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President's Remarks on HHS Controversy

While listening to all the fuss on the news in the past few days, it has become clear to me that this issue is being presented backwards.  The Republicans, along with the bishops, are arguing that this is an attack by the government on religion.  The truth of the matter is that this is just the opposite: their response is religion's attack on democracy.  

The Democrats need to point this out.  The HHS ruling is simply that public policy, determined through the democratic process (regardless of the claims by the Tea Party folks) is that medical coverage must be made available to all persons and this includes preventive medicine.  The department went out of its way to allow for an exception for those organizations that are clearly religious.  

The attack from the right is that they are being forced to go against their consciences when that is clearly not the case.  The religious right, including the bishops, want to extend their control into public policy areas.  They are not democratically elected and cannot speak even for those who are members of the RCC.  

They can certainly represent their point of view and they have not been denied that right.  Freedom of religion is included in the First Amendment because it is an extension of freedom of expression.  They have expressed their point of view but now want to take it another step.  They want to not just teach that contraception is wrong, they want to enforce that decision.  

By the way, I am rather weary of hearing the news media and others buy into the statement that this is a matter of Catholic doctrine.  It is not  doctrine because it has never been so declared.  It has been identified as a teaching.  Since it does not pass muster with the sensus fidelium, it cannot be considered doctrine.   

We need to look at this as part of a larger set of issues, not just contraception.  The religious right wants to impose their faith tradition's view of marriage on to the public sector.  They want to impose their view of sexual morality on to the public sector.  Now they want to impose their idea of reproduction on the rest of us.  

If we allow this, then we are ceding our control over our own bodies and a significant part of our democracy over to a medieval aristocracy.  It is clearly established that the church has long been opposed to democracy because it undermines their ability to control the people.  Their greatest fear is that even the congregations might push for democratic principles within the church itself.  That would result in transparency and more honest reflection on what is genuinely part of what it means to be Christian.   

Patrick B. Edgar, DPA, M.Div. 

Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church

Religious Freedom for Catholics
Catholic Laity, That  Is!

Not only are the massive majority of U.S. Catholics who use birth control not committing "sin," they are following traditional Catholic moral teaching in so deciding.

This is not the position of some wimpy, left-leaning far-out rejected theological opinion. This is the standard, most-favored moral theological position traditionally taught for over a hundred years in Catholic seminaries. See the standard text used in Catholic seminaries when my former colleague at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Tubingen, Josef Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and I studied in the 1940-50s: Ad. Tanquerey,Theologia Moralis Fundamentalis, 1902. On pp. 297 ff. it treats of the favored doctrine of Probabilism.

In brief, Probabilism is the Catholic moral theology teaching that in cases of dispute among moral theologians (that is, learned theologians who study matters of right and wrong actions), one may in good conscience follow an opinion that a significant number of moral theologians support, even if only a minority hold that position.

Now, in fact, the vast majority of Catholic moral theologians have in the past almost half century favored the position that artificial birth control may in good conscience be used. One need only recall that the Vatican Commission (all named by the pope) given the task of addressing precisely that question almost fifty years ago overwhelmingly answered it in the affirmative: One may in good conscience use artificial birth control.

Nevertheless, Pope Paul VI in 1968, rejecting this position of 95% of his commissioners, issued his encyclical Human vitae in which he said that birth control was not morally licit. However, the matter did not end there for Catholics. In response, the national bishops' conferences of Belgium, Germany, Canada and the United States issued public statements saying that, in the end, individual Catholic couples may follow their own consciences on the matter of artificial birth control, even if that led them to oppose Pope Paul VI's position (according to current polls, over 90% of American Catholics approve of birth control). The U.S. bishops explicitly stated that "the expression of theological dissent is in order." (see: http://arcc-catholic-rights.net/dissentlen.htm)

Doubtless the bishops then were remembering what they (including the bishop of Rome, Pope Paul VI) had all passed just three years before at Vatican Council II, the "Declaration on Religious Liberty," Dignitatis humanae: "Nobody is forced to act against his convictions in religious matters in private or in public....Truth can impose itself on the mind of man only in virtue of its own truth...The search for truth should be carried out...by free enquiry...and dialogue.... Humans are bound to follow their conscience faithfully in all their activity.... They must not be forced to act contrary to their conscience, especially in religious matters." (emphasis added).

Thus, if Catholic laity are convinced that birth control is morally right for them, they may practice it is good conscience by 1) following the traditional Catholic moral theology doctrine of Probabilism, 2) following the 1968 National Conference of U.S. Bishops teaching on the acceptability of "theological dissent," and 3) following the teaching of all the Catholic bishops of the world at Vatican Council II that "Humans are bound to follow their conscience faithfully in all their activity.... They must not be forced to act contrary to their conscience, especially in religious matters."

Hence, over 90% of U.S. Catholic laity may claim their right of Religious Freedom to being afforded access to birth control equal to that of non-Catholic Americans.

Leonard Swidler, Ph.D., S.T. L.
Past President and Founder, 
Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church 

ARCC Documents 

If it has been awhile since you visited, you may find it informative to peruse the ARCC website. There you will find a treasure trove of publications and resources for those concerned with the rights of Catholics.

The documents "Dialogue and Dissent: An American Catholic Vocation" by Prof. Leonard Swidler and "The Doctrine of Reception" by Fr. James Coriden are now both available in printable booklet format.  


Some things we have been reading  


Bishops Reject White House's New Plan on Contraception

Laurie Goodstein      Feb.12, 2012

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops have rejected a compromise on birth control coverage that President Obama offered on Friday and said they would continue to fight the president's plan to find a way for employees of Catholic hospitals, universities and service agencies to receive free contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans, without direct involvement or financing from the institutions.

 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops - which has led the opposition to the plan - said in a statement late Friday that the solution offered by the White House to quell a political furor was "unacceptable and must be corrected" because it still infringed on the religious liberty and conscience of Catholics.

The bishops' decision to rebuff the compromise means that "religious freedom" will continue to be a rallying cry for some Catholics who have heard it preached from the pulpit for the last three weeks, for evangelical Christians on the religious right, for Republican candidates on the campaign trail and for members of Congress who are supporting a legislative fix on Capitol Hill.

Administration officials said the White House had never expected to get the bishops' support, given their absolute opposition to contraception, and was surprised when the initial statement of the bishops conference on Friday was noncommittal and went so far as to call the president's modification a step in the right direction.
Read more


Prominent National Faith Leaders Celebrate White House's Common-Ground Solution on Contraception Coverage
Kristin Ford       Feb.10, 2012

Below is a statement from Catholic and Protestant leaders celebrating the decision as "major victory for religious liberty and women's health."
Today the Obama administration announced an important regulation that will protect the conscience rights of religious organizations and ensure that all women have access to contraception without a co-payment. We applaud the White House for listening carefully to the concerns raised by religious leaders on an issue that has provoked heated and often misinformed debate. This ruling is a major victory for religious liberty and women's health. President Obama has demonstrated that these core values do not have to be in conflict.
. . . .
We look forward to bringing the same level of passion displayed in this debate to other pressing moral issues that face our nation 
Read more and see list signatories


"Our Task Is Far From Over": The Bishops Take On the "Accommodation"
Rocco Palmo       Feb.10, 2012

In a significant late development on today's White House move to contain the controversial contraceptive mandate in benefit plans, the "Group of Five" leading the US bishops' effort against the Federal regulation's conscience provision (or lack thereof) has circulated a detailed briefing on its interpretation of this afternoon's move to the entire conference. 

Delivered to the bench via its "bishops-only website," tonight's letter is a heavily bulked-up version of a second public response likewise issued this evening renewing the bishops' call for "legislative action" to oppose the measure. In the body's name, the statement judges that President Obama "has decided to retain HHS's nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients.

"We cannot fail to reiterate this," the public message added.

Here below, however, is the text of tonight's internal, bishops-only briefing, obtained by Whispers and signed by the aforementioned quintet: the conference president, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, and the bench's committee chairs for Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; Doctrine, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington; Domestic Policy, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, and the newly-formed arm on Religious Liberty, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport.
Read more


Theologians see need for broader discussion on conscience
 Joshua J. McElwee       Feb.10, 2012

As the conversation surrounding the controversial birth control mandate continues, prominent theologians are saying President Barack Obama's decision on that subject just underlines the need for a much broader discussion among Catholics regarding the complex moral issues of our day.

On the birth control issue, Catholic bishops have made their position clear. In more than 160 letters to dioceses across the country, they have variably called the administration's decision an "affront to religious liberty" that would cause Catholics to "violate our consciences" regarding the morality of contraception.

Yet, in conversations with NCR and in their own postings online, several theologians are wondering if a more nuanced and lengthier discussion is in order. Each expressed regret that the bishops' recent outcry seems to narrow down the fullness of Catholic moral teaching to issues of sexuality.

"Conscience is such a hugely important topic," said Lisa Fullam, an associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. "The fact that it tends to only be discussed in the light of sexuality is unfortunate."

At the heart of a broader discussion of moral issues, theologians say, would be how Catholics understand the notions of evil and conscience, and how this particular question raises many others about Catholic participation in a much wider range of morally questionable activities -- from war to sweatshops, and even including the production of food.
. . . .
Theologian Daniel Maguire of Marquette University in Milwaukee comes to the topic with more fundamental questions: Who is the church? And how does the church discern morality?
. . . .
When considering the position of the church on any issue, Maguire said, it's important to remember that the bishops are not "the entire picture."

A fuller picture of how Catholics have discerned moral truths in the past, he said, would include a "tripod" of views: those of the hierarchy, the "magisterium of the theologians," and the "grace-filled, experience-filled wisdom of the faithful."
Read more


Explosive sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican dropped
John Allen      Feb.11, 2012

A Wisconsin sex abuse lawsuit against the Vatican, which helped trigger a global firestorm in early 2010, was withdrawn late Friday. It marks the formal end of a case that seemed to cast doubt on Pope Benedict XVI's role in the abuse crisis, and shifted focus from local bishops to an alleged cover-up in Rome.

Lawyers for the victim filed a notice of voluntary dismissal on Friday, effectively abandoning the lawsuit. It had named not only the Vatican but also Pope Benedict XVI and two senior Vatican officials, Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone and Angelo Sodano, as defendants. The suit had been filed by Minnesota-based attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has frequently represented sex abuse victims against the church.
. . . .
Anderson told NCR on Saturday that the decision to withdraw the case was "pragmatic and practical," based largely on the fact that as a result of proceedings related to the bankruptcy of the Milwaukee archdiocese, he had already obtained most of the files regarding the Vatican's involvement he could have gotten through a separate lawsuit. Those documents are presently under seal, he said, but he said they paint an "ugly picture" of the Vatican's role.

"We have not in any way abandoned our effort to hold the Vatican legally and fully accountable," Anderson said.

While Anderson said he does not plan to refile the Wisconsin case, he still hopes to pursue depositions of Vatican figures such as Bertone and Sodano as part of other litigation. In the meantime, he said, he plans to depose Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, a former archbishop of Milwaukee, about his role in the Wisconsin case.
Read more


Belgian Catholics urge bishops to empower lay people to counter priest shortage
 Tom Heneghan       Feb.10, 2012

Belgian Catholics have petitioned their bishops for reforms including ordaining women and married men and allowing lay people to lead church services as ways to counter their growing shortage of priests.  The petition, handed over on Thursday, represented yet another challenge to the Belgian Church, deeply shaken by revelations of clerical sexual abuse that prompted police to raid its offices across the country for evidence of crimes last month.

The 8,235 signatories in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking half of the bilingual country, included politicians and intellectuals as well as about a 10th of all Flemish priests, deacons and lay Church workers. Their reform call echoes similar initiatives in Austria, Germany and Ireland. "The concerns and laments of Flemish believers exist in most if not all Western European countries," the group  Kerkenwerk  (Work of the Churches) about the petition entitled "Believers have their say".
. . . .
A similar reform initiative launched last summer in Austria has led to consultations with senior Church leaders there and a closed-door meeting of Austrian bishops with Vatican officials concerned that it could lead to a schism in the Church. 
Read more


Vatican dismisses report of plot to kill pope Vatican besieged by reports of money laundering, plot to kill the pope, at delicate time
AP     Feb.11, 2012 

Money laundering at the Vatican bank. Corruption in the awarding of Vatican contracts. Even a purported plot to kill Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican is being besieged by near-daily leaks of confidential documents and tabloid-style reports of alleged financial mismanagement, political infighting and gossip about who might be the next pope - all coming out at an exceedingly delicate time for the Holy See and Benedict himself.
. . . .
The most explosive story to hit newsstands came on Friday: reports that the Vatican had received a confidential letter last month from a top Vatican official describing how an Italian cardinal visiting China had spoken about a presumed plot to kill Benedict this year. The document also said the pontiff was grooming Milan's archbishop as his successor.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, dismissed that report as "so completely beyond reality and hardly serious that I don't even want to consider it."
But Lombardi has taken the other reports alleging financial mismanagement far more seriously, warning of possible legal action against the media outlets responsible.
. . . .
Veteran Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli said the reports showed a clear power struggle is under way inside the Vatican, "the outcome of which is uncertain yet devastating," concerning both the fate of the pope's deputy, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and any future conclave to elect the next pope.

Another Vatican commentator who has been highly critical of Bertone's leadership, Sandro Magister, put it this way in a recent column: "The secretary of state is increasingly alone, in a curia he does not govern and with a pope he does not help."
The question that has yet to be answered is why the reports are coming out now, and whether they are more related to internal power struggles over Bertone's leadership or external tensions between the Bank of Italy and Italian prosecutors on the one hand, and the IOR on the other. 
Read more


Obama fixes contraception mandate.
  Grant Gallicho          Feb 10, 2012 

President Obama has announced a major revision of the mandate requiring employers to provide contraception coverage in employee health plans. Under the new rule, senior administration officials confirmed, no religious institution will have to pay for health-insurance plans that include contraception coverage. Not houses of worship, not parish schools, not universities, not hospitals, not charitable organizations.

The outline of the new rule is fairly simple. Nonprofit religious institutions that do not fall within the narrow religious exemption will not have to offer employee health plans that cover contraception. Instead, the employer's insurance company will have to contact employees directly and offer contraception coverage as a separate policy at no cost. (Religious organizations that primarily employ and serve co-religionists, and whose mission is primarily to inculcate its values, will not be covered by this new arrangement.)

Why would insurers agree to provide contraception services for free? Because, actuarially, it makes financial sense. The average pregnancy costs roughly $12,000. Enrollees who use contraception are cheaper to cover.

The revised ruling seems to have satisfied both Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, who had criticized the original ruling, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, both of whom made statements praising the revised policy.
Read more


Constitutionality of birth control mandate
Sarah Muller    Feb.9, 2012 

Constitutional expert David Boies said there's no basis for a constitutional fight with the birth control mandate. On The Last Word, he compared the current debate that's heating up in Washington to simple tax law or labor laws.

"There isn't a constitutional issue involved in this case," he told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Wednesday. "You don't exempt religious employers just because of their religion. You are not asking anybody in the Catholic church or any other church to do anything other than simply comply with a normal law that every employer has to comply with."

Boies, who represented Vice President Al Gore in Bush v. Gore, said "this case would have trouble getting to the court."
Watch video


SNAP Editorial       Feb.10, 2012

Absence can speak with a megaphone.

It did this week in Rome at the symposium on sexual abuse.

It ran for fours days and ended with the opening of an "e-learning center" in Germany.

Pope Benedict XVI was nowhere to be seen. At the symposium, that is.

This symposium was not held in Shanghai, Sydney, Singapore, Seattle, Soweto or the south base camp of the South Pole.

It was held within the confines of the city of Rome.

A city where the Supreme Pontiff lives, works, has a car at his disposal for which he does not personally pay for the gas or the diesel fuel to run it.

A pontiff who has found enough time in his papacy to write books.
Read more


Vatican cardinal says pope merits thanks, not attacks, for his handling of clergy sex abuse
Associated Press       Feb.6, 2012

The U.S. cardinal who leads the Vatican office overseeing cases of sexual abuse by clergy says Pope Benedict XVI should be thanked, not attacked, for his handling of the problem.

Cardinal William Levada vigorously defended Benedict in a speech to a Vatican-backed symposium in Rome aimed at showing church leaders how to help sex abuse victims and protect children. Before becoming pontiff, Benedict held Levada's job, and the cardinal thanked him for supporting binding rules so U.S. bishops could crack down on abuse.

But advocates for abuse victims derided the four-day symposium that began Monday, however, calling it "window dressing." The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is demanding that the Vatican make public its secret files on abuse cases.
Read more


Welcome change of approach
Tablet Editorial       Feb.11, 2012

To describe the covering up of clerical abuse in the Church as equivalent to omertà - the code by which Mafia bosses enforce the secrecy of their own criminal actions - is to use language as strong as any employed by the Church's critics over the last 10 years. The fact that it comes from Mgr  Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the man with responsibility for dealing with the thousands of child-abuse cases reported to the Vatican, suggests that he and his colleagues have fully grasped the extent of the evil that infected the Church over this matter.  Mafia bosses are, above all, interested in self-protection; they flee from justice. The failure of the Church in the past to ensure justice for the victims of child abuse has emerged as no less of a scandal than the abuse itself, made worse when it was the result of actions by persons in authority. It was a crime in canon law to show malicious or fraudulent negligence in the exercise of one's duty, Mgr Scicluna said, indicating that bishops could be deposed from their sees for falling down in their duty in this respect.
Read more


Vatican abuse summit: Expert blasts denial on global dimension of crisis     
John L Allen Jr on Feb. 07, 2012 

One of America's leading experts on the Catholic abuse crisis effectively told church leaders from different parts of the world today that if they think sexual abuse is not a problem in their neighborhood, they're kidding themselves.

"Church leaders around the world began by saying, 'This is only an American problem'," Monsignor Stephen Rossetti told a Vatican symposium this morning. "Then, as more cases surfaced in other countries, they said, 'This is an English speaking problem.' Then, as the circle of abuse cases widened, they expanded it to: 'This is a Western problem.' The boundaries were pushed back farther and farther."

"Each time, church leaders said, in effect, 'It doesn't happen here'," Rossetti said.

Rossetti, former director of the St. Luke's Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, which treats abuser priests, has written widely on the crisis. He said that in reality, all the available data, based on studies by secular experts, concur that child abuse occurs at the same high rates across the various continents.

"If there are people in the church today who are thinking that this is not a problem in their country, I urge them to speak to those who work with children," he said. "Contact those who generously run programs for abused children or staff child abuse hotlines. Find out what is being said behind closed doors."
Read more


Vatican abuse summit: $2.2 billion and 100,000 victims in U.S. alone
John L Allen Jr       Feb.8, 2012 

Two American experts told a Vatican summit today that the full costs of the sexual abuse crisis - including financial payouts, emotional distress, alienation among both clergy and laity, and damage to the church's moral authority - is essentially incalculable, but massive beyond any doubt.

Focusing on the United States, the two speakers provided estimates suggesting that the American church has spent at least $2.2 billion settling litigation related to the crisis, and that there may have been as many as 100,000 total victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Before surveying the damage, Michael Bemi and Pat Neal rejected what they described as four "myths" about the crisis, which were:

  • The crisis is an American problem.
  • The crisis has been exaggerated by a Godless media that is antagonistic to people or institutions of faith.
  • The crisis has been instigated by avaricious attorneys whose only objective is to enrich themselves financially.
  • Homosexual orientation causes men to be sex offenders. ("Neither homosexual nor heterosexual orientation is a risk factor," they said, "but rather, disordered or confused sexual orientation is a risk factor.")

While each of those claims may have "elements of truth," the two speakers said, "none on its own, nor all of them combined, can even begin to explain and fully describe the misconduct crisis."
Read more


Clerical power thwarts victims in Poland
 Jonathan Luxmoore       Feb.8, 2012

When Ewa Orlowska, a mother of nine, decided to confront her local priest for sexually abusing her as a child, she had little idea what was to follow. The priest, Msgr. Michal Moskwa, had been the parish pastor for three decades in the southern town of Tylawa, and Ewa had been just one of his victims. But when she'd told her mother about the abuse, her mother beat her and ordered her to apologize.

When the case came to light in 2001, Orlowska reluctantly agreed to give a statement to prosecutors. "I thought: When I stand before God and he asks me what I did for those other defenseless children, still threatened by the priest's pedophile tendencies, what would I say?" she remembers. "Would I say I lacked courage, hadn't the strength, was afraid of my own shadow?"
. . . .
Moskwa was convicted in 2004 and given a two-year suspended jail sentence and an eight-year ban from teaching children. He ignored the teaching ban, suffered no canonical sanctions, and his ordinary, Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl, returned him to his parish.

The judge reprimanded Michalik, who is president of Poland's bishops' conference, for ignoring repeated requests to deal with Moskwa "in the way required by Christian morality." On the contrary, Michalik assured the convicted pedophile of his "sympathy" in an open letter, protesting the affront "to the good name of our priests."
Orlowska, now in her late 40s, hasn't returned to Tylawa in seven years. Local parishioners, encouraged by clergy, turned violently against her; her own parents disowned her after the priest visited them.
. . . .
The Przemysl diocese's website lists Moskwa as a dignitary, an honorary canon and "Chaplain of His Holiness." Meanwhile, the Council of Catholic Episcopates of Europe elected Michalik as its vice president in September, and in October he celebrated the anniversary of his consecration with a hundred fellow bishops.  
Read more


Asia's strange silence over the paedophilia issue
Giacomo Galeazzi       Feb.8, 2012

According to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Asian Catholic Church is finding it hard to fight paedophilia "because of the cultural differences" that exist and the "varied interpretations of what child abuse constitutes"

The problem is particularly accentuated in Asia Mgr. Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith commented during the international symposium on sex abuse of minors by the clergy, organised by Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University. In response to the "Asian emergency", Mgr. Scicluna recently gathered all leaders of Asian Episcopal Conferences for an unprecedented closed-door meeting in Bangkok.

"Asian Churches are gradually becoming aware that abuse is going on and that something must be done about it." But except from the Philippines, all other Asian Episcopates are late in adopting the Holy See's guidelines against paedophilia. "In some cultures is especially difficult for victims to come out into the open and report abuse. We are debating with Asian bishops on how to change a culture that encourages silence," Scicluna emphasised.
Read more


Catholic Cardinal on abuse: "We did nothing wrong!"
David Clohessy       Feb.3, 2012

In a new, rare and stunning just-published interview, former NYC Archbishop Edward Egan made shocking statements about the church's on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis, including: 

  • I don't think we did anything wrong.
  • I'm very proud of how this thing was handled.
  • I believe the sex abuse thing was incredibly good.
  • There really wasn't much . . .  hidden.
  • I do think it's time to get off this subject.
  • I don't think I should be upset about that, or you should be, or anybody else.
  • I never had one of these sex abuse cases, either in Bridgeport or here (New York). And I believe that the cases I had were each handled just exactly as they should have been.
  • I did exactly what we were told to do. And as a result, not one of them (the accused priests) did a thing out of line.
  • I'm not the slightest bit surprised that, of course, the scandal was going to be fun in the news.
  • If you have another bishop in the United States who has the record I have, I'd be happy to know who he is.

Read more


Priest Abuse Verdict: Jury Finds Archdiocese Negligent And Reckless; $1 Million For Victim
Edmund H. Mahony       Feb.10, 2012

A former altar boy who was sexually abused by a priest 30 years ago won a $1 million damage award Friday after a jury found that the Archdiocese of Hartford was reckless and negligent when it appointed the priest, who had a history of child abuse, as principal of the boy's parochial grammar school.

"This is validation that things that occurred in the past were not my fault or the fault of any of the victims," said the former altar boy, now an adult businessman and father of two. "This is the most important part of my healing process. This predator was placed in a position where he could hurt me. I'm hoping that other victims can begin their healing process and the church does the right thing going forward."
. . . .
On a written verdict form, jurors found that the archdiocese failed in numerous obligations, including failing to supervise Ferguson; failing to remove Ferguson from any position in which he could be a danger to minors, after learning of the earlier instance of abuse; and failing to warn parishioners, including Doe's parents, about the threat that Ferguson posed to children. 
Read more


Does the hierarchy's getting together mean it's falling apart?
Eugene Cullen Kennedy       Feb.9, 2012 

"It's not easy being green," they sing on the soothing fantasy byway of Sesame Street. It is even harder being violet or crimson for church officials struggling to extricate themselves from the pile-up car wreck of the sex abuse crisis on the all-too-real road to Rome.

This gathering of hierarchs to discuss the still-unsettled problem comes a decade after The Boston Globe exposed the depth, extent and ecclesiastical chessboard, move-them-here-and-move- them-there handling of priests accused of sexually abusing those in their charge.
. . . .
There is no doubt that the hierarchs present are sincere -- they are good at sincerity when the need arises -- but this conference places them before us as if they were Rip Van Winkles rubbing their just-opened eyes to learn about the sex abuse crisis as if they had slept through the last 10 years of revelations. These hierarchs, who already have at least as many guidelines as there are relics of the true cross for handling this crisis, have now adopted new ones.
. . . .
There is something immensely poignant about these administrators coming together back at square one, still fighting a rear-guard action about a problem whose dimensions have been explained to them on many occasions. They are good men who want to do the right thing but cannot because they are caught up in a hierarchical system that holds them like hostages to its own survival. The system demands that they sacrifice their own feelings as well as their own common sense to protect its crumbling architecture and its medieval procedures. 
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Bishops' Credo
John Chuchman       February 2012

We believe
We can cover up child abuse,
We can use donated monies as we wish,
The Laity will happily accept archaic Vatican words 
to the Liturgy,
The Laity agrees that gays and lesbians 
are disordered, unequal,
Catholics all practice Rhythm,
Ordained Priests will never disobey us,
Catholics will always, Pay, Pray, and Obey us,
We don't need young people; 
they'll come back when they're old,
We will never lose our tax-exempt status,
We can hire and fire people at will without benefits,
The Orthodox will accept Papal primacy,
God speaks through us,
We can intimidate Women Religious; Women, period!


Girl Scout Troops Banned From Va. Church
Jan.23, 2012

St. Timothy in Chantilly cites Planned Parenthood "affiliation"

Several Girl Scout troops in Chantilly, Va., have been banned from meeting at a local Catholic church and a neighboring school.

St. Timothy Catholic Church said that scouts won't be allowed to meet or wear their uniforms on church property. The edict also applies to the adjacent St. Timothy School, which enrolls students from preschool to eighth grade.

According to the Arlington Diocese, the pastor did not believe the National Girl Scouts membership to the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts aligned with the message of the church, stemming from a perceived connection between WAGGGS and Planned Parenthood.

The Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital said its parent/national organization is not  WAGGGS, but instead Girl Scouts of the USA, which does not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood.
Read more


Some Knights of Columbus donations are a little bit questionable
Nicole Sotelo       Feb.2, 2012 

Next month, the Knights of Columbus will celebrate the 130th anniversary of their incorporation as a benefit society. Founded by a young parish priest and parishioners, the Knights united to serve their community with a special focus on supporting widows, orphans and those in need.
. . . .
In 2008 and 2009, the Supreme Knight's charitable report shows the organization gave more to "family life" projects than they did to "community projects." On the surface this sounds benign, but "family life" is the Knights' terminology for predominantly anti-gay initiatives, whereas "community projects" represents soup kitchens and food pantries.

Among the "community projects," the Knights contributed $5,000 to disaster relief in Indiana and $3,000 to the community soup kitchen in New Haven, Conn., where the organization is headquartered,  according to the 2010 Annual Report of the Supreme Knight. This deserves applause, until you learn that under the same category of "community projects," they financed a $530,000 contribution to the Becket Fund, an organization of politically controversial lawyers. Do these lawyers really need the Knights' charity?

Additionally, in 2009 and 2010, Knights officials contributed $200,000 as noted in annual reports to Vox Clara, the bishops' committee responsible for turning back the clock on the liturgy and implementing the recent controversial language changes in the Mass. They have been a significant funder of the committee since 2006.

Over the same time period, the Knights donated almost $1.2 million to fund the bishops' newly created committee that works against equal protection for gays and lesbians and dubbed it "charity" in their annual report.
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Matthew Fox argues the Vatican is in schism. What do you think?
Mark Day interview for Catholica

When Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, few Catholics were aware of the central role he played for decades in reversing the reforms of theSecond Vatican Council - to restore the Catholic Church to its status as an authoritarian monarchy and a system impervious to change from below. Few authors have told this story as well as Matthew Fox in his new book, The Pope's War. Fox, an outspoken progressive theologian, was forced out of the Dominican Order in 1988 by order of Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith. The author of more than 23 books, Fox continues teaching and exploring the big spiritual questions today. Mark Day interviewed him recently for Catholica.

Is it the Vatican that is in schism with Vatican II?

Mark Day: Do you agree with the Swiss theologian Hans Kung who asserts that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, by opposing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, created a schism in the Catholic Church?

Matthew Fox: Yes, absolutely. A council can trump a pope. A pope can't trump a council. That's good theology. What is clear is that these last two popes have broken with every major position the council authorized, including the power of national episcopacies to choose their own bishops, the role of the laity, ecumenism, the renewal of the liturgy, and the movement toward social justice. The Vatican is in schism. Catholics faithful to principles of the Council are not in schism.
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Pope may visit Lebanon in September
The Daily Star       Feb.8, 2012

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI may travel to Lebanon later this year.

The top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, said Tuesday that Benedict was expected in Lebanon in September to present a document on the future of the church in the Middle East.

It would be the second trip for the 84-year-old Benedict in 2012, following his March 23-29 visit to Mexico and Cuba. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said a Lebanon trip was under consideration. The Vatican usually confirms trip details closer to the actual date.

Ahmadinejad wants pope to visit Iran 
Philip Pullella      Feb.8, 2012

ROME (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would like Pope Benedict to visit Iran, Teheran's ambassador to the Vatican said on Wednesday.

"If the pope decides to come, we will welcome him in an excellent way, and, as far as the government is concerned, we will welcome him with enthusiasm," Ali Akbar Naseri told reporters.

Benedict has a standing invitation to visit the Islamic Republic but has so far not accepted.

The Vatican has criticised Ahmadinejad for calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.

The pontiff has repeatedly encouraged dialogue to resolve differences over Iran's disputed nuclear programme, which the West says is aimed at making nuclear bombs. Tehran denies that.
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Federal judicial panel rules California Proposition 8 unconstitutional
Mark Pattison      Feb.7, 2012

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- By a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the California ban on same-sex marriage, saying that it violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens due process and equal protection under the law.
 . . . .
Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson of Los Angeles, president of the California Catholic Conference, expressed disappointment in the ruling but also confidence that it would be reversed. 
. . . .
A Pew Forum analysis on attitudes toward same-sex marriage by religion released Feb. 7 said Catholics supported same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent, with 11 percent undecided as of an October 2011 survey. That is up from a 46 percent favorable opinion (42 percent unfavorable) in a survey conducted in August and September 2010.

Hispanic Catholics are split, 42 percent to 42 percent, on same-sex marriage, while white Catholics approve of same-sex marriage by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent. 
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Maryland Nun: Most Catholics Disagree with Bishops on Gay Marriage
Sarah Posner       Feb.6, 2012

Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry spoke at the Maryland Marriage Equality clergy press conference last week, in support of the bill introduced in the state legislature to legalize gay marriage. "I speak on behalf of the majority of U.S. Catholics who favor legal marriage for same-gender couples," she said, adding that this position "flows from our own church's social justice teaching."


More new women priests than men for first time
 Martin Beckford       Feb.4, 2012

More female priests are joining the Church of England than male ones for the first time ever, it can be disclosed as it takes another step towards the introduction of women bishops.

Official figures show that 290 women were ordained in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.
By contrast, just 273 men entered the priesthood.

The watershed moment comes less than 20 years since the Church first allowed women to be priests, in the face of opposition from Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals who believe that only men can be church leaders.
Back in 1994, just 106 women were ordained compared with 299 men.
Overall there were still more than twice as many ordained men (8,087) as women (3,535) in 2010.
 . . . .
But detailed breakdown of the figures, published in The Church of England Yearbook 2012, shows that most of the new women priests are "self-supporting" rather than having full-time clergy jobs.
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Catholic priests to hold national convention in Warrnambool
Peter Collins       Feb.7, 2012

A network of Catholic priests not afraid to challenge Vatican edicts will hold their national convention in Warrnambool in July.

More than 160 members of the National Council of Priests of Australia will come from across the country for a week of brainstorming and socialising in the heartland of Irish Catholic heritage.

Discussion topics are likely to include marriage, abuse scandals and a controversial new liturgy being introduced through parishes.

The membership includes prominent Melbourne media identity Fr Bob Maguire and a former Anglican who is now a married Catholic priest.

"We are the questioning priests who are not afraid to challenge," said council chairman Fr Eugene McKinnon, of Donald, formerly of south-west Victoria.

"Our organisation offers support to priests who ask big questions.

"But we would certainly not say we are a breakaway group.

"The Catholic church needs both conservatives and the challengers."
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Pavone's charities have $600K in overdue bills
Karen Smith Welch       Feb.6, 2012 

Twice last week, I received e-mail from Roman Catholic Priest Frank Pavone seeking donations.

That's not unusual. The fundraising marketing company used by Pavone's pro-life charities - Priests for Life and several affiliates - makes several email pushes per week.

But this one doesn't appear to do much to bolster Pavone's claims that the group hasn't made flubbed management of donations. Pavone is the New York priest whose latitude to perform religious rites has been limited to the Diocese of Amarillo by Amarillo Bishop Patrick J. Zurek.

Zurek curtailed Pavone's activities in September, raising questions about the financial transparency of Priests for Life and two pro-life affiliates, Gospel of Life Ministries and Rachel's Vineyard. Zurek went so far as to recommend, in a letter to U.S. Catholic bishops, that it be suggested to parishioners that they withhold donations until the questions are answered.
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Dialogue and deliberation during Vatican II
Richard Gaillardetz    Feb.13, 2012 

Many Catholics over 50 are struggling with the realization that many younger Catholics, particularly seminarians and younger priests, do not share their sense of indebtedness to the Second Vatican Council. As one of those "over-50" Catholics, I am convinced that we overlook the influence of the council at our peril. The council's enduring significance is not limited to the 16 documents it promulgated, however. There is much the church today can learn from a consideration of the actual conduct of the council.

Yves Congar, the great 20th-century Dominican ecclesiologist and a key theological consultant at Vatican II, believed that councils manifest a deeper reality fundamental to the church itself-conciliarity. In an essay that has been influential in postconciliar ecclesiology ("The Council as an Assembly and the Church as Essentially Conciliar"), Father Congar complained of the tendency to treat councils as mere juridical events. He insisted that councils were, in some sense, a representation of the entire church. They effected "a totalization of the memory of the church." If he is correct, then the key ecclesial dynamics that were at work at the council ought also to be present in the life of our church today.
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Faith cards ID English, Welsh Catholics in case of accident 
Simon Caldwell       Feb.2, 2012

English and Welsh bishops are producing a million "faith cards" to identify the holders as Catholics in the event of an accident.

The credit card-sized items will be distributed during February and March throughout all dioceses, including the Bishopric of the Forces and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The Department for Evangelization and Catechesis of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced Jan. 31 the cards should serve "as a reminder that all baptized are invited to know and share their faith."

On one side, the card features a space for the owner to sign a clear statement that he or she is a Catholic.

The cards also feature a list of six things that Catholics are called to do: pray, share with others the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, celebrate the sacraments regularly, "love my neighbor as well as myself," "use the gifts that I have been given wisely," and "forgive as I have been forgiven."
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With purchase, diocese says iconic glass Crystal Cathedral becomes Catholic
Associated Press       Feb.3, 2012

The Diocese of Orange has closed on its purchase of the shimmering Crystal Cathedral and surrounding 31-acre grounds, putting the iconic building seen as a testament to televangelism in Catholic hands.

The diocese said Friday that escrow proceedings had closed on its $57.5 million purchase of the property, which will become the site of a long-sought cathedral for Orange County's nearly 1.3 million Catholics.
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Priest resigns post after pressure to recite Mass by the book
George Pawlaczyk       Feb.4, 2012

After 47 years as a priest, and at least two decades of straying from the Roman Catholic Missal by ad libbing parts of the Mass, the Rev. Bill Rowe of St. Mary Church has resigned under pressure from the bishop.

Why? Because he doesn't agree that a priest should be restricted to the exact words of the Missal, including new changes in the Mass that were intended to more closely interpret earlier Latin versions.

The changes were ordered by the Vatican and took effect in late November.

Rowe, 72, said he was called to a meeting in October at the Belleville home of Bishop Edward Braxton. Rowe said that Braxton told him he could not change even small parts of what a Catholic priest is supposed to say during the portions of the Mass that are controlled by the Missal.

Rowe said Braxton told him to "think about it" for three days and then write him a letter. Rowe said he sent the letter on Oct. 12 stating he could not accept what Braxton wanted but did not want to resign or retire. He said he did not receive a response from Braxton until a few days ago, accepting his resignation.
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Embezzlement expert finds hierarchy uninterested
Robert McClory       Feb. 02, 2012  

Recent reports concerning a high Vatican official who had saved the church millions of dollars by eliminating "corruption and dishonesty" in various Vatican agencies aroused worldwide interest. But no one found the stories about Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's reform efforts more fascinating than Michael W. Ryan, a retired U.S. Postal Service security specialist, who has been trying for about 20 years to save the American church the millions it reportedly continues to lose through the embezzlement of Sunday collections and other fund sources.

Their stories bear several similarities. Almost a year ago, Pope Benedict XVI removed Viganò from his post as chief financial officer for the Vatican city-state and sent him to the United States as the new papal nuncio, despite Viganò's protest that the move could undo his clean-up campaign. Ryan's attempt to help the church clean up the loose security policies that drain funds has met with such deep-seated disinterest that he has virtually despaired of getting anywhere. He has recently written a book titled  Nonfeasance: The Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income.
. . . .
So in 2001, Ryan turned to the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its then-head, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It was in the form of an exhaustive petition, citing Scripture, canon law, a history of his efforts and a presentation of 17 major church embezzlements, 12 of which had been carried out by clergy. This too produced no action other than a suggestion that Ryan pass his ideas on to the Congregation for the Clergy. There, he was informed that the security of collections falls under the sole competency of local bishops. For all his trouble, Ryan had gotten nowhere. Still he forges on, making him perhaps an all-time candidate for determined persistence.

In his book, more than half of which is devoted to his correspondence with the hierarchy, he tells the U.S. bishops, "The irony of this head-in-the-sand stance is that by refusing to acknowledge the systematic nature of Sunday collection embezzlements and to address the malaise on a conference-wide basis, the USCCB is repeating the colossal error that allowed the sexual abuse scourge to last decades longer than it should have. The damage to innocent lives was far worse than it would have been had the [hierarchy] responded correctly when that scourge was first brought credibly to their attention."
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Damaging lack of transparency
Tablet editors     Feb.4, 2012

Once again the Vatican has responded to a whiff of scandal in a way that makes it worse. Throughout the long and agonising saga of clerical child abuse, there were voices saying that it was all "got up" by the media, some denying that there was any substance to it at all. Sadly, that is how the curial machinery has chosen to deal with recent allegations of financial rather than sexual irregu­larity, even threatening legal action against the television station that broadcast them. But blaming the messenger is no use. The Greek historian, Plutarch, records how Tigranes had someone beheaded for warning of the approach of his enemy, Lucullus, "so no man dared bring him further information". 

What will curial officials who have seen things that disturb them make of the example of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who was deputy governor of Vatican City until he tried blowing the whistle on what he considered corrupt practices in the awarding of contracts? He was whisked away to America. And when Italian television drew attention to these facts, it was blamed by the Vatican press office - undoubtedly under orders from higher up - for mischief-making. 
. . . .
This is despite the fact that the Vatican has not attempted to deny the authenticity of the documents that fell into the hands of journalists.  Turning a blind eye becomes the norm, and one rotten apple can spoil a whole barrel. If this situation reflects badly on the Pope himself, that is all the more true of his right-hand man, Cardinal Bertone. And it reflects badly on the Catholic Church worldwide.
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How the Roman Grinch Stole the Missal...
Fr Daniel Donovan      Feb.10, 2012

The Mass is Ritual not Catechesis
Those who champion the "new text" have publically claimed that the Mass is "catechesis", and of course they are wrong. The Mass and the sacraments are rituals "symbolic actions" and invite participation in order to appropriate the sacred reality present and active through the symbols.[5]"Catechesis" on the other hand, prepares the community for conscious and active participation in the rituals and follows up that participation through "debriefing," with explanation and reflection to foster more fruitful participation in the liturgy. The Fathers of the Church such as St Cyril of Jerusalem [313-386], St Ambrose of Milan [339-397] and St Augustine of Hippo [354-430] therefore spent time with their community breaking open and explaining the rituals, rites, Scriptures, gestures, images, symbols and signs by which the people had been re-born in Christ.[6]

The "new text" is like Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan, described by many as "fragmented and incoherent". In defence of his work, Coleridge claimed that the poem's visions had come to him during"an opium trance". The authors of the "new text" have not come forward with any explanations for their "fragmented and incoherent text" but the most basic analysis of the text reveals two possible causes namely, the uncritical use of its sources[7] and the disregard of literary style. It is hard to discover any precise principles underpinning the text's overall composition but there seems to be a distinct preference for pouring "old wine into new wine skins", a methodology roundly condemned by Jesus [Mt 9:17].
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New Translation of the Roman Missal  
We  recommend that you watch these sites during the transition to the new translation:
1.  Misguided Missal 
Lenten campaign

  • Write letters to bishop, nuncio, president of bishops' conference (sample letters and addresses)  

2.  U.S. Catholic; Special Section on the New Liturgy

3.  PrayTell blog
4. Louisville Liturgy Forum


Upcoming Event 
New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium  
to be held March 15-17, 2012
From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium, will be held March 15-17, 2012, in Baltimore, Maryland, Major speakers: Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Luke Timothy Johnson, Patricia Beattie Jung, Richard Rodriguez, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson will facilitate a pre-symposium retreat day.  Workshop topics: marriage equality, transgender issues, youth and young adults, lesbian nuns and gay priests/religious, Latino/a issues, African-American issues, and coalition building. For more information: info@NewWaysMinistry.org, (301) 277-5674 or www. NewWaysMinistries.org.


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