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Irresponsible Disobedience 
or Adult Thinking and Responsible Believing
John Alonzo Dick, PhD - STD                                                          Nov.16, 2013

As the Vatican surveys the opinions of Catholics in dioceses and parishes around the world, two news stories caught my attention this week. Signs of the times for sure.


(1) On the USA side of the Atlantic, a Roman Catholic bishop in Illinois insisted that Satan was behind his state's recent legalization of same marriage. When it was announced that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn would be signing equal marriage legislation into law next week, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki said he would be holding an exorcism at the same time in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. The bishop stressed that sane-sex marriage "comes from the devil and should be condemned as such."


Interestingly, support for gay marriage has increased in the United States in recent years, and support is actually higher among American Roman Catholics than it is among Americans overall. A majority of Catholics, 54 percent, now support gay marriage, compared to 47 percent of all Americans, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Bringing great dismay to American Catholic bishops, who are counting on Hispanics to reinvigorate the US Catholic Church, the poll also found that more Hispanics, Catholic or otherwise, support same-sex marriage than any other US demographic group. Sixty-three percent of self-identified Hispanics are in favor of gay marriage, compared to just 32 percent of blacks and 48 percent of whites.


I guess there will have to be a lot of episcopal exorcisms in North America.

(2) On the other side of the Atlantic, Catholics are thinking for themselves as well. Three large polls carried out this year for the Westminster Faith Debates reveal a profile of British Catholics clearly adrift from Pope-Benedict-style Catholicism, and significant disparities between older and younger believers.


Only 36% of British Catholics surveyed say that they view the Catholic Church as a positive force in society. This is a very big shift. Even up to the early post Vatican II days, British Catholics were noted for their staunch support of a nineteenth century Roman Catholic ethos....


When those contemporary British Catholics, who take a negative view of their church, were asked their reasons, the answers that stand out are: it discriminates against women and gay people; the ongoing child abuse scandals; it is hypocritical; and because it is too morally conservative. A fascinating development, echoed of course in contemporary Ireland.


Overall, British Catholics have moved far from a Pope John Paul / Pope Benedict model of what it means to be a faithful Catholic. Note well. This does not mean, however, that most British Catholics have become secular, atheistic, or even non-Catholic - it means that they have become Catholic in a different way.


British Catholics today are much less likely to go to church every week and to think of themselves as "religious." They are more likely to support the Catholic Church's social teachings; but they are increasingly less likely to support traditional Roman Catholic natural-law-based teachings about sex, gender, and the traditional family.


British Catholics as a whole are now in favor of allowing same-sex marriage by a small margin and over half of British Catholics under 50 now say "same-sex marriage is right." British Catholics are contemporary and critically-reflective believers. Interesting again, when asked where they look for guidance in living their lives and making moral decisions, over half of those interviewed said they rely on their own reason or their own judgement. Another fifth turn to family or friends. Only eight percent turn to the "tradition and teachings of the Church." I think that is unfortunate, actually, because we Roman Catholics do have a rich tradition of Christian wisdom and belief.


Far from endorsing highly critical hierarchical remarks about mainstream "secular" culture (like US Bishop Paprocki), Growing numbers of Catholics in Britain actively embrace some aspects of its contemporary culture's ethical progress, including its widening commitment to principles of human liberty and equality. Here I see a genuine resonance with Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes.


What does all this mean for the future? The Roman Catholic Institutional Church clock has moved far beyond the eleventh hour. On both sides of the Atlantic, the credibility gap between hierarchical leaders and the rest of the church is widening. The 2014 Synod on Family and Evangelization to Promote Episcopal Collegiality will have a lot of work to do.


And it will have to do a much better job of re-establishing the credibility of hierarchical leadership than did the most recent meeting of our National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Their most notable accomplishments appear to have been approving the drafting of a formal statement on pornography to be issued from the entire body of bishops; and approving five liturgical items presented by the Committee on Divine Worship. 

Some things we have been reading  
A Synod As Francis Commands
Sandro Magister       Nov.12, 2013

The synod of bishops is the structure of Church governance that with Pope Francis is in the most advanced phase of revision.
. . . .
A first innovation tends to transform the synod into an almost permanent structure. Its upcoming ordinary session, set for the autumn of 2015, will be preceded by an extraordinary session scheduled for October 5-19, 2014.


The theme will be the same: "The pastoral challenges concerning the family in the context of evangelization." But the tasks of the two sessions will be different. In 2014 there will be a review of the new developments that have taken place in society, and "testimonies and proposals" will be gathered. While in 2015 there will be an effort to set "practical guidelines for pastoral care."


Between the two sessions there will also be, in Philadelphia, the 8th world meeting of families. But above all there will be repeated gatherings of the council of the secretariat of the synod, made up of twelve cardinals and bishops from the five continents elected at the previous synod in 2012, and three others of papal appointment, in addition to the secretary general, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, who has attributed to pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio also "the intention of enhancing the activity" of this same secretariat.


 A second innovation is the rapidity of the preparatory phase. The description of "extraordinary" applied to the session and 2014 - it has been explained - is synonymous with "urgent." The relentless pace at which new models and new conceptions in the areas of family and sexuality are emerging all over the world demand just as much promptness in the response of the Church.  


But even more new is the modality adopted. All of the previous synods, over the span of half a century, have been preceded by preparatory documents that have been wordy, abstract, boring. 

. . . .

This initial descriptive section is followed, in the document, by a second section that recapitulates the teaching of sacred Scripture and of the magisterium of the Church on the family, from "Gaudium et Spes" to "Lumen Fidei," with the Catechism front and center.


And finally, the section that has most caught the attention of the media, a questionnaire with 39 questions  . . . .  

Read more

Can Anything Good Come From A Synod?
Ken Briggs       Nov.10, 2013

Vatican II ushered in a number of new structures including synods of bishops to demonstrate that church governance was heading in a more collaborative direction. For most Catholics, the parish council represented this development most evidently.

As agencies of change, all of them have been colossal failures because the premise behind the consultations virtually guaranteed nothing would change.

. . . .

The concept of sharing authority gained popularity during the Council's sessions as a nod to the democratic spirit which Rome had battled against during most of the previous two centuries. It also comported with the "people of God" imagery that based ultimate truth within the whole body of the church. But at the same time the Council clung tightly to the claim that the highest truths were revealed through the hierarchy who kept them in trust and dispersed them to ordinary Catholics Top down. Under that arrangement, the "lesser" cannot correct the "greater" because the greater is more or less direct messaging. 

. . . .

As the next series of synods looms, the questionnaire now being circulated acts on the abiding assumption that it's results will make some sort of difference. In Pope Francis, the optimists see a receptive spirit like that of John XXIII whose reputation for openness and reform encouraged a de-centralizing of authority that informs the documents of Vatican II and still fosters hope for genuine collaboration, however implausible that may be. 

. . . . 

If Catholics answer the survey honestly and deliver them to the next synod, what will that sound-out amount to? History indicates that it won't budge the Decider except perhaps around the fringes, but that may mean something within an authority scheme not given to sacrifice its prerogatives. 

Read more

Lay groups launch surveys to answer Vatican questionnaire
Brian Roewe        Nov.16, 2013

While U.S. bishops consider how best and how broad to collect information ahead of a 2014 global bishops' meeting on family issues, several lay Catholic groups took the task into their own hands.

. . . .

The survey, hosted online at, will remain open for response through Dec. 15. 

. . . . 

Others have launched similar surveys, including the bishops of England  and Wales ( and of Belgium  (


Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good on Nov. 1 launched its version ( in English and Spanish, sending it to its 30,000 members and posting it online. As of Nov. 12, more than 3,000 people had completed the survey, with more than half of the respondents coming from outside the nonprofit's network.

Read more

Experts: Wide-range listening for synods a massive undertaking
Joshua J. McElwee        Nov. 16, 2013

If bishops around the world want to follow a Vatican directive to listen "as widely as possible" to Catholics' views on issues like contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce before next year's synod, they may have to get to work very quickly.


Organizing such an effort, said several coordinators of bishops' previous attempts to engage in wide-range listening, takes time, dedication and a sincere desire to listen to the everyday experiences of Catholics -- regardless of whether their viewpoints fall outside the bounds of strict adherence to church teaching.


It also depends on the ability of those doing the collection of the data to sort it and then find ways to interpret what it means.


"Just from a data-processing point of view, it's massive," said Tom Quigley, a former staffer at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who helped coordinate the American prelates' preparations for the 1997 Synod of Bishops for America.


"I know there does not exist that kind of capacity as yet in the Vatican," said Quigley, who served from 1964 to 2007 as the bishops' policy adviser on Latin American and Caribbean affairs. 

Read more

See also:
Forms of male chauvinism hostile to the church
Phyllis Zagano      Nov.6, 2013

The Vatican's preparatory document for the October 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family gets to women after 300 words. Among matters of deep concern are "forms of feminism hostile to the Church." Male chauvinism is not mentioned.


The synod playbook for the most part comes from men's pens. The planned Rome meeting, formally called the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, will bring together Catholic bishops to discuss "The Pastoral Challenges for the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

. . . .

The questionnaire comes from Vatican offices, where the overwhelming majority of professional workers are clerics. Therefore, the document itself views the church through a masculine lens. But didn't Francis express concern about male chauvinism in that long summer interview? Didn't Francis say everything he heard about women is colored by machismo?  

 . . . . 

The preparatory synod document's mention of "forms of feminism hostile to the Church" sounds loudly against the world's growing respect for women's equality and dignity. You have to think that when a preparatory synod document turns up to investigate the "temptation of male chauvinism" and the "ideology of machismo," the church might be on the road again.


But will it? Will the Vatican change its lens and, therefore, its view of the world?

Lombardi said "suggesting the pope will name women cardinals for the next consistory is not remotely realistic." There are more than a half-billion women out there who suggest it become realistic, and fast.

Read more

Catholic bishops challenged to adapt to Pope Francis' priorities
David Gibson       Nov.11, 2013

As the U.S. Catholic bishops began their annual fall meeting on Monday (Nov. 11), they were directly challenged by Pope Francis' personal representative to be pastors and not ideologues - the first step of what could be a laborious process of reshaping the hierarchy to meet the pope's dramatic shift in priorities.


"The Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people," Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., told the more than 250 American churchmen as he recounted a personal meeting in June with Francis.


The pontiff, he added, "made a special point of saying that he wants 'pastoral' bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology," Vigano said. That message was seen as an implicit rebuke to the conservative-tinged activism of the bishops' conference in recent years. 

Read more

Bishops Select Two Leaders Who Reflect New Tone Set by Pope
Laurie Goodstein       Nov.12, 2013

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Tuesday chose as leaders of the bishop's conference two prelates whose pastoral approach evokes the new tone for the church set by Pope Francis.


Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., the new president of the conference, has a master's degree in social work, took care of his brother with Down syndrome and said the "most important time" he has ever spent was the 12 years he served as pastor in a parish.  

 . . . .

In the bellwether contest for vice president, the bishops elected Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston from a slate of 10 candidates, some of whose vote counts were very close on the first and second ballots. In the runoff vote between two finalists, they passed over Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, an astute writer who relishes politics and often weighs in from a conservative point of view. The vote was 147 to 87. 

Read more

Bishops OK plan to address pornography in new statement
Dennis Sadowski        Nov.12, 2013

The U.S. bishops Nov. 12 approved the development of a pastoral statement on the dangers pornography poses to family life that would serve as a teaching tool for church leaders.


On Day Two of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore, the bishops voted 226 to 5 to allow the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth to develop the statement.

Developing such a statement falls in line with an objective of the U.S. Conference of catholic Bishops' 2013-16 strategic plan to address pornography and its dangerous effects on family life.


The committee planned to bring a draft to the bishops in 2015. It would be the first formal statement on pornography issued by the bishops as a body. 

Read more

Editorial: Put concrete realities on US bishops' agenda
NCR Editorial Staff       Nov. 8, 2013

Anyone looking at the published agenda of the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would say that an efficient, business-like organization could deal with that in half a day. The published agenda is beyond prosaic: approval of some liturgical translations, an election of officers, some committee reports, and a "presentation for a proposal to develop a formal statement on pornography." (Spoiler alert: They are against porn.)


There is, it seems, very little action in the bishops' action items.

The bishops should quickly deal with this old agenda, and then address the central question facing them: What kind of conference do they want to be?


Pope Francis has been clear about what he expects of bishops: He has condemned in no uncertain terms clericalism and careerism. One of his earliest statements was that priests -- and by extension bishops -- should "be shepherds with the smell of sheep" on them. In late October, ordaining two archbishops, Francis told them: "Keep in mind that you were selected to serve, not to dominate." 

 . . . .

We are asking the bishops to drop their self-referential, inward-looking agenda and -- in the spirit of Francis -- take the Gospel into the streets. We'd like to meet our bishops on the periphery. 

Read more

British Catholics who follow church teaching 'a rare and endangered species', survey finds
Paul Wilkinson      Nov.15, 2013

. . . .

"What it means to be a Catholic has changed," says Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University and director of the Westminster Faith Debates, who designed the surveys made earlier this year. 


"British Catholics have moved further from a Vatican-approved model of a faithful Catholic with every generation," she writes in The Tablet this week. "This doesn't mean that most have become ­secular, atheistic, or even non-Catholic - it means that they have become Catholic in a different way. 


"The result is a Britain in which 'faithful Catholics' are now a rare and endangered species. Catholics have come adrift from Roman Catholicism. The latter holds fast to a model it believes to be endangered and unchanging, while the former have forged a new way of being Catholic in the conditions of contemporary culture."  

Read more

Chaput to Catholics: Don't use Francis to 'further own agendas'
David O'Reilly      Nov.13, 2013

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, a leading conservative in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, defended himself Tuesday against perceptions that he is hostile to the more liberal inclusiveness of Pope Francis.


"I think the question is: Is there a discontinuity between the leadership of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, and the new kind of leadership of Francis? I think no," he said in an interview.


"Francis keeps saying he is a son of the church, which means he's not going to abandon the church's teachings."


To conservatives alarmed by some of Francis' recent remarks - such as "who am I to judge" homosexuals, or assurances that atheism is no bar to heaven - Chaput proposed that "we should look at him after a year, rather than trying to size him up at each speech." 

Read more

Conservative U.S. Catholics Feel Left Out of the Pope's Embrace
Laurie Goodstein          Nov.9, 2013

In the eight months since he became pope, Francis has won affection worldwide for his humble mien and common touch. His approval numbers are skyrocketing. Even atheists are applauding.


But not everyone is so enchanted. Some Catholics in the church's conservative wing in the United States say Francis has left them feeling abandoned and deeply unsettled. On the Internet and in conversations among themselves, they despair that after 35 years in which the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, drew clear boundaries between right and wrong, Francis is muddying Catholic doctrine to appeal to the broadest possible audience.

. . . .

They were shocked when they saw that Francis said in the interview that "the most serious of the evils" today are "youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old." It compounded the chagrin after he said in an earlier interview that he had intentionally "not spoken much" about abortion, same-sex marriage or contraception because the church could not be "obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines." 

. . . . 

Matt C. Abbott, a Catholic columnist in Chicago with Renew America, a politically conservative website, said in an interview on Friday, "I wish that he could have chosen some different words, expressed himself in a different way that wouldn't have been so easily taken out of context."


"For orthodox and conservative Catholics," he said, "the last few months have been a roller-coaster ride." He added in an email, "I'm not a big fan of roller coasters."

Read more
Confusion as divisions deepen within hierarchy over Communion for remarried divorcees
 Christa Pongratz-Lippitt       Nov.15, 2013

Seemingly contradictory statements from Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who represents Europe on the Council of Cardinals (C8), and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Gerhard Müller, are exposing seemingly deep fissures in the Church.


The statements, on the issue of Communion for remarried divorcees, are causing confusion and consternation among Catholics both within and outside Germany.


Archbishop Müller recently ruled out categorically that remarried divorcees could ever hope to receive the sacraments without an annulment of previous marriages. 


However, Cardinal Marx said at a press conference after the gathering of the Bavarian bishops' conference in the first week of November: "The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cannot put a stop to the discussion [of how the Church is to deal with remarried divorcees]. It will be discussed in its entire breadth and depth [at the Extraordinary Synod in October 2014]." 

Read more

3 ways the Vatican could allow divorced Catholics back to Communion
David Gibson       Nov.1, 2013

While the first months of Pope Francis' pontificate have been marked by his attention to the poor and his "Who am I to judge" attitude on homosexuality, his pledge to tackle the ban on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics could have the biggest impact for Catholics in the pews, especially in the U.S.

. . . .

"We are on the way towards a deeper matrimonial pastoral care," Francis said. "This is a problem for many people."

. . . . 

So can this knotty problem finally be resolved? And how? Here are three possibilities that have emerged:


One: The "Orthodox Option"

Francis himself cited the practice in Eastern Orthodox churches of allowing, for various reasons, a second or even third marriage - and thus access to Communion - while still considering the first marriage sacramentally valid. Adopting that practice would require a change in Catholic practice but it could help avoid what is now a pastoral roadblock.


Two: Let your conscience be your guide

Catholics have always had recourse to what is called the "internal forum," that is, following their conscience on whether they are eligible to receive Communion even if they're in an "irregular" marriage.


This is not intended as a "get out of jail free" card and should involve "a moral judgment of conscience that calls for serious personal reflection over a period of time," as the Rev. James A. Coriden, a canon lawyer at the Washington Theological Union, put it in a detailed analysisin Commonweal magazine last year.


Three: Streamline the annulments process

Annulling a marriage in a church court can be a tortuous and expensive process that varies so widely from country to country that it raises questions of basic fairness. Indeed, two-thirds of the nearly 55,000 annulments granted by church tribunals around the world each year are in the U.S., even though American Catholics account for just 6 percent of the world's Catholic population.

Read more

Vatican says talk of female cardinals 'not remotely realistic'
Tracy Connor      Nov.5, 2013

The announcement that Pope Francis will name new cardinals next year sparked some fevered speculation that he could bestow one of the red birettas on a woman.


But the Vatican is doing its best to dispel the rumors, saying that while it's "theologically and theoretically" possible, there won't be a princess joining the princes of the church anytime soon.


"This is just nonsense," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told the Irish Times.


"Being a cardinal is one of those roles in the church for which, theoretically, you do not have to be ordained, but to move from there to suggesting the pope will name women cardinals for the next consistory is not remotely realistic." 

Read more

Pope, Putin to discuss relationship between Catholic, Russian church
UPI       Nov.7, 2013

The Vatican said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis privately at the end of the month.


The meeting is set for Nov. 25, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.


The announcement comes after Pope Francis wrote to Putin in September, when the president was heading the St. Petersburg G20 meeting.


The pope urged the attendees to stop the conflict in Syria and tackle the global economic crisis.


The two are also expected to discuss the relationship between Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, ANSA reported.

Read more

 Bishops under fire in Italy, the United States, and Spain
Author       Nov.1, 2013

Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio has said loud and clear, in the interview with "La Civiltà Cattolica," that he does not see as a priority the battles over anthropological issues like the questions "connected to abortion, homosexual marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods." 


But it is also a change of stance that has backed into a corner those episcopates - of Italy, of Spain, of the United States - which in the past were considered models in their way of addressing on the public stage the anthropological challenges present in the contemporary world, but which now find themselves singled out as "scarcely in line" with the new papal leadership.

. . . .

In Spain, one signal has come from an editorial on the website "Religión Digital" that begins with this rhetorical question: "Is the Spanish hierarchy in harmony with Francis and with the new wind that is blowing from Rome?"   ¿Esta la jerarquia espanola en sintonia con Francisco?


In the United States, the liberal magazine "National Catholic Reporter" has emphasized the extent to which the words pronounced by Francis against "the current pastoral 'obsession' with gay marriage, abortion and contraception" manifest an "imbalance" between the pope and the U.S. bishops that goes so far as to "undermine" also the vigorous campaign for religious freedom undertaken by the latter against the morally unacceptable aspects of the healthcare reform of the Obama administration in relation to American ecclesial institutions: Imbalance between Francis, U.S. bishops undermines religious liberty campaign


In Italy, finally, in the newspaper "La Stampa" the vaticanista Andrea Tornielli has presented it as a certainty that with Pope Francis comes "the end of an era: that inaugurated by Cardinal Camillo Ruini and continued by his successor Angelo Bagnasco, now called to open another":  Cosi il Papa fa cambiare i vescovi

Read more

Bishop to perform 'exorcism' on day same-sex marriage becomes law 
Manya Brachear Pashman       Nov.15, 2013

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said he will offer prayers for "exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage" at the same time Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the same-sex marriage bill next week. 

. . . . 

An exorcism, which often refers to a rite performed on an individual, is applicable in the case of same-sex marriage because the devil can appear "in various forms of opposition to and persecution of the church," the diocese of Springfield said in statement.


"All politicians now have the moral obligation to work for the repeal of this sinful and objectionable legislation," Paprocki said. "We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church."

Read more


Petition asking Illinois bishop Thomas Paprocki not to perform an "exorcism"   

Is it time to separate church and state marriages?
Bryan Cones        Nov.12, 2013

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. The Internal Revenue Service's August decision to grant married filing status to married same-sex couples even if they live in a state that does not recognize their union is further indication that, at least on the national level, the question of whether same-sex couples can marry has largely been determined in their favor.


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.


Rank-and-file Catholics meanwhile seem to be leaning the other way on the issue. Poll after poll shows Catholics in general favoring legal recognition of same-sex couples-either in marriage or civil unions-by large margins.  

. . . .

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. Doing so would allow Catholics to have a fruitful intramural conversation about our theological understanding of the sacrament of marriage without at the same time being entangled in the question of whether families and couples that don't fit that vision should have access to the legal benefits and duties that go with its civil parallel.   

Read more

Vatican downplays mob threats against Pope Francis
Eric J. Lyman        

The Vatican on Friday downplayed reported mob threats against Pope Francis, just two days after a high-profile anti-mafia prosecutor said Francis could be a target from the Ndrangheta mafia organization in southern Italy.


The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's chief spokesman, told reporters on Friday (Nov. 15) that the Vatican was "extremely calm" regarding a possible mob threat against the pope. 

Read more

See Pope Francis Clown Around With Newlywed Couple
Alyssa Newcomb      Nov.8, 2013

Pope Francis is having a picture perfect week.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics donned a bright red nose and clowned around with a newlywed couple inside the Vatican on Wednesday.


The Argentine-born pontiff posed with the bride and groom, who are volunteers at a charity that brings clown therapy to sick children.


The lighthearted moment came hours after Pope Francis kissed and prayed with a severely disfigured man at the end of his general audience at St. Peter's Square. 


Red nose 

Read more

Pope Francis Helped Disfigured Man Vinicio Riva 'Feel Love' In Moving Vatican Meeting
Sara Nelson      Nov.19, 2013
A disfigured man who was pictured being tenderly embraced by the Pope has spoken for the first time about his meeting with the head of the Catholic Church. 

. . . .

He spoke to Italy's Panorama magazine about the moving encounter

The 53-year-old said: "I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn't. The emotion was too strong. It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity.


"But what astonished me is that he didn't think twice on embracing me.


"I'm not contagious, but he didn't know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love." 

Read more

More articles about Pope Francis
Pope Francis' Conn. appointment draws criticism
David Yonke     Nov.4, 2013

Vatican watchers waiting for the "Pope Francis effect" to guide the Roman Catholic Church in the United States into a new era did not see it in the pope's recent appointment of Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair as archbishop of Hartford, Conn.


Robert Mickens, a Toledo native who covers the Vatican for The Tablet, a highly respected Catholic newsweekly in London, said from Rome that Francis has been critical of "careerist" bishops who aspire to larger dioceses, yet Francis promoted Blair who is "a careerist, no doubt."

. . . .

Bishops should be "gentle, patient and merciful; animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life." They should "not have the psychology of 'Princes.'"


Advocates for sexual abuse victims say that's not the kind of man Francis promoted to Hartford.

Read more
ANALYSIS: Meet the 4 most influential U.S. Catholic bishops
David Gibson   Nov.14, 2013

As the final vote tally made clear that Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., was elected the next head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, outgoing president Cardinal Timothy Dolan turned  in mock seriousness and asked: "By what name will you be called?" 


As the public face of the American hierarchy for the next three years, Kurtz will in fact spend most of his time and energy on administrative matters and the time-consuming process of herding clerical cats.


Meanwhile, in quieter ways, four other churchmen may wield more influence where it counts most: in Rome with Pope Francis.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley

When Pope Francis tapped the archbishop of Boston as the only American to be one of the so-called Gang of Eight cardinals to serve as an informal "kitchen Cabinet," it immediately launched O'Malley into the ranks of the Catholic super-elite.


The affinity between Francis and O'Malley - "the closest thing to a papal BFF," as Amy Sullivan put it in National Journal - is natural. O'Malley is a Franciscan who is deeply orthodox but also deeply committed to serving the poor, which resonates with the pope, a Jesuit named after Francis of Assisi.

. . . .  

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

The archbishop of Galveston-Houston, on the other hand, may not exactly be a Chicago pol, but he does have the experience to make a difference where it matters: in appointing the bishops who will - or won't - carry out Francis' marching orders for a more pastoral, engaged church. That's because DiNardo worked for six years at the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, the powerful clearinghouse for appointments to dioceses around the world.


While much of the focus in this week's conference was on Kurtz, the real interest focused on DiNardo, who was elected vice president in convincing fashion. That means he will almost certainly be chosen as president of the hierarchy in three years.

. . . .

Cardinal Donald Wuerl

The archbishop of Washington is another churchman who knows the system and is increasingly being called on by Francis to help fix it.


Wuerl is in many ways a classic insider - a priest who was educated in Rome, rose through the ranks of the hierarchy and became familiar with every facet of church life along the way. He also has long experience with  Vatican synods, the periodic meetings of bishops that are held in Rome every few years.

. . . . 

Cardinal Raymond Burke

Burke has a reputation as an archconservative who can make enemies as well as allies, but he has several advantages, proximity being the most obvious: Pope Benedict XVI called the former archbishop of St. Louis to Rome in 2008 to head the Vatican's canonical court system.


But it is his role as a member of the Congregation for Bishops that has given him a decisive voice in pushing through a number of key stateside appointments, sometimes against the wishes of U.S.-based bishops. 

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Pope Francis Names New Bishop Of Fort Worth
CBS Local Media      Nov.19, 2013

Pope Francis named Monsignor Michael Olson the fourth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth on Tuesday.


Bishop-elect Olson will be ordained on January 29, 2014 at Mass at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Olson succeeds Bishop Kevin Vann, who was appointed Bishop of Orange, California in September 2012.


Olson is currently a priest of the Diocese of Fort Worth and the rector of Irving-based Holy Trinity Seminary. 

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For Rochester, Rome Declares Matano Law - Vt. Bishop to Upstate NY Post
Rocco Palmo       Nov.6, 2013

Capping weeks of speculation surrounding Bishop Salvatore Matano, at Roman Noon this Wednesday the Pope named the 67 year-old prelate - head of Vermont's statewide diocese of Burlington since 2005 - as bishop of Rochester.

In the upstate New York post, the Providence-born, Rome-trained canonist succeeds Bishop Matthew Clark, who led the 320,000-member diocese for 33 years - a length of tenure practically unheard of in recent times - until his retirement was accepted last September, two months after his 75th birthday. 

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Senior Leader in Legionaries of Christ Resigns
Edward Pentin       Nov.6, 2013

One of the most senior leaders of the Legionaries of Christ has resigned from the order, saying he "did not have the necessary energy to confront the challenges" of his position.


Fr. Deomar De Guedes LC, second general counsellor of the order, submitted his resignation to Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, pontifical delegate of the Legionaries of Christ.


Cardinal De Paolis has been leading a reform of the Legion since revelations of grave abuse and corruption by its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, came to light. 


In a statement, the order said Fr. De Guedes "had asked the pontifical delegate to be exclaustrated from the Legion, but Cardinal De Paolis granted him permission to resign "extra domum," meaning Fr. De Guedes may reside outside of the religious community for one year." 

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Cindy Wooden       Nov.5, 2013

Blessed John Paul II's 2004 meeting with and praise of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ - who later was banished to a life of penance because of sexual abuse - was a mistake, said the late pope's longtime secretary.


"The Holy Father should not have received that individual," said Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who served as personal secretary to the pope for 39 years.


In a new book, "Ho Vissuto con un Santo," ("I Lived with a Saint"), released in early November, Cardinal Dziwisz said the meeting was just one example of a serious lack of communication in the Roman Curia, which Pope John Paul tried, largely without success, to reform. 

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Australian report: 'systemic abuse'
Mark Brolly       Nov.15, 2013

The Catholic Church's institutions, schools and parishes gave perpetrators the opportunity to exploit vulnerable children in their care for decades and its early response to child abuse in its ranks "continued to conceal rather than expose criminal child abuse in the organisation", a Victorian parliamentary report has found.


Betrayal of Trust, the report of the Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations by Parliament's Family and Community Development Committee, said there had been "substantial criminal child abuse" in the Church over a long period of time, perpetrated by priests and other members of religious orders in Victoria.


"A culture existed in religious organisations that allowed for the occurrence of systemic criminal child abuse," it said.


"The initial formal response to criminal child abuse that the Catholic Church in Victoria and in Australia more broadly adopted in the early 1990s was influenced by its previous approach. The response continued to conceal rather than expose criminal child abuse in the organisation.


"There has been a substantial body of credible evidence presented to the Inquiry and ultimately concessions made by senior representatives of religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, that they had taken steps with the direct objective of concealing wrongdoing."


The report made recommendations in areas such as criminal law, easier access to the civil justice system, greater independent monitoring and scrutiny of organisations, and improved prevention and processes. Recommendations also included making failure to report to police or to conceal knowledge of the suspected criminal abuse of children an offence; making it a criminal offence for people in authority to knowingly put a child at risk; that "grooming" of children, including through conduct directed at family members of an intended victim of child sexual activity, be a criminal offence; that criminal child abuse be excluded from the statute of limitations; and that organisations such as the Church be held accountable for their legal duty to protect children from criminal abuse.


Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne said the Church's response to abuse, mainly committed between 1960 and 1985, had been "indefensible". He said the Church supported the Inquiry's key recommendations. 

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Archdiocese led lobby to stop abuse law change
Tony Kennedy      Nov.5, 2013

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was at the forefront of extensive lobbying against efforts to expand the time limit for lawsuits by victims of childhood sexual abuse, according to a document obtained by the Star Tribune.


An internal accounting analysis prepared by the archdiocese shows that the lobbying association known as the Minnesota Religious Council received more than $800,000 from the Catholic Church during a seven-year period ending in the middle of 2008. A similar analysis was not available for subsequent years, but state lobbying records show the council spent more than $425,000 on lobbyists from 2006 through 2012.


Lobbying records also show the council doubled its lobbying force to six individuals on March 22, 2013, just weeks before the passage of the Child Victims Act. That law eliminated the statute of limitation for child sexual abuse cases going forward. It also created a three-year window for litigation of many previously barred claims in cases where churches, schools and other institutions failed to provide protection to children.


Since the law took effect in late May, at least 18 lawsuits seeking damages for sex abuse have been filed against Minnesota Catholic clergy and leaders. 

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The best path for Archbishop Nienstedt is to step aside
Eric S. Fought      Nov.6, 2013

As a former senior-level political staffer and as someone who has advised leaders of organizations large and small in the midst of crises, I have often been forced to offer counsel that was difficult for the leader to hear. In some cases, the damage that has been done by their actions (or lack thereof) can be repaired; at other times the damage is far too great and the best path forward is for that leader to step aside.


While I am a member of a parish of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, I in no way serve as an adviser to John Nienstedt, its archbishop. However, if I did, I would advise him to take swift action for the benefit of the organization that he has been called to lead.

That swift action would include his resignation, and his own willingness to cooperate fully with both civil and ecclesial authorities.

. . . .
We in the Catholic Church do not elect our leaders; they are offered to us and we are entrusted to their care. However, that process of selection and designation - even if the process is to include some form of obedience - does not remove the responsibility of the faithful to speak out when that trust has been broken.
A Letter to Archbishop Nienstedt from the "People in the Pews"
The Progressive Catholic Voice      Nov.13, 2013
Dear Archbishop Nienstedt,

We are the people in the pews. We are the sea of faces you see at confirmations. We serve lunch in the gym after funerals for people we don't know and we serve communion alongside our priests. We teach religion classes and we work the school carnival. We help with clothing and food drives. We are the ushers, committee members and envelope stuffers. We are the set-up team and the clean-up team. When the plate is passed or the rectory needs a new roof or the archdiocese makes an appeal, we give.

We have been taught well by our Church. We know right from wrong. We also know that every moment of every day we must do everything we can to protect our children. But somehow our leadership has taken a different course. For decades, you and your predecessors have tried to balance the protection of our children with the protection of your priestly reputations. Now, it is obvious you have done neither. So we are left to explain to our children, neighbors and friends how we can believe in a Church that acts in ways so contrary to what it professes. So, we have lost faith in our local church's leadership, but not in our Church or our Lord.

We believe that now is the time for healing, which begins with your resignation. Quite simply, the trust and confidence you once enjoyed are gone and will not return. You can no longer lead because we can no longer follow. We believe our energies and financial resources can no longer be spent defending the indefensible.

In the end, we are the people who will do the healing. We will be the ones to pay the lawsuits, comfort and support the abused, invite our neighbors and friends back into the Church they once loved and strive to forgive all those responsible.

Archbishop, we encourage you to act swiftly so that we may swiftly bring healing to our community.

Yours in Christ,

The People in the Pews

To join the growing number of Catholics signing this letter, click here. 

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Police sift through new evidence of alleged sex abuse by Catholic priests
Laura Yuen     Nov.13, 2013 

Police investigators are sifting through new evidence coming from people who say they were sexually abused by Catholic priests.


St. Paul Police spokesman Howie Padilla said since the department issued a call for victims to come forward four weeks ago, several people have responded.


"Some folks have courageously, bravely come forward to tell their stories," Padilla said. "We're looking into those."

. . . .

Police wouldn't say how many people came forward to report abuse.

But Padilla said the victim accounts are providing new evidence for investigators.

"This investigation is complex, it's in depth, and we are going to be thorough with it," he said. "Being thorough is going to have us follow the path this investigation takes us." 

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Philippine Chapel Becomes a Medical Center
Te-Ping Chen      Nov.12, 2013

In the second-floor chapel of this city's only functioning hospital, Gelly Abucejo sits before the altar in a teal dress, her stomach still rounded from her recent pregnancy. On the pew beside her is a bundle wrapped in white plastic.


"My first child," says Ms. Abucejo, 20 years old, gesturing to the package containing her baby's body.

. . . .

Patients and staff rushed to the chapel on the hospital's second floor in the darkest moments of the storm on Friday, huddling to pray beneath a statue of Jesus' crucifixion. Since then, the chapel has taken on a new role as a maternity ward as staff grapple with a lack of space for all their patients.

. . . .

"We have no other place that's available at the moment, and of course it's a place where people can find comfort" in this heavily Catholic country, says Faith Alianze, 31, a doctor, as she stands outside the chapel in a nearby hallway, watching candles flicker. 

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Catholic fringe disrupts Kristallnacht ceremony
Michael Warren      Nov.13, 2013

 Ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholics have openly challenged Pope Francis by disrupting one of his favorite events, an interfaith ceremony in the Metropolitan Cathedral meant to promote religious harmony on the anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust.


The annual gathering of Catholics, Jews and Protestants marks Kristallnacht, the Nazi-led mob violence in 1938 when about 1,000 Jewish synagogues were burned and thousands of Jews were forced into concentration camps, launching the genocide that killed 6 million Jews. Before he assumed the papacy, Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his good friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka led the ceremony every year.


A small group disrupted Tuesday night's ceremony by shouting the rosary and the ''Our Father'' prayer, and spreading pamphlets saying that ''followers of false gods must be kept out of the sacred temple.''


Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli, named by Francis to replace him as Argentina's top church official, appealed for calm as others in the audience rose up to repudiate the protesters, who were soon escorted out by police. 

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CDF bars participation in events assuming truth of Medjugorje
CNA       Nov.6, 2013

At the direction of the Vatican's head for doctrine, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. has written a letter stating that Catholics "are not permitted" to participate in meetings which take for granted that the supposed Marian apparitions in Medjugorje are credible.


"The Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith) has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the 'apparitions' in question, all should accept the declaration ... which asserts: 'On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations,'" Archbishop Carlo Vigano wrote in an Oct. 21 letter to the bishops of the U.S., sent to the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


"It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted." 

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Pope phones nun over child deaths linked to mafia waste dumps
Nick Squires       Nov.19, 2013

Pope Francis has made one of his trademark out-of-the-blue calls to express his concern for children who are dying of cancer and leukaemia allegedly caused by toxic waste burnt by the mafia in an area of Italy known as the Land of Fires.


The Pope called the mobile phone of a nun, identified only as Sister Teresa, as she was in the middle of teaching a classroom of children in the town of Casal di Principe, a stronghold of the Camorra mafia near Naples.


She was one of 150,000 people who sent the Jesuit Pope postcards with photographs of children who have died of cancer and other illnesses in the region north of Naples, which is known in Italian as "La Terra dei Fuochi".


She had written her mobile phone number on one of the postcards, along with a prayer for the dead children. 

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English Translation of Roman Missal 


Bishops overwhelmingly approve continuing liturgy translations 
 Joshua J. McElwee       Nov.12, 2013

The U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to continue a controversial set of English translations of liturgical texts, approving new rites for the Catholic celebrations of marriage and confirmation.


Both votes happened quickly Tuesday morning and occurred after little debate. The new marriage texts were approved 212-5; the new confirmation texts, 213-4.

. . . . 

Although the texts were approved quickly, there were several minutes of debate on the floor of the bishops' meeting regarding the marriage texts.

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CARA Preliminary Results: Clergy and Lay Leaders Skeptical of New Missal

Anthony Ruff, OSB      Nov.6, 2013 


Preliminary results of a scientific study on the attitudes of clergy and lay church employees toward the newly-translated Roman Missal show widespread skepticism about, and even rejection of, the controversial new liturgical book. The new missal was introduced in Catholic parishes and communities in Advent 2011.


The large-scale study of U.S. Catholic parishes is being carried out by the highly respected Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), with a special set of questions on the new missal commissioned by The Diekmann Center for Patristics and Liturgical Studies at Saint John's University School of Theology Seminary in Collegeville, MN. The final results of the study are expected to be released in January, 2014, and the Diekmann Center is now releasing preliminary survey results with CARA's permission.

Upcoming Events   

Feminist Liberation Theologians' Network Meeting
Friday, November 22, from 4:00 PM-6:00 PM  during the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting at the Hilton Baltimore-Key 5. All are welcome.

The Network will discuss the development of ideas over several generations of feminist liberation theology. Panelists are Nikki Young, Bucknell University; Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver; and Monica Melanchthon, United Faculty of Theology and MCD University of Divinity, Australia. Discussion will follow their short presentations. All are welcome.


RSVP to 

Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) at 301 589-2509 ,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Association for the Rights of Catholics in the  Church 



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