Category: 2014
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Cardinal 'shocked' by survey responses 
on family life
Dennis Sadowski                                May  22, 2014

Initial reviews of responses from around the world on questionnaires about church teaching on the family in advance of this fall's extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family show that the teaching is misunderstood, said a cardinal who will run one the synod's sessions.


Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, told Catholic News Service he found the responses "shocking, if I am allowed to use that word."


"Shocking because almost in all parts of the world, the questionnaires indicated that the teaching of the church regarding family life is not clearly understood by people, and the language by which the church proposes the teaching seems to be a language not accessible to people," Cardinal Tagle said in an interview May 16 at The Catholic University of America.


"So this is my hope, not for change -- how can you change the biblical teachings? But maybe a real pastoral and evangelical concern for the church: How do we present the good news of the family to this generation, with its limitations, with its greatness, with its unique experiences? 

ARCC'S response to Cardinal Tagle

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
Archdiocese of Manila
121 Arzobispo St., Intramuros,
P.O. Box 132,
1099 Manila, Philippines
Dear Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle,
We first want to thank you for your dedication and work that you give for your people in the Philippines.  The world is aware of the trials that our Philippine brothers and sisters, your people, have suffered recently and the on-going struggle of recovery.
We do not wish to add to your problems, but as you have been called by Pope Francis to serve the world through the Synod on the Family we are compelled to speak clearly and in all charity about your qualifications to serve at this Synod that will significantly impact our Church in the future. The fact that you expressed shock and amazement at the result of the responses to the global survey on Church teaching on the family issued ahead of October Extraordinary Synod of Bishops demonstrates to us that you should re-think your ability to address these issues.  

Your published assumption that the global Catholic community remains ignorant of the current Church teaching on the family, is the true shock to us all.  It is clear that your are not aware of our intelligence, knowledge, and understanding that we have about traditional Catholic teachings and that the survey demonstrates that the Catholic people who are the People of God, the Church, not only know and understand the Chuch's teaching on the family, but continue to suffer from, and reject, these teachings. 
Because we fear that you do not understand the true nature of the work of the Synod, we urge you to delay your participation until such time as you have had a chance to set aside your local concerns and prayerfully study what the whole Church is calling you do at this Synod.  We are calling you to listen to us as we struggle with Church teachings that do not reflect the merciful love of our God for us as we grow in wisdom and adulthood and learn by our family-life experience that the old wine teachings do not belong in the new wineskins of current knowledge and are beginning to fall apart. 
Please consider a retreat to prepare for the Synod that is dedicated to reading what the reality of the world around you is struggling through as we try to live as Jesus taught us.  Thank you for your consideration and be assured of our prayers for the Synod and that the Holy Spirit enlighten you all and guide you well.  Listen to the families of the world testifying to the inadequacies of current Church teachings causing great suffering for Catholics throughout the world. 
Sincerely yours in Christ,

Patrick B. Edgar, DPA, M.Div. 
President, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
Some things we have been reading  
Head of We Are Church excommunicated for celebrating Mass without priest
Stephanie Yeagle    May 22, 2014 


Martha & Gert Heizer
Martha Heizer, the head of the reform international movement We Are Church in Austria, and her husband, Gert Heizer, have been excommunicated by the Vatican for celebrating Mass without a priest present, according to a statement from the diocese of Innsbruck, Austria.

Bishop Manfred Scheuer said in the statement that "publicizing their practice of having 'private Eucharistic celebrations without the presence of a priest' " forced the bishop "to initiate legal action."

. . . .

"This does not mean that we are not part of the church anymore," the Heizers said in the statement, published Thursday in Austrian daily Tiroler Tageszeitung and translated for NCR by Bernie Aurin. "By virtue of our baptism we remain part of the church as long as we ourselves do not choose to leave her." 

. . . .

Celebrating the Eucharist unauthorized by the church is one of the "three most grave offenses," the statement from the Heizers said. "The other two offenses are breaking the confidentiality of the confessional and sexual abuse."


The Heizers said they are "appalled to find ourselves put into the same category as those priests that sexually abused minors. This is especially bitter for us because we are not aware of a single perpetrator of sexual abuse that was excommunicated."

. . . .

However, the Heizers aren't backing down.


"We have not accepted the decree," their statement said. "We have refused it. ... We will continue to commit ourselves to the reform of the Catholic church. These proceedings illustrate very clearly how urgent the church needs to be renewed."

Read more
Institutional Crazies
Robert Schutzius     May 24, 2014
Every institution has one or two, leaders who have lost all perspective.  Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Innsbruck, in Austria is a perfect example.  A couple in his diocese, Martha Holzer and her husband, Gert, were excommunicated for "simulating the Mass", according to Bishop Scheuer. 
Like hundreds  of small faith Christian Eucharistic communities throughout the world who regularly meet to pray and   celebrate what Jesus asked us to do when he said, "Do this in memory of me.", the Holzer family gathered with a community of friends to share their faith as did the early Christians, they  included sharing the bread and a cup of wine in memory of Jesus.
And for this, Scheuer declared them "Excommunicated" !  Given the choice, most rational Christians would judge Bishop Scheuer as having excommunicated himself from the rest of  the Church who believe that Jesus was serious in asking all of us to "Do this in memory of me". 
Just because the institution lays claim to the "only official" authority to commemorate the Last Supper, (and Scheuer is certainly a defender of the Institution), it can hardly prohibit us from responding to Jesus' request when we "unofficially" gather to pray.  Bishop Scheuer (with his institutional blinders on) declared that it was done without a priest being present.  One might reply, "Who's fault is that?"  Could he provide a priest every time his people come to pray?  As did the traditional early Church, the community chooses one to lead the prayers when no Official Church leader is around.  
The People of God would like to suggest that such declarations such as that of bishop Scheuer's defies rationality and is contrary to the what Jesus taught us to do. 
Institutional craziness might be contagious.  Other examples include the medical decision let two die (mother and child) rather than try to save one, and any attempt to avoid pregnancy is wrong even if it significantly reduces the number of abortions.   If we define "crazy" as acting irrationally, even if mandated by institutional loyalty, the institutional leadership of the Catholic Church has its share.  And we, the Church, need to point them out. 

Bob Schutzius is a longtime ARCC  member, former secretary, office manager and ARCC Spot Light editor

LCWR: Courageous Women 
CDF: Fearful Men
JAD                                                                                            May  20, 2014


I remember the event, like it was yesterday. On October 7, 1979, in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Sister Theresa Kane, R.S.M., president of the LCWR, issued a formal plea to Pope John Paul II, during his apostolic visitation.

For me the most relevant part of her speech was this:

As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women who comprise half of humankind.


As women we have heard the powerful messages of our Church addressing the dignity and reverence for all persons. As women we have pondered upon these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the Church in its struggle to be faithful to its call for reverence and dignity for all persons must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of our Church.


I urge you, Your Holiness, to be open to and respond to the voices coming from the women of this country who are desirous of serving in and through the Church as fully participating members.

The Pope grumbled. Conservative Catholics were enraged. Later Sr. Teresa Kane reflected on the event in these words: 

As president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, it was my privilege to extend greetings to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, last October when he visited this country for the first time. I thought it appropriate to pledge our solidarity with the Pope as he called our attention to the serious responsibilities we have to our sisters and brothers who live in poverty and destitution. I also sensed the need of some women to articulate their growing concern about being included in all ministries within the church. Within my own heart there were only sentiments of profound fidelity, honesty, and sincerity to our God and to our Church. As a result of the greeting, a few congregations withdrew from the conference. Through that experience LCWR became more public; the membership gained new responsibilities. Reflection papers commissioned by the Conference will analyze "the voice of the faithful" as found in the thousands of letters received.

In the spring of 2012, the CDF issued a statement accusing LCWR of promoting "radical feminist themes" and "corporate dissent." On April 30, 2014, the CDF's Cardinal Gerhard Müller, accused U.S. nuns of not abiding to the harsh and unjust reform agenda imposed on them by the Vatican. In addition, the document personally attacked the well-known and greatly respected woman theologian Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ.


The Vatican mandate forced upon the nuns is a prime example of how fearful, chauvinistic, and manipulative church leaders can misuse and abuse their power to diminish the voice and witness of prophetic women.

It is time to act. 


Cardinal seeks a truce in fight between U.S. nuns and Vatican's doctrinal office
Josephine McKenna        May 20, 2014

. . . .

Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, who heads the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life that oversees men's and women's religious orders, said there had been "sensitive times," but relations between religious orders and the Holy See remained "very close." 


"There are positive aspects and less positive aspects," the Brazilian cardinal said during a press conference on human trafficking ahead of the World Cup. "We have chosen the path of dialogue. We have to speak positively."


Braz de Aviz was speaking at the launch of a campaign by Catholic nuns, backed by the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican, to fight human trafficking at the soccer World Cup in Brazil next month.

A question about the thorny relationship between the Holy See and the American sisters was put to Sister Carmen Sammut, head of the International Union of Superior Generals, but the cardinal jumped in before she could respond. She, too, stressed the need for dialogue.


"What is important for us is to dialogue together. We are starting to work together. Like every other organization, we can have differences but it is important that we can be true to each other and we can try and find solutions together," she said. 

Read more

What do the US nuns see in conscious evolution?
Margaret Susan Thompson       May 16, 2014

. . . .

Many women religious are bemused by Cardinal Müller's apparent belief that the presence of a controversial speaker at an LCWR meeting denotes either endorsement of all the speaker's ideas or a serious possibility that merely by listening to controversial ideas audience members may be persuaded to "think dangerous thoughts."


Cardinal Müller's concern with "Conscious Evolution," the focus of a 2012 LCWR keynote address by Barbara Marx Hubbard, was noted explicitly. Hubbard - herself not a sister or even Catholic - has responded directly to these concerns, and notes that her thinking draws extensively on such Catholic authorities as Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, and Ilia Delio.


Delio, a Franciscan sister and professor at Georgetown University, places "conscious evolution" in the context of the ongoing dialogue between faith and science rooted in the papacy of St John Paul II: "In light of John Paul's efforts and the concern of Cardinal Müller, it is timely that 'conscious evolution' draw our attention to the need for mutual enrichment between science and religion," she wrote, adding: "The goal of science and religion, drawing each other into a wider world in which both can flourish, was at the heart of Teilhard de Chardin's teachings on conscious evolution. This is precisely what he hoped for, that science and religion could share their respective insights for the deepening of life ahead, the rise of the cosmic Person, the fullness of Christ."


In this connection, Delio notes, "Many US women religious communities, influenced by Teilhard and Berry, became active proponents of what some have called creation spirituality, using science and traditional Catholic sacramental notions to energise Christian belief and present the faith in a more contemporary setting. This work has sparked a greater ecological awareness throughout the Church. Countless women religious communities, meanwhile, have started eco-friendly farms and gardens to helps sustain themselves and others." Thus, while the terminology of "conscious evolution may be unfamiliar," the concepts it reflects are well grounded in long-standing Catholic theology and praxis.


The average LCWR member holds one or more postgraduate degrees and is familiar with theoretical and theological complexity. She comes from a culture that celebrates both free speech and academic freedom, and welcomes the challenge of exposure to new concepts, but does not automatically or easily buy into them.


As one sister, who asked "in the current climate" to remain anonymous, told me: "We see gatherings like those of LCWR as times for intellectual stimulation, not occasions for catechesis."

. . . .

Most sisters I has consulted believe that not only hierarchy but patriarchy plays into the current dispute. They note that Pope Francis made far more conciliatory remarks a year ago to the largely male leadership of the Latin American Conference of Religious, saying most notably: "But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward."


For all his undoubted commitment to social justice and to broader consultation among his episcopal brethren, they note, Francis' reaffirmation of "gender essentialism," complementarity, and a "special theology" for women's "special gifts" reveals perspectives not particularly different from those of his immediate predecessors. 

Read more

The Pope in the Holy Land 
Pope invites Israeli, Palestinian leaders to Rome to pray for peace
Francis X. Rocca       May 25, 2014

Pope Francis invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to pray together at the Vatican for peace between their nations.


The pope made the announcement May 25, after praying the "Regina Coeli" at the end of Mass that Abbas attended in Manger Square, in Bethlehem, West Bank.  


Later in the day, arriving at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Pope Francis was greeted by Peres and by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There the pope repeated his invitation to Peres using exactly the same words with which he had invited Abbas. 

. . . .

Earlier in the day, en route to the Bethlehem Mass, he made an unscheduled stop to pray before a controversial separation wall, built by Israel over Palestinian protests, between its territory and the West Bank. The pope unexpectedly stopped the vehicle and alighted, then walked over to the graffiti-covered structure and rested his forehead against it in silence for a few moments. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, later confirmed that the pope had been praying as he stood against the wall.

Father Lombardi told journalists the stop was a very important symbol of the pope's understanding of the significance of the wall and was a manifestation of his identification with the suffering of the people, even though he made no mention of the wall in his spoken statements. 

Read more

Israeli, Palestinian presidents accept invitation to meeting at Vatican
CNA     May 25, 2014

Today Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that they have accepted Pope Francis' invitation to join him at the Vatican for an encounter of prayer. 

Read more

Fifty years later, pope and patriarch meet again in Jerusalem
Francis X. Rocca      May 25, 2014

Half a century after a historic encounter between their predecessors, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met in the same place to seek inspiration for Christian unity at the site of Christ's death and resurrection.

. . . .

Their prayer service marked the 50th anniversary of an encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The earlier meeting, which led both churches to lift the mutual excommunications that started the East-West schism in 1054, opened the modern period of ecumenical dialogue.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew reached the square in front of the church a few minutes after 8 p.m. They arrived from opposite sides and met in the center, where they embraced before entering the church.

Inside, they participated in common prayer with representatives of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic churches, which share custody of the building. The event was extraordinary because members of the three communities usually observe a strict separation when praying inside the church. 

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople embrace.  

Read more

Cardinal Kasper is enjoying the spotlight, and taking heat, as the 'pope's theologian'
David Gibson    May 15, 2014

. . . .

Cdl. Walter KasperTo be sure, Francis shares a passion for mercy with Kasper.  But he also relies on Kasper not only to provide the theological underpinnings for his views but also as a kind of front man to sell Francis' push to renew Catholicism.


"This pope is not a liberal pope. He is a radical pope!" Kasper said as he sat in an office at St. Paul the Apostle Church on Manhattan's Upper West Side during a weeklong U.S. sojourn. "This pope goes back to the gospel."

. . . .

After Francis publicly praised Kasper's work, an older cardinal in Rome came to the pope and insisted: "Holy Father, you should not recommend this book! There are many heresies in it!" The pope smiled as he told Kasper the story, and reassured him: "It goes in one ear and out the other."

Further proof of Francis' trust in Kasper came in February when the pope tapped him to deliver a lengthy talk for a meeting of all the world's cardinals who had gathered to discuss updating the church's policies on a range of hot-button issues.


The meeting, or consistory, was the first in a series of discussions that Francis has planned to jump start long-stalled talks on contentious topics - one of them whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion; it's not the sexiest topic but it is a huge pastoral crisis given that so many Catholics have remarried without an annulment and are barred from the altar rail. Even a murderer can confess and receive Communion, as Kasper likes to note.


"I told the pope, 'Holy Father, there will be a controversy afterward,'" Kasper said. The pope laughed and told him: "That's good, we should have that!"

. . . .

Speaking to the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal, for example, Kasper said the pope himself "believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid" - an assertion that left many conservatives aghast. "I am stunned at the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion. Simply stunned," wrote canon lawyer and popular blogger Edward Peters.


At a public talk at Fordham University, Kasper also irked the right, and pleased the left, when he tweaked the Vatican's doctrinal chief, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, who had just delivered a blistering critique of leaders of most American nuns. Kasper expressed his "esteem" for Mueller and said his office tended to take a "narrow" view and must be more open to dialogue and change.

. . . . 

Kasper's ideas are controversial not so much for their content but because at heart they are about whether and how the church can change.


"Change is always a risk," Kasper said. "But it's also a risk not to change. Even a greater risk, I think."


Kasper said he was confident that the process of debate that Francis had launched on the topic of family life and sexuality would in the end produce some significant reforms, in part "because there are very high expectations."

. . . .  

Kasper reiterates that he's not advocating a change in the church's dogma on the sanctity of marriage, but a change in the "pastoral practice" about who can receive Communion. "To say we will not admit divorced and remarried people to Holy Communion? That's not a dogma. That's an application of a dogma in a concrete pastoral practice. This can be changed." 


Kasper said it is the voice of the faithful that has made the difference. "The strongest support comes from the people, and you cannot overlook that," he said.


"If what people are doing and what the church is teaching, if there is an abyss, that doesn't help the credibility of the church," he said. "One has to change."

Read more


Matt Malone, S.J., Interviews Cardinal Kasper on 'Mercy' for America Magazine 

May 12, 2014 

Matt Malone, S.J., Interviews Cardinal Kasper on 'Mercy' for America Magazine 

Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America magazine, sat down with Cardinal Walter Kasper on his recent visit to the United States to discuss his new book 'Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life. 


Bishop calls for Church to listen to calls for Communion for divorcees
Hannah Roberts      May 13, 2014

The Catholic Church should listen to all the arguments in favour of gay relationships, Communion for remarried divorcees, and ending mandatory celibacy for priests, a senior Italian bishops has insisted.


The secretary-general of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI), Nunzio Galantino, bishop of the southern diocese of Cassano all'Jonio, told the Florence-based La Nazione newspaper yesterday that he wanted church leaders to open their mind to different views on these issues.


He said: "My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favour of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality."

Read more

U.N. Panel Says Vatican Is Lax Over Abusive Priests

The Vatican on Friday faced criticism from a United Nations panel for the second time this year over failures to report priests accused of sexually abusing children to civil authorities or to ensure redress for victims.


The panel, which is monitoring the Holy See's compliance with an international treaty prohibiting torture, called on the Vatican to "take effective measures" to monitor the behavior of individuals under its control and prevent abuse.

. . . .

The committee rejected the Holy See's core defense, that it has jurisdiction only over priests and personnel inside its walls in Rome. 

. . . . 

The panel cited the specific case of the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year old girl in Minnesota and returned to India, where he is facing an extradition application by the United States. It also referred to the case of Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, who has been accused of sexual abuse in the Dominican Republic. The archbishop was transferred to the Vatican, where officials say he is under investigation but have resisted applications for his extradition to Poland, his native country. 

Read more

Mass grave of up to 800 dead babies exposed in County Galway
Cahir O'Doherty      May 26, 2014

According to a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday, a mass grave has been located beside a former home for unmarried mothers and babies in County Galway. The grave is believed to contain the bodies of up to eight hundred babies, buried on the former grounds of the institution known locally as "The Home" in Tuam, north of Galway city, between 1925 and 1961.


Run by the Bon Secours nuns, "The Home" housed thousands of unmarried mothers and their "illegitimate" children over those years.


According to Irish Mail on Sunday the causes of death listed for "as many as 796 children" included "malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia."

The babies were usually buried without a coffin in a plot that had once housed "a water tank," the report claims. No memorials were erected, the site was left unmarked and unmourned.


The staggering mortality rate of "The Home" was apparently replicated elsewhere in Ireland. 

Read more

Royal Commission in Canberra
Archdiocese of Camberra        May 26, 2014

The way in which Marist Brothers responded to child sexual abuse in schools in the ACT, NSW and Queensland will be the subject of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's next public hearing, in Canberra.


The hearing, to be held from Tuesday 10 June, will examine the way the brothers dealt with Brother John Chute (aka Brother Kostka) while he was in a Canberra school.


The commission will also examine abuse perpetrated by another convicted former brother known as KA. The abuse by both brothers took place before 1993.

. . . .

"This latest hearing will again bring into sharp focus the past failing of Catholic Church organisations in dealing with child sexual abuse," Mr Sullivan said. 

Read more

Pope to meet with sex abuse victims for first time in June
 Francis X. Rocca      May 26, 2014

Pope Francis will meet with a group of sex abuse victims for the first time in June, he told reporters May 26.

During an inflight news conference on his return to Rome from the Holy Land, the pope also confirmed reports the Vatican is investigating charges its former secretary of state misappropriated $20 million from the Vatican bank. And he announced he plans to visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January.

. . . . 

Pope Francis said the church cannot have privileged "daddy's boys," exempt from punishment when it comes to sex abuse of minors. He revealed that three unnamed bishops are currently under investigation by the Vatican for misdeeds related to sex abuse, and another has been found guilty and is awaiting punishment. It was not clear if the bishops in question had been accused of personally abusing children or of mishandling accusations of abuse against other priests.

The pope also was asked about reports that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as Vatican secretary of state was considered the highest Vatican official, mishandled 15 million euro (about $20.5 million) in funds held by the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank.

"It's something being studied, it's not clear," the pope said. "Maybe it's the truth, but at this moment it's not definitive."   

Read more

Bishops that left abuse unreported face police
Stephen McGinty       May 23, 2014

Complaints of clerical sexual abuse stretching back almost 70 years are the subject of a review by the Catholic Church in Scotland, which insists any serious complaint since 1947 must be passed on to the police even if both alleged victim and priest are dead.


Tina Campbell, national safeguarding co-ordinator for the Scottish Catholic Church, said that for the first time the eight dioceses will be made accountable for their handling of clerical sexual abuse and that allegations ignored by previous bishops will be reported by her office to Police Scotland.

. . . .

The Catholic Church in Scotland is undergoing a two-tiered examination of its handling of clerical sex abuse. The McLellan Commission, led by the Very Reverend Dr Andrew McLellan, a former moderator of the Church of Scotland, is examining the Catholic Church's current safety provisions and is expected to report early next year.


A second study of historical cases from 1947 to 2007 is now under way with each diocese expected to provide detailed information on: complaints of sexual abuse reported to the police and their outcome; complaints not reported, the reason why and proof that they have now been reported; and, finally, updates on "problem priests" who are not accused of criminal behaviour but have formed inappropriate relationships etc and details of their treatment and support. 

Read more

Archdiocese made 'astonishing' claim in concealing Seattle priest's sexual offenses, review board says
Joel Connelly       May 12, 2014

The Archdiocese of Seattle failed to inform Catholic faithful, and made an "astonishing" claim and "serious misstatements" in seeking to explain why a priest suspended from ministry for sexual misconduct with a teenager went on saying mass and conducting weddings, say former leaders of a diocesan review board.


"We urge you to consider releasing the documents of the review board relating to this matter, subject to not identifying any victims, so that the laity can have complete and accurate information," retired Judge Terrence Carroll and former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay wrote earlier this month to Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.


Or as Carroll put it bluntly in a Monday interview:  "By God, let those files be open so people can know what and who we are dealing with. We may have another case like this out there."

Read more

Honey, I Shrunk the Church:  The Vatican Manages Sexual Abuse, Canonization and the Nuns 
Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.                                          May 12, 2014

Whatever happened to that great big Roman Catholic Church? It seems to be shrinking before our eyes despite unprecedented media attention. No amount of hype can disguise the Vatican's disappearing act at the United Nations on sexual abuse, the sleight of hand in Rome at the papal canonizations, and the failed attempt to usurp women's power through the hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that may still turn the nuns out on their ears. The "leaner, meaner" church desired by many conservatives during the John Paul II/Cardinal Ratzinger era is on the horizon, indeed may already be in place. Signs are hard to miss - even for those with papal stars in their eyes.

. . . .
Sexual Abuse 
That great big institution with a global reach that divides up the known world into dioceses has suddenly evaporated. It's now a country of 109 acres, roughly an eighth the size of New York's Central Park, with a population of about 600, many of whom are posted abroad. 
. . . .
The gentlemen are claiming that they meant for the treaties to apply to their headquarters, located in Vatican City, but not for the corporate entity, the thousands of dioceses they oversee on the planet. Those folks are suddenly on their own when it comes to liability. Rome's hands are off. 
. . . .
In early 2014, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which monitors implementation of that Convention, questioned Vatican officials about sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy and its systematic cover-up by church officials.  . . . .  By way of defense, the Holy See claimed that its responsibility in terms of the treaty literally extended to its gates, inside of which few (probably fewer than a dozen) children live, not to its dioceses around the world. Needless to say, the Committee, with ample cause, took a dim view. 

Once again in May 2014, the United Nations trained its attention on the Roman Catholic Church as a global institution, not a tourist destination. The Committee Against Torture (CAT) that monitors compliance with that UN Convention is now insisting that sexual abuse of children by adults in authority qualifies under its definition of torture, which is defined as (emphasis mine):

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. 

It's that last part in bold that's so chillingly familiar in the Catholic cases.

This time, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's U.N. ambassador, tried to take refuge in its postage-stamp sized headquarters as the extent of its responsibility, the same shrinking tactic, with similar results. He didn't take exception to the definition of torture in the Catholic case, leaving open many questions.

. . . .
In essence, cases of sexual abuse that did not take place within the confines of Vatican City would not be the Church's responsibility. This is a hard case to make since the headquarters, not the dioceses, laicized 848 priests and punished in a lesser way 2,572 from 2004 to the present. 
. . . .



A similar disappearing act took place during the recent canonization (that looked oddly like a coronation) of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. John XXIII seemed to disappear in a sea of Polish flags celebrating John Paul II. I wasn't there, but from television and press reports one got the sneaking suspicion that this wasn't really about two saints, but rather one prominent one and a runner-up who was grandfathered in. After all, John XXIII's case had been made far earlier and it would have been unseemly to fast track John Paul II, despite his popularity.


The media largely bought the Vatican's talking points that this twofer celebration was meant to unite widely divergent contingents of Catholics. Juxtaposed were the aging progressives who remember and thank John XXIII for his leadership of Vatican II, and those with shorter memories who have known only a more doctrinaire church led by John Paul II, and by extension, Pope Benedict XVI who arguably called many of the shots in the latter years of John Paul II's papacy before assuming the Chair of Peter himself.

. . . .
It was a time to fill hotels and buses with pilgrims, many from Poland, who favor a model of church that is telegenic, profitable, otherworldly, elitist, and hierarchical. That John XXIII convened a council at which seeds were planted for a very different model-a more horizontal, participatory church-was all but lost in the incense.
. . . .
The net impact of the canonizations was to reinforce and reinscribe the hierarchal, clergy-centric church by naming two of its recent leaders as saints. Pretty clever. And it worked effectively to shore up the foundations once again and assure people, especially those inside the walls of the Vatican, that they are still firmly in charge. The rest of us have been "disappeared" in the incredible shrinking church. 

Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)  


A slightly different kind of shrinkage can be seen in the failed attempt on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to domesticate the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Congregation issued a Doctrinal Assessment in April 2012 alleging that the women were not upholding and promoting the institutional church's view of the world.


For the next five years they were to reform themselves and function under the aegis of Archbishop Peter Sartain and two auxiliary bishops who would review both their annual meetings and publications. The Vatican's unrealistic hope was that the women would see the supposed error of their ways and comply with the Vatican's wishes, parroting their theology and championing their priorities.


In fact, what has happened in the two years since the hostile takeover is something quite other. The nuns (who after all are lay people until the first one is validly and licitly ordained) enjoy a great deal of support among other rank and file Catholics, more support than most of the clergy. 

. . . .

Alas, when Cardinal Gerhard Müller made his April 30, 2014 Opening Remarks in a meeting with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious he complained that the women were going about their business without feeling any need to consult Archbishop Sartain on matters that are internal to LCWR. No surprise there. The women characterizedthe meeting as "respectful and engaging" and let the prelate prattle on in the press. 


The straw that broke the camel's back was apparently LCWR's decision to honor Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University and a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, with their Outstanding Leadership Award at their August 2014 Assembly.

. . . .
This time around Cardinal Müller's trump card was in an expression set off by commas toward the end of his discourse. Having worked himself into a lather over the nuns' purported failure to comply, he closed his statement with the notion that religious life can "only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church. The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See [emphasis mine], has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in hand." I.e., shape up or ship out. This threat-to make the institutional church even smaller by ousting LCWR and probably replacing it with the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious that would be more likely to do the men's bidding - is consistent with the other two examples of church shrinkage. 
Small can be beautiful, and less is usually more. But as the kind of shrinkage to which I've pointed continues, the robust, diverse, committed Catholic community that so many hoped would accompany Pope Francis' papacy seems a distant dream. The  current reality more closely resembles a bad movie. With many others, I'm working on a different sequel, one that features expansion and inclusion, openness and a warm embrace for all.  
Pope Francis Displeased By Sumptuous Canonization Banquet Which Reportedly Cost $25,000
Yasmine Hafiz       May 24, 2014

The recent canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were cause for celebration amongst the global Catholic Church.


But not this kind of celebration.


A canonization banquet held on the veranda of the Vatican Prefecture for Economic Affairs reportedly cost $25,000, drawing the ire of Pope Francis, who has repeatedly emphasized the need for "a poor church, and church for the poor."


The VIP buffet was funded by private sponsors, reports Catholic News Agency, but the tone of the event was not in line with the pope's vision of what the church should be.


Cardinal Guiseppe Versaldi told Italia 1 on television, "I can't reveal what he said [the Pope.] I informed him about it and I can only say that he was not pleased, so to speak. But I can assure you that these incidents will not happen again." 

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Pope setting up board to hear appeals of clerical sex abuse offenders
Cindy Wooden      May 19, 2014

The Vatican indicated Pope Francis was establishing a commission under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to examine the appeals of priests punished for sexual abuse of minors and other very serious crimes.

In a brief note May 19, the Vatican press office announced the pope had nominated Argentine Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario to be a member of the congregation "in the commission being established to examine the appeals of clergy for 'delicta graviora,'" the Vatican term for sexual abuse of minors and serious sins against the sacraments.

The Vatican did not provide further details about the commission, when it would be established or what the extent of its mandate would be. 

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Vatican threatens Jesuit theologian in India with censure
David Gibson        May 12, 2014

The Vatican is investigating a Jesuit theologian from India for allegedly espousing unorthodox beliefs, raising new questions about whether Pope Francis - the first Jesuit pope - is in fact moving the Catholic Church in a new direction.


News of the threatened censure of the Rev. Michael Amaladoss, whose best-known book is "The Asian Jesus," follows on the heels of a blunt warning on orthodoxy and obedience that the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, delivered to a group of nuns who represent most American sisters.

. . . .

Church sources say that Amaladoss, a highly regarded expert on interreligious dialogue and Christology, first came under scrutiny by Mueller's office a year ago. They said Amaladoss believed that his initial responses to questions about his views on the uniqueness of Jesus and the Catholic Church had answered Vatican objections.


But in January, Mueller's office returned with a demand that Amaladoss write an article publicly endorsing the Vatican's views or face silencing.

 . . . .

Francis reportedly knows about the investigation but does not seem overly concerned that it will end in punishing Amaladoss, according to Jesuits familiar with the case. 

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The Bishop Who Was Set Free
Kevin Clarke      May 12, 2014

"The general security situation in this country is awful," says Msgr. Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia, bishop of Bossangoa in the Central African Republic.

. . . .

Sadly the bishop has had first-hand experience with just how awful the security situation in Central Africa can be. He has personally survived a kidnapping attempt that appeared on its way to a summary execution. Bishop Aziagbia considers himself fortunate to have "national or international status.

"People organized at the national level [and] at the international level for my freedom. Many people in this country wouldn't have the same chance and their deaths would have passed unknown to everybody."


Traveling northeast, 215 kilometers from Bossangoa to Our Lady of Conception parish at Bantangafo, on April 16, the bishop planned to restore its priests and observe Holy Thursday with the community. Instead he was seized at a roadblock manned by Seleka rebels.


He was brought before a Seleka commander who judged him a spy and an agitator, even a anti-balaka militia leader himself, and driven away by the "colonel" toward the Chad border. This particular Seleka colonel had been in charge during some of the worst of the brutality in Bossongoa and the bishop had clashed with him there.

. . . .

The colonel informed the bishop that his name was on a list of people the local Seleka had been seeking out to "physically eliminate." Now at this roadblock, "God has made it much easier for us. He pushed you into our hands," the Seleka colonel told him.   

. . . .

Fortunately for Bishop's Aziagbia's clearly too-scrupulous conscience, God "pushed" the angry Seleka leader in his turn to another roadblock. There another Seleka colonel with a cooler head and perhaps a better grasp of public relations refused to allow the car-ride to continue any further and removed Bishop Aziagbia and his priests from the angry colonel's hands. 

. . . . 

Bishop Aziagbia was allowed to continue on his previous mission, though stripped of his pectoral cross, his miter, his episcopal ring and his car, and celebrated Holy Thursday in Bantangafo as he originally planned. The next day, Good Friday, a priest from his diocese was gunned down in the street.


Of the future in the Central African Republic, he says, "the challenge is big, but we will not succumb to evil." The church will continue to speak out against abuses by either side, says Bishop Aziagbia.


He adds that the church has offered its protection and support to all displaced people "Muslim and non-Muslim."

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When am I to judge?
Women priests?



Letters to Irish priest reveal Jackie Kennedy's struggles with faith
Michael Kelly     May 13, 2014

Newly released letters between former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and a Dublin-based priest reveal Kennedy's struggles to keep her faith after her husband's assassination.

The letters exchanged by Kennedy and Vincentian Father Joseph Leonard, who died in 1964, are set to be auctioned in Dublin in June. Excerpts were published in The Irish Times newspaper.

. . . .

The letters reveal that Father Leonard rekindled Kennedy's interest in her Catholic faith. 

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Selling off Jackie Kennedy's letters comes at what cost to the reputation of the priesthood?
Laura Keynes      May 16, 2014
Fr Joseph Leonard& Jackie Kennedy

 Jackie Onassis never wrote an autobiography. She was, in the words of her biographer Sarah Bradford, "a complex woman of many facets" but above all she had a strong "desire for privacy and concealment". If Jackie never revealed much about her private life, that was her choice.

. . . .

The letters reveal her deepest doubts and insecurities, her loneliness and crises of faith, and fears about her husband's roving eye. After her husband's assassination she wrote, "I am so bitter against God," adding "only he and you and I know that."


These are things she could only reveal to a priest, assured of his confidence and trust. Whilst correspondence may not be confession, there is a confessional air to the letters, confessing not sins so much as doubts and her innermost feelings.  

. . . . 

Fr Thomas Reese SJ, writing for the National Catholic Reporter, notes "As a journalist and student of history, I find these letters fascinating. But as a priest, I am appalled. The letters should have been burnt." He said that a person's fame was no reason to break the confidentiality that is assumed when someone writes to a priest about their spiritual life.  


The letters have been made public by All Hallows College, a Vincentian-run institution and college of Dublin City University. 

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Jackie Kennedy letters sale dropped
Press Association             May 21, 2014

Secret letters from Jacqueline Kennedy to an Irish priest have been pulled from a controversial auction sale.

. . . . 

No formal reason has been given for the sale being cancelled but it follows an ownership dispute and questions in some circles over whether it is morally right to sell the deepest musings of a woman who lived her life in public but put an enormous value on privacy.


All Hallows are in discussions with the Kennedys over how and where the letters should be held.

A spokeswoman for the college said the auction was cancelled at the behest of its directors and the Vincentian Fathers.

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Let Long Islanders help choose next Catholic bishop
Bob Keeler      May 18, 2014

It's not too soon to think about a successor to the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, William F. Murphy.


That's the reality behind a letter, signed by 23 priests of the diocese, sent to Pope Francis -- with a copy to Murphy. They chose to mail it on May 14, Murphy's birthday, exactly a year before he reaches the retirement age of 75 and submits his retirement letter to the pope.


In mild, polite tones, the priests asked the pope for some "concrete guidance about how we and others here can meaningfully participate" in choosing Murphy's successor. They want the church "not only to ask the faithful for prayers and obedience, but also to restore significant popular input into the selection process itself."

. . . .

This letter, and an earlier call by a national priests' group for more of a role for priests and laity in bishop selection, are directed to a pope who has made it clear he wants a grittier kind of bishop. Francis wants priests who stay close to the poor, "shepherds living with the smell of the sheep." 

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Catholic leaders complain about Diocese of Venice Bishop
Jim Spiewak      May 22, 2014

Ten priests and pastors go on the record calling the Diocese of Venice Bishop a bully who relies on intimidation and fear.


That's just beginning of a list of complaints now on the way to Washington, D.C.

A group of priests wrote a letter to the Pope's liaison with major concerns over Bishop Frank Dewane.


We obtained a copy of that letter.


In it, the group says the Venice Diocese under Bishop Frank Dewane's leadership has become quote "intolerable."


The letter was sent to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano in January and centers around three complaints; financial transparency, violation of canon church law and intimidation and bullying tactics.


The letter cites examples of excessive, unmonitored spending of diocesan funds by Bishop Dewane.


The letter goes on to say the bishop got rid of several groups required to assign priests and deacons -- saying instead, Bishop Dewane makes those decisions on his own.


Catholics say the letter surprises them.


"I don't know if anything will be done about it, I tend to think probably not," said Susan Cowart, a practicing Catholic.


Others say the letter presents serious allegations that can't be swept under the rug. 

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Senior Bishop Nunzio Galantino Urges Italian Church To Consider Homosexuality Without 'Any Taboo'
 Yasmine Hafiz      May 15, 2014

A senior bishop in the Catholic Church made a strong statement in favor of reform on Tuesday, telling the Florence-based La Nazione newspaper that leaders should be more open-minded about the hotly debated issues of priest celibacy, communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, and policy towards the gay community.


"My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality," said Nunzio Galantino, who is the secretary-general of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI), according to The Tablet.


His statement echoes the tone of Pope Francis' iconic remark, "Who am I to judge?" and follows a church survey on global attitudes towards important issues. 

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Puerto Rico priest faces federal sex charges
Danica Coto       May 13, 2014

U.S. authorities in Puerto Rico on Tuesday arrested a Roman Catholic priest and former school director on charges including sexual trafficking of children in the first federal case of its kind in the U.S. territory.


Israel Berrios, 58, is accused of sexually abusing an altar boy from the time he was about 8 years old until he turned 17, according to Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda.
. . . .

The arrest is part of a widespread probe into multiple church abuse allegations in the island of 3.6 million people, where more than 70 percent identify themselves as Catholic. 

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Is the Association of Catholic Priests slipping back into clericalism?
Seán O'Conaill     May 13, 2014

. . . .

The formation of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in 2010 came as a welcome glimpse of a distant dawn. So did the association's evocation of the spirit of Vatican II - that 1960s glimmering of relevance for the church.


The ACP proved its potential in 2011 by financing the legal defence of Fr Kevin Reynolds, victim of an overstepping of all fairness in reckless media pursuit of yet more clerical scandal. Fr Reynolds's forgiving vindication highlighted another strand in the tapestry of Irish Catholic ministry: brave service in adversity. In 2012 the ACP's existence was further justified by the censoring of some of its most outspoken members by the church's farcically unjust "temple police" - the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Aimed at deflecting blame for Catholic sexual scandal from its major complicating cause - the papacy's failure to develop a titter of wit on sexuality - that move consolidated the ACP's hold on the support of Vatican II-oriented Catholics in Ireland.


An event called "Towards an Assembly of the Catholic Church" was attended by more than 1,000 in Dublin in May 2012. Since then, however, the ACP has faltered - despite the onset in March 2013 of a warmer Roman policy on some of the very sexual issues that underlie the Irish disaster.


Last October it made far too much fuss about a critical legal review by retired Hong Kong judge Fergal Sweeney of the Murphy report, which it had commissioned. The ACP's denial that this was an attempt at minimisation was followed by Fr Pádraig McCarthy's jaundiced look at the report in his book Unheard Story.


All of this led one gung-ho clerical contributor to the ACP website to assert that the whole Murphy report could probably be "deconstructed". There was no decisive rejection of that troubling option by the ACP leadership.


A further misstep came in March 2014 when the same leadership called for the restoration to ministry of priests who had made an early-career "mistake" in relating to teenagers. This euphemism for child sex abuse provoked a storm.  


More recently, a challenge to clarify its policy on the boundaries to be advised for clergy in relation to young adults (provoked by a sweeping defence of the deeply troubling career of Fr Michael Cleary on the ACP website) has so far received no response.


Can the ACP part company with a clericalism that exploited the vulnerability of those for whom clergy had a duty of care? Can it build a durable alliance with lay people who have had a surfeit of high-level clerical double standards?


We must wait and see. 

Read more

New Title
John Chuchman       May, 2014
Making you a Teacher/Minister does not involve Ordination; It simply means We do not have to pay you a Living Wage and We can fire you at will.


Destroying creation is destroying a gift of God, pope says at audience
Cindy Wooden     May 21, 2014

Polluting or destroying the environment is like telling God one does not like what he created and proclaimed to be good, Pope Francis said.

The Bible says that after every stage of creation, God was pleased with what he had made, the pope said May 21 at his weekly general audience. "To destroy creation is to say to God, 'I don't like it.'"

On the other hand, he said, safeguarding creation is safeguarding a gift of God. "This must be our attitude toward creation: safeguarding it. If not, if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us. Don't forget that!" 

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Climate change is church's No. 1 pro-life issue
NCR Editorial Staff       May 20, 2014

. . . .

While the church has taken it on the chin for centuries-old condemnations of scientific truths, the reality today is that it stands uniquely in a position to not only aid the science but also to engage in the ethical discussions essential to any consideration of global warming.


If there is a certain wisdom in the pro-life assertion that other rights become meaningless if the right to life is not upheld, then it is reasonable to assert that the right to life has little meaning if the earth is destroyed to the point where life becomes unsustainable.


Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodríguez Maradiaga described the problem during a talk opening the Vatican conference. He described nature as neither separate from nor against humanity, but rather existing with humans. "No sin is more heartless than our blindness to the value of all that surrounds us and our persistence in using it at the wrong time and abusing it at all times."

. . . .

Finding a fix for climate change and its potentially disastrous consequences, particularly for the global poor, is not the work of a single discipline or a single group or a single political strategy. Its solution lies as much in people of faith as in scientific data, as much or more in a love for God's creation as it does in our instinct for self-preservation. 

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Chicago-area porn-hating Catholic priest arrested for exposing himself at a gas station
Tom Boggioni      May 24, 2014

Monsignor Aaron R. Brodeski, 44, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of public indecency relating to an incident at a Road Ranger Gas Station, where witnesses say he exposed himself inside the gas station and then again in the parking lot.


According to Winnebego County Sheriff Deputy Chief Dominic Iasparro, Brodeski's actions were observed by adults but no children were present.

. . . .
Brodeski recently held a meeting for parents in his parish, warning about the addictive qualities for online pornography for teens, calling it a "fishhook," saying "Even if they believe in their heads everything our Church has taught, their bodies believe what the porn culture is teaching them." 


The Rockford Diocese has released a statement regarding Brodeski, saying that he had been placed on leave and sent for evaluation and treatment for "any difficulties affecting his conduct and ministry," after the incident last month.


According to the diocese,  Brodeski was arrested following his return from evaluation. 

Read more

Pastor at West Tampa church commits suicide amid financial inquiry

Keeley Sheehan         May 16, 2014


The pastor of a West Tampa Catholic church hanged himself with a leather belt this week amid an investigation the diocese was conducting into parish finances, authorities said.

 . . . . 

According to a report by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, a Tampa police officer said the Rev. Dziadek, 56, was depressed after parishioners discovered he had embezzled about $200,000 from the church and "gambled it away."


The report said the officer noted that Rev. Dziadek had been removed from administrative duties at the church and had a hearing with church members set for Monday.

Read more

French translation of the Roman Missal
Anthony Ruff, OSB     May 14, 2014

The translation commission takes (a) the Latin text as its point of reference, but its work also takes into account (b) the existing French translation, in use since 1966, and, interestingly, (c) a literal French translation of the Latin text which was undertaken by a team of Canadian translators. (It seems clear, therefore, that the Francophones do not consider a literal translation, such as the one now in use in English-speaking countries, to be adequate for liturgical use. If only the English-speaking bishops had taken the same line!) The commission members have discussions on translation principles, and proposed texts are read aloud or even sung in order to judge the final effect. A sign in the margin in the 2012 draft indicates places where, even after as much as an hour of debate, the commission cannot agree on a particular rendering, or that argument with the Congregation was ongoing. Amusingly they used the dollar sign for this!


This translation will replace the one that has been in use for the past 50 years. It is expected that the new translation will last for a further 50. In addition to fidelity to the Latin, the commission is also taking into account the needs of public proclamation and also the singability of the texts, something which was clearly not done with the present English text. In addition, the commission is being sensitive to the different forms and vocabularies of spoken French in the different countries which will use the text. This is aided by each country's own team of translators or, where these do not exist, the bishops of that country.  

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New Ecumenical English Missal
Rev. Bosco Peters   April, 2014

A rumour has been growing about a possible review of the Roman Catholic missal translation, but no one anticipated the announcement of a New Ecumenical English Missal Project, which will mean that the words for the whole Eucharist will be the same across a number of significant English-speaking denominations.


Pope Francis, ever taking people by surprise, in only the second year of his papacy, pointedly, on the feast day of a woman saint, St Theodora (April 1), is formally signing the declaration that he has the agreement of significant English-speaking churches and ecclesial communities to work towards a new Ecumenical English Missal.


Real dissatisfaction with the recent English-language missal translation has been present from the start.

Read more


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