis last year. A life-sized Francis cutout is a major draw with the priests, who snap photos between assemblies. "We feel renewed ... confirmed," said retired Chicago archdiocese priest Leonard Dubi, who said he and other priests of his generation have felt "discarded" by bishops and the younger conservative priests. With a new "patron" in Rome, Dubi said, these priests, some retired, some soon to be retiring, feel uplifted."We are not reinventing the wheel," one priest said. "We are committed to implementing Vatican II." (more) Photo: Capuchin Franciscan Michael Crosby addresses assembly (Photo by Tom Fox)

Why Bishop Morris was sacked
Extracts from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 23 June 2014   (full article here)
Frank Brennan launches Benedict, Me and the Cardinals Three by Bishop William Morris, in Sydney on 23 June 2014.

..........It's been very difficult to work out why Bishop Morris was sacked. It's been a moving target. At first the concern seemed to be over the third rite of reconciliation and his failure to drop everything and come to Rome when Cardinal Arinze specified. Bill pointed out that he was due in Rome four months after the specified date, so surely things could wait until then. It seems that over time Bill had mended his ways on the third rite to comply with Rome's new strictures. So then there was his Advent pastoral letter of 2006. We are left confused as to whether Morris was sacked chiefly for what he wrote in that letter, or for what was reported by Chaput in 2007, or for what was reported to Rome by those sometimes described as 'the temple police'. The offending section of his pastoral letter was:

Given our deeply held belief in the primacy of Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options of ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. Several responses have been discussed internationally, nationally and locally

• ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish community
• welcoming former priests, married or single back to active ministry
• ordaining women, married or single
• recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders

While we continue to reflect carefully on these options we remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the current celibate male priesthood and open to inviting priests from overseas.

If he was sacked for what he wrote in his Advent letter about the possible ordination of women, married priests, and recognition of other orders 'Rome willing', there would have been no need for Archbishop Chaput later to make his visit and his report. And let's remember that Morris had published a clarification of his pastoral letter on his website saying: 

In my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006 I outlined some of the challenges facing the diocese into the future. In that letter I made reference to various options about ordination that were and are being talked about in various places, as part of an exercise in the further investigation of truth in these matters. Unfortunately some people seem to have interpreted that reference as suggesting that I was personally initiating options that are contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church. As a bishop I cannot and would not do that and I indicated this in the local media at the time.

.............The Church of the 21st century should be the exemplar of due process, natural justice and transparency — purifying, strengthening, elevating and ennobling these riches and customs of contemporary Western societies which are the homes and social constructs for many of the faithful, including those most directly impacted by the decision to force the dismissal of Bishop Morris. While there can be little useful reflection and critique of the final decision of Pope Benedict to force the early retirement of Bishop Morris, there is plenty of scope to review the processes and the evidence leading to the submission of the brief for dismissal provided by curial officials to the Holy Father.........(more)    Frank Brennan SJ AO is professor of law at the Australian Catholic University and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University.   [Ed: the official statement of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on this issue is linked here]

Catholic Church – catch-up and cover-up
Extracts from John Mendaue blog, Pearls and Irritations, 19 June 2014

The sad saga of the Catholic Church in its response to sexual abuse goes on and on and on. Pope Francis is yet to grasp the nettle. Invariably it is people outside the hierarchy and clergy who are responding and calling for action. The latest has been former NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, who spoke in the NSW Parliament on this issue on 17 June 2014. He called on Fr Brian Lucas, the General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference to be stood down in light of the report of the Cunneen Commission into alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland/Newcastle. Barry O’Farrell has a particular interest in this issue as he had appointed the Cunneen Commission............As Fr Frank Brennan has said “Clearly the church itself cannot be left alone to get its house in order.” (more).

Priests criticize head of doctrinal congregation for rebuke of LCWR
Extracts from Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 17 June 2014

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests in a letter to Pope Francis criticized the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for his recent comments chastising the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Seattle-based association, which claims 1,000 U.S. priests as members, focused its letter to the pope on comments made by the congregation's prefect, German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, in an April 30 welcoming address to LCWR leadership. LCWR is a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's communities as members, representing about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women religious. The group is currently undergoing a major reform ordered by the Vatican in 2012. Müller's remarks were "self-confessedly blunt," said the letter, signed by Fr. David Cooper of the Milwaukee archdiocese, the association's president, and members of the group's board.............The prelate's comments included, among other things, the view that an LCWR award to one sister whose book was subject to doctrinal scrutiny "will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the doctrinal assessment"; that LCWR is promoting futuristic ideas he described as "opposed to Christian revelation"; and there is "increasing concern" over the "directional statements" of some LCWR member congregations (more).

The Pope: "Even some prelates are corrupt"
Extract from Domenico Agasso Jr, Vatican Insider, La Stampa. 17 June 2014

The day after stating that “the corruption of the powerful is paid by the poor”, Pope Francis again, "thundered" – what’s more, like other times over the last year - against this "scourge", involving “several prelates” as well. When a person "enters" the "road of corruption", "take his own lives, usurps and sells himself",  he takes advantage of the innocent  “with white gloves, without dirtying his hands”  he said in the homily at Casa Santa Marta, as Vatican Radio reported.    "A corrupt person irritates God and makes people sin”.  Not only that:  a corrupt person “is one who kills, who steals”,  if they do not ask for forgiveness, they are condemned with “the curse of God”, because “they exploit the innocent”.  Pope Francis relaunches his complaint against corruption reflecting on today's First Reading, the martyrdom of Naboth - narrated in the first Book of Kings - killed at the behest of the corrupt King Ahab who has taken possession of his vineyard. The prophet Elijah, noted the Pope, says that the corrupt Ahab “sold” himself.  It’s as though "he is no longer person but a commodity", "buy and sell": "This is the definition: it is a commodity! Then what will the Lord do with the corrupt, whatever the type of corruption ... Yesterday we said that there were three types, three groups: the corrupt politician, corrupt businessman and the corrupt clergy. All three hurt the innocent, the poor, because it is the poor who pay for the festivities of the corrupt! The bill goes to them. The Lord clearly says what must be done.....(more).

Priests' letter to nuncio denounces Venice, Fla., bishop
Extracts from Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter, 16 June 2014

A group of 10 priests in the diocese of Venice, Fla., describing what they said had become an "intolerable" situation, took the highly unusual step earlier this year of composing a letter severely critical of their bishop, Frank Dewane, and sending it to the pope's representative in the United States.The letter, addressed to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio, accuses Dewane of ignoring or violating canon law, abandoning consultative processes and ruling by "intimidation, the use of fear, shaming, bullying and other non-Christian behaviors." (more)
Bishop Frank Dewane (CNS/Catholic Press Photo/Alessia Giuliani)

Professor highlights a third way for remarried divorcees, citing Ratzinger and Eastern tradition
Extract from Sarah Mac Donald in Dublin, The Tablet, Monday 16 June 2014

The distinguished theologian Professor Ladislas Orsy has recommended the Church adopt a proposal once put forward by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. The Jesuit theologian referred to an argument mooted by then Professor Joseph Ratzinger in 1972 which references oikonomia – described as “good spiritual housekeeping” and part of the Eastern Church tradition. The 1972 proposal – which, later, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he stepped back from – argued that communion could be given to those in second marriages provided the first had broken down irrevocably, penance had been performed and the second union was filled with a spirit of faith (more).

We stand together as disciples sent to heal a wounded world, Pope tells Welby
Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, The tablet,16 June 2014

Pope Francis has said he and the Archbishop of Canterbury must focus their joint witness on “prayer, peace and poverty”. In an audience with Archbishop Justin Welby this morning, the Pope departed from his official text and spoke in English. “Don’t forget the ‘three Ps’,” he said. “Prayer, peace and poverty. We must walk together.” Earlier in his address Francis had said he and the archbishop must “stand together” in combating human trafficking – while divisions between Christians remained a scandal. The Pope praised the leader of the Anglican Communion for his leadership on seeking to overcome trafficking and slavery. “I thank God that, as disciples sent to heal a wounded world, we stand together, with perseverance and determination, in opposing this grave evil,” the Pope said. The Pope cited the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism that said no obstacle should be placed to the “future promptings of the Holy Spirit” in the progress towards full Communion (more).

Welby in Rome: Churches must cast off 'institutional prestige'
Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, The Tablet, 15 June 2014

The Archbishop of Canterbury today called on Christian Churches to reject institutional self-preservation and instead become inspired by the Holy Spirit to reach out to the world, particularly the poor. Archbishop Justin Welby, who is in Rome for a two-day visit during which he will meet Pope Francis, said “we are constantly reminded of the beauty and the history of the Church and the challenges of the history of the Church.” In a sermon at a celebration of the Eucharist this morning at the Anglican church of All Saints, he said that historically, churches had opted for “power and structural integrity.” The archbishop pointed to the Church of England’s failure to respond to the preaching of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century, and instead opt for a “static, unchanging Church.” (more)

Working paper for synod on the family due this month
Extract from Thomas Reece*, National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 14 June 2014

To help prepare for the October Synod of Bishops on the family, a working paper written by the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will be released before the end of the month, according to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. Wuerl, a member of the synodal council that approved the paper for distribution, said it will be released as soon as the Italian version is translated into other languages. The working paper, technically called the instrumentum laboris, is a distillation of the material sent to Rome from bishops, bishops' conferences, and others in response to the questionnaire sent out by the secretariat in October 2013. It is supposed to stimulate further discussion of the synod topic rather than attempt to be the first draft of any conclusions coming out of the synod. Thirty-four years ago this October, more than 200 bishops from some 90 countries met in Rome for the first synod on the family. It was the first synod of the papacy of John Paul II and ultimately resulted in Familiaris Consortio, his 1981 apostolic exhortation on the family (more).  *Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reece is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.

Address by chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Saturday 14 June 2014

Justice McClellan has delivered an important paper on the policy implications of its work at an international men's health symposium.  The paper is an excellent summary of the scope and complexity of the Royal Commission's work (here).

Commission requests Vatican documents
Extracts from CathNews (*source The Echo), Friday 13 June 2014

The Royal Commission asks for Vatican documents, reports The Echo; while a new book by former Bishop of Toowoomba, Bill Morris, discusses Vatican responses to child abuse in Australia. In a new book, former Toowoomba Bishop Bill Morris writes that the Vatican failed to understand the fallout from clerical sex abuse in Australia, The Brisbane Times reports. There was no depth of understanding of the devastating effects that clerical sexual abuse was having on the lives of families and communities throughout Australia,' Bishop Morris says. He says he tried to 'explain how abuse damages the psyche of a community, having a debilitating effect on some individuals to the degree that they mistrust the Church and its ministers' but senior Vatican chiefs 'would have nothing of this.' 'They had no idea how it would be almost impossible for a person who had been sexually abused in the confessional or any other place to go back into a room, no matter how large, to have a one-to-one confession again,' he said. The response, from one senior Cardinal, was that 'all priests are not like that' and victims 'should get on with their lives.' ..................Commission chair, Justice Peter McClellan, has written to the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, asking for a copy of all documents held in Rome relating to complaints of sexual abuse by priests and religious leaders in Australia. Justice McClellan said he hopes the documents will shed light on how complaints were handled by the Church. 'We have asked for copies of documents which reveal the nature and extent of communications between Catholic congregations in Australia and the Holy See,' said Justice McClellan in Brisbane. 'From these documents we should be able to determine how Church authorities in Australia, under the guidance or direction of the Vatican, have responded to individual allegations of abuse.' The Royal Commission has received some documents from the Vatican relating to its upcoming public inquiry of the Wollongong diocese. But Justice McClellan says the Vatican has yet to respond to his request for documents relating to other sexual abuse complaints (more). *Source: Abuse royal commission probes the Vatican (The Echo)  Photo: Royal Commission

US Bishops talk sex abuse complacency, not accountability at annual meeting
Extract from Brian Rowe, Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter. Thursday 12 June 2014

Urged not to get complacent on clergy sexual abuse of minors, the nation's Catholic bishops spoke little of holding one another accountable for failures in protecting children at their annual spring meeting.
The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Review Board, which advises the bishops on child protection policies, told those gathered Wednesday in New Orleans that the church "continues to slowly make progress" on the abuse issue and asked bishops present to "resist complacency" and "remain committed" to the work still ahead of them. "Every time we learn about a situation that results from a decision not in conformity with the Charter [for the Protection of Children and Young People], the commendable efforts of the bishops to address the issue of sexual abuse are compromised," Francesco Cesareo said. "These instances further erode the credibility of the bishops." Toward the end of his 20-minute address, Cesareo said Catholics must "hold each other accountable for any actions or decisions that run contrary" to the prelates' charter, which the bishops' conference adopted in 2002. However, Cesareo did not specify who needs to be held accountable and to whom (more). 

US Church divided on how to 'read' Pope Francis as bishops gather for spring meeting
Extract from Michael Sean Winters, The Tablet, 12 June 2014

Divisions are emerging in public among the American bishops over how to interpret Pope Francis – a split which is likely to be apparent as the US bishops gather in New Orleans this week for their annual spring meeting. Archbishop Joseph Tobin, of Indianapolis, speaking at St Francis University in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, warned against a “balkanisation” within the US Church as rival ideological camps try to enforce their points of view. He blamed the divisive nature of US politics for this trend but suggested that Pope Francis’ leadership style was contributing to these divisions. “What I've seen is how disruptive Pope Francis has been within the hierarchy of the United States,” Archbishop Tobin told the annual assembly of the College Theology Society. “I was talking to a couple of brother bishops a while back and they were saying that bishops and priests were very discouraged by Pope Francis because he was challenging them.” As reported by the US-based National Catholic Reporter, he added: “I think there was a particular image, perhaps, of what it means to be a pastoral leader in this country, and Francis is disturbing it. I think there is some resistance to a different way of doing the Gospel mission of the church.” The archbishop paused, smiled, and added, “So, pray for Francis' health.” (more)

The Italian Job - Can Pope Francis Manage His Local Opposition?
Extracts from Massimo Faggioli,Commonweal, 5 June 2014

.........Francis’s first year has been characterized by a carefully coded fight for the ground between the old guard and the new. An abstract debate about the “continuity or discontinuity” of Vatican II has been replaced by a conversation about concrete issues such as poverty and inequality. Francis has shown a willingness to discontinue old practices—for example, the Vatican officially prohibits priests from washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday, but that’s exactly what he did just weeks after his election. Francis’s new language and style have not been universally welcomed by the bishops, especially those in his backyard. Some of them silently resist these changes..........But for all the differences between the church of the late 1950s and that of 2013, the “institutional loneliness” of John XXIII is similar to the loneliness of Pope Francis today. Francis’s promises do not depend on Francis alone, but largely on the rest of the church—and in particular bishops and cardinals. Like John XXIII, he is not young enough to carry out his own reforms. It will be up to the bishops and the faithful to reconstruct Catholicism’s credibility. Of course, the paradox is that a pope constantly in the media spotlight is trying to save the church from a “papolatry” partly created by that spotlight.(more)  Photo:

Commission hearing into relationship between Vatican and Bishop
Extract from CathNews, 5 June 2014

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will investigate the relationship between the Vatican and the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, in his former role as Bishop of Wollongong, reports The Australian. In a statement released yesterday, the Royal Commission said it would 'inquire into ... the response of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong to allegations of child sexual abuse, and related criminal proceedings, against John Gerard Nestor. 'The hearing (in Sydney on June 24) will look at the relationship between the Diocesan Bishop (and, in his absence, the Diocesan Administrator) and the Holy See (Vatican) in matters concerning preventative and disciplinary action,' the statement said. Shortly after his appointment to the Diocese, in 1997, local priest John Gerard Nestor was convicted of having indecently assaulted a 15-year-old boy several years earlier. Mr Nestor denied the charge and subsequently won an appeal to have the court’s decision overturned later the same year. But the Church ultimately declined to allow him to return to his work as a priest in the Wollongong diocese (more). Photo: CathNews

Pope's' words on sex abuse point to strong action
Extract from CathNews, 5 June 2014

The urgency with which Francis recently addressed the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy is encouraging. His decision to meet with victims is also a signal that he understands the gravity of this issue in a way that was not clear earlier, writes NCR. While we understand, and to some extent share, the concerns of victims' groups that the meeting and Mass with victims could be little more than media theatre, we have more hope for the gathering. Francis has given us reason to believe that his pastoral instincts will guide him and that the outcome of this encounter will bring the Church to a new place in this decades-long tragedy. Bolstering our hopefulness is Francis' acknowledgement that he must act against bishops who are complicit in failing to protect children. From his own mouth, we know that three bishops are under investigation. While he did not say whether those bishops are abusers themselves or negligent supervisors, we have the words of the Vatican's lead prosecutor of sex abuse, Fr Robert Oliver, that the Vatican is working on a process for punishing bishops who fail to protect children. Furthermore, Fr Oliver said, 'Pope Francis is the kind of leader who makes it possible for those who assist him to bring forward ideas. Then he takes hold of these ideas ... [then] the Catholic faithful, and indeed all people, will see that he will act quickly.' (more). Photo:Cathnews

Pope sacks whole board of Vatican bank watchdog as his sweeping financial reforms continue
Edited extract from Hannah Roberts (in Rome), The Tablet, 5 June 2014

Pope Francis has removed the entire board of the Vatican's financial watchdog in his latest attempt to rehabilitate the troubled Vatican bank. Two years before they were due to step down, the five Italians heading the Financial Information Authority (AIF) have been replaced with a more international group of experts, including one woman (Ed: from Italy, Switzerland, Singapore and the United States). read full report here.

Nuncio sees Irish renewal – but Dublin has two priests under 40
Extract from Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 4 June 2014

The papal nuncio to Ireland has spoken of a new beginning in the Church in the country and a renewed enthusiasm among young Catholics for their faith. Archbishop Charles J. Brown, who was appointed nuncio to Ireland at the peak of the clerical abuse scandal in 2011, said that Irish Catholicism had entered a new “springtime”. He told the US-based Catholic News Service: “The Church in Ireland has been through a good 20 years of real suffering, of a winter. I think that after this period of difficulty something new is beginning. We are beginning to see green shoots of renewal.” (more)

Archbishop warns of 'balkanization' in US church
Extracts from Joshua J, McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 2 June 2014

A prominent U.S. archbishop has warned that the divisive nature of the nation's politics — particularly the separation of people into disparate ideological camps — may be seeping into the American Catholic church, leading to a "balkanization" of the faithful..........."What I've seen is how disruptive Pope Francis has been within the hierarchy of the United States," said Tobin. "I was talking to a couple of brother bishops a while back and they were saying that bishops and priests were very discouraged by Pope Francis because he was challenging them."............Tying the story to the U.S. church, the archbishop continued: "I wonder whether some of the echo of name-calling, labeling, and
intolerance that appears to increasingly characterize the American political discourse — I wonder whether this intolerance passes unchallenged in the heart of the American Catholic church."......(more)

Will the Vatican step up and hold bishops accountable?
Extracts from Jason Berry, National Catholic Reporter, 2 June 2014

On the flight back to Rome May 26 after his visit to Israel, Pope Francis gave another impromptu press conference. Responding to a question on the clergy abuse crisis, he said, "At the moment there are three bishops under investigation: one has already been found guilty and we are now considering the penalty to be imposed. There are no privileges.” The pope offered no names, but according to the transcript, added a sonic boom analogy: “A priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. This is very serious. It is like a satanic Mass.” Francis’s escalating rhetoric came three weeks after a United Nations Committee on Torture report, citing extensive international legal findings, was critical of the Holy See for bishops’ negligence in sheltering sexual predators. “States bear international responsibility for the acts and omissions of their officials and others acting in an official capacity or acting on behalf of the state," said the U.N. report issued May 23.     “A zero tolerance approach must be adopted,” Francis said on the airplane. He announced he would meet with a group of abuse victims...........The root problem is the power structure, a hierarchy long accustomed to immunity from punishment. Popes, in turn, assume lockstep loyalty from bishops and cardinals. Francis’s move toward a penal policy for hierarchs has cut distance from the passivity of John Paul and the halting approach by Benedict, who refused to accept the resignation letters of two Irish auxiliary bishops criticized for negligence in the government investigation of the church in Dublin. What Francis decides about the three bishops under investigation, as yet unnamed, will be another signal on the depth, or not, of a criminal justice system so desperately needed by the Roman Catholic church (more).   photo: Pope Francis greets journalists aboard the flight from Tel Aviv to Rome May 26. At right is Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican press spokesman. (CNS/Paul Haring)

2nd CathFR Submission to the Australian Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse
Catholics For Renewal, Monday 2 June 2014

Catholics For Renewal has lodged a 2nd submission to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, directed specifically to the Commission’s Issues Paper on Redress Schemes. The concerns it also expresses regarding the Church’s dysfunctional governance are relevant to most aspects of the Commission’s terms of reference. It draws in part from earlier submissions, both commenting on and offering suggestions in relation to:

a) the desirable features of redress schemes, and
b) the importance of Church governance reform as part of any redress scheme.

In brief summary the key issues in our submission include:
* supporting the establishment of a national scheme of redress for victims of child sexual abuse
* addressing the cause of offending behaviours (institutional abuse)
* addressing the Church's flawed system of ecclesiastical governance
* need to ensure the Church becomes a good 'corporate citizen'
* need for global reform of the Church's inadequate governance, culture, and practices
* need for the Church to adopt clear and unambiguous modern governance structures, policy and practice
* the importance of an effective national approach to redress schemes to offer compensation and/or services to those who have suffered

The Submission also expresses a view that with establishment of the Commission for the Protection of Minors the Church may now be more likely to receive and accept advice regarding the role of institutional abuse from an expert body such as the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  Download submission here

The interview: Kieran Tapsell on Vatican secrecy surrounding sex abuse
Link to ABC Local Radio Interview by John Cleary, Sunday 1 June 2014

Kieren Tapsell' new book, Potiphar's Wife, is about the 'Secret of the Holy office' or the 'The Pontifical Secret', and how it protects clergy from criminal prosecution. It details the Vatican protocols in place since 1922 that have forbidden clergy to report sex abuse cases to the civil authorities. Tapsell also looks carefully at Canon Law (international Catholic law) and how it has come into conflict with civil law. His book forensically examines this official policy of secrecy in the Catholic church; secrecy in regard to sexual abuse of minors. And the policy is still in force at the very highest level. Listen

Pope Francis says 'door open' on priestly celibacy
Extract from CathNews, Friday 30 May 2014

Pope Francis has directly addressed the issue of priest celibacy for the first time since his election as Pope while on his way back from a historic trip to the Middle East, reports The Huffington Post on Ucanews. He told reporters on Monday: 'It is a rule of life that I appreciate very much, and I think it is a gift for the church, but since it is not a dogma, the door is always open.' The Pope has hinted that the practice of priestly celibacy is open to change before, but this was his most explicit public statement on the subject since becoming Pope. Last autumn, Francis' Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, also seemed open to the idea of discussing a change in the policy towards married priests when he explained that celibacy 'is not a church dogma and it can be discussed because it is a church tradition.' During his chat with reporters, Pope Francis took the opportunity to condemn sexual abuse by priests. He has created a commission to investigate abuse by clerics and institute reforms, though the UN has harshly criticised the Vatican for its current set of policies. Some proponents of optional celibacy link priest abuse to sexual frustration, arguing that less abuse would occur if celibacy was not mandatory. However, the Church rejects this argument, claiming that abuse happens due to psychological problems, reports The Times of Malta (more).

Potiphar's Wife: The Vatican's Secret and Child Sex Abuse by Kieran Tapsell
Extract of Book Review by Dr Christopher Geraghty, Catholica, Thursday 29 May 2014

.........In this book, the author unravels the story of Vatican policy of secrecy from 1922 — a story which some might say amounted to national disloyalty, to criminal omission and conspiracy, a story of official double-speak, of blame-shifting, power-plays and petty jealousies. The Vatican promulgated and continued to enforce laws which would undermine the fabric of the communities and the State, and while protecting its own reputation and its priests, which would inevitably cause maximum heartache within families. Explosive devices encased in canonical terminology and manufactured in Rome, to be detonated in homes and in local communities throughout the world.         Potiphar's Wife is a good read, but disturbing. The author goes a long way to explaining why the Catholic Church has dealt so badly with the scandal of paedophile priests in its ranks and why the Royal Commission, in responding to its terms of reference, can't avoid making a series of trenchant findings involving the Vatican, and perhaps some recommendations to assist her in the process of putting its haunted house in order. (read full Review here). Watch video segments of Launch of Potiphars Wife, Catholica, from launch at the Catholic Institute in Strathfield NSW on 27 May 2014.          Painting: Guido Reni (Italian - Joseph and Potiphar's Wife - Google Art Project.jpg)

With a new Synod of Bishops comes a new chance to do things right
Extracts from Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, Wednesday 28 May 2014

I remembered an ancient saying not long ago that smacked far too much of the present than it did of the past. "There are only two mistakes on the way to truth," Buddha taught. "One is not going far enough and the other is not starting."   I knew right away that we're either on the verge of another mistake -- or not. It all depends.   Very few ever get a second chance to get the really big things of life right. Really right..........Once upon a time, churches were exempt from such problems. Not anymore. These days, churches are little better off than the average organization when it comes to the wages of sin and attempts to defraud. "The faith" does not compensate in an educated public for a loss of confidence in the integrity of the church itself.        Which is where we are right now, whether anyone wants to consider that possibility or not. All of our major institutions are being viewed with wary eyes -- the government and its outrageous dysfunction, the global financial structures and their pecuniary sleight of hand, and even the church and its insistence on rules for everyone else while it seems to have skirted the important ones.      And into the middle of a church clouded by scandal as well as by rigidity comes a pope with a call for reform and for understanding. What's not to love? (more)  *Sr. Joan Chittister, Benedictine .

Second UN panel criticizes Vatican on sex abuse
Extract from John L.Allen Jr. Boston Globe, Friday 23 May 2014

For the second time, a United Nations panel has criticized the Vatican for its response to the child sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, charging it with failing to mandate that abuse charges be reported to police, moving clergy to evade discipline, and failing to see that victims obtain adequate compensation. “Clergy . . . were transferred to other dioceses and institutions where they remained in contact with minors and others who are vulnerable,” the United Nations Committee against Torture charged in a new report, “and in some cases committed abuse in their subsequent placements.” The report follows a similar indictment from the Committee on the Rights of the Child that appeared in February, which asserted that the Vatican had fostered “impunity” for abusers. The document from the Committee against Torture was to be released in a press conference in Geneva Friday. The Boston Globe obtained an advance copy Thursday. Read full report here.

Julian McDonald*: We will right this terrible wrong.
Extracts from Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 20 May 2014, republished  here 23 May 2014
                                                           With searing eloquence, 11 men bravely told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Perth of the devastating impact of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Christian Brothers in residences at Castledare, Clontarf, Bindoon and Tardun in Western Australia more than 50 years ago. No one could be but moved by these men, who told of their painful experiences of stolen innocence, of being subjected to physical brutality and the depths of sexual depravity by supposedly religious men from whom they had every right to expect care, nurture and respect. Instead they were betrayed and treated as objects for sexual gratification. A regret I have is that every Christian Brother in Oceania was not present to hear the testimony of the men, victims of an earlier generation of Christian Brothers........I also urge the Catholic Church, of which the Christian Brothers are but part, to open itself to examining the causes and embracing the learnings from what has been a shameful episode in our history.We cannot delegate our ­response to others to formulate but rather must look inside ourselves for the way forward, listening to views from within, however confronting we might find them.Read full paper here.  *Brother Julian McDonald is deputy province leader, Christian Brothers Oceania Province. This piece was run in The Australian 12 May 2014.

Beyond the 'Francis factor,' what signs of hope in the Church?
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 22 May 2014

....When asked to name signs of hope in our Church and world, Good Samaritan Sister, Mary McDonald, saw very few in the Church, besides the 'Francis factor'. So she began anew to seek them out. My initial reaction to that question was somewhat confronting. Besides the 'Francis factor,' I saw very few signs of hope in the Church. This response was probably strongly influenced by the heart-rending stories of pain, suffering and broken trust that have been told by survivors at the hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. So I began anew to seek out the signs of hope. Two areas that both the Church and the world are willing to name and address, are the evil of human trafficking and the ecological crisis. The Good Samaritan Sisters share concerns and hope for both areas (more).

We must make room for all the lenses in our church
Extract from Opinion,  Christine Schenk CSJ*, National Catholic Reporter, 22 May 2014

Looking over Catholic news lately, I find much that is confusing and, alas, much cause for lament. First, there is the reality of Catholic teachers being required to sign expanded six-page contracts that are essentially loyalty oaths as conditions for employment. Then there is the threatened censure of the respected Asian theologian Jesuit Fr. Michael Amaladoss by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Amaladoss is an expert in interreligious dialogue and Christology who, according to colleague Peter Phan, "has made an enormous and lasting contribution to the elaboration of a genuinely Asian theology." Close to my own heart is the doctrinal congregation's recent harsh criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for, among other things, having the audacity to decide on its own to honor a deeply loved and internationally respected theologian, St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, with its Outstanding Leadership Award. Come on, guys. Do you really need to tell the sisters to whom they can and cannot give awards? It's not like the women aren't competent. I haven't counted, but I'm guessing there is a higher percentage of master's degrees and doctorates among LCWR members than among most other groups. Their main problem seems to be that they are, um, women, and even worse, women with minds of their own (more).
* A Sister of St. Joseph, Schenk is cofounder and until recently Executive Director Emerita of FutureChurch. She has Master's degrees in midwifery and theology.

Truce sought in dispute between American nuns and Vatican
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 22 May 2014

A senior Vatican official has tried to defuse the damaging rift between the Vatican and US religious women, after a recent rebuke over obedience and doctrinal differences, reports the Religion News Service in NCR Online. Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, who heads the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life that oversees men’s and women’s religious orders, said there had been 'sensitive times,' but relations between religious orders and the Holy See remained 'very close.' 'There are positive aspects and less positive aspects,' the Brazilian Cardinal said during a press conference on human trafficking ahead of the World Cup. 'We have chosen the path of dialogue. We have to speak positively.' Bráz de Aviz was speaking at the launch of a campaign by Catholic nuns, backed by the US Embassy to the Vatican, to fight human trafficking at the soccer World Cup in Brazil next month (more). Photo: CathNews. Photo. CathNews

Head of We Are Church in Austria excommunicated by Pope Francis
Extract from Abigail Frymann, Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 22 May 2014

The head of pro-reform movement We Are Church in Austria has been excommunicated by Pope Francis for "celebrating" Mass, the Austrian press has reported. According to the Austrian daily Tiroler Tageszeitung Martha Heizer and her husband Gert were excommunicated for regularly “simulating the Mass”, which the Church considers a delictum gravius, or “grave delict”. The couple are now barred from the sacraments. The couple has reportedly been celebrating Mass privately at their house together with a small group of friends for several years in what they term “celebrations of the Eucharist without a priest”. Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Innsbruck received the decree of excommunication last night. He took the excommunication decree to their house last night and read it out to them but they refused to accept it. He described the move as a “self-excommunication”, which he said was “not a victory, but always a defeat for the Church” (more).

Cardinal praises transvestite Conchita Wurst: ‘there is multicoloured variety in God’s garden’

Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 22 May 2014 

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, has congratulated the cross-dressing Austrian winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. The singer, who won this year’s contest for Austria with the song Rise Like a Phoenix, is a gay man who performs as the drag persona Conchita Wurst. “I am glad that Tom Neuwirth had such success with his artistic creation Conchita Wurst and I will pray for him,” Cardinal Schönborn said. “As we all know, there is multicoloured variety in God’s garden. Not everyone who is born male feels he is a man and the same applies to women. Such people deserve the same respect that we all have a right to as human beings”, Schönborn told Kathpress. The issue of tolerance, to which the singer said her performance was dedicated, was a “very real and major issue”, the cardinal said, adding that people like Tom Neuwirth had been exposed to ridicule, nastiness and intolerance. Tolerance meant “respecting someone even if one does not share his or her views,” Schönborn emphasised (more).

Pope Francis setting up panel to hear accused priests' appeals
Extract from Abigail Frymann, The Tablet, 19 May 2014

Pope Francis is establishing a commission under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to examine the appeals of priests punished for sexual abuse of minors and other serious crimes. The Vatican press office issued a brief note today stating that the Pope had named Argentine Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario to be a member of the CDF "in the commission being established to examine the appeals of clergy for delicta graviora," the Vatican term for sexual abuse of minors and serious sins against the sacraments. Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan worked with Pope Francis between 1993 and 2000 when both prelates served as bishops in the diocese of Buenos Aires. The note described Mollaghan as having led the Archdiocese of Rosario "until now," suggesting that his new role on the commission would be a full-time job in Rome, the US-based Catholic News Service reported. The Vatican did not provide further details about the commission, when it would be established or what the extent of its mandate would be. It did not mention what Archbishop Mollaghan's position on the commission would be (more).

Kieran Tapsell. The Vatican at the UN: Who is fossilised in the Past?
Extract from Kieran Tapsel, Pearls and Irritations,  John Menadue Website .  Friday 16 May 2014

Kieran Tapsell reports that the Holy See has found itself before the United Nations once again, this time in relation to the Treaty on Torture. ‘According to Reuters, Archbishop Tomasi told critics of its sexual abuse record that it had developed model child protection policies over the last decade and that its accusers should not stay “fossilised in the past” when attitudes were different. He said that the “culture of the time” in the 1960s and 1970s viewed such offenders as people who could be treated psychologically rather than as criminals, but this was a mistake, and it is all in the past.’  (more)

The Fisherman Reinvented (The rise of the monarchical papacy)
Extracted, with permission, from author David Timbs, Originally published June 2012 in then rewritten and republished in  OMG, April, 2014 (full version here). Friday 16 May 2014 is worthwhile noting some perceptions about the Catholic Church especially from active members. Perceptions are important because whether they are founded or not, they have the potential to make or break individuals or organisations. In the Westminster system of government for example, leaders and governing parties can sometime fall on perceptions.

Some of these more dangerous perceptions are: that the  Fisherman has usurped the role of the Master who originally called him; that Peter has now become the Christ figure, that he calls and names other apostles, not Christ; that the papacy and the institutional Church has been so confected that it is promoted as coextensive with the Kingdom of God; that a toll of instruction, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, has been elevated to a doctrinal rank higher than the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council; that the Holy Spirit has been domesticated and reduced to the slave of ideology and indoctrination; that the Code of Canon Law has been promoted to a principal guide book for those called to lead as priest, prophet and sanctifier and that,  finally, the Gospel itself is now become stripped of its power to confront, challenge, subvert and transform its own servant, the Church itself (more).

Feminism In Faith: Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s Challenge To The Vatican
Extract from Jamie L. Manson first published 7 March 2014 in BuzzFeed, Friday 16 May 2015

Widely considered one of the architects of Catholic feminist theology, the 72-year-old nun and professor has often clashed with institutional leaders — including the future pope — in her fight for equality in the clergy.
 “You say Mary is too passive, Isn’t obedience the greatest virtue?”
This was one of 40 questions sent to Elizabeth Johnson by a cardinal when she was up for a tenure-track position at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. A respected scholar for decades, Johnson found her application rubber-stamped by every committee within the school, yet still needed approval from the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Given that she had written an article questioning the traditional view of Mary as humble and obedient, further rubber-stamping was not guaranteed. The cardinal interrogating her was Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI (more).   Photo: BuzzFeed

Despite ban, US abuser priest remained in ministry for 10 years
Edited extract from Dan Morris-Young, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 15 May 2014

The Seattle archdiocese has been harshly criticized for not publicly releasing the name of a priest removed from ministry a decade ago for the sexual exploitation of a teen. The priest then socialized with parishioners and performed occasional baptisms, weddings and funerals despite his removal until his past recently came to the attention of some parishioners. The former chair and vice chair of the board that reviewed sexual abuse allegations in 2004 has leveled unvarnished reproof. That case review board urged the archdiocese to make public (the priest's) identity and offenses. "The investigation's documents, dating to 2004 and which the archdiocese has refused to make public, would reveal that a 17-year-old boy involved with ... (The Priest) was passed among the priest and friends, according to multiple sources," wrote Joel Connelly in a blog post Monday for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, an online newspaper. A May statement from the archdiocese said that now-retired Archbishop Alexander Brunett had gone against the review board's recommendation to release Quigg's name "because of the determination that the sexual contact did not involve a minor" and "(the priest's) request to respect his privacy." (more)

Church is behind the times and needs to support failed marriages, UK laity tell bishops
Extract fromn Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 15 May 2014

Catholics in England and Wales have called on the bishops of England and Wales to find ways to support marriages that have broken down and to stop being “behind the times.” They have done so in responses to a questionnaire issued in the lead up to this year’s family synod in Rome, according to Cardinal Vincent Nichols. The cardinal told a press conference on 9 May that during last week’s bishops’ conference meeting in Leeds members had discussed Catholics’ responses to the questionnaire. He said that he had been struck by one response that stated: “The Church needs to uphold marriage but create space for where it fails.” He said this “captures the heart” of how the Church must respond during the synod process. Cardinal Nichols revealed that one respondent had said the Church is “behind the times” in its teaching while another advised the hierarchy: “Don’t judge, teach”. He added: “This is an appeal to us to accompany people very sensitively. That spells out very clearly that we are all on a continuing journey and we need teachers.” Catholics in England and Wales were asked for their thoughts in a survey which included questions on communion for divorced and remarried persons, same-sex couples and teaching on contraception, although the findings remain unpublished. The first of the two synods will take place in Rome in October and bishops will analyse the responses to the survey. The second, due to take place in October 2015, will seek to establish guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family. The cardinal warned that it would not be “a speedy process about one or two key issues” (more).

Information on Petition concerning Fr Patrick Lawson in Scotland
Wednesday 14 May 2014

Cath FR has been invited by to make website visitors aware of a Petition prepared in support of Fr Patrick Lawson who was reportedly removed from his office for his public allegations concerning his own sexual abuse within the Church in Scotland. Based on details provided a link to this information is provided on the Petitions page for consideration. Whilst not having firsthand knowledge of the facts the issue as reported appears to relate to our work on dysfunctional Church governance and lack of accountability.

Church welcomes Vic govt response to abuse inquiry report
Extracts from Catholic News, Friday 9 May 2014

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, has welcomed the release of the Victorian Government’s Response to the Parliamentary report into the Handling of Child Sexual Abuse. But victims groups have demanded the government do more, reports AAP in The Australian. Archbishop Hart said in a statement yesterday: 'We welcome the Government’s Response, and believe that the three themes of prevention, response and access to justice are important priorities in preventing further abuse and supporting victims. We are pleased that the Government has supported the recommendations made by the Inquiry, which we supported when its Report was issued last November. 'The minimum child safe standards, the reportable conduct scheme and the expansion of the Working with Children Check requirements are valuable reforms and we look forward to their implementation.'We also support the legislative amendments that have created a new offence of grooming and those that are underway to require that allegations of child abuse be reported and to create a new offence of child endangerment.' (more) Photo:Cathnews

No limits for sex abuse claims in Victoria
Extract from John Ferguson, The Australian, Friday 9 May 2014

THE statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse claims will be overhauled in Victoria, opening the floodgates for claims against institutions and perpetrators. The Napthine government yesterday announced it would rewrite the archaic and restrictive civil law provisions that have enabled lawyers to limit or even block compensation claims.

Kieran Tapsell’s “Potiphar’s Wife”
Extract from John Mendaue Pearls & Irritations,Thursday 8 May 2014 (read full article here)

In this book by Kieran Tapsell which is to be launched on May 27 we can learn about canon law and secrecy in the Vatican, particularly in relation to sexual abuse. Kieran Tapsell has been a guest blogger on these issues on this site. John Menadue. For 1500 years, the Catholic Church accepted that clergy who sexually abused children deserved to be stripped of their status as priests and then imprisoned. A series of papal and Council decrees from the twelfth century required such priests to be dismissed from the priesthood, and then handed over to the civil authorities for further punishment. That all changed in 1922 when Pope Pius XI issued his decree Crimen Sollicitationis that created a de facto ‘privilege of clergy’ by imposing the ‘secret of the Holy Office’ on all information obtained through the Church’s canonical investigations. If the State did not know about these crimes, then there would be no State trials, and the matter could be treated as a purely canonical crime to be dealt with in secret in the Church courts (More).

Next item on the Catholic reform agenda
Extract from Michael Kelly SJ. Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website  2 May 2014 (read full article here)

This is a time of reform in the Church. Everyone who bothers to look, from average Catholics around the world to the cardinals who elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio to become Pope Francis, knows the Church is in strife and in need of a lot of work to render it an effective means to the end it serves: to proclaim the Gospel and serve God’s people. First steps are being taken to fix a dysfunctional Vatican. But some of the big-ticket items for the wider Church won’t be fixed as quickly. Many of them are pastoral and require cultural change as much as administrative amendments. And as anyone with experience in changing the culture of an organization will attest, that type of change is the slowest in coming. It will start in October with an issue that is perhaps the single most undeclared but neuralgic item in the Church’s life; also the one that frequently triggers the departure of otherwise observant Catholics from the Church: divorce and remarriage (more).

A step forward for married men is a giant step backward for women
Extract from Janie Mason, National Catholic Reporter, Wednesday 30 April 2014

Earlier this month, yet another stunning headline came out of the Vatican. "Pope says married men could be ordained -- if world's bishops agree," read The Tablet of London. But this latest news did not come directly from the mouth of Pope Francis. The message was relayed by Bishop Erwin Kräutler of the Xingu diocese in the Brazilian rainforest. In an interview with the Salzburger Nachrichten, Kräutler, an Austrian-born priest who has served as bishop of Xingu since 1981, said Francis showed openness to ordaining married men, or viri probati. Kräutler claimed that during a private audience with Francis, "the Pope explained that he could not take everything in hand personally from Rome. We local bishops, who are best acquainted with the needs of our faithful, should be corajudos, that is 'courageous' in Spanish, and make concrete suggestions." (more)

The Francis Effect: Joy and Fresh Hope? 
Peter Wilkinson, Talk to Spirituality in the Pub Meeting, Sandringham, 23 April 2014

This paper may be downloaded from the Documents page  (document 20)

Vatican says reform process will take longer than expected
Extract from CathNews, Wednesday 30 April 2014

In its previous meetings, the council has reviewed the work of Vatican congregations with much emphasis on reforming financial structures. The council will now shift its attention to studying the Vatican's 12 pontifical councils, a Vatican statement said yesterday. 'The work to be done is still much, so it should not be expected that it will be completed in the current year, but in the following,' the Vatican statement said regarding the work of the Council of Cardinals, which is meeting for the fourth time Monday through Wednesday at the Vatican. Francis established the council last year to 'study a project of revision' of the Vatican's bureaucracy, appointing eight separate cardinals from six continents to advise him. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga is the group's coordinator; Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley is its only participant from the United States. The work of the council has raised much speculation over how Francis will reform the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia (more). Photo: CathNews

The peacemaker pope
Extracts from Bruce Duncan, Eureka Street, 23 April 2014 (read full article here)

Quite striking is the similarity between the warm response to Pope John XXIII half a century ago and to Pope Francis today. Both aroused enormous interest and broke through the gilded cage of outdated conventions and stereotyped expectations. Both stepped over barriers of ideology or religion to evoke bonds of a common humanity committed to promoting the wellbeing of all people, especially the poor and marginalised. The contexts were of course quite different.....Like Francis, John XXIII faced opposition by more conservative people in the Vatican Curia and beyond. But he was determined to lead the Church forward, gently but firmly, opening Catholics to fresh ways of recognising the good in every person, in cultures and other religious traditions. Francis is endeavouring to follow a like path, though this time in the context of competing forms of capitalism struggling to manage gross inequalities in living standards and life opportunities, at the same time as global warming dangerously threatens a sustainable future for the human race.  Image: Eureka Street.

in defence of Cardinal Pell
Extract from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 21 April 2014

I write to defend Cardinal Pell in the wake of Elizabeth Farrelly's claim in the Fairfax press that Pell, when appearing before Justice McClellan at the Royal Commission, proposed a 'priestly child abuse insurance scheme' and that 'if you wanted to maximize the damage already done to countless children, you'd be hard put to find a
surer way or crueler'. I am a Catholic priest, a Jesuit, but I have never been on Cardinal Pell's Christmas Card list. It got to the stage a couple of years ago that he gratuitously published the observations that 'part of the key to understanding Brennan is that he's really not well educated in the Catholic tradition — in Catholic theology' and that for the Jesuits, Jesus 'has been almost displaced by (their) enthusiasm for social  justice'. He is not one of my fans, and neither am I one of his. But I think Farrelly has unfairly kicked him  when he is down. More importantly she has muddied the waters about what is a critical issue for the victims of  child sexual abuse suffered within institutions, including the Catholic Church....(more).   . Eureka Street.

Family life survey findings must be kept under wraps, Vatican cardinal told England and Wales bishops
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, Thursday 16 April 2014

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has faced down criticism of its refusal to release the findings of a marriage and family survey by revealing it had been requested to keep the results secret by a Vatican cardinal. Mgr Marcus Stock, the General Secretary of the bishops’ conference, has explained that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri wrote to Cardinal Vincent Nichols asking that the summary not be made public. The Church in England and Wales led the way when it decided to put online a questionnaire ahead of a synod on marriage and family life; 16,500 filled out the survey which included questions on communion for divorced and remarried, church teaching on artificial contraception and same-sex marriage. But the bishops’ conference has refused to release the findings despite the fact that other episcopal conferences – such as the Germans and Swiss – have done so. This month, A Call to Action (Acta), wrote to the bishops urging them to publish the findings of the survey (more). Photo:Cardinal Baldisseri, CNS/Massimiliano Migliorato

Pope Asks for Forgiveness — Martin E. Marty
Extract from The Martin Martin Center, Divinity School, The University of Chicago, 14 April 2014 (read full article here)

Holy Week in the Western Christian calendar is a time for Christians to confess their sins, ask for forgiveness, and seek to amend their lives. A billion believers will be doing all that in the five days ahead. Some may do it in their churches, some in other places of their choosing, and more in their own heads and hearts. Leaders of many different churches are encouraging their fellow-believers to ask God and other humans for forgiveness. One of these leaders made headlines this week because of his extraordinary role, gifts, status, character, and celebrity. Thus: “Pope Takes Responsibility for Priests’ Abuse Scandal” (New York Times, April 11) and “Pope Asks Forgiveness for Priest Abuse Cases” (Reuters, April 11) (more)

Pope Francis makes boldest comments yet on sex abuse crisis
Extract from Belief,  11 April 2014

Pope Francis has taken another bold step in his rhetoric of reform, this time remarking on the clergy abuse crisis, raising the bar of expectations on just how he plans to confront a deeply systemic crisis. According to the Vatican press office, the pope in meeting with a French advocacy group International Catholic Child Bureau made his most forceful statement yet on the scandals that have jolted the church since the 1980s: “I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests — large in number, but not in proportion to the total — have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they've done with the sexual abuse of children." Benedict and John Paul II made apologetic statements, though neither alluded to a structural response, as Francis did today: “We don’t want to take a step backward with this problem and with the sanctions that must be imposed,” he said. He continued: "On the contrary, I believe we must be very strong. You don't play with children's lives!" The precise nature of those sanctions has yet to be revealed, but the overriding problem for years has been the de facto immunity for cardinals and bishops. Under the canon law system, Vatican tribunals, many of them run by cardinals and bishops, deal with internal church affairs (more).

Pope 'open minded' about ordaining married men
Extract from Catholic News, Friday 11 May 2014

A bishop who met with Pope Francis in a rare private audience last week has said in an interview that the two men discussed the issue of the ordination of 'proven' married men – viri probati – in a serious and positive way, reports The Tablet. Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest, spoke to the Pope about Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment, and the treatment of indigenous peoples but the desperate shortage of priests in the Bishop’s huge diocese came up in the conversation. According to an interview which the Austrian-born bishop gave to the daily Salzburger Nachrichten on April 5, the Pope was open-minded about finding solutions to the problem, saying that bishops’ conferences could have a decisive role. 'The Pope explained that he could not take everything in hand personally from Rome. We local bishops, who are best acquainted with the needs of our faithful, should be corajudos, that is "courageous" in Spanish, and make concrete suggestions,' he explained (more). Photo: Cathnews

An engaged laity demands answers on finances, abuse
Extracts from Editorial, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 10 April 2014

This issue brings together two strains of church life that NCR has been tracking for some 30 years: the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and the finances of dioceses. It is in these two areas that church leaders are at their most vulnerable. The sexual abuse of minors by clergy and the subsequent cover-up by those in the church leadership structure have sapped the hierarchy of much of its moral authority. Many times, the church has seemed to be moving on from the immediacy of that crisis, and then something happens -- a priest in Newark, N.J., who is supposed to be on restricted ministry is found on youth retreats, or leaders in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese ignore their own guidelines and the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People -- and we are plunged headlong back into that morass.The unprecedented appointment of the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors should have been greeted with jubilation -- a commission of experts with direct access to the pope is something that could not have been imagined even three years ago. Instead, the announcement comes with many unanswered questions: Who will lead the commission? Where will it fit in the Vatican bureaucracy? What is its exact mandate? Sources have been telling NCR since December that this commission would be decisive in answering concerns of victim advocates, particularly in producing procedures to censure bishops who violate church law on clergy sex abuse. What could have been a watershed moment has done little to assuage critics. It is more than an opportunity wasted. It is the surest sign yet of the tremendous resistance that Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals are meeting inside the church bureaucracy...........The times have changed. An educated and engaged laity is demanding answers and accountability. There can be no going back (more).

The canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII – an event of telling significance.
Extract from Michael Kelly SJ. Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue Blog, 9 April 2014

Pope Francis may need some help from Our Lady The Untier Of Knots. On April 27, we will witness an event that will tell us more about what to make of Papa Francesco and what to expect in his papacy. He will canonize on the same day both Popes John Paul II and John XXII. Each represents contrasting styles and records as Bishops of Rome: John XIII who convoked the Vatican Council and opened up the Church; John Paul II who stiffened and straightened the Church when some thought it was out of control (more).

 ANALYSIS: Pope Francis’ plan for reform: Convert the church
Extract from David Gibson, Religion News Service, Saturday 5 April 2014 Read full article here)

As Pope Francis approaches the one-year mark of his papacy, his global flock and a fascinated public are starting to measure the changes he is making against the sky-high hopes for transforming an institution many thought impervious to change. Every personnel move and every new proposal is being scrutinized for what it might indicate about the direction of the church, what it might augur about possible adjustments to church teaching and whether the aspirations of so many will be fulfilled — or frustrated. But as important as such structural and policy moves can be, church leaders and Vatican insiders say the 77-year-old Francis is really focused on a more ambitious (and perhaps more difficult) goal: overhauling and upending the institutional culture of Catholicism. Francis, they say, is bent on converting the church, as it were, so that the faith is positioned to flourish in the future no matter who follows him to the throne of St. Peter (more). Photo Sally Morrow

Cleaning up the post-George Pell parish in Sydney
Notice of an article by Elizabeth Farrelly published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 3 April 2014

The above-titled opinion piece passionately argues that Cardinal Pell's suggestion to insure priests again being sued for Child Sexual Abuse is a further denial of Christianity and a revealing confirmation of primary intent to protect a church rather than care or take responsibility for victims. Read the article here

Abuse scandal cost US Church $120m last year
Extract from CathNews, Wednesday 2 April 2014

The clerical abuse scandal cost American dioceses nearly $A120 million last year, according to a report released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reports Catholic Culture/Ucanews. Of the total of $A117,845,453, only 62% of those funds were allotted to settlements ($66 million) and therapy for abuse victims ($6.6 million). The remaining funds were spent on attorneys’ fees ($31.3 million), support for offenders ($11.3 million), and other costs ($2.6 million), according to the 2013 Report on the Implementation of the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People, released on March 28. The clerical abuse scandal cost religious institutes an additional $15,590,273 in 2013. These expenses brought the total cost of the clerical abuse scandal to American dioceses and religious institutes between 2004-12 to $2.9m: $2.5m for dioceses and eparchies, and over $400,000 for religious institutes. The report added that dioceses, eparchies, and religious orders spent $44m for child protection efforts in 2013 (more).

USCCB's clergy sex abuse audit finds decline but 'major' limitations
Extract from Joshua J McElwee, 1 April 2014

The yearly audit of U.S. Catholic dioceses' compliance with national measures to report and prevent clergy sexual abuse found a decline in the number of reported cases of abuse from July 2012 to June 2013 but also cited concerns about the limited scope of the auditors' abilities. Of particular concern are four dioceses that would not allow any audits to take place and the fact that "most" dioceses do not allow or conduct audits of parishes or schools, where most reporting of abuse is thought to occur, the auditors write. During the finding period -- July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013 -- 857 survivors of clergy sexual abuse reported 936 allegations of abuse in 191 dioceses, the audit reports, a decline from the 921 survivors who reported abuse in the previous audit period (more).

Pray that victims can forgive and, finally, heal
Extract from Fr. Greg Baker, Opinions, The Age, Tuesday 1 April 2014

Some good may yet flow from Cardinal Pell's evidence to the royal commission (''Pell rethink on abuse claims to cost church''......(more)

Some comments arising from the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission
Saturday 29 March 2014, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website

1) "Pell’s business strategy in tatters"- by Kieran Tapsell (here).
2) "Farewell to Pell"  - by Chris Geraghty (here)

Cardinal Pell rethink on abuse claims
Extract from Aisha Dow, Catherine Armitage, The Age, Friday 28 March 2014

Cardinal George Pell has opened the door to hundred of millions of dollars in payments for victims of child sex abuse by members of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Pell has reportedly agreed that the controversial $75,000 cap on payments under the Melbourne Response should be removed and old cases reassessed in line with Australian civil claim standards. He made the comments to the parents of two abuse victims, Chrissie and Anthony Foster, in a rare meeting held after his final appearance at the child sex abuse royal commission (more).

State forces Church back to its mission basics
Extract from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, Thursday 27 March 2014

Prior to Cardinal Pell's appearance before Justice McClellan at the Child Abuse Royal Commission, I wrote in the Fairfax press: ‘The spotlight on the Ellis case should lead to better church administration for the good of everyone, especially those abused or wronged by those in authority. Together, Pell and McClellan can provide us with a better-lit path through the thickets of past abuse and maladministration.’ It has been an excruciating week or two.  But there can be no doubt that the Australian Catholic Church with the forced scrutinies of the State has been assisted in getting back to its mission and basic values, espousing truth, justice, compassion and transparency. As an institution, we have been dragged kicking and screaming........(more).    Image: Eureka Street

Cardinal George Pell issues formal apology to abuse victim John Ellis
Extract from AAP, The Australian, 27 March 2014

Cardinal George Pell has ended his appearance before a royal commission into child sexual abuse with a formal apology to the victim of a paedophile priest. However Dr Pell read out the formal apology to John Ellis without once looking at the former altar boy, even though he was sitting just metres away. Dr Pell said that, speaking personally, the church had failed Mr Ellis and that as the former archbishop of Sydney he took ultimate responsibility for the suffering and the terrible impact on his life. “At the end of this gruelling appearance for both of us at this royal commission, I want to publicly say sorry to him for the hurt caused him by the mistakes made,” Dr Pell said.  (full report here)

Prominent cardinals oppose reform-minded Kasper on treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics
Extract from  Elena Curti, Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Michael Sean Winters, The Tablet, Thursday 27 March 2014

Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow communion for remarried divorcees was given a negative reception from most of his confreres at last month’s consistory according to an Italian journalist. In an article for the Turin daily, La Stampa, last Monday, Marco Tosatti says that Cardinal Kasper’s plan was greeted with a storm of criticism. In his address to the consistory on 22 February, the German cardinal argued that Catholic divorcees who remarry should, after a period of atonement, be allowed to seek re-admittance to the sacraments. Tosatti claims the vast majority of cardinals who spoke in the subsequent discussion criticised the proposal. (more)   Photo: Cardinal Kasper in St Peter's Square, CNS

Cardinal George Pell regrets legal strategy used against victim John Ellis
Extract from Damien Murphy The Age, 26 March 2014

......Cardinal Pell, as Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, had sanctioned a legal strategy that refused to recognise Mr Ellis had been abused, offered him derisory financial compensation and refused his offers of a settlement in the belief it would cause a rush of litigants demanding compensation payouts and subjected him to a long, demeaning legal case that left him bankrupt. Cardinal Pell: ''I regret that.''. Ms Furness: ''Only regret, Cardinal?''...... (full report here)

See, Judge and Act: reading the signs of the times.
Extract from presentations by retired Bishop Pat Power on 24 March at Cowra as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations for St Raphael’s parish and on 25 March at a SIP in Bathurst.Wednesday 26 March 2014

(Read full report here, or on Documents page)........Many Catholics believed that the Church was becoming too comfortable, too respectable yet up until the election of Pope Francis, they felt that nobody was listening to their concerns. Groups calling for reform are regularly dismissed as trouble-makers with little love for the Church when in fact their hearts are breaking for the Church which they see as drifting further away from the message of Jesus. Maybe it has taken the present crisis in the Church to bring us all to our senses. Pope Francis’ willingness to listen and his experience as a very human pastor give us all great hope, but even the Pope recognises the forces which are trying to maintain the status quo.......... Photo: ABC

Cardinal Pell wants state to decide damages
Edited extracts from Catherine Armitage, The Age, Tuesday 25 March 2014

During his evidence to the child Sexual abuse royal commission yesterday Cardinal George Pell called on the Federal Government to establish an independent body to recommend what damages should be paid to child abuse victims. He suggested that the Catholic Church should create a corporate legal entity that victims could sue and that abusive priests should be insured against neig sued for sexual abuse. He also said that both the Church's Towards Healing Protocol for dealing with sex abuse victims and  the Melbourne Response set up in the 1990s failed to meet the church's moral responsibility towards victims. He said that the attitude of some people in the Vatican in the 1990s was that accusations against priests were ''were being made exclusively or at least predominantly by enemies of the church to make trouble". (more)

Collision between church and state
Edited Extract from Damien Murphy, The Age, Tuesday 25 March 2014

Church and state have been circling each other for centuries.  Cardinal, George Pell, had his own difficulties separating church and state before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Monday.....The cardinal turned himself from a man of God into a man of law. After 4½ hours, the questioning was beginning to touch on the difference between moral and legal responsibility and the 73-year-old, till recently Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, had begun to be probed about why he had not settled with a man, John Ellis, who was abused by his Bass Hill parish priest for nearly 10 years (more).

Vatican names victim Marie Collins on child abuse commission
Extract from ABC News (Australia), Sunday 23 March 2014

A former victim of sexual abuse by priests will sit on a new commission created to root out paedophilia in the Catholic Church, the Vatican says. In a statement, Pope Francis revealed the first eight names of officials who will sit on the commission, which was first announced on December 5 last year. Among them is Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor who has been an outspoken campaigner for the rights of victims (more). Photo: Marie Collins, ABC News, AFP Andreas Solaro

Newark archdiocese unveils policy for funerals of priests accused of abuse
Extract from 23 March 2014 (1ST published 17 March 2014)

The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey has announced new policies governing the arrangements for funerals of priests who have been suspended from ministry because of sex-abuse allegations. Funerals for accused priests should not be held in the parishes where the alleged offenses were reported, the archdiocese said. A letter to the priests of the archdiocese explaining the new policy indicating that it was adopted to avoid causing new negative publicity (more).

A Protestant's critique of Pope Francis' first year in office
Extract from Bill Tammeus, National Catholic Reporter, Wednesday 19 March 2014

As our pastor approached the end of his recent sermon series, "Jesus, the Pope and a Protestant Walk into a Bar," he felt obliged to balance all the praise he'd given Pope Francis with at least a short list of his disagreements with the pontiff. So Paul Rock asked several friends, including me, to tell him not what we love about Francis, which is a lot, but what bothers us about his first year in office. I'll share with you what I said to Paul while acknowledging that's not up to us Protestants to tell Catholics how to behave, what to believe or how to organize their ecclesial life. We have enough trouble doing that for ourselves, after all. So here (minus the obvious and consistent Protestant complaint that we still aren't welcome to receive Communion in Catholic churches) was my list (more).

German bishops explore new ‘merciful’ approach on divorce and remarriage
Edited Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, Thursday 20 March 2014

On being elected the new president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich made his strongest statement to date on the need to allow remarried divorcees to receive communion. At the forthcoming Synod on the family in October the German bishops plan to campaign for a more merciful approach to remarried divorcees at the level of the world Church, Cardinal Marx told the press after the election. The bishops will present a paper on marriage as “an alliance and a Sacrament” which also goes into the need for mercy and forgiveness. They will propose a “pastoral way of reconciliation” for remarried divorcees. The final version of this paper will be drawn up when the permanent council of the bishops’ conference meets in April. Already in his sermon at Mass before his election, Marx had spoken of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium and underlined the “explosive force” of mercy. Quoting Blessed Pope John XXIII, he had expressly warned against “prophets of doom”. The faithful “rightfully” expected the Church to accompany those whose marriages had broken down, Cardinal Marx said. “It must be clear that as a Church we say: ‘You are not second-class Christians. There is a chance of a new beginning and we would like to accompany you on this path.’ We must give this approach more positive support and step up our efforts here,” he emphasized. But at the same time he warned against expecting quick solutions. “The difficulties are being underestimated,” he said recalling that this whole question concerned the indissolubility of marriage, which was a central theological issue (more).

Irish bishops' release of survey findings reveals gulf between church teaching and Catholics' real-life experience
Extract from The Tablet, Thursday 19 March March 2014

The Church’s teaching on marriage and family life is disconnected from the real-life experience of many Irish Catholics, the country’s bishops have acknowledged. Giving a summary of the responses to the Vatican questionnaire, the Irish Bishops Conference said it is not experienced by many Catholics as “realistic, compassionate or life-enhancing”. Many respondents expressed “particular difficulties” with the teachings on extra-marital sex and cohabitation by unmarried couples, divorce and remarriage, family planning, assisted human reproduction and homosexuality. Some found the Church’s position on these issues left them feeling “guilty and excluded,” the bishops said. The leadership of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) welcomed the bishops’ decision to release the summary, saying if people are asked for their opinion, it is important that the results be made known. The group said it was “now beyond dispute” that there was a serious gap or disconnect between official church teaching on family, relationships and sexuality and Catholics’ beliefs and practice. It suggested that the laity, clergy and bishops should come together and search for ways for bridge this gap. The bishops underlining that they had a responsibility to present the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family faithfully and in a positive and engaging way. But they admitted it must be done in a way that showed compassion and mercy towards those finding it difficult to accept or live the teachings (more).

Trials of a recalcitrant priest
Extract from Frank O'Shea, Eureka Street, Tuesday 18 March 2014

Let us talk about Catholic priests. Consider especially those who are now in their 60s, after a life of service to their church. They were seminarians in the heady days of Vatican II when everything seemed possible. They managed to survive the aftermath of was Humanae Vitae and continued to preach and counsel, to lead the sacred rites and to be faithful leaders of their flocks. Some have directed retreats or preached parish missions; others have ministered to the young in schools and youth clubs; all have lived by the dictum that service to the least — the poor and mentally ill, the prisoners and prostitutes, the homeless and the addicted — is service to their god. But while their life has been exemplary, they cannot help being stained by association with those who have disgraced their calling (more).

Catholicism in Australia: Demographics, scandal underlie tectonic shifts
Extract from Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter, Monday 17 March 2014

........In nearly two weeks of travel in and around Melbourne and Sydney last November, I conducted interviews and had conversations with dozens of church members, workers, officials and a variety of other observers. Though those encounters represent only a sliver of the vast and diverse reality of Australian Catholicism, some elements of church life about which there appears to be broad consensus came clear:

  •  The church has changed, in some ways dramatically, during the past 50 years in terms of its structure, membership and certain levels of leadership.
  • One of the most significant changes here as in other Western cultures is the drop in recent decades in the number of priests and sisters.
  • Concurrently, there has been a remarkable growth in the numbers of laypeople trained and stepping in to lead elements of the institution where once only the vowed or ordained were permitted.
  • Similar to the demographic shifts experienced in the United States, Catholic numbers in Australia are being buoyed primarily by a surge in immigration. Here, the newcomers are from places like the Philippines, Vietnam and India (more).

Pope Francis plays an adroit game
Extracts from Analysis, Robert Blair Kaiser, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 13 March 2014

From his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter's on March 13, 2013, we could see Pope Francis was trying to demythologize the imperial papacy. Instead of blessing the people below, he asked them to bless (and pray for) him. He did not refer to himself as "the pope" but as "the bishop of Rome," a far less pretentious and ecclesiologically correct title. He wore a simple metal cross on his breast, not a gold one. In short, it appeared he was stepping off the papal throne, presenting himself as he finally admitted in last week's interview with Corriere della Sera: "The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone -- a normal person."...........We happen to believe Pope Francis did not intend in his interview with Corriere della Sera to simply bury the fact unearthed by the synod's questionnaire that a preponderant majority of the world's Catholics have not received what still passes for the church's official teaching on birth control. In fact, Pope Francis told Corriere he expected the October synod to take up what many are beginning to recognize as still an open question (more).

Winds of theological change at the Vatican
Extract from Neil Ormerod, Eureka Street, Thursday 12 March 2014

Since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis, there has been an ongoing debate about the aspects of continuity and discontinuity between them. Both men have been respectful and even deferential in their relationships with one another. Still no one can deny the impact Francis has had both internally in the Church and internationally where it seems the media cannot get enough of him. The question remains whether this is a difference in style or in substance. Is he saying the same things but in a more communicative style, or is he actually saying different things? (more) Photo: Eureka Street.

Jury still out on Francis the game-changer
Extracts from Paul Collins, Eureka Street, Thursday 12 March 2014

March is a wet month in Rome. It was raining when Pope Francis was elected on 13 March 2013, and it was pouring raining again when I was back there last week in preparation for his first anniversary.........But nothing seems to dampen media enthusiasm for Francis and his approach to what he calls his role as Bishop of Rome. Catholics committed to the renewal initiated by Vatican II feel that he has given them a new lease of life, and the well-informed, Rome-based journalist Robert Mickens, who writes for The Tablet, told me that Francis has already come 'too far' to retreat now to a more cautious stance..........The lesson here is that Francis will be nothing more than a flash in the pan if church structures are not changed. Sure, he has set up his 'Gang of Eight' cardinals to advise him on reform of the Vatican. But so far they have focused on cleaning up the Vatican Bank and the financial structures of the curia. While financial accountability is important, this is scarcely central to the proclamation of the Gospel, or a realisation of Vatican II ecclesiology..........The greatest danger we face is that we expect too much from Francis. Never forget that he is an Argentinean male. Sure, as Paul Vallely's excellent book Pope Francis: Untying the Knots shows he has undergone a genuine conversion to humility, a kind of simplicity, human warmth, directness, honest speech and 'looking at reality from the point of view of the poor' as Vatican-watcher Alessandro Speciale describes it.........But Francis is neither a progressive nor a reactionary. Essentially he brings a new perspective that has little to do with the preoccupations of the developed world. We shouldn't kid ourselves that he is a closet progressive (more).

Fundamental flaws in the Synod on the Family
Extract from Dr Astrid Lobo Gajwala, Mumbai,, 11 March 2014

The Extraordinary Synod on the Family scheduled for October has captured the attention of the faithful like no other synod. Simply because this time the bishops will be discussing an issue on which the laity are experts. The enthusiasm of the “laity” is plain to see from the numbers of user-friendly surveys that have spun off from the Vatican questionnaire addressed to the bishops last October. As the Catholic Organizations for Renewal, a US-basedpartnership of 15 Catholic groups observed in a letter to their bishops, “individual Catholics are hungry to make their voices heard”. However, a two-day meeting held on February 20 and 21 to discuss the Church’s pastoral approach to the family was exclusively for cardinals. One can only hope that in the run up to the synod, there will be more consultations that includerepresentatives of families to provide inputs and insights. My own reading of the questionnaire found two critical lacunae. As a woman functioning in an interfaith family for the past 25 years in a subcontinent where women form the anawim - or “poor ones” - vulnerable, exploited, marginalized, I felt excluded. I found no attempt to elicit information about the status of women in the family, a factor so crucial to the health of the family (more). Photo:

Eric Hodgens. Sydney’s next bishop – what sort?
Extract from Erik Hodgens, Pearls & Irritations, (John Menadue Blog), Tuesday 11 March 2014 
                                                                              What should we look for in a bishop for Sydney in these changing times?   A Christian. One committed to Jesus’ message of love, forgiveness and compassion. One who holds that the Church is not just the hierarchy, but the People of God on a journey.
A citizen of the world. One who, while suspicious of all “isms” including secularism and pluralism, loves the world’s secularity and plurality. One who sees this non-confessional culture as an ideal setting for proclaiming a message of hope and salvation amid the reality of sadness, loss, sickness, poverty and death. One who wants the believer’s response to be free, not enforced by state or tribe.
A believer. Ideologues subscribe to platforms. Believers commit themselves to movements. Sydney needs a believer, not an ideologue. Ideologues have closed minds. Believers are self-critical and open to discussion – even change of mind. Ideologues like things to remain the same. Believers stay in contact with contemporary culture and know that all things are changing. As the cultural context changes they must recontextualize or die. They change their habits to maximise values........(more).

The Pope's Bottom-up Revolution
Extracts from Rob Kall,  10 March 2013

Change is in the air. It almost feels like a miracle. With these kinds of things going on, it's reasonable to believe that almost any kinds of positive change can be achieved.........I've often used the Catholic Church as an example of an ancient hierarchical organization. Now it looks like Pope Francis is engaging in a collection of reforms that amount to a bottom-up revolution-- actively confronting hierarchy AND centralization. This is huge. It's huge for the Catholic Church, but, because of the size and reach of the church and its deep, deep effect upon cultures, even non Catholic and non-Christian ones, it also portends seismic changes that will affect the rest of the world-- and further contribute to the multitude of ways that the bottom-up revolution is changing the face of humanity.  In his article,  Pope Francis' Reforms For The Catholic Church May Be Bigger Than Anyone Dreamed, David Gibson says, the Pope is working on " ambitious (and perhaps more difficult) goal: overhauling and upending the institutional culture of Catholicism."  Gibson doesn't characterize the changes the Pope is instituting as bottom-up, but they fit the profile very closely.......I'll say it again. Change is in the air. It almost feels like a miracle. With these kinds of things going on, it's reasonable to believe that almost anything can be achieved (full article here).

After a conclave that demanded reform, a year of 'fresh air'
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 8 March 2014

.............One year later, Bergoglio's reform is turning out to be much deeper and wider than most, if not all, of his electors had anticipated. England's Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor put it this way: "We all wanted change and reform, but I don't think any of us expected so much fresh air!"..........His reform is first and foremost a spiritual one. He aims at a conversion of hearts and minds, a change of attitudes, on the part of all who work in the Vatican and in positions of responsibility in the church. At morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican hostel where he lives, Francis delivers challenging, Scripture-based homilies that are the soul of his spiritual-cultural revolution. The Jesuit pope is not simply advocating reform by words, he is propelling it forward by the striking example of his own humble, prayerful lifestyle, his preferential option for the poor, his vision of an inclusive church "that is poor and for the poor," his promotion of "a culture of encounter" and "rejection of a culture of confrontation," and his effort to discern what the Spirit is saying to the church...........Indeed, he is moving from a monarchical style of church governance to a more collegial mode. "Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church's life and her missionary outreach," he wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, calling for a "pastoral conversion" of "the central structures of the universal church."...(more)     Photo: CNS/L'sservatore Romano via Reuters

National Catholic Reporter Letter to Pope Francis
Extract from NCR Editorial Thursday 6 March 2014

"Last year on Holy Thursday, you shook up and inspired the world by attending to and washing the feet of young prisoners in Rome. We implore you to turn the world’s focus this Holy Thursday on a healing service for victims of sexual abuse by priests. Listen to their stories. Wash their feet. Unless this deep wound is attended to in a loving and understanding way — unless the world’s pastor is able to attend compassionately to this horrible injustice within his own family — the wound will only continue to fester and dwarf all the other pastoral and institutional reforms you have initiated." (more)

Pope sees scope for ‘kindness’ and pastoral response to contraception ban
Extract from The Tablet, Wednesday 5 March 2014

Pope Francis has said that the church leadership needs to “take into account people’s situations” and their ability to adhere to the ban on artificial contraception. A wide-ranging interview with the editor-in-chief of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Ferruccio de Bortoli, is published today. Francis praises Paul VI, who authored the encyclical Humanae Vitae, for defending “moral discipline" but when asked if the Church should rethink its ban on contraception, he replied: “It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended that confessors show great kindness and attention to specific situations.” He added: “The question is not that of changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that which it is possible for people to do.”  He added that the subject would be discussed at October’s Synod of bishops on the Family (more).

Where do bishops come from?
Extract from Eric Hodgens, Pearls and Irritations (John Menadue blog), Wednesday 5 March 2014

Sydney needs a new archbishop who has every chance of becoming a cardinal once Cardinal Pell turns 80. How do we get a new bishop? The pope will appoint one. Since 1917 he has claimed the right to do so. History is not on the side of that claim – but that is another story (more).

Cardinal tells of new Vatican role
Extracts from George Cardinal Pell, The Catholic weekly, 5 March 2014
Most people have not heard much about the Roman Curia, the civil service in the Vatican, but Catholics are well aware of the scandals which have plagued the Pope’s civil service off and on for some decades.........In the most important decision of his pontificate (after deciding not to live in the Papal apartments) Pope Francis has just announced a far-reaching reform of the Vatican financial system. Most important of all the measures was the decision that these basic policies would not be decided by any individual cardinal, but by a council made up of eight cardinals, and seven senior financial experts, all lay people, from around the world. The involvement of senior non-clerical lay men or women, not as advisers but as full voting members, is an important development for the Church. Such senior business people bring a financial expertise rarely found in cardinals or archbishops. I believe they will prove to be a most effective deterrent to corruption in both the short and long term (more). 

Francis convenes religious institute treasurers for summit on use of money
Extract from Joshua McElwee, Catholic News, Monday 3 March 2014

Pope Francis has asked the treasurers of the thousands of Catholic religious orders around the world to meet in Rome this weekend to discuss how they can use their orders' financial assets "for the service of humanity." The first-of-its-kind summit puts an unusual focus on the wealth of the orders. Last fall Francis pointedly asked leaders of religious orders to reevaluate management of their assets, especially empty monasteries and convents which in recent years have frequently been turned over to non-religious pursuits, such as hotels and restaurants. The event, to be held near the Vatican March 8-9, has not been announced publicly but is expected to draw hundreds of representatives of the estimated 900,000 men and women religious globally. It is to have 15 talks on issues ranging from the use of church property, to financial debts, to economic solidarity. "The economy often plays a defining role in human history and in religious history, and particularly in the culture of this present day," states a letter sent from the Vatican's Congregation for Religious to superiors of orders around the world announcing the meeting. "On the one hand, within this culture, religious men and women are almost induced or forced to be involved in the mechanisms of the laws of modern economics," the letter continues. "On the other hand they are aware that they can run the risk of losing their true identity." (more) Photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

Liberation theology founder gets hero’s welcome at Vatican
Extract from CathNews, Monday 3 March 2014

The Rev Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru was the surprise speaker last Tuesday at a book launch featuring the head of the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller; one of Francis’ top advisers, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga; and the Vatican spokesman. The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent much of his tenure at Mueller’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith battling liberation theology and disciplining some of its most famous defenders, arguing that they had misinterpreted Jesus’ preference for the poor into a Marxist call for armed rebellion. That interpretation was powerfully attractive to many Latin Americans in the 1960s and 1970s who were raised Catholic, taught by Marxist-influenced teachers and outraged by the inequality and bloody repression around them. Gutierrez and his backers insist true liberation theology was always perfectly in line with the Church’s social teaching about the poor, which Francis embraces. Francis wrote the preface of Mueller’s book, Poor for the Poor: The Mission of the Church, which contains two chapters written by Gutierrez. Gutierrez, 85, received a round of applause when the Vatican spokesman noted his presence and another round when he approached the podium to speak about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has had a complicated relationship with liberation theology, clashing with left-leaning members of his Jesuit order who took up its politicized call to confront Argentina’s violent military dictatorship in the 1970s. Nevertheless, Francis fully embraces the call for the Church to have a 'preferential option for the poor (more).

Kasper Changes the Paradigm, Bergoglio Applauds
Extract from Sandro Magister,, Saturday 2 March 2014

Cardinal Kasper's inaugural address at the consistory last week is no longer under lock and key. It has been made public, in a journalistic masterstroke, by the Italian newspaper “Il Foglio" directed by Giuliano Ferrara, which has preempted by far the publication of this same talk in book form by the publisher Queriniana. But that this talk should remain secret had already become nonsensical, after the words with which Pope Francis had honored it on February 21, at the end of the two days of the consistory dedicated to the question of the family:

"Yesterday, before going to sleep - although I did not do this to put myself to sleep - I read or rather re-read the work of Cardinal Kasper, and I would like to thank him because I found profound theology, and even serene thinking in theology. It is pleasant to read serene theology. And I also found what Saint Ignatius told us about, that 'sensus Ecclesiae," love for Mother Church. It did me good and an idea came to me - excuse me, Eminence, if I embarrass you - but the idea is that this is called 'doing theology on one's knees.' Thank you. Thank you."

In the course of his talk, Kasper said that he wanted "only to pose questions” because “a response will be the task of the synod in harmony with the pope.” But to read what he said to the cardinals, his are much more than questions, they are solidly built proposals for a solution. To which Pope Francis has already demonstrated he means to adhere. And they are forceful proposals, a real "paradigm change.” In particular on what Kasper himself maintains to be the problem of problems, communion for the divorced and remarried, to which he dedicated more than half of his two-hour talk (more).   Image:  

Bishops need not be crusaders, but pastors, Francis says
Extracts from Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 27 February 2014 
                                                                                         Pope Francis on Thursday re-emphasized his vision of who should be chosen as Catholic bishops around the world, telling the Vatican office responsible for their selection he wants prelates who are "genuine pastors" and who will "argue with God on behalf of [their] people." In a nearly 3,000-word text to the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, Francis tells the office they should not look for bishops based on any "preferences, likes, or trends" and likewise should not seek prelates who are mainly concerned with doctrinal matters. The church, writes Francis, needs "guardians of doctrine not so as as to measure how far the world is from doctrinal truth but to appeal to the world to charm it with the beauty of love [and] to seduce it with the freedom bestowed by the Gospel.". "The church does not need apologists of its causes nor crusaders of its battles, but sowers humble and confident of the truth, who ... trust of its power," the pontiff continues.......Under the Vatican's process for picking bishops, the papal ambassador, or nuncio, in each country is responsible for compiling a list of names of candidates, called a terna, for openings as they arise. That terna is then submitted to the Congregation for Bishops, whose members vote on the final list to be submitted to the pope..........."A man who lacks the courage to argue with God on behalf of his people can not be bishop - I say this from the heart, I am convinced," he states. Referencing an address he gave to papal nuncios last June -- when the pontiff told them he wanted them to find bishops who are "close to the people, fathers and brothers" -- Francis states: "I repeat that the church needs genuine pastors." (more)

Pope Francis writes to families asking for their prayers ahead of October Synod
Extract from The Tablet, Monday 26 February 2014

"Dear families, With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation”. Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family. This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task" (more).

Catholics for Renewal Inc. Media Release on Cardinal Pell’s Transfer to the Vatican
Extracts from Media Release, Peter Johnstone OAM, Chair, Catholics for Renewal Inc. Tuesday 25 February 2014

Catholics for Renewal welcomes the appointment of Cardinal George Pell to the new Vatican position of Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and his vacating the Archdiocese of Sydney.  Cardinal Pell, who will be 73 in June, was described by the English Catholic magazine The Tablet as “arguably the most conservative” of the eight cardinal advisers to Pope Francis. He headed the Committee that supervised the English translation of the Roman Missal, a translation that was seen by many as failing to engage the people of the Church. It is worth observing that Cardinal Pell’s new economic role is essentially administrative and could be ably filled by many prominent and skilled lay women and men with international reputations in the fields of banking, finance and corporate governance.............Catholics for Renewal sees the selection and appointment of a new Archbishop of Sydney as presenting a valuable opportunity for the people of the Church in Sydney to think carefully about the qualities they want in a new pastor, and to claim a rightful role in the selection process. This is critically important at a time when the Church is facing a crisis of governance and dwindling attendances (full media release here).

Cardinal George Pell named as head of Vatican finances, will relocate to Rome
Extract from ABC News. Tuesday 25 February 2014

Australia's most senior Catholic cleric Cardinal George Pell is to leave his post as Archbishop of Sydney and take on a new role at the Vatican. In the new role, the 72-year-old will be responsible for preparing the Holy See and Vatican's annual budget, as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls. The new ministry is the first decisive action by Pope Francis in the wake of scandals at the Vatican bank. "The Holy Father today announced a new coordination structure for economic and administrative affairs of the Holy See and the Vatican State," it said in a statement. The Vatican said the move followed recommendations made by cardinals advising the Pope, including for a "more formal commitment" to international standards. The changes "will ensure better use of resources, improving the support available for various programs, particularly our works with the poor," it said. It is seen as a plum posting for Cardinal Pell, who will relocate to the Vatican by the end of next month (more).

Intimate encounter with Pope Francis.
CathNews, Monday 24 February 2014

Cath News has published a unique, ad-hoc video message from Pope Francis. It is close-up and personal. It was directed to an American Pentecostal conference by way of his friend, an Evangelical Episcopal Bishop, but relates to everyone. It is the most intimate personal video profile ever recorded by any Pope in history. He does not preach but rather speaks directly and personally with each viewer as a brother or sister in Christ. Spoken in Italian but with English sub-titles Pope Francis begins briefly in English (here)

Extract from Pope Francis Homily at Mass with New Cardinals, Vatican Basilica, Sunday 23 February 2014
Dear brother Cardinals, the Lord Jesus and mother Church ask us to witness with greater zeal and ardour to these ways of being holy. It is exactly in this greater self-gift, freely offered, that the holiness of a Cardinal consists. We love, therefore, those who are hostile to us; we bless those who speak ill of us; we greet with a smile those who may not deserve it. We do not aim to assert ourselves; we oppose arrogance with meekness; we forget the humiliations that we have endured. May we always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the Cross so that we could be “channels” through which his charity might flow. This is the attitude of a Cardinal, this must be how he acts. A Cardinal – I say this especially to you – enters the Church of Rome, my brothers, not a royal court. May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality. May our language be that of the Gospel: “yes when we mean yes; no when we mean no”; may our attitudes be those of the Beatitudes, and our way be that of holiness. Let pray once more: “Merciful Father, by your help, may we be ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit”  (full Homily here)

Synod 'Family' Survey Summary of Responses - Diocese of St Petersburg, USA Sunday 23 February 2014
The U.S. Diocese of St. Petersburg produced a modified (simplified) online Survey and whilst promoting the survey widely received responses from  6815 "adult members of the faithful ". The Diocese has published a detailed analysis of its results, which may be accessed here.

Decline in public trust towards religion in Poland
Extracts from Catholic News, Friday 21 February 2014

The results of a poll by the Warsaw-based CBOS polling agency reveal a significant decline of public trust towards religion in Poland. Poland is still widely considered to be the most Catholic country in Europe. Some 95 per cent of country’s 38 million inhabitants are baptised Catholics, and at least a third of them say they attend Mass weekly....Some 74 per cent of Poles think that religion is not always the source of morality and people should follow their own conscience first, reports The Tablet (more)

I love Pope Francis, I love him not
Extract from Opinion Piece by Kate Childs Graham, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 20 February 2014

I'd wager -- and I think the polls back me up -- that Pope Francis' welcoming spirit makes most people in the pews positively giddy. But then we've got those who sit in the far-right or far-left pews. For these Catholics -- and I'd count myself among them -- our feelings on Pope Francis are complicated and at times conflicted. There have been plenty of reports on far-right Catholics who are finding it difficult to stomach some of the pope's progressive sentiments.  Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said conservative Catholics "generally have not been really happy" since Pope Francis' election. And judging from the actions of some who fall into this bucket, I'd wager that he's right. On one hand, when Pope Francis dispels right-wing ideologies on economics, right-wing Catholics have been quick to wave their hands and say, "Nothing to see here. Pope Francis isn't saying anything new." And if they are really desperate, they have even been known to admit that, when it comes to public policy recommendations, the pope isn't infallible. On the other hand, when Pope Francis says anything that sniffs of prohibiting a woman's right to choose or a woman's place in the priesthood or any of the backward logic this pope has spewed on women's equality, the conservative Catholics are on it, claiming the pontiff as the supreme moral authority. Lefty Catholics have a similar struggle, albeit in the opposite direction. I've experienced this struggle firsthand. I haven't been shy about the fact that I'm a fan of Pope Francis. It is great to have a world leader waxing poetic about issues I care about, particularly economic justice. It's moving to have a pope who doesn't want to judge me for who I am or who I love. It's thrilling to hear friends, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, talk about my church in excited tones instead of scandal-driven groans (more).

Pope tells cardinals to ‘deepen’ theology of family and emphasizes pastoral care
Extract from Robert Mickens and Abigail Fryman, The Tablet, Wednesday 19 February 2014

Pope Francis told the world’s cardinals gathered in Rome this morning that they had to “to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires”. He was introducing as a keynote speaker at the pre-consistory meetings Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has long urged the Vatican to rethink its exclusion of divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving communion. Kasper, 80, the former head of the Vatican’s ecumenical office, is to address the College of Cardinals along with the 19 men, including Westminster Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who are to receive the red hat from the Pope on Saturday. Today and tomorrow the men will take part in two days of wide-ranging talks on issues regarding the family – a broad topic that Pope Francis has asked the Church to ponder ahead of the meeting of the Synod of Bishops in October. Introducing Kasper this morning, Pope Francis cautioned the cardinals against “falling into ‘casuistry’, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work.” “We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties.” He described the family as “the fundamental cell of society” and “an image of the Triune God” because it originated from “the Creator bless[ing] man and woman” (more)

Family Survey: Japanese bishops say Catholics’ minority status challenges faith life
Extract from Barb Frazer, Catholic News Service,, 19 February 2014

Japanese Catholics, less than 1 percent of the country’s population, are challenged to try to live the faith in a nonreligious society, the nation’s bishops said. In their published response to the Vatican survey for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family this fall, the bishops said most Japanese Christians end up marrying non-Christians, which affects how many of them receive the sacrament of marriage, attend Mass or baptize their children. This even affects prayer life, they said: “Because homes where the whole family is Catholic are few, rather than praying as a family, it is more common to pray as individuals.” In the context of marriages of mixed religions, the bishops said, “we must ask what a Christian household and family mean.” “Generally speaking, the transmission of faith to the next generation is difficult,” the bishops said. “Japanese society does not support expressions of faith commitment, and some young people increasingly perceive the church as a club of the elderly.” In a 15-page document published on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, the bishops said that “Christian family life is being overwhelmed by society’s values.” Though children may grow up in a Christian household, they said, “the values they acquire are those of society. Made to dance to the tune of a society that emphasizes study for the sake of fitting in economically, and desiring to not become social outcasts, young people have no leeway to nurture a vocation. This is the greatest crisis for faith that arises in homes.” (more) Photo: Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki, said to be the oldest Christian church in Japan. Picture: Sean Pavone/

What are Asia's bishops telling Rome?
Extract from Fr William Grimm, publisher UCA News (based in Tokyo), Monday 17 February 2014 2014   
                                                               The bishops of the world have started sending Rome their responses to the questionnaire put out by the preparation committee for the Extraordinary Synod on "Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization" that will take place next October. In many countries, bishops have taken the unprecedented step of inviting the participation of the entire local Church in formulating the response. The bishops of the German-speaking countries have recently attracted international attention because their reports make it clear that while the People of God in their countries are committed to the Church, they do not fully understand or accept various teachings that touch upon sex, especially those concerning birth control, remarriage after the failure of a previous marriage and cohabitation before marriage.

As more responses are submitted and made public, we will probably find that the same is true of Catholics in many countries, certainly in the West, though increasingly elsewhere as well. It may be that the Spirit-infused sensus fidelium (consensus of the faithful, laity as well as clergy) is calling for a re-examination of the ways in which we live as sexual people in the Church, even though some of those ways are ancient. The Synod will have to take these attitudes into account, even if ultimately the bishops reject them in part or in toto. Readers of will, of course, be interested in knowing what our bishops in Asia are presenting to Rome in preparation for the Synod. But, will we know? While at least some of Asia’s bishops have already sent their responses to Rome, I am not aware of any bishops’ conference from this continent that has published those responses. It would be a mistake, bad manners and even an injustice not to do so (more).  Ed: Another report suggests that in India Catholics weren't made aware of  the survey.

Thinking Christians spurn hammy creationism
Extract from Chris Middleton, Eureka Street, Monday 17 February 2014

Last week's debate in the US between popular scientist 'the Science Guy' Bill Nye and the Australian-born creationist Ken Ham attracted a live audience of 500,000 on YouTube and much media attention. Ham argues that every human is descended from Adam and Eve, that God created man and all land animals on the same day 6000 years ago, and that there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark. Nye, an agnostic, acknowledged that there is 'no incompatibility between religion and science', but argued that Ham is the exception. 'There are millions in the world who believe in God and accept science,' he noted. The relationship between faith and reason — particularly between faith and science — goes to the credibility of being a Christian in the modern world. It is important that a minority view within Christianity is not allowed to frame a false dichotomy between religion and science. The vast majority of Christians belong to churches that do not share Ham's fundamentalist position against evolution. Catholic theology certainly sees no fundamental conflict between faith and reason. St Anselm wrote a millennium ago 'that faith seeks understanding'. Even earlier, St Augustine wrote: 'I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.' Questioning, philosophical enquiry and searching can all be part of a response in faith and values. Believers are not called to wipe their minds, only to give love primacy, so that at times they will trust in love to carry them when their understanding fails them (more).                                                                                                                                                                     

Bishops publish Swiss pre-synodal survey report                                                                                                                                                         Based on Schweizer Boschopskonferenz report 04.02.2014, Thursday 13 February 2013                                                                                         Further to the German Bishops the Swiss Bishops via the Bishops Conference have also just now publicly published their pre-synodal survey report on their website (in German). Based on over 25,000 respondents it reveals both strong faith plus their clearly expressed need for renewal in relation to family matters. Not only did the Bishops decide to make their report public, they furthermore cut through a great deal of ecclesisatical language to make the document publicly useful.  Responses appear to have much in common with German responses and comes mostly from 'the faithful' more than those who are disenchanted. An English translation of the original German document may be downloaded here.

Pastoral priests decry clerical culture that fostered abuse
Extracts from Pat Power*, Eureka Street 13 February 2014

Recently I led the priests of the Diocese of Ballarat in their annual retreat. I was conscious of the burden these priests were carrying in relation to clerical sexual abuse......Each priest was painfully aware of the terrible harm done to victims of abuse, their families, the wider community and the Church. They spoke of the need for healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and continuing examination of ways to see that the climate in which such abuse was perpetrated would not continue. Later, I had a heart-rending conversation with one of the priests who said 'I am not a paedophile and I am not a bishop, but a priest who feels he is carrying the can for all the sins committed and mistakes made by others.' Most priests believe the Royal Commission or something similar was very much needed to face up to a terrible episode in the Church's history. They also believe that sexual abuse took place in an environment of clericalism which was imposed by the highest authority in the Church, and which they felt powerless to confront. 'Father is always right' operated from the Pope down and any questioning of it was seen as disloyal or even heretical.

One of the most blatant expressions of such clericalism is propagated in an Instruction of the Congregation for the Clergy (the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for overseeing matters regarding priests and deacons not belonging to religious orders), 'On certain questions regarding the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the sacred ministry of the priest'. This was issued on 15 August 1997 after being approved by Pope John Paul II two days earlier. It can still be found on the Vatican website. In many ways it became the basis for the Statement of Conclusions presented to the Australian Bishops following the 1998 Oceania Synod of Bishops. Generations of Australian priests have shared the lives and aspirations of their people, listening to their stories and responding to their needs. Yet this document criticised such attitudes for being too egalitarian. Good priests across Australia were and still are appalled at such expressions of clericalism. Many, myself included, believe that unbridled and unquestioning acceptance of authority in so many aspects of Church life is one of the key factors contributing to a climate which gave rise to clerical sexual abuse. That is precisely what angers my friend quoted above. He and so many dedicated pastoral priests believe they had no say in the direction Church authorities were dictating, yet they are bearing the brunt of its consequences. Even now they witness individuals and groups calling for reform being ignored and treated as troublemakers (more).  *Pat Power is retired Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn.

In rare public split, Catholic bishops differ sharply on anti-gay laws
Extracts from David Gibson Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter,  13 February 2014

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor believes that Confession is in need of significant reform and should be discussed at a special synod on the sacraments. The Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster has called for “proper reform to the sacrament” and says Confession has not received “serious reflection by any authoritative people within the Church” despite declining numbers of Catholics making use of the sacrament. The remarks come in a private letter to the Cambridge academic and author John Cornwell, who is campaigning for a ban on childhood Confession and who sent the cardinal a new book he has written on the sacrament (more).

The Roman Catholic hierarchy has generally been viewed as a unified bloc in opposition to gay rights, but the emergence of especially punitive measures against gays in various countries has opened unusually stark and public fissures among bishops in different nations......The issue is especially pressing in Africa, where Nigeria, the continent's most populous country, recently adopted a harsh law that imposes a 14-year prison term for anyone entering into a same-sex relationship, as well as a 10-year sentence for anyone found to support gay clubs or meetings. Even public displays of affection by gays and lesbians is considered a crime. Legislation imposing similarly repressive sanctions on gays has been proposed in Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania. In Nigeria, the leader of the hierarchy fully supported that country's new law, which prompted a wave of violence against gays when it passed......A few days later, however, a strongly worded editorial in the The Southern Cross, a newspaper run jointly by the bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, took aim at the new law, calling on the Catholic church in Africa "to stand with the powerless" and "sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalizing homosexuals." (more)

Australian 2011 Parish Social Profiles published                                                                                                                                                            Edited Extract from covering letter by Archbishop Julian Porteous (Chair, Australian Catholic Council for Pastoral Research), 10 February 2014                    This parish social profile, produced for every Catholic parish in Australia, is an  outcome of the National Catholic Census Project established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at the time of the1991 Census, and it is managed by the ACBC Pastoral Research Office located at the Melbourne campus of the Australian Catholic University. This just published 2011 profile is provided free of charge by the Bishops Conference as part of its commitment to the support of parish life, and may be accessed  here 

Bishops publish Swiss pre-synodal survey report
Based on Schweizer Boschopskonferenz report 04.02.2014, Thursday 13 February 2013

Further to the German Bishops the Swiss Bishops via the Bishops Conference have also just now publicly published their pre-synodal survey report on their website (in German). Based on over 25,000 respondents it reveals both strong faith plus their clearly expressed need for renewal in relation to family matters. Not only did the Bishops decide to make their report public, they furthermore cut through a great deal of ecclesisatical language to make the document publicly useful.  Responses appear to have much in common with German responses and comes mostly from 'the faithful' more than those who are disenchanted. An EnglIsh translation of the original German document may be downloaded here

It’s time for the bishops and the ACP to talk
Extract from Association of Catholic Priests, Austria, 8 February 2014

The Austrian bishops, led by Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, recently went on their ‘ad limina’ visit to the Vatican, where they had what sounds like a fascinating discussion with Pope Francis.  They brought with them the results of the Vatican survey, which they had taken very seriously and about which they had consulted widely.  Among other findings was that 95% of Austrian Catholics believe that people who are divorced and remarried should be admitted to the sacraments. They seem to have had no fear bringing such findings to Rome, and neither was Francis shocked by them. Schönborn says that he responded by saying: “Don’t judge, but look closely and listen very carefully,”(more).

Cardinal Schönborn: Pope Francis has already changed church
Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, National Catholic Reporter, 7 February 2014

"It is fascinating to see how Pope Francis is encouraging, reviving and renewing the church. Our meeting with him was an excellent lesson on how to live the Gospel today," Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said after a 90-minute audience with the pope during the Austrian bishops' "ad limina" visit to the Vatican in the last week of January. The Austrian bishops took the results of the recent Vatican questionnaire to Rome with them. Responses showed that 95 percent of those who had filled out the questionnaire in Austria were in favor of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments.The subject of family relationships today and how the church should deal with them played an important role at the Jan. 30 meeting with the pope, Schönborn said. "We cannot speak about people without speaking about families," Francis said, explaining that was why the subject of the coming Synod of Bishops in October had been altered from bioethics to the family. Francis spoke of his experiences in Latin America, where the situation of marriage and the family was, to a certain extent, "far more dramatic" than in Europe, Schönborn said. It is important to realize that today many couples live together without getting married and have children, then later marry in a registry office, with some opting for a church marriage, the pope explained. The church must take this way of life seriously and accompany the couples on their way, Francis underlined. His basic message was "Don't judge, but look closely and listen very carefully," Schönborn said (more).

‘Troublemaker’ pope reshaping church, but drawing some skepticism
Extracts from the Catholic Sun, 5 February 2014

As early on as it is for the pontificate of Pope Francis, his statements and actions already have given guidance for how simple changes can improve the world, said panelists at Georgetown University......John Carr, moderator and the initiative’s director, mentioned some of the pope’s recent actions that might suit the “troublemaker” description, including telling the 19 priests and bishops he named cardinals in January to “leave the entourage at home,” and not to plan big parties to celebrate.........Kerry Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, said the pope is a troublemaker “for those who want nothing to change.” She later said one type of change she hopes is possible under Pope Francis is to expand and elevate the role of women. She said her organization has been encouraging staff of Vatican offices to identify leadership roles in the curia that may be held by women..........There are many high level posts “that don’t violate canon law or doctrine” which could raise the profile of women in the church, and address one area of harsh criticism about the nature of the institution, Robinson said. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, author of books including “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” said Pope Francis “is obviously a troublemaker.” Less than a year into the pontificate, “he has revolutionized the papacy in ways I would not have thought possible a year ago.” More amazingly, said Douthat, is that the pope has accomplished this without major doctrinal changes, and primarily with symbolic measures........There are likely some cardinals “who would admit some things he’s done make them nervous,” Allen said. But in general, they also likely appreciate that the enormous popularity of Pope Francis makes life easier for them, as people want to know more about the pope........Douthat said he remains skeptical about the institutional impact Pope Francis may have in the long term........“Pope John Paul II gave the impression of dragging the church into the modern world,” Douthat said, “but the apparatus stayed outdated.” If people learn anything from the words and example of Pope Francis, Allen said he would like people within the church to stop running everything he says “through the meat grinder,” parsing phrases for meanings that can be used to achieve a political gain (full report).

UN condemns Holy See's abuse record, calls for removal of priests suspected of having abused                                                                   Extract from Abigail Frymann, National Catholic Reporter, 5 February 2014                                                                                                                     The United Nations demanded that the Holy See "immediately remove" all clergy who are known or suspected of having abused minors and report them to civil authorities. The UN committee on Protection on Rights of the Child today issued a damning and wide-ranging 16-page report following the appearance of a Vatican delegation in Geneva three weeks ago. The watchdog said the Holy See should also hand over its records on abuse of tens of thousands of children so that culprits, as well as "those who concealed their crimes", could be held accountable. "The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators," the report said. It added: “The Committee is particularly concerned that in dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests.” (more)

16,500 respond to UK survey on family ahead of Extraordinary Synod
Extract from Madeleine Teahan, Catholic Herald UK, Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England of Wales (CBCEW) has received 16,500 responses to their survey on ‘Pastoral Challenges in the Family,’ but a spokesman for the Conference said that details of the responses will remain confidential. “In accordance with the wishes of the Holy See, the summary of the responses sent to the Synod of Bishops is confidential,” said the spokesman. “However, the statistical information shows a high level of engagement in the consultation process. Summary reports were received from all 22 Dioceses in England and Wales, as well as reports from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Apostolic Prefecture of the Falkland Islands.” The spokesman revealed that diocese received emails, letters and online forms from Catholics across the country, ahead of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which is due to take place at the Vatican in October. The spokesman said: “Analysis of 12,266 online responses indicates that 80% of respondents were laity, 69% were married and 38% were parents. 20% of respondents were in positions of responsibility within the Church as priests, chaplains, catechists, teachers, deacons, seminarians, or pastoral assistants (more).

German bishops tell Vatican: Catholics reject sex rules
Extract from Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters, Monday 3 February 2014                                                                                                  (Reuters) Germany's Catholic bishops, responding to a worldwide Vatican survey, said on Monday that many Church teachings on sexual morality were either unknown to the faithful there or rejected as unrealistic and heartless. They said the survey, drawn up for a synod on possible reforms in October, showed most German Catholics disputed Church bans on birth control and premarital or gay sex and criticized rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church. The results will not be news to many Catholics, especially in affluent Western countries, but the blunt official admission of this wide gap between policy and practice is uncommon and bound to raise pressure on Pope Francis to introduce reforms. Bishops in Germany, one of the richest and most influential national churches in the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic world, have been pressing the Vatican to reform, especially over divorce. A statement from the German bishops conference called the results "a sober inventory of what German Catholics appreciate about Church teaching on marriage and the family and what they find offputting or unacceptable, either mostly or completely." (more) ED: The German Bishop's Conference full report (PRESSEMITTEILUNGEN DER DEUTSCHEN BISCHOFSKONFERENZ) may be downloaded in English here)

Plans revealed for year of religious life
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 1 February 2014

Pope Francis has called for a special yearlong focus on consecrated life, asking the church's religious sisters, brothers and priests to "wake up the world" with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope, a Vatican official said. "Consecrated men and women are aware that besides recounting the great stories they have written in the past, they are called to write a no-less-beautiful and great story in the future," said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. At a news conference Jan. 31, the cardinal spoke about plans for the 2015 Year for Consecrated Life, which Pope Francis announced in November (more).

Pope says Internet a 'gift from God,' should be used for solidarity
Extract from  Carl Glatz, Catholic News Service, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Friday 24 January 2014

Like the good Samaritan, who stopped on the road to help a person in need, travelers along today's communication highways should offer support to those they encounter there, Pope Francis said. "The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people," he said in his message for World Communications Day. Modern means of communication, especially the Internet, offer "immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity," he said. Because of that, he said, the Internet is "a gift from God." "Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter" is the theme of this year's World Communications Day, which most dioceses will mark June 1, the Sunday before Pentecost. The message, released Jan. 23, was dated Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists. "Good communication helps us grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately to grow in unity," the pope said (more)

Pope's pointers for Australian welfare review
Edited Extracts from Andrew Hamilton, Eureka Street, 29 January 2014

Economics and religion usually do not talk to one another. So Pope Francis' message to the World Economic Forum at Davos aroused some interest. It was brief. It developed the Catholic understanding that government and business economic actions should be governed, not by trust in the benign working of the free market, but by care for the good of the whole human community. The Pope commended to the delegates at the Forum a view of economic growth governed by ethical
reflection on the human good: "In the context of your meeting, I wish to emphasise the importance that the various political and economic sectors have in promoting an inclusive approach which takes into consideration the dignity of every human person and the common good. I'm referring to a concern that ought to shape every political and economic decision, but which at times seems to be little more than an afterthought. Those working in these sectors have a precise responsibility towards others, particularly those who are most frail, weak and vulnerable.". He insisted that the economy should serve human beings, and not human beings the economy. He proposed a view of economic equality that 'demands first of all a transcendent vision of the person. It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.' (more).

Preparing for parish closures and mergers in New York City
Extracts from Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter, 29 January 2014

Even though Cardinal Timothy Dolan does not plan to announce which parishes in the archdiocese of New York will be closed or merged until September, members of the New York Metro chapter of Call to Action believe it isn't too early to start preparing for the worst...........In 2011, the archdiocese announced the creation of "Making All Things New," a "pastoral planning initiative" that, according to its website, "seeks to address how the archdiocese can best meet the religious, spiritual, and pastoral needs of the people of God now and into the future." The core of the initiative will determine the fate of the archdiocese's 368 parishes. Dolan has promised a wide-reaching, transparent conversation about these decisions, but since 2010, he has also been clear that he "may have to merge, consolidate and even close some of the ones we have." Introducing Faith and Justice, the new column from NCR senior analyst Thomas Reese, SJ. Sign up for email alerts here. Dolan admits that one of the principal reasons to reassess the number of parishes in the archdiocese is an increasing lack of priests for its 2.6 million Catholics. In a pastoral letter published in October, he wrote that while the archdiocese has "not yet reached a crisis in the number of priests ... we still do need to get ready for that day, not too far away, when such a shortage will indeed face us." In the New York archdiocese, every pastor has been asked to create a core team of parishioners dedicated to assessing its community's strengths and needs. Team members from five parishes were then joined together to form 75 clusters. The cluster teams will spend the next month and a half learning about one another's parishes. On March 1, they will send their recommendations to the Archdiocesan Advisory Group, a 40-person committee selected by Dolan.(more)

Monsignor Explains What's Done With Francis' Mail
Extracts from Zenit, Rocio Lancho Garcia, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, 29 January 2014

A phone rings, and at the end of the line a voice says: “Hello, I’m Pope Francis, I’m calling because I’ve read your letter.” Since the beginning of this pontificate, the media worldwide has reported these stories of the Pope who calls persons to console them, to encourage them in difficulties, and to assure them of his prayers..................“There are more delicate cases, such as cases of conscience. In these cases, a note is made and they are sent to the secretaries so that the Pope can handle them directly. He certainly reads them, initials them and tells us how we must answer,” explained Monsignor Gallorini. The work must also be done attuned to the Pope’s particular style. “To read these letters more with the heart than the mind; to share the suffering and to find the apt words to express what the Pope really wants to have expressed: closeness, sharing. It’s really in the style of sharing. Moreover, the Pope has always said that the shepherd must live with the flock, with the sheep. He must listen and live their experience with them,” explained Monsignor Gallorini.

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