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A Christmas Letter to the Pope
Advent 2013

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome
Vatican City State

Dear Pope Francis,

. . . . 

You have written a lot of good things in Evangelii Gaudium. A lot of people like me are looking forward to the Synod in October 2014; but frankly Francis you need to be a bit more courageous. I write today to suggest exactly how.


I think you are a wonderfully pastorally minded pope. Indeed I think you are much better at that than the Polish Pope or the Bavarian Pope. Deo gratias, as we used to say, and some fundamentalists still say. But frankly Francis your theology is locked in the nineteenth century and your understanding of church history is terribly deficient. (I know what I am talking about because I am a pretty good historical theologian.)


These professional deficiencies can be corrected of course. All professional people - even Bishops of Rome - need continuing education. For more than twenty years I directed continuing or on-going education programs for men and women in ministry...


Francis, I have often thought that bishops should be required to get theological certification at least every five years. Perhaps they should be mandated to acquire twenty continuing theological education credits or lose their appointment as bishop of a diocese. I sure wish my bishop would go back to school! He is much worse than you and totally lacks your kind of humility. HE is an unfortunate old fellow.... Anyway. You see I really do like you!


My main point....


Francis you need to call a special synod to study ordained ministry. In fact I will give you the title:MINISTERII GAUDIUM: ROMAN CATHOLIC MINISTRY FOR TODAY NOT THE MIDDLE AGES. You see, like you, I kind of like that little bit of Latin because in college in Detroit I was also a classics major.


Now to specifics.


Francis I suggest a four day synod; and here are the topics for each day, with a bit of explanation.


Day OneMinistry in the Apostolic and Early Post-Apostolic Church


Here we will have some of our best and brightest biblical scholars and historical theologians - men and women of course, but I am sure you already thought about that.


They will explore Christian ministry before the Christian community had ordination. And of course they will explore the phenomenon of men and women presiding at Eucharist as heads of households.


Day Two: Apostolic Succession


Frankly Francis you may have to bite your lip on this one. You see Francis, the historic Jesus did not ordain anyone and the notion of "apostolic succession" as an unbroken line of imposition of hands from the apostles down to my parish priest just doesn't hold water. I don't know how you say this in Argentina; but in my country we would say the notion leaks like a sieve.


Apostolic Succession means succession in the faith, witness, and ministry of the apostles. No small thing. But......the Lutheran ordained minister who lives down the street from me has that as well. So does the woman ordained minister who lives about twenty miles from me. Lots of discussion material here, Francis.


Day Three: The Experience of Other Christian Churches

Frankly Francis (I like the ring of "frankly Francis") we need to listen, look, and learn frpm our sister churches. There married ordained men and ordained women minister happily and very effectively. The Church of Rome really needs to get with it. Our other Christian sisters and brothers can help us as we make the big step forward.


Remember Jesus told us where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there as well. We have nothing to fear!


Day Four: Goodnews Ordinations


Francis this is the crowning moment. I am so excited about the possibility that I may book a flight to Rome for my wife and me....YOU AS BISHOP OF ROME can gather a large group in St Peter's and personally ordain (great symbol and we Catholics love symbols) twelve women and twelve married men. In your homily you can tell the world (CNN and BBC will have all their cameras on you....) that the theme of your papal administration will now be "Tradition AND Renewal"......i.e. Change in the Roman Catholic Church is not only possible but absolutely necessary.

Dear Pope Francis, thank you for your attention to my note. What I write about is no small matter. I am happy to discuss details with you and if you send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. I will send you my mobile phone number so we can discuss and work out the details. By the way I am also very good at organizing international conferences.....and I have some friends with money who might help pay for it. I don't know that Opus Dei would warm up to this. And frankly they don't like me.Their problem of course....


My very best wishes, Pope Francis, for the holiday season and....I do want to hear from you!




PS .....I though about calling you "Frank" but don't know if you like that. I am officially "John" but prefer "Jack." Americans like their nicknames but I don't know what Argentineans, even Rome-based, like.... 

John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D. is  ARCC Vice President 

Some things we have been reading  
Pope issues first Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium
Philippa Hitchen       Nov.26, 2013

Evangelii GaudiumPope Francis has issued his first Apostolic Exhortation on Tuesday, Evangelii Gaudium, translated into English as The Joy of the Gospel. The 224-page document outlines the Pope's vision for a missionary Church, whose "doors should always be open". The Pope speaks on numerous themes, including evangelization, peace, homiletics, social justice, the family, respect for creation, faith and politics, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and the role of women and of the laity in the Church. 

Read more

Articles about Evangelii Gaudium 
Pope riles Wall St
Pope Francis' text is a call for church reform at all levels, says Hans Küng
Translated by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt      Nov.29, 2013

Church reform is forging ahead. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis not only intensifies his criticism of capitalism and the fact that money rules the world, but speaks out clearly in favour of church reform "at all levels". He specifically advocates structural reforms - namely, decentralisation towards local dioceses and communities, reform of the papal office, upgrading the laity and against excessive clericalism, in favour of a more effective presence of women in the Church, above all in the decision-making bodies. And he comes out equally clearly in favour of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, especially with Judaism and Islam.


All this will meet with wide approval far beyond the Catholic Church. His undifferentiated rejection of abortion and women's ordination will, however, probably provoke criticism. This is where the dogmatic limits of this Pope become apparent. Or is he perhaps under pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its Prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller?  

. . . .

And worried observers are already asking whether Pope Emeritus Ratzinger is in fact operating as a kind of "shadow Pope" behind the scenes through Archbishop Müller and Georg Gänswein, [Benedict's] secretary and Prefect of the Papal Household, whom he also promoted to archbishop. One remembers how in 1993 Ratzinger as cardinal whistled back the then-bishops of Freiburg (Oskar Saier), Rottenburg-Stuttgart (Walter Kasper) and Mainz (Karl Lehmann) when they suggested a pragmatic solution for the problem of remarried divorcees. It is revealing that the present debate 20 years later was again triggered by the Archbishop of Freiburg, namely Robert Zollitsch, the president of the German bishops' conference. It was Zollitsch who ventured a fresh attempt to re-think pastoral practice as far as remarried divorcees are concerned. And Pope Francis?


For many the situation is self-contradictory - on the one side, church reform and on the other, remarried divorcees.


The Pope wants to move forward - the CDF prefect puts on the brakes.

. . . .
Is the Pope still in control of his Guardian of the Faith? 

. . . .

Pope Francis has the necessary qualities of a captain to steer the ship of the Church through the storms of our time and the trust of the People of God will uphold him. In the face of strong curial headwinds, he will probably often have to take a zigzag course. But we hope he will steer his ship by the Gospel's (and not canon law's) compass and maintain a clear course in the direction of renewal, ecumenism and open-mindedness.Evangelii Gaudium is an important stage of that voyage but by far not the final goal. 

Read more

The Ephemeral "Francis Effect"
Frederick Clarkson        Dec.1, 2013

Pope Francis has given progressives, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, a lot to cheer about with his public deemphasis on so-called culture war issues (a term he has never used, btw), his focus on the needs of the poor, and his powerful critique of the excesses of capitalism.


And he has certainly upset American Catholic conservatives who have been heavily invested in various combinations of ritual traditionalism, boosterism of various forms of free market capitalism; little to no record of concern for the poor beyond charity or for the interests of working people; and of course, "obsession" with abortion, contraception and homosexuality.  


But the fact remains that the course of the American Church has been set for decades thanks to the previous two Popes who have appointed nearly all of the American bishops and who have aggressively squelched dissent

. . . .

In the meantime, there is little evidence of Pope Francis having any actual impact on American politics or American Catholicism, and certainly not the culture war or the American bishops' alliance with Protestant Christian Right leaders. At least not yet.  So it is wise to be wary of the media hype of a celebrity religious leader on the other side of the world who has been in office less than a year. 

. . . . 

Currently, Pew polling suggests that while Francis is personally popular, there is no discernible "Francis effect" in terms of church attendance in the U.S.  

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The Future Of Interreligious Dialogue Lies In Respectful Co-Existence In Diversity
VIS       Nov.28, 2013

The Catholic Church is conscious ofthe value of the promotion of friendship and respect between men andwomen of different religious traditions. We are increasingly aware of its importance, both because the world has, in some ways, become 'smaller', and because the phenomenon of migration increases contact between people and communities of different traditions, cultures and religions. This fact calls to our Christian conscience and it is a challenge for the understanding of faith and for the real life ... of many believers".

With these words, Pope Francis welcomed the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, whose president is Cardinal Jean-Louis Taurant, which is dedicated to the theme "Members of different religious traditions in society". The Holy Father referred to his Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" to reaffirm that "an attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterise the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions, in spite of various obstacles and difficulties, especially forms of fundamentalism on both sides".

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Second session of Council of Cardinal's meetings
L'Osservatore Romano       Dec.3, 2013

This morning, 3 December, Pope Francis met with the Council of Cardinals, the group of eight cardinals assisting in the governance of the universal Church and examining a revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus on the Roman Curia. Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, announced this in a briefing with journalists to explain the second session of the Cardinal's meetings which will be taking place at the Vatican until Thursday, 5 December. The cardinals' first session was held from 1 to 3 October. On the day's agenda was "a thorough examination of the Roman Curia, which began with a reflection on the dicasteries", starting with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. 

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Pope talks openly about reform, sex abuse, Dutch bishop says
Joshua J. McElwee      Dec. 6, 2013

Pope Francis told a group of Dutch bishops this week that the Vatican must continue reforms undertaken by the Catholic church in the 1960s and '70s, according to one of the participants in the meeting.


Bishop Jan Hendricks, who attended the meeting Monday, later recounted that the pope said implementation of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council is only half complete.

"We have been implementing the council only half-way," Hendriks recalled from the pope's words. "Half of the work has still to be done."

. . . .

Speaking Tuesday night at a small church dedicated to the Dutch community in Rome, Hendriks said Francis' style represented "a different way" of having an ad limina visit compared with his predecessors.


The pontiff and the Dutch bishops, Hendriks said, sat in a circle together. While the pope had a prepared text, the 14 instead spoke for about 90 minutes freely, with the pope answering a range of questions - including how best to handle clergy sex abuse and how to go forward in closing parishes. 

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The Pope to Create a Commission for the Protection of Minors, upon Request by the Council of Cardinals
VIS      Dec.5, 2013

This morning's briefing on the work of the Council of Cardinals involved the extraordinary participation of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, who communicated the Pope's approval of a proposal submitted by the eight cardinals -the creation of a Commission for the protection of minors.

"Continuing decisively along the lines undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI, and accepting a proposal presented by the Council of Cardinals, the Holy Father has decided to establish a specific Commission for the protection of minors, with the aim of advising Pope Francis on the Holy See's commitment to the protection of children and in pastoral care for victims of abuse. Specifically, the Commission will study present programmes in place for the protection of children; formulate suggestions for new initiatives on the part of the Curia, in collaboration with bishops, Episcopal conferences, religious superiors and conferences of religious superiors; and indicate the names of persons suited to the systematic implementation of these new initiatives, including laypersons, religious and priests with responsibilities for the safety of children, in relations with the victims, in mental health, in the application of the law, etc. 

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Pope says Church must make use of the Internet to spread gospel
Associated Press   Dec.7, 2013


Pope Francis says it is "indispensable" that the Catholic Church make fruitful use of the Internet to spread the gospel.


In a speech at the Vatican on Saturday, the Pope said those toiling for the faith can use the Internet to encounter "real women and men, who are often hurt or feeling lost" and offer them "true reasons for hope".


Pope Francis, who has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, said the Church must be present on the Internet above all for young people, since the Net is "a sort of life environment" for them. 

Read more

More articles about Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Iconic Mandela Had Human Touch
Catholic News Service    Dec.6, 2013

Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle to replace South Africa's apartheid regime with a multiracial democracy, died on Dec. 5 at his home in Johannesburg.

. . . .  

One of the world's most revered statesmen, Mandela had a touch of humanity rarely seen in political leaders, said Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa in an interview with Catholic News Service earlier this year.


Cardinal Napier represented the South African Catholic Church in discussions between Mandela and church leaders beginning in 1990, following Mandela's release after 27 years in prison, until he retired from public life in 2004.


Cardinal Napier said he came to treasure Mandela through regular meetings church leaders had with his African National Congress in the transition from apartheid to democracy.  "I always felt we should introduce ourselves to him again, but it was never necessary," said the cardinal, who was president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference from 1987 to 1994.


Mandela "remembered names and faces and always gave us a hearty welcome," he said.

"I came to realize that if he had met someone he had no trouble remembering their names or where they were from. To him, people mattered because of who they were, not the position they held," he said. "That's what I really treasure about the man." 

Read more

Nelson Mandela: Inspiration for Church Reformers
Another Voice      Dec.6, 2013

Nelson Mandela embodied the power of the human spirit. For those of us in the church reform movement, Mandela was living proof that institutions can be changed and the world can be transformed.


This week end, commemorating Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5th, I decided to post some Mandela quotations that I find particularly challenging and inspirational.

  • "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."
  • "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
  • "I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."
  • "I am not an optimist, but a great believer of hope."
  • "Religion is one of the most important forces in the world. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Hindu, religion is a great force, and it can help one have command of one's own morality, one's own behavior, and one's own attitude."
  • "There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."
  • "One of the most difficult things is not to change society - but to change yourself."

The entire world owes Nelson Mandela a great debt that can only be redeemed if we continue to work for peace, justice, and liberation. 


R.I. bishop marks Nelson Mandela's death by slamming his abortion policies
Scott Kaufman      Dec.9, 2013

Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence issued a statement today in which he harshly criticized Nelson Mandela's liberalization of South Africa's abortion laws.


"Many people around the world and in our own nation are mourning the loss of former South African President Nelson Mandela," he wrote. "Indeed there is much to admire in Mandela's long life and public service, particularly his personal courage and his stalwart defense of human rights."


However, he continued, "[t]here is part of President Mandela's legacy that is not at all praiseworthy, namely his shameful promotion of abortion in South Africa. In 1996, Mandela promoted and signed into law the 'Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill' that, according to the New York Times, 'replaced one of the world's toughest abortion laws with one of the most liberal.'"

. . . .

In September, Bishop Tobin lamented that Pope Francis hasn't made banning abortion the signature agenda of his papacy.  

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German bishops push reform to welcome divorced Catholics
Tom Heneghan       Nov.28, 2013

Germany's Roman Catholic bishops plan to push ahead with proposed reforms to reinstate divorced and remarried parishioners despite a warning from the Vatican's top doctrinal official, according to a senior cleric.


Stuttgart Bishop Gebhard Fuerst told a meeting of lay Catholics at the weekend that the bishops had already drafted reform guidelines and aimed to approve them at their next plenary meeting in March.


Readmitting twice-married Catholics to full membership in the Church is a pressing concern for Pope Francis, who has called a special synod of bishops next October to consider ways to do this despite Catholicism's rejection of divorce. 

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Church should take new approach towards question of communion for remarried divorcees
Andrea Tornielli       Nov.28, 2013

Just a few days after the publication of Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium", Archbishop Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, has confirmed the issue remains open: "We will discuss it without any taboos. The Orthodox experience could be of help to us."


"A new approach needs to be taken with respect to the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees." Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri is the prelate the Pope nominated Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Born in 1940, the Tuscan prelate has four decades of experience as a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps and as of the end of September he has had the task of renewing the Synod institute that will meet twice - in 2014 and 2015 - to discuss the family, after a questionnaire or  consultation containing 39 questions on family issues. 

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Is it time to separate church and state marriages?
Bryan Cones       Nov.29, 2013


Instead of getting all tied in knots about same-sex marriage, the church should separate itself from the state when it comes to officiating civil marriages.


The June 2013 Supreme Court rulings that struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and overturned California's Proposition 8 marked a major turning point in the debate over whether same-sex couples should have access to the civil institution of marriage. That debate, which began slowly with a Massachusetts State Supreme Court ruling; similar rulings in Iowa, California, and Vermont; and successive state legislatures legal recognition of same-sex marriage or parallel civil union, is fast heading toward a conclusion.  

. . . .

These developments, however, continue to expose wide divides in society about the definition and meaning of marriage, no less in the Catholic Church. The Catholic bishops of this country have been nearly univocal in denouncing any attempt to redefine civil marriage. Individual bishops have devoted large amounts of financial and other diocesan resources in political activity to oppose changes to the civil law. 

. . . .

Given the shift in marriage's civil legal definition to include same-sex couples, it is time that Catholic conversations about the issue recognize that we are talking about two different realities when we use the word "marriage"-a legal contract on the civil side, and a sacramental covenant between two baptized people on the other-and adjust our practice accordingly.
. . . . 

Indeed, the fear of bishops and many Catholics who oppose same-sex marriage is that priests, since they act as civil authorities in performing marriage ceremonies, will be "forced" to solemnize the marriage of same-sex couples, thus contravening the church's teaching. The easiest way to solve that problem is simply for priests to stop signing any couple's civil marriage license, a duty that can surely be left to the county clerk, and only officiate sacramental weddings. 

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Finance watchdog welcomes Vatican reform, urges bank oversight
Philip Pullella       Dec.9, 2013


A European committee evaluating the Vatican's financial reforms said the Holy See had made significant progress but needed more internal controls over its bank and another key financial office, sources familiar with the report said on Monday


The plenary of Moneyval, a monitoring committee of the Council of Europe, adopted a progress report on the Vatican following a July, 2012 initial evaluation that made recommendations on how the Holy See could clean up its murky finances. Moneyval will issue its report on Thursday.


It is expected to add impetus to Pope Francis's efforts after decades of scandal, particularly surrounding its bank.


According to two sources familiar with it, the Moneyval report says the Vatican has made much progress in the past 17 months in areas such as legislation to combat money laundering, tax evasion and the financing of terrorism. 

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Vatican: Trial of prelate accused of cash smuggling opens
AKI      Dec.3, 2013

High-ranking Vatican cleric Monsignor Nunzio Scarano went on trial in Italy on Tuesday accused of corruption and slander over a 20 million euro smuggling plot.


A court in Rome said witnesses from the prosecution would be heard on 13 December .Scarano, Vatican accountant, was arrested on 28 June together with Italian policeman and former secret service agent, Giovanni Maria Zito, and financial broker Giovanni Carenzio over the alleged smuggling plot.All three suspects are accused of attempting to smuggle the cash to Italy from Switzerland on a private jet on behalf of wealthy ship owners from Naples.  Scarano allegedly paid a 400,000 euro bribe in the alleged plot which went awry when Carenzio failed to show up with the money that had been entrusted to him.  Carenzio, and Zito, who was supposed to fly the private jet, are being tried in a separate, fast-track trial opening on 15 January. 

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Thomas Williams And Elizabeth Lev Glendon Wedding;
Former Priest To Marry Pope Advisor's Daughter
Nicole Winfield     Dec.7, 2013

Thomas Williams, the onetime public face of the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order who left the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child, is getting married this weekend to the child's mother, The Associated Press has learned. The bride is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, one of Pope Francis' top advisers.


Glendon, a Harvard University law professor, is one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican as president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. She is also one of five people on Francis' commission to reform the scandal-marred Vatican bank. Her daughter, Elizabeth Lev, is a Rome-based art historian and columnist for the Legion-run Zenit news agency, which Williams published for over a decade while he was in the order.


Williams, a moral theologian, author, lecturer and U.S. television personality, admitted last year that he had fathered a child several years earlier.

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ACLU sues US bishops over Catholic hospital ethics
Rachel Zoll       Dec.2, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a sweeping federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over its ethical guidelines for Roman Catholic hospitals, arguing the directives were to blame for negligent care of a pregnant woman who went into early labor and whose baby died within hours.


The ACLU alleges the bishops were negligent because their religious directives prevented Tamesha Means from being told that continuing her pregnancy posed grave risks to her health and her child was not likely to survive. She was treated at Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital in Michigan.


''It's not just about one woman,'' said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU. ''It's about a nationwide policy created by nonmedical professionals putting patients in harms' way.''


The lawsuit comes amid a wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospital systems throughout the United States, raising questions about how much religious identity the hospitals will retain and whether they will provide medical services that conflict with church teaching. Advocates for abortion rights and others fear the mergers will limit access to a full range of medical care for women. About 13 percent of U.S. hospitals are Catholic. 

. . . .

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a University of Illinois professor who specializes in family and health law, said a negligence claim would hinge in part on whether the ACLU can establish that the conference has some direct control in this case or in hospitals in general. The bishops have moral authority over local Catholic hospitals but are not involved in the day-to-day business of administration.


''It's so many layers removed,'' Fretwell Wilson said, that she has ''a difficult time buying'' that the bishops' conference is legally responsible in this case.

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12 Nuns, Missing in Syria, Resurface in Video
Anne Barnard     Dec.6, 2013


Twelve nuns who vanished recently from the ancient Aramaic-speaking Syrian town of Maaloula resurfaced on Friday in a video, saying that they had left with rebels to escape shelling in the area and were safe with a Christian family in a nearby rebel-held town.


The fate of the nuns has become the latest mysterious and polarizing incident in the war, with the government accusing Islamist insurgents of kidnapping them to target Christians, rebels saying they are protected guests, and even Pope Francis calling for their swift return.   

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Minnesota: Archdiocese Releases Names of Priests Suspected of Abuse
Associated Press      Dec.5, 2013

Amid mounting public pressure and under order from a court, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis published a list on Thursday of 34 priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors. The list includes the names of eight men who had not been publicly named previously as suspected of abuse. It places the men in two categories: 30 are believed to have molested children, and four have claims against them that could not be substantiated. A judge gave the archdiocese until Jan. 6 to disclose information about additional priests accused of molestation. Going forward, Archbishop John Nienstedt said, any substantiated claims will be disclosed on the archdiocese website.



The Daily Show uses Pope Francis to hammer Fox Business pundits
Peter Weber      Dec.6, 2013


Perhaps it was a nod to NBC's live broadcast of The Sound of Music, but Thursday night's Daily Show was a compendium of Jon Stewart's favorite things: Standing up for the working class, panning Fox News and  financial journalists, and using Pope Francis as a moral cudgel. He pulled it off with aplomb.


Stewart started with Thursday's nationwide strike by fast-food workers demanding a raise in the minimum wage. That proposal sounded fair to Stewart, but he ran through some of the arguments against it, as presented by Larry Kudlow, Stuart Varney, and other business journalists at Fox Business Network. Not surprisingly, he found the arguments either unpersuasive or morally repugnant.


Stewart had particular fun with Varney, who made a small splash by disagreeing with Pope Francis' robust criticism of unfettered free markets. (The Week's John Aziz offers his own critique of the pope here.) Varney moved from Scrooge 2.0 to heretic when he decided to make a "moral judgment" about whether unskilled fast-food workers "deserve" $15 an hour.

Pope Francis made a strong moral case for why companies should treat employees like human beings, including paying them a living wage, so when Varney disagreed on moral grounds, Stewart was incredulous: "You're going up against the pope on how to help the poor?!?!" 

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Rereading Joseph Bernardin
Commonweal editors       Dec.5, 2013


"The church is in a position to make a significant defense of life in a comprehensive and consistent manner." These were words spoken thirty years ago this week by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin at Fordham University, where he lectured on the U.S. bishops' pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace and formulated the framework for what would come to be known as the consistent ethic of life. We've asked four contributors to reflect on the lecture in light of current debates in the church and in politics, and to offer their thoughts on the legacy of Bernardin today.


Commonweal Roundtable: The Bernardin Lecture
 This special symposium has been funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. You can read Joseph Bernardin's 1983 Fordham lecture in its entirety here [.pdf].


Lisa Fullam
I was privileged to hear Cardinal Joseph Bernardin speak in the mid-1980s, and I had two different reactions. First, I could not wholeheartedly embrace his idea of the consistent ethic of life... 
Consistent, Comprehensive, Christ-inspired
Robert P. Imbelli 
The immediate context of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's memorable lecture at Fordham University, "A Consistent Ethic of Life: An American-Catholic-Dialogue," was, of course, the United... 
David Cloutier
I was a fifth-grader at St. Ferdinand School in Chicago when Cardinal Bernardin framed the "consistent ethic of life." I didn't know the speech, but even at the time I sensed what... 
 An Ethic of 'Life,' Not 'Purity'
Cathleen Kaveny
First proposed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in a lecture at Fordham University thirty years ago, "the consistent ethic of life" challenged American Catholics involved in the pro-life...

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Church's corporate approach to victims
Australia 9 News       Dec.10, 2013

Sex abuse victims who went to a Catholic Church mediation with a lawyer would lose the right to pastoral support, an inquiry has been told.


The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is looking at the church's internal process for dealing with sex abuse victims.


It was told on Tuesday the approach in the late 1990s was a standard one and required an insured to make no admission of liability.


The commission is examining the experience of four abuse victims who went through the Church's Towards Healing procedure, which was established in 1996.

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