Catholics for Renewal


Old News 2015


Government rejection of national Redress Scheme un-Australian
Catholics For Renewal, 28 March 2015
Catholics for Renewal Inc has censured the Federal Government for its rejection of the Royal Commission’s support of a national redress scheme for victims of child sexual abuse.         The Royal Commission has developed proposals based on a thorough examination into the scandal of child abuse and the often-ruined lives of victims. Under the scheme proposed by the Commission, the Commonwealth would have responsibility as a coordinator and "funder of last resort" - to provide financial support for victims when institutions responsible are insolvent.       In a blunt submission to the Commission, the Federal Government has rejected the proposed scheme. The Government thus rejects the work of a highly professional and comprehensive bipartisan process that considered profoundly disturbing testimony, including ruined lives and suicides resulting from systemic abuse.       The Federal Government criticises the proposal as costly, a cost not much more than the expected costs of just one of the Government’s proposed new submarines. The Government appears to have forgotten not only the bipartisan support for this Royal Commission but the sacredness of Australia’s social contract on which the inquiry was founded. For Christians, the present season of Easter represents acknowledging transgressions and making amends. The current Government's response at this time appears to break with Australian character and coldly reject such values.

The Great Disaffiliation, Part II - Vatican II: A new spirit in the Church, 28 March 2015                      Extract from Part two of a series of papers by David Timbs* on the exodus of Catholics from the pews over the past fifty or so years The Second Vatican Council provided Catholics with an enormous injection of confidence in a world already brimming with high aspirations following half a century of global war and ruin. Despite understandable climate of cynicism and suspicion of old ideologies, Catholics found themselves buoyed by the prospects of living their Faith and expressing it in ways which would invigorate and sustain them. They also found new courage to become more effective bearers of the Gospel to their neighbours.........................(continued).        This and Part 1 are published as Documents 39 & 36 respectively on the Documents page here . Part II may be Downloaded here .        * David Timbs is a member of Catholics For Renewal

Pope Francis to visit White House during trip to the US
Extract from CathNews, 27 March 2015
Pope Francis is to meet President Barack Obama when he makes his first visit to the US in September, reports The Catholic Herald.   President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama, will welcome the Pope to the White House on September 23.   “During the visit, the President and the Pope will continue the dialogue which they began during the President’s visit to the Vatican in March, 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues,” said a White House statement issued today.   Those issues, it said, include “caring for the marginalised and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”   The statement added: “The President looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as Pope.”  Photo: Cathnews,

Members of Vatican abuse commission question Francis' inaction in Chile
Joshua J. McElwee, 27 March 2015
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Rome. Two members of the new Vatican commission advising Pope Francis on clergy sexual abuse say they are both concerned and surprised at the pope's decision to appoint a bishop in Chile who is accused of covering up abuse, even witnessing it while he was a priest.    Speaking in brief NCR interviews Thursday in personal capacities, the commission members also said some in their group are considering traveling to Rome to speak to the pope face-to-face on the matter.      Bishop Juan Barros Madrid was installed Saturday as head of the diocese of Osorno, Chile, amid protests in the cathedral. Chilean survivors accuse Barros of covering up abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima, a once-renowned spiritual leader and key Chilean church figure who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of sexually abusing minors, when Barros was a priest.    "I am only speaking for myself, but as a working sub-group of the commission, we are all very disturbed by what is going on in Chile," said Peter Saunders, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a survivor of abuse.    Referring to different sub-groups of the commission working on recommendations for Francis on the church's abuse measures, Saunders said he is part of a commission working group of survivors who together are considering the trip to Rome (more).

Church alarmed at government rejection of abuse redress scheme
Extract from CathNews, 27 March 2015
The Church says it is disappointed the Federal government has so quickly rejected a national scheme to compensate abuse survivors, reports AAP on SBS.      In its response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Church backed a national, fair, compassionate, and independent scheme which would be run by the Federal government with the participation of State and Territory governments.     Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council (TJHC), told the Royal Commission yesterday it was surprising that the Commonwealth had initiated the inquiry and "yet has so quickly discounted itself from one of the most fundamental issues we have to redress".    "You would think that any government that was setting up a Royal Commission of this nature would know that a possible redress scheme would be one option," Mr Sullivan said.     The Commission has recommended a single national scheme and done modelling to show it would cost $4.3 billion and cover 65,000 survivors.    In a blunt, written submission to the Commission, the Federal government said such a scheme would be too costly and too complex to implement (more).

Govt rejects national redress scheme for sex abuse victims                                                                    Extract from CathNews, 26 March 2015
The Chairman of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has expressed disappointment that the Commonwealth government has refused to support a national redress scheme for victims, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.   Justice Peter McClellan made his comments yesterday after the Federal government stated that such a scheme is too complex, time consuming, and costly.    A national scheme has been supported by the Catholic and Anglican churches, and yesterday the Uniting Church Queensland CEO said the church supported the structure proposed by the Commission for a national scheme, reports AAP. The SMH reports that the Government statements were made in a blunt, two-page submission to the Commission, which is trying to develop a redress scheme for those who have suffered abuse.   Yesterday Justice McClellan expressed disappointment that, while the Commonwealth government had accepted the need for "effective redress" when it set up the Commission, it now did not support what evidence showed was the most effective scheme.   Under the scheme proposed by the Commission this year, the Commonwealth would have responsibility as a co-ordinator, and also as a "funder of last resort" - to provide financial support for victims when the institutions responsible were insolvent (more). Photo: Cathnews 2603mcclellan_20869artthumb

UK cardinal rebukes 500 priests over letter to resist change
Extract from CathNews, 26 March 2015
UK Cardinal Vincent Nichols has rebuked the almost 500 British priests who have signed a letter resisting any change to Church teaching at the Vatican’s next Synod on the Family in October, reports The Tablet.   The Cardinal said discussions between priests and bishops ahead of the gathering are "not best conducted through the press."    Almost 500 priests in England and Wales have signed a letter calling on the Vatican’s next Synod on the Family to proclaim the Church’s “unchanging” moral teaching and resist any move allowing Communion for the divorced and remarried (more). Photo: CathNews 

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Submission from Catholics For Renewal Inc. 8 March 2015 on Consultation Paper Redress and Civil Litigation (Jan. 2015)
Although this submission is directed to the Commission’s Consultation Paper on Redress and Civil Litigation of January 2015, the concerns we express regarding the Catholic Church’s dysfunctional governance are relevant to most aspects of the Commission’s terms of reference. Major concerns about the governance of the Church have been carefully documented in this submission which builds on and refines arguments we have been articulating for some time. Read/download Submission  here .

UK priests urge Synod to stand firm on Church teaching
Extract from CathNews, 25 March 2015
Almost 500 British priests have signed a letter urging those attending this year’s family Synod to issue a “clear and firm proclamation” upholding Church teaching on marriage, reports The Catholic Herald.    In the letter, published in this week’s Catholic Herald, the priests write: “We wish, as Catholic priests, to re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.”    Last year’s extraordinary Synod provoked heated debate on the question of whether remarried Catholics should be permitted to receive Holy Communion – a proposal presented by retired German Cardinal, Walter Kasper.    In what is thought to be an unprecedented step, 461 priests in England and Wales have joined together to urge Synod participants to resist the proposal.    They write: “We affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.” (more)

Dublin Archbishop Recalls Synod, Reflects on Ireland's Debate on Marriage
Extracts from speaking notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on the Church's teaching on marriage today, a lecture given last week to the Iona Institute.  Zenit, 24 March 2014
..........The strong message of the Synod was a call for a radical renewal of the Church’s pastoral support for marriage and the family and their role in society.   In the pluralism which exists today in every part of the world we need a radical catechesis on marriage and the family.  Marriage preparation is not just preparation for a wedding day.      The tone which Pope Francis wished to give the Synod was never condemnatory.  The Church must encounter families where they are. The Church must listen to where God is speaking also through the witness of those Christian married couples who struggle and fail and begin again.  The tone was one of reaching out pastorally and of reflecting the mercy of Jesus.  Pope Francis constantly stresses an image of the Church as a “field hospital on the scene of a battle”, where people are taken up into the caring arms of someone, where their wounds are washed and cleaned and they receive a welcome of care and concern.       One Bishop took up Pope Francis’ image of the Church as a “field-hospital” where wounds are healed, saying that sadly too often the Church appears more like the city morgue where all the pathologies of things that have gone wrong with the family are examined without emotion.     That is something we must keep in mind in the way we reflect for the future. We should be very realistic in our examination of the reality of the institution of marriage and family in society, but not get bogged down only with problems, but bring a message of hope and encouragement and support to families...............Among the subjects discussed at the Synod was that of men and women with same sex orientation.  During the Synod’s discussion as to how to reach out to men and women of same sex orientation it was clearly and unanimously stressed by all that there is a radical difference between marriage between a man and a woman and the union of two people of the same sex.        Yet it was also stressed that the Church had to welcome people as they are.  For many it is hard to understand how Pope Francis can be opposed to same sex marriage and yet ask “who am I to judge” (more).

In defense of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, sort of
Was the cardinal's confession and resignation a missed opportunity for the Church?
Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, GlobalPulse, 24 March 2015
There are good reasons why Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien of Scotland should have participated in the last Conclave. (I'll get to that in a minute.).      Instead, he resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh just before the papal election got underway. Four men had gone public and accused him of pressuring them into having sex years ago when they were junior priests (one was actually an adult seminarian). The papers ran wild with the story and the cardinal could no longer deny it.    “I… admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal,” he finally confessed publicly on March 3, 2013, before going into seclusion.    Last Friday, a full two years later and following a Vatican “investigation,” a note from Rome announced that Cardinal O'Brien had freely relinquished “the rights and privileges” — but, bizarrely, not the title — of a being a cardinal. Even weirder, Church officials said he could continue wearing his cardinal attire, but only in private (more).

Australian Church urges generous payments, ongoing care for abuse victims
Extract from CathNews, 24 March 2015
Generous financial payments, ongoing care and support, and a meaningful apology should be key elements of a national child sexual abuse redress scheme, according to the Church submission to the Royal Commission released yesterday. The Truth Justice and Healing Council submission to the Royal Commission’s redress and civil litigation consultation has supported Commissioner Peter McClellan’s call for governments to establish an independent national redress scheme funded by the institutions responsible for the abuse.  Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, said the issue of redress is at the very heart of the Commission’s work. “A national scheme is necessary to ensure survivors of child sexual abuse are treated consistently across Australia. It would effectively provide consistent, easy access redress for all survivors of child sexual abuse regardless of where or when the abuse occurred,” he said.    “It would also remove the justifiable criticism that the investigation and determination of abuse claims by the very institutions against which the claims were brought lacked transparency.” (more)

Child sex abuse investigation launched at Riverview
Edited Extract from CathNews, 24 March 2015
Police have launched an investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse at Sydney's St Ignatius College Riverview dating back more than 30 years, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.  Yesterday, the school sent a letter to its old boys informing them that a former student had made allegations which principal Paul Hine said had now been reported to the NSW police force.   The only detail of the allegation contained in the letter is that it concerned "child sexual abuse over 30 years ago."..........."For a long time Riverview has had a proud history of education and care for boys," Dr Hine wrote. "This situation presents a salient reminder of the need to protect our young people both in policy and in practice." (more)

NCR Editorial: What kind of reformer is Francis?
Edited extracts from National Catholic Reporter, Editorial Staff, 23 March 2015
Editorial:  Any assessment of Pope Francis at the two-year mark of his papacy would do best to first deal with the unrealistic expectations and the disappointments that often drive the discussion over whether he is a true reformer.    On one hand, Francis is not going to ordain women or marry a gay couple during his tenure as pope. His attitude toward women seems woefully outdated, calling them "strawberries on the cake."  Despite his words about including women in the church, he has yet to involve them in any substantial way in church governance.     On the other hand, he will not suddenly become princely and engage in the royal court culture that flourished during the era of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and in which blossomed the crimes and corruption that Francis inherited.    Nor will he suddenly reverse course and reinstitute a tick list of orthodoxies as the measure of Catholic identity, or worry inordinately about what prevailing hermeneutic will result in the purest expression of the church.    If he is, then, dispensing disappointment across the spectrum, what accounts for the fascination with him that seems unabated since he appeared on the balcony the evening of his election in simple garb, gave a simple greeting, and asked the crowd to silently pray for him?.............The depth of reform during the Francis years will depend on time and how successful he is in shaping an episcopacy in agreement with his vision. The longest-lasting reform may be the education that Catholics and the rest of the world are receiving: that the church can and does change and that what may be perceived as chaos in one papacy is, in another, an opportunity for encounter (more). Image: Wikipedia, This painting by Sir George Hayter (now in the National Portrait Gallery) commemorates the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832.

Despite low Catholic marriage numbers, some see trend turning around
Extracts from Nate Madden, Catholic News Service, NCR, 23 March 2015
Washington. The number of Catholic marriages in the United States is at its lowest point since 1965. Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate keeps records of Catholic church statistics going back to 1965, tracking such things as the total number of priests, the Catholic population of the United States, and the number of baptisms and marriages per year.    The statistics show that while there were over 420,000 Catholic marriages in 1970, that number has dwindled to just over 154,000 for the year 2014.    "There's no definitive answer" for this trend, according to Mark Gray, a senior research associate and poll director at the center. He cited some of the leading hypotheses about the decrease.    "We're seeing an increase in cohabitation," he said, which can "create a hurdle to receiving the sacrament of marriage, depending on the parish or diocese's policies," Gray said in an interview with Catholic News Service. "There's also the notion of a destination wedding trumping the traditional notion of getting married within the church."    rectangular-logo.jpgVisit our sister website, Global Sisters Report!    And there has been "no increase in Catholics marrying non-Catholics that might lead us to believe that they're marrying in other churches," he said.    "Some things have changed culturally. ... The church just isn't seen as important" to many young Catholics, Gray said.................One of the several "takeaway" messages of the synod for American Catholics, according to the Heinzens, is "to remain accountable to the truths that come from God [when it comes to marriage]. We must never stray or be led away from the Gospel message when we deal with families."    "Perhaps the greatest challenge [to marriage] both here and abroad," they told CNS in a joint email, "is the triumph of self-reliance over self-sacrifice. Today's culture values independence over interdependence. The need to commit oneself to another in marriage makes little sense when the perceived outcome is 'me' and not 'we.' "    However, like Gray, the Heinzens also see a cultural renewal emerging on the Catholic marriage front.    "One of the most positive cultural trends that we see is a shift in catechesis from a child-centered focus to a parent-centered focus," they said. "This trend allows parishes to utilize the basic desire found in most parents' heart to provide the very best for their children.........This shift in the catechetical approach is bearing great results because parents are learning how to become primary educators for their children." (more)  Photo: NCR (CNS file photo/Jon L. Hendricks)

Pope criticised after Cardinal O'Brien resigns
Extract from CathNews, 23 March 2015
Pope Francis has been criticised after accepting the de facto resignation of the British Cardinal disgraced in a sex scandal without any follow-up on the allegations against him, reports AFP on Yahoo7. A statement from the Vatican on Friday said Francis had accepted former Archbishop Keith O'Brien's resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal in a highly unusual move, for which the last precedent dates from 1927. It came two years after Cardinal O'Brien stepped down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, having admitted inappropriate sexual behaviour towards priests in the 1980s. At the time of his resignation, Cardinal O'Brien was the most senior Catholic churchman in Britain and an outspoken critic of homosexuality -- which he described as a "moral degradation" -- and gay marriage. He was exposed as a hypocrite when several priests who had been in his charge, one of whom had left the priesthood, came forward with testimony that he had made unwanted sexual advances to them, often after late night drinking sessions. In a statement, the Vatican said the resignation had been presented "after a long period of prayer" -- a formulation which means the matter was dealt with by the Pope personally, without reference to an internal Church court. "With this provision, His Holiness would like to manifest his pastoral solicitude to all the faithful of the Church in Scotland and to encourage them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation," the statement added. SNAP, a global campaign group on the issue of clerical sex abuse which counts many victims among its activists, criticised the pope's handling of the issue. "As it has done with dozens of abusive prelates, the Vatican is disclosing nothing about O'Brien's wrongdoing," SNAP spokeswoman Barbara Dorris said (more).

Open letter from Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson
Extract from CathNews, 23 March 2015
Archbishop Philip Wilson has written an open letter to the people of the Archdiocese of Adelaide expressing his determination to defend himself against the charge of concealing child sexual abuse. In the letter, he writes that he will be taking indefinite leave from his role as Archbsihop, and other national responsibilities, to help prepare his defence. "I will have to spend considerable time out of Adelaide over the the next few months," he writes."I have handed over my responsibilites to my Vicar General, Father Philip Marshall." Archbishop Wilson adds: "I ask you to pray for justice for all victims of child sex abuse in the Church and beyond. Their voices should be heard and justice must be afforded to them, as a right before God and before the community in which we live."LETTER IN FULL.......(more)

Chile's Bishop Juan Barros, linked to sex abuse priest, faces Catholic fury
Extract from Canberra Times, 22 March 2015
Santiago: Black balloons in hand, hundreds of Catholics gathered at a church in the small Chilean city of Osorno to protest against the appointment of Bishop Juan Barros, accused of protecting one of the nation's most notorious paedophiles. The appointment has sparked outrage from many parishioners and puts into question Pope Francis' promise to rid the church of sex abuse.       Critics say Bishop Barros helped cover up abuse by Father Fernando Karadima, whose case is the most infamous of several allegations of paedophilia within the Catholic Church in Chile. In 2011, Santiago-based Father Karadima was found guilty by the Vatican of abusing teenage boys over many years. Freed from criminal prosecution after the case against him collapsed for technical reasons, the church punished him by banning him from celebrating public mass.         Father Karadima was a mentor to several younger priests, including Bishop Barros. Juan Carlos Cruz, a Karadima victim now living in the United States, says Bishop Barros did the paedophile priest's "dirty work", tearing up letters from victims detailing abuse, and that the recently appointed bishop was present when molestation took place. Protestors shout as bishops and priests enter the cathedral in Osorno. "This contradicts everything the Pope has said. He was aware of the situation but named [Juan Barros as bishop] anyway," Mr Cruz said "We were accustomed to getting slapped in the face by the Catholic Church [in Chile], but getting slapped by the Pope himself is the saddest part." Many Chilean Catholics have repudiated the planned appointment. Father Alex Vigueras, provincial superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Chile, said that the appointment had "left us perplexed".....(more)  Photo: Camberra Times, AP

UK Bishop excommunicated over illicit ordination
Extract from CathNews, 20 March 2015
Traditionalist British Bishop Richard Williamson has been automatically excommunicated, along with the priest he illicitly ordained a bishop, reports the Catholic News Service.      Bishop Williamson,who has denied the Holocaust, violated Church law when he ordained Father Jean-Michel Faure, 73, a bishop, without papal approval during a ceremony yesterday in Nova Friburgo, Brazil.       While the Vatican did not comment immediately, canon law provides automatic excommunication for the newly ordained Bishop and for the Bishop ordaining him in cases where the ordination goes against the will of the Pope.      Bishop Williamson had been excommunicated in 1988 when he and three other traditionalist bishops were ordained against Papal orders by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St Pius X. Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 as a first step toward beginning formal talks aimed at reconciliation with the group (more). Photo: Cathnews

Pope Francis and the road map of a St. Joseph pontiff
Extract from Analysis, Joshua J McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 19 March 2015
Much of the analysis of Pope Francis during his two years as leader of the Roman Catholic church has focused on two key aspects: He is a member of the Jesuit religious order, and he has named his papacy in honor of the 13th-century saint of the poor, Francis of Assisi.   But there's a third connection with which the pope's ministry is inextricably tied: that with St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. Officially inaugurated into his Petrine ministry on March 19, 2013, Francis celebrates the anniversary of his papacy each year on the day the church celebrates Joseph's feast day. Francis has made the connection between him and Joseph publicly many times. During his visit to the Philippines in January, he told families there that he keeps a little statue of the saint on his desk. Sometimes, the pope said, he writes problems he's having on pieces of paper and tucks them under the statue so Joseph can dream over them for him.   Within months of his election, Francis also permanently amended the eucharistic prayers used at most Catholic Masses to include Joseph's name along with Mary's.    But the connection between pope and father also seem almost like a papal road map (more).

As Obama pushes for trade pact fast track, faith groups say to call the deal off
Extracts from Soli Salgado, Bational Catholic Reporter, 19 March 2015
Thirty-five faith-based organizations and 31 Catholic leaders and theologians are calling on President Barack Obama and Congress to cease negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a trade agreement involving the U.S. and 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim.    The Obama administration wants to fast-track the pact, arguing it will give the president more leverage in negotiations by assuring his trading partners the agreements won't be amended. But interreligious coalitions that released the letters Feb. 18 say that permitting him to fast-track, essentially delegating congressional authority to the president, is inconsistent with the country's democratic and moral values.      Fast-track authority would also make it  more difficult to challenge and modify the content of the agreement, which coalitions find morally troubling as well.    The Trans-Pacific Partnership could be the largest trade agreement in U.S. history. It involves Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. These countries account for nearly 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product.......Interreligious coalitions said they believe the agreement could increase the wealth gap while making it harder to enforce environmental policies (more).

Pope's zero tolerance for abusive priests faces test in Chile
Extract from CathNews, 19 March 2015
The Pope's appointment this month of a bishop in Chile who has been accused of covering up sexual abuse has caused an outcry among victims and Catholic faithful, reports AP in Crux.   Juan Carlos Cruz recalls that he and another teen boy would lie down on the priest’s bed, one resting his head at the man’s shoulder, another sitting near his feet. The priest would kiss the boys and grope them, he said,  while the Rev. Juan Barros watched.   “Barros was there, and he saw it all,” Cruz, now a 51-year-old journalist, told the Associated Press.   Bishop Barros has been tapped by Pope Francis to become bishop of a southern Chilean diocese this month, provoking an unprecedented outcry by abuse victims and Catholic faithful who contend he covered up sexual abuse committed by his mentor and superior, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, in the 1980s and 1990s.    A Vatican investigation found Karadima guilty in 2011 and sentenced the now 84-year-old priest to a cloistered life of “penitence and prayer” for what is Chile’s highest-profile case of abuse by a priest.    Bishop Barros had long declined to comment publicly on allegations against him. However, in a letter sent Monday to the priests of the diocese he’ll be overseeing, he said he did not know about Karadima’s abuses when they happened.    “I never had knowledge of, or could have imagined, the serious abuses that this priest committed against the victims,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the AP (more).  Photo: Bishop Barros, CathNews

Can Pope Francis Turn the Church around?
Extract from Eric Hodgens, Pearls and Irritations, John Mendue website, 18 March 2015  (originally published  16/03/2015)           The question needs to be asked because the Catholic Church is in trouble. Firstly, it has a . credibility problem. Affiliation has been dropping since the 60s. Sunday Mass attendance, the first indicator of affiliation, backs this up. The Church’s compelling message of Jesus as the icon of life defeating death is not getting through. Relentlessly, Catholics are feeling more and more marginalised or leaving the Church altogether. Bishops are not leading. Sexual and financial scandals have blackened the Church’s image. The administration is too centralised and preoccupied with issues which are irrelevant to the lives of people whether Catholic and not.          Secondly, the Church has a ministry problem. Canon Law demands that an ordained priest be the sole leader of every parish. But it is forty five years since enough have come forward to fill the basic demand for Parish Priests. It is a seller’s market for ordained priests whether suitable for the task or not. Parishes with good priestly leadership are doing well – but they are getting fewer (more).

Will Pope Francis have a short papacy? Don't bet on it
Extracts from David Gibson, Crux, 19 March 2015
In a wide-ranging interview he gave Friday for the second anniversary of his election, Pope Francis touched on a variety of topics, from his concern about bad homilies to his upcoming US visit to his one real wish: to go out for a pizza without being recognized.    But leading most of the news coverage were his remarks suggesting that he expects his papacy to be short, perhaps lasting no more than another year or two...................To be sure, the prospect of Francis’ imminent retirement — or demise — would be dismal news for Francis’ many fans, and perhaps a rare lift for his opponents.............Francis also rejected the idea of a fixed age limit, because that “creates a sensation that the pontificate is at its end and that would not be a good thing.”,,,,,,,,,Moreover, after Francis voiced his suspicions about the length of his own time on St. Peter’s Throne, he confessed that it was merely “a feeling” and “a somewhat vague sensation.”.........Clearly, say those familiar with the pope’s thinking, he is enjoying himself and is willing to go on as long as God sees fit.      In that context, his remarks were more like pragmatic musings on the actuarial realities of life today, and on his own trust to discern when it would be best to step aside, if it comes to that. So he could have another day, another year — or several more years.........Pope watchers gambling on a conclave in the next year or two may want to hedge their bets (more).     Photo:Pope-Francis with Children, CNS News.

Archbishop Wilson denies charge of concealing child sexual abuse
Extract from CathNews, 18 March 2015
In a statement released yesterday, Archbishop Wilson said: “I am disappointed to have been notified by the NSW Police that it has decided to file a charge in respect of this matter. "The suggestion appears to be that I failed to bring to the attention of police a conversation I am alleged to have had in 1976, when I was a junior priest, that a now-deceased priest had abused a child. "From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation.  I intend to vigorously defend my innocence through the judicial system. "I am unable to make any further comment at this stage, but I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to dealing proactively with the issue of child sexual abuse and the implementation of best-practice child protection measures which I have pioneered since becoming a bishop." The President of the ACBC, Archbishop Denis Hart, said in a statement yesterday: "The presumption of innocence applies to Archbishop Wilson as it does to all citizens subject to criminal charges before the court. I urge people not to make any judgement until the charge against Archbishop Wilson has been dealt with by the court." (more)   Photo:  Alan Porrit (AAP)

Report into Cardinal O'Brien is with the Pope
Edited Extract from CathNews, 17 March 2015
The Church in Scotland has responded to media reports suggesting that the Church is “sitting on” a report on allegations regarding Cardinal Keith O'Brien, former Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh who admitted sexual misconduct in 2013. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh said that Pope Francis had “tried his very best to handle the case of Cardinal O'Brien with great justice and compassion” and was now considering the report. “We hope and trust that he will reach a decision that is fair and just to everybody involved,” the spokesman said.   Following public accusations by a number of priests and one former priest, and following the cardinal’s resignation, the Pope appointed Bishop – now Archbishop – Scicluna, to speak to all those involved and report back to the Vatican.  One of the men who have accused Cardinal O'Brien of inappropriate sexual conduct said that despite Archbishop Scicluna's report being “hot enough to burn the varnish” off the Pope's desk, the Church was moving with “glacial” speed when it came to making public its findings (more).

Francis: Who are you to shut the door of mercy for someone?
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 17 March 2015
Vatican City. Pope Francis has again forcefully emphasized the Catholic church's need to be merciful, pointedly asking who Christians that do not allow someone to renter the church community think they are. Speaking Tuesday during his daily homily at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Francis asked bluntly: "Who are you who shuts the door of your heart to a man, a woman who wants to improve, to return back into the people of God, because the Holy Spirit has stirred his or her heart?" The church, the pontiff said, is "the home of Jesus and Jesus welcomes -- but not only welcomes, [he] goes to find people." "And if people are hurt, what does Jesus do?" asked Francis. "Scolds them because they are hurt? No, he comes and carries them on his shoulders." "This is called mercy," the pope continued. "And when God reprimands his people -- 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice!' -- he speaks of this."  Francis' emphasis Tuesday on the need for mercy from Catholics comes just days after the pope announced Friday that he will be convoking in December an extraordinary jubilee year for the Catholic church to be called the Holy Year of Mercy. The pope has made mercy a central theme of his papacy. On Friday he said he wanted to call the holy year -- a special time for Catholics to receive blessing and pardon from God and remission of sins -- so that the church "can make more evident its mission of being a witness of mercy." (more

'Gayest' US Catholic parish strives to maintain openness, accepting
Extracts from Thomas C Fox, National Catholic Reporter, 16 March 2015
On a damp and chilly Saturday morning, a dozen men and women converge on Most Holy Redeemer Church at 18th and Diamond in the heart of the Castro. Entering, they peel off gloves, remove their hats and take a place in pews near a wooden altar that sits on a platform in the center of the church........"Everyone needs shelter; everyone needs a protective environment," (Fr. Jack) McClure notes, adding this is precisely what Most Holy Redeemer attempts to do -- provide shelter. He talks about the need to maintain an open and accepting parish......."And just as our parish is an accepting parish," he adds, "each of us needs to be accepting people. But sometimes the most difficult thing about being accepting is accepting ourselves."   His words, hardly idle, seem to have special application to those gathered for the liturgy. They listen intently. A few nod.   Most Holy Redeemer Parish has earned a reputation locally -- and beyond -- for being a distinctly open and accepting parish. It actively welcomes everyone, no questions asked. The parish motto is "God's inclusive love proclaimed here." A banner hanging above two large doors that open up into the church is inscribed with these words. But this isn't what makes Most Holy Redeemer, or "MHR," as the locals call it, one of the nation's most distinctive parishes. The parish has the reputation of likely being the "gayest" Catholic parish in the nation. Eighty percent of its parishioners are LGBT people.    MHR draws its parishioners not only from within the Castro, but also from throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Furthermore, most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics who visit this West Coast city know of its welcoming reputation, and so the pews at Sunday services invariably are filled with Catholics from across the nation.    The parish's "gayness" isn't the only thing that makes it unusual. MHR, unlike most other local parishes its size, has two priests who work as a team. Other San Francisco parishes its size, with some 400 single or family units, struggle to keep even a single priest (more).   Photo: NCR, Dennis Callahan

Pope Francis: I feel like my papacy will last only four or five years
Edited extract from Staff Reporter UK Catholic Herald, Friday, 13 Mar 2015
Francis made the remark in his most candid interview to date. Pope Francis has said that he “did not know what to say” when greeting the world from the balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square after his election two years ago. He made the remark in a candid and wide-ranging interview with the Mexican broadcaster Televisa.   In the interview he said he felt his pontificate would be brief and that he did “not mind” being pope, adding: “The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognised, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza.”   According to a translation by Vatican Radio, he said: “I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief: four or five years; I do not know, even two or three. Two have already passed. It is a somewhat vague sensation. Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed and if he wins, is happy. I do not know. But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more … But it is a feeling. I always leave the possibility open.”(more)

Pope Francis has history, but not time, on his side in reform push
Extracts from David Gibson, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 12 March 2015
Vatican City. Can the Roman Catholic church change? And if so, how? And what's on the table -- traditions, rites, doctrine, none of the above? Such fundamental questions go to the heart of Catholic identity, and they're the same questions Pope Francis has raised almost since the moment he was elected two years ago Friday, a dark horse candidate who became the first pope from Latin America. He shunned the apostolic palace for a modest apartment and cold-called people who wrote to him with problems, and Francis' humble approach endeared him to the masses. Yet he also surprised -- maybe stunned -- Catholics by encouraging open debate, especially about church teachings and practices that had long been considered out of bounds.           "A basic general condition is this: to speak clearly. No one must say: 'This can't be said; he will think of me this way or that,' " Francis told bishops from around the world last summer at a high-level Vatican summit on issues facing the modern family. "It is necessary to say everything that is felt" with candor.  That kind of openness and straight talk is also central to Francis' enormous public appeal. But Francis' glasnost -- so revolutionary in the context of the recent history of the papacy -- has also sparked fierce opposition on the Catholic right, with some high-profile prelates and pundits vowing to thwart reforms and resist any changes in pastoral practice.        The intensity of the opposition raises a basic question at Francis' two-year mark: Can his reform campaign outlast his papacy?  Unlike the resistance to reforms within the church's Roman bureaucracy, the backlash on anything touching doctrine is wider, deeper and more visceral because it cuts to the marrow of Catholicism. Indeed, the criticisms are so sharp that the Fr. Antonio Spadaro, an Italian Jesuit who is close to Francis, said he views the "anguish" of the pope's foes "as more of a psychological problem" than a question of doctrine.      Francis' emphasis on mercy "provokes in some Catholics a panic, the fear of a lack of certainty that stuns me," said Spadaro, editor of Civilta Cattolica...................Yet what is perhaps most critical to the long-term success of Francis' efforts is a broader acceptance of the idea that the church -- and even doctrine -- can change. History has shown the church changing on many occasions, something that popes as tradition-minded as Benedict have acknowledged.   "The great idea at stake today is the relationship between the church and history," Spadaro said.(more). (Ed: The "Church Mutation" pages on this website are relevant)

Oscar Romero to be beatified on May 23
Extract from CathNews, 12 March 2015
Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in San Salvador May 23, said Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator or chief promoter of the Archbishop's sainthood cause, reports the Catholic News Service.   The ceremony, which moves the murdered Archbishop a step closer to sainthood, will be in Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo. The Archbishop said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, would celebrate the Mass.   "Romero, from heaven, wants every Salvadoran to walk the path of peace and justice," Archbishop Paglia said yesterday at a news conference in San Salvador.   The Archbishop called the beatification a gift for the world, but particularly for the people of El Salvador.   Pope Francis formally recognised on February 3 that the slain Salvadoran Archbishop was killed "in hatred of the faith" -- and not for purely political reasons (more).


2nd Anniversary: Pope in Interview: 'My Life is in God's Hands'
Extract from Salvatore Cernuzio, Zenit: "La Carcova News" Publishes In-Depth Interview with Pope Francis 11 March 2015
Rome, Whereas the first 365 days of Pope Francis’ pontificate were commented on in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, with the authoritative signature of Ferruccio De Bortoli, this time the Holy Father decided to observe his second anniversary in the See of Peter with a long and passionate interview with La Cracova News. Some might think that the latter is an important daily or a noted agency of Latin America or, perhaps, a history TV channel. It is difficult to think, instead, that the publication in question is a magazine with the same name as that of a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. An extravagant, unusual choice, but certainly consistent with his attention to the peripheries, which he always preaches. And it is, in fact, speaking about the “peripheries,” that this eighth conversation of the Holy Father with the press begins, recorded in January in Saint Martha’s House by his friend Father Jose Maria Di Paola.........(more)


Francis: 'First commandment' of parish life is closeness to people
Extracts from National Catholic Reporter, 10 March 2015
Varican City. The key role of a Catholic parish is practicing closeness to its people by working to provide for their needs and to always show God's love for all, Pope Francis has said.   In fact, the pope said, the "first commandment" for parishes is to practice such closeness and to avoid telling people what they must change in their lives..................Speaking to the parish council of a church on the eastern outskirts of Rome Sunday evening, Francis emphasized the difficult situations many people are living when offering advice to the council about how to go about their work.   "We cannot go to a family with sick or hungry children -- or those that have fallen to vice -- we cannot go with 'You must, you must, you must,'" said the pope. "No. We must go with closeness, with the caress that Jesus has taught us." (more)

Cardinal Burke condemns pro-reform voices at Pope’s ‘confusing and erroneous’ Synod on the Family
Extract from  Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 10 March 2015                                                                                                       US Cardinal Raymond Burke has condemned church reformers who want to explore ways of admitting civilly remarried Catholics to Communion in a damning critique of October’s Synod of bishops on the Family. The cardinal, whom Pope Francis moved from heading the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura to leading the Knights of Malta, is in England this week. In an hour-long address he criticised attempts to change church teaching on marriage and family life and said that last year’s Synod on the Family, called by Pope Francis, was “confused and erroneous” in that it sought to condone contraception, gay relationships and “living in a public state of adultery”. He told a meeting on Friday in Chester, which was organised by the lay Catholic group Voice of the Family, that “confusion about the meaning of human sexuality” had led to breakdown of the family, corruption of children and “ultimately, self-destruction.” During the address, which ran to 25 pages but did not mention Pope Francis, he called the report that was issued at the midpoint of the Synod, which advocated using more welcoming language around homosexuality, “a manifesto, a kind of incitement to a new approach to fundamental issues of human sexuality in the Church. He singled out a presentation given in February 2014 by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who urged the Church to show greater mercy when dealing with family issues, as the first instance where such “confusion and error” was expressed, (more

Vatican female staff increases but women still a minority
Extract from CathNews, 10 March 2015
The number of women working for Vatican City has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, while the number of women in leadership positions in the Curia remains low, with only two women serving as undersecretaries, reports the Catholic News Service.     Gudrun Sailer, a journalist at Vatican Radio, conducted a study of the Vatican employment situation and published the results in preparation for the celebration on Sunday (March 8) of International Women's Day. According to Sailer, 371 women were employed by the office governing the City State in 2014, up from 194 in 2004. Most work in service jobs and at the Vatican supermarket, post office, or museums.    Sailer's research also includes women working for the Holy See, which includes the Roman Curia and organisations such as Vatican Radio. The number of women employed by the Holy See in 2014 was 391, up from 288 three years earlier. Among them, 41 per cent had university degrees and worked in professional positions, such as archivists, historians, journalists, and department heads.    The increase does not come close to balancing the scales in male-female employment within the Vatican walls: The percentage of women employed in the office governing the Vatican City State is now 19 percent; the percentage of female staff at the Holy See is 18 percent (more).  

Congolese bishop: The Vatican under Francis is 'closer to the reality that we live'
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter,  10 March 2015
Rome. A Congolese bishop whose people face difficult questions of natural resource extraction and possible future political violence has said the Vatican under Pope Francis has become a place that understands their needs and makes him feel listened to.     "I believe the Holy See now is closer to our reality, to the reality that we live," Bishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu said. "We have the impression that it is easier for them to understand better our situation."    "Before, it was very difficult," continued Ambongo, a Capuchin Franciscan who led his order's province encompassing the two Congos before being appointed bishop by Pope John Paul II in March 2005. "For me, this is a big, big change. We find now that what we are living is listened to here in the Vatican."    Ambongo, who leads the diocese of Bokungu-Ikela in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also said the changes to the Vatican seem "like a change not only in attitude here, but a new anthropology for the way of living our faith."    That new anthropology, the bishop said, is centered on two questions: "Who is man? Who is the human person?" Such anthropology, he said, "was spoken of at the Second Vatican Council, but now it has become a reality (more). Photo: NCR  CNS/Paul Haring

Vatican event tackles women's equality, inclusion, ordination
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 9 March 2015
Vatican City/ A Vatican event Sunday saw a remarkably open and frank discussion among women about the limits on their participation in church structures in what may have been the first such public conversation ever to take place at the center of the Catholic hierarchy.   Among the topics the women discussed at the event, held to mark International Women's Day: the need for the church to practice what it preaches about full equality between men and women, to include women in every level of decision-making, and to use inclusive language in its worship.    The women also expressed a desire for a fundamental rethink regarding how church prelates and documents describe them, saying they are often pigeonholed as reflecting only the sensitive or tender half of humanity.    "I would like to see women have [the] opportunity to be strong, courageous, intelligent," said Ulla Gudmundson, a former Swedish ambassador to the Holy See, during the discussion. "I would also like to see men have the opportunity to be tender, patient, sensitive."    Turning a phrase often used by bishops to describe women on its head, Gudmundson continued: "Pope Francis is a shining example of feminine genius: patient, tender, showing mercy and love."    Expressing her dreams for how the church would treat women in the future, another member of the discussion presented a multilayered vision of a Catholic church where men and women are treated as equals at every level.    "I dream of a church where it won't matter whether you're a man or a woman and you just respond to God's call of service," said Astrid Gajiwala, an Indian biologist who has worked as a consultant for her bishops' conference (more).

A Catholic Critic Warms to Francis
Extracts from Jason Berry, 9 March 2015
Gentle winds of optimism are not the expected forecast when Garry Wills writes on the state of the Roman Catholic Church.        Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Lincoln at Gettysburg, Wills is one America’s most prolific historians and a leading public intellectual. The range of his numerous books, essays and reported pieces show the exacting standards of a classicist, inspired by the Enlightenment and anchored—ironically, some might say—in the Catholic faith.           A former Jesuit novice (seminarian) who left religious life for a B.A. in philosophy at St. Louis University, Wills took an M.A. at Xavier University before earning a Ph.D. in classics at Yale in 1961. The Second Vatican Council began in 1962, as he was starting a nearly two-decade run as a professor at Johns Hopkins, writing Esquire pieces and a syndicated political column on the side. In 1980 he took a chair at Northwestern, all the while maintaining a flow of articles in major magazines.        As Paul VI reeled from the fallout over his 1968 encyclical that condemned birth control devices, the pope became so demoralized as to write no more encyclicals in his final ten years. For Wills, the writer and historian, the church became a gift that kept on giving.        “The issue was one of intellectual honesty; of the whole intellectual structure within which faith was to be grasped and taught—its demands laid upon others, its claims rationally vindicated,” he wrote in Bare Ruined Choirs (1972). “The church’s stand on contraception did not even blend dubious philosophy with gospel mystery; it simply had no basis in the New Testament or Old ... Most of the faithful tried to ignore it.”           By Wills’s lights, dishonesty is the papacy’s rooted sin.        There in cameo is Garry Wills’s confrontation with the church, as distinguished from his faith: How is a moral teaching, encyclical, or papal decision rationally vindicated? How do the pronouncements and decisions of ecclesial officials hold up to the true light of scripture, and at the other end of the spectrum, enlightened science? How does a church accustomed to papal fiat manifest the intellectual freedom implicit in the reforms of Vatican II?           The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis is the latest episode of Wills the critic on institutional dynamics. And in a pattern laid out in previous work, this book is less about Francis and more about Wills’s evolution from his prosecutorial stance in Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit (2000). The new book reflects on a church, long-averse to introspection, being prodded toward redemptive messages of its past by a reformer pope.....................With so much of his career driven by a chronicling of power abused and human rights trampled within the temple of his faith, Wills in the new book had the option to say much more about Francis. Instead he sent off a flaming arrow of cautionary good news, and held back, waiting. Whatever comes next from his quiver, the arrow is usually worth the wait (more).

Francis: Theologians should smell like the sheep, too
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 9 March 2015
Vatican City. Pope Francis has called on Catholic theologians not to simply practice an academic exercise of studying at their desks, but to take their work to the frontiers to "pour oil and wine over the wounds of humankind."   Writing in a letter last week to the theological faculty of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, the pope also adapted a favorite phrase he has used to describe the type of Catholic bishops he wants, calling on theologians to "smell of the people and of the road."    Francis' letter to the university, which is dated March 3 but was released by the Vatican on Monday, was addressed to its chancellor, Buenos Aires Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli. The pope was writing on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the university's theology faculty.   Beginning his letter by noting that the faculty is celebrating its anniversary in the 50th year of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, the pope tells them the council "produced an irreversible movement of renewal that comes from the Gospel."   "Now, we must go forward," Francis writes. "How, then, to go ahead? Teaching and studying theology means living on a frontier, one in which the Gospel meets the needs of the people to whom it should be proclaimed in an understandable and meaningful way." (more) Photo: Book cover, Francis, by Patrick J Mann

Cardinal Tagle criticises use of ‘harsh words’ for gay and divorced people
Extracts from Catholic Herald UK, 9 March 2015
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, has lamented the “harsh words” that the Church used about gay and divorced people in the past, saying it left them feeling “branded”. The cardinal, who had spoken at the Flame 2 Youth Congress, a gathering of 8,000 young Catholics at the SSE Wembley Arena, told the Telegraph that a “growth in mercy” and a shift in sensibilities meant that “what constituted in the past an acceptable way of showing mercy, … now, given our contemporary mindset, may not be any more viewed as that”. He said that insights in child psychology had led to a change in the way people were instructed about Church teaching in Catholic schools and other institutions. He said: “I think even the language has changed already, the harsh words that were used in the past to refer to gays and divorced and separated people, the unwed mothers etc, in the past they were quite severe. “Many people who belonged to those groups were branded and that led to their isolation from the wider society.................Speaking about the upcoming extraordinary synod Cardinal Tagle said: “The questions asked were an invitation for people to really examine their conscience. For example, in your parish if you are aware that something is happening are you just aware? Or have you already started doing something? There’s the question of the youth, the elderly, and in the case of the Philippines, families that are separated by migration because of jobs. We know what is happening and we know about the negative effects. But what are we doing? Are we just talking about it? “We must remember that this is an international gathering so people are coming from different contexts. It is the same gospel and the same truth, but you cannot avoid people thinking: ‘How do I present this teaching to my people?’. No single country, diocese or parish can exhaust all possible responses, so it will be a learning moment where the diversity could help all of us.” Asked about communion for divorced and remarried couples under certain circumstances, he said that it is not easy to say either yes or no. “Every situation for those who are divorced and remarried is quite unique. To have a general rule might be counterproductive in the end. My position at the moment is to ask, ‘Can we take every case seriously and is there, in the tradition of the Church, paths towards addressing each case individually?’ This is one issue that I hope people will appreciate is not easy to say ‘no’ or to say ‘yes’ to. We cannot give one formula for all.” (more)

Cardinal Burke: New evangelization fails unless teachings on marriage are upheld
Extract from Somon Caldwell, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 9 March 2015
Chester, England The new evangelization of Western societies will fail unless the church succeeds in transmitting its teachings on marriage and the family to Catholics, said U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta.    The success of efforts to convincingly preach anew the Gospel in secularized societies rests on the ability of Catholics to faithfully abide by the church's teachings, Burke said.    He said the obedient Christian witness of faithful married couples was critical to the renewal of the church and society and said Catholics must be willing to suffer in their efforts to uphold the truth of marriage.    "The challenge which confronts the whole church confronts particularly the church in the first cell of her life, which is the family," he said in a March 6 speech, "Remaining in the Truth of Christ on Holy Matrimony."    "If we can't get it straight with regard to the truth about marriage and the family, we really don't have much to say about anything else," Burke told more than 150 people at a meeting organized by Voice of the Family, an initiative of Catholic laity in support of the 2014-2015 Synods of Bishops on the family (more). Photo: NCR CNS/Simon Caldwell  

Women See Themselves as Left Out Amid Talk of Change in Catholic Church
Extracts from  Elisabetta Povoledommarch, New York Times,6 March 2015
VATICAN CITY — In the first two years of his papacy, Pope Francis has stirred great expectations for change among Roman Catholics who believe that the church has not kept pace with the social transformations of secular society.        Nowhere are those hopes felt more keenly, perhaps, than among women, often the driving force behind local church communities, but who say that their voices remain marginalized.        Though the pope has repeatedly cited the importance of women in the life of the church, critics say he has at times proved strikingly tone-deaf toward the sensitivities and needs of women (for example, describing five women he appointed to a committee as “the strawberries on the cake”).    Some momentum is nevertheless gathering behind women’s issues, however, if only because women, correctly or not, see his papacy as an opportunity and have begun pushing their agenda forward, challenging various corners of the Vatican’s male-dominated status quo.        On Sunday, International Women’s Day, Voices of Faith, an initiative sponsored by a Liechtenstein-based foundation, will for only the second time bring together women from various walks of life to discuss women’s issues at a seminar inside Vatican City, a hard-fought victory, said Chantal Götz, the president of the foundation.        “It becomes all the more symbolic when it’s inside the Vatican. It’s a step ahead,” she said. Participants in the seminar could provide a sort of de facto think tank. “If the pope needs advice, there are women who can provide it,” she said. ...................A document adopted in 2010 by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India recognized the need for gender equality in decision-making and urged greater empowerment of women. “Our focus was changing mind-sets,” said Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, who worked as a consultant for the bishops’ group, and is in Rome this week to participate in Voices of Faith. So far the policy has been adopted with mixed results in India. “These are slow processes,” she said, “overcoming the conditioning of centuries.” (more).

Pope backs Cardinal Pell with new financial statutes
Extract from CathNews, 4 March 2015
Pope Francis has decided the future of his financial reform, issuing a new legal framework for three key oversight bodies which largely confirm the authority of Cardinal George Pell, whom he put in charge of his clean-up operation, reports Crux. The decision, announced yesterday, came in the form of a new legal framework approved by the Pontiff for the Vatican’s three financial oversight bodies created in 2014: The Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy, and an independent auditor general. Despite mounting calls from some quarters of the Vatican to rein in Cardinal Pell, such measures are largely missing from the new statutes, which were signed by Pope Francis on February 22 and became effective on March 1. The only major concession is that while the Secretariat for the Economy has been confirmed as responsible for procurement and personnel, it will not administer Vatican real estate (more). 

Francis picks McElroy, known for mercy emphasis, to lead San Diego diocese
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 3 March 2015
Vatican City. Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed an auxiliary bishop known for his focus on addressing poverty and stressing the role of mercy in church teaching as the new bishop of San Diego. Robert McElroy, a San Francisco native who had served as a prelate in his hometown since 2010, is expected to be installed in his new role soon. He succeeds late San Diego Bishop Cirilo Flores, who died last year from cancer after less than a year as head of the diocese. A prelate who has garnered attention both for his writings and his pastoral approach, McElroy in January said Francis is moving the church away from an ecclesiastical vision of "smaller but purer" to a church that embraces the wounded and frail. Speaking in a presentation to Dominican women religious in San Rafael, Calif., the new bishop said the church has in the past focused too much on telling people how to live rightly instead of welcoming them and supporting them in their struggles. "To be judgmental is a cardinal sin for religion," he said then. "It is easy for the church to get lost in the rules, but pastoral theology trumps rules." (more)

US diocese asks parishioners to fund priest training
Extract from Catholic News, 4 March 2015
Faced with a surging number of seminarians, the Diocese of Madison in Wisconsin, US, is turning to its parishioners to help fund the training of priests, reports AP in Crux. The diocese has seen its priests-in-training soar from six in 2003 to the current 33. To educate current and future seminarians, the Madison diocese says it needs A$37 million. Church-goers have responded with vigour, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The campaign began last fall and will continue through the end of this year. Although the campaign has yet to expand to all churches in the 11-county diocese, parishioners already have pledged more than $28 million. “I couldn’t be more pleased,” Madison's Bishop Robert Morlino said in an interview. He gives immense credit to the diocese’s 110 priests who have been rolling out the campaign in their parishes. The diocese declined to pinpoint a per-seminarian cost. But calculations, based on interviews and available data, suggest the diocese spends A$3150,000 to $3750,000 to train each new priest — figures diocesan officials did not contest, the newspaper reported.Bishop Morlino has made priestly vocations — the spiritual call to serve — a priority. He increased the position of director of vocations to full-time, and he routinely promotes the priesthood at functions (more). Photo: CathNews

A church for the poor, not a 'pure' church
Extract from John Gehring, National Catholic Reporter, 27 February 2015
.............Pope Francis recently warned new cardinals at St. Peter’s Basilica against making the church a “closed caste.” In essence, he wants a church for the poor, not a “pure” church.    “Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences,” Francis said in his homily. “For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!” Jesus, said the pope, “does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity.”    This builds on a consistent theme of the Francis papacy. While some prefer the church to hunker down and avoid taking any risks, Pope Francis wants what he describes in Evangelii Gaudium as “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.”    A U.S. Catholic bishop is echoing that message, and standing up for an interfaith coalition in Las Cruces, N.M. that is working to raise the city’s minimum wage. When the Catholic Coalition of New Mexico took out an advertisement accusing the treasurer of the CCHD-funded interfaith coalition of “organizing pro-abortion rallies,” Bishop Oscar Cantú responded with a strongly worded op-ed in the Las Cruces Sun-News.    “As your bishop, I do not take lightly to the efforts of anyone driving a wedge between my flock and me,” he wrote. “… I will not be bullied into compromising the legitimate work of social justice of the church or allowing someone to lead the flock astray.”.......(more)

International church group enters synod fray with ‘alternative’ survey
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 27 February 2015
An international church reform group is the latest to offer a version of the Vatican’s 46-item questionnaire that will guide discussions at the upcoming ordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.
Catholic Church Reform International has created a 20-question “alternative” survey, which it describes as “a straightforward, non-directive questionnaire inviting people to share their experiences on the effectiveness of the Church's pastoral care of families in all their diverse forms.”      “We want to be sure their voices are heard,” Rene Reid, the group’s director, told NCR in an email.    As of Friday morning, the alternative online survey has gathered 1,100 responses since opening Monday, according to the international reform network that represents more than 100 groups in 65 countries. Posted in English, the group has invited Catholics worldwide to participate.    “Pope Francis is eager to know you and your family. Here is an opportunity to share the challenges of your family life with him and how effective the Church's pastoral care has been for you,” reads the alternative survey’s greeting.    Reid said the survey will close around March 9, but the deadline may be extended if response is high. At that point, a team of six people will collate and organize responses by country to see what cultural variances may exist before sending the report to the Vatican before its April 15 deadline. The reform also plans to publish the final report on its website (more).

Fr Cantalamessa reflects on Evangelii Gaudium
Extracts from News.Va, Vatican Radio, 27 February 2015
(Vatican Radio) The preacher of the Pontifical Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, says the conversion that Jesus wants from us is not a step backwards but instead a leap forwards. Father Cantalamessa was speaking in his first meditation of Lent during which he reflected on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.  He said every baptized Christian is an active agent of evangelization and the ultimate purpose of that evangelization is a personal encounter with Jesus. First Lenten Homily 2015...............Reflections on Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium”...................This means that the ultimate purpose of evangelization is not the transmission of a doctrine, but an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ. The possibility of such a face to face encounter depends on the fact that Jesus, risen, is alive and desires to walk next to every believer, as he really walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; more than that, as he was in their very heart, when they returned to Jerusalem, after having received him in the broken bread......................In Catholic language, “the personal encounter with Jesus” has never been a very familiar concept. Preferred instead of “personal” encounter was the idea of ecclesial encounter, which occurs, namely, through the sacraments of the Church. To our Catholic ears, the expression had vaguely Protestant resonances. Obviously the Pope is not thinking of a personal encounter that substitutes the ecclesial. He only wishes to say that the ecclesial encounter must also be free, willed, and spontaneous, not purely nominal, juridical or habitual (more). Photo, Vatican Radio

Pope Francis sends clergy off to management lessons
Extract from CathNews, 27 February 2015
The Pontifical Lateran University in Rome has inaugurated a pastoral management course for those who manage financial and human resources in parishes, dioceses, and other organisations affiliated with the Church, reports Bloomberg/SMH. Fr Massimo Cavallo jumped at the chance to go back to school after struggling with maintenance work, suppliers, and taxes as the manager of a students' dormitory in Rome. The 34-year-old is one of 26 attendees of the 15-month course, inaugurated this month, which covers topics such as strategic communication, business ethics and creative problem-solving. The effort is in line with the Holy See's attempt to close a budget shortfall and comes as Italy strives to emerge from the longest recession since World War II. Pope Francis is also trying to boost efficiency and clean up finances after scandals involving the Vatican Bank and the Holy See's administrative body, APSA, which manages real estate and financial holdings of the world's smallest state (more). Photo: Cathnews

U.S. National clergy group launches its own synod questionnaire
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 26 February 2015
As U.S. dioceses continue their Vatican-ordered consultations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, a national clergy group has launched its own questionnaire in an effort to highlight the issues most pressing to priests. The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests sent a synod survey on Jan. 31 to its 1,000-plus members, asking each not to answer the 46 questions presented in the synod’s working document, the lineamenta, but instead to rank them in importance on a seven-point scale from “not important” to “essential.” Each question also offers comment space for priests to expand on those questions they deemed as essential. The instructions for the survey also ask respondents to keep in mind two “preliminary” questions posed by the synod document: Does the descriptions of family issues in the lineamenta correspond to today’s church and society? And what aspects are missing that should be included? The exercise, said Fr. Bernard Survil, an association board member, allows the priests to show which questions they as a group view as most important for the synod to discuss, and ultimately, answer. “We know that none of us are going to be delegates, but we do want to have input,” said Survil, who is a priest in the Greensburg, Pa., diocese. “We want to let our delegates know … that this is what you should be focusing on,” he added (more).

Homeless man to get Vatican burial
Extract from Thelocal.It, 25 February 2015
A dead homeless man will have the rare honour of being buried in the Teutonic cemetery at the Vatican after Pope Francis gave his permission, according to Italian media reports. The body of Willy Herteller will be laid to rest in the cemetery alongside German princes and bishops, according to reports in Il Messaggero. Herteller, who is Flemish, was found dead between December and January at the age of 80 in the Vatican. The homeless man reportedly used to beg near St Peter’s Basilica where he attended mass. He was known to many in the Vatican and was a friend of Monsignor Amerigo Ciani, the paper said.  It was Ciani who first noticed the man's disappearance. When he found out about his friend’s death he asked Pope Francis’s permission for the man to be buried in the cemetery.  Located between St Peter's Basilica and the Paul VI Audience Hall, the Teutonic cemetery is the oldest German establishment in Rome. During the Roman Empire, it was the site of the martyrdom of many Christians in the city (more).

Strong Catholic Families offers simplified survey for family synod
Extracts from Soli Salgado, National Catholic Reporter, 25 February 2015
If you found the official survey on family life presented to Catholics by about half of all U.S. dioceses difficult to answer and time-consuming, maybe you should try the survey prepared by Strong Catholic Families, a group of four national organizations that minister to families and youth.     Your answers, unfortunately, won't be shared with the Vatican's Secretariat for the Synod, which is directing the official surveys, but you can be sure the answers will be discussed by church leaders and parish workers interested in your family's welfare.       "It became pretty frustrating for me, even as a church leader, to read [the official synod surveys] and think of the people who had to respond to them, and how difficult it is to both understand and respond pastorally to those kinds of questions," said Michael Theisen, director of Ministry Formation at the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, part of Strong Catholic Families.   "They're certainly not made for parents to respond to; they're specifically for a very few church leaders to grasp and understand the language use."    The survey from Strong Catholic Families, which went live Monday, uses concise language and consists of  three questions that take about five minutes to complete.   And you won't have to wait until some unknown date in the future to know what the survey found. Theisen plans to present the results of the survey at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress on March 14 in Anaheim, Calif (more)

Francis' theological spokesman Walter Kasper publishes new book on pope
Extract from  Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, National Catholic Reporter, 24 February 2015
German Cardinal Walter Kasper has emerged as Pope Francis' theological spokesman. In his recently published book, Pope Francis' Revolution of Tenderness and Love, released Feb. 18, Kasper portrays the pope as neither conservative nor liberal but a radical who wants to bring about a revolution of mercy.    Kasper begins by describing how in a very short time the new pope managed to bring a fresh wind to the church, which soon attracted favorable attention worldwide. Within 18 months of Francis' election, a great many books about him were published. Most were in favor, but there were also a few critical voices, Kasper wrote. And in certain circles, both open and hidden criticism of Francis has increased.        "A considerable number of people do not trust the new enthusiasm, are exercising genteel restraint and have adopted a wait and see attitude," Kasper wrote. "What for most people seems a new spring, is for them a passing cold spell -- not a new beginning but just an intermezzo."        However, Kasper is not going to detail church political assessments, biographical details, anecdotes or inside stories about what is really or supposedly happening behind Vatican walls. "That may all be interesting but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter," he wrote.       His book is an attempt to "approach the Francis phenomenon theologically," to throw light on the theological content of the present pontificate and to elucidate the new perspectives it opens up. Francis is neither a star nor a theological lightweight but a deeply mystical person, Kasper wrote.       While the pope's theology cannot be assigned to a particular school of thought, there is no doubt in Kasper's mind that Romano Guardini (1885-1968), a German priest, author and academic and one of the most seminal figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th century, profoundly influenced Francis, who studied Guardini's works during his stay in Germany in 1986. According to Kasper, Guardini's Attempts at a Philosophy of what is Concrete and Alive had a pivotal influence on Francis (more). Photo: NCR, CNS/Paul Haring 

Brisbane Archdiocese to strengthen child protection policies
Extract from Cath News, 24 February 2015
The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, has released a suite of new initiatives and stronger child protection policies in response to the Royal Commission’s findings into the way the Archdiocese dealt with a survivor of child sexual abuse in 1999. In a statement released on Thursday, Archbishop Coleridge has once again apologised to survivors of child sexual abuse and outlined how the Archdiocese has responded since appearing before the Royal Commission in December 2013, as part of the its examination of the Church’s Towards Healing process. As part of the response to the Commission’s hearing and its findings the Archdiocese has..........(more)

Most US dioceses consult Catholics on family issues for fall synod
Extract from Staff, National Catholic Reporter, 23 February 2015
With little more than a month to go before reports are due in Rome, more than half of U.S. dioceses have asked Catholics in their regions for input for the upcoming ordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican in October. A NCR investigation of websites and online publications for 33 Latin-rite archdioceses and 145 Latin-rite dioceses, conducted Thursday and Friday, found that roughly 52 percent of them (93) have begun to gather information in some capacity. For the remaining 85 dioceses, it was unclear how or if they were collecting responses within their borders. Almost two-thirds of U.S. archdioceses (21) have collected information for the synod that will address areas related to contemporary marriage and family life, with 17 percent of them offering online surveys. For dioceses, about half (72) had sought out responses, with 48 percent of them using online forms (more).

Vatican event seeks to gently push Francis on women's roles
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 20 February 2015
Rome. An organization seeking to influence Pope Francis' view of women -- and to propose female professionals he might tap to lead high church offices -- will be hosting a live-streamed event from the Vatican for the second time next month. Called Voices of Faith, the event will feature storytelling presentations from 10 women from various parts of the world who have overcome adversity or have reached the highest places available for women below the hierarchy's stained-glass ceiling. The event will be held March 8, the day marked as International Women's Day, at the Vatican's iconic Casina Pio IV, a white marble structure inside the Vatican Gardens that houses the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (more).

Issue of ordaining married men is in my diary, Pope reportedly tells Rome priests
Extract from Hannah Roberts in Rome, The Tablet, 20 February 2015
Pope Francis has reportedly suggested that he may be open to the idea of married men being ordained priests in the Catholic Church, saying that the issue “is in his diary”. Francis was quoted by priests from the diocese of Rome who met him at the Vatican yesterday. The Bishop of Rome traditionally meets the priests of his diocese during Lent. The Pope addressed them on the theme of homiletics and then took questions. Francis reportedly told the priests that last week he celebrated Mass with five priests who were marking the golden anniversary of their ordination, and that five priests who had left the priesthood to marry were also present (more).

Pope Francis' reform of the Roman Curia is moving too slowly
Extracts from Thomas Reese*, National Catholic Reporter, 20 February 2015
As Pope Francis approaches the second anniversary of his election as pope, progress on reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly. It should be moving faster. The College of Cardinals met in consistory on Feb. 12-13 to review the progress made so far and to discuss future reforms. The cardinals heard from the nine-member Council of Cardinals, which has been spearheading the reforms for Pope Francis. The greatest progress has been made in reforming the finances of the Vatican, which has mainly focused on where the money is -- the Vatican bank, the Vatican City State, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples. A new Secretariat for the Economy was also created to supervise Vatican finances. Reforming Vatican finances is a priority for Pope Francis, who listened to the complaints about financial scandals from the cardinals at the time of his election. In theory, this is the easiest part of Vatican reform. Financial reform is neither rocket science nor theology; it is simply good management practices developed by businesses, governments, and nonprofits to provide transparency and accountability. It requires clear procedures, training of employees, and proper supervision .................Reforming the Roman Curia, the part of the Vatican that helps the pope in his Petrine ministry, is more difficult...................Reforming the Roman Curia requires a theological vision for the Petrine ministry, a sense of what the church needs today, and a practical understanding of how to organize people to implement it (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. His email address is

Can Pope Francis reform the Curia?   Madeleine Teahan speaks with Vatican observer Fr Mark Drew
Edited extract from UK Catholic Herald, 19 February 2015
Everyone expects Pope Fra

ncis to reform the Roman Curia. But can he actually do it? Last week he summoned the world’s cardinals to Rome for an update on his progress. But almost two years after his election has he actually made much progress? If not, what’s stopping him? To find out, I spoke to Fr Mark Drew, an

English parish priest who keeps a keen eye on Vatican affairs. Listen to podcast here (19'45"). Photo: The Guardian,. Article here

Put the new evangelisation on hold
Extracts from Stephen Bullivant*,  UK Catholic Herald, Thursday 19 February 2015
Unless we truly understand why thousands are leaving the Church in Britain any attempt to spread the faith will flounder. Here are some not so fun facts about Catholicism in contemporary Britain: 1) Two out of every five cradle Catholics now no longer identify as Catholic; 2) A Catholic upbringing is a stronger predictor of having “no religion” in adulthood than it is of being a once-a-month-or-more church-goer; and 3) For every one convert the Church attracts, 10 Catholic children grow up to regard themselves as non-Catholic adults.     These are hard facts, in both senses of the phrase. The numbers come from the respected British Social Attitudes survey. Since 1983, the BSA has been a crucial resource for policymakers and social scientists. Each year around 3,000 adults are interviewed on a wide range of topics, including a number of items relating to religious identity, belief and practice.          Pooling several years’ worth of data yields a sizable number of Catholic respondents (in this case, nearly 2,500 cradle Catholics from 2007 to 2011). Such statistics provide a stark illustration of what St John Paul II began pointing out a quarter of a century ago, in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio: “Entire groups of the baptised have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church.”................More surprising, perhaps, is the age profile of those who leave. Received wisdom tends to think inactivity and disaffiliation is most prevalent among those in their twenties and thirties. The BSA says differently. Only 54 per cent of cradle Catholics in their forties, and 60 per cent of those in their fifties, still identify as Catholic. Compare those to 66 per cent of twenty-somethings, and 62 per cent of thirty-somethings. None of these proportions give particular cause for complacency, of course. But how many dioceses do you know with vibrant middle-age ministries? (more)   *Stephen Bullivant is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham

 Two new appointments as Archdiocese of Sydney structure split
Edited Extract from CathNews, Thursday 19 February 2015
The Archbishop of Sydnet Anthony Fisher OP has split roles of chancellor and vicar-general in a restructruring of Diocesan management, reports The Catholic Weekly. and appointed Chris Meney and respected academic and parish priest, Fr Gerald Gleeson to the respective roles. The joint responsibilities were previously held by Mons John Usher, parish priest of Mortlake. “The Archbishop has discerned a need to bring more people in to help focus on some of these discrete aspects that previously perhaps were swept up in one role,” said Mr Meney, founding director of the archdiocesan Life, Marriage and Family Centre and father of nine.  “I think it’s probably even reflective of the Church Universal, and some of the perspectives that Pope Francis has brought into play in Rome.”  Mr Meney said Archbishop Fisher indicated it would be beneficial to have “a lay person and a well-qualified clergyman in these sorts of roles, and working together” (more).

Open Letter to Pope Francis: Concern with Synod 2015 Questionnaire
Catholic Church Reform International, Thursday 19 February 2015
This letter expresses our concern that the Lineamenta Questionnaire released by the Vatican is totally unworkable. From our monitoring, we know that the Vatican questionnre is not being promoted on most diocesan and episcopal websites and, consequently, is undermining the desire of Pope Francis to hear from all levels of the Faithful. In its place CCRI is offering to release an Alternative Living Poll. Please read our open letter and then fill out the form at the bottom of the page to sign the letter yourself (here). Thank you - Catholic Church Reform Internatrional.  (Note: Catholics For Renewal is an active member of Catholic Church Reform Intl.)

Pope sympathizes with married ex-priests, but doesn't say they should return
Extract froms By Vatican Correspondent Inés San Martín, Crux, 19 February 2015
ROME — Pope Francis expressed compassion Thursday for men who have left the priesthood to marry, reportedly saying he understands their “suffering,” but he stopped short of saying that those ex-priests should be able to return to active ministry. The pontiff’s remarks reportedly came during the annual meeting between the pope — in his capacity as as bishop of Rome — and the city’s parish priests, when an Italian named Giovanni Cereti, a former priest who was dispensed from ministry after getting married, asked the pope about the possibility of being re-admitted.Cereti cited the example of the Eastern Catholic Churches, where married men can be ordained priests, to question why the married priests of the Latin Rite cannot celebrate the Mass and the other sacraments of the Church. Although the Vatican hasn’t yet released an official transcript of the pope’s response, Italian media reported that Francis acknowledged the ex-priests’ “suffering.” He reportedly said the issue was difficult to resolve, but one that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy is studying and that the Church has at heart. Reports say that Francis told his Rome priests that last week he celebrated his daily Mass with seven priests who were celebrating 50 years in the priesthood, and that five men who had left the ministry to get married were also present.Francis was quoted after that encounter as saying that the issue of priests who left to marry being able to come back was “on his agenda,” but a cleric who took part in the Thursday session said Francis did not indicate that he was inclined to take dramatic steps (more).

Can the church welcome the transgender community?
Extract from Jennifer Mertens, National Catholic Reporter, 19 February 2015
"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. ... Fix society. Please."    The suicide note appeared on the social media site Tumblr, scheduled for publication shortly after a transgender teen walked onto an interstate and was fatally struck by a tractor trailer. The Cincinnati teen, born Joshua Ryan Alcorn, signed the message, "Leelah Alcorn."...........Beyond gender identity, Leelah's death has intensified debate on a host of related issues. Ongoing taboos around suicide and mental health have come under increased scrutiny. The teen's painfully public suicide has also fueled conversation on how social media platforms shape and can even dissolve apparent boundaries between private and public life. In particular, Leelah's story poses significant pastoral, theological and moral challenges for the Christian community. The suicide note from Leelah, who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, recounts an experience of Christianity in which gender variance was communicated as being "selfish and wrong." This stance exacerbated a social isolation and despair from which she concluded: "The life I would've lived isn't worth living." (more)   Photo: NCR  

Cardinals Pell and Marx clash over financial transparency as tensions in Curia surface
Extract from Christopher Lamb, Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 19 February 2015
Clashes over reforms to Vatican finances took place this week following a meeting of cardinals after a detailed breakdown of the Holy See’s economic position was outlined. Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told a consistory of cardinals that a review of finances found a total of £978 million in assets and funds that had not been previously accounted for. But Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the Council of the Economy, the body that has overarching responsibility for all the financial activity of the Holy See and to which the secretariat reports, questioned the wisdom of releasing of the figures.........Cardinal Pell gave details of the figures in interviews with French, Italian and American publications where he also spoke about opposition to his push for transparency (more). Photo: The Tablet

Gay Catholics get Vatican welcome, but no papal shout-out
Extract from Nicole Winfield Associated Press, Crux, Wednesday 18 February 2015
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican did something it has never done before by giving a group of U.S. gay and lesbian Catholics VIP seats at Pope Francis’ weekly general audience Wednesday. But in a sign that the welcome wasn’t all it could have been, the New Ways Ministry pilgrims were only identified on the Vatican’s list of attendees as a “group of lay people accompanied by a Sister of Loreto.” And not even that got announced: When a Vatican monsignor read out the list of the different groups of pilgrims in attendance in St. Peter’s Square, he skipped over the group altogether. Francis didn’t mention them, either. Even without a papal shout-out, New Ways Ministry officials were nevertheless pleased that they had been invited to sit up front by Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the prefect of the papal household who dispenses the coveted reserved tickets for Francis’ audiences. Gaenswein for years has also been the top aide to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. When Benedict headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he permanently prohibited the New Ways Ministry co-founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and the Rev. Robert Nugent, from ministering to gays after determining in 1999 that they didn’t sufficiently adhere to church teaching on the “intrinsic evil” of homosexual acts (more).

Pope says "rules make us harsh judges"
Extract from Fr Noel Connolly SSC, St Columbans Mission Society, E-News, 17 February 2015
In The Joy of the Gospel (Apostolic Exhortation, 'Evangelii Gaudium) Pope Francis has restored to prominence a number of virtues we had largely forgotten: “joy”, “beauty”, “warmth”, “mercy” and “tenderness”.    With his emphasis on mercy he has rescued for us the virtue which in the Old and New Testaments defined God. From the time of the Exodus, our God is "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 33:19).     Francis reminds us that “rules make us harsh judges” and that mercy is the greatest of the virtues, since all the others revolve around it and, more than this, it makes up for their deficiencies (#37) .      What “the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” We are to heal wounds not to exacerbate them with our criticisms and demands.    In this he is again mirroring Jesus. For Jesus, mercy takes precedence over holiness and even justice. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus doesn’t demand that people approaching him must first be perfect or undergo formal rites of penance. Often he just dines with “sinners”, and scandalously touches or is touched by them. It was probably Jesus’ deeds of mercy that aroused opposition and ultimately lead to his death (more).  Photo: St Columbans M.S.

US dioceses consult Catholics on family issues for fall synod
Extract from Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter, 17 February, 2015
[Editor's Note: We posted this story at 10:30 a.m. central time. By 12:15 p.m. we had received additional information sent to We will update this story as soon as we can.]
Catholics who want to give input to their local bishops ahead of October's global Synod of Bishops on the family have ample opportunity -- but they better hurry.     A preliminary sampling of 21 dioceses around the U.S. found all were seeking input from individual Catholics through online surveys or parish consultations, and information on how to provide that input was easily available through the local diocesan newspaper, the diocesan website, or both.     But most dioceses in this preliminary sampling are closing the consultation in early March, and at least a few are closing the consultations as early as Friday. Many dioceses issued the invitation to participate in surveys in January. Juneau, Alaska, seems to be earliest, issuing an invitation Jan. 14. (more).

Could Pope Francis be any clearer about his vision for the church?
Extract from Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter, 16 Feb. 2015
t would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall on Sunday in any number of Rome's restaurants or private dining rooms where clerics gathered for their midday pranzo. Without a doubt, first course for most of them was the extraordinary homily Pope Francis gave just a couple of hours earlier at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica with his newly fortified College of Cardinals.    Depending on the wall, the conversion would have been either stomach-churning or quite inviting.     Those clerics who are troubled by or pretend not to understand what Francis is "up to" -- no matter what color their dress or which rung of the ecclesiastical ladder they stand on -- were certainly not raising their glasses to toast what he had to say.    But those priests, bishops and cardinals who have been inspired by this pope from "the end of the earth" or who are at least willing to be challenged by him -- no matter how small or great their numbers -- were no doubt feasting on his words.    The Jesuit pope on Sunday showed once again that elevation to the episcopacy, even to the venerable See of Peter, has not emasculated the prophetic nature so constitutive of his priestly ministry and identity as a professed religious.      He reminded the men that some Catholics still and unashamedly call "princes of the church" that Jesus was more interested in embracing lepers and every kind of outcast than observing the ritual purity and prudent deliberations of the doctors of the law (more).

Related story: Reform groups' petition asks Vatican to diversify lay voices at family synod
Extract from   Soli Salgado, National Catholic Reporter,  13 Feb. 2015,
At the Synod of Bishops on the family held at the Vatican in October 2014, several couples from around the world were invited to attend as representatives of the Catholic laity. One American couple, Alice and Jeff Heinzen, spoke about the beauty of family life and the advantages of natural family planning, a practice embraced in the church's teachings.     But Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, said, "While their voice and constituency should be represented, they should not be overrepresented. The purpose of the synod is to break new ground on these issues and to develop pastoral practices that reach out to Catholics who have not felt welcomed because they do not entirely conform to current teaching and practice."    In an effort to "widen the circle" at the second synod on the family, scheduled for October 2015, reform groups FutureChurch, Voice of the Faithful and the American Catholic Council have drafted a petition calling for more diverse laity to be invited. Twenty other organizations have joined the cause. The letter, which launched Jan. 21, addresses Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, and the bishops of the world. Organizers plan to deliver it March 4 by mail and email to the bishops, and hand-deliver a copy to Baldisseri at the Vatican.    The petition names groups of people that will be discussed according to the 2014 synod document, known as a lineamenta, and therefore should be included in the conversation: (more)

The Promoted Pell and the Sacked Morris: Two Catholic Bishops emerging from the Royal Commission        Extract from Frank Brennan SJ. Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 13 February 2015     
This week the royal commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published three reports relating to the Catholic Church.  Understandably the media has focused on the appropriately damning findings made by the royal commission against Cardinal Pell in his ruthless conduct of the Ellis case.           Having found that the Archdiocese of Sydney fundamentally failed Mr Ellis in its conduct of the Towards Healing process, the commission found that Cardinal Pell accepted the advice of his lawyers to vigorously defend the claim brought by Mr Ellis, in part to encourage other prospective plaintiffs not to litigate claims of child sexual abuse against the Church.  The commission also made a formal finding that the Archdiocese, the Trustees and the Archbishop, ‘did not act fairly from a Christian point of view in the conduct of the litigation against Mr Ellis’.  The commission found the Sydney Archdiocese failed to conduct the litigation with Mr Ellis in a manner that adequately took account of his pastoral and other needs as a victim of sexual abuse.          As a Catholic I am heartened to see that the royal commission moving from Sydney to Toowoomba made no adverse findings against Bishop William Morris.  In fact, the commission was quite complimentary to Morris. The commission’s key finding in relation to Morris was..........(more)

Royal Commission report criticises Church response
Extract from CathNews, Thursday 12 February 2014
The Royal Commission has found that the former Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, placed the Church’s financial interests above his obligation to a victim of sexual abuse to protect the Church's assets, reports The Australian. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse reported yesterday on three case studies, ­including that of solicitor John Ellis, who it found was denied justice and compassion by the Archdiocese of Sydney, which vigorously defended his compensation claim despite its own asses­sor’s conclusion he was telling the truth. Mr Ellis was sexually assaulted by Fr Aidan Duggan for five years between 1974 and 1979, when he was an altar boy. The abuse began when Mr Ellis was 13 years old. When he finally disclosed the abuse and, in 2002, took part in the church’s Towards Healing process, set up to offer pastoral care and reparation to victims, the Church fundamentally failed to comply with the principles of its own policy. Cardinal Pell initially dismissed Mr Ellis’s complaint, saying: “I do not see that there is anything the Archdiocese can do.” (more)

Rabbi Abraham Glick resigns from Yeshivah College after fronting royal commission on child abuse
Extract from Jane lee, The Age, 12 February 12, 2015
After fronting the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Abuse on Thursday, Rabbi Abraham Glick, the former principal of Melbourne's Yeshivah College over the period of David Cyprys' and David Kramer's sexual abuse of students, has resigned his current role of teacher......(more)

Francis: Vatican reform does not serve itself, but evangelization
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 12 February 2015
Vatican City. Pope Francis begin a rare meeting with some 150 Catholic cardinals to discuss reform of the Vatican bureaucracy by calling on them to speak boldly and to keep in mind the "supreme law," which he called the "salvation of  souls." Opening what is known as a consistory, a closed-door meeting of the world's cardinals at the Vatican, the pope also called on the prelates to help him in building "more effective collaboration" amongst church offices "in that  absolute transparency that builds authentic synodality and collegiality." Speaking of the reform process that he has undertaken over the past 18 months with a select group of nine cardinals, Francis said reform of the Vatican bureaucracy "is not an end in itself." Reform of the bureaucracy, said the pontiff, is "but a means to give a strong Christian witness; to promote a more effective evangelization; to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit; to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all." (more)

Canadian court ruling on assisted suicide dismays Church leaders
Extract from Cathnews, Thursday 12 February 2014
Canadian Church leaders and advocates for the disabled have reacted with dismay at a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to strike down laws against physician-assisted suicide, reports the Catholic News Service.In a unanimous decision on February 6, the court ruled that doctors can help adults with severe and incurable conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban against assisted suicide.  Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec,  president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted that "Catholics are called by their faith to assist all those in need, particularly the poor, the suffering and the dying."  "Helping someone commit suicide, however, is neither an act of justice or mercy, nor is it part of palliative care. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada today does not change Catholic teaching," he said (more).

Key African prelate backs Communion for divorced, remarried
Extract from John Allen Jnr, Associate Editor, Cruxnow, 11 February 2015
ROME — A key African participant in October’s looming Synod of Bishops on the family said Tuesday he’s open to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, belying impressions of a uniformly hostile African stance toward change on such matters. Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, said in a Crux interview that he supports allowing local bishops to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, and also believes that’s the result . Pope Francis wants from the October summit. Palmer-Buckle, 64, is one of four executive officers for the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the continent-wide assembly of Catholic bishops in Africa who met Pope Francis last Saturday in Rome. In late January, Francis confirmed the election of Palmer-Buckle by his fellow bishops in Ghana as a participant in the Synod of Bishops, set to assemble at the Vatican Oct. 4-25. When it does, Palmer-Buckle says he’ll be disposed to cast a “yes” vote on the proposal of German Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church to return to Communion under certain circumstances (more). Photo: CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec,    

Planet Vatican
Extract from Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter, 11 February 2015
You don’t have to speak Italian to understand the Vatican’s recent “Women's Cultures” events, but it could help. (It was all in Italian.). The Pontifical Council for Culture touted its meetings as analyses of the status of the world’s 3.5 billion women. (About 43 million of them speak Italian.). The council’s offensive Christmas-week infomercial was supposed to crowdsource a video for its opening event, which did flash a few (unreadable) submissions toward its end.  The avant garde production in Teatro Argentina, a Roman opera house, included a jazz trio, professionally produced videos and scripted declamations. (All in Italian.). What are we to make of all this? The Pontifical Council for Culture
seems to be the Vatican’s faculty of arts and letters. Like all Vatican councils and congregations, it is predominantly male. It includes 13 cardinals, 14 bishops and four “men of culture.” It has 35 consultors, including seven women.  Its 16-person staff has male professionals and four female secretaries. It is headed by four clerics: a prefect, a delegate, a secretary and an undersecretary. Such is the crowd that set out to advise the pope on women. (In Italian.) (more)

Catholic Reform Network says Synod questionnaire was designed to fail ... and is failing
Extract from Media Release, Rene Reid, Catholic Church Reform International, 10 February 2015
Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) has written an Open Letter to Pope Francis telling him that the 46-question survey requiring all essay-type answers devised by the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to gather feedback for the October 2015 Synod on the Family, is totally unworkable and not being promoted on most of the worldwide diocesan websites. "We know it is an unworkable document," said Peter Wilkinson, CCRI coordinator from Australia, "because our research shows that, in the nine weeks it has been out there, few bishops and dioceses anywhere in the world are using it. The complex survey is not only doomed to fail, but sadly, appears to have been designed to fail." "Not only will it not gather the voices of Catholic couples and families, but it will drive them away," said Rene Reid, CCRI co-founding director. "Whether it is intentional or not, this questionnaire is counterproductive, threatens to thwart the Pope's wishes, and could even endanger the effectiveness of the Synod itself."  (more)

Cardinal Marx on Francis, the Synod, Women in the Church and Gay Relationships
Extract from Luke Hansen, S.J,  America, the National Catholic Review, published 22 January 2015, 8 February 2015
An exclusive interview with the president of the German bishop's conference and papal adviser Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, is head of the German bishops’ conference, a member of the Council of Cardinals that advises Pope Francis on church governance, coordinator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy and author of Das Kapital: A Plea for Man (2008). Cardinal Marx delivered the annual Roger W. Heyns Lecture on Jan. 15 at Stanford University in California.This interview, which has been edited for clarity and approved by the cardinal, took place on Jan. 18 in Memorial Church at Stanford University                                                           Has your experience on the Council of Cardinals offered you a different perspective on the church?..............What challenge accompanies this new time in the church?.............What can you tell us about Pope Francis, the person, from working closely with him?........Two issues at the present synod are divorced and remarried Catholics and gay Catholics, especially those in relationships. Do you have opportunities to listen directly to these Catholics in your present ministry?..........At the synod you referred to “the case of two homosexuals who have been living together for 35 years and taking care of each other, even in the last phases of their lives,” and you asked, “How can I say that this has no value?” What have you learned from these relationships and does it have any bearing on sexual ethics today?..................Just last month Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, said the church should recognize a “diversity of forms” and could bless some gay relationships based on these values of love, fidelity and commitment. Is it important for the church to discuss these possibilities?..............How will the Catholic and Protestant churches mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017? What are the possibilities for greater cooperation among our churches?............Pope Francis has called for an increased role of women in the church. What can you imagine as possible? What would help the church better fulfill its mission?...............Progress is not apparent..........What impediment needs to be overcome?..........Pope Francis will make his first visit to the United States in September. What is your hope for the visit?....  (read complete article here)
Photo: America,  courtesy of Stanford University Office for Religious Life/Hagop's Photography   heyns14-1593

Pope tells bishops their priority is to protect children
Extract from CathNews, 6 February 2015
Pope Francis has ordered Catholic bishops around the world to co-operate as a matter of priority with a commission he set up to protect children from sexual abuse by clerics, even if it unearths new scandals, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The Pope, who met victims of abuse last year, sent the letter to the bishops and heads of religious institutions a day before the commission was due to hold its first full meeting. "Everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused," the Pope says in the letter. "Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children ... priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors." One of the members of the commission, Marie Collins of Ireland, herself a victim of sexual abuse, said commission members had asked the Pope for a letter to thwart any resistance from bishops, which she said some members expected. "Bishops' conferences have various views on abuse, as we know. In my own country, Ireland, there was a great deal of resistance to change, to putting in all the correct, necessary prevention measures and treating survivors in the right way," she said. "You must pre-empt that. If the commission wants co-operation ... then I think a letter from the Holy Father indicating that they [bishops] should co-operate certainly lends the backing necessary to our work," she said (more). Image:Flickr, Suffer litle children, Fergal of Claddagh

Francis invited to address US Congress
Extract from CathNews, 6 February 2015
The US House Speaker has announced that Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress on September 24, making him the first leader of the Holy See to do so, reports the Catholic News Service. The Speaker, John Boehner, noted that "in a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father's message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another." "We look forward to warmly welcoming Pope Francis to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people," he added (more). 

Pope sorry for telling Catholics not to 'breed like rabbits'
Extract from CathNews, 5 February 2015
The Pope has said that he is “truly sorry” for offending large families by saying that there was no need for Catholics to breed “like rabbits,” reports The Tablet. Francis caused dismay among parents of larger Catholic families when he advocated “responsible parenthood” advising that three children was “about right” for a family on his flight home from a visit to the Philippines. Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, Substitute at the Secretary of State, has apologised on Francis’ behalf saying “the Pope is truly sorry” that his remarks about large families “caused such disorientation.” Archbishop Becciu told the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire that the Pope “absolutely did not want to disregard the beauty and the value of large families.” (more)

Global church reform group backs US request for married priests dialogue
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 5 February 2015
An international church reform group has backed a U.S.-based effort seeking bishops begin a discussion about the possibility of ordaining married men into the priesthood. Catholic Church Reform International, a network of nearly 100 organizations from more than 15 countries, offered their support Thursday to the request for dialogue on the issue of married clergy made Tuesday by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. The roughly thousand-member association sent letters to all U.S. bishops, asking that as a conference they lead a wide consultation on the topic, adding that married priests are needed “to serve the pastoral needs of the people.” They cited the declining number of active priests, the stresses they currently experience, closing parishes and the church’s openness to ordained married clergy from other denominations. The international reform group CCRI applauded their request in light of “the problem of the shrinking priesthood,” but said the conversation can’t be limited to America alone (more).

Stephen Fry has the right to say God is evil – freedom of religion is a fundamental right for all, says Welby   Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 4 February 2015
The Archbishop of Canterbury said the atheist broadcaster Stephen Fry had every right to describe God "were he to exist", as "utterly evil, capricious and monstrous,” and should not be abused by Christians for his views. Archbishop Justin Welby said that the freedom to choose for or against faith went right through the Bible and Christians should defend the religious freedom of others, even if they “passionately” disagreed with their beliefs. Archbishop Welby “It is as much the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not be abused by Christians affronted by what he said, as it is for Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ,” he said.
He stressed that Christians should not just stand up for persecuted members of their own faith, but also for Muslims if they are attacked. “We have a responsibility before God to protect those rights,” he said. “What’s good for one is good for all.” (more)  Photo: welby-thoughtful

Rabbis tried, failed to deter Yeshivah child sex offender, victim tells inquiry
Extract from The Age, 4 February 2015
One of Australia's most senior Orthodox rabbis says Jewish people have an obligation to report sexual abuse, and that the prohibition against informing against other Jews to secular authorities does not apply to child sexual abuse. Rabbi Moshe Gutnick spoke out against the ultra Orthodox Chabad community's treatment of victims and cover-up of past crimes at the royal commission into child sexual abuse on Wednesday (more).

Francis declares Oscar Romero a martyr
Extract from CathNews, 4 February 2015
Pope Francis has signed a decree declaring Archbishop Oscar Romero died a martyr, raising expectations that a beatification could be announced within months, reports The Tablet. The Vatican said yesterday it will be holding a press briefing in Rome today, February 4, with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Vatican official leading the cause for the Salvadoran prelate’s sainthood. Last month theologians at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously that Romero was killed in “hatred of the faith.” Archbishop Romero was shot dead on March 24, 1980 by right-wing death squads colluding with the then-Government. Archbishop Romero had been a vocal critic of the ruling elite in El Salvador for their record on human rights and their harsh treatment of the poor. Opinion within El Salvador was for a long time bitterly divided over Archbishop Romero's legacy but the current President, leftist Mauricio Funes, has prayed at his tomb and in 2013 presented Pope Francis with a reliquary containing a blood-stained piece of the vestments Romero was wearing when he was shot dead (more). Photo: CathNews

U.S. Priest group asks US bishops to 'start the dialogue' on married clergy
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 3 February 2015
A group representing approximately 1,000 U.S. Catholic priests has asked their bishops "to start the dialogue" toward the ordination of married men to the priesthood. In letters mailed Jan. 23 to all members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests said they made the request primarily with concern for "the pastoral care of souls," and that married priests are needed "to serve the pastoral needs of the people." "The time has come. The door is open. The need for this is urgent," the priests said. The letter is signed by 12 members of the priest association's leadership and staff, representing nine dioceses and one religious order; its executive secretary Franciscan Sr. Jackie Doepker also signed her name to the document. Fr. Bob Bonnot, a priest in the Youngstown, Ohio, diocese and chair of the priests' association, told NCR that to his knowledge there has not been a response so far from the bishops' conference or individual bishops. He said they are not asking the bishops to respond to them, but to take up the issue among themselves. He added that the association has encouraged its members, where appropriate, to discuss the issue of married priests with their individual bishops.  "This might be an issue that priests in some situations would say, ‘Bishop, we think you ought to be thinking about this.’ It’s up to them to make that decision," Bonnot said (more). 

Melbourne Jewish college tried to 'cure' sex offender
Extract from CathNews,3 February 2015
The Yeshivah Orthodox Jewish College in Melbourne tried to "cure" a serial sex offender and continued to employ him more than 20 years after victims reported he had sexually abused them, reports The Age. The evidence was given to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday as the Commission began its second hearing in Melbourne, focusing on the ultra-orthodox Jewish organisation Yeshivah.    The two-week hearing at the County Court will examine Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi's response to child sexual abuse allegations against their former employees, convicted sex offenders David Cyprys, David Kramer and Daniel Hayman.   Cyprys was found guilty of indecent assault in 1992 and released on a good behaviour bond. In 2013, the County Court found him guilty of five charges of rape, five charges of indecent assault, attempted indecent assault, and two counts of gross indecency. He is still serving his eight-year prison sentence for these crimes.   One of Cyprys' victims, known as AVA, said he was sexually abused between the ages of 14 and 17, when he took private kung fu lessons from Cyprys.  "There is no doubt in my mind Yeshivah College and some of its rabbis were aware of David's penchant for young boys," he told the Commission (more). Photo: Cathnews, Victim Manny Waks

Pontifical council to consider challenges women face in society, church
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 1 February 2015
Vatican City. Violence against women, cultural pressures regarding women's physical appearance, attitudes that subjugate women or that ignore male-female differences and the growing alienation of women from the church in some parts of the world are themes the Pontifical Council for Culture is set to explore.    The council, whose members are all cardinals and bishops, has chosen to discuss the theme "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference" during its plenary assembly Feb. 4-7. A document outlining the theme was published in late January, and four women involved in writing it joined Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, council president, at a news conference Monday at the Vatican.     The cardinal announced to the press that he was planning to establish within his office a special group of female consultants to provide women's opinions and points of view on a variety of issues.   He also noted that if priests had to follow the Jewish rules for a quorum for prayer -- 10 men must be present -- many of them would not be able to celebrate daily Mass, even though there would be dozens of women present in the church (more).

Pope confirms 48 prelates as voting members of October synod
Extracts from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 31 January 2015
Rome. Pope Francis has ratified the elections of prelates from bishops' conferences around the world to participate in October's global meeting of Catholic bishops, confirming selections of 48 prelates from six continents..........The papal confirmations, announced in the Vatican's daily press bulletin Saturday, mean the prelates will be able to participate and vote in the discussions of next October's meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops.    The Synod, which is focused on issues of family life and has attracted hopes that the church might alter some of its pastoral practices in that area, is the second of two called by Francis for 2014 and 2015.  The 2015 synod is to be held Oct. 4-25 at the Vatican on the theme: "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World." It follows the 2014 synod, held on the theme: "Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization." (more)

God, Compassion and Law
Extracts from a short paper by David Timbs, 1 February 2015
Since his election Pope Francis has been urging Catholics to remember that God should not be defined simply as the Divine Law-giver. The wider narrative is about God who is both personal and relational. It is a story of God who is related to humanity more intimately than anyone or anything else. Francis reminds his fellow Catholics that God is the very personification of limitless mercy and compassion and that Jesus incarnated, lived and preached the Mystery of it all..................Francis is reminding the Catholic people that there is always a solution to challenges and impasses whatever they may be. He reminds everyone that nothing, not even the Church’s own laws can contain, limit or domesticate the mystery of Christ and his Gospel.  Francis powerfully reaffirms this conviction when he says.........(more). David Timbs is a member of Catholics For Renewal

Book Reviews: Who Is the Pope?
Edited extract of 3 book reviews by Eamon Duffy*, The New York Review of Books, 1 February 2015
On December 22, 2014, Pope Francis delivered the traditional papal Christmas speech to the assembled ranks of the Roman Curia. This annual meeting with the staff of the church’s central administration offers popes the opportunity for a stock-taking “state of the union” address. In 2005, his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI had used the occasion to deliver a momentous analysis of the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” that he believed had distorted understanding of the Second Vatican Council by presenting it as a revolutionary event, and to which he attributed many of the ills of the modern church. The phrase “hermeneutic of rupture” was eagerly seized on by those seeking a “reform of the reform,” and became a weapon in the struggle to roll back some of the most distinctive developments in the church following the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, which had been presided over first by John XXIII and then by Paul VI.     The scope of Pope Francis’s 2014 address, however, was far more local and specific......... (more). Drawing: James Ferguson

* The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, by Austen Ivreigh, Pub. Henry Holt.
* A Big Heart Open to God" A Conversation with Pope Francis, by Antonio Spadoro. Pub. HarperOne.                                              * Pope Francis: Untying the Knots, by Paul Valley, Pub. Bloomsbury.

Eamon Duffy, FBA, FSA is an Irish historian and academic. He is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow and former President of Magdalene College.

Archbishops to receive pallium at home with their flock
Extracts from CathNews, 30 January 2015                                                      Pope Francis has decided that from now on, the public ceremony of investiture of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops will take place in the prelates’ home dioceses and not in the Vatican, reports Vatican Insider. He believes that in this way the ceremony  "will greatly favour the participation of the local Church in an important moment of its life and history.” The decision follows an earlier report by Catholic Communications that the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, will be travelling to Rome to receive the pallium..............Furthermore, he said, Pope Francis believes that this new custom can serve to advance “that journey of synodality in the Catholic Church which, from the beginning of his pontificate, he has constantly emphasized as particularly urgent and precious at this time in the history of the Church”. The pallium is a liturgical vestment that symbolizes “the bonds of hierarchical communion between the See of Peter and the Successor of the Apostle and those who are chosen to carry out the episcopal ministry as Metropolitan Archbishop of an Ecclesiastical Province,” Mgr Marini wrote. It is also a symbol of the Metropolitan Archbishop’s jurisdiction in his own diocese and in the other dioceses of his ecclesiastical province (more). Photo: Cathnews

Papal ambassador sends out critical tweets accusing Pope Francis of being "wrong"
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 29 January 2015
Discretion, tact and working behind the scenes. Vatican diplomats are normally well-versed in the classical skills of diplomacy. But Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, appears to be bucking the trend. The papal ambassador has been sending out tweets with links to articles that are less than favourable about Pope Francis (more).

Chief organiser hopes Vatican family synod will listen to ‘irregular’ families as it considers cohabitation and remarriage
Extract from Hannah Roberts,The Tablet,  28 January 2015
Rome. The top Vatican official for October’s Synod on the Family has tried to seize the ground for the reformers in the run-up to the meetings. Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the Italian bishops’ conference, told a congress of family-focused Catholic groups gathered in Rome as part of the build-up to the Ordinary Synod that bishops “should listen to couples in irregular situations”. Last year’s Extraordinary Synod ended in disagreement between reform-minded and conservative bishops over topics such as acceptance of gay couples and communion for the divorced and remarried.......Cardinal Baldisseri said a working document for the next Synod would be ready in June and would address “the most sensitive issues” of homosexuality, couples living together outside marriage, and Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics (more). Photo: Baldi,The Tablet

San Francisco priest bars altar girls, sparks another controversy
Extract from David Gibson, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 27 January 2015
A Catholic priest who recently took charge of a San Francisco parish has said only boys can be altar servers, a move that is sparking both criticism and praise and comes amid a wider debate over conservative concerns that the Catholic church has become too "feminized." As media coverage of the controversy at Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church began to build in recent days, Fr. Joseph Illo defended his decision in a statement issued Monday, saying he decided to make the change in November, a few months after he became pastor. Illo cited two main reasons for the switch. The first, he said, is that "boys usually end up losing interest [in altar service] because girls generally do a better job." The second and more important reason, Illo said, is that "altar service is intrinsically tied to the priesthood and serve as feeder programs for the seminary." "If the Catholic Church ordained women, altar girls would make sense, but the Catholic priesthood is a male charism," he said. "Nothing awakens a desire for the priesthood like service at the altar among the brotherhood of young men. At the risk of generalizing, I suspect young men serving with young women might just distract them from the sacrifice of the Mass, and perhaps even from a priestly vocation." (more)

Spanish newspaper: Pope Francis has held a private audience with a transgender man
Extract from Catholic Herald UK, 27 January 2015   
                                                                                                       Hoy reported that Diego Neria Lejárraga wrote a letter to the Pope in December about being rejected by his parish in Spain and being called “the devil’s daughter” by a priest. He said he subsequently received a phone call from the Pontiff on Christmas Eve. Mr Lejárraga and his fiancee told the paper that they met Pope Francis in his residence at the Vatican on Saturday. “After hearing him on many occasions, I felt that he would listen to me,” he said. The Vatican have not commented on the reported meeting (more).

Pastoral Difficulties with Recently Ordained Priests
Extract from Post by Anthony Ruff OSB, Pray Tell, 26 January 2015
Pope Francis says that the training of priests must be a “work of art, not a police action…We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps.” Pray Tell has heard increasing reports in the last few years about difficulties with some recently ordained priests. There are divisions in some parishes because some younger guys are more traditional or conservative or legalistic than much of their flock. This seems to be an important issue that needs addressing. To get the conversation going, Pray Tell went to some folks we knew in diocesan offices and asked them to reflect on the issue as constructively as possible. The three contributors writing below have asked to remain anonymous. Given the highly sensitive nature of this issue, and the possibility of hurt feelings within dioceses if the writer were known, Pray Tell has agreed to their request for anonymity. We hope this puts the focus on the message rather than the writer....(more)

Fr. Richard McBrien, theologian and church expert, dies at 78
Extracts from NCR Staff, National Catholic Reporter, 25 January 2015
Fr. Richard McBrien, who as a scholar brought distinction to a university theology department and who as an author and often-interviewed popular expert explained the Catholic church to the wider world, died early Sunday morning. He was 78................It would be difficult to find a figure comparable in making understandable to a broad public the basic beliefs and traditions of the Roman Catholic church.For more than three decades, he was the star of the theology faculty at the University of Notre Dame and the go-to voice on all matters Catholic in the popular press. His books, particularly Catholicism, Lives of the Popes and Lives of the Saints, were staples of libraries, Catholic and non-Catholic alike........Unabashedly on the progressive side of most Catholic debates, McBrien advocated the ordination of women priests, an end to mandatory celibacy for priests, moral approval of artificial birth control, and decentralization of power in the church. In so doing, he helped to define the battle lines within Catholicism over the legacy of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).........He was a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and former chair of the theology department at the University of Notre Dame. To fans both inside and outside the theological guild, McBrien was a double icon. He lifted the status of Catholic theology, and American Catholic theology in particular, by his media visibility and literary accomplishment. He also cheered the liberal wing of the church by lending intellectual heft to its reading of Vatican II."No Catholic theologian in the United States has made a larger contribution to the reception of Vatican II than Richard P. McBrien," said theologian Fr. Charles E. Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas (more). Photo. NCR, David Kambla

Re Synod Questionnaire - Open Letter to Pope Francis
Catholic Church Reform International, 22 January 2015
Catholic Church Reform International has written an Open Letter to Pope Francis expressing concern that the Lineamenta Questionnaire released by the Vatican is totally unworkable and will undermine the desire of the Pope to hear from all levels of the Faithful. In its place CCRI is offering to release an Alternative Living Poll. The Open Letter can be read and supported online here.

Pope calls large families a 'gift from God'
Extract from CathNews, 22 January 2015
Pope Francis yesterday described large families as a "gift from God," just days after he said Catholics did not need to "be like rabbits," reports AFP on Yahoo7. In an apparent attempt to put the controversial comments he made on his way back from a visit to the Philippines into context, the Pope argued that the global economic system is the primary cause of poverty, rather than overpopulation (more). Image:

Don't breed 'like rabbits': Was Pope Francis breaking new ground on birth control?
Extracts from David Gibson, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 21 January 2015
Pope Francis may have been elected by the Holy Spirit, but he seems made for the age of Twitter. A case in point were his latest remarks, in which he affirmed the Catholic church's ban on artificial contraception but derided the idea that "in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits" and produce litters of children. "No," he told reporters on his flight home from the Philippines. "Responsible parenthood." Moments earlier, Francis had signaled his approach to the vexed birth control issue when, with equally quotable verve, he said the contraception ban "does not mean that the Christian must make children in series." He noted that during a parish visit some months ago, he even "rebuked" a woman who was pregnant again after having seven children, all delivered by Caesarean section. "But do you want to leave seven orphans?" Francis told her. "That is to tempt God!"..............Conservative Catholics and  contraception opponents were also dismayed by the latest from a man who's been dubbed the "blabbermouth" pope. He appeared to criticize traditional big families (the pope said three children seemed about right) as well as undermine advocates of natural family planning (controlling birth rates without using contraception) by seeming to give aid and comfort to the church's enemies............But was Francis saying anything new? Yes and no. First, no, Francis wasn't breaking new ground. He himself told an interviewer last March that Pope Paul VI's famous encyclical reaffirming the artificial contraception ban, Humanae Vitae, was "prophetic" but said the real issue is "making sure that pastoral action takes into account that which is possible for people to do." (more).

Pope names former top prosecutor to head board for clergy abuse appeals
Extract from Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 21 January 2015
Vatican City. Pope Francis named the Vatican's former chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases to head his new doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna, 55, of Malta was appointed president of the new board of review within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican announced his appointment as well as the names of the board's eight other members Wednesday (more).

Questionnaire in preparation for 2015 Synod - Online Responses due 10 February
Edited extracts from Catholic Achdiocese of Melbourne invitation (on 18 December 2014), 21 January 2014
Following the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in October, Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops are once again seeking responses to questions as part of their preparation for the 2015 Synod.........In response to feedback during the previous survey in 2013, a simplified questionnaire has been developed. Responses and can be submitted through the online questionnaire. You do not have to answer every question. You may choose to focus on those relating to a particular area of expertise or interest........While not essential, you may also wish to read the Relatio Synodi - the final summary of the Extraordinary Synod in October 2014 - before responding. The Relatio also includes the full set of questions.   A simple guide to responding to the survey (and the questions) can be found here. The on-line survey will be open until midnight on Tuesday 10 February 2015. While using the on-line survey is preferred, hard copy responses (which continue to be available from our parish churches) can be submitted up to Friday 6 February 2015. The online Questionnaire allows for any other comments.

No need to breed like rabbits: Pope
Extract from AAP. SBS, 20 January 2015
Catholics are not required to procreate "like rabbits," Pope Francis says, tackling family planning issues days after reiterating the Catholic Church's opposition to artificial contraceptives. "Some people believe that to be good Catholics, we need to be like rabbits," the Pope said in a press conference on the plane en route from the Philippines back to Rome. The pontiff instead said pointed to the principle of "responsible parenting. That is the key," he said. Catholics are free to use natural birth control methods, but not condoms or other artificial contraceptives, he told Italian news agency ANSA. During his Philippines pilgrimage on Friday, the Pope hailed "the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death," and praised his predecessor Paul VI for confirming in 1968 the church's opposition to abortion and artificial birth control. His comments, taken together with his defence of the church's ban on artificial contraception during the trip, signal that he is increasingly showing his more conservative bent. On the trip, the Pope gave his strongest defence yet of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which enshrined the church's opposition to artificial birth control. He warned against "insidious attacks" against the family - a reference to gay marriage proposals - echoing language often used by overwhelmingly conservative US bishops. The Pope insisted that "openness to life is a condition of the sacrament of matrimony." (source)

Australian bishops make family survey more user-friendly
Extract from Mark Brolley, The Tablet, 14 January 2015
Australia's bishops have condensed into 30 questions the 46 proposed by the Vatican for a survey of Catholics leading up to next October's Synod on the Family. The questions, published on several diocesan websites including Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra and Goulburn, ask Australian Catholics to consider changing social practices in the context of Catholic teaching in areas such as de facto relationships, the indissolubility of marriage, same-sex attraction and abortion, as well as seeking responses on the effectiveness of marriage preparation and the challenges facing couples in mixed and interreligious marriages......Responses are due in early February. (more).

The Synod of Bishops.
Extract fron David Timbs, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website, 13 January 2015
Catholic lay people face a very difficult task in attempting to influence the members of the 2015 Ordinary Synod of Bishops.  Firstly, they will have a challenge in finding bishops to listen to them. Secondly, they will have a challenge in finding bishops ready to accept the risks associated with taking the Sensus Fidei Fidelium (or sense of faith of believers) seriously and then walking the road of Christ in solidarity with (syn-‘odos) their people. From long and painful experience, many Catholics who have worked for significant reform in the Church have learnt that there have been only a few bishops in Australia who take the laity seriously, show themselves ready to engage in conversation and to listen to what is said and to make it their own.  The situation may now be changing. Pope Francis has challenged the Bishops to snap out of their collective amnesia and to liberate themselves from the years of blind obedience, supine compliance and micro-management imposed on them from 1978 to 2012 (more).

Letter to the Bishop delegates: “Bishops consulting for the 2015 Synod on the Family"                        Catholics For Renewal, Saturday 10 January 2014
We are very concerned by the inadequate approach to discerning the views of families for the Synod on the Family. We have therefore recently written to the two Australian bishops elected by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference as ACBC representatives at the October 2015 Synod on the Family, namely Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane and Bishop Eugene Hurley of Darwin - copies of the letters may be viewed here. The 2015 synod will recommend to the Pope practical pastoral solutions on challenges facing families. Pope Francis wants all bishops to adopt “the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone” (Evangelii Gaudium, n31) in a "communal search" for the Australian sensus fidelium - the faithful’s sense of the faith. We will advise you of any response from the Bishops to whom we have addressed specific questions in the letters. These letters are an initiative of Catholics for Renewal pursued on behalf of Catholic renewal organisations throughout Australia under the banner of the Australian Catholic Coalition for Church Renewal (ACCCR).
CathfR encourages all Catholics to respond to any opportunities provided by diocesan bishops and others to inform the consultative process, noting however our concerns regarding these surveys (expressed in the letter) based on the complex 'Lineamenta' issued by the Vatican. Diocesan websites should be checked for details of these opportunities.

Possible international petition                                                                                                                      Catholics For Renewal, Saturday 10 January 2014
We have expressed our concerns in the letter to the bishop delegates regarding the inadequacies of the process to consult with the people of the Church. The purpose of the process is to ensure, in Francis’ words, an effective “communal search”, so that the Synod on the Family in October this year is adequately informed by the lived experiences of the faithful in married and family life, a lived experience which bishops lack. An international web-based petition, which might point in broad terms to some of these matters of common concern to Catholics across the world, is being considered - as a means of highlighting common perceptions of the sensus fidelium, the matters that concern Catholics about the Church’s pastoral guidance of families. We would appreciate any views you might wish to contribute to the possible development of this petition. email: here  (

Pope John XXIV book review                                                                                                                      Catholics For Renewal, Saturday 10 January 2014
A novel by John Cogley, Pope John XXIV, has recently come to our attention. Written somewhat prophetically before the election of Pope Francis, Pope John XXIV is the story of the unexpected election of a panic stricken but ultimately revolutionary pope who rekindles the expectations of the Second Vatican Council, doing so at the expense of antagonising powerful interests. The novel provides an informed but entertaining discussion of the grave issues facing the Church. See our full review here.

Pope Francis shakes up the College of Cardinals
Extract from Thomas Reece, National Catholic Reporter, 9 January 2014
With his appointees to the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis has shown just how revolutionary he can be by upsetting the unwritten rules that guided clerical careerists who wanted to advance to cardinal. In the past, the rules were clear: Make friends in the Roman Curia and get appointed to a cardinalatial see or a high position in the Vatican where a red hat normally comes with the job. Pope Francis has thrown a monkey wrench into that clerical system.       Prior to Francis, there were certain major archdioceses that would expect their archbishops to be made cardinals because their predecessors had been cardinals. Francis has shattered the tradition of cardinalatial sees, not simply made a couple of exceptions to it. To the shock of the Italian bishops, he passed over Venice and Turin last year and again this year and appointed cardinals from Italian sees that have not had cardinals since the 19th century (Perugia last year, Ancona and Agrigento this year).         Pope Francis has ignored this rule not just in Italy, but around the world, making cardinals out of bishops in dioceses that have never had a cardinal. Last year, it was Les Cayes in Haiti and Cotabato in the Philippines. This year, it is David in Panama, Cape Verde, Tonga, and Myanmar. If three years ago anyone predicted that these nine dioceses would get red hats, all the Vatican experts would have said the forecaster was crazy. "The new nominations confirm that the pope is not bound to the traditions of the cardinalatial sees which were motivated by historical reasons in different countries in which the cardinalate was considered almost automatically connected to such sees," explained Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi (more).

Cardinal Raymond Burke: 'Feminized' church and altar girls caused priest shortage
Extract from David Gibson, Religion News Service,  National Catholic Reporter, 7 January 2015
Cardinal Raymond Burke, a senior American churchman in Rome who has been one of the most outspoken critics of Pope Francis' push for reform, is roiling the waters yet again, this time arguing that the Catholic church has become too "feminized." Burke, who was recently demoted from the Vatican's highest court to a ceremonial philanthropic post, pointed to the introduction of altar girls for why fewer men are joining the priesthood. "Young boys don't want to do things with girls. It's just natural," Burke said in an interview published Monday. "I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations." "It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys," the former archbishop of St. Louis told Matthew James Christoff, who heads a Catholic men's ministry that called the New Emangelization Project. "If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically," he said (more).

Francis reaches out to the margins in his picks for new cardinals
Extract from John L Allen Jr, Associate Editor, National Catholic Reporter, 4 January 2015
Rome.  With his picks for new cardinals announced on Sunday, Pope Francis continued his campaign to reach out to the peripheries. The pontiff bypassed traditional centers of power and awarded red hats to such typically overlooked locales as Panama, Thailand, Cape Verde, New Zealand, and the Pacific island of Tonga. For the second time, there were no new cardinals from the United States on the list announced by Francis. There were also no Americans in the first crop of cardinals named by Francis in February 2014. While geography seemed the determining factor in these picks for Pope Francis, who at times struggled even pronouncing the names of his new cardinals, it’s noteworthy that the list includes a couple of high-profile moderates but no one with a clear reputation as a doctrinal or political conservative. Archbishop John Atcherley Dew from New Zealand, for instance, argued for allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion at a 2005 Vatican synod of bishops. Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez is president of the Spanish bishops’ conference and generally seen as a moderate opposed to the harder line of former Madrid Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela. In all, Francis announced that he will induct the 15 new members into the College of Cardinals during a consistory ceremony to be held in Rome Feb. 14-15, pushing the total number of cardinal electors slightly past the limit of 120 established by Pope Paul VI. At the moment, there are 110 cardinals under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote for the next pope. After the February consistory, that number will rise to 125, with 31 of them having been named by Pope Francis (more).  Photo. NCR

 Catholic liberals in Italy launch petition to back Pope Francis
Extract from John L Allen Jr, Associate Editor, National Catholic Reporter, 3 January 2015
Amid a robust Italian debate over the leadership of Pope Francis, a cross-section of liberal Catholic groups in the country has launched an online petition to show backing for the Argentinian pontiff. Pointedly called “Stop the Attacks on Pope Francis,” the petition was launched on Christmas Day by groups including “We are Church,” “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” the Edith Stein Study Center, an Italian association of theologians, and a variety of base communities. All are generally associated with the liberal wing of the Italian Church. The petition is also signed by the Rev. Luigi Ciotti of Turin, one of Italy’s best known anti-Mafia priests, and the Rev. Alex Zanotelli, a Combonian missionary priest and a well-known social activist. As of Jan. 3, the petition had attracted close to 2,500 signatures, toward a goal of 50,000. The current Italian row over Francis began when one of the country’s most renowned Catholic journalists, Vittorio Messori, published a front-page essay on Dec. 24 in Corriere della Sera stating his “perplexity” over what he sees as the pontiff’s contradictions (more).


In Bolivia, Francis slams consumerism, advocates for poor
Extract from CathNews, Friday 10 July 2015
Pope Francis has called on a million faithful to reject today's consumer society at an open-air Mass in Bolivia. He also advocated for the poor, saying "that no one has to be discarded."    On the second stop of his three-nation tour of South America, the Pope yesterday addressed the throng in the vast Christ the Redeemer Plaza in Santa Cruz, including many people who camped out overnight to see him.    He denounced what he called a "mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few."    "Jesus speaks these words to us, here in this square. No one has to be discarded," the 78-year-old Pontiff told the crowd, estimated by Bolivian authorities at one million strong.    Society cannot ignore people, the Pope said, "no matter how little they possess or seem capable of contributing."......(more)   Photo: Cathnews, - AFP/Yahoo7/CNA

'The Australian' gangs up on Pope Francis
Extract from Bruce Duncan, Eureka Street, 10 July 2015
In a series of articles, The Australian newspaper has strongly criticised the new encyclical Laudato Si: On care for our common home by Pope Francis as being wrong about climate change and ignorant about economics. Editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, on 24 June charged that the Pope’s language was ‘almost hysterical. Profound intellectual ignorance is dressed up as honouring God’.    ‘Page after page reveals Francis and his advisers as environmental populists and economic ideologues of a quasi-Marxist bent.’ He wrote that the Pope has ‘delegitimised as immoral’ pro-market economic forces. ‘Francis is blind to the liberating power of markets and technology’.    The Weekend Australian’s long editorial of 27-28 June reiterated these views and dismissed the Pope’s warnings of catastrophic climate change.     These are very serious allegations and, if true, would be very damaging for the Pope. Let me take up the Pope’s alleged attack on free-market principles and his critique of neoliberalism and inequality......(more)


Church insurer ordered to reappear before inquiry over documents
Extract from CathNews, Friday 10 July 2015
The Church's insurance company has been ordered to reappear before the Royal Commission tomorrow in Sydney to explain why it has failed to produce documents requested by the inquiry, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.    Catholic Church
Insurance (CCI) was issued with a subpoena on February 4 to produce a wide range of documents relating to the Church's response to cases of child sex abuse.    But Fairfax Media understands those documents have still not been produced, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has now called a directions hearing with the sole purpose of finding out why.    The hearing will take place at the Commission's headquarters in Phillip Street, Sydney, and will be presided over by its Chairman, Justice Peter McClellan......(more)

Shanghai clergy forced to take re-education classes
Extract from Cathnews, Friday 10 July 2015
Priests and nuns in the Shanghai Diocese - whose Bishop is in detention - are being required to attend “learning” classes on the central theme of the National Congress of the Communist Party, reports Ucanews.    About 30 priests and a dozen nuns joined the program held at the Shanghai Institute of Socialism. It will be followed by another class in September for the rest of the Diocese's priests and nuns, said a source who spoke to on condition of anonymity.    Priests and nuns in Shanghai Diocese have been required to attend learning classes ever since their bishop, Thaddeus Ma Daqian, was placed under house arrest at Sheshan Seminary after he dramatically quit his government-appointed post in the Catholic Patriotic Association immediately following his episcopal ordination on July 7, 2012.   Shanghai Diocese is currently managed by a five-member team, which has allowed Religious Affairs Bureau officials to tighten their grip on the Diocese, the source said.........(more)    Photo: CathNews. Bishop Ma  0111bishopma_16520artthumb_21975artthumb.jpg

US teacher fired after parents complained about her gay marriage
Extract from Cathnews, Friday 10 July 2015
A religious education teacher was fired from a Catholic elementary school outside Philadelphia after she refused to resign when parents complained about her same-sex marriage, reports The Guardian.      Margie Winters, a well-respected teacher at Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania, was fired by letter last month, just days before a historic US supreme court ruling legalised same-sex marriage across the country, according to a report by The Philadelphia Inquirer.   “In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings,” Principal Nell Stetser wrote in an email to parents on Friday. “But to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings.”     Winters was reportedly fired after parents discovered she was married to a woman. One parent complained to the school and another to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Archdiocese has said it had nothing to do with Winters’ dismissal.........(more) Photo: CathNews

The call to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery
Extract from Mary Ann McGivern, Narional Catholic Reporter, 9 July 2015
On the back wall of the stone cottage behind the Bolduc House in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., the Doctrine of Discovery is posted. It was published on May 4, 1493, as the Inter Caetera Papal Bull by Pope Alexander VI. There is a petition to Pope Francis to rescind it on the Romero Institute's website.    This doctrine states that any Christians who come to a land and find people dwelling there who are not Christians may take their land and confiscate all their possessions.  Essentially, it permits Europeans to take the land and enslave the people of Asia, Africa and the Americas. It was incorporated into U.S. law in 1823 by the Supreme Court in the case Johnson's Lessee v. McIntosh.    Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice John Marshall observed that Christian European nations had assumed "ultimate dominion" over the lands of America during the Age of Discovery, and that upon "discovery," the Indians had lost "their rights to complete sovereignty as independent nations." According to the Bolduc House website, U.S. courts used the Doctrine of Discovery as late as 1970 to adjudicate issues relating to Native American tribes.     My religious community, Loretto, has taken on this issue. The 2012 Loretto Assembly resolved to: Call on the pope to rescind these papal bulls; prepare educational/informational material for the Loretto Community, the Loretto schools and our associate groups; collaborate with those groups with whom we share a common purpose intercongregationally and interdenominationally as well as with environmental and Native American groups to help create a groundswell of support for this indigenous peoples' movement. We sent requests to Pope Benedict XVI and to Pope Francis to rescind the doctrine......(more)

US Bishops reckon with same sex marriage support rollercoaster
Extracts from Peter Kirkwood, Eureka Street, 7 July 2015
Two Liberal backbenchers in the Australian federal parliament, Teresa Gambaro and Warren Entsch, with two Labor MPs, Terri Butler and Laurie Ferguson, are drafting a cross-party private member’s bill in a bid to legalise same-sex marriage in the next sitting of parliament.    Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is pouring cold water on the idea, saying he doesn’t support the bill and that the government has greater priorities to pursue regarding the economy and national security.    This new effort to legalise gay marriage in Australia comes hard on the heels of the US Supreme Court decision a few weeks ago ruling that the American constitution guarantees the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states in the USA. This overturns laws in the remaining 14 states that prohibited same-sex marriage.   Frank Brennan published an incisive article last week in Eureka Street outlining his reservations about the US Supreme Court decision.    Catholic bishops in the US and Australia are in a quandary on the issue. Same-sex marriage is clearly against traditional Catholic Church teachings on homosexuality and marriage, and bishops have spoken out strongly against it.   The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference recently published a Pastoral Letter on the topic with the simple and pointed title, Don’t Mess With Marriage.   But many grass-roots Catholics in both countries support same-sex marriage, and the Catholic Catechism teaches in article 2358 that homosexuals ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’......(more)


New Saturday Mass times at St Bernadette's Start 4 July
Friday 3rd July 2015                                                                                     
From and including Saturday 4th July all Saturday evening masses at St Bernadette's will commence at 6:00pm, half an hour earlier than previously. Members of the St Bernadette's Church community have decided overwhelmingly to make these changes for local reasons. Although this has been well publicised all are asked to remind those concerned that implementation of these new arrangements starts from now.



Our weekend Mass liturgy also reflects ATSIC Sunday
Friday 3 July 2015
This weekend is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary time, and also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday as also reflected in our weekend Mass liturgies. A reflection on weekend scripture readings in the context of ATSIC Sunday is offered by newly ordained Fr Charles Balnaves on the "Relection of the Week" page here.


Liberals will get a free vote in gay marriage bill
Extract from CathNews, 3 July 2015
A Government frontbencher says the Coalition will absolutely be granted a free vote on same-sex marriage and has laughed off calls from right-wing senators for ministers to quit their jobs if they want to vote in favour of change, reports Fairfax Media.   Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also declined to back the call for frontbench resignations, but continued to pour cold water on the push for change, saying his Government was focused on the economy and it would be "quite unusual" for Parliament to vote on a private member's bill such as the cross-party push for gay marriage......(more)


The US Supreme Court's gay marriage overreach
Extracts from Frank Brennan, Eureka Street, 2 July 2015
Last Friday, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Obergefell v Hodges, deciding by the predictably narrowest majority of 5-4 that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry, and that the right is protected under both the due process and equal protection clauses..............................There is much about the judicial reasoning in the case that would raise eyebrows among lawyers not used to the judicial activism of the liberal majority of the US Supreme Court which has long viewed the due process and equal protection clauses as a vehicle for legislating their preferred view on contested political and social issues. Writing for the five liberal judges, Justice Kennedy used poetic, but not very judicial, language when he commenced his judgment with this stirring call to judicial arms: 'The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach.’      This was altogether too much for Justice Scalia in dissent. He wrote, 'The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.'    With pastoral sensitivity for same-sex marriage advocates and not wanting to rain on their parade, Chief Justice Roberts, also in dissent, retained a clear vision of what ought be the court’s limited role, observing, 'But this court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.’     Another of the four dissenters, Justice Alito highlighted the perils of a broad-brush judicial determination constitutionalising the right of same-sex marriage, short-circuiting the more nuanced debates which could go on in parliaments. He rightly highlighted that the decision will 'be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,’ pointing out that the majority 'compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women’.          In short, it is regrettable that the Supreme Court took it upon itself to discover a definitive answer in the silent Constitution on this contested social question, because there can be no doubt that the democratic process was taking US society in only one direction on the issue.        The court, by intervening and deciding the issue unilaterally, has reduced the prospects of community acceptance and community compromise about the freedom of religious practice of those who cannot embrace same-sex marriage for religious reasons.................Whatever one’s misgivings about Justice Kennedy’s judicial technique, there can be no faulting his pastoral sensitivity to those same-sex couples who have felt alienated and marginalised for  too long. Our bishops would do well to replicate the pastoral tone at the conclusion of his majority judgment:.............(more)   Frank Brennan SJ, professor of law at Australian Catholic University, was recently Gasson professor at the Boston College Law School.


The notion of family is broader than blood
Extracts from Brian Harper, National Catholic Reporter, 2 July 2015
Several weeks ago, I attended a Mass ordaining eight Jesuits to the priesthood. It was an exceedingly beautiful ceremony, from the litany of the saints to the seemingly endless row of priests filing past each ordinand, placing their hands on their Jesuit brothers' heads and blessing them.        One of the most moving moments occurred when each ordinand posed for photos with their families. To see parents and siblings beaming with pride as they surrounded their sons and brothers gave a visual of how crucial a place others' love, encouragement and support hold in one's ability to pursue the life to which she or he is called.             The last ordinand's family photo was particularly emotional. Raised by a single mother, he stood at the center of the altar with his arm around her, while 80 or so people surrounded them. It was an eclectic assortment of friends, family, mentors and fellow Jesuits, all of whom had apparently played a pivotal role in his formation. A friend of mine compared it to the cover of "Sgt. Pepper." For me, it was an important reminder of how fluid family can be.........................Fr. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest who gave his life ministering to rescue workers on Sept. 11, 2001, was known to ask, "Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love?".....................We would do well to bear this question in mind as we look to build better families, to provide the kind of support that would help a child raised by a single mother to one day stand with 80 loved ones as he prepares for a life of giving that love back to others.      In the end, that is what family is about: a generous, unending outpouring of love. And as Langford's explanation of agape indicates, it is about a love that is neither earned nor even deserved but that is nevertheless readily available to anyone.      It is the love that led Jesus to call his students his brothers, and it is the love not only of family but also the love that encourages us to strive to be family to anyone we meet.......(more)  Photo: NCR 

Synods are no longer just for a privileged few
Church hierarchy must prove it is willing to listen to the views of everyone
Extract from Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith for Catholic Herald International, 29 June 2015
A huge amount of discussion has been generated by the synod on the family, and one feels a little guilty about adding to it. But this synod is rather different to all those which have gone before, which is why I turn to it again. It touches on a key point of doctrine (the indissolubility of marriage), which is a hot button issue for most of us, but it goes further than that.     This is the first synod of the Internet age.       Once upon a time, decisions about faith and doctrine were made by a very restricted group of people. The Council of Trent at most of its sessions comprised a few dozen bishops. Between Trent and Vatican I, one has the impression that the pope and his cardinals ruled the Church, an Italian pope and a small number of Italian cardinals, none of whom ever or hardly ever left Rome. Vatican I was international, but the first truly global gathering of the Church was Vatican II, which had huge input from America, France, Belgium and Germany........(more)    Image:


Pope to archbishops: Be brave, convincing witnesses for Church
Extracts from Cruxnow, Catholic News Service, 29 June 2015
Vatican City – The Church wants pastors who are unafraid of persecution, are angels of hope and charity, and are convincing witnesses with a life rooted in prayer and the Gospel, Pope Francis told new archbishops Monday.                     “It’s quite simple, because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behavior and lifestyle,” what one preaches and teaches, he said during a Mass celebrating the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul.      Forty-six archbishops representing 34 countries, who were named over the course of the last year, were invited to come to Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with Pope Francis.................During his homily, the pope said the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles recalled the harsh persecution faced by the early Christians.              “However, I do not wish to dwell on these atrocious, inhuman, and incomprehensible persecutions, sadly still present in many parts of the world today,” often happening right in front of everyone’s eyes and meeting with complete silence, he said.              Instead, the pope said he wanted to “pay homage to” these courageous Christians who evangelized fearlessly in a pagan culture; they are, he said, models for Christians today, and a “powerful call to prayer, to faith and to witness.”....................The Church does not belong to popes, bishops, priests, or the lay faithful; the church in every moment belongs solely to Christ,” he said, and this is how, despite the many “storms” in time and sins of its members, the Church is able to remain “ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service.”          It is by acting only in the name of Christ, not on one’s own behalf, that Christians have shown that no power can defeat those who have the power of faith, he said.   “Only the one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the Church by holiness in life, after the example of Peter and Paul,” he said..........(more)


Inspirational Ordinations at St Patrick's Cathedral today
John Costa, Saturday 27 June 2015
Ordinations are always inspiring, for many and varied reasons. These days when aspirants who have felt a calling have passed through a rigorous and lengthy selection and formation process, they are given a final choice to commit the rest of their lives to the service to God, the Church and all of the people of God. Each has his own personal story to tell, and in this case I can only speak of one of today's three newly ordained priests, until recently a neighbour who lived just around the corner. I also came to know him and his former wife because of their active involvement in the Church. The priests ordained at St Patrick's Cathedral today are Reverend John-Paul Mount (front right, nephew of Frank and Eileen Mount), Reverend Francis Denton (front left) and Reverend Charles Balnaves (front centre), who likes to be called Charles.

Charles graduated in Applied Mathematics in 1973 and married Tanya in 1975,and they had two children James and Michael, now respectively in IT and Engineering. After a 30 year career in BHP Billiton Charles embarked on discernment and training (resulting in a BTh Hons and MTS plus much personal development and faith discernment) for a new vocation involving ordination to the permanent diaconate.  At about the same time Tanya’s health became significantly affected by Erdheim Chester Disease , a rare disease which took her life in March 2012,  seven months before his ordination to the permanent diaconate and after a loving  relationship spanning 39 years. Charles felt strongly called to continue his discernment and training, which culminated today in ordination as a priest. In calling the candidates  Archbishop Denis Hart also spoke today of family members,  including Tanya and their two sons. All ordinations are grand occasions with large numbers of Bishops and Priests concelebrating, today including Frs Thang and Len Thomas. There were Deacons, and from Corpus Christie College  many Seminarians as Servers. The Choir of St Patrick's Cathedral Ballarat conducted by Dr Daryl Barclay, Organist Dr Paul Taylor and Cantor Mr Nigel Patawaran collectively filled the large cathedral with rich sounds. Whilst the Ordination Mass was impressive, for me knowing the story of Charles the highlight was seeing his joyful face of anticipation while walking towards ordination, and joyful face of fulfillment walking back during the recessional, with a new journey ahead.    The photo above shows shared joy of those ordained today together with, Back L-R Bp Paul Bird CssR, Archbishop Denis Hart, Bp Terence Curtin, and Bp Hilton Deakin. On the right is Charles' beautiful self-designed Chalice. In addition to the central cross are gum leaves symbolising his strong connection with aboriginal people and spirituality and, poignantly, his and Tanya's wedding rings.

Merle Gilbo and I were pleased today to share chartered bus transport to and from the ordination with neigbouring Fr Gerry McKernan and parishioners of  St Kevins Parish Lower Templestowe, where prior to serving as a Deacon for the last 15 months at St Johns Parish Mitcham  Charles also served as Deacon for 15 months, also his home parish for the previous 20 years. Tomorrow, 28 June, Charles will celebrate his first Mass at St Kevins, then later at St Johns. Warm congratulations and best wishes to Frs John-Paul Mount, Francis Denton and Charles Balnaves.


News from the Parish Office                                                                                                                                                        Friday 26 June 2015                                                                                                                                                     Ruth is on leave from 29 June – 10 July 2015. The Parish Office will be attended at different intervals. Brief newsletters have been prepared and printed in advance for weekends 4-5 July and 11-12 July which have been collected and taken to each church. Anniversaries for these weekends have been included. Notices, anniversaries and prayer requests received in this time will be placed in newsletter 18-19 July.  Items for newsletter can be left in locked letterbox near front door of Parish Office, 4 Waverley Ave, Ivanhoe.

Pope says family separation may be 'morally necessary'
Extract from CathNews, 25 June 2015
Pope Francis said yesterday that it may be "morally necessary" for some families to split up, marking a change of tone in the Catholic Church's attitude to troubled marriages.    "There are cases in which separation is inevitable," he said during his weekly general audience, with a message hoping to encourage greater compassion in the Church ahead of a highly anticipated global meeting on family life in October.    "Sometimes, it can even be morally necessary, when it's about shielding the weaker spouse or young children from the more serious wounds caused by intimidation and violence, humiliation and exploitation," he said.    Francis said there were many families in "irregular situations" and the question should be how to best help them, and "how to accompany them so that the child does not become daddy or mummy's hostage".           The Pope added: "It is true, on the other hand, that there are cases in which separation is inevitable," he explained.    "Sometimes it can become even morally necessary," when it comes to removing a spouse or children "from more serious injuries caused by insolence and violence, humiliation and exploitation, neglect and indifference," he said......(more)

Chaput: Gay families are welcome at World Meeting of Families, but 'lobbying' isn't
Extract from Jishue McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 25 June 2015
Vatican City. While gay families will be welcome at Philadelphia's global meeting on family life -- to be attended by Pope Francis at the end of his visit to the United States in September -- they will not be given an opportunity to speak about positions contrary to church teaching, Archbishop Charles Chaput said.     At a Vatican press conference detailing the continuing organization for the Sept. 22-25 World Meeting of Families -- the first such event to be held in the U.S. -- Chaput said gay families should feel free to join the expected 15,000 participants.    "We hope that everyone feels welcome to come, and certainly people who have experienced same-sex attraction are certainly welcome like anyone else," he said.    But, the archbishop added, "we don't want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our church, so we're not providing that kind of lobbying opportunity.".....(more)


'Laudato Si' should have lifted the ban on contraception
Extract from Jamie Manson, Opinion, Grace on the Margin,  National Catholic Reporter 24 June 2015
It's been nearly a week since the much-anticipated release of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. Since then, the document's many beautiful and challenging elements have been justifiably lauded in both the religious and secular media.     His call to replace fossil fuels is bold, his understanding of over-consumption and scarcity is prophetic, his compassion for the earth and all of its creatures is stunning. I could go on, but so many other commentators and theologians have done the work of parsing and praising the document so well that I will focus on an issue that remains woefully underdeveloped in the encyclical: overpopulation.         I say "woefully" because few people who are as concerned about ecological destruction as Francis is would deny that overpopulation is one of greatest threats to the earth's survival.......(more)  

Pope Francis on avoiding environmental catastrophe
Extract from Bruce Duncan, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 21 June 2015
Popes write social encyclicals in times of social crisis or at great turning points in history. Pope Francis’s Laudato Si is no exception. He sees the world facing unprecedented twin crises: from climate change; and unresolved issues of global hunger and poverty, resulting in growing conflict, violence and displacement of peoples. ‘Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes’ (# 92).      ‘We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental’, and we need to combat poverty, restore dignity to the excluded and protect nature (#139).      Francis insists on the urgency of these matters. ‘Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generation debris, desolation and filth.’ Our contemporary consumption and waste ‘can only precipitate catastrophes’. (#161).     Francis does not pull his punches on the effects of climate change, warning of imminent catastrophe unless the world acts urgently to reduce greenhouse gases. He laments that the world lacks leadership and it is ‘remarkable how weak international political responses have been (#54).’ He says that ‘our common home is falling into serious disrepair.. He sees signs that ‘things are now reaching a breaking point’. ‘There are regions now at high risk and aside from all doomsday predictions, the present world system is certainly unsustainable’ (#61)......more


Another very successful eConference streamed live to our Parish                                                                                              Tuesday 23 June 2015
The relatively small number of local people able to attend the Broken Bay Institute eConference streamed live to our Parish today and to  other venues around Australia and the world were greatly rewarded by excellent presentations by renowned speakers, and engaging local discussions following each presentation. The warm hospitality of our Outreach Group added a spirit of conviviality to the common search for new learning and understanding. The relevant and very significant topic for today's world was "Religion: Catalyst for Violence or Peace".  An outline of Speakers together with a photograph of a prior eConference facilitated in our Parish appears on the Sydney Archdiocese website linked here. We have also linked here a thoughtful and comprehensive assessment of the eConference by a parishioner and Year 8 student at Xavier College, Marcus Napolitano.


Redemptorists put together interactive digital resource kit for the Papal encyclical, Laudato Si

Tuesday 23 June 2015
The Redemptorists have put together an interactive digital resource kit for the recently released Papal encyclical, Laudato Si’. It includes:

  • Digital version of the document divided into chapters for easier reading
  • Insights on the encyclical from Fr Bruce Duncan CSsR
  • Prayers of the encyclical
  • Digitally laid out Q&A on the encyclical
  • A video  top 10 Top 10 Things You Need to Know about Pope Francis' Laudato Si'

The resource may be accessed here


Torah, Pope, & Crisis Inspire 300+ Rabbis to Call for Vigorous Climate Action                                                               Encouraged by plans for papal Encyclical,  they call for Eco-Social Justice
Extract from Rabbi Arthur Waskow,The Shalom Centre (A prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life)
As of 4 pm June 21, 2015,  380 rabbis have signed a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, calling for vigorous action to prevent worsening climate disruption and to seek eco-social justice. The text of the Rabbinic Letter and its signers are below.     The Rabbinic Letter was initiated by seven leading rabbis from a broad spectrum of American Jewish life: Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the American Jewish University; 
Rabbi Arthur Green, rector of the Hebrew College rabbinical school; Rabbi Peter Knobel, former president, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical  College.; Rabbi Susan Talve, spiritual leader of Central Reform Congregation, St. Louis; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center; and Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. They were joined by Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, a leader of the Orthodox community........(more)


Concelebrated Mass, Korean Musicians, Sacred Dance, Video tribute, Papal Blessing and Parish warmth (not to mention sausage sizzle) for Fr Len Thomas's  80th Birthday celebration  today
Saturday 20 June 2015, 4 pm to 9.30pm
Warmly celebrating the 'hyphenated person-priest'  (only readers of Len's special, free, 80-50 Newspaper gift will fully know what this means) before, during and after his 80th Birthday celebration Mass today a packed church and hall afterwards  reflected back the pastoral and spiritual warmth, support and and hope that Fr Len Thomas has spread during his 50 years of priestly Ministry. Today at St Bernadette's Church and school Hall in the Parish marked his 80th Birthday, and 11+ years in the Catholic Parish of Ivanhoe.                     A special Mass at 7pm on Saturday 4 July at St Pius X Church in Heidelberg West (details here) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest at St Patrick's Cathedral.                        Tonight Pastoral Leadership Team Chairperson Chris Dixon highlighted Len's special blend of spiritual and earthly qualities that so helpfully welcome and support people wherever they are in life, and thanked Fr Len for being Fr Len..                     Fr Thang presented Len with a papal blessing and a financial contribution from the people of the Catholic Parish of Ivanhoe. Len used some of the humour from his Newspaper to illustrate connection of the spiritual and earthly.                         Len's Newspaper is his gift to others, and for those who weren't able to be here tonight or won't be at St Pius Church on 4 July a small number of copies have been put aside.                 In such a rich Mass tonight with beautiful reading by parish children it's hard to highlight one part over others, but six concelebrating priests and all of the congregation (including some who came from far afield and interstate) were uplifted by the beautiful Offertory music played by Korean musicians, and by the beautiful sacred dance "Lord of the Dance" performed exquisitely by Maggie & Erin Gaffney from Mother Of God Primary School.            Today's celebration with its shared preparation and enjoyment exemplified  a true church community coming together.        Congratulations and best wishes Fr Len on your "80-50".     Forgiven are the one or two typos in your inspiring eighty-fifty Newspaper gift to everyone.  Thanks to all who worked hard in the background to make today such a success. See more photos here.


Encyclical: Vatican Q&A
Extract from CathNews, 19 June 2015
The Vatican has supplied some questions and answers for important issues raised by Laudato Si'...................(more)


'Laudato Si', the new encyclical from Pope Francis, released
Edited Extracts from Media and Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne,  18 June 2015
Pope Francis has officially released his new and long-awaited encyclical, 'Laudato Si'.
 His Holiness has challenged ‘every person living on this planet’ to enter into a new dialogue toward building a better future in his encyclical letter ‘Laudato Si’—‘Praise be to you’, released today in Rome.               Faced with global environmental deterioration, ‘I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home’.         The encyclical challenges us to ask ‘how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded’ (13).    Pope Francis also drew attention to pressing environmental concerns, such as pollution and climate change and the use of fossil fuels. ‘Climate change is a global problem with serious implications, environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day’ (25). The Australian Catholic Bishops have strongly supported this statement.      President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, welcomed the Holy Father’s encyclical. The Archbishop said he was pleased to see the letter critiques our weak response to ecological and social issues: ‘Pope Francis calls on people to seek new ways to understand the economy, condemns our throwaway culture and dependence on technology, and is calling on people to reassess the dignity of humanity and the integrity of creation in finding solutions to the ecological crisis.’               The Pope draws upon bishops’ statements from around the world, including the Australian bishops..................At this crucial time, the Australian Bishops and Catholic Earthcare Australia invites the Catholic community and the wider Australian community to address the challenges and opportunities in Laudato Si. We must move past our throwaway culture and embrace a new lifestyle, thereby ‘bringing healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power’ (206).......(more). Further information about Catholic Earthcare Australia here   Read the Encyclical here


Francis puts environment above short-term politics
Extracts from Paul Collins, Eureka Street, 18 June 2015
....................The encyclical is an extraordinary document addressed to ‘every living person on this planet’ about ‘care for our common home’ (3) and it is essentially a reflection on life in the contemporary world. Francis places himself in a papal tradition of concern for the environment from Paul VI in 1971 to Benedict XVI. He also highlights the work of Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew who says ‘to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and...against God’; the attached footnote mentions John Chryssavgis, an Australian-born Orthodox priest, who is theological/environmental adviser to Bartholomew.     Laudatio si gives no comfort to global warming deniers. Based on the scientific consensus he says that ‘most global due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases...released mainly as a result of human activity’ (23). This results from ‘current models of production and consumption’ (26) and the worst impact will ‘be felt by developing countries in coming decades’ (25) through destruction of ecosystems, shortage of fresh water (29) and sea level rise. There is no comfort either for technologies ‘based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal’, which need ‘to be progressively replaced without delay’ (165)   He is particularly critical of the loss of biodiversity: ‘The great majority [of plants and animals] become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right’ (33). He is critical of short-term politics ‘with environmental protection...altered with every change of government’ (181).       Francis has little patience for technological solutions and ‘fixes’. He mounts a profound critique of technology that sounds much like that of philosopher Martin Heidegger. He doesn’t quote Heidegger, but instead a favourite theologian of Benedict XVI, Romano Guardini, who was influenced by the philosopher. Francis links the ‘quick fix’ mentality to ‘the idea of infinite or unlimited growth which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology’ (106). He says ‘technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic’ (108) which favours ‘the interests of certain powerful groups’ (107).    Another group that is criticised are those – like me – who say that over-population is the problem. ‘To blame population growth instead of one way of refusing to face the issues’............(more)    


Why 'Laudato Si’' is the Perfect Encyclical for Millennials
Extract from Kerry Weber, America, 18 Jun 18 2015 
......Today, we have “Laudato Si’”, Pope Francis’ deep, powerful, beautiful encyclical, which reminded me over and over again that our use of technology, love of the poor, and care for our environment are integrally connected, and that cultivating love and respect for all God’s creation is, in fact, a timely and timeless concern.       “Laudato Si’” is a hopeful document in which Francis asks all people to enter into a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” (No. 14), and he draws on the wisdom of Scripture, bishops, philosophers and science to shape that conversation. But, perhaps most surprisingly, he also points to the example of young people today: “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (No. 13).     It is refreshing to see Francis identify the fact that many young people are living out the Gospel teaching in this way and possess a desire to make a difference. This acknowledgement likely will be appreciated by the young people he describes, many of whom fall into the millennial generation.........(more)  Image: America, shutterstock


Laudato si
Extract from Daniel Ang, Theology for pastoral life, timeofthechurch, 18 June 2015
Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment has arrived, preceded by extraordinary anticipation and suspense on account of at least two factors – the extraordinary influence exercised by Francis as global leader as well as the highly politicised nature of the environmental debate, a politicisation of which Laudato Si is acutely aware and critical.           This new encyclical forms a part of Catholic Social Teaching, that body of doctrine stretching back to Pope Leo XXIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891) and more recently Pope Benedict XVI’S Caritas In Veritate (2009). This tradition affirms the scope of Catholic theology as embracing not only the God of Christ in the Holy Spirit but all things as they relate to God – the common good, human solidarity and dignity, the role of government, the work of peace, the preferential option for the poor and yes, ecological stewardship.          From its outset, Laudato Si reads as fresh and consequential, bringing together with deftness the two central concerns of Pope Francis’ papacy – care for the vulnerable and reverence for creation. Sure enough, this unity echoes the mysticism of Francis’ thirteenth century inspiration and forebear, the ascetic friar of Assisi.......(more)  Image: timeofthechurch


The Environment encyclical is first and foremost about human relationships
Extract from Allison Walterm National Catholic Reporter, 18 June 2015
The anticipation for Pope Francis’s newest encyclical on care for creation is something I haven’t seen since the midnight release of Harry Potter books. And rightfully so: Francis’s encyclical addresses one of the most crucial issues of our time: caring for God’s creation. But Pope Francis goes beyond stereotypical “save the whales” rhetoric of reminding people to turn off the lights and to recycle coke bottles. Instead, Francis focuses on why protecting the environment must be human-centered.     While the encyclical is popularly referred to as a climate change encyclical, it first and foremost is about human relationships. Francis makes four claims that set him apart from the debate about climate change:..........(more)


Despatches of conscience from the meddling priest
Extract from CathNews, Eureka Street, 18 June 2015
Nothing is spared the Frank Brennan purview in his latest book. His Church's struggle to come to terms with contemporary realities, matters of life, death and love are all held to the gold standard of dignity, says Paul Bongiorno.      This book, Amplifying That Still, Small Voice, is a testament to the Brennan mission.     In the introduction, Irish poet Seamus Heaney on the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights speaks of the Declaration as a 'still, small voice' — the equivalent of a gold standard in the monetary system, reminding nations of the obligations they have signed up to.     The "still small voice" is certainly amplified by Fr Brennan with courage and conviction. He is not afraid to hold his Church, his society, and indeed the community of nations, up to the gold standard of the dignity and freedom of the individual.     But his baseline, not surprisingly as a Jesuit priest, is his belief that God is to be found in all things and we are called to discern this presence in the life of every person. This faith dimension affirms that at its base, reality is founded on, rooted in God.      This leads him to be, as Paul Keating lamented during the Wik native title negotiations, "a meddlesome priest."     This God is not an absent God but found in every human person.....(more)

Can credibility ever be rebuilt?
Francis Sullivan Truth Justice and Healing Council Blog, June 17, 2015
Late last week the St Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Hobart put on an information evening attended by about 50 people. It was one of the many talks I do around Australia – simply to talk to ordinary Catholics about what the Council is doing, why we’re doing it, what we can expect from the whole Royal Commission process.       It doesn’t matter if five people or 200 attend – you can hear a pin drop. People are intensely interested. They feel it deeply. The questions I’m asked are deep and insightful. Some people are angry, others are confused, others are really disappointed. Others are still wondering how this could have happened in the Catholic Church.     And while no one in these rooms have their fingerprints on the past, all seem to be prepared to accept part of the collective shame associated with child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.  Just as importantly there seems to be a strong willingness to take some responsibility for ensuring the future is better, that all the issues are dealt with openly and honestly and that action is taken.      One of the questions I am always asked at these Parish meetings is ‘what can we do?’ My response is always two fold.         First, keep talking about the issues, to each other, to your local priest, to your Bishop. Demand that they are engaged and that as a congregation you are part of the discussion. Insist that you know what is happening locally and what the Church is doing nationally.     Second, keep your hearts open to survivors, let them know they are welcome in the church if that is what they want, reach out, be inclusive both within the parish and outside.             The credibility of the Catholic Church around Australia is low. I hear it everywhere. Attendance has fallen dramatically. The relevance of the Catholic Church in every-day life is questioned.           When you have something as serious as childhood sex abuse, perpetrated by vowed religious and clerics, the hypocrisy cuts deep and it largely drowns out anything said about other issues across the many parts of our communities in which the Church is doing great work: education, health, welfare, social justice..............(more)


U.S. Archbishop resigns after Twin Cities archdiocese charged with failing children
Extract from Joshua J McElwee, Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 15 June 2015
Vatican City. U.S. Archbishop John Nienstedt, a Catholic prelate in the American Midwest whose mismanagement of clergy sexual abuse cases led to his chancellor reporting the archdiocese to authorities more than two years ago, has resigned.     The move comes 10 days after prosecutors in his archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis brought criminal charges against the archdiocese "for its failure to protect children."    In a rare double move, the Vatican also announced Monday the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, who was tasked last year with investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Nienstedt himself.                            The Vatican announced the two resignations in a note in its daily news bulletin Monday.............(More)     Photo: NCR, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis resigned June 14. (CNS)


Jesuit Social Services launch CAPSA - Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Monday 15 June 2015
Jesuit Social Services. The Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) has been officially launched at the start of World Refugee Week, which runs from June 14 to 20.    Backed by leading Catholic peak organisations and convened by Jesuit Social Services, CAPSA aims to change hearts and minds across Australia in support of the abolition of harsh asylum seeker policies.    The initiative wants to build on work being done in Catholic schools, parishes, and organisations across Australia.    Johanna Burns from Jesuit Social Services says that ‘as people come together in supporting asylum seekers, their activities will grow and become more effective. Anything each of us does, by collecting food to share with asylum seekers, offering friendship and comfort, helping with housing, or joining others in speaking up for them, will help make a more caring society.’   Marcelle Mogg, CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, says CAPSA’s aim is to build a collective voice. ‘So many Australians feel powerless in their capacity to influence change in the stance of both political parties, CAPSA provides an opportunity to build a collective voice for change,’ she says.    CAPSA’s website has many suggestions of ways for Catholics to take action including collecting food or other material aid for people seeking asylum, volunteering to teach English to people seeking asylum and writing to local MPs to share concerns about the treatment of people seeking asylum in Australia............The Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), convened by Jesuit Social Services, helps connect Catholics and groups interested in accompanying and speaking for asylum seekers.............(more)


Amidst other necessary changes a new appointment announced for Fr Thang.                                                                         John Costa, Sunday 14 June 2015
Change isn't always easy, or anticipated, but it's often necessary to move out of our comfort zones and do what we are called to do. Pope Francis expresses this sentiment encouragingly in his exhortation Joy of the Gospel (Evanhelii Gaudium) where he says in paragraph 24:

"Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach the "peripheries" in need of the light of the Gospel"

It is with surprise, sadness and joy that the Parish has just been advised that Archbishop Hart has invited Fr Thang, who has accepted, to become Director of the Ministry to Priests, commencing 13 January 2015.  Arrangements are underway to find an appropriate new Parish Priest for the Catholic Parish of Ivanhoe.           We've been very fortunate with Parish Priests so far and there's every reason to believe this good fortune will continue.             Reflecting today's Gospel readings Fr Thang spoke in his brief homily this weekend of the important dual aspects of Grace and Nature in following Christ's teachings and example. His appointment and the future direction of this Parish also follow such a path. Our sadness at shortly losing a much loved Parish Priest is balanced by the Joy of his new appointment, and recognising the significant part he has played in ensuring the the Parish continues making its choices collegially and co-responsibly, including in relation to the future. Fr Thang has frequently exclaimed that this Parish simply could not exist without the active engagement of parishioners. Collegiality and co-responsibility are key elements for which now and across past successive Parish Priests the Catholic Parish of Ivanhoe has perhaps (amongst some others) become something of a model.                   Like all of us, priests too have their needs and issues. The Ministry to Priests, young and old, was established to care for Archdiocese priests. It also provides a forum for priests to communicate issues with an agent and office of the Archbishop without necessarily communicating directly with the Archbishop. The director and his team provide pastoral care and intervention. The director is directly accountable to the Archbishop.                      This Mission Sunday weekend Fr Gary Walker who is Regional Director of the Missionary Society of St Columbans also spoke at our Masses. The society was originally founded to go to China but now works in 14 countries. Garry's introductory words also spoke of changes, including the very significant population shift of Catholics across the Church, towards Africa and Asia (see news item below  12/15). Of great relevance also he spoke as well about Pope Francis's Joy of the Gospel, and the call to respond.


In the context of Joy in the Gospel there will be time later for congratulation, celebration, sadness, farewell and welcome. For now we continue to work collegially and co-responsibly with Fr Thang towards necessary changes in our Parish. (L photo, arrival in Ivanhoe)


Intervention by Pope Francis set to transform climate change debate
Edited Extract from John Vidal,The Guardian,  13 June 2015
The most anticipated papal letter for decades will be published in five languages on Thursday. It will call for an end to the ‘tyrannical’ exploitation of nature by mankind. Could it lead to a step-change in the battle against global warming?   Pope Francis will call for an ethical and economic revolution to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality in a letter to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on Thursday.   In an unprecedented encyclical on the subject of the environment, the pontiff is expected to argue that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has crossed the Earth’s natural boundaries, and that the world faces ruin without a revolution in hearts and minds. The much-anticipated message, which will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops, will be published online in five languages on Thursday and is expected to be the most radical statement yet from the outspoken pontiff.    However, it is certain to anger sections of Republican opinion in America by endorsing the warnings of climate scientists and admonishing rich elites, say cardinals and scientists who have advised the Vatican.........(more)     Photo: The Guardian, Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty,  Pope Francis visit to the Philippines January 2015


Global Catholicism
Edited Extract from The Catholic World Report, CNA/EWTN News, 12 June 2015
Washington D.C. The global Catholic population is growing – so quickly, in fact, that priest and parish numbers cannot keep up, says a new study on trends in the worldwide Church.   And this poses a challenge: With an overall growth in the number of Catholics, especially in Africa and Asia, but not enough growth in the number of parishes and priests to supplement it, there are fewer opportunities for Catholics to receive the sacraments and participate in their parishes.               “The Church still faces a global 21st century problem of keeping Catholics engaged with parish and sacramental life,” stated the study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.                The study “Global Catholicism” drew from Vatican statistics and other surveys since 1980 to detail where the Catholic Church has grown and shrunk at the parish level and to predict the demographics of the next few decades for the Church.             This growth was examined at the parish level because parish life is ultimately the “brick and mortar” of the Church where Catholics receive the sacraments, associate with fellow Catholics, and participate the most in their faith, the study explained.      It tallied the growth of Catholics, priests, religious, parishes, reception of sacraments, seminarians, and Catholic welfare institutions like hospitals and schools in five regions -- Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the Americas.                        The overall finding of the report is that the Church is in the midst of a “dramatic realignment.” It is waning in its historical center of Europe, its growth is slowing in the Americas and Oceania, and it is booming in Asia and Africa.           This forecasts a Catholic shift away from the traditional centers of Europe and the Americas and toward the “Global South,” the mostly-developing parts of the world that include Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Oceania, and much of the Far East.  Dr. Mark Gray, a senior research associate with CARA, explained the implications of this shift to CNA in an interview.      One problem highlighted by the study is that most of the world’s parishes are still in Europe and the Americas, where the Church is declining or stagnating in population. The developing world is seeing more Catholics, but not nearly enough parishes to serve them........(more)   Photo: StPeters Square Wednesday Audience  Bohumil Petrik CNA 


Vatican won't investigate bishops until after royal commission
Extract from Cathnews (SMH/The Age), 12 June 2015
A Vatican tribunal to judge bishops accused of covering up child sex abuse is unlikely to investigate any Australian bishops until after the Royal Commission has concluded, says the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.    The Vatican announced on Wednesday night that it had established a tribunal under its doctrinal arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors."     Francis Sullivan, CEO OF the TJH Council, said he "wouldn't speculate"  on whether the Vatican's new tribunal would investigate the former Bishop of Ballarat, Ronald Mulkearns.     "Usually the way the Vatican works ... it won't work on speculation or on unsubstantiated claims. It will work on final determinations of courts or commissions of inquiry like the royal commission," he said.    The Royal Commission into Instiutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is expected to conclude halfway through next year, with recommendations and findings to follow.    Mr Sullivan doubted that the Vatican's tribunal had already started investigating bishops, but believed the work would be accelerated under Pope Francis. Statutes which established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors were only released from the Vatican last month.....(more)


Dalai Lama meets Archbishop Coleridge today
Extract from Cathnews, 12 June 2015
The Dalai Lama joined Archbishop Mark Coleridge and other religious leaders at a multi-faith event in Brisbane's St Stephen’s Cathedral this afternoon.The event was web-cast live today,  Look at the Archdiocese of Brisbane website Multimedia page  where the event is accessible and also where Sunday Masses from the Cathedral of St Stephen are streamed live here.     Photo: CathNews 


Religious war mongering far from the whole story                                                                                                                               Friday 12 June 2015
Extract from Broken Bay Institute Interview with Rev. Professor Dorothy Lee in advance of eConference to our Parish on 23 June
The relationship between Judaism, Christianity, Islam and violence is the subject of much controversy and rightly so, given that the history of religious violence between the Abrahamic faiths extends back for centuries, despite their many teachings which advocate peace, love and compassion. We spoke to Rev Professor Dorothy Lee, an ordained priest and Dean of the Theological School and the Frank Woods Professor in New Testament at Trinity College Theological School, University of Divinity, about her view on the topic ‘Religion: Catalyst for Violence or Peace? Probing the Abrahamic Traditions for Answers’, ahead of the BBI-ACBC 11th National eConference...........more.           Details of eConference above


Pope pushes Putin to work for peace in eastern Ukraine
Pope Francis gave Putin a medallion of the 'Angel of Peace' at the Vatican yesterday
Extract from Cindy Wooden, 11 June 2015 UK Catholic Herald,  
Pope Francis has appealed to Russian president Vladimir Putin to work for peace in a meeting at the Vatican yesterday.    According to a statement from the Vatican spokesman Fr Frederico Lombardi: “The meeting was dedicated principally to the conflict in Ukraine and to the situation in the Middle East.”    Fr Lombardi continued: “The Holy Father affirmed the need for a commitment to a sincere and serious effort to reach peace and there was agreement on the importance of restoring a climate of dialogue” and on adhering to the promises made in the ceasefire agreement.”   Putin arrived at the Vatican more than an hour late, beating the 45-minute tardiness he chalked up in November 2013, the last time he visited the Pope.    Pope Francis and Putin spoke privately, aided by interpreters, for 50 minutes before the Russian president introduced the members of his entourage, including foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.    The “serious humanitarian situation” in eastern Ukraine was also discussed, the spokesman said, as was the need to assure humanitarian workers have access to the region......(more)      Photo: Catholic Herald, (AP/CNS photos)


Pope downplays ‘Marian visions’
Extract from Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Catholic News Agency, Thursday 11 June 2015
Days after declaring that a decision on the Medjugorje apparitions would be coming soon, Pope Francis cautioned against basing one’s faith solely on predicted visions or anything other than Christ himself.    In his June 9 daily Mass at the Vatican’s Saint Martha Guesthouse, Pope Francis cautioned against those who look for God ‘with these Christian spiritualties that are a little ethereal,’ calling them ‘modern Gnostics.’    These people, he said, ‘tell you this or that: no, the last word of God is Jesus Christ, there is no other!’   He also warned against those ‘who always need novelty of Christian identity. They’ve forgotten that they were chosen, anointed, that they have the guarantee of the Spirit, and they seek.’   Francis observed that there are those who might ask, ‘But where are the seers who tell us today, ‘the letter that the Madonna will send us at four in the afternoon…’’    He cited this type of predicted vision as an example of those who base their faith on novelties, explaining that ‘these people live from this.’    However ‘this isn’t Christian identity. The ultimate word of God is named ‘Jesus,’ nothing more,’ he said......(more)  

Oscar-winner Morricone composes Mass for Pope, Jesuits
Extract from CatheNews, 11 June 2015
Oscar-winning Italian composer Ennio Morricone has premiered a Mass he composed to mark the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Jesuit order and named for its most illustrious member, Pope Francis, reports AP in The Washington Post. The Jesuits said in a statement that the 86-year-old Morricone conducted Missa Papae Francisci yesterday at the main Jesuit church in Rome, leading Rome’s Symphonic Orchestra and the choirs of the Santa Cecilia Academy and the Teatro dell’Opera......(more)     Photo: CathNews


Francis approves process of accountability for bishops on sexual abuse
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee. 10 June 2015
Vatican City: Pope Francis has approved the outline of a new system of accountability for Catholic bishops who do not appropriately handle accusations of clergy sexual abuse, in what could be a breakthrough moment on an issue that has plagued the church globally.    Proposed by Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley at the behest of the pope's commission on clergy sexual abuse, the system gives power to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops "with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors."    It would also see the establishment of a new office at the congregation to undertake work as a tribunal to judge such bishops.   Such a system will be a first at the Vatican, where bishops have long held near impunity with regard to their actions or inactions on clergy sexual abuse. In the Catholic church, only the pope can fire prelates -- a process that, if it ever occurs, normally takes years or even decades.   Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said that while that firing power ultimately remains with Francis, the pope accepts the decisions of those he puts in such tribunal offices.....(more)

Review board head: Diocesan reviews, mandatory audits should be priorities for bishops
Extract from Brian Riewe, National Catholic Reporter, 10 June 2015
St. Louis: Requiring all allegations of clergy sexual abuse to be reviewed by diocesan review boards and making mandatory parish audits should be priorities for bishops, according to the head of its National Review Board.    Francesco Cesareo, chair of the National Review Board established under the Dallas Charter, addressed a gathering here of more than 200 bishops Wednesday morning. Cesareo said the U.S. church has made great strides in combating the abuse issue but left open the door for continued improvement and vigilance.   The chair reviewed pieces of the board’s annual report, which found that 188 dioceses participated in the last audit. The Lincoln, Neb., diocese and five eparchies did not, but Cesareo noted that three of those eparchies have indicated they will participate this year. During the 2014 audit year, 37 allegations were made by current minors, with six of them found substantiated.    “This persistence of allegations begs some questions for your consideration. Is there a need to change the audit instrument? Is the audit effectively serving the purpose for which you originally intended? How can the audit more effectively ensure the charter is being implemented and children are being protected? What more can we learn from the audits?” Cesereo asked.....(more)  Phooto: NCR ((CNS/St. Louis Review/Lisa Johnston)
Photo: NCR: (CNS/St. Louis Review/Lisa Johnston)    20150610cnsto0034

A crucial time for a discerning voice
Extract from Michael Elligate, Eureka Street, 9 June 2015
Any time is the right time to have an intelligent voice raised in the community and in the Church. But now is a crucial time to hear Frank Brennan's discerning voice.   When spin dominates political life and when we learn only today that legislation is about to be passed prohibiting medicos and teachers making any comment about our offshore Refugee-Asylum Seekers Centres (all the marks of a fascist state), issues must be raised and examined.    We are just emerging from decades of a siege mentality in the Church when much of the spirit and vision of Vatican II was dismantled. So Frank Brennan's book Amplifying That Still, Small Voice has arrived on time for many of us.     One of the opening articles in the book 'Scrutinizing a Non-Transparent Hierarchy' is a timely reminder how Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba was hung out to dry by a gaggle of frightened and maybe some ambitious Bishops.    Frank Brennan's clear and highly perceptive understanding of the study of legal matters is superb. No Church official would dare dabble in the 'Ellis defence' after Fr Brennan has examined it so well.   As Chair of the National Human Rights Consultation, Frank Brennan listened to thousands of Australians voice their dreams and concerns. That time of enquiry and scrutiny will be a vital step in the ultimate process of our nation treasuring a future Human Rights Act.    Decision making authorities — be it in Parliament, the Judiciary or the Church — all feel the need to protect their established positions. The move to review, refer and implement new measures is never easy. Yet the place of that still small voice is where Fr Brennan hits his straps..........(more) Photo: Eureka Street


Vote changes Saturday Mass times at St Bernadette's                                                                                                           Friday 5 June 2015
Members of the St Bernadette's Church community have decided overwhelmingly to change their Saturday Mass time, for practical local reasons.  From and including Saturday 4th July Saturday evening masses will commence at 6:00pm, half an hour earlier than at present. It can be confusing changing Mass times, particularly for the few who preferred to retain current timing, however the established community spirit at St Bernadette's will be helpful in making this small adjustment as comfortable as possible. All in the St Bernadette's community are requested to assist in the transition by personally spreading the word as widely as possible about this adjustment.


Australian archbishops come out in support of Cardinal Pell
Extract from CathNews, 4 June 2015
The Archbishops of Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart, and Canberra-Goulburn have issued a joint statement in support of Cardinal George Pell, reports The Australian. The Archbishops - Anthony Fisher OP, Mark Coleridge, Timothy Costelloe ODB, Julian Porteous, and Christopher Prowse - as well as the Bishop of Broken Bay, Peter Comensoli, and Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Terence Brady, affirmed Cardinal Pell is “a man of integrity,” who is committed to the truth.    The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, who is also the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, spoke out in defence of Cardinal Pell on Monday, urging people to hold off from making hasty judgments.     Cardinal Pell has come under fire following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing in Ballarat last month. The inquiry was told Cardinal Pell tried to bribe a victim of paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale to keep quiet and dismissed another abuse victim’s complaint as ridiculous.    The Royal Commission also heard Cardinal Pell was present at a Ballarat diocesan consultors meeting which approved Ridsdale’s transfer from the western Victorian parish of Mortlake where he had offended against children.       The seven Archbishops and Bishops say they know Cardinal Pell well from working with him and that he is committed to the truth and to helping others, particularly those who have been hurt or who are struggling.     “His style can be robust and direct; he does not wear his heart on his sleeve. But underneath he has a big heart for people,” they wrote..............(more)


Writer, psychologist and lay activist Eugene Cullen Kennedy dies at 86
Extracts from Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter, 4 June 2015
Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a writer, psychologist, and former Maryknoll priest transformed into a lay Catholic activist, died Wednesday. He was 86.........Kennedy, retired psychology professor at Loyola University Chicago, was comfortable both inside powerful church circles -- he was a confidante to the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and authored books about his friend -- and on the outside, lobbying for changes about how the hierarchy handled sex abuse and other issues. Much of his retirement was spent talking to groups such as Voice of the Faithful, galvanizing lay action on church issues.       "In many ways, he was right in the middle of the church and he looked around. He also stepped to the edge and looked deeper at some aspects of the church," said Msgr. Ken Velo, a Chicago priest, former aide to Bernardin, and friend of Kennedy's.    In an essay for NCR, posted online in June 2002, soon before the bishops met in Dallas to chart a response to the sex abuse crisis, Kennedy blamed the scandal on the "characteristic passivity of American bishops" and warned against the secretiveness of clerical culture. He castigated what he called a "Pontius Pilate Syndrome" in the hierarchy, a "getting along by going along.".........(more)  Photo: NCR. Eugene Cullen Kennedy early 70s. 


Yarra Deanery (neighbouring parishes)
Tuesday 2 June 2015
Those who follow Parish happenings via our Newsletter and Website will know by now that Yarra Deanery to which we are pleased to belong with other neighbouring parishes has recently been sharing further details of Parish events likely to have common interest across our collective geographical region.             Recent Social Justice events at St Kevins Parish Templestowe  were appreciated by some of our parishioners. Shortly there will be a  Youth Gathering at St John's Heidelberg (see Youth Page), The special '80-50' celebrations of Fr Len Thomas (above) will begin on Saturday 20 June, and on June 23 is the next Broken Bay Institute 'eConference' (see below).           Today at St Kevin's Parish Templestowe, Deanery members met especially over lunch to celebrate the forthcoming ordination as a  Priest at St Patrick's Cathedral on on 27 June of Rev. Charles Balnaves. Charles was the previous Deanery Coordinator, then in October 2012 was ordained as a Permanent Deacon. Following the death of his much loved wife Tania through illness, Charles felt called to take the next step in his faith journey and  continuing path of service through the Church, and began formation for the Priesthood. As a former BHP Executive Charles brings to the Church a well needed set of business skills together with his strong Faith Calling. In wishing him well today Deanery Coordinator Fr Wayne Edwards presented Charles with a portable set of Sacramental Oils, important for Priests in serving the special spiritual needs of people at particular times, wherever they happen to be.        The Catholic Parish of Ivanhoe joins other Deanery Parishes in remembering Tania at this time and wishing Charles all the best for the next significant step of his journey.           Thanks to Fr Gerry, Liza, Brigid and Lisa of St Kevins for warmly hosting today's special Deanery gathering. Photo: Mass at St Kevins Templestowe, 28 Oct 2012, the day after Charles' Ordination as a Permanent Deacon.


We congratulate our Confirmation candidates confirmed at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday 31 May. We wish them well following this special occasion and for their ongoing journeys of faith and spirituality. See Reflection of the week here Photo: Detail, Dove of the Holy Spirit, from glass dome at St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Europe's fractious Catholics set out their views in synod questionnaire
Extracts from Johnathon Luxmoore, National Catholic Reporter, 2 June 2015
Like their counterparts around the world, Europe's bishops' conferences are supposed to have been engaged in a listening process for next October's Synod of Bishops on the family. And while little has been divulged officially so far about the views collected from Catholic respondents, it's been possible to glean some measure of the strong feelings being expressed.      When the Vatican sent out the final report of the synod's October 2014 Extraordinary Assembly, it asked bishops to conduct an "in-depth examination" and seek out "practical solutions" to the "innumerable challenges" identified at the synod sessions.     It circulated 46 questions, as part of the lineamenta, or preparatory documents, about family ministry and how the church could best tackle issues such as homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, contraception, and cohabitation.    While Spain's bishops kept the questionnaire strictly within the church, those of England and Wales released it on the Internet and invited everyone to respond. Other church leaders handled the document variously in time for Rome's April 15 deadline.................Europe's fractious and divided church looks set to play a key role when the synod convenes in October.........(more)


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