Category: 2015
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Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates.
                                          _  Patrick Edgar, ARCC President
Some things we have been reading   
Let's end clericalism in the church
Fr. Donald Cozzens       Jul. 2015

. . . .

Finally, there appears an issue that our divided church can agree on. Catholics of all stripes-conservatives and liberals and in-betweens-are declaring a pox on clericalism. From Pope Francis to the back pew widow, from seminary rectors to lay ecclesial ministers, it's agreed that clericalism is crippling the pastoral mission of the church. At the same time it is strengthening the secularists' claim that Catholic clergy are nothing more than papal agents bent on enforcing rigid moral controls which smother our human instinct for pleasure and freedom. So let's end clericalism in the church.

. . . .

Here's how I see it: Clericalism is an attitude found in many (but not all) clergy who have put their status as priests and bishops above their status as baptized disciples of Jesus Christ. In doing so, a sense of privilege and entitlement emerges in their individual and collective psyches. This, in turn, breeds a corps of ecclesiastical elites who think they're not like other men [or women]. 

. . . .

Clerical priests and bishops (and yes, clerical deacons) come to see their power to confer sacraments, to preach, and to teach and administer as the bedrock of their identity. When this happens, they lose sight of the truth that the church's power is ultimately the power of the Holy Spirit. Without words, they seem to say "We are clergy... and you're not."

. . . .

So, what can we do to end clericalism? The following steps should excise the disease, or at least put clericalism into remission:

1.  . . . .  Baptism confers all the dignity they need.   . . . .  let our seminaries teach candidates for the priesthood that baptismal discipleship rooted in prayer is the foundation of priestly ministry.

2.  Some clergy insist on being addressed with their title, Father or Monsignor. And some prelates insist on their courtly honorifics,  Excellency  or Eminence. Titles have their place, but we shouldn't insist on them.   . . . .

3.  Mandated celibacy needs to be revisited.  . . . .   the inherent burdens of celibacy lead some clergy to a sense of entitlement and privilege, hallmarks of clericalism.

. . . .

But Pope Francis has answered this way of thinking by saying the priest is not so much a man set apart as a servant-pastor placed in the center of the community.  

. . . .

So, yes, let's end clericalism and follow the example of our non-clerical pope. He keeps reminding his bishops, priests, and deacons that they are trail guides for a pilgrim people. They are ministers of mercy-with muddy shoes. 

Read more

Cardinal George Pell takes a swing at Pope Francis' environmental encyclical 
Rosie Scammell       Jul.17, 2015 

The Vatican's financial chief, Cardinal George Pell, has taken the unusual step of criticizing Pope Francis' groundbreaking environmental encyclical, arguing the Catholic Church has "no particular expertise in science."


Nearly 18 months after Pell was brought to the Vatican by Pope Francis and given a mandate to reform the city-state's banking affairs, the Australian cardinal gave an interview to the Financial Times, whacking his boss' landmark document.


"It's got many, many interesting elements. There are parts of it which are beautiful," he said. "But the church has no particular expertise in science ... the church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters. We believe in the autonomy of science," Pell told the Financial Times on Thursday (July 16).

. . . .
Until now, Pell had remained quiet on the contents of the encyclical, despite gaining a reputation in Australia as a climate change denier. In 2011, he clashed with the then-head of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, Greg Ayers, who said Pell was "misled" in his climate change views.

Read more

Vatican finances still lack transparency
Robert Mickens     Jul.21, 2015

The Vatican published its annual financial statement last week and Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, says it's the most accurate accounting of the money situation at Roman Catholic HQ ever.


Some of his admirers and scribes in the press called it the "most comprehensive and transparent balance sheet" the Vatican has ever published.


It is not at all clear where they got that notion, but Pell and his right-hand finance man, Danny Casey, are probably laughing. Yes, all the way to the bank.

The reality is that this newly published financial report is not at all transparent or detailed and probably not completely accurate -- at least not in the information that has been made public.


The document released July 16 is the briefest of summaries (a bit more than a page and a half in English and about the same length in Italian) of two different financial statements.

. . . .

The recently released financial statements indicate that Vatican City State ended 2014 with a surplus of 63.5 million euro ($68.8 million), almost double that of the previous year. The press release says without even a hint of detail that this was mostly due to the "continued strong revenue from the cultural activities (especially the Museums) and favourable movements in investments." What other "cultural activities" besides the museums were so lucrative? And where is this theocracy, the smallest state in the world, investing its money? Not even the bishops know.


If Vatican City's finances once again towered in the black, the Holy See was once more awash in red. It showed -- to quote the press release -- "a deficit of 25.621 M Euro which is similar to the deficit of 24.471 M Euro reported in the 2013 Statements." That is exactly 1.15 million euro deeper in the hole. But since Pell and his apostles of good accounting have been on the job, Vatican "assets previously off the balance sheet" have been brought to light and included in the financial report.

. . . .

The cardinal's critics Down Under (and they are many) have voiced concerns about Pell's lack of transparency. One example they always point to is the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Sydney in 2008 for World Youth Day. They say costs for the papal visit and the global youth gathering have never been made completely clear, especially how the expenditures were divided by the government and the Australian Catholic church.


The critics have also raised concern over the financing of Domus Australia, a former Marist Brothers convent in Rome that Pell convinced the Australian bishops to purchase and then refurbish for use as a 32-bed hotel for "pilgrims." The final price tag has never been revealed, but it is believed to have cost much more than the reported 30 million Australian dollars usually cited.


But that does not seem to worry Pope Francis. It is generally assumed that he brought the now-74-year-old cardinal to Rome on the Australian's tough-guy reputation to clean up what had become a murky financial situation at the Vatican. After a rough start, partly because of Pell's sometimes less-than-diplomatic demeanor, the pope put some necessary checks on the cardinal's wide-ranging powers over Vatican finances by giving special authority to two of his confreres. Pell now has to play nice with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state, and Marx at the Council for the Economy.


Still, reforming the way the Vatican handles its money largely rests on the broad shoulders of the man once called Australia's most prominent Catholic. Pope Francis wants him to focus squarely on the new job he's been given in the twilight of his ecclesiastical career: reforming Vatican finances. Because, in case you have not noticed, Pell doesn't seem to be interested in many of the other reforms the pope is pushing.


In this, the cardinal has been more than transparent.

Read more

Vatican accounts list €1bn of previously unreported assets
CNS       Jul.17, 2015

The Holy See reported almost €1 billion (£654,000) in net assets that had never been reported before and in a consolidated form, the Vatican's final figures for 2014 showed.


The accounts, produced implementing new reporting procedures that are more in line with international accounting standards, also show a continued budget deficit on the part of the Roman Curia and nearly double the profits brought in by entities falling under the separate Vatican City State budget.


Profits from the Vatican Museums, "cultural activities" and investments offset the deficit in the consolidated budgets of the Roman Curia and Vatican communications outlets to help the Vatican end the year €37.9m (£26.3m) in the black.


The Council for the Economy presented the financial statements on 14 July, and they were published on 16 July. The statements were prepared by the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, the Vatican's budget management office.


The statements were reviewed and verified by the Secretariat for the Economy, headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell, as well as by a brand new auditing committee of lay experts and an external auditor.

Read more

When the Pope Is Out of Town
Robert Mickens     Jul.8, 2015

. . . .

The Argentine pope flew to Ecuador on Sunday with a scaled-down papal entourage in the front section of an Alitalia jetliner and a load of journalists and photographers in the back.


Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, is the only cardinal to accompany Francis on the journey, which also includes visits to Bolivia and Paraguay. A new and most likely permanent addition to the seguito papale (as the papal retinue is called in Italian) is Msgr. Dario Viganò who was recently appointed prefect of the freshly-established Secretariat for Communications.

. . . . 

But there is one notable figure that is missing from the "all the pope's men": Cardinal Marc Ouellet, best known as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. It is in his capacity as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (CAL) that he should have been included on the papal trip. In addition, he is fluent in Spanish, having spent more than a decade studying and teaching in Colombia when he was a member of the Sulpician society of priests. 

. . . .

The word around the Vatican is that Papa Francesco and Cardinal Ouellet don't exactly see eye-to-eye on almost anything to do with bishops or the church in the Americas. It seems Francis had to wait until the cardinal was out of Rome last September to push through the surprising appointment of Blase Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago. 

Read more

Caring for the Elderly
Jennifer Haselberger      Jul.17, 2015
. . . .

Earlier this week the Star Tribune reported that two nursing assistants employed at Saint Therese [nursing home in New Hope] were arrested after family members of residents used hidden cameras to uncover and report the assistants' physical abuse of the residents. In addition to the abuse caught on camera, family members of at least two residents reported having seen numerous bruises and cuts that were 'too numerous to ignore'. St Therese responded by firing the two nursing assistants as well nine others who the facility believes failed to report the abuse or otherwise violated the terms of the care they were to be providing.

The Star Tribune report also noted that this is the second time in less than a year that a Saint Therese facility has been investigated for alleged abuse of a resident. According to the report, in early 2014 a staff member at Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake slapped a resident who was suffering from severe dementia. And, many of you will recall that in 2009 Archdiocesan priest and military chaplain Father Tim Vakoc died following a fall he sustained while a resident of the St Therese, New Hope facility. Vakoc, who was critically injured while serving with the Army in Iraq, died when two nursing assistants caused him to fall head-first to the floor as they were transferring him from his wheelchair to his bed. A subsequent investigation by the Office of Health Facility Complaints determined that the nursing assistants were negligent in their care of Vakoc and responsible for his fall. 

This type of failure to care for and protect the elderly and vulnerable is abhorrent anywhere, but it is especially disturbing when it occurs at a Catholic institution. Saint Therese has been a ministry of the Catholic Church since its establishment, with the permission of the Archdiocese, in 1964. Moreover, with the rapid expansion of Catholic facilities for the elderly, and especially the increase in the development of senior housing and nursing facilities on parish campuses, the Church must ensure that the services it is providing truly reflect its core belief in the dignity of all people. 


That belief has not always been demonstrated in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, even beyond the devastating occurrences at St Therese. As I stated in my affidavit in the Doe 1 case, although Minnesota is a state that has enacted legislation requiring long term care homes to receive notification when sex offenders are admitted to their facilities, the Archdiocese has long been in the habit of placing clergy known to have committed acts of sexual abuse in care facilities without any type of notification to staff, residents, or their families. It also permitted minors to work at the Archdiocesan Leo C. Byrne Residence for retired clergy, despite having Charter priests in residence, again with no notice to the minors or their families. 


And, the Archdiocese's failings extend beyond placing predators in close proximity to the young, aged, or otherwise vulnerable. The Archdiocese has also made a practice of turning a blind eye to the financial exploitation of the elderly and vulnerable. For instance, in the past decade at least three priests were investigated by outside agencies due to claims that they had financially exploited elderly and vulnerable people under their care. In each case the Archdiocese facilitated, and some times even cut the check, as part of an arrangement whereby the priest reimbursed the money that he had illegitimately taken and thereby avoided criminal charges.  

Read more

Nuns assail Archbishop Gomez in sale of convent to Katy Perry
Stephen Ceasar      Jul.17, 2015

Nuns locked in a dispute with the Los Angeles Archdiocese over the proposed sale of their convent to singer Katy Perry filed legal papers Friday accusing the archbishop of acting "as if he were above the rules and immune from the obligations of civil law."


The dispute centers on who has legal authority to sell the villa-style hilltop property in Los Feliz, which spans several acres with expansive views of downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains.


The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary contend that they have the legal authority to sell the property and that their sale agreement with restaurateur Dana Hollister for $15.5 million is legal.


The Los Angeles Archdiocese, however, sued to stop the sale, arguing that the church has legal authority over the property and that the nuns' sale was unauthorized. The archdiocese's agreement to sell the convent to Perry - for $14.5 million in cash - is legally sound, the archdiocese argued.

Read more

Slated to Close, East Village Church Pins Its Hopes on a Late Activist
Melanie Grayce West      Jul.2, 2015
Martha Hennessy
Martha Hennessy before a Mass in honor of her grandmother, Dorothy Day, at the Church of the Nativity.

A small Roman Catholic parish in the East Village is drawing on a possible saint to act as its savior.

Church of the Nativity, located on Second Avenue near Second Street, is to close on Aug. 1 as part of a broad realignment by the Archdiocese of New York that will result in 368 parishes merging down to 296.


But of those parishes, Nativity has what some consider a special distinction: It was the onetime church of Dorothy Day, the journalist, social activist and co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. She died in 1980 at the age of 83 among the poor at one of her charity sites located around the corner from Nativity. She is a candidate for Catholic sainthood.

Martha Hennessy, Ms. Day's granddaughter, has been enlisted to highlight Nativity's ties to Ms. Day. Parish leaders, many of them young people, have said that if Nativity is to cease functioning as a church, why not repurpose church buildings into a shrine for Ms. Day and add showers, mailboxes and other services that would assist the poor? 

. . . .

Such a building would "remind the affluent and the partygoers that there is a history here," she said. "There is more to life than ambition, than climbing the ladder to gain an affluent lifestyle." 

. . . .

Nativity parishioners have waged a vocal campaign to tout their community and the church's good works, including helping victims of last March's explosion in the East Village. They attempted a formal appeal, though it didn't advance.


Now parish leaders are focused on the shrine for Ms. Day.


"If they decide to close the doors," said Claudia Marte, a Nativity parishioner and church leader, "we want a Catholic center in her honor. That's the purpose now."

Read more

Gay Priest Fired From Chaplain Job Asks Pope To Meet LGBT Catholics In U.S.
David Gibson     Jul.20, 2015

In May, the Rev. Warren Hall was abruptly dismissed from his position as the popular campus chaplain at Seton Hall University in New Jersey because the Catholic archbishop of Newark said his advocacy against anti-gay bullying, and his identity as a gay man, undermined church teaching.


Now Hall has written to Pope Francis asking that when the pontiff visits the U.S. in September, he speak out against such actions because they are "alienating" gay Catholics and the many others who support them.


In the letter, which was dated July 14, Hall asked Francis to "find time to listen to the challenges faced by LGBT people, especially those who are Catholic and wish to remain a part of the Church they have grown up in, which they love, and yet which it seems is alienating them more and more."

. . . .

Newark Archbishop John Myers called Hall in May to fire him, as Hall was giving a final exam to his students at the South Orange campus. Myers told Hall his decision stemmed from concerns over a picture the priest posted on Facebook last fall supporting the "NOH8" campaign.


"NOH8" stands for "no hate," and it grew out of the battle over banning gay marriage in California.

Hall stressed that he was not advocating against any church teachings.


Later in May, Hall, 52, who said he remains committed to his vocation as a priest and his vow of celibacy, came out as gay. A spokesman for Myers responded by saying that "someone who labels himself or another in terms of sexual orientation or attraction contradicts what the Church teaches."

Read more

Firing of teacher in same-sex marriage roils Catholic school
Chris Brennan     Jul.9, 2015

The e-mail left many parents at the private Catholic school upset and confused. The well-respected director of religious education had just been fired.


Nell Stetser, principal of Waldron Mercy Academy, an elementary school in Merion, sent the e-mail Friday to say that Margie Winters was out of a job after eight years.


The reasons were confidential, Stetser wrote.

But the "context" she went on to offer included clues to what the school saw as a problem: Winters is in a same-sex marriage.


Stetser praised Winters for her "amazing contributions" to the school.


"In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings," she wrote, "but to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings."

. . . .

Winters refused a request to resign and was fired in a June 22 letter from the school.


Winters said she thought the school's connection to the archdiocese played a role in that decision. The school, she said, worried that its "Catholic identity would be in jeopardy."


Stetser said in a statement that she could not discuss personnel matters.


"The primary consideration that guided my decision-making process was to sustain the Catholic identity of Waldron Mercy Academy," Stetser said.


Ken Gavin, director of communications for the archdiocese, said it played no role in Winters' firing.

 "There has been no discussion whatsoever about revoking the ability of the school to identify itself as Catholic," Gavin said.

 Read more
Chaput: Waldron right to fire gay teacher
Kathy Boccella,      Jul.13, 2015

Chaput Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Monday that the Mercy Sisters who run Waldron Mercy Academy showed "character and common sense" in firing a lesbian teacher who has been married since 2007.


In his first direct comment since the firing became public last week - after parents of two students found out about the marriage and complained - Chaput said in a statement, "Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief.


"There's nothing complicated or controversial in this. It's a simple matter of honesty.


"I'm very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the church. They've shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon."

Read more

Pope Francis dumps 2 more bishops as housecleaning continues
David Gibson        Jul.15, 2015

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Mexican bishop who reportedly shielded a priest accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy, and on Wednesday (July 15) the Vatican announced that a Brazilian archbishop who spent $600,000 on renovations to his home and offices had been dismissed.


The moves are the latest signs that Francis is pursuing a hierarchical housecleaning that aims to address the heart of the clergy sex abuse scandal - accountability for bishops - while also removing prelates who don't reflect the humble and simple lifestyle he says is key to promoting the gospel.


Both Bishop Gonzalo Galvan Castillo, 64, of the Diocese of Autlan in Mexico, and Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri, 63, of the Archdiocese of Passo Fundo, Brazil, were well under the canonical retirement age of 75.

Read more

Ex-prelate hospitalized ahead of trial on sex abuse, porn
Frances D'Emilio      Jul.11, 2015

Jozef Wesolowski A former papal diplomat accused of sexually abusing teenage boys while stationed in the Dominican Republic has been hospitalized in intensive care, forcing adjournment of his trial Saturday in a Vatican courtroom for allegedly causing grave psychological harm to the victims and possessing an enormous quantity of child pornography.

. . . .

The 66-year-old Pole's lawyer, Antonello Blasi, told journalists he hadn't been told what the illness is.

"I saw him two or three days ago, and, given his age and his state of mind, he was fine," Blasi said. The lawyer told the court that Wesolowski had been "willing and able" to come to court.

. . . .

The trial is seen as a high-profile way for Pope Francis to make good on pledges to punish high-ranking churchmen involved in sex abuse of minors, either by molesting children or by systematically covering up for priests who did. Recent changes to the Vatican legal code under Francis' leadership allowed prosecutors to broader their case against Wesolowski.


Charges included possession of what prosecutors described as "enormous" quantities of child pornography on his two computers, including after Wesolowski was recalled to the Vatican following the emergence of rumors that he sexually abused shoeshine boys near the waterfront in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.

Wesolowski was the first such high-ranking Vatican prelate to be criminally charged at the Holy See for sexually abusing minors.

Read more

Will the Pope Change the Vatican?
Or Will the Vatican Change the Pope?
Roger Draper      Jul.18, 2015

. . . .

"I really need to start making changes right now," Francis told a half dozen Argentine friends one morning just two months after 115 cardinals in the Vatican conclave vaulted him from relative obscurity into the papacy. To many observers-some delighted, others discomfited-the new pope already had changed seemingly everything, seemingly overnight. 


He was the first Latin American pope, the first Jesuit pope, the first in more than a thousand years not to have been born in Europe, and the first to take the moniker Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, champion of the poor. Shortly after his election on March 13, 2013, the new leader of the Catholic Church materialized on a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica all in white, without the traditional scarlet cape over his shoulders or gold-embroidered red stole around his neck. He greeted the roaring masses below with electrifying plainness: "Fratelli e sorelle, buona sera - Brothers and sisters, good evening." And he closed with a request, what many Argentines already knew to be his signature line: "Pray for me." When he departed, he walked past the limousine that awaited him and hopped into the bus ferrying the cardinals who had just made him their superior.
. . . . 

Moreover, his papacy was not a fluke. As the Roman author Massimo Franco would put it, "His election arose from a trauma"-from the sudden (and for nearly six centuries, unprecedented) resignation of the sitting pope, Benedict XVI, and from the mounting sentiment among more progressive cardinals that the hoary and Eurocentric mind-set of the Holy See was rotting the Catholic Church from within.

. . . .

When Federico Wals, who had spent several years as Bergoglio's press aide, traveled from Buenos Aires to Rome last year to see the pope, he first paid a visit to Father Federico Lombardi, the longtime Vatican communications official whose job essentially mirrors Wals's old one, albeit on a much larger scale. "So, Father," the Argentine asked, "how do you feel about my former boss?" Managing a smile, Lombardi replied, "Confused."

. . . .

Just yesterday, he says, the pope hosted a gathering in Casa Santa Marta of 40 Jewish leaders-and the Vatican press office learned about it only after the fact. "No one knows all of what he's doing," Lombardi says. "His personal secretary doesn't even know. I have to call around: One person knows one part of his schedule, someone else knows another part."

The Vatican's communications chief shrugs and observes, "This is the life."

. . . . 

Like many institutions, the Vatican is unreceptive to change and suspicious of those who would bring it.   . . . .   

 Now comes Francis, a man who despises walls and who once said to a friend as they strolled past the Casa Rosada, where Argentina's president lives: "How can they know what the common people want when they build a fence around themselves?" He has sought to be what Franco, who has written a book on Francis and the Vatican, calls an "available pope - a contradiction in terms." The very notion seems to have drained the blood from the Vatican's opaque face.


"I believe we haven't yet seen the real changes," says Ramiro de la Serna, a Franciscan priest based in Buenos Aires who has known the pope for more than 30 years. "And I also believe we haven't seen the real resistance yet either."

. . . . 

Of course, as is evident when speaking to Vatican officials, the spectacle of a papal personality cult-Francis as rock star-is unseemly to such a dignified institution. To some of them the pope's popularity is also threatening. It reinforces the mandate he was given by the cardinals who desired a leader who would cast aside the church's regal aloofness and expand its spiritual constituency. Recalls one, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, "Just before the conclave, when all the cardinals gathered, we shared our views. There was a certain mood: Let's get a change. That kind of mood was strong inside. No one said, 'No more Italians or no more Europeans' - but a desire for change was there. 

. . . .

Then again, the man who told his friends that he needed "to start making changes right now" does not have time on his side. His comment this spring that his papacy might last only "four or five years" did not surprise his Argentine friends, who know that he would like to live out his final days back home. But the words were surely a comfort to hard-liners inside the Vatican who will do their best to slow-walk Francis's efforts to reform the church and hope that his successor will be a less worthy adversary.


Still, this revolution, whether or not it succeeds, is unlike any other, if only for the relentless joy with which it is being waged. When the new archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Mario Poli, commented to Francis during a visit to Vatican City about how remarkable it was to see his once dour friend with an omnipresent smile, the pope considered those words carefully, as he always does.

Then Francis, no doubt smiling, said, "It's very entertaining to be pope."

Read more

The Pope of Mistake(s)
James  Martin, SJ      Jul.14, 2015

"It's an error of mine," said Pope Francis yesterday, en route from his visit to South America back to the Vatican. The Pope's in-flight media conferences have become a genre in themselves, a vivid example of the "New Evangelization," and journalists have learned to expect the casual bombshell.  

. . .

But the pope's recent admission of error was striking. He had been asked by a reporter why he didn't speak more frequently about the middle class (as opposed to his speaking frequently about the excesses of the rich and the rights of the poor.) 

His response was the opposite of what many expect from a public official, that is, defense, denial or backpedaling. Instead, he said in the interview, "Thank you so much. It's a good correction, thanks. You are right. It's an error of mine not to think about this. I will make some comment but not to justify myself. You're right. I have to think a bit."


Where does the pope's willingness to admit that he needs to change course come from? A good deal may flow from his Jesuit background. (You knew I was going to say that, I bet.)


St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, has occasionally been described as the "Patron Saint of Plan B." If you know something about his life, you'll see endless succession of admitting his errors, rethinking his plans and recalibrating his goals. And he did so largely without feeling that he had (a) failed or (b) failed to discern God's will. 

. . . . 

For the rest of his life, Ignatius is continually reassessing things and reverting to Plan B. After he gathers a group of men around him at the University of Paris, the group that become the core of the Society of Jesus, they decide to go to the Holy Land. (For Ignatius, again.) But that didn't work out, again, so, again Plan B. They would present themselves to the pope, who would tell them where he wanted them to go. Finally, Ignatius wanted to simply to be just another member of the Society like all the rest, and go where needed. But Plan B: he was elected superior general, had to run the order, and spent the rest of his life in Rome.


So saying "I'm in error" and being open to a new way of proceeding is not surprising for Jesuits. Because we wouldn't be here without any of those changes in St. Ignatius Loyola's life. He'd probably be someone who worked in obscurity in the Holy Land, and probably didn't found a religious order. 


And we wouldn't have the pope we do now.

Read more

For G.O.P., Pope Francis' Visit to Congress Comes With Tensions
Jennifer Steinhauer      Jul.19 2015

. . . .

When Pope Francis comes to Capitol Hill in September, he will be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress, where more than 30 percent of the members are Catholic. The visit will fulfill a long-held dream of Mr. [House Speaker John A.] Boehner, who says only his working-class roots as a bar owner's son are more essential to his core than his Catholic upbringing. He has extended offers to popes for the last 20 years, and Francis, after taking nearly a year to consider, was the first to accept. 


The pope's visit comes with inherent tension for many Republicans, including those who are Catholic. While he has made no changes in church doctrine, Francis has forcefully staked out ideological ground opposite that of Mr. Boehner and his party. He has excoriated the excesses of capitalism as the "dung of the devil," pleaded for action to stop global warming and enthusiastically supported the new nuclear accord with Iran.

. . . .

Many Republican leaders have been quietly discussing their fears of a spending fight or government shutdown during his visit. "That would be awful," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a Catholic. "My hope is that we will all be infused with the spirit of St. Francis," she added, suggesting that Congress would perhaps be moved to agree on some appropriation bills to avoid embarrassment.

. . . .

For their part, House Democrats, including their leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who is also Catholic, have their own disagreements with the pope, who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage

Read more

Bob Thurman      Jul.14, 2015

I'm not a fan of the Catholic Church as an institution. I have a number of bones to pick with it right down to its core mythology. That said, I have a great deal of respect, and even admiration, for the incumbent Pope. To me, Papa Francesco is the real deal. So I shall dispense with the snarky tone I usually adopt for these screeds.

. . . .

So I've been closely reading the recent encyclical, Laudato Si', and I find much to esteem and with which I can fully agree. I don't know in what language it was drafted, but the English version is a great read. It is clear and at times lyrical, and always passionate. But it is also logical and well documented. 

. . . .

Indeed, I could quote almost the entire encyclical for its wisdom, insight, and prophetic, in the Old Testament sense, tone. It is, in a very good way, Papa Francesco's Jeremiad.


But, I am sorry to say, the encyclical incorporates one flaw, and it is, unfortunately a major one.


In terms of pressure on the environment, the Pope refuses to concede the crucial role of population. He even goes so far as to assert that continued population growth is compatible with a sustainable human economy.

. . . . 

The carrying capacity of the earth as a whole for humans is a matter of considerable controversy. But to give an idea of what is going on, During the 20th century alone, global population grew from 1.65 billion to 6 billion   It now stands at over 7 billion.


Supporting even the present population, requires a massive dependence on fossil fuels for fertilizer, pesticides, manufacture and operation of agricultural machinery, processing, and transportation. Fossil fuels are a dwindling, finite resource, and their use exacerbates atmospheric CO2 concentration and hence global warming.


Digression: I do not propose to discuss these two issues - see and

It thus appears humanity is already in overshoot mode, a fact which will become increasingly apparent in the foreseeable future. Tragically, a birth rate reduction by itself, no matter how desirable, is likely to redress the imbalance. Nature will undertake the task, and nature's methods will be neither fair nor humane. I wish I could think of another option.

. . . . 

Nevertheless, I recommend Laudato Si as a thoughtful, compassionate, and important document. It deserves to be taken seriously, and, more importantly, acted on. 

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Pope names auxiliary bishops for Los Angeles diocese
Tom Kisken      Jul.21, 2015
LA Aux. Bishops
Fr .Robert Barron, Msgr. Joseph Brennan, Msgr. David O'Connell

Pope Francis has named three auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles  and accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson, 75. 


Pope Francis named Monsignor Joseph Brennan, Monsignor David O'Connell and Father Robert Barron as bishops in the nation's largest archdiocese.

Archdiocese officials said the exact assignments of the auxiliary bishops is not known but it's likely one will lead the pastoral region encompassing Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The bishops-elect are also expected to be assigned to pastoral regions in the San Gabriel and San Fernando areas, officials said.


Bishop Thomas Curry stepped down as leader of the pastoral region of the Santa Barbara and Ventura region in 2013 after the release of personnel files for priests linked to child abuse during Curry's stint supervising priests as vicar of clergy from 1986 to 1990. Curry remains an active auxiliary bishop.

. . . . .

Of the newly named bishops, Brennan and O'Connell already serve in the archdiocese. O'Connell is pastor of St. Michael Parish in Los Angeles. Brennan is one of the top administrators in the archdiocese as vicar general and moderator of the Curia.


Barron was described as a social media star in a Washington Post story and is known for his online videos and books on theology.

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In Ecuador, Francis calls for intense prayer for 'miracle' at synod
Joshua J. McElwee      Jul.6, 2015

Pope Francis delved into his weeklong, three-country tour through South America on Monday by offering a million-plus crowd in Ecuador a poignant and emotional affirmation of the role of the family, promising that despite economic hardships across the region, things can and will improve.


In a nod to expected Vatican intrigue in coming months, the pope also called on those gathered for an outdoor Mass on a sweltering day in the port town of Guayaquil to "intensify" their prayers for October's global meeting of bishops on family life issues.


With a homily centered on the Gospel story of the wedding feast at Cana -- where Jesus, at Mary's asking, miraculously made wine from water -- the pope asked the crowd to pray that a similar miracle could occur in the bishops' discussions.


The point of the meeting, known as a synod, is "to mature a true spiritual discernment and find concrete solutions to the many difficult and important challenges families must confront in our times," Francis told the crowd in his native Spanish.


"I ask you to intensify your prayer for this intention so that what still seems to be impure to us, to scandalize us, or frighten us, God ... can transform it into a miracle," he then exhorted them. "Families today need this miracle," he added to his prepared text.

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USCCB Chairmen Call For Recomittment To Bishop's Catholic Campaign To End The Use Of The Death Penalty
USCCB       Jul.16, 2015

Ten years ago, the Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. Speaking as pastors and teachers, we issued a statement at that time, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, in which we considered the reality of capital punishment in the United States. We urged a prudential examination of the use of the death penalty, with the aim of helping to build "a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill. This cycle of violence diminishes all of us."


Since that time, significant gains have been made. Several states, including New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and most recently Nebraska, have ended the use of the death penalty, and other states have enacted moratoria. Death sentences are at their lowest level since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done, and we must recommit ourselves to end this practice in our country.


We join our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in anticipation of the forthcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, and renew our efforts in calling for the end of the use of the death penalty.

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Court rules against Little Sisters plea to avoid way to bypass mandate
CNS       Jul.15, 2015

The Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious entities are not substantially burdened by procedures set out by the federal government by which they can avoid a requirement to provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled July 14.


In a lengthy opinion that considered arguments raised by the organizations under First Amendment religious rights protections and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the court said the groups are not substantially burdened by filing out a form or notifying Health and Human Services via email or a letter that because of their religious-based objections to the mandated coverage, they will not provide it.

. . . .

The departments have made opting out of the mandate at least as easy as obtaining a parade permit, filing a simple tax form, or registering to vote - in other words, a routine, brief administrative task," wrote Judge Scott M. Matheson Jr. He was joined by two other judges in parts of the ruling.


However, Judge Bobby Baldock in a partial dissent from the majority's decision, said he would rule that the religious exercise rights of self-insured employers are more substantially burdened than are those that have outside insurers. "Moreover, less restrictive means exist to achieve the government's contraceptive coverage goals here," he wrote. 

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Upcoming Events  

Call To Action, Catholics for Choice and CORPUS will convene a national forum on Women in the Catholic Church Today: What Francis Needs to Know. A one-day forum to examine and discuss Pope Francis' changes and reform in the church with a focus on the largely ignored concern, the role of women in the church. Speakers include experts in church history, Catholic theology and the lived experience of Catholic women. Each session will include a moderated question and answer period with the audience.

Live-streaming for the forum will begin below at approximately 9:00am CT on Saturday, July 25 and end at approximately 4:30pm CT with breaks and a lunch intermission. 

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