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A Catholic Agenda for 2015
J. A. Dick                                            Jan.1, 2015 

Reviewing the past year and looking forward to 2015, I see seven key action projects for contemporary Catholics:

  1. Keeping the pope in perspective: Francis, the current Bishop of Rome, appears to be a genuine and friendly fellow, and an outspoken leader with some keen pastoral sensitivities. Let's not however make the old mistake of making the pope - superstar or not - the center of our Faith. Our inspiration, and the foundation for our Faith, is Jesus of Nazareth not the Bishop of Rome. Papal superstars come and go. Christian life, witness, and ministry, however, are the responsibility of all in the church.
  2. Change is a fact of life: We live in a time of gigantic global migrations and cultural shifts. Some speak fearfully about a clash of civilizations. Cultural change, questioning, and temporary cultural estrangement are unavoidable. Let's not see this as terrible and frightening but challenging and hopeful. The ways in which we understand both God and the church move in dialogue with ongoing changes in human culture, our changing knowledge, and our expanding consciousness. In any event - no matter how hard the fundamentalists  try to convince people otherwise - there really is no turning back. We are all on a new journey.....and we are all travellers and explorers.
  3. Sexism is sin: Rush Limbaugh, known for his somewhat comic and always conservative proclamations, has warned of those who are working today to "chickify" contemporary society. What he means is that radical feminists are taking control of society and the media and subverting and subjugating men. I don't think so. Sexism in civil society and in the church remains as strong as ever. It is unjust and inhumane and of course unchristian. We don't need a "theology of women." We need a theology, an attitude, and a language that are all inclusive. You and I must make it happen.
  4. Ignorance is not bliss: In our church, and especially in our ordained leadership, there is great historical and biblical ignorance. Together let us seek good and correct information. Let's insist on theological updating and continuing education for our bishops and educators. Let us think critically and ask the critical questions. And......may we do this without demeaning the other; but never flinching either from challenging those who make ignorant and sometimes stupid church pronouncements. No one has all the truth. Together we must all be truth-seekers.
  5. Human sexuality: Perhaps it comes, in part, from a centuries-old tradition of having ordained ministers who are officially celibate. Nevertheless, the official Roman Catholic understanding and official Roman Catholic teaching about human sexuality - in it's great variety of forms and expressions - is terribly medieval. Change here will come slowly; but it will not come at all, unless we all challenge ignorance and protest the institutional sin and hypocrisy that allow sexual ignorance and discrimination as well as sexual abuse to continue unchallenged.
  6. Prophetic church movements: Around the world there are a great number of prophetic church movements, many inspired and animated by prophetic ordained women. They deserve our recognition and support. They not only belong to the Church of Christ but may indeed be its best hope for the future.
  7. God-seekers: Most importantly, ever mindful of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, let us be God-seekers: explorers of the Divine and creative interpreters of the Divine who in words, symbols, and songs can speak about God's presence in human life. The number of God-seekers is growing among those who are "spiritual but not religious." Their journey is our journey as well. 

John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D is ARCC Vice President
Women in the Church - Back to Basics
Trinitarian Paradigm Shift
Robert Schutzius      Jan., 2015
The "filioque" question is not settled.  Maybe the  Council of Nicea and Aquinas got it wrong.  After all, the Trinity is indeed a mystery and cannot be understood.  Might these early and esteemed Church figures have come to the wrong compromise about this mystery?  It could happen! Instead of the Holy Spirit, the Santa Sophia, emanating from the love of the Father and the Son, might it be that it is really God the Son who emanates from God the Father's love for God the Mother?  
Since humans are made in the image and likeness of the triune God, according to the filioque explanation of the trinity, the human father's love for his son would bring about the emanation of the mother, which is crazy.   
Might the more appropriate sign of the Cross be:  "In the name of God the Father, God the Mother, and God the Son, Amen"?
There is no doubt that the idea of two male figures of God, Father and Son, generating the female Spirit of Mother God, just does not set well with life and creation as we now know it. It certainly is incompatible with humanity.
Consider the implications for theology and understanding of the Spirit as Motherhood if this revised understanding of the Trinity were in place over the past 2000 years. 
Be Careful!  This could be a heresy that would shake the foundations of Christianity.  This would make the East/West Schism, and the Reformation, look like venial sins.  
Yet, like it or not, we are finally beginning to realize the essential equality of all humans through the emergence of the feminine.  Maybe our God the Mother is making manifest that we who make up the Church are to be  seen as children of God as we share the humanity of Jesus, God the Son, who emanates from the mutual love of God the Father for God the Mother. 
Why didn't Aquinas think of this?   Maybe he did, but they burned heretics at the stake in those days. 

Robert Schutzius, Ph.D is an ARCC Presidential Advisor, former ARCC board member and offiicer, former ARCC office manager 
Some things we have been reading  
2014 was the most progressive year for the Catholic Church
Paul Moses       Dec.27, 2014

Pope Francis initiated a revolution in the Catholic Church in 2014-a revolution of common sense rather than ideology or doctrine.


The new tone he is trying to achieve is a lucid response to the concerns that have chased many people, especially the young, away from the Catholic Church. The logic seems clear:

  • Church leaders' chilly public use of the term "disordered" for homosexuality has been replaced by the pope's call for the church to help families better accept their gay and lesbian children-following on his famous remark, "Who am I to judge?"
  • With strong evidence that people are turned off if religious leaders come across as partisan, the pope has avoided the US bishops' focus on fighting gay marriage and abortion and instead encouraged a broader agenda by emphasizing inequality, which, as he tweeted, "is the root of social evil."
  • The carte blanche for bishops to abuse their authority was revoked as prelates such as Germany's "bishop of bling," Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, were removed from power, with the promise of more to come as Francis deals further with the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
  • After leaks, paranoia and corruption allegations swirled through the Vatican, Pope Francis has cleaned up the Vatican Bank, assailed clericalism, shamed other prelates with his simple lifestyle and taken unprecedented steps toward creating transparency by participating in a string of revealing media interviews.

. . . .

He has not changed any of the Catholic Church's teachings. He has urged a more compassionate, inclusive approach to Catholics who divorced and remarried, not an acceptance of divorce. He has sought to make the church more accepting of gay people, but in no way changed the teaching that homosexual acts are wrong.


Some argue that we are only seeing a change in style from Francis's predecessors, and nothing more. But that misses the point.


"Style is 80% of what we do," Massimo Faggioli, a theologian at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis and author of the upcoming book Pope Francis: Tradition in Transition, toldQuartz. "It's true that the pope hasn't changed the Catechism. He hasn't changed the fundamental texts. But what he's saying is really something new."

Faggioli referred to the pope's decision to baptize children of unwed couples. "That's new. It's impossible to say that's just style," he said. "It's style but it conveys a very powerful message. This is the art of his genius."

Read more

2014's runner-up to Person of the Year
Dennis Coday      Dec.31, 2015

. . . .

ColbertIn the internal poll we conduct among editors and contributors, [Stephen] Colbert was nominated as NCR's person of the year for 2014 as a way to honor his nine years of stinging satire on "The Colbert Report," which ended its run Dec. 18 as he prepares to take over for David Letterman at the "Late Show" on CBS this year.


Colbert could have been writing our editorials for us, said the staffer who recommended him as person of the year. Indeed, Colbert has skewered the same politicians, public officials and policy issues that NCR rails against issue after issue.

. . . .

Colbert also teaches first Communion classes at his parish in Montclair, N.J., where he lives with his wife and three children. He told Rolling Stone that faith plays a very big role in his life: "I'm first to say that I talk a good game, but I don't know how good I am about it in practice."


"If Jesus doesn't have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble," Colbert said on a stage he shared with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan at Fordham University in 2012. "Are there flaws in the church? Absolutely. But is there great beauty in the church? Absolutely. ... The real reason I remain a Catholic is what the church gives me, which is love."

. . . . 

We also considered the appropriateness of honoring an unapologetic lay Catholic who has effectively used the media to spread Gospel values during this our 50th year of being a lay-led, independent media voice. We had a strong case to name Colbert our person of the year.


Mr. Colbert, you almost made it. But look at your competition.

Read more

Cardinal Raymond Burke: 'Feminized' church and altar girls caused priest shortage
David Gibson       Jan.7, 2015


Cardinal Raymond Burke, a senior American churchman in Rome who has been one of the most outspoken critics of Pope Francis' push for reform, is roiling the waters yet again, this time arguing that the Catholic Church has become too "feminized."


Burke, who was recently demoted from the Vatican's highest court to a ceremonial philanthropic post, also pointed to the introduction of altar girls for why fewer men are joining the priesthood.

. . . .

"It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of (a) priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys," the former archbishop of St. Louis told Matthew James Christoff, who heads a Catholic men's ministry called the New Emangelization Project. 

. . . .

In the interview, Burke also blamed gay clergy for the church's sexual abuse crisis, saying priests "who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity" were the ones who molested children.

. . . .

Burke said he recalled "young men telling me that they were, in a certain way, frightened by marriage because of the radicalizing and self-focused attitudes of women that were emerging at that time. These young men were concerned that entering a marriage would simply not work because of a constant and insistent demanding of rights for women."


He said that "the radical feminist movement strongly influenced the Church" as well.

The focus on women's issues, he said, plus "a complete collapse" of teaching the faith and "rampant liturgical experimentation," led the church to become "very feminized." That turned off men who "respond to rigor and precision and excellence," Burke said.

"Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women," he said. "The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved."

Burke said "men need to dress and act like men"

Read more

Does Catholicism have a 'man crisis,' or is Cardinal Burke paranoid?
Kaya Oakes       Jan.7, 2015

In an online interview this week, Cardinal Raymond Burke said the "radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized."


But many women will head to Mass this weekend and note that the priest, bishop and pope have something in common: They are all men, and the power they hold in institutional church structures hardly looks like marginalization.


In spite of Burke's paranoid opinion that "rampant liturgical experimentation" resulted in men who were "really turned off" by the Mass, women will stand and recite a recently revised Nicene Creed that states that Christ died "for us men." They will pray to a God referred to only by male pronouns even as God's gender remains stubbornly mysterious. Even the language of the liturgy negates the presence of women.

. . . .

The fact that Burke gave this interview to a website whose very name - The New Emangelization - may lead many to question whether it is actually a parody, indicates the level of absurdity in Burke's claims that women have somehow taken over the Catholic Church.


There is also something disturbing and insulting about his ideas concerning the men already in the church.


Burke argues that "feminized" priests have been so influenced by overbearing women that they have lost their sense of manhood. But it was that same generation of "feminized" priests who encouraged women to study theology, write for Catholic magazines, take up leadership roles in parishes and even educate future priests. Those priests see women as collaborators. They do not see women as something to be feared. 

. . . .
It would be easy here to point out that Burke also demands that "men need to dress and act like men" while having a reputation as a Vatican fashionista who often sports "elaborate silk and lace vestments." One blog actually pairs photos of Cardinal Burke with ones of Liberace, and the resemblance is uncanny. Burke's notions of gender may be woefully outdated, but his sense of style is wrought with irony.

Read more

The Vatican's #LifeofWomen video project: the bad, the ugly and the good
Jamie Manson      Jan.7, 2015

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Vatican seemingly gave a gift to Catholic women across the world.


No, it wasn't five golden rings, but rather, the chance to make a one-minute video for the Pontifical Council for Culture.


The Pontifical Council for Culture, which is one of the "dicasteries" or departments of the Roman Curia, announced that its February assembly would be dedicated to the theme of "Women's Cultures."


The dicastery invited all Catholic women (or at least those who were paying attention to the Vatican website in the days after Christmas) to upload a brief video response to questions that seem better suited to an adolescent youth group: "Who are you?" and "What do you think about your being a woman?" and "What do you think about your strengths, your difficulties, your body, and your spiritual life?"


Not only did the dicastery assume that the whole of women's experience could be reduced to a 60-second sound bite, it also assumed that such a feat could be performed in under a week. The deadline for submissions was Jan. 4.

. . . .

But perhaps most troubling of all is the question of which "crowd" will be "sourced" in this project.


The ability to create a video and make it available over the Internet is still a privilege enjoyed by relatively few women throughout the world. So these videos, by their very nature, will be self-selecting.


The sad irony is that many of the women who suffer most profoundly under the forces of patriarchy and gender inequality are not likely to have access to a smartphones or computers, let alone to Internet access capable of uploading a one-minute video. As Phyllis Zagano pointedly demonstrated in her NCRcolumn last week, these are the women the Vatican needs to hear from most.

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Jimmy Carter's book takes a prophetic stand for women
Janice Sevre-Duszynska        Jan.7, 2015

By Jimmy Carter

Published by Simon & Schuster, $28


If she wasn't before, Rosalynn Carter could now be the envy of women across the planet.


"I'm still getting acquainted with Rosalynn after 68 years of marriage," her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, said recently on "The Colbert Report." He was being interviewed about his latest book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.

. . . .

He does not spare us any details of the cruelties inflicted on women: the rape of 3-month-old baby girls, honor killings, genital cutting, femicide (the murder of women), gendercide (selective killing of female fetuses by abortion, neglect or murder), assaults on U.S. campuses and in the military, physical violence perpetrated by boyfriends and husbands, child marriages, enslavement, and the increasing rate of incarceration of vulnerable, nonviolent women because of anti-drug policies. 

. . . .

Carter, who supports women's ordination and women's equality in all religions, finds it "ironic" that women are welcomed into many professions "but are deprived of the right to serve Jesus Christ in positions of leadership," as they did in the early Christian churches.


Such "sustained religious suppression of women as inferior or unqualified has been a major influence in depriving women of equal status within the worldwide secular community as spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."


The former president reminds us that Jesus, breaking the taboos of his time, treated women as equal to men, and that these details are reported in Gospels written by men.

"The true nature of God," Carter writes, "exemplifies a combination of justice, mercy, forgiveness, and love."

Read more

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International Conventional and Electronic Theological Seminar and Conference on Deaconesses & Ordination of Women and Orthodox Theology
Orthodox conference
International Conference to Honor Pro
f. Emeritus Evangelos Theodorou
Saint Theodora Orthodox Monastery
Ermou 34
Thessaloniki, Greece

The Concept of the Conference on the basis of the dilemmas posed in the course of the international post-graduate/post-doctoral seminar on «Deaconesses, Ordination of Women and Orthodox Theology»


We should ask ourselves:

  1. Historically, is the exclusion of women from the sacramental priesthood based on human law (de jure humano) or divine law (de jure divino)?
  2. On the thorny issue of the ordination of women, should the Orthodox Church and her theology use canonical, liturgical, Trinitarian, Christological, ecclesiological, eschatological or sociological criteria?
  3. In selecting theological criteria, should priority be given-and if so, how much-to the long-standing "primary" liturgical tradition of the Church, over the various doctrinal expressions that were subsequently formulated?
  4. Is it legitimate to use human, biological concepts of gender and the supposedly masculine or feminine structures of each of the persons of the Holy Trinity?
  5. Does the Church's acceptance of the dominant stereotypes of social appearance and behavior, as well as elements of an institutional character, belong to divine or human law? On an ethical level, does this, rather than confronting gender-based violence (GBV), actually lay the foundation for it and perpetuate it?
  6. How and to what extent does the basic theological position that at the eschatonthere will be no discrimination based on biological sex influence the debate about the ordination of women?
  7. If our secularized society today seems to have moved beyond the biblical principle of "woman from man," is it necessary-and, if so, to what extent-to abolishpatriarchalism in the Christian Church?
  8. Over the course of history, the Christian priesthood has been rationally juxtaposed to deified worldly power, magic, mystery cults, and orgiastic rites, which sometimes worshiped feminine life in creation. What significance, therefore, can we attribute to the Paschal sacrifice of the (male) Christ and the final victory over all these binding authoritarian forces that lead to death, and what impact does this have on the issue of women's ordination?
  9. Given the kenotic sacrificial love and ascetic assumption of the world with a view toward the sanctification of all things, how can we prevent the association of women's ordination with secular games of power, subjugation to the egocentricity of the human beings, male or female, and subordination to the priority of an instinctual life whose greed rapes the natural environment?
  10. Does the invocation of elements of ontological reduction and the division of humans into two hierarchically superimposed sexes negate the doctrine of the Divine Incarnation and annul its objectives?
  11. Does the presence of demonic elements (e.g., ideas about women being cursed for their culpability in the Fall and their eternal punishment in subjugation to men, as well as about their impurity with their consequent marginalization in the Church's life of worship and administration, etc.) compromise the Church's witness to the world, raising in addition an enormous ethical problem?
  12. Does the exclusive "male priesthood"-derived from the historically indisputable male form of the Incarnate God-constitute a binding element of divine grace? How strong is this theological argument?
  13. If, according to Orthodox Christian anthropology, the archetype of the human being is Christ, does the invocation then of the male sex of the Word of God provide theological, canonical, historical-critical, and liturgical grounds for the exclusion of women from the sacramental priesthood?
  14. If every human person is created unique, complete and free, designed to achieve deification (theosis) through his/her virtuous life, how is possible theologically to define the nature of human beings, or even their virtuous life, on the basis of gender? Does this not lead to a denial of the completeness of human nature at the crown of creation, as well as its call to the "likeness of God"?
  15. Regarding the ministry of the priesthood, does not the selective use and transfer of practices based on gender-which theologically and anthropologically permit the impairment of the human person-substantially undermine rather than encourage the achievement of the Orthodox ideal of theosis?
  16. If the human person is determined by his/her relationship with others, and if the Eucharistic community is, for the Orthodox, the primary framework for constructive and virtuous relationships, which are fully possible for both men and women, perhaps then women are not only capable of entering the sacramental priesthood, but are actually needed for it, so that the members of the body of Christ have, in the person of their pastors, examples of more fully embodied virtue?
  17. Great theologian saints, such as St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, speak about the priesthood with metaphors based not on male paternal models, but rather on examples of virtue for the community. Additionally, both hierarchs use both masculine and feminine metaphors to describe the method and the ministry of the priesthood. What theological arguments, therefore, can justify the exclusion of women from this priesthood?
  18. How important, for the Orthodox Church's theological arsenal, is the fact that the institution of deaconesses has a conciliar ecumenical and canonical foundation, which in fact has never been repealed by subsequent synodal decision?
  19. Since deaconesses were installed into their ministry through ordination (hierotonia), which was the same as that for the major orders of the clergy, and not by simple laying on of hands (hierothesia), and their ordination had an absolute likeness in form and content with the ordinations of the major order of the clergy, what does this mean for the general issue of women's ordination?
  20. Can the proposed distinction of the special priesthood into "diaconal" and "hierourgic," i.e., a quantitative rather than qualitative distinction, have an effect on the general issue of women's ordination?
  21. What impact does the close terminological connection that Basil the Great makes, repeatedly, between "diaconal" and "hierourgic" have on the general issue of women's ordination?
  22. How can the clear assurance in the ancient prayers that Christ did not ban women also from having liturgical duties in the churches ... possibly lead to a change in the Orthodox Church's stance regarding the ordination of women into the special sacramental priesthood?
  23. How can the interpretation in the canonical sources that the deaconess, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, held a higher position even than that of the presbyters, who were considered symbols of the Apostles, affect the possibility of upgrading the status of women in relation to the theological legitimacy of their participation in the special sacramental priesthood?
  24. Can Orthodox bishops at any time, without any relevant conciliar decision, ordain deaconesses and accept them into the major orders of the clergy?
  25. If the Orthodox Church is characterized by its liturgical (and Eucharistic) theology, how crucial is it today to revive the institution of deaconesses ordained for their necessary missionary witness, particularly in the area of Orthodox Church ministry?
  26. Even with the current exclusion of women from the sacramental priesthood, can the Church ignore the calls and contemporary challenges for a stance more consistent with the core of her theology?
  27. Throughout Western Christian history, there has been a gradual degradation of women on three issues: the position of Mary Magdalene, of St. Junia, and the institution of deaconesses. The long-standing tradition of the East, on the other hand, which has now been scholarly confirmed, takes pride in these persons and institutions. How could this affect the position of the Orthodox Church?
  28. How can the indisputable evidence in the New Testament and in the first Christian centuries of important women "apostles" (e.g., Junia), scientifically now and unanimously accepted, affect the Orthodox theological argument on the issue of women's ordination?
  29. Does Patriarch Gregory of Antioch's reference connecting women, until the 6th century, with both the apostolic office and the ordination not demonstrate that there is at least some evidence that the Church held a different attitude in the Eastern Christian tradition regarding the liturgical role of women?

Read more

5 Of The Harshest Things Pope Francis Has Said To Vatican Curia
Antonia Blumberg        Dec.22, 2014
Type "ctrl +" to enlarge, "ctrl 0" to return to normal

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Francis chooses new cardinals from the margins
Robert Mickens      Jan.5, 2015

If any other pope had produced a list of newly designated cardinals similar to the one Pope Francis unveiled Sunday, the reaction would have been shock and disbelief.

Instead, there was only momentary surprise.


Cardinals for the first time in ecclesiastical backwaters such as Tonga, Myanmar, Panama and Cape Verde? Only one Roman Curia official on the list? Still not a single American named by Francis? And two of Italy's traditional "cardinal sees," Turin and Venice, snubbed for Ancona and Agrigento, places that haven't been by led by a prelate with a red hat in 100 years?

. . . . 

Among the electors, five come from Europe, three from Asia and Latin America, and two from Oceania and Africa. Four are from religious orders. Nine of them are or have been elected presidents of their respective national episcopal conferences. Only six were appointed to their current posts by Pope Benedict XVI, while another six were placed there by John Paul II and the remaining three by Francis.

. . . .

Cardinal chairs

Five Europeans 

  • Dominique Mamberti, 63, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Manuel Mácario do Nascimento Clemente, 66, patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal 
  • Edoardo Menichelli, 75, archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Italy 
  • Francesco Montenegro, 68, archbishop of Agrigento, Italy
  • Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, 72, archbishop of Vallodolid, Spain

Three Asians 

  •  Pierre Nguyên Van Nhon, 76, archbishop of Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Charles Maung Bo, 66, archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar
  • Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, 65, archbishop of Bangkok

Three Latin Americans

  • Alberto Suàrez Inda, 75, archbishop of Morelia, Mexico 
  • Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, 55, archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay
  • José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, 70, bishop of David, Panama

Two Africans

  • Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, 66, archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Arlindo Gomes Furtado, 65, bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde, Cape Verde

Two from Oceania

  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew, 66, archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand 
  • Soane Patita Paini Mafi, 53, bishop of Tonga

The over-80s

  • José de Jesús Pimiento Rodriguez, 95, archbishop Emeritus of Manizales, Colombia
  • Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, 88, Major Pro-Penitentiary Emeritus
  • Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, former apostolic nuncio
  • Luis Héctor Villaba, 80, archbishop emeritus of Tucumán, Argentina
  • Júlio Duarte Langa, 87, bishop emeritus of Xai-Xai, Mozambique 

Read more

Vatican promises more involvement in politics
Antony Bushfield      Jan.6, 2015
One of the Pope's top advisers has said the Church will take a more active role in international politics.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Vatican had a duty to speak out about the current wars in some parts of the world.


The Vatican's Secretary of State said: "With all the conflicts in the world today, we can't just wait."


He said the Holy See would play its part in finding peace around the world.

It comes just days after Pope Francis was praised for his part in easing relations between America and Cuba following years of tension.


The Cardinal also said he expected the pontiff to address the United Nations when he visits the US in September.

Read more

Belgian bishop advocates church recognition of gay relationships
John A. Dick      Dec.30, 2015

Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, has called for ecclesiastical recognition of gay relationships, according to an interview published in De Morgen, a Belgian newspaper, on Dec. 27.


The official teaching that the Catholic church can recognize only male-female committed relationships has to change, Bonny said.


"There should be recognition of a diversity of forms," he said. "We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the kind of interpersonal relationship that is also present in many gay couples. Just as there are a variety of legal frameworks for partners in civil society, one must arrive at a diversity of forms in the church. ... 


The intrinsic values are more important to me than the institutional question. The Christian ethic is based on lasting relationships where exclusivity, loyalty, and care are central to each other."


Bonny made headlines in September when he issued a letter to the Vatican in preparation for the Synod on the family in October. At that time, Bonny stressed that the church urgently needs to connect with contemporary society, showing more respect for homosexuality, divorced people and modern kinds of relationships.


"In his or her life," he said, "everyone has to deal with relationships, friendship, family, and children's education. We should not deny that dealing with these issues within the church has brought injuries and traumas. Too many people were excluded for a long time."

. . . .

Professor Rik Torfs, canon law expert and rector of the Catholic University of Leuven, warned that one should not minimize Bonny's approach.


"Do not underestimate the significance of this," he said. "Bonny advocates a change from principles long held as unshakable, something no bishop could have done under the dogmatic pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI."


Bonny has a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In 1997, Cardinal Godfried Danneels and the Belgian bishops appointed him rector of the Belgian College in Rome; and in 2008 he was appointed the Bishop of Antwerp. Most observers see him becoming the next archbishop (and cardinal) of the Malines-Brussels archdiocese, when the incumbent, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, offers the pope his letter of retirement, at age 75, in May.

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German Bishops Speak Out on Communion for Divorced, Remarried
Jonathan Luxmoore       Jan.2, 2015

Germany's Catholic bishops have published a report detailing their views on marriage and family; it suggests most bishops now believe sacraments should be available to divorced and remarried Catholics who do not have an annulment.

. . . .

In late December, the bishops published "Theologically Responsible and Pastorally Appropriate Ways for Accompanying the Divorced and Remarried," on the bishops' conference website. 

. . . .

The report, drafted by a working group and approved by the German bishops' permanent council in June, appeared Dec. 22 alongside official translations of recent synod documents and German responses to an October 2013 Vatican questionnaire to dioceses worldwide. It said most of Germany's 66 bishops now favored allowing divorced Catholics living in new civil unions to undergo confession and receive Communion in "particular justified instances."


While a minority of bishops still believed such Catholics "on principle, could not be admitted to the sacraments," the document added, all now agreed on the need to "intensify pastoral care" for them.


The report said the exclusion of divorced Catholics was "no longer comprehensible" to many priests, some of whom deliberately disregarded church rules in their pastoral work.

. . . . 

The accompanying summary of Vatican questionnaire responses said most Germans viewed Catholic views of family life as "too idealistic and unrealistic," while church teaching on premarital sex, homosexuality, divorce and contraception were "virtually never accepted."


It added that a third of marriages ended in divorce in Germany, with around half involving minor-age children, and said Catholic marriages were only slightly "more stable than average."


The summary said most divorced Catholics considered their separation and new relationship "morally justified" and viewed their consequent exclusion from sacraments as "constituting unjustified discrimination and being merciless."

Many also saw the church's current canonical annulment procedures as "dishonest," the document added.

Read more

Miami archbishop warns employees against supporting gay marriage, even in a tweet
David Gigson       Jan.7, 2015

As Florida became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage this week, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski sent a memo to all church employees reiterating that any expressions of support for gay marriage - even if it's only a tweet or Facebook post - could cost them their jobs.


"Whatever the role in which you serve within the Archdiocese, you publicly represent the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese in everything you do and say," Wenski wrote in the memo, which was reported by the local NBC station.
 Read more

Study suggests faith influences opinion about space exploration
Dennis Sadowski      Dec.30, 2015

How people value space exploration may just depend on someone's particular faith.

An analysis of the results of several national surveys by a University of Dayton political science professor found that Catholics are more supportive of the U.S. maintaining a leading role in probing the depths of space and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence than people of other faiths.

Political scientist Joshua Ambrosius told Catholic News Service evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, are significantly less likely than people of other faiths to see the value of the nation's space endeavors. Evangelicals also tended to have less knowledge about space, he said.
. . . .

Ambrosius presented his report in November at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference in Indianapolis.

He found that evangelicals are the least knowledgeable, interested and supportive of space exploration. He also learned that Jews and members of Eastern religions were most knowledgeable and supportive.

. . . .

The political scientist said he planned to look at the connection between the teachings of evangelical leaders and views of people in the pews regarding space.

"There seems to be a role that church leaders, particularly among evangelicals, play in developing space policy and space exploration," Ambrosius explained.

The findings are significant because evangelical Christians could influence policymaking when it comes to funding space exploration. Evangelicals comprise about 26 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Religious Landscape Survey of the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project, and if they are elected to policymaking positions, they could affect federal spending on space exploration and research into the possibility of colonizing other planets, Ambrosius said.

Read more

Jesus may have been tried here: Archaeologists uncover Herod's palace
Michele Chabin       Jan.5, 2015

The site where Jesus may have been tried, prior to his crucifixion, is now open to the public for the very first time.


Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the spot is within easy walking distance of the Christian Quarter and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where tradition holds Jesus was buried.


Discovered under an abandoned prison building that is part of the Tower of David Museum grounds, the trial site is one piece of a vast excavation undertaken by archaeologists from 1999 to 2000 but sealed off for the past 14 years largely because of lack of funding.


The excavations include what may be the foundations of the palace of King Herod. It was here, many scholars and archaeologists believe, that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate put Jesus on trial. 

. . . .

While there is as yet no concrete evidence that the trial took place in the palace, Re'em noted that "from early Christianity until Crusader times the Via Dolorosa" -- the route Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion -- "passed by Herod's palace. Only since medieval times did the route change." 

Read more

New Bible is Designed Specifically for Young Black Catholics
NBCC       Jan.8, 2015

In January Saint Mary's Press will publish The African American Catholic Youth Bible®, the first Bible designed specifically for use by young black Catholics in the US. It has taken five years for the initial concept to become a reality. 


The Bible uses the text of the New American Bible, Revised Edition. And is intended for African American youth ages 14 to 22. 

Articles and resources in the Bible cover a wide variety of fields:

  • the biblical, liturgical and doctrinal basis for many Catholic beliefs and practices;
  • the background of African American culture;
  • stories of Africans and of African Americans who lived out aspects of God's Revelation in the Bible;
  • applying the Bible's message to situations black youth may be facing now or in the future;
  • ways to use the Bible for personal prayer;
  • the lives of important people in the Bible;
  • indexes, a glossary, a calendar of the Church year, Catholic prayers and teachings, maps, a timeline of biblical history, etc.

. . . .

To learn more about this Bible, and to view a sample visit: 
Bishop recovering well, beginning rehabilitation
Diocese of Trenton       Jan.5, 2015

Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., Diocese of Trenton, has been doing well following his Dec. 29 surgery to remove his foot and lower left leg.


All signs are good for a speedy recovery and rehabilitation, and he does hope to lead and celebrate the ceremonies of Holy Week, depending on how things progress.

Read more

Insurer tells court it's not liable for Twin Cities archdiocese claims
Associated Press       Dec.31, 2014 


An insurance company has asked a court to limit or eliminate its responsibility to cover some clergy sex abuse claims against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Last month, the archdiocese sued about 20 insurers in federal court to try to clarify the amount of money the carriers would pay to settle clergy sex abuse claims.


In a court filing, the insurer CNA contends the company and its predecessors have no responsibility to pay claims related to events that were "not unexpected or unforeseen."

Mafia 'betray the gospel,' Italian bishops say in rare rebuke
Josephine Mckenna      Jan.2, 2015

Catholic bishops from the southern Italian region of Calabria have broken their silence and spoken out against the "inhumane" power of the Mafia that dominates their poverty-stricken area.


The 12 prelates from the Bishops' Conference of Calabria endorsed a document condemning the local Mafia, or 'Ndrangheta, on Friday (Jan. 2), just two days after Pope Francis took a strong stand on Mafia corruption in Rome in a forceful New Year's Eve message.

. . . .

The bishops expressed concern about the impact of high unemployment and the spread of political corruption in a region where 'Ndrangheta has mushroomed into one of the most powerful organized crime groups in the world through drugs and arms trafficking, extortion and other operations.


The bishops said the nature of organized crime had now reached a "globalized" dimension and was finding allies on the fringes of politics through corrupt and deviant allies in positions of power.

. . . . 

In the past, Italy's organized crime groups have had a cozy relationship with the Catholic hierarchy. Inside 'Ndrangheta, the initiation ceremony is known as a "baptism," and for many members mob ties are no less sacred than their affiliation with the church. Newcomers must swear allegiance to St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of 'Ndrangheta.

Read more

OMG! Journal

The January issue of the quarterly ACCR (Accelerating Catholic Church Reform) on-line magazine OMG! A Journal of Religion and Culture is now available at

News from Len Swidler
Jan.5, 2015

Len Swidler


At the beginning of this near year (and tomorrow, starting my 87th year on Planet Earth) I want to share the renewal of two Interreligious Dialogue (IRD) initiatives with you:


1.      My Blog got bogged down for a couple of years, but now has been resuscitated, cleaned up, and ready again to engage all in Desultory Dialogue. Just go to 

and join the IRD! 

2.      On a more systematic level, I promised a number of my newish friends around the world that I would once again launch my online course on Deep-Dialogue and Critical-Thinking. Actually, I have expanded it to include two new concluding elements, so that now it is an online course on 



This is non-credit, no-payment-just learning together at our own pace, and doubtless it will run many months in leisurely fashion. Thus, it will be in itself an exemplar of how we should live life from the 21st century onward!


Just send me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) your name and preferred email address with an indication that you would like to join us, and I will put you into my Deep-Dialogue e-group (which you can leave anytime), and we will launch next Sunday, January 11.

 3.      Last item-a bit of self-advertisement: Here are links to "my" two latest books:

One about me 



One by me (


See you soon on the Web!


Leonard Swidler, Ph.D., S.T.L., LL.D., LL.D

Len Swidler is a founder and past president of ARCC

Congress More Devout Than Most of America
Alan Rappeport       Jan.5, 2015

When it comes to religion, Congress appears to be much more devout than the rest of the country.


A new report from the Pew Research Center broke down the religious composition of the 114th Congress and found that just 0.2 percent of its members identify themselves as "unaffiliated" with any religion, compared with 20 percent of Americans who label themselves as such.

. . . .

Other than the unaffiliated group, most other religious identifications are represented by roughly the same proportion of their numbers in the adult population.

Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus account for about 2 percent of American adults and 1 percent of Congress. Jewish members have a slightly higher representation, accounting for 5 percent of the members and just 2 percent of the population.

. . . . 

According to Pew, more than 92 percent of the 535 members of Congress are Christian, including at least seven pastors. 

Read more

Pew chart
Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?
Nicholas Kristof      Jan.8, 2015

. . . .

Terror incidents lead many Westerners to perceive Islam as inherently extremist, but I think that is too glib and simple-minded. Small numbers of terrorists make headlines, but they aren't representative of a complex and diverse religion of 1.6 billion adherents. My Twitter feed Wednesday brimmed with Muslims denouncing the attack - and noting that fanatical Muslims damage the image of Muhammad far more than the most vituperative cartoonist.


The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks - except that they are disproportionately the victims of terrorism. Indeed, the Charlie Hebdo murders weren't even the most lethal terror attack on Wednesday: A car bomb outside a police college in Yemen, possibly planted by Al Qaeda, killed at least 37 people.

. . . .

So let's avoid religious profiling. The average Christian had nothing to apologize for when Christian fanatics in the former Yugoslavia engaged in genocide against Muslims. Critics of Islam are not to blame because an anti-Muslim fanatic murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011.

. . . .

There's a humbling story, perhaps apocryphal, that Gandhi was once asked: What do you think of Western civilization?He supposedly responded: I think it would be a good idea.


The great divide is not between faiths. Rather it is between terrorists and moderates, between those who are tolerant and those who "otherize."


In Australia after the hostage crisis, some Muslims feared revenge attacks. Then a wave of non-Muslim Australians rose to the occasion, offering to escort Muslims and ensure their safety, using the hashtag #IllRideWithYou on Twitter. More than 250,000 such comments were posted on Twitter - a model of big-hearted compassion after terror attacks.


Bravo! That's the spirit.

Read more

Mario Cuomo and a Changing of the Guard
Kevin Clarke      Jan.2, 2015

Three-term New York Governor Mario Cuomo passed away on New Year's Day at the age of 82, only hours after his son Andrew Cuomo was inaugurated in Manhattan for a second term as governor. "He couldn't be here physically today, my father," Andrew Cuomo said during his inaugural address. "But my father is in this room. He's in the heart and mind of every person who's here."

. . . .

[Mario] Cuomo, as a politician and a Catholic, attempted to come to terms with legalized abortion in America. His formula, rejecting abortion as an immoral personal choice but one which he could not impose on others in a pluralistic society, became a template for other Catholic politicians, especially in the Democratic Party, but was condemned as betrayal of his faith by prominent Catholics.


Describing the church as his "spiritual home," Cuomo said, "My heart is there, and my hope.....The acceptance of this faith requires a lifelong struggle to understand it more fully and to live it more truly, to translate truth into experience, to practice as well as to believe."


Just a month after he roused Democrats at the convention, in an address at Notre Dame, he said, "The Catholic public official lives the political truth most Catholics through most of American history have accepted and insisted on: the truth that to assure our freedom we must allow others the same freedom, even if occasionally it produces conduct by them which we would hold to be sinful.


"I protect my right to be a Catholic by preserving your right to believe as a Jew, a Protestant or non-believer, or as anything else you choose. We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us."

Read more

Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor's Perspective

Mario M. Cuomo at University of Notre Dame


John Paul II gunman lays flowers at Vatican tomb
Associated Press       Dec.27, 2014

The Turkish gunman who shot and wounded John Paul II in 1981 laid white flowers Saturday on the saint's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican officials said.


The surprise visit by Mehmet Ali Agca, believed to be his first time in the Vatican since the assassination attempt, lasted a few minutes, a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said. As with other flowers left by visitors to the tomb, the blossoms were later removed by basilica workers.

. . . .

Italian TV ran a brief video of the tomb visit, apparently filmed by an Italian journalist accompanying Agca in the basilica. The Turk is heard to mumble, "A thousand thanks, saint," and "Long live Jesus Christ."


He also said: "Today I have come because on Dec. 27, 1983, I met the pope."

Read more

Dec.27, 2014
Priest who left ministry to marry replaced by married priest
Patsy McGarry      Dec.22, 2014

A Catholic parish priest who has left the ministry to marry will this week be replaced in his English parish by a married priest with three children.


Last June, Fr Philip Gay celebrated 25 years as a priest at Coventry's St Thomas More parish in the Catholic archdiocese of Birmingham. In October his parishioners were told he had decided to stand down from ministry "after careful consideration and for personal reasons", so he could consider his future.


Earlier this month it was announced by the archdiocese that Fr Gay was leaving the priesthood. In a statement, it said it was "with regret that we must now let you know of [Fr Gay's] decision to leave the priesthood". It has since emerged that Fr Gay is to marry a female parishioner of St Thomas More.


The archdiocese also announced that Fr Gay's replacement will be Fr Stephen Day, a 53-year-old former Anglican priest who is to arrive at the St Thomas More parish this week with his wife and three children, aged 10, 13 and 16. 

Read more

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