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Resurrection Not Resuscitation
Another Voice                                           April, 2014 


Our Christian Faith is anchored in the experience we commemorate and celebrate each Easter. The apostle Paul summarized that experience in his letter to the people in Corinth: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day." (1 Corinthians 15)

. . . .

What exactly was the experience that became the first Easter experience?

Reading the Christian Scriptures in the light of contemporary biblical scholarship - and reflecting as well on my own personal faith experiences - it is clear to me that those early Christians' Easter experience was not in first instance a physical historically verifiable experience. It was however a true and genuine faith experience: an experience in another dimension of our human reality.


Paul, writing between the years 50 CE and 64 CE never described the resurrection of Jesus as a resuscitation of his physical body, after death on the cross. In the Pauline writings, we never see a Jesus who walks out of his grave. Resurrection is not resuscitation.


Paul is very clear and firm, however, in his belief that God raised Jesus out of death and into a new form of life in God. Jesus' resurrection transformed and raised Jesus into new life.


"Someone will ask," Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?' How foolish!....When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed....So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, and it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, and it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, and it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, and it is raised a spiritual body." Another dimension of life.

. . . . 

The authors of the Gospels, as they wrote some decades after the death of Jesus, used creative imagery and imagination to convey the experience of early Christian faith encounters with the resurrected Lord. Some experiences - especially faith experiences - are best, though still inadequately, interpreted and expressed through symbols and imaginative imagery.  

. . . .

In Mark, the first of the Gospels that we have today, the Risen Christ never appears. Jesus' deceased body is taken from the cross and placed in the tomb. Mark's account of Jesus' resurrection speaks of grief-stricken women confronting an empty tomb and meeting a messenger who tells them that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Later another ending was added to Mark's Gospel; but contemporary biblical scholarship stresses that Mark's Gospel probably ended without the Resurrected Christ ever being seen by anyone.


The authors of Matthew, writing between 80-85 CE, and Luke, writing between 88-92 CE, changed and greatly expanded Mark. They wanted their audiences to have no doubts about Jesus truly raised from the dead and divinely transformed. Their imagery is more physical yet spiritual.


Matthew changes Mark's story about the women at the tomb. Mark's messenger becomes an angel; and Matthew asserts that the women did see Jesus in the garden. They grasp him by his feet and worship him. Here Jesus' resurrection seems, at first, more like a physical resuscitation of the deceased Jesus. When Matthew narrates the account of Jesus' resurrection to the disciples, however, the resurrected Jesus is on a mountaintop in Galilee, where he comes out of the sky with heavenly power.


Luke echoes Mark's narration about the women at the tomb, and they do not see Jesus in the garden on Easter morning. Luke, however, transforms Mark's messenger into two angels. Luke greatly emphasizes as well the physicality of Jesus' resurrected body. He wants his readers to to see that this is really Jesus. 


Nevertheless the resurrected Jesus in Luke is not a resuscitated Jesus, because although he walks, talks, eats, and teaches, he also appears and disappears at will. He invites the disciples to touch his flesh, and stresses that he is not a ghost. The post-death Jesus is real. Luke then removes the resurrected Jesus from the earth, by imagining the story of Jesus' Ascension up to heaven: A cloud comes down and, like a heavenly elevator, whisks him up to heaven. Don't forget the ancient Jewish and Christian cosmology, with God on God's throne up in the heavens. 

. . . . 

In John, written between 95 CE and 100 CE when most eyewitnesses of the Jesus event were already dead, the physicality of the Resurrection is enhanced even more. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden and tells her not to cling to him. John then suggests that Jesus ascended up to heaven immediately; and from there he appears to the disciples. A transformed spiritual being, he enters a room with closed windows and locked doors, yet he is described as quite physical.  

. . . .

Over the years, we see therefore that accounts of Jesus' resurrection grew rather dramatically. Something Divine happened after Jesus' crucifixion that convinced his disciples that Jesus shared in the eternal life of God and was very much a living presence in their own lives. Human imagination, words, and images cannot adequately describe what happened. They are simply pointers. Pointers to the Divine in Jesus.


And so for us today? it is not enough to just study and ponder texts and events from the past. We live today. In today's world.


Nevertheless, God's working through Jesus in the past is God's working through Jesus today; and just like the early Christians, our lives too are anchored in Jesus' resurrection experience. Life is changed, not taken away. Through him, with him, and in him we meet the living God. Jesus in fact is the great sacrament of the human encounter with God. And "where two or three are gathered," Jesus is present as well.


This Easter, and throughout the year, our biggest challenge is big indeed. It is not always delightful nor easy to realize and accept that we see and meet the living God in the man or woman standing next to us: whether handsome or ugly, whether gay or straight, whether "friend" or " enemy," they all have dignity and worth; and all can be channels to the Divine.

And like Jesus, when this life is over, we too shall continue on a new journey with God.

Some things we have been reading  
Easter Reading: The Acts of the Apostles
Peter Edmonds SJ       Apr.20, 2014

One New Testament book is reserved for Easter Day and the following fifty days until Pentecost, and is never otherwise read publicly in Catholic Sunday or weekday liturgies. This book is The Acts of the Apostles.  

. . . .

Luke the Person

First it is important to recognise the Acts of the Apostles as a personal work. It is personal in the sense that the author introduces himself in the opening verse (1:1). He is the evangelist who wrote the Gospel of Luke.  . . . .  It is personal too in being addressed to an individual named Theophilus. This word can either mean 'Lover of God' or 'Loved by God'. It could refer to a real person, or it could be a general term describing Christians who lived in the great urban centres of the Mediterranean world which were wedded to Greek culture and governed by Roman authority. Both gospel and Acts are personal in a third sense: they are each concerned with persons and personal relationships.

 . . . .

Luke the Historian

When we call him a historian, we do not mean that Luke was a historian in the modern sense. He was able to tell a good story which brings to life individuals and events, but his knowledge was limited by the sources and traditions available to him. Nonetheless the information he gives is useful background to the letters which St Paul had written thirty years before. We understand Paul's letters to the Thessalonians, the Corinthians and the Ephesians all the better for knowing the account Luke gives in Acts. 

. . . .

Luke the Theologian

Luke's Acts of the Apostles is also a work of theology. The theology we find in it may not be of the depth which Paul provides in his Letters or John in his gospel, but it is a sound theology which offers an appropriate guide to Christians in that world, whether they were of gentile background with their multiple idols and many gods, or of Jewish ancestry who valued the revelation of their scriptures.  

. . . .

The Identity of God

Luke helps us establish the identity of the God whose presence is presumed throughout Acts. This God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (3:13). He is the Father who keeps his promises (1:4) and who on Pentecost Day sends the Holy Spirit from heaven to empower the bereaved followers of his Son (2:1).  . . . .


As for the Son, he was the Lord Jesus (1:21), the same Saviour, Christ and Lord of whom the angels spoke to the shepherds at his birth (Luke 2:11), but he was also the one whom Stephen, as he was being stoned to death, saw standing as Son of Man at the right hand of God (7:55). He was the one God raised up (2:24, 32), the Holy and Righteous one, the Author of Life (3:14-15).  . . . .


The main means by which God expressed himself in Acts was through the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day (2:1) was marked by a mighty wind and tongues of fire, language reminiscent of God giving the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19; 1 Kings 19:11-13). This Spirit was present with the Church; the decree of the Jerusalem council begins, 'it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden' (15:28). This Holy Spirit was not just an external force; Stephen, the first martyr, is typical of those said to be 'full of faith and the Holy Spirit' (6:5). So dominant is the Holy Spirit in the Acts that it is mentioned 56 times.  


The Grace of God

Besides teaching about the identity of God, Luke has much to say about the power of the grace of God and the initiatives God takes in forming witnesses for the mission. The experiences of Peter and Paul demonstrate this most dramatically. When Jesus was on trial, Peter denied three times that he ever knew him, but Jesus did not abandon him.  . . . .


The second part of the Acts is dominated by the story of Paul. He turned from a life in which he made Christians suffer to a life in which he himself was to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus. In response to the divine voice of Jesus speaking from heaven and the human voice of Ananias, he was baptised, spent time with Christian disciples and became a proclaimer of Jesus as 'the Son of God'. Luke gives us three accounts of this event, similar indeed in outline, but each with a particular emphasis. From the first, we learn the power of the grace of God in transforming a persecutor into a chosen instrument of Christ (9:1-19). In the second, we notice how the narrative has a particular Jewish flavour, typified by the description of Ananias as a 'devout man according to the law' (22:1-21) and the fact that Paul gets his mission while at prayer in the Jerusalem temple; whereas in the third it is the mission of Christianity to every nation, not just Israel, which comes across.  . . . .


The Sacraments

In Christian history, it is the sacraments that have been recognised as channels of the grace of God. The Acts of the Apostles assists us in understanding something about Baptism and Eucharist. The repeated mention of baptism in Acts reminds us of the antiquity of this sacrament.   . . . .


Likewise we find a number of references in Acts to the 'breaking of bread', almost certainly a reference to the Eucharist. The reader knows all about this from Luke's account of the Last Supper (Luke 22:19) and from his description of the meal Jesus took with the two disciples on the Emmaus road, when 'he had been known to them in the breaking of bread' (Luke 24:35). In Acts, Luke did not need to elaborate on the meaning of this 'breaking of bread'. He records that the Christians in Jerusalem continued the practice (2:42).  . . . .


Luke the Pastor

Luke was no academic theologian. He was a pastor, anxious to  encourage and equip his readers with the ideals personified in the words and deeds of Jesus.  . . . .  We find his vision of community life expressed in his descriptions of one community in particular which he portrays as a model for others, the community in Jerusalem. Three times he summarises the manner of their lives together (2:42-47; 4:32-35; 5:12-16), introducing these summaries with what we might call the 'four marks of the Church'. 

  • First, they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching. Obviously they respected those whom Jesus had chosen as the Twelve. Because Judas had apostasised, Luke is careful to note how they took trouble to replace him (1:26). In fact we hear little of those apostles apart from Peter and John, who play a prominent part in the first part of the story. The speeches that Peter makes are our main source for the apostolic teaching. In each speech, he repeats the core facts of the gospel, namely the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.  . . . .
  • Second, they devoted themselves to fellowship. This was taken to extremes in that they shared everything in common and made sure that there were no poor among them. A Greek word repeated ten times in the Acts of the Apostles is 'homothumadon' which can be translated as 'of one mind' (1:14, etc). Even if at times there were disputes, and the most obvious of these was the argument about the admission of Gentiles into the Church without demanding an observance of the Mosaic Law, such disputes were settled in an amicable and orderly manner. The procedures followed in this so-called 'Jerusalem Council', are a model for all such meetings (15:1-35). 
  • Thirdly, they were devoted to the 'breaking of bread'. We have already referred to this in our discussion of Luke as theologian. In considering this, it is useful to refer to the description that Paul offers in his first letter to the Corinthians which is the earliest account of all (1 Corinthians 11:17-32).
  • Fourthly, they devoted themselves to prayer. Acts begins with the disciples, the mother of Jesus and 'the brothers' of Jesus all devoting themselves to prayer (1:14). After Pentecost, Peter and John went to the temple at the hour of prayer (3:1). Luke's Gospel had stressed the constant habit of prayer that marked the life of Jesus (Luke 3:21). The disciples had asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), and we can be sure that they took the trouble to teach their converts to do the same.  . . . .

Read more 

60 Minutes: Pope Francis' first year filled with surprises
CBS News      Apr.13, 2014


In his first year as pontiff, Pope Francis has surprised many by spurning tradition to bring humility and humanity to the papacy.  

Video and Script

Pope promises action on clergy sex abuse
David Gibso     Apr.11, 2014

In his strongest remarks yet on the clergy sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis on Friday asked forgiveness "for the damage" that abusive priests have inflicted on children and pledged that the Catholic Church "will not take one step backward" in its efforts to address the crisis.

"I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests - quite a few in number, though not compared to the total number - and to ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done by sexually abusing children," Francis said.


"The church is aware of this damage," he said. "It is personal and moral damage, but carried out by men of the church. And we do not want to take one step backward in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I believe that we have to be very firm. Because you cannot take chances with children!"


The pope's remarks were an unscripted addition to a speech to the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French Catholic network that works to promote the rights of children. 

Read more

A Papal Request for Forgiveness Begs Clarification
Michael Baumann      Apr.14, 2014

. . . .

Your Holiness, I have some questions I must ask so that I can understand the meaning and intent in your words.


Holy Father, from who are you asking forgiveness?  An honest question, I promise you.  I am convinced of your sincerity when you say you "feel the compelled to personally take on all the evil".  If you do so, why do you qualify your statement by saying that the number of predator priests are "quite a few" in number but not when compared to the total number of priests?  YourHoliness, you start off by marginalizing the depth of the crisis.   Why should I trust what you go on to say next?


Are you asking survivors/victims for forgiveness?  Are you asking your Church? Are you asking us to forgive those who committed such heinous acts of depravity that destroyed our trust, our faith and injured our beings?  Or are you asking us to forgive those that hid and protected these monsters?  Are you asking us to forgive those, both religious and laity who have expended the treasure of the church to support evil and attack us, as if we were the cause of the crimes committed against us.  They  painted us as monsters or opportunists looking for an easy pay out.  Are you asking for forgiveness for the marginalization of our suffering, the suffering of our families, the lost potential of our shattered lives?   Are you asking for forgiveness for the irreparable damage  and damnation of those who chose not to right a wrong but to isolate and vilify the survivors?   Are you asking forgiveness for those who put the comfort of the church ahead of the safety of children? 

Read more

Pope struggles to keep fellow Latin Americans in Catholic fold: Poll
Alexandra Ulmer     Apr.16, 2014

Despite a high-profile first year as the head of the Vatican, Pope Francis has not been able to stem the tide of fellow Latin Americans turning away from Catholicism and toward Evangelicalism, or secularism in more prosperous countries.

The number of Roman Catholics in Latin America, a historical stronghold, dropped to 67 percent in 2013, from 80 percent in 1995, a survey by Chile-based pollster Latinobarometro showed on Wednesday.

"In the recent data we don't see an impact in the number of Catholics following the arrival of Pope Francis at the head of the Church," Latinobarometro said, but added it was still too early to fully gauge the impact of the Argentine Pope elected in March of last year.


Still, it appears the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires is shoring up confidence in his flock.

Around 78 percent of Catholic Latin Americans said they trusted the Church last year, up from 69 percent in 2011, although the jump in confidence for Evangelical Christians was even higher. 

Read more

U.N. to question Vatican again on clergy sex abuse
Rachel Zoll     Apr.14, 2014

 A  second U.N. committee plans to question Vatican officials on failures to stop clergy sex abuse.


The hearing scheduled for May 5-6 in Geneva will look at whether the Vatican's record on child protection violates the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The Holy See ratified the treaty in 2002. 

Read more

Vatican responds to next round of UN abuse inquiry
Associated Press       Apr.15, 2014

The Vatican has responded to the latest round of U.N. sex abuse inquiries by suggesting it is only responsible for implementing a U.N. treaty against torture within the confines of the tiny Vatican City State.


The Vatican issued a statement Tuesday ahead of a May 5-6 hearing that will likely delve into the Vatican's failures to stop clergy sex abuse around the globe. Another U.N. committee interrogated the Holy See about abuse in January.


In an indication that it will seek to limit its responsibility, the Vatican said it signed the torture treaty in 2002 "exclusively in the name of and on behalf of" the 44-hectare (110-acre) Vatican City State, where fewer than 1,000 people live. The Vatican said it will "undertake its obligations on behalf of that state." 


NY Times Opinion: Words and Deeds From the Pope
The Editorial Board      Apr.18 2014

. . . .

Pope Francis has created a special commission to advise him on the protection of minors and the reform of church procedures. One glaring area that must be addressed has been the Vatican's failure to punish members of the church hierarchy who took part in the widespread, systematic cover-up of the pedophilia scandal and shielded priests from being charged in the criminal courts.


For all the pope's heartfelt comments, his and the church's record on this shameful issue will depend considerably on whether Francis calls diocesan leaders to account for their crucial role in perpetuating the scandal. 

Read more

VOTF 2014 Assembly 
Thomas P. Doyle Workshop
Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.      Apr.5, 2014


The thirty-year chapter of Catholic Church history, dominated by an epidemic of sexual abuse of minors by clerics and ineptitude and malfeasance by bishops, has exposed flaws in several essential elements of the Church that are so destructive to the People of God that they are fatal to the present paradigm of the institutional Church. Try as they might the ordained office-holders have been unable to change or camouflage these flaws. The chasm that separated the clergy and hierarchy from the mass of lay people has shrunk to the point where the old methods of control no longer work. The playing field has been leveled to the point where ever growing numbers of Catholics are encountering and confronting bishops as adults and not as compliant and docile children. This has irrevocably altered the definition of the Church promulgated by Pius X in his 1906 encyclical Vehementer Nos:
It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different  degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors. 
In spite of the insistence of Pius' successors that this is the only authentic understanding of the socio-political structuring of the people of God, the realities of life in the Catholic Church over the past fifty years have shown that rather than comply in lock-step to such stratification, the voices and actions of a significant number of lay persons, religious and clerics have shown that agere sequitur esse, "action follows being," is not so much changing the meaning of the Church, but revealing what it really is.
Who wants to muzzle Bill Donahue?
Mark Silk    Apr.17, 2014

A couple of days ago Bill Donohue of the Catholic League emailed to ask if I'd heard Tom Doyle's speech at the Voice of the Faithful conference I wrote about last week. "Anxious to know your thoughts on what he said about me," wrote Bill.


Jeez, I thought, now I am sorry I skipped the afternoon workshop run by the Dominican priest who's been fighting clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic church for the past 30 years.  However, a quick online search turned up an outline of Doyle's remarks, in which "failing to muzzle Bill Donohue" is listed as evidence that the U.S. bishops "continue to treat victims with disdain at the very least." I told Bill I  didn't  know anything more than what I'd found on the internet, to which he responded: 

Does it bother you that one of the heroes on the Catholic left, and a priest at that, is recommending that the bishops silence a Catholic layman? I thought the Catholic left was aghast at bishops who "silence" dissident  theologians when they are asked to explain why they teach something other than Catholicism in courses on Catholicism.  I will deal with this publicly. This is not the first time someone has demanded that the bishops muzzle me, but when someone like Doyle makes it public at a conference, with no apparent push back, it breaks new ground. I would assume you would not agree with Doyle. Am I right?


I will deal with this publicly. I am, for the record, opposed to the U.S. bishops muzzling Bill Donohue. Yet inasmuch as he uses his bully pulpit to defend the likes of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City and Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark and Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul, the U.S. bishops might consider removing themselves from the choir. 
 . . . .

Under the circumstances, you'd think that responsible leaders of the Catholic church in the U.S. would be wary of associating themselves with Donohue. I mean, I'm not suggesting that they actually return the $250,000 that the Catholic League gave to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops two years ago. But it might at least be a good idea for Cardinal Dolan of New York, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, and especially Cardinal O'Malley of Boston to ask that their testimonials be removed from the Catholic League website.

O'Malley, after all, is top dog in Pope Francis' new commission on sexual abuse. It doesn't do for him to be allied with an organization effectively opposed to punishing bishops for covering abuse up.

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Vatican delegation delayed church reform, says Martin
Patsy McGarry      Apr.19, 2014

Diarmuid Martin A delegation sent by Rome following the publication of the Murphy and Ryan reports effectively held up reform of the church in Ireland and "set expectations it was never going to realise", Catholic Archbishop Dr Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said.


They were dispatched by the Vatican following the publication of the reports in 2009 to establish what went wrong in the Irish church.

The apostolic visitation, which comprised seven high-powered teams, "froze the Irish church at a particular moment" and "actually, in some ways, delayed reforms in the Irish church", Archbishop Martin said.


In a veiled criticism of the Vatican, he said his comments were not a criticism of those who carried out the visitation, but "maybe a criticism of those who planned it".   

Read more

Task force faults Twin Cities archdiocese for 'dreadful' abuses
Jean Hopfensperger      Apr.14, 2014

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis suffers from "serious shortcomings" in its handling of child sex-abuse complaints that have allowed priests to continue abusing victims, sometimes for years, a task force reported Monday.


The solution, according to the church-ordered study, is to foster a culture that "places victims first" and creates more accountability by involving ordinary church members in the oversight and discipline of wayward clergy.


"The Archdiocese concentrated too much power in one or two individuals to make decisions regarding allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors," according to the task force created last fall in the wake of numerous allegations that local priests had abused children and other parishioners. "These individuals were not subject to adequate oversight nor their decisions and actions subject to monitoring and audit."

Read more

Vatican Clears Puerto Rico Bishop in Abuse Case
Danica Coto       Apr.12, 2014

The Apostolic Delegation of Puerto Rico announced Friday that the Vatican found no basis for sexual abuse accusations made against a well-known bishop in the U.S. territory.


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which takes on such accusations, closed the case against Arecibo Bishop Daniel Fernandez, according to the delegation.

. . . .

Agnes Poventud, attorney for the man who had accused Fernandez of molesting him when he was a child, rejected the decision. She was quoted by El Nuevo Dia newspaper as saying that Vatican officials never interviewed her client.
. . . .

The decision comes as Fernandez fights a request from Puerto Rico's justice department to obtain confidential documents related to an ongoing sex abuse probe at his diocese in the north coastal town of Arecibo. The diocese had filed a lawsuit arguing that it should not have to turn over the information because it had already provided sufficient details and wanted to protect the identity of those who made the allegations. 

Read more

 OMG!  New journal in cyberspace

 Editor and Publisher: Robert Blair Kaiser


We are a group of ordinary-but-imaginative Catholics, launching a new quarterly called OMG!, an outpost in cyberspace where great encounters can happen.

We want to establish a forum that will draw the attention of thoughtful people everywhere and appeal, ultimately, to men and women of good will looking to make a better world. We hope to be a prophetic frontier station in that world, catholic with a small "c."  

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Archive of Previous Issues
Volume 1, Issue 1, April 2014
Canonization rules send an unsettling message about God
James Carroll       Apr.14, 2014

The Catholic world is gearing up for the dual canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII later this month. The recognition of these two giant figures as saints is a joyous occasion, to be sure. Yet lurking below its surface is an unsettling message - indeed, one that amounts to a kind of church-sponsored blasphemy.


The canonization process depends on the crediting of miracles to those being named as saints. In Catholic thinking, saints are thought to be intimately in God's presence in heaven; to establish that a candidate for sainthood fits that criterion, a first kind of "proof" is required. Someone, usually with a grave medical problem, expressly asks for an intervention in the name of the candidate. If the medical problem is resolved without any "natural" explanation, a Vatican board of investigators, having sifted through the "evidence," asserts that the cure is a "miracle." The presumptive saint is understood to have succeeded in getting God to bend the normal laws of nature for the sake of the one prayed for.


That those events are taken to represent divine interventions says something quite horrible about how God operates - specifically, that even as God intervenes on behalf of those who pray to specific deceased mortals, all other people are left to their fate.
. . . . 

What is going on here? This notion of a cure through God's miraculous intervention implies a system whereby God actively declines to intervene in the countless other cases, which involve people whose only offense lies in not having caught the attention of a saint. This effectively makes God the inflictor of suffering that could be released, but is not. 

. . . .

Francis, building on his John XXIII waiver, could readily make reasonable adjustments that would do several things: restore to saints an emphasis on exemplary lives well lived on earth over imagined lobbying functions in heaven; rescue the idea of the miraculous from a misconceived materialism that seeks to measure it with evidence; and, above all, remove forever the implication that God is indifferent to, or even complicit in, the suffering of any person. 

Read more

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Saint by numbers...
Questions from a Ewe       Apr.19, 2014

. . . .

My advice if you want to be an officially recognized saint:  


1.  Be male.  Based on my sample set, 84% of canonized and beatified people were male.  You might scratch your head in confusion since 80% of the church's work is done by women, and women are over 50% of the world's population.  . . . .  That statistic simply reflects church hierarchical members' value system and helps us quantify it.  They see men as being over five times more virtuous and holy than women...end of story.
2. Be a priest, monk, or religious brother.  About 60% of all official saints were ordained or religious males.  If we look at only the male saints...that tiny 84% majority of all saints...the number jumps to around 70% who were ordained or religious.  So if you're going to be male, be a priest too, to up your odds. 
3.  Be a bishop. 37% of saints and 44% of male saints were bishops or abbots.  I know the cynics are probably starting to suspect that the beatification and canonization process is simply a ruse for apostles to pat themselves and their own kind on the back...sort of as a self-glorification thing.  Again, let's not get all hung up on facts.  
4.  Be pope.  Despite many papacies being riddled with scandals including the criminal behaviors of soon-to-be-canonized John Paul II in aiding and abetting child rapists, about 1/3 of all popes throughout the entirety of history have become saints.   . . . . 
Using the number of saints across all history and current number of Catholics, we see that less than one one-thousandth of a percent of Catholics are canonized or beatified and less than 1/3 of one one-thousandth of a percent of laypeople are canonized or beatified.  This is compared to over 1/3 of popes being canonized or beatified.  The decimal place simply shifts five positions to the right for popes...a small factor of 100,000.  If you thought the statistic for bishop-saints reflected a mutual-admiration society, then you now realize it is simply a gentle air-kiss compared to the emphatic bear-hug of self-admiration amongst the popes.   
5. Be Italian or French.  About 22% and 17% of saints were from the geographic regions now called Italy and France respectively.  Again, please don't be confused by the fact that Italian and French Catholics each represent only about 5% of the Catholic population.  If God evenly distributed saints, Brazil with 16% of the Catholic population would have 16% of the saints instead of the 4 tenths of one percent of saints that it actually has.  
6. Be a Benedictine.  Saints from Benedictine religious orders are outpacing the next most prevalent order at a six to one ratio.
7.  If you insist on being female...which really craters your chances of sainthood...then for heaven's sake, do not have sex, or if you do, be of royal birth. 70% of female saints were nuns or virgins and only a paltry 5% of saints were females who were neither nuns, virgins, or royalty.  This compares to 25% of saints that were males who were neither ordained, religious or royalty.  Again, we have laymen outpacing laywomen at a 5 to 1 ratio in the virtuous category. 
But you see, many of those virtuous, holy non-ordained men were soldiers who killed in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Perhaps this is why we have St. Adrian as the patron saint of arms dealers...who knew we needed a patron saint of arms dealers....  But, I digress.  If you're going to insist on being a sexually active female, your best chances for canonization might be to carry a weapon.  It worked for Joan of Arc but then she was burned at the stake as a heretic...and I think maybe she was a virgin too.  Oh, never mind...  Let's face it; sexually active women, are pretty much screwed when it comes to vying for sainthood.
. . . .   The stats show us the popes believe:
  • Men are 5 times more virtuous and holy than any woman
  • Men are about 17 times more virtuous than sexually active women
  • Popes are over 270,000 times more virtuous and holy than any woman
  • Popes are over 860,000 times more virtuous and holy than sexually active women
8.  If you can time your death, try to die on May 1st.  There seem to be over 1.5 times more saints who died on May 1st than who died on the next most common date for saints' deaths.
So, I think the optimal saint profile is this: Italian male Benedictine pope (or bishop) who dies on May 1st.  It also helps to either have a lot of wealth or hang-out with wealthy people who can fund your canonization process.   . . . .
Do you think the list of canonized saints accurately reflects the most holy and virtuous people in history?  Do you care?  Does the heavy skew towards canonizing hierarchy members expose a deep brokenness in them that they feel the need to memorialize their herd in this way?  Do we help fuel the canonization industry?  Should we? 

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Two Orthodox bishops accuse the Pope of heresy
Andrea Tornielli      Apr.15, 2014

One of the signatories is new to these kinds of actions but this time the mile-long letter (89 whole pages of it) sent to Pope Francis by two Metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Church - Andrew of Dryinoupolis, Pogoniani and Konitsa and Seraphim of Piraeus and Faliro - has been published  in Greek and English on a popular Greek religious website. 


The two Greek Metropolitans address the Pope as "His Excellency, Francis, Head of State of the Vatican City", making no mention of his Bishop status. In the opening line of their missive they state that their letter is addressed to him with "sincere love" and motivated by the need to remind "heretics" of their "holy obligation to return to the Orthodox Church" which the "Pope" (whose title appears in quotation marks throughout the text) decided to detach himself from. The authors of the letter separate themselves (though they really need not have, it is obvious) from "western and especially ecumenist "Christianity"", branding Rome's "heresy" and "spiritual and ecclesiastical delusion" as "Papism". The two Greek bishops say they "unceasingly pray that our Lord Jesus Christ gather together the deluded "Pope" and his followers, through repentance and the renunciation of your delusion and heresy, into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church."


The pages about ecumenism which they describe as "syncretistic" are especially harsh: The letter's authors do not recognize the Catholic Church as a Church, neither do they see its sacramental celebrations as valid or recognize the Pope's status as Bishop. They define the "Petrine" primacy of power over all the Church" as "blasphemous" as well as "Scripturally and Patristically groundless and non-existent". The doctrine of "Papal Infallibility", meanwhile, is described as "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" which shows "the satanic pride of which" the Pope is "possessed". "Papism" is not a "Church" but a religious community, a parasynagogue, a heresy ... a total perversion of the Truth," the two Orthodox Metropolitans write in their long letter.


The letter also gives a detailed description of what the two Metropolitans see as the most grave sins of the Catholic Church, including "accept[ing] the Devil's proposal to make you almighty earthly rulers in return for your allegiance to him." They then bring up the age-long issue of the "Filioque" in the Niceno - Constantinopolitan Creed, infallibility, jurisdiction, Baptism by sprinkling and the separation of it from the mystery of Chrismation, the method of Eucharistic consecration, the depriving of the Blood of Christ to the laity and of Holy Communion to children, the dogma of the "immaculate conception" and the "bodily assumption" of the Mother of God, purgatory, indulgences, the mandatory celibacy of the clergy and the recognition so-called Uniate communities.


More accusation-packed pages follow, with references from websites and newspapers, to try to prove that the Vatican is a breeding ground for sin and obscenities. The letter mentions some "romantic" and pornographic films were allegedly downloaded onto Vatican PCs and it recalls how Vladimir Luxuria was given Communion during the funeral held for Don Gallo.

. . . . 

Many pages are also dedicated to the destruction of the Second Vatican Council and the openness towards interreligious dialogue. A violent attack was launched against Judaism and the line taken by Benedict XVI, who is accused of "exonerate[ing] the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Christ", while Judaism now and throughout time with the satanic Kabbalah and the demonic Talmud crucify daily the Savior of the world!"


Neither is Francis forgiven for washing the feet of the young offenders at the Casal del Marmo prison in Rome last Holy Thursday or for the upcoming canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II. 

. . . .

In March 2012, Metropolitan Seraphim made a series of condemning statements, including one direct one against Benedict XVI. The following month, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, sent a stern letter to Archbishop Ieronimos of Greece, denouncing the actions of some hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church as unacceptable as they opposed a decision taken by all Orthodox Churches to engage in dialogue with other Churches. The Orthodox world is well aware of the unacceptable attitudes of these two bishops and they are not shared. In fact their attitude is seen as rather Taliban-like. It is quite surprising therefore, that their comments are tolerated by the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church. 

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Documentary captures sisters' responses to doctrinal assessment of LCWR
Jamie Manson     Apr.16, 2014

"The Holy Spirit is making mischief," Sr. Simone Campbell says near the end of the forthcoming documentary "Radical Grace."


Campbell's quote is an apt summary of the film, which captures one of most extraordinary years in the Catholic church's recent history: beginning in April 2012 with the outraged response to the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, reaching a crescendo with the stunning resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and drawing to a surprising conclusion with the election of Pope Francis in March 2013.

 Radical Grace | Trailer for Documentary About Three Irrepressible Nuns

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Crimea: After the Annexation
CNS       Apr.9, 2014

A Ukrainian Catholic bishop warned his church could lose its legal status in Crimea under Russian rule and pledged to use "all possible means in the international arena" to defend it.

"Greek Catholic communities like ours are denied rights in the Russian Federation, which we see as a violation of freedom of conscience and religion," said Bishop Bohdan Dzyurakh, secretary-general of the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops.


"We hoped these restrictions wouldn't be applied to our church in Crimea, but we've been told all religious communities must now re-register there. This means the local government usurps the power to reject those it sees as a threat. After the recent ethnic cleansing, this will amount to religious cleansing." 

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Ukraine priests preach politics from pulpit at Easter Sunday services
AFP      Apr.20, 2014

Politics overshadowed Easter observances in Kiev and Moscow, with the Orthodox religious leaders in each capital trading barbs over the crisis in Ukraine - while the US reportedly prepared to send ground forces to neighbouring Poland.


Patriarch Filaret thundered to the faithful in pro-West Kiev that Russia was an "enemy" whose "attack" on Ukraine was doomed to failure because it was evil and contrary to God's will.


Worshippers who gathered for a service which stretched into Sunday morning at St Michael's Cathedral in Kiev, close to the Maidan, the Ukrainian capital's protest tent-city, said they had hopes of a peaceful resolution.


"It is true there is a certain divide between East and West, but it seems to me that the Passover unites the country," said teenager Tysiatchna Sofia "Faith has always brought people together." However, in Moscow, the patriarch of the Russian Church, Kirill, delivered a prayer for Ukraine in which he called on God in turn to put "an end to the designs of those who want to destroy Holy Russia".

. . . .

Away from religious ceremonies, Ukraine's prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in comments to be broadcast on American television on Sunday, called those who reportedly handed out pamphlets demanding Jewish people register or be expelled in the east of Ukraine as "these bastards" who should be brought to justice.  

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Mercy sister to lead Resource Center for Religious Institutes
CNS    Apr.15, 2014

Mercy Sister Sharon Euart, a former associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been named executive director of the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, based in Silver Spring. The national organization provides financial and legal resources, both civil and canonical, for Catholic religious institutes and societies. Sister Euart, who is a canon lawyer, began her new job April 1. She had served as executive coordinator of the Canon Law Society of America since 2008. She succeeds Benedictine Father Daniel Ward, the first executive director of the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, which was founded by the merger of the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes and the Legal Resource Center for Religious.  

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Priests on front line in Italy's battle against Mafias
Judith Harris       Apr.15, 2014

Pope Francis' dramatic appearance at a March prayer vigil with the families of Mafia victims, where he said he would plead on bended knee with Mafia bosses to "stop doing evil," has highlighted the Catholic church's role in combatting Italian organized crime.


"Pope Francis awakens consciences. Many who were a long way from the church are now asking to be baptized," said Fr. Luigi Ciotti, founder of the Italian anti-Mafia association Libera, which organized the March 21 vigil in Rome. "The pope brings a moral renewal that touches everyone. Every day I see the results."


Although the Catholic church has been "tepid and prudent" in the past, the pope's praying with the families of Mafia victims has become a model for change, Ciotti told the Turin daily La Stampa. "His church is no longer closed and inward looking -- it's everyone's home. Its doors are always open."

. . . . 

Other anti-mob priests have received serious threats, particularly in in the southern Campania region, where the local Mafia, known as the Camorra, controls the drug traffic and the massive illegal dumping of toxic waste.


At Marano, near Naples, shots were fired Feb. 28 into the automobile of Fr. Luigi Merola, whose foundation "A voce d'e creature" (The Voice of the Children) works with children in Naples' Arenaccia slum, encouraging them to stay in school as a way to keep them from crime.


"I've lived with these threats for years," Merola told the Catholic daily Avvenire. "I've gotten used to them." 

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Betty Clermont      Apr.5, 2014

Opus Dei, an official institution of the Catholic Church, at the top is a secret society of international bankers, financiers, businessmen and their supporters. Their goal is the same as other plutocrats - unbridled power - except they use the influence of the Catholic Church and its worldwide network of institutions exempt from both taxes and financial reporting to advance rightwing parties and governments. 


A year after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's elevation as head of the Church and his many appointments, the dust has settled. Three cardinals have emerged as the most powerful in this papacy; all have close ties to Opus Dei. Two now control all Vatican finance. 

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Former bishop faces possible abuse class action
Warrnambool  Standard       Apr.10, 2014

Suggestions that former Ballarat Catholic bishop Ronald Mulkearns could be sued over the ongoing sexual abuse saga gained strength yesterday from a specialist lawyer.


Dr Vivian Waller said former Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale's conviction this week on more sex child offences was the trigger for victims to take the issue further.


She is preparing a landmark case against the Catholic Church in what will be the first test of Cardinal George Pell's recent commitment to make the church less hostile to litigation from sex abuse victims.


At least 20 victims, including some from the south-west, have instructed her to launch a class action against the Diocese of Ballarat and argue that the church's negligence or cover-ups allowed Ridsdale to remain as a priest after it was known he was a sexual predator. 

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Deceased Dutch Catholic bishop was child molester: commission
Tom Heneghan       Apr.12, 2014

The Dutch Catholic Church, in a rare admission of guilt among senior clergy, has confirmed that a bishop who died last year had sexually abused two boys decades earlier.


The diocese of Roermond said a Church commission had found that accusations against former bishop Johannes Gijsen, dating back to his time as chaplain at a minor seminary from 1958 to 1961, were "well founded".


The admission came on Friday, the same day that Pope Francis made his first public plea for forgiveness for "all the evil" committed by priests who molested children, and said the Church had to do more to discipline wayward clerics.


Mea Culpa, a Dutch group supporting abuse victims, welcomed the Roermond statement. But it said the accusations had been made while Gijsen was alive, and noted critically that "complaints against living suspects are often declared unfounded". 

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Cardinal's vast luxury apartment in Vatican angers Pope
Josephine McKenna      Apr.20, 2014

The Vatican's former secretary of state has reportedly angered Pope Francis with his plans to move into a luxury 6,500 square foot apartment as the pope urges clergy to adopt a more modest lifestyle.

. . . .

After his election Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Pietro Parolin to replace him as secretary of state.


According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, Cardinal Bertone's lavish restructure of an apartment in the San Carlo Palace inside the walls of the Vatican is causing unease.

The flat is located next door to St Martha's Residence - the simple Vatican hotel where Francis has made his home after spurning the ostentatious Apostolic Palace where popes usually live on the other side of St.Peter's Square.


La Repubblica said the cardinal's new apartment includes a large rooftop terrace and would be about 10 times bigger than Pope Francis' home once extensive renovations have been completed this summer.

. . . .

Before his removal last October, the cardinal lashed out saying he was the victim of "moles and vipers" in the Vatican. 

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Legion of Christ names new North American head
CNA      Apr.14 2014

Maryland-born priest Father John Connor, L.C., has been named the head of the Legion of Christ's territory of North America.
. . . .
Fr. Eduardo Robles Gill, the Legion of Christ's general director, announced the appointment April 12. Fr. Connor will replace the territory's outgoing director Fr. Luis Garza as of May 1. 

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In the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court, law is not ethics
Thomas Reese      Apr.11, 2014

. . . .

The Hobby Lobby case is full of ethical issues.

. . . .

An ethical approach to the Hobby Lobby case would require asking if it is wrong to prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted. And if so, it would also require asking whether the specific techniques actually do that. These two questions were never directly addressed in the oral arguments.


Rather, the argument was over the law. The solicitor general argued that federal and state laws, "which do preclude funding for abortions, don't consider these particular forms of contraception to be abortion." Abortions, according to the law, only occur after implantation. He also argued that most Americans, including the 2 million women who use intrauterine devices, don't consider it abortion.


Clements argued that this is irrelevant. All that matters is that Hobby Lobby considers the activity contrary to its religious beliefs. For the federal government to force someone to do something contrary to his or her religious belief would violate the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

. . . .

It is clear that Hobby Lobby is not "formally" cooperating -- it disagrees with the use of these items. Its material cooperation is by paying for insurance that its employees may or may not use to purchase these items. In addition, it is acting under compulsion because the government will fine it if it does not provide the insurance. Many ethicists would say that under these circumstances, the company is free from any guilt. They would point to Catholic institutions in Italy that pay employee taxes for a government health insurance program that includes abortion.


This does not mean they should not fight the law; it simply means that if they lose, they will not be morally guilty if they comply with the law.


But such ethical analysis is not the way the courts look at things. For the court, the question is, "Does this requirement impose a substantial burden on the believer?"

 . . . .

It should be remembered that the court struck down the RFRA as unconstitutional with regards to states, so it only applies to the federal government. Since many states have contraceptive mandates, even if it wins, Hobby Lobby might still have to provide the objectionable contraceptives to its employees in some states.


Those opposing the Hobby Lobby position also raised questions about the implications of a decision in its favor. Could any corporation object to any law or regulation on religious grounds? Vaccinations? Transfusions? Products made of pork?

. . . .

Court observers felt the justices appeared to be leaning toward supporting Hobby Lobby. Whatever the outcome, it will be based on legal arguments, not ethical analysis. And despite Aristotle, there will be a lot of passion displayed when the decision is announced.   

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Long a Survivor in Syria, a Dutch Priest Is Slain
Anne Barnard     Apr.7, 2014

The Rev. Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who became a symbol of suffering and compassion in the war-ravaged Old City district of Homs, Syria, was shot to death Monday morning by a lone gunman, according to members of his order. The killing came amid growing disputes between Syrian insurgents blockaded in the Old City - those who want to accept an amnesty from the government in exchange for laying down their arms, and those who do not.


After Syrian government forces isolated and laid siege to the rebel-held Old City for more than a year, a truce in January allowed the evacuation of 1,500 people, both civilians and fighters. But Father Frans, as he was known, insisted on remaining in the monastery where he had lived for decades, offering refuge to Muslim and Christian families alike and sharing their deprivation and trauma.

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Besieged Muslims face murder, starvation in C.African Republic town
Emmanuel Braun      Apr.18, 2014

In normal times, the rickety wooden bridges at each end of the red-dirt main street in Boda were gateways to shops and a bustling market in the diamond-mining town in Central African Republic.


Today, they mark the fine line between life and death for hundreds of Muslims living under siege, encircled by Christian 'anti-balaka' militia fighters bent on chasing out the country's Islamic population.


"We live in a prison," said Adou Kone, a tailor. "Everything is blocked, nothing comes in. It's very expensive to buy food ... Our life is at a critical stage."


Boda illustrates the chaos that has gripped Central African Republic since late 2012 when a battle for political power degenerated into clashes between Muslims and Christians that have forced about 1 million people from their homes.

. . . .

The crisis abruptly ended a proud history of Muslims living in harmony alongside the majority Christian population and has prompted warnings of genocide in the former French colony.


"We can wait for 10 years for them to leave - and if they don't leave, we will still be there, holding our positions," said Captain Dopani Firmin, the 'anti-balaka' chief in Boda, wearing a red Paris St Germain football shirt.


"We cannot accept to live together with Muslims, long-term," Firmin said. "It's our right to kill Muslims." 


In a sign of the mounting sectarian violence, fighters from the Muslim Seleka rebels shot dead the priest of the northern town of Paoua, a church official in Bangui said on Friday. The attack came two days after Seleka gunmen briefly kidnapped the bishop of the nearby town of Bossangoa.


Virtually all Muslims have fled Bangui since Seleka, who seized power in March 2013, were forced to step aside in January. The United Nations has since reported a "cleansing" of Muslims from the country's west.

. . . .

While they have failed to restore order, the African peacekeeping mission, MISCA, and the French force, Sangaris, are escorting Muslims to safety, mostly in neighbouring Chad.


"If the Muslims want to leave, MISCA and Sangaris can escort them. There's no problem ... we won't kill them," said Simbona Guy Copain, a spokesman for the Christian community in Boda. "All that we want is their departure."  

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Hiding in plain sight in France: the priests accused in Rwandan genocide
Chris McGreal    Apr.7, 2014

It's hard to find anyone in Gisors with a bad word to say about Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka.


Other priests at the small French town's imposing medieval Catholic church, an hour's drive north-west of Paris into the rich Normandy countryside, speak with admiration of his popularity with congregants. It's his ability to engage with people, they say. Worshippers love his sermons, feel his sincerity. He brings something from Africa.

. . . .

In 2005, the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), then in the process of convicting many of the political and military leaders who oversaw the genocide, issued charges against Father Wenceslas. The indictment was a catalogue of horror. The priest, it said, conspired with leaders of the extremist Hutu militia spearheading the killing of Tutsis. It alleges that he helped draw up lists of men to die, stood by as Tutsis were taken away and killed, allowed the militia to roam his church hunting for victims, and that he raped young women.


The same year as the ICTR indictment, a military court in Rwanda convicted the priest in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison for genocide.


The protestors - some of them genocide survivors, others French people married to Rwandans - called on the Roman Catholic church to distance itself from Father Wenceslas by stripping him of his position.

. . . . 

Two hundred or more priests and nuns, Tutsi and Hutu, were murdered during the genocide. Some died courageously attempting to save lives or refusing to abandon their parishioners. But there were other priests who murdered.


Some collaborated with the militias to massacre their own congregations; others pulled the trigger themselves. Priests ordered the bulldozers in to crush a church full of people to death, and organised the slaughter of disabled Tutsi children.


The Vatican has sought to identify the church with the heroic priests. But ask Rwandans today which side the Catholic church as an institution was on during the genocide and many say it was allied with the killers.

. . . . 

Across Rwanda today, church names are often recalled not as places of worship but as extermination centres. In many towns, more Tutsis were killed among the pews and altars than in any other place. Survivors say it is not a coincidence.


But what frustrates them most is the continued culture of denial in the Catholic church (which claims three out of five Rwandans as followers), that echoes the Vatican's failure for many years to face up to the scandal of paedophile priests and the complicity of some in the church in protecting Nazi war criminals. 

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Evangelism booms, Catholicism suffers in post-genocide Rwanda 
Stephanie Aglietti      Apr.9, 2014

Jean-Claude Zamwita's family abandoned the solemn organ music and stained glass windows of the Catholic church in 2006, eight years after the genocide in Rwanda, and started visiting an evangelical church with tambourines and drumming.


Such churches have been springing up across Rwanda, partly because the traditional churches, notably the Catholic Church, were largely discredited by the role played by some of their clerics during the killings.

Since the end of the genocide, which left some 800,000 people -- essentially Tutsis -- dead, Rwandans have increasingly turned to pentecostal churches or in some cases to Islam.
. . . .  

The new churches have found post-genocide Rwanda to be fertile ground as the Catholic Church, while still powerful, no longer has the close relationship to the government that it enjoyed prior to 1994.


Rwanda is still dotted with the ruins of Catholic churches where the faithful seeking shelter were massacred, sometimes with members of the clergy acting in complicity with the killers. 

The debate over the role of the Catholic Church was revived on Monday when Rwanda's representative to UNESCO lashed out at the Vatican.


The Catholic Church, a moral authority and an important institution remained silent," Jacques Kabale, Rwanda's ambassador to France and to the UN agency, said on Monday, the 20th anniversary of the genocide.

. . . . 

The Rwandan government for its part considers that if the evangelical churches do not for the moment represent a threat to public order, they are nevertheless difficult to keep tabs on.

"They are sprouting up like mushrooms," said Felicien Usengumukiza, deputy director general of the Rwanda Governance Board, noting that many of those in charge of evangelical churches seem more interested in making money.

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The Pope in the Attic: Benedict in the Time of Francis
Paul Elie       Apr.16, 2014 

. . . .

It's odd enough that there are two living popes. It's odder still that they live in such proximity. But what's most odd is that the two popes are these two popes, and that the one who spent a third of a century erecting a Catholic edifice of firm doctrine and strict prohibition now must look on at close range as the other cheerfully dismantles it in the service of a more open, flexible Church.


Outwardly, the arrangement works. Francis is acting freely, uninhibited by the fact that Benedict is looking over his shoulder. Benedict is doing what he said he would do: living a quiet life of prayer after 23 years as John Paul's consigliere capped by eight difficult and divisive years as pope. For the record, he has no regrets. But he is now in a cell of his own making, committed not to travel and pledged not to speak out against his successor. In February of this year, when Francis invited him to take part in a consistory, a Mass in which new cardinals are appointed, the two popes decided together that (as Francis put it about Benedict) "it would be better if he saw people, got out and participated in the life of the Church." He did take part in the consistory. And yet getting out is no substitute for speaking out, not for the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who corrected even John Paul.

. . . . 

Some people at the Vatican pity Benedict, the scholar whose lot it was to fall between the rock stars John Paul and Francis. But he has never sought worldly renown. He envisions a different legacy. "He'd like to be a Doctor of the Church," a chronicler of Benedict's papacy told me, "with Augustine and Aquinas, Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross." With that in mind, he spends part of the day buffing his collected writings, which will run to 16 volumes. That he has written so much works against his hope to be read in the future. 

 . . . .

The autoclaustrato is not a simple man of prayer any more than he is a simple retiree. Certain Catholics who object to the direction in which Francis is taking the Church now look to Benedict, the pope on the hill, as their standard-bearer. They are the seminarians with crew cuts striding in groups around Rome, cassocks swishing at their ankles. They are the devotees of the Latin Mass and the advocates of reunion with the fascist-friendly schismatics of the Society of St. Pius X. They are the followers of Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia-a conservative who, as a rule, speaks warmly about Francis, but who said that "the right wing ... generally have not been really happy" with Francis and that "we should look at him after a year," which his followers have interpreted as signs that there is daylight between Francis and a silent majority in the hierarchy. They are the free-market evangelists who champion the pope as an agent of "evangelical Catholic reform" but dismiss his comments about income inequality as a Latin American cliché. 


For the past 35 years, progressive Catholics have felt thwarted. Now it's the traditionalists' turn. "Benedict was like a father to them," the well-placed Jesuit at the Vatican told me. "No, he was a father to them. Now they are fatherless." Benedict's courageous act of renunciation, they feel, wasn't supposed to turn out this way-not when the fight for the Church had finally been won. They are vexed by the thought that the change is irreversible, that the doors John Paul and Benedict strove to push closed-on sexuality, the ordination of women, the authority of the pope-will now stay open.


A woman in Rome told me about a dinner party shortly after Francis's election, where she was seated next to Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American archconservative who is the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court. Her husband was gravely ill, and she told Burke so, expecting consolation. She got something else. "These are difficult times for all of us in the Church right now," he said. 

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Pope in attic

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That "Singing Nun" is back!
David Gibson      Apr.17 2014

So how bad could things be for Roman Catholicism? Yes, Sister Cristina made it to another round in the Italian version of "The Voice" with a rendition of - yes, wait for it - Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

The Voice IT | Serie 2 | Battle 1 | Suor Cristina Scuccia Vs Luna Palumbo URL

Timothy Cardinal Dolan is outraged that Albany did not approve promised tax credits
Glenn Bain           Apr.10, 2014

A fuming Timothy Cardinal Dolan has had it with state lawmakers.


In a letter sent to more than 70,000 families in the Archdiocese of New York this week, Dolan vented his anger at Albany for not approving tax credits that he and other Catholic bishops argued would have boosted funds for parochial school scholarships.


"Well, with some chagrin, I have to admit that a 'done deal' in Albany apparently does not mean what you and I think it means - that something will actually get done," Dolan wrote in the letter sent home with Catholic school children Tuesday.


"I am frustrated, disappointed and angry," Dolan continued. "As of today, I still have not heard why the promised credit did not go through." 

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Luther's goal not schism but reform of 'church he loved,' says bishop
Peter Finney Jr.      Apr.7, 2014

It was the seminal event of Western Christianity over the past 500 years.

Martin Luther, a German Catholic monk, sent his "95 Theses," or "Disputation on the Efficacy and Power of Indulgences," to the local archbishop Oct. 31, 1517. And he set into motion the Protestant Reformation that four years later prompted his excommunication by the Catholic Church and laid the groundwork for denominational splintering that over the centuries has led to the formation of thousands of Christian churches.

Over the past 50 years, especially with the impetus provided by the Second Vatican Council, those divisions between Catholics and Lutherans have begun to heal and the pace of concrete efforts toward restoring unity has quickened, retired Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans told a recent ecumenical gathering at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Kenner.

"The international and national dialogues between Lutherans and Catholics in the last 50 years have yielded significant truth," Archbishop Hughes said, prompting Catholics "to revisit the person and motivation of Martin Luther" in advance of the 500th anniversary in 2017 of the publication of Luther's theses.

. . . .

In the past 50 years, Archbishop Hughes said, progress has been made "in our mutual understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Lutherans refer to this as the Lord's Supper. We have come to acknowledge that both Lutherans and Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in this sacrament, even though each explains that presence in a significantly different way."

There still are obvious doctrinal disagreements: the ordination of women, married priests and the sacramentality of holy orders. The Lutheran Church approved a resolution in 2009 to allow gays in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships" to serve as pastors. It also permits pastors to preside over same-sex marriages in states where they are allowed by civil law. 

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Pope says married men could be ordained priests if world's bishops agree on it
Christa Pongratz-Lippitt      Apr.10, 2014

A bishop who met with Pope Francis in a rare private audience on 4 April has said in an interview that the two men discussed the issue of the ordination of "proven" married men - viri probati - in a serious and positive way.


Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest, spoke to the Pope about Francis' forthcoming encyclical on the environment, and the treatment of indigenous peoples but the desperate shortage of priests in the bishop's huge diocese came up in the conversation.


According to an interview the Austrian-born bishop gave to the daily Salzburger Nachrichten on 5 April, the Pope was open-minded about finding solutions to the problem, saying that bishops' conferences could have a decisive role. 

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New Translation of the Roman Missal
Roman Missal Changes To Mass Rejected By Majority Of Catholic Priests, Survey Shows
Jaweed Kaleem       Apr.8, 2014

It's been more than two years since Catholics across the U.S. switched to a new Roman Missal, the prayers and instructions that make up the ritual "call and response" during Mass, but a new survey finds that a majority of priests still said they "don't like it."


The survey results, released Tuesday by the Catholic research organization Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA, show 52 percent of priests said they disliked the updated Roman Missal. Many said the new missal is too formal, awkward and distracting from worship. 

Will the latest Catholic Mass translation get another overhaul?
David Gibson  Apr.9, 2014

A new translation of the Mass has been used in the nation's Catholic parishes for less than three years, but there are signs that the language - often criticized as stilted and awkward - could be in for another edit.


"We've tried it, we've lived with it, we think it needs correction," Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory told a conference on liturgical reform last month in one of the most public and high-level expressions of discontent with the missal, as the Mass text is called.


Gregory was seconded by Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, in an echo of comments last year by Bishop Robert Brom, now retired as head of the San Diego diocese,who said "the new missal needs corrective surgery and this should take place without delay."

. . . .

Moreover, bishops in other countries have in the past year taken advantage of the change of popes to call for a halt to implementing the new translations in their respective languages.


But church officials and experts in liturgy in Rome and the U.S. also cite numerous factors working against another effort at changing the language of the Mass.


One is that Francis has so many other problems and reforms he needs to address that tackling the liturgy - which is always one of the most divisive issues for church officials and Mass-goers - is relatively low on the list. In addition, he has not yet revamped the Vatican congregation that oversees liturgical matters, and the holdovers from Benedict's pontificate are unlikely to welcome any changes.

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