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Persistent Paradigm Paralysis
John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D                                           Mar.1, 2015 

In just a couple weeks we will have the second anniversary of Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election as Bishop of Rome. The Tablet calls him the "Root and Branch Reformer," while many hail the "Francis effect." Certainly Pope Francis' style and bearing are a welcomed change after decades of exaggerated Renaissance papal grandeur, so out of sync with our contemporary world. Even when we are often left wondering just exactly what his words mean in contemporary pastoral practice, Francis drops good sound bites, thanks to his former Fox News, high-level Opus Dei, PR guru.


I have nothing against Pope Francis. His style is far better than that of his last two predecessors (with all due respect to emeritus Benedictus who is still with us) but I often feel that people today focus far too much attention on the leader making grand symbolic gestures and ignore life in the local church.

The local church scene still suffers from what I call persistent paradigm paralysis (PPP) -  a religious and theological disease that gets transmitted in closed static environments where there is little fresh thought, vision becomes tunnel vision, and anxiety replaces imagination.


We saw it last month again in San Francisco........


At the Star of the Sea school, whose pastor has already banned girls from acting as altar servers, copies of "The Examination of Conscience and Catholic Doctrine" were given to students in second through sixth grades. Part of their preparation for Lent. In that examination of conscience, little children were asked questions like, "Did I perform impure acts by myself (masturbation) or with another (adultery, fornication and sodomy)?" and, "Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse prematurely sterilized (tubal ligation or vasectomy)?" as well as, "Have I had or advised anyone to have an abortion?" Maybe San Francisco has unusual grade school children?


PPP flourishes wherever people are unable or unwilling to a knowledge that we grow in our understanding of Christian belief, that our human life is a pilgrimage through time, and (nostalgia aside) that the good old days were not always that great.


Persistent paradigm paralysis is really fundamentalism. It is a serious disease: a form of malignant religion that ignores human dignity and particularly denigrates contemporary women. The recently concluded Vatican Conference On "Women's Cultures: Equality And Difference" that never progressed much beyond its rocky start is a good example. Women in our church are still officially considered lower than men and innately incapable of priestly ordination. All those Catholic women  currently exercising ordained ministry (very effectively by the way) are considered defective, invalid, and excommunicated.


PPP of course is the problem we see in Islamic fundamentalism and fanaticism. We easily see it in them, however, but often ignore it in ourselves. Jesus says it best in the Luke's Gospel: "Why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?" Some people find it convenient to ignore or reject paradigm shifts because shifting paradigms threaten their own power structures and personal authority. Many years ago, when I completed my doctoral studies in theology, a bishop acquaintance told me "Guys like you scare me. You know too much."


For Roman Catholics the biggest paradigm shifts in the past fifty years have been: (1) the shift in theological understanding from an outsider-God to an insider-God, and (2) the shift from understanding the church as an institution run by ordained men to the church as God's people: a community of faith in which all men and women are equal members. The insider-God of course is the God who journeys with us, who is part of human history and discovery, and who is the intimate spirit animating our lives. These two paradigm shifts are connected of course and they underpin the theology of the Second Vatican Council.


Fifty years after the council, some people are still locked in their antiquated fundamentalist viewpoint. This past September, in my former parish for instance, the new director of religious education announced that for guidance in sacramental preparation and formation programs he would be relying on the teachings of the (sixteenth century) Council of Trent! What a contemporary guy! What absolute nonsense!


Lots of people within the Vatican's walls are still very uncomfortable with paradigm shifts in the church. In the days of the Francis effect their PPP anxiety may be a bit muted but it remains just as poisonous.


New Ways Ministry, a ministry of advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics, sponsored a pilgrimage to Rome two weeks ago for nearly fifty people. To their joy and great surprise they were given VIP seats for the papal Ash Wednesday liturgy and were led by Loreto Sister Jeannine Gramick, who co-founded the organization. Pope Francis, however, completely ignored them and they were introduced as simply "a group of lay people accompanied by a Sister of Loreto." As Robert Mickens observedin Commonweal, another example of ecclesiastical "Don't Ask Don't Tell." Ironic when it is well-known that a large number of bishops inside and outside the Vatican's walls are gay.


Today, in far too many dioceses, teachers in Catholic schools and lay ministers in parishes are being fired because they have expressed an openness to women's ordination, have questioned official church teaching about birth control, or because they are gay or have committed the offence of expressing openness or support for gay marriage.


An antidote for persistent paradigm paralysis? Like combating HIV or EBOLA it will take concerted efforts and it will take time. There are three steps we can take right now:

(1) When it appears in our parishes or schools, denounce it as nonsense and unacceptable. Non-violent protest may be necessary.
(2) Insist on well-rounded and high-quality education in our parishes, in catechetical programs, in schools, and in adult ongoing education programs.
(3) Do a personal ongoing education check-up. What is our understanding of our tradition, our history? Is our understanding of biblical research, for example, truly up to date?

There are some very big paradigm shifts on the way. Many connected with the rise of the Millennial generation. Exciting times ahead...... Being on the inside track will be much more fun. 

Jack Dick is ARCC Vice President    
Some things we have been reading  
User-friendly Lent - Sharpening spiritual focus 
Bro. David Steindl-Rast O.S.B.      Feb.18, 2015

Lent is an ancient word for springtime; it designates a season of burgeoning inner and outer life. Too often Lent has been misunderstood as a time of grim repentance, but it is meant to be a time of joy, the joy of a fresh start, the joy that greening meadows and blossoming trees proclaim each spring.

Read more

Open Letter from the People of God to the Bishops of the United States
Futue Church     March 2015

Dear Bishops:

On a trip home from Tel Aviv, Pope Francis stated, "Celibacy is not a dogma of faith, it is a rule of life that I appreciate a great deal and I believe it is a gift for the Church. The door is always open given that it is not a dogma of faith." And in a recent conversation with Bishop Erwin Krautler, Pope Francis discussed the priest shortage and future of the priesthood in Brazil urging the Bishop and all local bishops to be "courageous" and to make concrete suggestions on the possibilities available to assist in this crisis, including expanding the priesthood to include married men.


Now, we are looking to you, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to follow Pope Francis' call to be courageous in seeking solutions to our growing priest shortage and to present these solutions to Rome.


As you know well, over the past forty years, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and worldwide has experienced a steadily worsening priest shortage. At first, the process was so gradual that it was hardly noticed. But now, the rapidity of the decline is having a devastating impact on parish and sacramental life.


According to a 2008 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate study, half of the 19,302 active diocesan priests plan to retire by 2019. We are ordaining about 380 new diocesan priests each year. In just eight years, we will have only 13,500 active diocesan priests to serve our 18,000 parishes, presuming ordinations remain constant, as they have for over a decade.


Following Pope Francis' model we urge the USCCB to undertake a fresh examination of our early church tradition of a married and celibate priesthood, a diaconate served by women and men, and invite priests who have married back to ministry. Please encourage local bishops to open this important dialogue at a diocesan level particularly in the areas most affected by the priest shortage.


We also ask the USCCB to open a discussion of these issues at their general assemblies with a view to presenting concrete suggestions for opening ordination to Pope Francis.


We call on you, our bishops and brothers in Christ, to encourage discussion of the genuine reform so necessary to the future of the Church. We have an opportunity to save our church from a future wrought with priest-less parishes and Mass-less Catholics; we urge you go take action now.


May God bless our Church with people of vision, wisdom and courage.

Sign on to the open letter

Islamic State 'begins to kill' the more than 350 Christians abducted from north-east Syria
Abigail Frymann Rouch      Feb.26, 2015

Islamic State (IS) jihadists have reportedly begun murdering some of the Christian hostages captured from villages in north-east Syria since Monday.


The number of Assyrian Christian men, women and children abducted this week is thought to exceed 350, according to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).


On Tuesday agencies believed 90 people had been abducted, but estimates have risen daily. 

. . . .

Assyrian bishops based in the US urged the Obama administration and other coalition forces to provide the Assyrians "with safety and the necessary means to properly and effectively defend themselves".


The letter stated: "We believe that our president's administration in particular is morally obliged to secure the continued safety of the remaining Assyrian Christians in the Khabur region."

. . . . 

The Assyrian International News Agency reported that negotiations were under way to free some of the hostages, with Arab Sheiks in Hassakeh city acting as intermediaries between ISIS and Assyrian leaders.


The Christians were taken from 35 villages in a predominantly Kurdish region of Syria that lies between Turkey and Iraq. The villages were created during the French mandate era in the 1930s to settle Christians who had been expelled from Turkey and Iraq. Monday's raids took place in the villages of Tal Shamiram and Tal Hurmoz. Sources told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that they heard IS members saying via wireless devices that they had detained "56 crusaders" from Tal Shamiram.

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Stopping the Islamic State without making matters worse
Thomas Reese      Feb.27, 2015

The actions of the so-called Islamic State have been so horrendous that they have garnered almost universal condemnation. It is difficult to find anyone who does not want to see them stopped. 


This provides both a challenge and an opportunity to U.S. foreign policy, but we must make sure that we do not simply make matters worse by repeating the mistakes of the past.


Much of the discussion of the Islamic State lacks nuance and a respect for the complexity of the political and religious situation. The focus has been on a military solution to the crisis. Those who want a quick solution say send in the U.S. military.


Those who do not want U.S. casualties say we must train Iraqi troops to take on the Islamic State.


It is a wonder that anyone can make these arguments with a straight face. The U.S. military has not won a war since 1945. It fought to a stalemate in Korea; it lost in Vietnam; and Iraq and Afghanistan are in shambles with their futures still in doubt.


The U.S. experience of training foreign troops has been equally disastrous. Graduates of the School for the Americas, now known as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation went on to support Latin dictators with horrendous human rights records. The South Vietnamese army evaporated as soon as we left. The Iraqi army abandoned Mosul to an invasion of pickup trucks. The Afghan army still cannot handle the Taliban.

. . . .

The problem is that we continue to see terrorists and fanatics as a military problem rather than a political problem. I have no doubts that if we put thousands of U.S. troops back into Iraq and Syria, we will be able to take back the territory won by the Islamic State. The cost will be bloody. Civilians killed as collateral damage will quickly outnumber those directly killed by the Islamic State. Mosul will be totally destroyed as we "save it." The Iraqi army and its Shia militias will help us defeat the Islamic State, but the Sunni population will suffer and become more embittered.


What can the U.S. do?


First, increase aid dramatically to those taking care of refugees from Syria and Iraq. It is a scandal that we are quick to spend money on arms but slow to care for the victims of war.


Second, as Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops have said, it is "licit" to use force to stop the unjust aggression by the Islamic State and to protect minorities and civilians from attack. Stopping the further expansion of the Islamic State is an essential first step. But, as the pope and bishops have emphasized, "the use of military force must be proportionate and discriminate, and employed within the framework of international and humanitarian law."

. . . . 

It may be time to recognize Iraq as the failed state it is. The Kurds already have their independent territory and it is time to allow the Sunnis to have theirs. The Sunnis joined the fight against Al-Qaeda when they were promised greater autonomy, but that promise was broken and the result is the Islamic State.

. . . .

The only people who can truly defeat the Islamic State are the Sunnis. But they will not take on the Islamic State if the result will be subjugation by a Shia-led national government. It will not be easy to win over the Sunni population again. They were lied to too many times. But no military solution will work that does not respect their legitimate aspirations for autonomy. 

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Vatican security chief says ISIS threat to pope is real
Inés San Martín     Mar.2, 2015

While acknowledging that ISIS represents a real threat to Pope Francis and the Vatican, the commander of the Vatican gendarmes says security services have no knowledge of a planned attack.


"The threat exists. This is what has emerged from my conversations with Italian and foreign colleagues," said Domenico Giani, inspector general of the Corpo della Gendarmeria, the police and security service for the Vatican City State.


"At the moment, I can say that we know of no plan for an attack against the Vatican or the Holy Father," Giani said.

Read more

Vatican condemns leaking of expenses details of Pell's Secretariat for the Economy
James Roberts     Feb.27, 2015

Cardinal George Pell, who was given the job last year of overseeing reform of Holy See finances, has met with the first overt resistance from within the Vatican.


The Italian weekly L'Espresso today published leaked details of the expenses of the Secretariat for the Economy, the body created by Pope Francis in February 2014 to bring order and scrutiny to the Holy See's labyrinthine financial practices, and headed by Cardinal Pell.


L'Espresso reported that the Secretariat had run up around €500,000m in expenses in the first six months of its existence. The total reportedly includes spending on computers and printers, but also a €2,508 bill from Gamarelli, the well known tailor to many of the clergy.


Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said leaks were illegal. "Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal," Fr Lombardi said.


"The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal. In light of the views expressed, the Pope issues guidelines, and everybody follows them."

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The Vatican's financial reform: The nasty is back
John L. Allen Jr.     Feb.28, 2015

. . . .

In a word, the nasty is back.


The focus this time is Cardinal George Pell of Australia, the pope's chosen fix-it man on Vatican finances. Francis tapped Pell a year ago to end a cycle of scandal and corruption in money management, and in the year since he took over a newly created Secretariat for the Economy, he's become a lightning rod of the first order.


This week the Italian news magazine  l'Espresso published leaked receipts from Pell's new department purporting to show that it has racked up more than a half-million dollars in expenses during its first six months of existence, including a tab of more than $3,000 at Gammarelli's, a famed clerical tailor shop in Rome.


A rumor ensued that Francis had called Pell on the carpet about those expenses, something the Secretariat for the Economy called "completely false" and "complete fiction" in a statement on Saturday. In fact, the statement insisted, the new department's expenses are actually below the budget set when it was established last March.

. . . .

It can be difficult to get an objective read on the situation, in part because reaction to Pell is complicated by three factors:

  • Theologically and politically, Pell is a strong conservative. Some people feel an ideological compulsion to defend him and others to oppose him, neither of which has anything to do with his performance in his current post.

    For a financial manager, the fault line that matters isn't supposed to run between left and right but between red and black.

  • There's a longstanding tension between the Vatican's Italian majority and everybody else. It's hard to tell sometimes whether reactions to Pell are truly about him, or if he's become a symbol for deeper cultural divides.
  • Pell is a hard-charging and sometimes pugnacious personality. In an ideal world, whether people like him personally wouldn't color their assessment of how well he's doing his job - yet alas, in the Vatican as the rest of creation, the real world is often far from the ideal.

Why is the anti-Pell resistance cresting right now?

For one thing, Pell clearly hasn't been intimidated by lower-intensity pushback. On Monday, his Secretariat for the Economy released a set of procedures for closing the books on 2014, which among other things require every department head in the Vatican, for the first time, to sign a legally binding declaration that their reports are complete and correct.

. . . .

Pope Francis also returned on Friday from a week-long annual Lenten retreat, and sometime soon he's expected to issue a new legal framework for Pell's department and other financial oversight bodies he's created.


The effect will be either to rein Pell in, as his critics hope, or to turn him loose.


While the catfight may continue for a while longer, a make-or-break moment is approaching.


Sometime by mid-year, the Secretariat for the Economy will release its first-ever consolidated financial statement covering the Vatican's fiscal year in 2014.


If that statement comes off as comprehensive and accurate, most of the objections lodged against Pell will likely fade, seeming like sour grapes. If the perception, however, is that he's produced the same sort of vague and unreliable report as in the past, then no amount of soothing press releases will save him.

Read more
The Promoted Pell and the Sacked Morris: Two Catholic Bishops Emerge from the Royal Commission
Frank Brennan, S.J.       Feb,20, 2015

Last week the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse published three reports relating to the Catholic Church.


Understandably the media has focused on the appropriately damning findings made by the Royal Commission against Cardinal George Pell in his ruthless conduct in the Ellis case.


Having found that the Archdiocese of Sydney fundamentally failed John Ellis in its implementation of the Towards Healing process, the Commission found that Cardinal Pell accepted the advice of his lawyers to vigorously defend the claim brought by Mr Ellis, in part in order to dissuade other prospective plaintiffs from litigating claims of child sexual abuse against the Church.


The Commission also made a formal finding that the Archdiocese, the Trustees and the Archbishop "did not act fairly from a Christian point of view in the conduct of the litigation against Mr Ellis."

. . . .

As a Catholic, I am heartened to see that the Royal Commission, moving from Sydney to Toowoomba, made no adverse findings against Bishop William Morris. In fact, the Commission was quite complimentary of Morris. The Commission's key finding in relation to Morris was:

"That on being advised of Mr Byrnes's offending and the response of the school and the Toowoomba Catholic Education Office to the September 2007 allegations of child sexual abuse, Bishop Morris responded appropriately by:
  • commissioning an independent investigation into what occurred and seeking advice and recommendations as to any actions that needed to be taken to better protect children
  • appointing an independent mediator [retired High Court judge Ian Callinan] to assess and give advice as to reparation to victims and their families
  • establishing a Child Abuse Response Team to develop and oversee both the pastoral and professional response and to give advice to the Diocese about improvements to child protection.

Bishop Morris "asked Mr Callinan to assist in ensuring that each victim received fair compensation for what had happened to them." Bishop Morris "felt that it was important that the matter be dealt with quickly and fairly so as to avoid any further suffering which might be caused by a lengthy and difficult legal process."


These contrasting findings highlight the tragedy that such a pastoral bishop and decent man as William Morris could be sacked by Pope Benedict XVI for failing in his duties as a bishop. Mind you, I don't think the Royal Commission (being appointed by the State rather than the Church) had any business in finding that Pell "did not act fairly from a Christian point of view." The Commission should stick to its brief. The finding should have been more stark: Cardinal Pell did not act fairly towards Mr Ellis. The Commission should leave assessments from the religious point of view to religious communities. We should maintain our proud separation of Church and State.


To give Cardinal Pell his due, he did in the end apologise to Mr Ellis. 

. . . .

We've never been given a coherent rationale for Pope Benedict's sacking of Morris. When Morris was sacked, Pell had explained to the Catholic News Agency that "the diocese was divided quite badly and the bishop hasn't demonstrated that he's a team player." The Royal Commission's report on Toowoomba shows just what a team player Morris was. 

. . . .

The Sydney curia was not a smooth running team. While I don't suppose Pope Francis will demote Cardinal Pell, it would be nice to see him reinstate Bishop Morris. The Australian Church needs pastoral, down-to-earth bishops like Morris who have been proved to "get it" when it comes to dealing pastorally and professionally with child sexual abuse. 

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AUSCP requests expanded opportunities for sacramental confession and reconciliation. 
The Association has encouraged the Bishops of the United States to request an indult to allow full use of the Rite of Penance, including Rite 3 as part of the pastoral practice of the Church in the United States. 
Read the letter to USCCB President, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz,  . (A slightly adapted copy of this letter was sent to all bishops.)
document providing background and rationale for the request can be found HERE.
National clergy group launches its own synod questionnaire
Brian Roewe       Feb, 26, 2015

. . . .

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests sent a synod survey on Jan. 31 to its 1,000-plus members, asking each not to answer the 46 questions presented in the synod's working document, the lineamenta, but instead to rank them in importance on a seven-point scale from "not important" to "essential." Each question also offers comment space for priests to expand on those questions they deemed as essential.


The instructions for the survey also ask respondents to keep in mind two "preliminary" questions posed by the synod document: Does the descriptions of family issues in the lineamenta correspond to today's church and society? And what aspects are missing that should be included?


The exercise, said Fr. Bernard Survil, an association board member, allows the priests to show which questions they as a group view as most important for the synod to discuss, and ultimately, answer.


"We know that none of us are going to be delegates, but we do want to have input," said Survil, who is a priest in the Greensburg, Pa., diocese.

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Limited options for lay Catholics wanting synod input
Dennis Coday       Feb,24, 2015

Catholics still looking to have input into the October synod on the family have limited options.


Bishops who head about half of all U.S. Latin-rite dioceses (93) are conducting some kind of survey among Catholics in their territories. 


Information-gathering has already ceased in about 18 of these dioceses, and in about 24 of these dioceses, consultations may be not with the parishioners at large, but with select groups, like parish council members in Stockton, Calif., or "pastors, parochial administrators, and parochial vicars" in Venice, Fla.

. . . .

Last year, a coalition of 19 Catholic reform organizations commissioned a survey of attitudes based on the Vatican's survey and sent their findings to the Vatican's Secretariat of the Synod. The coalition isn't doing that this year, said Ryan Hoffmann, director of communications for one of those groups, the Chicago-based Call To Action.


This year, the reform groups are encouraging Catholics to engage their local diocesan leaders, Hoffman told NCR.


"Bishops have been directed to learn from the experiences of lay Catholics," he said. "In dioceses where the bishop hasn't reached out, laity are encouraged to be proactive, making it clear they expect to be heard. We feel it is extremely important Catholics take advantage of this opportunity to make clear their pastoral needs and ways the church can better serve them."


Ryan pointed out a website,, with resources and suggestions for Catholics wanting to offer input to their bishops.

. . . . 

Some Catholics have contacted NCR saying they plan to write directly to the Vatican about the family life topics under discussion. 


The email address for the secretariat is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The mailing address is:

Sinodo dei Vescovi
Palazzo del Bramante
Via della Conciliazione, 34
Città del Vaticano

. . . . 

The Catholic reform organizations are focusing their attention this year on the October synod itself. They have launched a campaign called "Widen the Circle at the 2015 Family Synod." They are petitioning the synod organizers at the Vatican to "to make every effort to include a wide diversity of Catholics" as auditors and experts who will address the Synod of Bishops in October. 

Read more

Strong Catholic Families offers simplified survey for family synod
Soli Salgado      Feb.25, 2015

If you found the official survey on family life presented to Catholics by about half of all U.S. dioceses difficult to answer and time-consuming, maybe you should try the survey prepared by Strong Catholic Families, a group of four national organizations that minister to families and youth.


Your answers, unfortunately, won't be shared with the Vatican's Secretariat for the Synod, which is directing the official surveys, but you can be sure the answers will be discussed by church leaders and parish workers interested in your family's welfare.

. . . .

Strong Catholic Families works closely with church leaders to figure out how they can "walk more closely with parents" and continue to grow the domestic church of the home, Theisen said.


While the survey deadline says March 12, Theisen said the link will not close for some time. He is encouraging people to complete it at any time, as the results page will be a live link with updated responses.


Responses to its survey will be used in the initiative's future presentations, resource materials and discussions with church leaders.

Read more

San Francisco archbishop rejects lawmakers' criticism on morality clauses
David Gibson       Feb,20, 2015

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has rejected criticism from state lawmakers over the use of morality clauses for Catholic schoolteachers, asking whether they would "hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those you stand for?"


The archdiocese sparked protests earlier this month when it unveiled morality clauses for four Catholic high school handbooks as well as for teacher labor contracts.


The handbooks single out church teaching against homosexual relations, same-sex marriage, abortion, artificial birth control and "reproductive technology," women's ordination, pornography, masturbation and human cloning, according to theNational Catholic Reporter.

. . . .

Five members of the state Assembly and three state senators sent Cordileone a letter urging him to remove the clauses, which they said were discriminatory and divisive.


On Thursday (Feb. 19), Cordileone responded with a letter saying he is only asking for the same right they have in hiring.


"Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those you stand for, and who shows disrespect for you and the Democratic Party in general?" Cordileone asked the lawmakers, according to The Associated Press.

Read more

San Francisco Catholic School Students Push Archdiocese To #TeachAcceptance
Carol Kuruvilla      Feb.20, 2015

. . . .

On Ash Wednesday, hundreds of students and parents, some with ashes still streaked across their foreheads, gathered outside Saint Mary's Cathedral to protest morality clauses for Catholic school teachers promoted by San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, ABC News' local affiliate reported.


Hannah Regan, a 14-year-old student at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, was one of the many who sang and recited prayers outside the church. She's been in the city's Catholic school system for about 10 years and loves the community she's grown up with. But on Wednesday, she came out with a challenge, holding up a sign that read, "Teach Love, Teach Justice, Teach Acceptance."


The hashtag #TeachAcceptance has become a rallying cry, she said.

Read more

S.F. archbishop reassessing strict morals code for teachers
Kevin Fagan       Feb.25, 2015

Under pressure from parents, students and staffers at the San Francisco Catholic Archdiocese's schools, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Tuesday that he is reaxamining strict guidelines he proposed for teachers that would require them to reject homosexuality, use of contraception and other "evil" behavior.


Cordileone also said he is dropping an effort to designate high school teachers as "ministers," which, under a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, would have removed government-mandated employee protections by placing them solely under church control.

. . . .

In an hour-long meeting Tuesday with The Chronicle's editorial board, Cordileone said he is forming a committee of theology teachers from the archdiocese's four high schools to go over his proposed guidelines. The committee, he said, will "recommend to me an expanded draft" and "adjust the language to make the statements more readily understandable to a wider leadership."

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Chilean Priests Join Forces Against Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, Claiming He Covered Up Sexual Abuse
Associated Press      Feb.20, 2015

A group of Chilean priests on Thursday demanded the resignation of a bishop, accusing him of covering up for a prominent priest who sexually abused altar boys.


The priests and deacons in the southern city of Osorno made their request to Ivo Scapalo, the papal nuncio in Chile. They said newly appointed bishop Juan Barros Madrid covered up for the Rev. Fernando Karadima.


Victims have said Karadima began abusing them at his residence at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Santiago about 20 years ago, when they were between 14 and 17 years old.


The Vatican sanctioned Karadima by ordering him to a life of "penitence and prayer" in 2011. A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, but she determined the abuse allegations were truthful.

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Married priests would be the wrong solution
Tina Beattie       Feb..27, 2015

Pope Francis has made clear that the question of married priests is open for discussion. Priestly celibacy is a discipline rather than a doctrine. It only became compulsory in the Middle Ages, though there is debate as to how common it was before then. There is already a de facto married Catholic priesthood made up of former Anglican priests who have joined the mainstream Church or the Ordinariate. Particularly in Africa, many Catholic priests have "wives" and children, even if these are not publicly acknowledged by the Church.

. . . .

The ordination of celibate women would be a more coherent and potent symbol of these sacramental mysteries than the ordination of married men, which will inevitably dissolve the last traces of otherness that the Catholic Church represents and absorb us into a secularised and demystified culture. Nor is it true that just because a priest is married he is likely to be more woman-friendly than one who isn't, or that married men are less likely to abuse children. Sex abuse is common to all sectors of society - it is a problem of power and masculinity, not of celibacy - and some of the worst forms of misogyny flourish in marriage.


Only when women are fully incorporated into the sacramental mystery of the priesthood will we be in a position to ask how the sacramental mystery of marriage might belong within that vocation. To do it the other way round is to diminish these mysteries in the interests of expediency, driven by an unacknowledged imperative to do whatever it takes to avoid the question of women priests.

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Turin: Priests Allowed to Grant Remission for Those Who Have Committed Sin of Abortion
 Luca Marcolivio     Feb.25, 2015

Women who have had an abortion and all those who have carried it out or encouraged it will be able to have their excommunication remitted without the need for an appeal, if they go on pilgrimage to Turin, during the extraordinary exhibition of the Holy Shroud, to be held from April 19 to June 24.


The indulgence was established in a decree signed by the Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, who granted the faculty of remission to all priests (be they of the diocese or outside it, be they members of Institutes of Consecrated Life or of Societies of Apostolic life who are regularly able to receive the faithful's confessions.) throughout the territory of the Archdiocese of Turin.


The decision was taken considering the fact that, "in the period of the soon-to-be Exhibition of the Holy Shroud, many faithful will pour into the city of Turin and the entire territory of the Archdiocese, and this event is a time of grace that can be translated into attitudes of conversion, fruits of penance and of newness of life to reawaken many consciences," reads the decree.


The faculty of absolution of the excommunication stemming from procured abortion, without the onus of appeal within a month to the competent Superior or a priest provided with the faculty and of holding oneself to his decisions, is a sign of the "mercy of the Father in dealing with one who is repentant of a crime committed without, however, diminishing the vigor of the law that imposes the obligation of appeal of one who has been absolved, because it was grave for him/her to remain in the state of serious sin."

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German archdiocese of Cologne worth more than the Vatican
Tom Heneghan      Feb.20, 2015

Cologne CathedralThe Roman Catholic archdiocese of Cologne in Germany has disclosed it is worth 3.35 billion euros ($3.82 billion), making it richer than the Vatican.


Publication of the first full report of its wealth reflects greater financial transparency within the German Church since Pope Francis removed a bishop in Limburg, near Frankfurt, last year for spending 31 million euros from secret funds on a new luxury residence.


Also pressed by the pope to reform its finances, the Vatican has consolidated the various - and sometimes hidden - accounts of its many departments and found it has assets of about $3 billion (2.64 billion euros), Cardinal George Pell, the Holy See's secretary for the economy, said last week.

. . . .

Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches benefit from a church tax imposed on all their members. The report said Cologne reaped 573 million euros from the tax in 2013 and spent over half of that on pastoral and charity work.

. . . .

Its landmark Gothic cathedral along the Rhine is listed as being worth only 27 euros - one euro for each of the 26 land parcels beneath it and one euro for the priceless building. 

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Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, Influential Ex-President of Notre Dame, Dies at 97
Anthony DeOalma      Feb.27, 2015

HesburghThe Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the strong-minded former president of the University of Notre Dame who stood up to both the White House and the Vatican as he transformed Catholic higher education in America and raised a powerful moral voice in national affairs, died late Thursday in South Bend, Ind. He was 97.


The university confirmed his death in a statement on its website, saying he had died just before midnight at Holy Cross House, which is next to the university.


As an adviser to presidents, special envoy to popes, theologian, author, educator and activist, Father Hesburgh was for decades considered the most influential priest in America. In 1986, when he retired after a record 35 years as president of Notre Dame, a survey of 485 university presidents named him the most effective college president in the country.

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Vatican II - Voice of the Church Website

The mission of this website is to promote and explain the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) which was the most significant event in the modern era of the Catholic Church. The Council was instrumental for renewal in the self-understanding of the Church, its inner life and its relationship to other Christian traditions, other religions and the world. Those participating in or who lived through the time of the Council felt a profound, exhilarating sense of renewal and virtually experienced a new Pentecost.

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LGBT Catholic Group Gets VIP Treatment At Vatican
Philip Pullella       Feb.18, 2015

A prominent American Catholic gay rights group was given VIP treatment for the first time at an audience with Pope Francis on Wednesday, a move members saw as a sign of change in the Roman Catholic Church.


"This is a sign of movement that's due to the Francis effect," said Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, which ministers to homosexual Catholics and promotes gay rights in the 1.2 billion-member Church.


Gramick and executive director Francis DeBernardo led a pilgrimage of 50 homosexual Catholics to the audience in St. Peter's Square.


They told Reuters in an interview afterwards that when the group came to Rome on Catholic pilgrimages during the papacies of Francis's predecessors John Paul and Benedict, "they just ignored us."


This time, a U.S. bishop and a top Vatican official backed their request and they sat in a front section with dignitaries and special Catholic groups. As the pope passed, they sang "All Are Welcome," a hymn symbolizing their desire for a more inclusive Church.

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Pope Francis' reform of the Roman Curia is moving too slowly 
Thomas Reese     Feb.20, 2015

As Pope Francis approaches the second anniversary of his election as pope, progress on reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly. It should be moving faster.


The College of Cardinals met in consistory on Feb. 12-13 to review the progress made so far and to discuss future reforms. The cardinals heard from the nine-member Council of Cardinals, which has been spearheading the reforms for Pope Francis.


The greatest progress has been made in reforming the finances of the Vatican, which has mainly focused on where the money is -- the Vatican bank, the Vatican City State, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples. A new Secretariat for the Economy was also created to supervise Vatican finances.

. . . .

Reforming the Roman Curia, the part of the Vatican that helps the pope in his Petrine ministry, is more difficult.

. . . .

Reforming the Roman Curia requires a theological vision for the Petrine ministry, a sense of what the church needs today, and a practical understanding of how to organize people to implement it. 


First, what is the theological vision of the Petrine ministry? Is the pope an infallible, absolute monarch in whom all wisdom resides, or is he first among equals who acts collegially with the college of bishops?


If it is the former, then all important decisions will be referred to the pope or to those to whom he has delegated decision-making power in the Curia. Any issue that is in doubt must go up the chain of command.


If it is the latter vision, then the church needs a system for encouraging discussion and consensus building in the college of bishops. Here, the Curia is in service to the pope and the college of bishops; curial officials are not decision-makers.


Second, what are the needs of the church today? Does the church need more stability or change, unity or pluralism, clearer teaching or better witness? Should it be challenging or accommodating, devotional or prophetic?

. . . . 

Third, all of this has to be organized into offices with people with specific responsibilities. 

. . . .

Reform of the Roman Curia is difficult because there is no consensus on the Petrine ministry, the needs of the church today, or the practical issues of management.


Perhaps the first place to start is by asking Vatican officials and local bishops what issues are being decided in Rome that should be decided at the local, national, or regional level. For example, if a priest and his bishop agree that the priest should be laicized, why does his case have to go to Rome? Do liturgical translations have to be micromanaged in Rome?


This was one of the issues raised by the cardinals as they met in consistory on Feb. 12, according to Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi. He reports that they discussed the notion of subsidiarity, or how the Roman Curia might share and divide responsibilities between local dioceses and bishops' conferences. But no details were given. If this ever gets beyond the discussion stage, it will have a profound impact on the Vatican congregations, which have much of the decision-making authority in the Vatican.


But instead of discussing the congregations, the focus of attention during the February consistory was shifted to the councils, which have little decision-making authority. 

. . . .
In fact, most of the pontifical councils act like think tanks rather than bureaucracies. They have little decision-making authority.  . . . .  For the most part, councils only have the power to exhort and persuade, not to order. 
. . . .

There is a proposal to merge some of these councils into two congregations, one dealing with laity and one dealing with justice, peace and the environment. It is hoped that this will reduce staff and make the offices more efficient. 


The first congregation will be created by merging the current councils for laity and family. The second congregation will be created from merging the old councils for justice and peace, health care, migrants and refugees, and include a new office for safeguarding creation.


The creation of these two congregations is being presented as a major reform. "Now the laity will have a congregation just like the clergy, bishops, and religious," it is asserted.


Only cardinals could think this is a big deal. The laity certainly do not care. The only real difference here will be that a congregation must be headed by a cardinal while a council can be headed by an archbishop. A layperson will not be able to head the Congregation for the Laity, but could head an office, like an office for the family, within the congregation. 

. . . . 

A conspiracy theorist would say that getting the Council of Cardinals to focus on this reorganization was a way of distracting them from any real reform in the Curia. Let the cardinals talk about the councils. Keep them away from the congregations.  

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The Jewish roots of Leonard Nimoy and 'live long and prosper'
Abby Ohlheiser.     Feb.27, 2015

SpockLeonard Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, "live long and prosper," as a child, long before "Star Trek" even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston.


The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. "Something really got hold of me," Nimoy said in a 2013 interview with the National Yiddish Book Center.


Nimoy, who died on Friday, spoke about the Jewish roots of the famous gesture for an oral history project documenting the lives of Yiddish speakers, of which Nimoy is one.

. . . . 

"This is the shape of the letter shin," Nimoy said in the 2013 interview, making the famous "V" gesture. The Hebrew letter shin, he noted, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including Shaddai (a name for God), Shalom (the word for hello, goodbye and peace) and Shekhinah, which he defined as "the feminine aspect of God who supposedly was created to live among humans."


The Shekhinah, Nimoy has said, was also the name of the prayer he participated in as a boy that inspired the salute. The prayer, meant to bless the congregation, is named after the feminine aspect of God, Nimoy explained in a 2012 post on the "Star Trek" site. "The light from this Deity could be very damaging. So we are told to protect ourselves by closing our eyes," he wrote in the blog.

. . . . 

Laughing, Nimoy revealed the best part of it all: "People don't realize they're blessing each other with this!

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Vatican whodunit: What happened to books on marriage?
Nicole Winfield      Feb.27, 2015

A whodunit is making the rounds at the Vatican.


The publisher of a book on traditional Catholic marriage is crying foul, saying someone apparently swiped upward of 100 copies of the book from the Vatican mailboxes of bishops who attended a meeting on family issues last October.


The publisher sent the books to attendees to counter progressive proposals by one of Pope Francis' favorite theologians to let divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion. The book, penned by five high-ranking, conservative cardinals, argues that the suggestion is essentially moot since it is contrary to Christ's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.


The Vatican spokesman insists the books were delivered without impediment.

But the mystery remains: What happened to the books?


"Only a few reached synod fathers at their mailboxes in the Vatican," said the Rev. Joseph Fessio of publisher Ignatius Press.

. . . .

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, denied there was any funny business with the book delivery.


"I can deny it," he said. "I have inquired. The copies that arrived by mail were distributed in the mailboxes without impediment. One person told me he even received two copies!"


The mystery underscores the divisiveness of the debate and the conspiracy theories that ran rampant during the synod, with accusations that meeting organizers were angling to favor a more progressive outcome. Such tensions will likely only rise before the second round of discussions starting in October.

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Oprah and Sister Joan Chittister:  A Life of Passion, Purpose and Joy
Aired on Mar.1, 2015

Oprah speaks with Sister Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic nun and author of nearly 50 books, for a discussion about new ways of looking at God, the vital force that women represent in the church and in society, and the divinity of merging spirituality and science. Sister Joan is an outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality-especially for women-all over the world. She has been one of America's visionary spiritual voices for more than 30 years.


Is that a hamburger?
Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, Portland, Oregon

Are there fries on the back?


Ed: Seriously, does anyone know what this represents?

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