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When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled

Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled, 

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.   


2013: A year that rocked the church

2013: A year that rocked the church 


Whose Conscience is it?
Robert Schutzius, Ph.D. 

ARCC applauds the German bishops' efforts to develop a theological path of reconciliation for the divorced and remarried so that they may return to the sacraments.   ARCC's Charter of Rights,  developed shortly after ARCC's founding in 1980, states, "All Catholics who are divorced and remarried and who are in conscience reconciled to the Church have the same right to the same ministries, including all sacraments, as do other Catholics."(Right No 31).  Despite the Second Vatican Council's support for the primacy of conscience, the Vatican does not respect conscience as a valid moral judge in this matter. 

The German bishops avoid the issue of a valid first marriage in seeking a pastoral solution to the Congregation of the Divine Faith (CDF) policy that allows the divorced and remarried to return to the sacraments only if they agree to live as brother and sister.   Swiss theologian Hans Küng in a recently published article , "Church Reform at all Levels" offers a detailed examination of how the situation of the status quo is contradictory in the face of Pope Francis' pastoral priority-an option for mercy--and his commitment to continued church reform.


Küng's analysis of Mark 10:9 ("What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder") resolves the contradiction: Jesus' commandment was "based on an aim" so "does not exclude failure and forgiveness."  He argues that Jesus would not treat the remarried/divorced this way, by pointing to his protection of the adulteress against the scribes and Pharisees (John 8:1-11), and reminds us that "Christians of the New Testament did not understand Jesus' words on divorce as a law but as an ethical directive."  


Küng asks ,"why there should there be no forgiveness just for this particular failure?"  He rejects the CDF's solution that favors  a more generous handling of annulments as a perpetuation of the hypocrisy of annulling marriages which have produced a family of children.  Küng hopes Francis will "steer his ship by the Gospel's (and not canon law's) compass," ignore the CDF, and make his theologically-founded pastoral approach obligatory.


Most Catholics have never heard of it, but the Church has provided for forgiveness of failed marriages through resort to the internal forum which the secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Jerome Hamer, OP, explained in 1975 allows  for Communion when couples in irregular marriages are trying "to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles" and will avoid scandal by receiving the sacraments in churches where they are not known. 


Pastoral-minded priests may employ the moral principle of  epikeia, use of common sense, and recommend application of the internal forum.  (In the 1970's several bishops carried this provision further by encouraging those who considered themselves truly married to return to the sacraments.  But  Rome objected - not to what they recommended, but for doing so openly, as a second "external forum.") .  Many find the internal forum an inadequate resolution if it precludes the couple's entry into the parish community of their choice.


There is speculation that Francis will turn to the Eastern Orthodox Church's handling of divorce; the Church considers remarriage acceptable but not a sacrament.


Divorce and remarriage is one among a number of issues about which many Catholic leaders believe they, by episcopal consecration, have been given authority to make decisions of conscience. They confuse their role as ruler of temporal goods of the Church with ruler of the conscience of all, thus defining for us what is right or wrong, sinful or justified.  


As teachers, their role is to help us to form our own conscience, but can not expect that we follow their collective, celibate, uniquely  conditioned, insulated, and inexperienced  conscience.  They too, like the rest of us, must consult and honor the collective conscience of the Christian Community in their teachings and in the formation of their conscience. 


We have current examples of where the advice "physician heal thy self" is ignored by our Catholic leaders.  "Deal and heal your own conscience as an example of how we heal ours", is a lesson that we ask of our Catholic leaders to take to heart. 

ARCC supports the German bishops and Fr. Küng in their efforts to teach us how to deal with our day-to-day decisions so as to grow in the love of God and each other, and how to become better, freer, human, followers of Jesus, rather than "Si Padre", obedient, slaves to the will of others who, with good intentions needlessly lay heavy burdens on others.

Bob SchutziusBob Schutzius has been a long-time ARCC Board officer as well as ARCC office manager.  He is a Presidential Advisor.

See ARCC's  Remarriage in the Church: Pastoral Solutions

Some things we have been reading  
Pope Francis must follow fervour with reform
Peter Stanford     Jan.3, 2014

. . . .

This new Pope clearly wanted to shake up the Church. And we've all been shaking since.


The "Francis effect" isn't just about making headlines, though, or even saving Catholics from being forced to defend the indefensible in our Church. It is pushing up mass attendance, even in ultra-sceptical Western Europe, and attendance at confession. It is also transforming the reputation of the Catholic Church, for so long beset by appalling scandals of corrupt cardinals and paedophile priests.

 . . . .

A big part of all of this is that in Francis, the Catholic Church has finally found someone who can communicate directly in word and deed with people, be they religious or not, as he showed on New Year's Day. He has abandoned the godly abstractions so favoured by pontiffs, prelates and priests. 

. . . .

It is not because he dislikes tradition per se, but because he can see how much it can get in the way of what really matters. "The ministers of the gospel," he said in that same interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, "must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people's night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."
. . . .

So the time is surely approaching when Francis must turn his attention to setting down in Church law the new, inclusive, gospel-based approach he is preaching. There will be plenty of ultra-conservatives in the Vatican and elsewhere right now calculating how long a 77-year-old, with part of one lung missing, will endure before the arrival of another new broom hopefully more to their liking. So there is no time to waste.


Francis himself has acknowledged the danger of delay, but argues that "the structural and organisational reforms are secondary - that is, they must come afterwards. The first reform must be the attitude." 

. . . . 

The cynic might suggest this all adds up to him not really being that different from what has gone before. He is simply giving the old story a new cover. But Catholic teaching also holds that present with those cardinals who voted him in is the Holy Spirit. I have to confess to having always suspected this was just another wordy formula that meant very little in the realpolitik of ecclesiastical advancement.


But then along came Pope Francis, upsetting every one of the Church's sacred applecarts, just as Jesus once did. He has certainly restored my faith in my Church - up to a point. Time person of the year 2013 is fine as far as it goes, but in 2014 he must be Catholicism's reformer of the year.

Read more

Pope abolishes honorary title of monsignor for diocesan priests under the age of 65
Gerard O'Connell       Jan.4, 2014

In a new move aimed at reforming the clergy and eliminating careerism in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has abolished the conferral of the Pontifical Honor of 'Monsignor' on secular priests under the age of 65.


Henceforth, the only Pontifical Honor that will be conferred on 'secular priests'  will be that of 'Chaplain to His Holiness' and this will be conferred only on 'worthy priests' who are over 65 years of age. 

. . . .

In taking this decision, Pope Francis is building on the reform in this area of ecclesiastical titles that was introduced by Paul VI in 1968, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Before Paul VI's reform there were 14 grades of 'monsignor', he reduced them to the three ranks that exist today: Apostolic Protonotary, Honorary Prelate of His Holiness, Chaplain of His Holiness.   

Read more

Vatican official downplays bishops' conferences
Joshua J. McElwee      Dec.31, 2013

The Vatican's highest doctrinal official has publicly argued against decentralization of the Catholic church's governance structures, seemingly in contrast to Pope Francis' repeated statements in favor of handing over formal authority for some matters from the Vatican to national bishops' conferences.


Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reportedly told the Italian newspaper Corriere della sera that while there must be a "practical balance" of authority between the Vatican and bishops around the world the Catholic church cannot be considered as a confederation of national churches.


"The Catholic Church is made up of local churches, but it is one," Müller told the Italian daily, according to a report by the German-language news service KathWeb. "There are no 'national' churches."

Read more

Pope calls for gay parents rethink
SkyNews       Jan.5, 2014

Pope Francis has called for a rethink in the way the Catholic Church deals with the children of gay couples and divorced parents, warning against 'administering a vaccine against faith'.


'On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand,' Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, extracts of which were published on Italian media websites on Saturday.


'The number of children in schools whose parents have separated is very high,' he said, adding that family make-ups were also changing.

. . . .

The pontiff said educational leaders should ask themselves 'how can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?'


'We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them,' the 77-year-old added. 

Read more

Pa. court reverses church official's conviction
Maryclaire Dale     Dec.26, 2013

A Roman Catholic church official who has been jailed for more than a year for his handling of priest sex-abuse complaints had his conviction reversed and was ordered released Thursday.


In dismissing the landmark criminal case, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously rejected prosecutors' arguments that Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. church official ever charged or convicted for the handling of clergy-abuse complaints, was legally responsible for the abused child's welfare.

. . . .

Prosecutors promised to fight the ruling and any move to release him. 

Read more
Judge sets bail at $250,000 for monsignor
Allison Steele     Dec.30, 2013

Bail was set Monday at $250,000 for Msgr. William J. Lynn, four days after an appeals court ruled he was wrongly convicted of endangering children.


Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina also ruled that Lynn must surrender his passport and be subject to electronic monitoring and weekly reporting while on bail. He must post $25,000 to be released.

Read more

Lynn Goes Free; Can't Function As Priest
Ralph Cipriano     Jan.3, 2014

After more than 18 months in prison, Msgr. William J. Lynn is a free man.

Shortly before 10 a.m. this morning, Lynn walked out of the Currann-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Northeast Philadelphia, where he was greeted by family members and some friends in collars.

He doesn't look the same. In prison, Lynn lost some 80 pounds.

. . . .

Lynn will remain on administrative leave with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, according to a letter issued today by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

"As such," Chaput wrote, "he may not function publicly as a priest."

. . . .

District Attorney Seth Williams has announced he will appeal the Superior Court's reversal of Lynn's conviction to the state Supreme Court. If the state Supreme Court decides not to take the case, Bergstrom said, Lynn hopes to be taken off administrative leave by the archdiocese, and to return to active status as a priest.

Bergstrom said Lynn was not bitter at anyone, and was grateful to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for putting up a $25,000 bail deposit. 

Read more

Bottom Line: Msgr. Lynn Case Uncovered Decades of Coverup
Susan Matthews       Dec.30, 2013

As the judge set bail for Msgr. Lynn today, many are disheartened. However, justice isn't the end game for many advocates and victims. It's one of many means to an end. While many would like to paint victims as vengeful and money hungry, that simply isn't the case for those I've met. Most lie awake at night worried that another child is enduring what they experienced. Protecting children is the victory.


Had Seth Williams not indicted Msgr. Lynn on child endangerment charges, no one would have seen the mountains of evidence proving a Church coverup of epic proportions. While Williams' intentions have been called into question, they are irrelevant to me as a Catholic mother. What matters is that clergy child sex abuse will not continue completely unchecked in the Archdiocese if Philadelphia. At least now, many are carefully watching. 

Read more

Andrew Sullivan      Jan.2, 2014

The new line, deployed against Pope Francis' dismay at the materialism and ideological fixity of global market capitalism, is that the Pope was only referring to Argentina. Global capitalism in Argentina, according to the theocons and neocons, is so different than in the United States that Pope Francis's critique is simply a regional one.   . . . .   If the Pope were to understand American capitalism better, he'd realize it was a truly free market, empowering social mobility, creating wealth and disseminating it on a massive scale. On CNN last week, that was essentially Newt Gingrich's argument against the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation (which I explore in considerable detail here).


A mega-rich donor to the American Catholic church is so offended by the Pope's words on the importance of poverty that he is allegedly hesitant to pay for a large amount of the restoration of Saint Patrick's Cathedral.  

. . . .   

Arthur Brooks, a Catholic running the American Enterprise Institute that favors torture, unfettered global capitalism, and pre-emptive war, makes the case as succinctly as he can.  

. . . .

So America is so unlike Argentina that the Pope should not be taken seriously. The trouble with this assessment is that the Pope clearly was not restricting himself to Argentina in his Exhortation. His remit was much wider. Here's a critical passage and it's quite clear that the Pope is referring not to a single country but to the ideology of a global system, rooted in the economy of the United States and its unipolar power since the end of the Cold War: 

. . . .   The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.

Read more

Mary Sanchez       Jan.3, 2014

For all his humble charm, Pope Francis has been getting under the thin skin of some rich members of his flock.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald remarked, the rich are different from you and me. They expect deference and coddling, especially for their charitable deeds, and when they don't get it, they take their riches and go home. At least that's the message one GOP high roller has sent to the American hierarchy.


Kenneth Langone, the billionaire cofounder of Home Depot and a major Republican backer, has insinuated that Francis should lighten up on his critiques of the corrupting influence of wealth, the problems of inequality and trickle down economic theories that too often do little to aid the poor.


The reason: Pope Francis is scaring away the big donors. He's offending the deep pockets that keep the facades of the faith gilded and glittering.

. . . .
The problem conservatives have with the pope is that what he's saying threatens well-codified systems of power, esteem and privilege. 

Read more

Sheryl Jay Stohlberg       Jan.5, 2014

. . . .

"You know," declared Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent, who caucuses with Democrats, "we have a strong ally on our side in this issue - and that is the pope."


That Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, would invoke the pope to Mr. Reid, a Mormon, delighted Roman Catholics in the room. ("Bernie! You're quoting my pope; this is good!" Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois recalled thinking.) Beyond interfaith banter, the comment underscored a larger truth: From 4,500 miles away at the Vatican, Pope Francis, who has captivated the world with a message of economic justice and tolerance, has become a presence in Washington's policy debate.


As lawmakers return to the capital this week and mark the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's declaration of a "war on poverty," Democrats - including those Catholics whose politics have put them at odds with a conservative church hierarchy - are seizing on Francis' words as a rare opportunity to use the pope's moral force to advance issues like extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage.


"He has given a number of us in the political ranks encouragement, and really a challenge, to step up and remember many of the values that brought us to public life," Mr. Durbin said. 

Church must not create selfish 'little monster' priests, pope says
Philip Pullella      Jan.3, 2014

Pope Francis has said men studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood should be properly trained or the Church could risk "creating little monsters" more concerned with their careers than serving people.

In comments made in November but only published on Friday, Francis also said priests should leave their comfort zone and get out among people on the margins of society, otherwise they may turn into "abstract ideologists".

. . . .

"Formation (of future priests) is a work of art, not a police action. We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mould the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps," he said. 

Read more

In message to Pope, Syrian President says he's ready for peace talks
 Michael Martinez       Dec.30, 2015

In a message to Pope Francis, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government is ready to participate in next month's peace talks but noted outside countries must stop supporting what he called terrorist groups in the country's civil war, Syria's state-run news agency said Saturday.


Al-Assad sent the message through intermediaries and expressed appreciation for how the Pope on Christmas urged an end to the violence and suffering in Syria, state-run SANA reported.

. . . .
The message was delivered during a meeting between Syrian Minister of State Joseph Sweid and the Pope's secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, SANA said.
. . . .
The papacy confirmed the communique, saying the Syrian leader's "delegation brought a message from President Assad to the Holy Father and explained the position of the Syrian government," the Vatican's website said.
. . . .
Al-Assad's dispatch to the pope comes before a United Nations-brokered peace conference that will be held in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition beginning January 22.

Read more

'Silenced' priest says church here is bereft of leadership
Sarah MacDonald       Jan.1, 2014

Tony FlanneryRadical Irish priest Fr Tony Flannery has described the Irish church as "bereft of leadership" in a stinging rebuke to the Irish bishops.

The Redemptorist, who was silenced by the Vatican in February 2012 and is currently forbidden to say Mass or minister as a priest because of his liberal views, said he believed the Vatican's "witch hunts" against liberal priests were over, thanks to the election of Pope Francis.

. . . .

Fr Flannery also hit out at the lack of consultation with priests and laity over the recent spate of new appointments to the Irish hierarchy.


"All the indications are that in the past couple of years, appointments were made to the hierarchy with even less consultation than there had been in the past. So the Association of Catholic Priests haven't made any headway in changing that system." The liberal priest said Pope Francis's comments, where he ruled out women cardinals and women priests, while disappointing to some reform groups, needed to be looked at again.


"He talks about bringing women into positions of real decision-making in the church but not clericalising them. I actually think that is better. Just ordaining them isn't the solution because the whole area of priesthood needs to be seriously revised and reformed anyway," he said. 

Read more

How Pope Francis Is Changing Our Definition Of Success
Rob Asghar       Dec.27, 2013
How great will Pope Francis' impact be?  Beyond his impact in his own 1.2 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, he may well redefine modern concepts of success, wealth and prestige for our larger society. (I say this as a non-Catholic.)
. . . .
  •  Francis is making it easier for ambitious people to value simplicity.    . . . .
  • Francis is changing how we distinguish between "important people" and "unimportant" ones.  . . . .
  • Francis is reintroducing a healthy tension between the concept of virtue and the practice of capitalism.  . . . .
  • Francis is drawing a dividing line between high status and good character.  . . . .
  • Francis is building a path for civil discussion of our worst hot-button issues.   . . . . 
The Best Dressed Man of 2013: Pope Francis
Max Berlinger       Dec.27, 2013
An unconventional choice to be sure, but hear us out. 

While Bradley Cooper, Chris Pine, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have all had banner years, their sartorial choices begin and end on the proverbial red carpet. Meanwhile, Pope Francis's sartorial decisions have subtly signaled a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church.

. . . .

True, the opulent jewelry and fur-lined capes of yore have given way to humbler dress, and this break from aesthetic tradition says a lot of the man and what he hopes to achieve while doing his earthly duties. He's certainly been the most approachable Pope in recent memory, one who tweets his gospel, takes selfies, sneaks out of his modest apartment(he declined moving into the Apostolic Palace) in a disguise to help the poor, and even hangs out with Patti Smith.  


Ann Pellegrini, Associate Professor of Performance Studies & Religious Studies at New York University puts it this way: "The humility of his garments offers a way to visibly display his theological and material concerns for the poor. This Holy Roman emperor really does have new clothes." 

Read more

Radical Pope, Traditional Values
Robert Calderisi       Dec.29, 2013

Pope FrancisIn less than a year in office, Pope Francis has certainly stirred things up. Eschewing the papal palace to live in a simple apartment, and mingling with ordinary people in St. Peter's Square rather than staying cloistered with cardinals in the Curia, the pope, recently named Time magazine's Person of the Year, appears to offer a sharp contrast to his recent predecessors.


Many of the pope's statements have been highly arresting: He has attacked the "idolatry of money" and called unchecked capitalism "a new tyranny." His trenchant critique of trickle-down economics has earned the ire of conservative commentators like the radio host Rush Limbaugh, who termed as "Marxist" the pope's exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium," published in November. The pope's response was swift and unapologetic.
"Marxist ideology is wrong," he told the Italian newspaper La Stampa. "But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended. There is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church."
Francis looks like a radical break with the past, but he is right: He represents an essential continuity in the Roman Catholic Church's mission.
. . . .

In many ways, though, he has simply been putting a personal stamp on traditional Catholic social teaching. "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure," he asked, "but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"  

. . . .

"We can build many things, but if we do not witness to Jesus Christ then it doesn't matter," he told the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel during his first Mass as pope. "We might become a philanthropic NGO, but we wouldn't be the church." 

Read more

Vatican observers look for thaw between Pope Francis, U.S. nuns 
Soumya Karlamangla      Dec.28, 2013

When the Vatican censured an organization representing thousands of American nuns, it did so in part because the group had not spoken out enough against gay marriage and abortion.
. . . .
Now, some observers of the Roman Catholic Church are wondering whether the arrival of a new pope will thaw the frosty relationship between the nuns and the Holy See.
. . . .  

Supporters of the nuns' group, which represents 57,000 sisters or 80% of the nuns in the U.S., have been watching since Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election for signs that the Argentine pope would set a tone more encouraging to the sisters.

. . . . 

In June, Francis spoke to a group of nuns and priests in Latin America and appeared to refer to LCWR, telling his audience to take risks even if it gets them in trouble: "Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine [of Faith] will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing.... But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward."

Read more

Pope orders new rules on relations between bishops, religious orders
Francis X. Rocca     Jan.3, 2014

Pope Francis said he has ordered a revision of what he called outdated Vatican norms on the relations between religious orders and local bishops, in order to promote greater appreciation of the orders' distinctive missions.

The pope's words were published Jan. 3 in the Italian Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica. He made the comments Nov. 29 at a closed-door meeting with 120 superiors general of religious orders from around the world.

Pope Francis referred to "Mutuae Relationes," a set of directives issued jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Religious in 1978. The document said that religious orders are part of the local church, though with their own internal organization, and that their "right to autonomy" should never be considered as independence from the local church.

"That document was useful at the time but is now outdated," the pope said. "The charisms of the various institutes need to be respected and fostered because they are needed in dioceses." 

Read more

Justice Blocks Contraception Mandate on Insurance in Suit by Nuns
Steve Kenny & Robert Pear       Dec.31, 2013

Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Obama administration from forcing some religious-affiliated groups to provide health insurance coverage of birth control or face penalties as part of the Affordable Care Act. 


Acting at the request of an order of nuns in Colorado, Justice Sotomayor issued the stay just hours before the requirement was to go into effect on New Year's Day. She gave the Obama administration until Friday to respond to the Supreme Court.


Justice Sotomayor's order applies to the nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Roman Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust. The groups' lawsuit is one of many challenging the federal requirement for contraceptive coverage, but a decision on the merits of that case by the full Supreme Court could have broader implications.

Read more
My insurance got religion
MattWuerker      Jan.2, 2014


Former Legion followers criticize oversight of order
Jason Berry       Dec.27, 2013

Top leaders of Regnum Christi, the lay wing of the Legion of Christ, knew as early as 2006 that Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the scandal-tarnished founder of the order, had a grown daughter, but concealed the information from the members at least three years, NCR has learned.

In exclusive NCR interviews, Elizabeth Kunze, who spent 16 years as a consecrated celibate in Regnum Christi, and Legionary Fr. Peter Byrne, who is leaving the order, denounced rooted secrecy and betrayal in the order and a bungled Vatican reform effort.


Kunze, of Milwaukee, called Regnum Christi a "cult" and said the Vatican 2010 visitation, or investigation of the Legion, "was rigged."

. . . .

n a phone interview and emails, Byrne, in Dublin, scoffed at Vatican oversight as the Legion prepares for a Jan. 8 congregational chapter in Rome to elect new leaders.

"People inside the Legion have not been given clear information about what has happened. There is fear to speak openly or to question."


Byrne said he was one of a group of dissident Legionaries, "more than 60 priests who have left the Legion. A lot more, hundreds, were in religious formation and left before reaching the priesthood." Some of the priests ordained last year have already left the order, Byrne believes.

. . . .  

Kunze's revelations and Byrne's criticism raise doubts about the reform under De Paolis, who drafted new constitutions for the order.

. . . . 

"De Paolis doesn't speak Spanish, has not lived with the communities, was only a few days in Mexico [where the order is very strong and the most devoted followers of Maciel still prominent], he didn't meet with victims and he allowed the men who were close to Maciel to continue governing," Byrne told NCR. "I think he never grasped the degree of corruption inherited from Maciel."

 Read more
2013's person of the year
NCR Editorial Staff      Dec.30, 2014

. . . .

Thank God for the courage of abuse survivors and the families of victims who will not let our bishops and leaders forget the abuse and their complicity in it.


Thank God for activists who stand with survivors. But most of all, thank God for one very special class of people: the priests and church personnel who do stand up to their leaders and cry out for justice. People like Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle and former Benedictine Patrick Wall, who sacrificed promising ecclesiastical careers because they sided with the victims of abuse and not with those who would cover it up. Thank God for the recently formed Catholic Whistleblowers, a group of mainly priests and religious women, Catholic insiders dedicated to fighting the scourge of sex abuse and its cover-up.


Finally thank God for Jennifer Haselberger. Haselberger, who holds a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, became chancellor of canonical affairs for the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese in 2008. She had held a similar post in the Fargo, N.D., diocese. In St. Paul-Minneapolis, she reviewed the archdiocese's records and archives and discovered unreported allegations of clergy sex abuse and lapses in investigations (NCR, Oct. 25-Nov. 7.)

. . . .

She repeatedly took her concerns to Archbishop John Nienstedt, but they were ignored and rebuffed. Haselberger, 38, resigned her position in April 2013, saying she found it impossible to continue, knowing that such reckless disdain for the law and the U.S. bishops' own procedures still existed and that her efforts to rectify them had proved futile. So, she alerted law officials and the media. These public revelations have resulted in resignations of key archdiocesan personnel, a public review of how the archdiocese handles abuse allegations, and several police investigations.


Haselberger says she draws inspiration from a phrase she learned as an undergraduate student at the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in St. Paul: "Be loving critics and critical lovers of the institutional church."


And that is why Jennifer Haselberger is NCR's person of the year for 2013.

Read more
Bishop Robert Finn and Friends Win the 2013 Coughlin Award
 Frank Cocozzelli       Dec.30, 2013

It's that time of the year again, folks. It's time for the presentation of the annual Coughlin Award. As it is every year, the competition was stiff, so much so that this year for the first time it is a group award. This year award goes to Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri Bishop Robert Finn and his legion of supporters.


The Coughlin Award -- affectionately known as "The Coughie" -- is our way of recognizing the person who has best exemplified an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith in the preceding year. The award is named for Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious radio priest of the 1930s who is the role model for today's Religious Right radio and television evangelists, and other conservative media personalities. 

. . . .

In order to win a Coughie, a candidate must complete three qualifying tasks: 1) Make the faith decisively less inclusive 2) Engage in incendiary behavior and 3) Ultimately embarrasses the Church. This year's winners -- as usual -- have risen to the challenge. 

Read more

The Trouble With Francis: Three Things That Worry Me
Mary E. Hunt     Jan.6, 2014

Will Pope Francis be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated engaging in "spiritual exercises" in next month's issue?


Given the spate of media attention he has received in the U.S. market, I will not be surprised by anything. Just to head off distractions, let me stipulate that I do have a heart, and approve of the personal direction of this pope: a simple lifestyle, a commitment to the poor, a soft touch with those who are young or ill, all indicate a fine human being, indeed what Christianity would hold up as a model.


I note only that his predecessor popes and some of their episcopal sycophants gave the job such a bad name that the bar is low. Undoing their structures and policies, especially regarding criminal sexual scandals and Vatican finances, will take longer than these first nine months of the Francis papacy.

. . . .  

Here are a few of the puzzles I'm struggling with as I try to make sense of the current Catholic religious scene.


1.  Pope and Papacy

All of the enthusiasm about Francis' style does not change the fact that the institutional Roman Catholic Church is a rigid hierarchy led by a pope-the warm feelings in response to Francis shore up that model of church by making the papacy itself look good. To my mind, this is a serious danger.

. . . .

The papacy is the ultimate bully pulpit, but it works both ways-on things that are progressive and things that are conservative. It is risky to embrace papal remarks when one agrees, only to live long enough to have another pope undo them.

. . . . 

Ask millions of former Catholics why they now constitute the second largest denomination (the Roman Catholic Church remains the biggest one) in the United States. My only answer is that at the level of teaching and structure nothing-but nothing-has changed this year. 

. . . .

2.  Women and Gays

A second difficulty flows from the first, in that nothing has changed for women or LGBTIQ people with regard to Catholicism during the early months of this papacy. Nor is there much prospect on either issue given what the pope has said publicly.


Regarding women's ordination, Francis has been clear: "On the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and said no. Pope John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed." Just what is it that the media see as so promising here? Or, is it the case that what happens to Catholic women does not really matter much?

. . . .

The same goes for the now-famous "Who am I to judge?" line about same-sex love that won Francis such favor in both mainstream and gay press. Two intertwined issues emerge. One is that every human being is called to judge what is good, to recognize love when they see it, and to acknowledge the value of committed relationships as part of what constitutes a strong social foundation. To assume that "judge" always means something negative, punitive, rejecting is simply to fall into the Catholic trap that has ensnared so many for centuries.


So my response to this question is to say, "You must judge, not because you are the pope, but because you are a human being whose support for what is good is useful and expected."

. . . . 

3.  PR and Substance

A third conundrum of contemporary Catholicism is the remarkable, even enviable public relations success, not to say coup, that the papacy of Pope Francis represents.

I am not suggesting that there is no substance to Francis' agenda, that change does not underlie it. Conservatives would not be so hot under their collective collars if that were not the case. But I am cognizant of the very powerful public relations machine that has turned an ecclesial ocean liner on a dime, transformed an all but written-off patriarchy into one of the most inviting, benevolent monarchies the world has seen in modern times.

But substantive structural and doctrinal issues do not evaporate just because the pope does not wear Prada.

. . . . 

As we saw with the rapid exit of Pope Benedict XVI, popes come and go. Older people do not live and cannot work forever. So, while I wish Francis "multos annos," I am realistic enough to know that what he does to bring about change in the Roman Catholic Church and in the world he had better do now while the window is still open and he can still see out of it.  

District Court Rebukes IRS Church Plan Rulings
David Cay Johnston      Dec.23, 2013

The IRS Office of Chief Counsel came in for sharp criticism from a federal judge in the first significant decision in five lawsuits by workers who complain that the IRS is helping employers quietly strip away their pension rights.


Hundreds of thousands of workers at hospitals and other nonprofit organizations have been moved into so-called church pension plans, which are exempt from ERISA. IRS private letter rulings enabled each of these moves.

Most of the nonprofits that were granted IRS approval to operate as church plans exempt from ERISA were seriously under funded, the trustees having failed to set aside enough money to pay the old-age benefits workers had earned. The federal government guarantees the pensions of workers in ERISA plans, although when a plan fails, workers typically get less than they had been promised. Workers moved into church plans, however, lose the federal guarantee.


The five cases don't involve plans run by churches, but those operated by groups that claim a religious affiliation of some kind even though they may have for-profit partners, operate commercial businesses, and engage in activities that violate the doctrine of the affiliated religion. If the workers lose the five cases, there will be a swift expansion of church plans. 

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An American priest answers the Vatican questionnaire
Mark Silk     Dec.23, 20143

Last month, the Vatican sent around a questionnaire on "pastoral challenges to the family," in preparation for its big bishops' synod in Rome next October. The official in charge has made it clear that the guys at the top want to hear from the grass roots, and the American bishops have caught some flak for indicating that they're mainly just soliciting answers from the clergy. 


A glance at the actual questions suggests that most of the folks at the altar rail would be hard pressed to provide informed answers. Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are questions written for the pastors to answer, not the sheep. The real issue, so far as I can see, is whether the former will give honest answers or ones they think their bosses want to hear.


I therefore asked a thoughtful priest I know to respond to the questionnaire under a grant of anonymity. His answers, in italics, follow the questions reprinted ad litteram from the Vatican website. (He stopped at rubric 7, finding the last two repetitive.) It's a lengthy read, but well worth the time for anyone interested in Catholicism's grass roots in America today. 

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St. Cloud Bishop Releases Names of 33 Accused Priests
Alex Svejkovsky     Jan.3, 2014

A day after a Sartell man filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of St. Cloud, Bishop Donald Kettler has released the names of those accused of sexual abuse of minors.

The move comes as other Minnesota Catholic Dioceses and the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul are dealing with similar disclosures or lawsuits to release similar lists of clergy members.

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Obama highlights common ground with Pope Francis
Kathleen Hennessey      Dec.25, 2013

When a White House speechwriter turned in a draft of a major speech on economic policy this month, President Obama sent it back with an unusual instruction: Add a reference to the pope.


The final version of the speech quoted directly from Pope Francis' recent letter to the faithful: "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?" he said.


The citation marked a notable development in Obama's complex and sometimes confrontational relationship with the Roman Catholic Church: After several years of high-profile clashes with U.S. bishops, Obama is seizing the chance to highlight common ground with the bishop of Rome.


Quoting the pope isn't likely to yield direct electoral dividends for Obama's party - the once-vaunted "Catholic vote" largely disappeared long ago. But in a string of effusive praise, the president has made clear he sees the pope as a like-minded thinker and potentially useful ally in a crucial battle of ideas, particularly on the importance of shrinking the gulf between rich and poor, a subject Obama has pushed repeatedly but with limited success. 

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The Slow Demise of Capital Punishment
NYT Editors       Dec.29, 2014

More states are coming to recognize that the death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased and prone to catastrophic error. Even those that have not abolished capital punishment are no longer carrying it out in practice.

. . . . 

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have abolished the penalty, and it is dormant in the federal system and the military. Thirty states have had no executions in the last five years.


As it becomes less frequent, the death penalty also becomes more limited to an extremely small slice of the country, and therefore all the more arbitrary in its application. All 80 death sentences in 2013 came from only about 2 percent of counties in the entire country, and all 39 executions - more than half occurred in Texas and Florida - took place in about 1 percent of all counties, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center. Eighty-five percent of all counties have not had a single execution in more than 45 years.

. . . . 

The argument is not that all of these people are innocent, or that they deserve to be released. Most would be justly imprisoned for most if not all of their life. But the death penalty as applied in America now - so thoroughly dependent on where the defendant lives and how much money he can spend on his defense - violates the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection, and no longer can overcome the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

The dishonor and shame of capital punishment are further highlighted by the current shortage of lethal-injection drugs, a "crisis" resulting from the refusal of European drug makers to provide them for executions. As a result, states that use lethal injection have turned to unregulated compounding pharmacies, and have even passed laws to hide the identity of those pharmacies and the chemical makeup of the drugs. This only underscores the fact that when it comes to the death penalty, the United States is virtually alone in the Western world.

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Two Americans Among Eight Experts Invited to Vatican Peace Conference
Al   Kresta      Jan.5, 2014

Two Americans are among the key political experts invited by the Vatican for a January 13 conference aimed at promoting a cease-fire in Syria, the protection of Christians there, and a transitional and unified government.


The two U.S. participants in the one-day meeting are economist and advisor Jeffrey Sachs, who is active in the world fight against poverty and hunger, and Thomas Walsh, international president of the Universal Peace Federation and a U.S. expert in interreligious peace building and security.
The title for the workshop is "Syria: With a death toll of 126,000 and 300,000 orphans in 36 months of war, can we remain indifferent?"
. . . .
Opening remarks at the workshop will be delivered by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. 
Other experts and leaders invited by the Vatican to participate, in addition to Americans Sachs and Walsh, include:
·       Tony Blair, founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and official envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East:  the U.N., European Union, Russia and the United States.
·       Former Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a major figure in Egypt's revolution against ousted Presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi.
·       Pyotr Stegny, a former diplomat and expert in Russian diplomacy and foreign policy in the Middle East.
·       Joseph Maila, a Lebanese expert on the Middle East, Islam and politics.
·       Miguel Angel Moratinos, a Spanish diplomat and member of congress who served seven years as the European Union special representative for the Middle East peace process.
·       Thierry de Montbrial, a French economist and expert in international relations.

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Priest Condemned by Vatican for Gay Ministry Dies
Associated Press      Jan.2, 2014

Bob NugentA Roman Catholic priest who was censured by the Vatican for his ministry to gays and lesbians has died.

The Rev. Robert Nugent, a co-founder of New Ways Ministry, had been suffering from lung cancer when he died Wednesday in Milwaukee at age 76, the group said in a statement.

Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick created the ministry in 1977 with a goal of reconciling gays and lesbians with the wider church community.


In 1999, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, said they had harmed the church by causing confusion about church teaching that same-sex relationships were sinful. Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI, ordered the co-founders to permanently stop their outreach.

. . . .

Nugent, a member of the Salvatorian religious order, had said he had been deeply pained by the Vatican order, but he complied since disobedience would have cost him his priesthood. Francis DeBernardo, who now leads New Ways Ministry, said Nugent had "exhibited uncommon courage" in his work.  

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Fr.   Bob  Nugent was a former  ARCC  Board  member.

Ian Barbour
Carolyn Fure-Slocum       Dec.27, 2013

It is with a terribly heavy heart that I write to tell you that Ian Barbour died on December 24th. Ian suffered a stroke at home in Northfield on Friday, Dec. 20th, and remained in a coma at Abbott Northwestern Hospital until his death. He was 90 years old. Ian came to Carleton in 1955 with the founding of the Religion department. In the 1970's, he co-founded of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program at Carleton, which has since become ENTS (Environment and Technology Studies). He retired in 1986 as the Winifred and Atherton Bean Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and Society.  

Ian is widely credited with creating the contemporary field of science and religion. With his degrees in Theology and Physics, Ian explored the theological implications of science and methodological issues in both fields. He wrote or edited sixteen books. From 1989 to 1991, he gave the Gifford Lectures in Scotland, and in 1999, Ian was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.   

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Woodbury mansion to be home for bishop
Phil Dunn     Jan.2, 2014

A historic Woodbury mansion once home to the past president of Rowan University has been sold to the Camden Diocese for $500,000.


Diocesan spokesman Peter Feuerherd said the 7,000-square-foot mansion will now be home to Bishop Dennis Sullivan, who took over leadership of the diocese after Bishop Joseph Galante retired in 2012.

The purchase was finalized Dec. 23.

. . . .

The gray stone house - with eight bedrooms and six bathrooms - is described as one of the city's "grandest" homes. Annual taxes are $31,000.

Other amenities include an in-ground pool, three fireplaces, a library and a five-plus-car garage.

. . . .
The dining room set is reportedly worth $24,621. The mailbox cost $450. Other furnishing costs: $1,170 for a pair of brass sconces, $24,000 for a used Steinway piano, $8,593 for drapes and accessories, and a $1,938 wicker love seat for the sun porch.  

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Dynamic California parish shows benefits of an alternative structure
Paul Wilkes      Jan.2, 2014

Standing in the pulpit, he holds the out-of-town parish bulletin with two disdainful fingers: "When I travel, I go to other parishes and I find their bulletins ..." he offers a brief sigh, for effect, "... boring. They don't even make it back to my car; right into the nearest trashcan. Your bulletin is anything but boring: . . . .   Over and over we are making sure the world knows that All Saints lives up to our motto: We say yes to God. You hear me," his voice now rising, "yes ... to ... God!" 


With his knit shirt and tan slacks, Steve Mullin could not be mistaken for any other than the layman he is. But he is a layman like only a few hundred others in the American church. As the parish life director of All Saints in Hayward, Calif., his name is atop those of the two assigned priests in that weekly bulletin he just extolled (and which he edits), and his is the message on the opening page they read each week. If you ask any All Saints parishioner who their pastor is, it is Mullin, married and the father of four children.

His is a vibrant parish.

His is an endangered vocation the church doesn't quite know what to do with.

. . . .

Although bishops who did appoint parish life coordinators have generally expressed satisfaction with their performance, few dioceses have appointed more, even as parishes close and priests take on multiple parishes. Why? And will the reign of Pope Francis make a difference?


"Bishops basically don't trust people they have not ordained, people whose obedience and obeisance might be in question, who don't toe the company line, people they cannot directly control," a church social science researcher told me, asking to remain anonymous.

. . . . 

Mullin is encouraged by the words of Pope Francis who has said that in order to bring Catholicism alive in the world, we must listen to the people of the church, not just the hierarchal church. "If I read him correctly," Mullin says, "he sees the discontent, the disconnect between people and an institution that isn't that 'field hospital for the wounded' as he said in the recent interview. He's looking to find and appoint the best and most talented people to serve in those hospitals -- namely parishes -- ordained or not. He wants laypeople to have a real say in the working and structure of church. It gives hope to all of us who have felt 'fringed,' all the people who have alienated by the church. We might be welcome; this might be our real home after all."   

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The First Orthodox Female Rabbi
Leeor Bronis      Dec.24, 2014

This past Rosh Hashanah holiday, Rachel Kohl Finegold, 33, one of the very few Orthodox Jewish women to be ordained as a rabbi, gave a one of her first sermons at Montreal's Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. After her speech, she walked back down to the women's section, where she was greeted with warm welcomes and congratulations. One woman grabbed her hand, looked her in the eye and said, "We've been waiting for you."

. . . .

"The hardest part is the first thing people see about me is that I'm female and they don't think beyond that right away," she said. "I'm not here to be the token woman, I'm here to do my job. Once people can realize that maybe we can more the conversation along, someday." 

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<nyt_headline>Pope to visit Holy Land in May
Associated Press      Jan.6, 2013


Pope Francis says his upcoming trip to the Holy Land aims to boost relations with Orthodox Christians. The three-day visit in May underscores Francis' close ties to the Jewish community, his outreach to Muslims and the Vatican's longstanding call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.


Francis told thousands gathered in the rain for his weekly Sunday blessing that he would visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 24-26.

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Cameroon: Kidnapped French Priest Is Released
Scott Sayare       Dec.31, 2013

Georges Vandenbeusch, 42, who was reported to have been held in Nigeria by Boko Haram, a group with ties to Al Qaeda, was released on Tuesday, according to French authorities. 

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New Translation of the Roman Missal


A little piece of good news on a review of the English translation of the Roman Missal, although details are scant! Fr Paddy Jones has just finished 21 years of service secretary for liturgy and director of the National Centre for Liturgy, now located at Maynooth.   . . . .


". . . .  A review is promised, though the mechanism of such a review is not known. However, such a review is necessary if we are to listen to what is being said and what is happening, the scholarly and pastoral criticism of the translation and the instruction on translation but also including its non-acceptance by some, the use of a mixture of old and new translations by others and the disturbing quietness of congregations to the new responses and other parts ...

. . . .

"One regrettable loss, including texts like 'Christ has died', is the ecumenically accepted texts such as the Gloria and the Creeds.


"The change (in ICEL) from being a commission mandated in its work by eleven Conferences to a newly constituted commission in 2002 is a story to be told elsewhere, but it will make unsettling reading." 

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Upcoming Event   


Elephants in the Living Room 


Women in Ministry 

Phyllis Zagano

SS. Simon and Jude

32500 Palmer Road

 Westland MI

Thursday, January 30, 2013

1:00 PM
 A light lunch will be served at noon.  Please RSVP Tom Kyle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 
248 477 7223 if you would like to have lunch
Association for the Rights of Catholics in the  Church 



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