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Clericalism and the Francis Effect
John Krejci , STL, MSW, Ph.D.                                     February 2015

If you ask a fish what water is, the fish would have no idea what you were talking about.  They are immersed in it. Ask a cleric  --priest, monsignor, or bishop-if they are immersed in clericalism and they might  respond in the same way. "There is no clericalism in this diocese."  When one is living in a culture, in this case, the clerical  culture, there is little awareness of the privilege, the perks, the power that accompanies the role.  Unfortunately, the laity often buy into the system.   "Yes, Father; no Father, whatever you say, Father."  The blind obedience of unquestioning followers!


Jesuit George Wilson, in his book "Clericalism The Death of Priesthood," laments this situation and particularly the willingness of the laity  - given the priesthood conferred  by their baptism - to passively go along with this deadening and dangerous culture.  (Think of the lack of accountability and the lingering sex abuse scandal.)


Wilson distinguishes "priest" from "clergy."  On the one hand, priest is a religious term.  It is a call to holiness. Priesthood is, at heart, a call to service.  It is a way of life, a pilgrimage, a process of unfolding .  Priesthood does not confer holiness but calls the recipient to begin a pilgrimage, to take on the mind of Jesus-- to be compassionate, loving, to serve the poor.  He includes the laity in this challenge by virtue of their baptism, a participation in the Royal Priesthood.


"Clergy", on the other hand, denotes a sociological role, a set of expectations.  The role confers a title, respect, authority, power - apart from any holiness or competence of the individual.  Similar "clericalism' can be found in medicine, the exalted role of doctor, or law, the closely held knowledge of lawyers, or academics  with titles of doctor or professor.  One could easily elaborate on the abuses that flow from these roles.


Pope Francis has pointed out the dangers of clericalism on several occasions.  He referred to some young priests as "little tyrants."   He cautioned those who choose priesthood for career advancement or economic gain.   He lectured the Cardinals at Christmas. He condemned their careerism, their abuse of power, their elaborate vestments and air of superiority, their distance from the common baptized Christian, and their lack of accountability. Not to mention their immoral behavior.  ( Think lack of accountability for the sex abuse scandal.  Think Cardinal Burke.)


Francis' simpler life style speaks volumes.  He refers to himself as a "sinner."  He says, "Who am I to judge?"   Washes the feet of the poor, visits prisoners, and asks to be prayed for.   He strives to be an example of a life of service, "the servant of the servants of God."  He has stepped back from the role of prince in his lifestyle and is striving to become a servant.


Wilson enumerated the actions required of the priest:   1 Proclaiming the Word.  2. Presiding at Common Worship.  3. Guiding in Matters of the Spirit. 4. Leading the Faith Community in a Collaborative Manner.  5. Joining the Baptized in the Pursuit of Mutual Christian Love.


In a similar manner the laity must take part in this transformation of culture from clericalism to priesthood. They must realize, as Rabbi Hershel stated, "Some are guilty, but all are responsible."


The laity must unlearn old practices, learn new ones, exercise their independence in a spirit of interdependence!  They need to claim their role as equal members of the church, rejecting behaviors that reinforce clericalism, while not placing all expectations for change on the clergy.


And the clergy must renounce the clerical culture.  The authoritarian nature of clericalism militates against non-conformity, i.e., breaking the rules.   A local pastor recently said to me, when he refused to comply with my request for the Eucharist, "I'm only a worker bee."  He did what he was told.  Another local pastor, who is very pastoral and liberal at heart, confessed that he just "goes along to get along."


There are too many "Yes" men among the clergy. With reason -- the clerical culture is autocratic . It crushes dissent.   Recent examples of excommunication of those publicly supporting women's ordination exemplify this.  On the bright side, they are a sign that there are cracks in the clerical wall.  


It is time for bishops to speak out for what they know to be true.  Francis has begun this.  He is creating a new culture of dialogue and transparency.  We all need to join him.  Let us all rejoice in the efforts of reform groups like ARCC, Call to Action, Intentional Eucharistic  Communities, the Women's Ordination Conference, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to name a few.     

John Krejci is a member of the ARCC Board.    
Some things we have been reading  
Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference
Pontifical Council for Culture

February 4-7,  2015 the Plenary Assembly looked at Women's cultures: equality and difference.  

The meeting had four sessions:

1) Between equality and difference: the quest for an equilibrium

. . . .

2) "Generativity" as a symbolic code

. . . .

3) The female body: between culture and biology

. . . .

4) Women and religion: flight or new forms of participation in the life of the Church?

. . . .

Access was limited to the members and consultors of the Pontifical Council. A public open event took place at theTeatro Argentina on 4 February (in Italian). 

Man Ray sculpture
Some complaints have reached the Dicastery concerning the image above. While acknowledging the anger, Cardinal Ravasi has chosen not to remove the image as it speaks clearly for one of the central points of the document: many women, alas, are still struggling for freedom (bound with rope), their voices and intellect often unheard (headless), their actions unappreciated (limbless).

Read more


Ed.: Many people contacted Cardinal Ravasi about this image which originally appeared without any caption.  ARCC News editor sent this message:

We suggest your placing an explanation adjacent to the picture. Is it too much to ask that the Church admit complicity  in women's "struggling for freedom (bound with rope), their voices and intellect often unheard (headless), their actions unappreciated (limbless)."? Wouldn't it be appropriate to commit to making this sculpture irrelevant at least as far as the Church is concerned?  May God's Spirit move you to reconsider displaying this brutal depiction or at least to provide an explanation along with the picture.
The above caption on the picture has since appeared.

Irish protest
Protest outside Irish Papal Nunciature Feb.14
The Vatican responds...
Questions from a Ewe blog      Feb.10, 2015

Several women complained to the Vatican's Pontifical Council on Culture about using the sculpture "Venus Restored" (see previous blog article for a picture) as cover artwork for its working document on women's culture.  One of my friends received the following response today signed by Cardinal Ravasi, the Council's head.  

I have received your objection to the use of "Venus Restored" by the artist Man Ray on the Pontifical Council for Culture's website to illustrate the working document of the Plenary Assembly on "Women's Cultures: equality and difference".   While registering your complaint, we have chosen not to remove the image, as we believe it speaks clearly for one of the central points of our document: many women, alas, are still struggling for freedom (bound with rope), their voices and intellect often unheard (headless), their actions unappreciated (limbless).
Gianfranco Ravasi
First, I appreciate that Cardinal Ravasi at least responded to my friend, though he has not yet responded to my complaint.  But let's look at his response for a moment.
He defends using the artwork saying it speaks clearly to the issue of women's voices and intellect often being unheard...  kind of like the intelligent women's voices being ignored by him on this very topic...
In two simple sentences Cardinal Ravasi encapsulates the hierarchy's historical role in binding women, ignoring their voices and under-appreciating them.  We objected but our voices were unappreciated and ignored in favor of being bound to his decision.  Richer irony there never was than him dismissing intelligent women's concerns as unfounded at the same time he envisions himself as some sort of knight in shining armor advocating for greater appreciation of women's intellectual contributions. 
. . . .
Cardinal, you have no women members on your council.  Why?  If the plight of unheard female voices troubles you, the council should be led by a woman and have a majority of women members.  The total absence of women members immediately nullifies the council's and your personal credibility because you chose to continue the hierarchy's male hegemonic praxis of excluding women.
Rather than include women you make this strange comment that women are "directing the dance" which male council members will perform.   Cardinal, your response to intelligent women's concerns punctuates that women are not directing any of your dance steps.  If we were, that statue would be gone and an apology would be posted.  But, no, you send what comes across as condescending patronizing statements instead, "There, there you ignorant woman...what do you know of your own plight?  Me and my fellow male celibate buddies know women's plight much better than you do."
Sir, many intelligent women are shouting at you, "THAT STATUE IS OFFENSIVE!  STOP USING IT!!"  Help me understand why you think your opinion should carry more weight than ours?  Please elaborate on your credentials as a woman and if you have none, then your opinion is secondary to ours.  Furthermore, if you insist that your opinion must prevail, then you have gag and rope firmly in your hand, twisting and tightening them around women. 
Yes, Cardinal Ravasi, we understand that this statue expresses demeaning treatment women endure now and have endured throughout history because, you see, we have experienced it often at the hands of the church's hierarchy, of which you are a high-ranking member.  Our dilemma as second class citizens has many roots in the male hegemony of the church's hierarchy that espouses in the church and endorses in society the marginalization of women. The lack of women members on your council exemplifies how at ease the hierarchy is with discriminatory and degrading practices. That's what makes the artwork so offensive.  Women have long suffered at the hands of the hierarchy the very injustices you say the artwork in question provocatively portrays.

The wounds the hierarchy inflicts and has inflicted upon women are too numerous and raw to endure abiding it, as a primary source of injustice, to use artwork that gut-wrenchingly captures the state to which such injustices reduce women.  Furthermore, the hierarchy's lack of self-awareness as perpetrator of injustices against women and delusional self-portrayal as benefactor and defender of women adds to the artwork's absolute and infallible contextual offensiveness and inappropriateness.  It is time for admission, penitence, apologies and altered behaviors, not perpetuation of the hierarchy's sins by marginalizing women's voices on this topic.Your inability or unwillingness to hear women on this accentuates what progress we can expect to arise from any council about women led by you, does it not?

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Vatican Council on Women Would Be Funny Were it Not So Insulting
Mary E. Hunt     Feb.5, 2015
It may be Women's Week at the Vatican, but you have to look carefully at the skirts to find many women. However well-intentioned Vatican officials may be, they embody Murphy's Law when it comes to women: everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Maybe if women were more than bit players, things might improve.

The Pontifical Council for Culture in Rome, presided over by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and made up of cardinals and bishops who are all men, are discussing "Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference" from February 4-7, 2015 in mostly closed-door sessions. There are enough contradictions in that sentence to end my analysis right here.


I persist, if only to encourage others to trust their intuitions about such dubious endeavors and to think about women when they sing the praises of Pope Francis. Women make up slightly more than half of the Catholic population, and many more than half of its active members. Only by ignoring women can Francis fans herald his achievements.

. . . .
His own unfortunate choice of women-related words like "Europe is now a 'grandmother,' no longer fertile and vibrant" and women theologians are "the strawberries on the cake!" reveal his personal limitations with regard to women. Let every praise of his papacy contain an asterisk until it is no longer necessary. Maybe that will motivate some people who want him to succeed to get working on women's issues as well as poverty, war, the environment and the like, all of which have disproportionate impacts on women. 

. . . .

Thirty years ago women focused on equality in U.S. church and society. Today that expectation remains largely unfulfilled around the world. The institutional Roman Catholic Church is widely seen as the epitome of male privilege run amok, covering up some of its leaders' criminal sexual behavior and illegal financial dealings by focusing on the perceived shortcomings of women. I fear this current discussion of women, and even the seemingly helpful efforts to eradicate sex trafficking that are being discussed in Rome this week may be more smokescreens than picture windows. I long to be proven wrong. 

Read more

Women's Cultures: Equality and Difference
John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D.       Feb.13, 2015\

From 4 to 7 February 2015 the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture hosted a conference on "women's cultures: equality and difference." The conference got off to a rough start because of the sexist and women-denigrating images used in the Pontifical Council for Culture's promotional materials.


On Valentine's Day 2015 Pope Francis is "creating" twenty new cardinals. Some older cardinals, and perhaps some new ones, have expressed anxious concerns about the "feminization of the church." Certainly news reports and news images about the pope's up-coming meeting with cardinals new and old reinforce that alarming situation. (See image below.)


To correct the situation in the church, I strongly suggest that the Pontifical Council for Culture host an international conference on "Men's Cultures: Equality and Difference." Perhaps the Leadership Council of Women Religious would be willing to coordinate this worthwhile project.......


By adjusting the female/male language a bit, they could use the same agenda as was used for the women's cultures conference. It would look like this;

1) Between equality and difference: the quest for an equilibrium
An historical overview through cultural anthropology and sociological analysis to outline the condition of men in different cultures today, especially men in difficulty. Referring to the categories of reciprocity, complementarity, diversity and equality, this is a reflection trying to avoid the two risky extremes of this process: uniformity on one hand and marginalization on the other.

2) "Generativity" as a symbolic code
Beginning with the fundamental steps of generativity (desiring, bringing to the world, looking after and letting go), this is a reflection on the ways of "giving life" beyond paternity.

3) The male body: between culture and biology
The body expresses the being of a person, more than an aesthetic dimension closed in on itself: the reflection is on the value of the male body and its communicative force and the relational ability of men. Other aspects won't be overlooked: freedom of choice, aggression against men's bodies, domestic violence, commercialization, reduction to a unique model of being.

4) Men and religion: flight or new forms of participation in the life of the Church?
The reflection looks at the spaces proposed to men in the life of the Church, and if men are made to feel welcome in light of specific and changed cultural and social sensibilities. The pastors will ask themselves whether the way men participate in the life of the Church functions today.

Happy Valentine's Day......



Jack Dick is ARCC Vice President

Pope Tells Vatican Administrators to be 'Absolutely Transparent'
Thomson/Reuters      Mon.dd, 201

Pope Francis, starting two days of closed-door meetings [ed. emphasis] with the world's Roman Catholic cardinals, on Thursday called for greater efficiency and transparency in the Church's troubled central administration, the Curia.


Francis was elected in 2013 with a mandate from the cardinals who chose him to reform the Curia, and has made plain his determination to bring the Church's hierarchy closer to its 1.2 billion members.


In brief, public comments before the meetings started, he said Church administrators should strive for "greater harmony in work of the various departments and offices, in order to realize a more efficient collaboration based on absolute transparency".

Read more

Where Is the Vatican 'Transparency' on Abuse?
Robert Mickens      Feb.11, 2015

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors held its first full plenary session in Rome last week under the direction of Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley. They told journalists at a briefing on Saturday they were formulating suggestions for how Pope Francis should make bishops accountable for implementing protection guidelines.

. . . .

The head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, offered a rare public display (at least for him) of how defensive church officials can be when pressed for more openness. Visibly irritated, he snapped back at an Italian TV journalist who attempted to ask why there was a delay in the trial of Jozef Wesolowski, the defrocked bishop and former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic who has been charged with sexual abuse of young boys. "It has nothing to do [with this briefing]," the priest said curtly. When she pressed him an aide took the microphone from her and Fr. Lombardi said, "Enough! Let's move on." This was unfortunate. 


The Holy See has publicly dealt with at least four bishops for either committing abuse or trying to cover it up. But there has been no transparency regarding their whereabouts or their status. 


In addition to Wesolowski, there is also Belgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who "resigned" in 2010 after admitting to molesting his young nephews. Where is he now? Has he been laicized? The Vatican has not said. 


Then there is Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who also "resigned," just before the conclave of 2013 after being accused of sexual harassment by a number of seminarians and priests. Where is he? The Vatican will not say. 


And, of course, there's the case of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who was given a two-year suspended sentence after being criminally convicted for failing to report sexual abuse of minors. The Vatican supposedly carried out an investigation last September and two months later in a TV interview Cardinal O'Malley had this to say about the Finn case: "It's a question the Holy See must address urgently." 


Is it cynical to wonder what in the world transparency and urgency mean in the Vatican? 

Read more

Pope Francis Slams 'Prejudiced Mentality' Of Believers Who Fearfully Cling To Religious Laws
David Gibson      Feb.15, 2015

In a powerful sermon that signaled his desire to push ahead with historic reforms, Pope Francis on Sunday (Feb. 15) said the Roman Catholic Church must be open and welcoming, whatever the costs.


He also warned the hierarchy not to be "a closed caste" but to lead in reaching out to all who are rejected by society and the church.

. . . .

Throughout his 15-minute homily, Francis repeatedly slammed the "narrow and prejudiced mentality" of believers who cling to religious laws out of fear. They wind up rejecting the very people they should be ministering to, he said, which means anyone on the margins of society "who encounters discrimination."


"Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honor!" Francis said at the Mass to mark his appointment of 20 new cardinals on Saturday.

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Germany hits back at pope over spanking comments
Associated Press     Feb.6, 2015

Germany and a leading anti-corporal punishment group on Friday rejected as "unacceptable" the pope's comments that it's okay to spank your children to discipline them, as long as their dignity is maintained.

. . . .

Verena Herb, a spokeswoman for Germany's Families Ministry, told reporters on Friday that "there can be no dignified hitting."

. . . .

Germany is one of several countries where corporal punishment of children is illegal.


Separately, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, a leading advocacy group, said it was disappointed by Francis' comments, given that other faith leaders have come out in support of prohibiting all physical punishment of children.


"There is a very strong human rights consensus that children have an equal right to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law," the group's Peter Newell said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.


He noted that the pope's native Argentina is one of 44 countries that have prohibited all physical punishment of children, including in the home.

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Ousted "Bling Bishop" makes soft landing in Vatican
David Gibson      Feb,10 2015

The German churchman christened the "Bishop of Bling" for lavish expenditures he made on his residence and church offices has been given a low-level post at the Vatican, nearly a year after Pope Francis ousted him from the Limburg diocese. 


Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst will begin working next month as a "delegate" at the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, an office in the Roman Curia.


While the Vatican has so far declined to comment, Tebartz-van Elst will reportedly help prepare catechism, or religious instruction, materials - his area of expertise - for various national bishops' conferences. But he won't have his name attached to any documents, according to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the council.


The post was created for Tebartz-van Elst and has the hallmarks of a "make-work" job because the Vatican couldn't figure out what else to do with the prelate.

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There is an 'anti-Francis faction' in Rome, says Irish priest
Jennifer McShane      Feb.14, 2015

An Irish priest has said that the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is part of an "anti-Francis faction" opposed to Pope Francis".


Speaking on Radio One today, Fr Tony Flannery (68) said CDF's Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller was also the leader of an anti-Francis group or faction against the Pope in the Vatican.

. . . .

"He would generally be seen as the leader of that. There is an enormous power struggle going on in the Vatican, at the moment, there's no doubt about that," the 68-year-old said.


"A lot of people there who are very unhappy with the type of thing that Francis is doing," he said, adding that he was a fan of Francis and liked the way he was going about reforming the church.


Fr Flannery also said that the Pope was unable to touch the power of the CDF, who are still "very strong and powerful." 

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Cardinal Wuerl's response to Burke (and dissenters)
Andrea Tornielli      Feb.14, 2015

"One of the things I have learned though over all of these years since those early naïve days in 1961 is that on closer examination there is a common thread that runs through all of these dissenters. They disagree with the Pope because he does not agree with them and therefore follow their position." This is the conclusion the Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl arrives at in an article published on his blog, titled: "The Pope, Touchstone of Faith and Unity"

 The US cardinal's comment focuses on those within the Church who express their opposition to the Pope. Wuerl does not name names but says he has received "an interview" and "an article" "by brother bishops" by email. An interview Cardinal Leo Raymond Burke gave to a French television programme sparked a debate in recent days. In the interview, the cardinal stated that he intended "to stand up to" the Pope if he decided to open up to the possibility of granting remarried divorcees access to the sacraments.

. . . .

Unhappiness with a Pope's position on issues whether doctrinal, pastoral, canonical or as simple as clerical vesture, seems always to be present in some form. In 1963 Saint John XXIII again became the object of wrath of those who disliked his encyclical Pacem in terris, as did Blessed Paul VI for his encyclical, Populorum progressio in 1967 and certainly for his encyclical Humanae vitae in 1968. Dissent by some priests from the teaching in Humanae vitae led to their departure from priestly ministry."


But in a clear and significant reference to those who expressed a particular attachment to certain clerical garments used in the past, Wuerl adds: "On a much less important level, there was, nonetheless, considerable dismay among some in 1969 when the Secretary of State of Pope Paul VI issued an instruction concerning the vesture of bishops and cardinals. The effort to streamline and do away with things like the cappa magna (long outer garment of bishops and cardinals with a long, long train) upset some."


The US cardinal recalls that even the brief pontificate of Pope John Paul I "was not without critique. Some wrote that they found his smile unbefitting a Pope since it diminished the gravitas (gravity or seriousness) of his office. One commentator lamented that this dear and kind Pope actually waved at people as he processed to celebrate Mass."

. . . . 

" One of the things I have learned though over all of these years since those early naïve days in 1961 is that on closer examination there is a common thread that runs through all of these dissenters. They disagree with the Pope because he does not agree with them and therefore follow their position. Dissent is perhaps something we will always have, lamentable as it is, but we will also always have Peter and his successor as the rock and touchstone of both our faith and our unity." 

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Muslims, Marriage and Bigotry
Nicholas Kristof      Feb.12, 2015

In North Carolina, three young Muslims who were active in charity work were murdered, allegedly by a man who identified as atheist and expressed hostility to Islam and other faiths. Police are exploring whether it was a hate crime, and it spurred a #MuslimLivesMatter campaign on Twitter.


And, in Alabama, we see judges refusing to approve marriages of any kind because then they would also have to approve same-sex marriages. In one poll conducted last year, some 59 percent of people in Alabama opposed gay marriage. Somehow a loving God is cited to bar loving couples from committing to each other.


These are very different news stories. But I wonder if a common lesson from both may be the importance of resisting bigotry, of combating the intolerance that can infect people of any faith - or of no faith.

. . . .

There has been a pugnacious defensiveness among conservative Christians to any parallels between Christian overreach and Islamic overreach, as seen in the outraged reaction to President Obama's acknowledgment at the National Prayer Breakfast this month that the West has plenty to regret as well. But Obama was exactly right: How can we ask Islamic leaders to confront extremism in their faith if we don't acknowledge Christian extremism, from the Crusades to Srebrenica?


More broadly, one message of the New Testament is the value of focusing on one's own mistakes rather than those of others. "You hypocrite," Jesus says in Matthew 7:5. "First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Read more

Jon Stewart
Fundamentalism of the West and Far West
Leonardo Boff      Feb.15, 2015

BoffIslamic fundamentalism is predominant. But there is also a wave of fundamentalism, especially in France and Germany, where xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are strong. The many attacks by al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups feed the feelings that dehumanize everyone: the victims and those who victimize. We can understand the global concepts that underlie terrorist violence, but never, for any reason, can we approve of it, given its criminal character.

. . . .

Generally we consider that only others are fundamentalists, often forgetting that the accuser also lives in a fundamentalist culture. I would like to briefly touch on this, although it may irritate not a few readers. I am thinking of the fundamentalism found in broad sectors of the West and Far West (the American continent).


Historically, fundamentalism, although already in existence, came into the open in North-American Protestantism, between 1890 and 1915, when a group of Pastors published a collection of 12 theological fascicules, titled Fundamentals: a testimony of the Truth. It rejected secularization, affirming the absolute truth of the faith, outside of which there only could be error. That fundamentalism still prevails today in many Christian denominations and in sectors of conservative Catholicism of the Lefebvre style.

. . . . 

The Roman Catholic version of Christianity was for centuries the hegemonic ideology of Western society, of the orbis catholicus. Seen through this lens is the absolutism of two Popes, a clear expression of fundamentalism.


Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) through the papal letter, Inter Caetera, to the kings of Spain, declared: «By the authority of all powerful God, given to us in Saint Peter, as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, we give, concede and hand over to you, the islands and dry lands found and to be found, with all their domains, fortress cities, places and villages». This was taken seriously and used to legitimate Spanish colonization, with the destruction of ethnic groups, ancestral cultures and religions.


Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) in the papal letter Romanus Pontifex, addressed to the kings of Portugal, was even more arrogant: «I give you full and free power to invade, conquer, combat, defeat and submit Saracens and Pagans wherever they may be found, and to reduce such persons to perpetual servitude». That power was also exercised «to expand the faith and the empire» at the cost of exterminating our Indigenous peoples (there were 6 million in what is now Brazil) and the devastation of our jungles.

. . . .

Sadly, this absolutist version was resurrected through a controversial document by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dominus Jesus (2001), where he affirmed the medieval concept that there is no salvation outside of the Church. Everyone else is in a dangerous situation with regard to eternal salvation.


The religious version gained political expression with the Manifest Destiny of the United States. This expression was coined in 1845 by the journalist John O'Sullivan, to justify North American expansionism, with the annexation of parts of Mexico. In 1900 Indiana senator Albert Beveridge explained: «God designated the North American people as the chosen nation, to initiate the regeneration of the world». Other presidents, especially George W. Bush, based their actions on that pretentious exclusivity. It justified wars of conquest, especially in the Middle East. It looks like Barak Obama is not totally innocent.


In short the West and Far West imagine themselves to be the best in the world: with the best religion, the best form of government, the best technoscience, the best cosmovision. This is fundamentalism, which makes its truth the only truth, and imposes it on others. That arrogance is present in the Western conscious and subconscious. Thanks to God, we have also an antidote: self criticism for the evils that such fundamentalism has brought upon humanity. But it is not shared by all.


The phrase of Antonio Machado, the great Spanish poet is on point: «Not your truth. The truth. And come with me to search for it. Your truth, keep it to yourself». If we search for together, through dialogue and cordiality, then my truth increasingly disappears, giving way to the Truth, which is shared by all. And thus, perhaps, it can rein in the fundamentalism that the West and Far West visit on the world.

Read more
Vatican's finance czar reports $1.5 billion in hidden assets
John L. Allen Jr.     Feb.13, 2015
Pope Francis' finance czar today informed fellow members of the College of Cardinals that the Vatican has more than $1.5 billion in assets it didn't previously know it possessed, although that potential windfall has to be balanced against a projected deficit of almost $1 billion in its pension fund.

The discoveries mean that the Vatican's total assets rise to more than $3 billion, roughly one-third more than previously reported.


The cardinals were also informed that the Vatican's real estate holdings may be undervalued by a factor of four, meaning that the overall financial health of the Vatican may be considerably rosier than was previously believed.


The disclosures at the closed-door meeting by Australian Cardinal George Pell, installed as secretary for the economy a year ago, was part of a wide-ranging overview of efforts at financial reform under Francis presented today to cardinals from around the world.

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Cardinals give thumbs-up to financial reform
Michael O'Loughlin      Feb.13, 2015

The Vatican's ongoing efforts to reform its financial dealings were given a thumbs-up from the world's cardinals in Rome today, a Vatican spokesman said.


The Rev. Federico Lombardi briefed reporters after a three-hour meeting of the College of Cardinals, during which the prelates were given an update by the pope's point man on finances, Australian Cardinal George Pell, and three other leaders of the clean-up operation launched under Pope Francis.

The cardinals were appreciative of Pell's work, Lombardi said.


"This type of reform helps the credibility of the Church, [and] there's a sense that this spirit should also spread to dioceses," he said.

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At the consistory, a strong dedication to Vatican reforms
Andrea Gagliarducci      Feb 13, 2015

Reform was the watchword as cardinals met at the Vatican for briefings about the state of Vatican finances and about the work of a pontifical commission that protects minors.


Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna spoke with CNA about the extraordinary consistory of cardinals, reporting that "we are in the middle of a discussion, there are things to be refined, but there is a strong papal will to carry forward the reforms, and I can sense this among cardinals as well."

. . . .

According to Fr. [Federico] Lombardi, the extraordinary consistory took place "in a serene and constructive atmosphere." The press office director said that 164 cardinals took part, including the 19 of 20 cardinals-to-be who will receive their red hats on Saturday.


He stressed that no decisions may be expected from it.


The extraordinary consistory was supposed to end the morning of Feb. 13, but a new session was added to allow Cardinal Sean O'Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission of Protection of Minors, to report about how the commission is shaping its statutes and outlining its future work.

. . . .

According to Fr. Lombardi, cardinals widely discussed the project of Curia reform. During the Feb. 12 afternoon session, 28 cardinals took the floor, including the Cardinal-designate Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.


Most of the intervention focused on the relationship between the Curia and the local Churches, spoke of "decentralization", and some of them also introduced the theme of 'subsidiarity'.

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Pope Francis diversifies his cardinals. But will they have clout where it counts?
David Gibson       Feb.13, 2015

Pope Francis' new cardinals, who will be formally installed on Saturday (Feb. 14), represent everything the pope says he wants for the future of Catholicism: a church that reaches out to the periphery and the margins, and one that represents those frontiers more than the central administration in Rome.


That's why he picked cardinals for the first time ever from countries like Myanmar and Cape Verde, as well as one from the Pacific archipelago of Tonga, which has just 15,000 Catholics out of a population of 100,000 spread across 176 islands.


The 15 new cardinals who are of voting age - five new "honorary" cardinals are over 80 and ineligible to vote for the next pope - come from 14 countries and include prelates from Ethiopia, Panama, Thailand and Vietnam, and from places in Europe far removed from the traditional power dioceses of Old World Catholicism.


In fact, only one new cardinal comes from the Roman Curia, the Italian-dominated papal bureaucracy that Francis is struggling to tame in the wake of a series of scandals that revealed a deep dysfunction at Catholicism's home office.


But will diversifying the College of Cardinals make it look more like the church's global flock of 1.2 billion members? Or will it leave the electors so fragmented by geography, language and viewpoints that they won't be able to serve as a counterweight to career churchmen in Rome?

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Pope Francis has found cardinals who share his vision of the church
John Thavis      Feb.14, 2015

Most of the 20 new cardinals created today by Pope Francis never thought they'd be wearing the cardinal's red hat. Most of them never wanted to be a cardinal.


And that, perhaps, is the most important defining quality of the pope's choices, as he shifts the College of Cardinals away from careerists and toward pastors who, as true shepherds, "live with the smell of the sheep."


Sure, geography is part of the pope's plan. By choosing cardinals from such far-flung places as Tonga, Myanmar and Cape Verde, he is expanding the global mix in an institution that has been dominated for centuries by Europe.


The pope is also choosing prelates from small dioceses, places that have never had a cardinal before. I think this is a deliberate move to end the perception that cardinals should be the most powerful church leaders from the most populous and "important" archdioceses.

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Mexican cardinal-designate is the 'Pope's Peacemaker'
Inés San Martín     Feb.12 2015

. . . .

When Pope Francis announced his roster of new cardinals in early January, the only pick for which a Vatican spokesman supplied a specific logic was [Alberto] Suárez Inda [archbishop of Morelia], saying that Morelia in Mexico "is a region that's been hit by violence."


Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacán, is where Mexico's self-defense armed groups originated as a response to governmental inaction against the drug cartels that have dominated the region since the 1950s. In 2014, more than 1,000 people lost their lives in Michoacán because of organized crime.


Back home, Suárez Inda is known as "the Pope's Peacemaker."


"Every bishop, every priest, has to be a peacemaker," Suárez Inda said.


"They ask me if I'm going to be a mediator, of course. First, between God and men. And then, with anyone coming with the sincere intention of finding the peace that only comes from God."

. . . .
Suárez Inda is the second cardinal ever from Morelia, and the first who will actually serve as such. In 1850 Pope Pius IX made Juan Cayetano José María Gómez de Portugal y Solis a cardinal, but he died before the news reached him.

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Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda is a cousin of ARCC board member Caridad Inda, CHM.

Vatican invites Iranians to join Pope Francis in Philadelphia
John L. Allen Jr.       Feb.13, 2015

A senior Vatican official said Thursday that a delegation of leading women from Iran, including one of the country's vice presidents, has been invited to be on hand when Pope Francis visits Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September.


Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, said the idea was born from a meeting in Rome between a delegation of Iranian women and a group of Catholic women, hosted by his office and devoted to issues concerning the family and the promotion of women.

The Iranian line-up included Shahindokht Molaverdi, the country's vice president for women and family affairs, who met Pope Francis Thursday morning. She said the two leaders discussed not only matters related to the family, but also the international situation, including conflicts in the Middle East and the need to join forces in the struggle against religious extremism.


In the course of three days of conversation between the Iranians and the Catholic participants, Paglia said, the Iranian side suggested going to Philadelphia. He said he "immediately accepted the idea," extending a formal invitation for the group.Read more

Viewpoint: Banning Altar Girls is Theologically Unsound and Pastorally Imprudent
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion      Feb.13, 2015

In a January 26 statement, Fr. Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco, announced a new policy whereby altar girls at Mass would be phased out and thenceforth only boys would serve at the altar.


Fr. Illo gives both practical and theological reasons for the move: "First, in a mixed altar-server program, boys usually end up losing interest, because girls generally do a better job."


As a long-time parish priest, this has not been my experience. Altar servers - both boys and girls - are as good as the training they receive. I have never perceived that girls do a better job, or that boys lose interest when serving with girls.

. . . .

Fr. Illo does plan to have girls read the scriptures at Mass. Surely there is a huge contradiction here. Is there not a greater connection between priestly ministry at the altar and ministry at the ambo than there is between the ministry of the priest at the altar and the ministry of altar servers? I see no reason why Fr. Illo would not also ban girls from reading at the Mass.


And what about women serving as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion? Is not the role of handling the Body and Blood of Christ of greater dignity than washing the priest's hands" And how does Fr. Illo regard the fact that in some parts of the world women perform baptisms, marriages, and funerals, and lead Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest?

Read more

Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. 

New York Archdiocese Parishioners See System of Secrets as They Fight Church Closings
Sharon Otterman      Feb,12, 2015

For aggrieved parishioners at churches ordered closed or merged by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan last November, it seemed like a simple task: Get a copy of the formal decree of his decision on their parishes, so they could properly appeal to the Vatican.


So across the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, they began calling and writing letters to Cardinal Dolan and his senior aides, asking for the decrees. Some seven weeks later, a definitive answer came back: No, they could not have copies.


But archdiocesan officials said they would allow parishioners to view the documents - under certain conditions.


There could be no photographs and no transcriptions. Notes could be taken, but sometimes only after the document was out of sight. Viewings were by appointment, monitored by archdiocesan officials, parishioners who saw their decrees said.

. . . .

On Wednesday, a day after The New York Times sent a detailed inquiry about the matter, the archdiocese abruptly reversed course. After months of refusals, 50 decrees that ordered the mergers of more than 100 parishes in the archdiocese were suddenly posted on the archdiocesan website.


A spokesman [Joseph Zwilling] for the archdiocese said on Wednesday that the failure to do so earlier was an "oversight." But that explanation did not ring true to the parishioners who had been fighting to get copies.

. . . .

In many of the parishes that will merge or effectively close by Aug. 1, parishioners did not know about their appeal rights. On Tuesday night, for example, Charles Shaw, a parishioner at St. Joseph's parish in Poughkeepsie, attended an archdiocesan meeting in Kingston with people from about a dozen other churches to discuss how the mergers would take place.


Mr. Shaw, whose church will be effectively closed by Aug. 1, announced to church officials at the meeting that he would refuse to comply with any plans until he got a copy of the decree. He informed the other churches that parishioners could demand to see their own decrees, and that they also had a right to appeal.

. . . . 

Parishioners who made appointments to see their decrees over the past several months said that church officials gave them various reasons they could not have copies, including that "hierarchy" had ordered it and that church lawyers had deemed it unnecessary.

. . . .

As for the reversal, Mr. Zwilling said in an email late on Wednesday that the archdiocese had learned about the oversight "several days ago" during a meeting about the consolidations.


"The archdiocese did mean to post the decrees on our website," Mr. Zwilling wrote. "It was discussed in a meeting back in September (which I did not attend), and how that was overlooked, I can't say. But they have been posted now."

 . . . .

A result has been years of frustration, adding to a sense that the cards are stacked against New York parishes who seek to argue their closings are unjust.


"You are taking away something that is precious," Peter Borre, a canonical adviser who has been helping St. Vincent's parishioners, said of the archdiocese. "Why can't you play it straight?"

Read more

Parishioners told to end vigil at Scituate church by March 9

Jessica Trufant       Feb,9, 2015
The Archdiocese of Boston has ordered parishioners to end their decade-long occupation of the closed St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church by March 9 or face legal recourse.
. . . .
While the archdiocese has considered the church a deconsecrated building since October 2004, parishioners have kept its doors open for more than 3,700 days.
. . . .

"Recently the group informed the Archdiocese of Boston it would not vacate the building despite having no further canonical appeals available to them," Donilon said in a statement. "If they fail to vacate the building by (March 9) the Archdiocese will pursue civil recourse against the group. We continue to work toward a peaceful and prayerful resolution."

But Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes in Boston, an adviser to the Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, said Sunday that the group has a special appeal pending at the level of Pontifical Council, a legislative arm of the Vatican. 

Key African prelate backs Communion for divorced, remarried
John L. Allen Jr.     Feb.11, 2015

A key African participant in October's looming Synod of Bishops on the family said Tuesday he's open to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, belying impressions of a uniformly hostile African stance toward change on such matters.


Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, said in a Crux interview that he supports allowing local bishops to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, and also believes that's the result Pope Francis wants from the October summit.

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The Pope Is One of the Most Skilled Politicians on Earth
Flavia Krause-Jackson & Alessandra Migliaccio      Feb.8, 2015

He's met with a transgender man, told Catholics not to breed like rabbits and washed the feet of a Muslim woman. While all this may sound like he's ready to overturn dogma, it turns out that Pope Francis is just as interested in geopolitics.


In less than two years in office, he's nudged the conversation away from abusive priests and used the image makeover to wade into conflicts from helping to restore Cuban-U.S. ties to lobbying for a global climate accord. In September, he will become the first religious leader who serves as a head of state to address a joint session of Congress.


"He's capitalizing on the fascination that he exercises," said John Wauck, a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. "He's gotten the attention of the world and is using it." 

. . . .

In an echo of the Obama administration, he is even making his own pivot to Asia. He already has been twice to the region shunned by his predecessor with a view not only to refilling pews but also gaining traction with the rising powers. 

. . . .

When Francis was elected, few pegged him as a foreign policy expert. Unlike predecessors such as John XXIII and Pius XII who were Vatican envoys, Francis's background betrayed no such preparation -- though the interest was always there. Eduardo Valdez, an Argentine diplomat who knew the pope when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, said the two of them never spoke of religion, only global politics.

"He was a frenetic reader of international affairs," Valdez said.

 . . . .

The pope's international outlook also is evident in the reconfiguration of the College of Cardinals that will pick his successor, which raises the odds the next leader of 1.2 billion Catholics will hail from Asia or Africa. 


That reshuffle -- coupled with the removal of critics such as Boston's Cardinal Raymond Burke from key positions -- has agitated a still-strong conservative wing of the church that would prefer a return to business as usual.


"A number of cardinals are upset," said Father Gerald Fogarty, a professor of religious studies and history at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "You can't expect the old guard to take it lying down, and they've been around a long time."

. . . . 

Drew Christiansen, a former director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace, praised the pope's openness but added that even though his statements may seem off the cuff, they are in fact carefully planned.


"There is a lot of thought put into his spontaneity," said Christiansen, who has advised the church in its diplomatic dealings with China. "The overhaul in culture really means that when the pope speaks, people pay attention."


Not everyone agrees. Traditionalists say he has assaulted doctrine. Some liberals say he is all talk and little substance. His changes inside the Vatican have won him internal enemies, while his expressions of tolerance to gays have earned him, in some quarters, faint praise for coming too late to make much difference: The pope who declined to offer a judgment about homosexuals still isn't rushing to allow them to marry Church of England-style.

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Stinging dissent: Justice Thomas objects to Supreme Court's signal on gay marriage
Mark Sherman     Feb.9. 2015

The Supreme Court is inappropriately signaling it intends to clear the way for gay marriage across the nation, Justice Clarence Thomas complained Monday in a stinging dissent of the court's refusal to block the start of same-sex marriages in Alabama.


Bitterly objecting to Monday's action, Thomas provided a rare insider's perspective on the widely held view that the court's embrace of gay marriage is a done deal. Thomas filed a dissenting opinion after his colleagues rejected Alabama's plea to put a hold on same-sex marriages in the state until the Supreme Court resolves the issue nationwide in a few months. He criticized his fellow justices for looking "the other way as yet another federal district judge casts aside state laws," rather than following the customary course of leaving those laws in place until the court answers an important constitutional question.

. . . .

The opinion was remarkable for its open criticism of fellow justices. After all, many legal commentators have predicted not only the case's outcome this spring (in favor of same-sex marriage), but the vote (5-4) and the author of the majority opinion (Justice Anthony Kennedy). 

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The Vatican on homilies: Keep it short, and don't be boring
Cindy Wooden     Feb.11, 2015

A homily at Mass is not a mini-catechism class, the Vatican says in a new document on homilies, but it is an opportunity to explain Church teaching using Scripture readings and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


"In the broadest sense, the homily is a discourse about the mysteries of faith and the standards of Christian life," says the Homiletic Directory published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.


Dated June 29, 2014, and approved by Pope Francis, the directory was released at the Vatican Tuesday, along with an appendix of passages from the catechism matched to each of the three readings for the three-year cycle of Sunday Masses and major holy days. It also includes notes on preaching at weddings and funerals, two occasions when, it says, many of the people present may not be regular churchgoers.

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Pope promotes Swiss Guard's No. 2 to top post
Associated Press      Feb.14, 2015

Pope Francis on Saturday promoted the No. 2 officer of the Swiss Guards to commander of the colorful, 500-year-old army, whose members take an oath to protect pontiffs.


The Vatican said that Lt. Col. Christoph Graf will now command the guardsmen, who stand vigilant during papal ceremonies.


Graf, who joined the Guards in 1987, takes the place of Col. Daniel Anrig, who had been commander since 2008.


Francis didn't elaborate about why he asked Anrig to step down, except to say it was time for "renewal." 

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Caption suggestions welcome 
Francis X. Rocca    Feb.12, 2015

Caption suggestions welcome for this photo of #PopeFrancis at today's meeting with cardinals (Paul Haring/CNS)  

Pope caption>

Amazing Christian Sculptures Made Entirely Out of LEGOs
St. Paul Cathedral (London)
Veni, Sancte Spiritus
The Last Supper
Gothic cathedral
Life-Size Nativity Scene
Solomon's Temple
St. Basil's Cathedral
The Sagrada Família
Cathedral of St. Paul (St. Paul, MN)
Abston Church of Christ (fictional)
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