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The Holy Control Factor
J. A. Dick                                           Aug.9, 2014


Authoritarian leaders thrive on control, especially if they are male authoritarians and they seek to control women.....and more especially if they are authoritarian religious men. We see it in the news each day, in often heart-rending reports. Whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew, authoritarian religious leaders think God is a guy who gives guys the right to control the non-guys.


This week we have seen another mysogynist authoritarian outburst from Rome. Pope Francis, however, of "Who am I to judge?" fame, has been deadly silent. He did say in June that women were "the most beautiful thing God has made," and joked that women "came from a rib."


The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition) now directed by Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller, is not happy with LCWR - the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. He told them that, as of August 1, 2014, LCWR must clear, with a bishop overseer, any assembly speakers and honorees.


Joan Chittister, who was President of LCWR in 1976, described the situation quite succinctly, in her NCR column this week:

Next week, for instance, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will face decisions that will move the question of the agency of women in a man's church either forward or back. Strange as it may seem in the 21st century, the issue is whether or not women are capable of hearing diverse speakers and still remain faithful Catholics. The issue is whether or not women religious may discuss various points of view on major issues and still remain faithful Catholics. The issue is whether or not women religious can manage their own organizations and still be faithful Catholics. The Vatican's answer to those questions is no. For the last 45 years, however, LCWR's answer to those same questions has been a clear and persistent yes.

The members of LCWR will gather August 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn., for their annual assembly. At that time, more than 800 elected leaders will discuss how they plan to react to continued charges of infidelity leveled by the church's top enforcer of orthodoxy and the Sacred Congregation's plans to take control over LCWR.

I have been following LCWR ever since they started, almost fifty years ago. They were approved by the US Bishops and by the Vatican, as THE association of women religious to represent American women religious.

Things began to go wrong however, when LCWR leadership and its members became better theologically educated than many of their hierarchical critics. Grounded in a solid biblical and historical understanding of their faith, the women of LCWR moved forward, probing the questions of contemporary faith and life. Their ecclesiastical critics, meanwhile, had begun their pious retreat, back to a triumphant nineteenth century Catholic ethos, where Father always knew best.

I will be praying for LCWR. History in the making this coming week! 

John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D. is ARCC Vice President
Some things we have been reading  
Conflict with Vatican shadows upcoming LCWR assembly
Thomas C. Fox      Aug.5, 2014

U.S. women religious leaders face an uncertain future as they gather Aug. 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn., for their annual assembly.


More than 800 elected congregational leaders will discuss how they plan to react to continued charges of infidelity leveled by the church's top enforcer of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to the congregation's plans to take over the organization after the assembly.

. . . .

The issues are multilayered, involving disputes over the role of religious life, the relationship between religious and bishops, questions of obedience, and differing visions of church priorities and mission.


Beneath these is one more: the role of women in a church that maintains a gender-determined authority system. The conflict between LCWR and the doctrinal congregation has become the most visible manifestation of this highly charged issue.


The congregation upped the ante April 30 by setting a deadline to take control of LCWR. Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller, in a harsh statement that reiterated Vatican charges of LCWR's doctrinal breaches, said that beginning in August, LCWR must clear with a bishop overseer future assembly speakers and honorees. 

. . . .

LCWR celebrates a democratic governance style. It is difficult to know what might come out of Nashville until the last hour of the last day, after the talks are finished and votes taken. This, however, appears clear: It's highly unlikely the LCWR saga will end in Tennessee. 

Read more

Prayers called for upcoming LCWR assembly
Dan Stockman    Jul.28, 2014

Nun Justice, a coalition of 15 progressive Catholic organizations in the United States, is asking Catholics to pray for women religious at their upcoming national assembly.


The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80 percent of the 57,000 nuns in the United States, will convene for its annual assembly from August 12-16 in Nashville. Nun Justice is asking Catholics to pray for guidance for those at the assembly and for Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, who will receive the group's Outstanding Leadership Award.


The group's website,, has prayers and prayer services that can be downloaded. The prayer asks that the sisters "see prophetically and hear without distortion, speak truthfully and with respect, touch tenderly and stand tall in witnessing [God's] all-inclusive love."

Read more

Francis and The Nuns: An Interview with Mary Gordon
Patricia Miller      Aug.8, 2014

PM: Your essay points up the disconnect between what Francis says, especially in his famous interview where he said the church has talked to much about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and how he acts toward women, especially American nuns. Why do you think he has been able to maintain so much goodwill in the face of this contradiction?


MG: I have three explanations. First of all, compared to Pope Benedict, he looks great, just because next to Benedict, Godzilla would look great. Second, Nelson Mandela died and the world is looking for a spiritual leader to fill the gap. And finally, something that you see often with religious progressives, is that they don't get the whole women's piece. For them it just isn't a deal breaker.


What Francis is good about isn't new in terms of substance-Pope John Paul II said some very strong things about capitalism. What is new is his tone. He is very good about tone-about washing women's feet and welcoming nursing mothers. He seems like a softer, gentler version of a pope. And the bottom line is that Catholics are just so tired of fighting.


PM: You point to a crisis of masculinity among the hierarchy as a result of the sex abuse scandal and the fear of powerful women (who are playing a surprisingly effective role in the political arena, as Network and the LCWR did during the debate over ObamaCare). Does this come down to a question of authority in the church and who wields it?


MG: Yes, it does. With all people in authority, when they feel embattled they get more aggressive. The bishops aren't any different. They really perceive that their authority is being challenged by the nuns. It is a kind of default setting to look at women when that happens and to try and dominate them to reestablish authority.


PM: You note how badly the attacks on the LCWR and the American nuns in general have gone over with the general public. It really has been a PR disaster for the Vatican. Why don't you think they have recalibrated, if for no other reason than they seem to be generating more and more sympathy for the nuns?


MG: Because I think they perceive, correctly, that their growth area is with the right wing. That's their base and that's where the money comes from. In America, the people who like the nuns are the liberals and they aren't in the pews every Sunday.


It all comes down to the money. They don't want to alienate Dominos Pizza [Dominos Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan is a major donor to conservative Catholic causes] and the other big money donors. No one on the left gives them the kind of money that they get from the right. You see this all the time with Catholic colleges like Boston College. Wealthy alumna will make a fuss about something they don't like and they will pull back.

Read more

Catholic Church needs to grow, not shrink
William R. Wineke      Aug.7 2014

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki said he has seen the future of the Catholic Church and it is diminished, in numbers, at least.


"My conclusion to the question of the face of the Catholic Church in the United States is that we will be smaller but stronger because we will stand for the truth given to us through the Holy Spirit's presence in the church instituted by Christ," the archbishop wrote in an email to Milwaukee Catholics. 


The comments are similar to those Madison Bishop Robert Morlino made to me a decade ago when he came to town.


I'm sure they mean well, but I can't help thinking we seem to have bishops who don't particularly like Catholics, which strikes me as downright weird.


Why would a bishop not like Catholics? Listecki gives a hint in his column: He loves the Roman Catholic Church.

"The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are like a wall of well-placed bricks. Removing any of the bricks weakens the whole wall -- the structure of the truth that supports the Church -- risking collapse upon itself," he said.

. . . .

The people who can best defend their faith are those who face up to questions and doubts, think through them, pray about them, and then embrace their overall faith in God despite the challenges thrown up at that faith.

In other words, the vast bulk of practicing Catholics today, especially those who live and worship in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which has squandered tens of millions of donated dollars and squandered the priceless faith of thousands of parishioners by covering up crimes and trying to cheat victims of clerical abuse. These people have lots of doubts about their church but they maintain their faith in a loving God.


I'm not sure telling those people that they aren't real Catholics unless they give unquestioning loyalty to whatever church leaders tell them is a very good way to help them maintain that faith.  

Read more

Religious liberty belongs to everyone, not just the religious right
Tarso Luís Ramos & Frederick Clarkson      Jul.28, 2014

Turn on any cable news show and you're likely to hear conservatives on the religious right claiming that secularists aim to erode or end religious liberty in America. It's as serious a charge as it is a false one. In fact, it's a red herring.

. . . .

In the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell U.S. Supreme Court case, the owners of a private, for-profit, national craft store chain successfully won an exemption from a preventive health care provision within the Affordable Care Act, which requires that employee's health insurance include coverage for birth control methods such as morning-after pills and intrauterine devices.  

. . .  

The high court's ruling was the first time in U.S. history a for-profit corporation was recognized as having religious rights under the First Amendment.
. . . . 

If corporations enjoy exemptions from federal laws in the name of religious freedom, the rest of us may be compelled to cede our personal liberty to the views and whims of our employers-forcing us to choose between our livelihoods and our consciences.

. . . .

However strong their convictions may be, the Religious Right leaders' campaign is less about religious liberty than winning the government-backed right to impose their religious beliefs on others. The Framers called that tyranny. 

Read more

The Rise Of Europe's Religious Right
J. Lester Feder       Aug.6, 2014

On a hot Friday in late June, the walls of a 15th-century marble palace in a secluded corner of the Vatican were lit up with the face of Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon.


"We believe - strongly - that there is a global tea party movement," declared Bannon, who took over the American conservative new media empire after the death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, in 2012. Speaking via Skype to a conference on Catholic responses to poverty, he said, "You're seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, D.C., or that government is in Brussels... On the social conservative side, we're the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement."


Events across the Atlantic do look familiar to American eyes: an uprising against long-established parties in Brussels amid economic stagnation. But these elements have been around a long time in European politics. What is new - and what feels so American - is represented by the group Bannon was addressing: Europe is getting its own version of the religious right. 

Read more

On the Bowery, Questions About the Catholic Church's Shifting Mission
David Gonzalez       Aug.3, 2014

Men lined up outside St. Joseph House on the Lower East Side on a recent morning, some with their belongings stuffed in worn bags, all with their stomachs empty. Inside the dining hall, which is run by Catholic Workers, a hearty meal of stew and bread awaited. Most of the men were homeless, though not necessarily hopeless - this daily ritual gave sustenance and respite in a neighborhood that had steadily pushed them aside as tenements and poor people give way to luxury buildings.

. . . .
The Archdiocese of New York closed the center in 2011, citing "changing demographics" and low demand. It renovated the building and turned it into a Roman Catholic cultural center containing a 250-seat auditorium, a black box theater, rehearsal rooms and a small gallery. The building will also house eight campus ministry volunteers.
. . . . 

Fred Armour is puzzled by the cultural center. Having lived on the streets for five years, Mr. Armour used to rely on Holy Name for taking showers, which he could do early enough to have the rest of the day to look for work. A few other places in the area offer showers, but too late in the day. Instead, he washes himself under the sprinklers at a local park. 

. . . . 

Although some of her friends questioned the church's decision to build a cultural center, Heidi Hynes, a volunteer at St. Joseph House, saw an opportunity. She hoped the church might be persuaded to open the building early in the morning so that the homeless could at least shower there.


"That would be a powerful message to the people in that neighborhood and the visitors to the center about what is Catholic culture, and to know that serving the homeless is at the core of that," Ms. Hynes said.

Read more

The lavish homes of American archbishops
Daniel Burke      Aug.3, 2014

Cardinal Timothy Dolan  $30 million 

Cardinal Francis George   $14.3 million

 Archbishop James Sartain   $3.84 million


 Archbishop Leonard Blair   $1.85 million


  Archbishop Thomas Wenski   $1.38 million


Archbishop Robert Carlson   $1.4 million


Archbishop William Lori  $1.24 million


Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller $1.1 million


Read more

Francis comic strip
Click here to enlarge
Scituate parishioners vow to fight to save church
Dan Adams       Aug.3, 2014

Parishioners who have been occupying the officially closed St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church for nearly 10 years voted Sunday to make a final push to reopen it, defying a request from the Boston Archdiocese to accept the decision of a Vatican court and leave the building.


The unanimous vote by about 50 members of the Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioner group gave the go-ahead to a canonical advocate to argue before a Vatican court that the archdiocese exaggerated its financial woes to justify closing the church.

"There is a profound inconsistency between what the lawyer for the archdiocese has put in writing. . . and the [archdiocese's] audited financial results," said the advocate, Peter Borré, who alleges that the archdiocese had a surplus in fiscal 2013 totaling tens of millions of dollars. "If it is in fact true that the archdiocese is on strong financial footing, then their rationale for closing this church collapses."

. . . .  

Borré's last-gasp canonical maneuver - technically, a "supplementary appeal to the truth of the matter" - follows the June decision by the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court, to reject their challenge of the archdiocese's deconsecration of the church building. That step allows the archdiocese to repurpose, lease, or sell the building. The archdiocese considers the ruling to be final and asked parishioners to respect it.


The Vatican court may decline to hear the latest appeal. In that case, Borré said, he would go to another court that could overrule that denial. In the meantime, the Friends group is also preparing a personal appeal to Pope Francis. 

Read more

Emily Gurnon      Aug.4, 2014

Plaintiffs' attorney Jeffrey Anderson released the names of eight priests from the Diocese of New Ulm who had been "credibly accused" of sexual abusing minors.


Six of the names had previously been made public through lawsuits, but two -- the Rev. John L. Gleason and the Rev. John M. Murphy -- had not. Both men have since died.


The other priests are David A Roney, Francis Markey, Vincent Fitzgerald, William J. Marks, Michael G. Skoblik and Douglas L. Schleisman. Schleisman is the only one believed to still be alive.


Anderson obtained the names through a deposition taken by his co-counsel, Michael Finnegan, of the Rev. Francis J. Garvey, as part of two lawsuits. Garvey served on the priest personnel board of the diocese and was privy to information about offending priests.

Read more

How canon law can be revised to easily eliminate abusive priests
Nicholas Cafardi       Aug.6, 2014

Canon LawIn an interview with L'Osservatore Romano last month, Cardinal Francecso Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said that his council was working on a revision of Book Six of the Code of Canon Law, "On Sanctions." The proposed changes would hopefully make the canonical penal process more accessible for bishops who wanted to bring canonical charges against priests who had sexually abused youngsters.


Although it generated some news at the time, the cardinal's announcement really wasn't anything new. Canonists have known that the Council for Legislative Texts has been working on a redraft of Book Six of the code since 2008. Not just Book Six, but the entire canonical penal or criminal process-which also covers parts of Book Seven, "On Processes"-needs a redraft.


To begin with, the canonical penal process as presented in the code is bulky and unwieldy, stretching as it does across two books of the code with its application requiring the canonist to jump back and forth between books. The canons are not even presented in chronological order in the sense that the canons that tell you what to do first would come before the canons that tell you what to do next. Rather, the process starts with Canon 1717, the accusation and preliminary investigation in Book Seven, and ends with Canon 1361, in Book Six, on the remission of penalties!


There is definitely work to be done in disentangling the canonical penal process so that it is more user-friendly. Indeed, back when the child sex abuse crisis first exploded, one of the reasons that the bishops gave for their failure to address the crisis properly was that the canonical penal process was too complicated to be useful against priest sex abusers. I am not sure how much weight that excuse actually carried, since the process was not tried and found wanting in those years-it simply was not tried. But the difficulty of the penal process was an excuse we heard a lot from the bishops in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Read more

Sign of peace at Mass: Vatican says it stays put, but urges education
Cindy Wooden       Aug.1, 2014

The sign of peace at Mass has not always led to serenity among liturgists or within the congregations gathered each Sunday in Catholic churches around the world.

After nine years of study and consultation, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has told Latin-rite bishops around the world that the sign of peace will stay where it is in the Mass.


However, the congregation said, "if it is foreseen that it will not take place properly," it can be omitted. But when it is used, it must be done with dignity and awareness that it is not a liturgical form of "good morning," but a witness to the Christian belief that true peace is a gift of Christ's death and resurrection. 

Read more

World Evangelical Alliance Responds to Papal Apology With Its Own
Zenit     Jul.30, 2014

The head of the World Evangelical Alliance applauded Pope Francis' meeting Monday with Pentecostals in Caserta, Italy, and responded to the Holy Father's apology for a lack of understanding by Catholics with his own request for forgiveness for Evangelicals who have discriminated against Catholics.


Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance, Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, said that Pope Francis' apology for Catholics who persecuted Christians in the past was commendable, biblical and reflects the message of Jesus. Then, like Francis, the Evangelical leader asked forgiveness for Evangelicals who did the same to Catholics.

. . . .
When asked about the impact of the Pope's meeting with the Pentecostals, he said, "I think Pope Francis reaching out to Evangelicals bodes well for future conversations, because that will allow us to go deeper in our interactions together." 

Read more

South Korea: Tensions over papal visit
Ellen Teaguer       Aug.4, 2014

The Pope's forthcoming visit to South Korea has been criticised for being out of step with the Pope's emphasis on the poor and on peace. Street protests about his schedule have particularly targeted a planned visit to the controversial Kkottongnae centre, the country's largest care home for 4,000 physically and mentally disabled people.


Columban missionary, Fr Noel O'Neill, who has been a speaker at the protests and who lives in a small group home in Gwangju with four people with intellectual disabilities, says, "this kind of massive institutionalisation of disabled people has long been discredited in much of the world". He feels that, "without overstating it, no symbolic gestures of embracing or kisses by Pope Francis will dispel the underlying truth, that such a model of services is unacceptable and contrary to the very enlightened UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities". In 1981, Fr O'Neill was the first to introduce community based services for people with intellectual disabilities in Korea.

Read more

N. Koreans to take no part in papal visit
AFP       Aug.7, 2014

North Korea has apparently declined an invitation to send Catholic believers to a mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Seoul later this month, a South Korean Church official said.


In a letter, the North's state-run Korean Catholics Association (KCA) cited Seoul's refusal to cancel an upcoming joint military drill with US forces as the main reason for its decision.


Pope Francis is to conduct a special Korean reconciliation mass in Seoul on the last day of his visit to South Korea between 14-18 August, and church officials in the South had sent several requests to Pyongyang to send a group of Catholics to attend.


But the day of the mass coincides with the launch of the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military drill, which the North has condemned as a rehearsal for nuclear war.

"Under these circumstances, coming to Seoul would be an agonising step," the KCA letter said.

Read more

State Department report: Religious persecution makes migrants out of millions
Brian Pellot      Jul.28, 2014

And then there were nine. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Monday (July 28) that Turkmenistan has joined the State Department's list of worst religious freedom offenders.


The State Department's "Countries of Particular Concern" list had remained static since 2006, when eight countries - Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - were designated as CPCs.

. . . .

"In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory," the report said. "In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. ... Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm."


CPCs were not the only offenders named. Kerry cited anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe and a poll from last year showing that nearly half of the local Jewish populations in some European countries had considered emigrating to escape anti-Semitism.

The report summary also names Syria, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Iraq, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and Nigeria for failing to protect vulnerable religious communities, which often face violence, discrimination and harassment. 

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Razing of Mosul's shrines sparks first signs of resistance against Islamic State
Loveday Morris      Jul.30, 2014

As al-Qaeda-inspired militants have reduced Mosul's ancient religious shrines to rubble in recent weeks, their support has also crumbled, with popular outrage producing the first signs of resistance in the Iraqi city.


A newly formed militant group calling itself the Mosul Battalions claims to have killed nine members of the extremist Islamic State in recent days in knife and sniper attacks as retaliation for the destruction of the religious sites.


Meanwhile, residents say they have protested attempts to destroy the city's most iconic landmark - an 800-year-old minaret known locally as al-Hadba, or "the Hunchback," because of its distinctive lean.


The city has suffered from severe electricity, fuel and water shortages, and the smashing of shrines and statues. But the expulsion of tens of thousands of Christians from the city and the destruction a week ago of a highly prominent religious site - the tomb of the prophet Jonah, who, according to Islamic, Jewish and Christian scriptures, survived being swallowed by a whale - brought a new level of resentment. 

. . . .  

In total, at least seven sacred shrines have been razed, said an official with the city's Sunni endowment authority, which manages religious affairs.

Read more

 Bill Robinson      Aug.1, 2014

Arabic N on door Throughout its history the Roman Catholic Church has been associated with Latin language and lettering, so passersby on West Main Street [Richmond, KY] were surprised Thursday to see a strange symbol emblazoned on the church's door.

Some were even more surprised to learn it was an Arabic character.


It is the Arabic character for N, which stands for Nazarene, explained the Rev. James Sichko, St. Mark pastor.


The large character was posted to show the church's solidarity with the Christians of Iraq, especially in the city of Mosul, who have come under attach by the extremist group ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, he said.

Read more

Iraqi Christians brave heat to demand help from United Nations
Simon Caldwell       Aug.1, 2014

Iraqi Christian refugees braved temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit to demand that the United Nations intervene to protect them from persecution by Islamist militants.


Sahar Mansour, a Chaldean Catholic who fled Mosul, Iraq, in June, told Catholic News Service by email that she saw some of the demonstrators faint in the heat as they marched from their refugee camp in Ankawa to the U.N. base in Irbil.

. . . .

Many wore T-shirts or held up banners emblazoned with the Arabic symbol for "N", which was painted on the houses of Christians in Mosul to designate them as "Nasara," or Nazarenes, a derogatory Arabic term for Christians, before they were ordered to leave the city, convert to Islam, or face death. 


About 500 people joined the July 24 protest. Most were refugees who had fled Mosul, the biblical city of Ninevah, 55 miles west of Irbil, before it fell to Islamic State fighters who invaded in June and July. 

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Jihadists attack Iraqi Christians again in dramatic development
John Burger      Aug.8, 2014

ISIS, the radical Islamist group that forced Christians out of Mosul with the threat of death, has taken control of most of the villages of the Nineveh Plain, the northern area where Iraqi Christians have hunkered down in what is appearing increasingly to look like ethnic cleansing.


In a statement in which the Vatican refers to "terrible developments," Pope Francis has called for help from the "international community."

. . . .

The Associated Press, quoting "several priests in northern Iraq," reported that militants from the Islamic State group overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area.


The capture of Qaraqoush, Iraq's biggest Christian village, and at least four other nearby hamlets, brings the Islamic State to the very edge of the Iraqi Kurdish territory and its regional capital, Irbil.
. . . .

The Christians and members of other minority groups ran for their lives, with tens of thousands heading to Kurdish northern Iraq, he added.

"All Christian villages are now empty," said Bishop Tomas. 

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Jesuits tell their alumni in Congress: Protect border children
David Gibson      Jul.31 2014

American Jesuits are pushing members of Congress who were educated at the Catholic order's schools to pass aid for thousands of refugee children who have surged across the border in Texas in recent months, calling proposals to swiftly deport them "inhumane and an insult to American values."


"I ask you, as a leader, a parent, and a Catholic, to uphold an American tradition of which we are all proud," the Rev. Thomas Smolich, head of the U.S. Jesuit conference, wrote to House Speaker John Boehner and 42 other House members who graduated from Jesuit high schools and colleges.
. . . . 

The issue has become so contentious that when protesters in California surrounded busloads of immigrant children shouting for them to be deported, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote a column comparing the demonstration to the KKK and to "Nativist mobs" of the 19th century. 

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Texas Church Becomes Oasis for Central American Migrants, Their Children
Scott Johnson      Aug.5, 2014

They come in pairs, worn-out migrants carrying - or, in some cases being led by - children who range in age from infants to teenagers. Many of the adults weep openly when the doors to the parish hall of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen swing open and nuns, Jesuit priests and a host of local volunteers rise to their feet in a raucous standing ovation.

. . . .

Thousands of unaccompanied minors are housed in detention centers, but the families coming to the Sacred Heart Church represent that latter group -  are among the more than 55,000 migrants who have been provisionally cleared by U.S. Customs and Border Protection since the beginning of the year. They've been given temporary papers and can live with family members while awaiting a court date.

. . . .
The migrants passing through Sacred Heart will tell you that those fleeing violence and chaos in Central America aren't likely to stop unless their home countries offer their citizens reasonable levels of safety and opportunity.

. . . .
The program here is run by Catholic Charities USA. Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande Valley, began routing families to Sacred Heart last June, when she learned that Border Patrol officers were dropping them off at a nearby bus station. 

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Bishops' response to immigration crisis more compassionate than politicians'
Thomas Reese      Aug.1, 2014

The caricature that the bishops are only concerned about sex has been fed by their focus on abortion, gay marriage, and birth control, but when it comes to immigration, the bishops show not only their concern for the poor but their clear attention to the root causes of the crisis. This has been especially true of the thousands of children who are showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied by an adult.


Immigration has become a political football in Washington, where the focus is not on fixing the problem but on how to maximize the political benefits of partisan posturing.

. . . .

Compared with American politicians, the U.S. bishops are models of compassion and competence, as seen in the programs run by the USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services, the largest refugee resettlement agency in the world. The help is very concrete and practical.

For example, MRS has 12 Unaccompanied Refugee Minor foster care programs that provide transitional care for children until they can be released to their families as well as long-term foster care for children without an adult sponsor. Most of the children are reunited with their families, while the others are placed in foster family homes.

While Republicans blame Obama for the flood of children at the border, the bishops see multiple interrelated factors contributing to the crisis.

. . . . 

But according to a delegation of bishops that visited Central America in November, "one overriding factor has played a decisive and forceful role in recent years: generalized violence at the state and local levels and a corresponding breakdown of the rule of law have threatened citizen security and created a culture of fear and hopelessness." 

Read more

Francis reverses John Paul II, reinstates priest suspended in '80s for joining Sandinista govt
Nicole Winfield      Aug.4, 2014

Pope Francis has reinstated a Nicaraguan priest suspended by the Vatican in the 1980s for participating in Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.


The 81-year-old Rev. Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, Nicaragua's foreign minister from 1979-1990, recently wrote to Francis asking to be allowed to celebrate Mass again before he died. The Vatican said Monday that Francis had agreed and asked D'Escoto's superior in the Maryknoll order to help reintroduce him into priestly ministry.


The Vatican suspended D'Escoto and three other dissident priests in 1985 for defying a church ban on clergy holding government jobs. The sanction was also a reflection of St. John Paul II's broader crackdown on liberation theology in Latin America. 

Read more

Lay coalition nominates seven clergy to be new Twin Cities archbishop
Briam Roewe      Jul.31, 2014

On the same day St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt doubled down on his commitment to remain leader of his apostolic see, Catholics elsewhere in the region discussed his possible successor.


The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform announced Wednesday they had identified seven nominees believed to have the ability to lead the archdiocese into its future and likely out of the current clergy abuse scandal ensnaring the archdiocese since September.

. . . .

The group solicited nominations from area Catholics through parish handouts and its website, reaching its seven candidates after whittling down an original list first from 55 priests, then from 23. They are Fr. J. Michael Byron, Fr. Paul Feela, Fr. Paul Jaroszeski, Fr. Phillip Rask, Fr. Timothy Wozniak, current moderator of the curia and vicar general Fr. Charles Lachowitzer, and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché.

In the fall, the committee plans to hold "know the nominees" workshops. During the first half of November, an "election-like process" will produce the three names they will send to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio to the United States. Per canon law, the nuncio provides the pope three people for consideration when a bishop's see opens. 

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Magnanimous memoir of a 'dead canary' bishop
Andrew Hamilton     Jul.23, 2014
 . . . .

Morris bookIn mines, where bad air could be lethal, miners used to bring canaries with them. If they fell ill and died, the miners had warning to get out. The recent book by Bishop Bill Morris, replete with documentary evidence, tells the story of a canary caught in the shafts of Vatican culture. His early expiry date pointed to something amiss in the governance of the church, heralding the larger disclosures in the Royal Commission on sexual abuse.


Morris' story needs no retelling. He was Bishop of Toowoomba, sought to empower the laity and local communities, engaged in serious pastoral planning, was informal in his manner and, earlier than most, understood sexual abuse from the perspective of the victim rather than of the institution.

. . . .

When set against the sufferings of those who were sexually abused Morris' dismissal seems like the death of a canary. But the disregard for truth and for people that were disclosed in his treatment are similar to those shown in the way in which many church authorities dealt with sexual abuse.

Like the canary in the mine, Morris' dismissal warned of the toxic culture. His book is magnanimous. He would surely be happy to have been the price that needed to be paid for the success of Francis' attempts to build a culture of governance properly respectful of the people it serves.

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Pope Benedict XVI OK'd abusive priest in Paraguay, local bishop says
David Gibson       Aug.5 2014

A showdown between Pope Francis and a conservative bishop in Paraguay is heating up as the bishop rejected charges that he sheltered a priest accused of sexual misconduct, and claimed that Pope Benedict XVI himself vouched for the suspect cleric just days before his election as pope in 2005.


The conflict between the Vatican and Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este was sparked by revelations in March that the bishop had promoted a Catholic priest who had been barred from ministry in Pennsylvania after church officials there said he molested several boys.


Last month, Rome dispatched a cardinal and an archbishop to Paraguay to investigate, and on July 30 the Vatican said it was removing the priest, the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, from his job as the diocese's No. 2 official. It also took the unusual step of barring Livieres from ordaining any men to the priesthood.


In a detailed and sharply worded 12-point rebuttal to Rome, the Paraguayan diocese said Urrutigoity has been the subject of "a long and harsh defamation campaign in the U.S." and said he came "recommended by some cardinals with roles in the Vatican."

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We All Speak of "Conscience"-But Are We Talking About the Same Thing?
Mary e. Hunt      Mon.dd, 2014

Conscience" keeps popping up in contemporary political and ethical debate. Think Hobby Lobby and the offended consciences of those who would deny contraceptive coverage to their employees. Think about minimal religious exemptions to President Obama's executive order on equal hiring practices that sent the U.S. Catholic bishops into paroxysms of scruples. What is this thing called "conscience" anyway?

. . . .
I counsel against making conscience too small, a dainty thing, part of the private sphere, when conscience has an equally compelling public character. I urge an expansive view of conscience, seeing it as a way to read the big picture, to hear the compelling stories, to react to the major claims for justice. I am not content with the notion that conscience is finally what one person chooses, whereas another might choose something else. Such a mechanistic approach is tempting, but it consigns conscience to a small personal role when I think it plays, or ought to play a bigger, essentially political one. It is a process not a product.

. . . .
My suggestion is that we begin by acknowledging the personal aspects of conscience, but move quickly to explore the collective, process side. The role of moral leaders is not simply to set the moral compass, but to invite others to bring their orienteering tools as well, letting the presumption of the common good ground a process that leads to change. When lots of people put the loud cries of the common good ahead of the little squeaks in their own souls the results may be surprising.  

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The Strange Silences of a Very Talkative Pope
Sandro Magiister     Aug.1, 2014

. . . .

As the Argentine he is, Bergoglio has experienced first-hand the overwhelming expansion of the Evangelical and Pentecostal communities in Latin America, which continue to take enormous masses of faithful away from the Catholic Church. And yet he has made this decision: not to fight their leaders, but to make them his friends.


This is the same approach that he has adopted with the Muslim world: prayer, invocation of peace, general condemnations of the evil that is done, but with careful attention to keep his distance from specific cases concerning precise persons, whether victims or butchers.


Even when the whole world mobilizes in defense of certain victims and everyone is expecting a statement from him, Francis does not abandon this reserve of his.


He did not speak a single word when the young Sudanese mother Meriam was in prison with her little children, sentenced to death only because she is Christian, although he received her once she was liberated thanks to international pressure.

He did not say anything on behalf of the hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, in spite of the campaign promoted even by Michelle Obama with the slogan "Bring back our girls."


He is silent on the fate of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani mother who has been in prison for five years awaiting an appeal against the verdict that has sentenced her to death with the accusation of having offended Islam.
. . . . 

They are silences that are all the more striking in that they are practiced by a pope who is known for his highly generous availability to write, to telephone, to bring aid, to open the doors to anyone who knocks, whether poor or rich, good or bad. 

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Will Speaker move bill on the pope?
Molly K. Hooper     Jul.29 2014

A popular piece of legislation that seeks to honor Pope Francis is stuck in Congress.

With time running out on the Capitol Hill calendar, the lawmakers who crafted the bipartisan measure are getting impatient with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).


The resolution, written by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.), congratulates Francis on his March 2013 election and recognizes "his inspirational statements and actions."

The seemingly innocuous resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which hasn't acted on it. The panel didn't comment for this article.

. . . .

"The Speaker's invited him to speak, it would give it more significance if there was an actual official resolution about it," King said. 


The Speaker's office did not directly comment on whether a vote will occur this year. 

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